When you holiday in Ireland, it’s good to know that the stunning views and gorgeous coastlines are not the only things you can enjoy for free. Discover amazing museums, spectacular landscapes and insightful visitor centres. There’s no end to the exciting things to do in Dublin and fantastic places to go in Ireland

Here’s a list of 20 free things to do in Ireland on your next short break.

1 EXPLORE THE CHESTER BEATTY LIBRARY, DUBLIN CASTLE, DUBLIN CITY

With free admission, the Chester Beatty is one of the best places to visit in Dublin without spending. a penny. This museum is the only one in Ireland named as the European Museum of the Year. Its rich collections from Asia, the Middle East, North Africa and Europe give visitors a glimpse into the artistic treasures of the great cultures and religions of the world.

Explore manuscripts, miniature paintings, prints, drawings, rare books and decorative arts all thanks to the collector Sir Alfred Chester Beatty.

2 VISIT THE JAMES JOYCE MUSEUM AND MARTELLOW TOWER, DUBLIN

The iconic Martello Tower in Sandycove was one of a series of Martello Towers built to withstand an invasion by Napoleon many moons ago. It is now a museum devoted to the life and works of James Joyce, who made this tower the setting for the first chapter of his masterpiece, Ulysses

The James Joyce Museum, easily one of the best free museums in Dublin, has a vast collection of letters, photographs, first and rare editions and personal possessions of Joyce.

3 JAMES JOYCE MUSEUM FOLLOWED BY A SEA SWIM AT THE FORTY FOOT

Head to the coast and see that sea swimming is one of the most popular free things to do in Dublin. There are lots of great sea swimming spots in Ireland, but one of the most famous is The Forty Foot in Sandycove. Many locals take a dip here every day, so it’s a real must-visit if you are in the area.  

Even at low tide, the depth of the Forty Foot means you can still enjoy a swim year-round. It’s also the place where people go on Christmas Day for the annual plunge.

4 START RESEARCHING YOUR FAMILY TREE AT THE NATIONAL ARCHIVES CENTRE, DUBLIN CITY CENTRE

Don’t miss a visit to The National Archives when in Dublin, they are full of important information on the cultural and intellectual life of the Irish nation.

The archives hold records from the late 18th century to the late 20th century as well as older documents dating back to the 14th century. Visit the archives, and you might just discover forgotten stories for your family tree.

5 Walk through Lough Boora Discovery Park, Co. Offaly


Take the Lough Boora Mesolithic Loop Walk and discover the serene habitats, flora and bogland of Lough Boora Discovery Park. This well-trodden trail brings visitors to the shores of Lough Boora, through the Leabeg Wetland and old railway embankment before reaching the Mesolithic site.

Cameras are a must here as whooper swans, purple moor-grass, skylarks and foxes all call this place home, make sure you check out the unique sculptures too.


6 Watch master glassblowers at their craft at Jerpoint Glass, Co. Kilkenny

This Irish glass company Jerpoint Glass is a family-run business set up in Kilkenny in 1979. Visitors can head to the viewing area of the glass studio and watch the glassblowers turn the fiery molten glass into stunning shapes.

Keep an eye on their website for their ‘Blow a Glass Bubble’ events when the team allows visitors to try their hand at mastering glassblowing.


7 Cycle the Waterford Greenway, Dungarvan, Co. Waterford
While there are many greenways in Ireland, the Waterford Greenway is one of the longest. Take your time as you travel on foot or by bike along the 46km scenic Waterford Greenway from Waterford City to Dungarvan.

The greenway traces the route of the old railway line along the coast with many places to visit along the way like Mount Congreve Gardens or Kilmacthomas. The panoramic view of Dungarvan Bay as you reach your destination is worth the effort alone.


8 Discover Killarney National Park and Visitor Centre, Killarney, Co. Kerry
You could easily spend a week exploring Killarney National Park and its impressive landscape. This magical part of Ireland includes the highest mountain range in Ireland, McGillycuddy’s Reeks, the world-famous lakes of Killarney and over 10,000 hectares of epic Irish scenery.

The distinctive combination of mountains, lakes, woodland and waterfalls under ever-changing skies gives the area an exceptional scenic beauty.


9 Discover W.B. Yeats’ county, Co. Sligo


Set against the striking backdrop of Benbulben, Drumcliffe is best known as the final resting place of Irish Nobel Laureate W.B. Yeats. The Irish poet was one of the foremost figures of 20th-century literature and also co-founded the Abbey Theatre.

Many parts of Sligo’s natural beauty inspired his work, and his grave in Drumcliffe is marked with a simple headstone and the inscription ‘cast a cold eye on life, on death, horseman, pass by.’ The graveyard also contains a high cross and the site of a 6th Century Columbian monastery is nearby.


10 Hike the Slieve League (Sliabh Liag) Cliffs, Co. Donegal


Experience the best free things to do in Donegal and visit the highest accessible marine cliffs in Europe, Slieve League (Sliabh Liag). Leave your car at the car park and walk the few miles to the cliffs so as not to miss the breathtaking scenery.

Enjoy terrific views of the Atlantic Ocean, the Sligo Mountains and Donegal Bay as you make your way towards the top of Sliabh Liag, the cliff face rises 600m above the Atlantic. Experienced walkers can venture beyond the viewing point onto One Man’s Pass, which loops around onto the Pilgrim’s Path in the area.


11 Climb Croagh Patrick, Co. Mayo

Hiking up the rocky slopes of Croagh Patrick is not just one of the best free things to do in Mayo, it’s one of the best things to do in Ireland. Pack your backpack with a flask of tea and sandwiches and set off on this famous trail. Enjoy endless views of Clew Bay and spot idyllic islands in the shimmering water.

Plan a trip with friends and family to tackle the four hour long hike to the top. Catch your breath at St Patrick’s Chapel at the summit and don’t forget to take a photo to mark your achievement.

12 Explore The Burren, Co. Clare

Experience the striking landscapes of The Burren.
Clare’s wild and stunning landscapes mean there’s no end to the amazing free things to do in the outdoors. For an out of this world experience, visit The Burren and its truly unique karst landscape. The limestone and warm microclimate make this region of Ireland unlike any other. See the result of weathering as you walk across a flat rocky landscape cracked beneath your feet.

Watch out for colourful flowers popping up from amongst the rocks while taking in the scenery. Come for a few hours, or spend a few days exploring the region along The Burren Way.

13 | Visit the Crawford Art Gallery, Co. Cork


At almost 300 years old, the Crawford Art Gallery is an institution, housing incredible works of art from many different eras and styles. Art lovers rate the collection of Irish art from the 1700s and contemporary pieces as one of Ireland’s best, and you simply cannot miss the chance to see large scale Greek and Roman sculptures.

Enjoy a free tour every Sunday and Bank Holiday Monday, where an expert tour guide brings you through the historic building, talking you through the notable works of art. If you can’t make it to Cork, you can view the entire collection online for free from the comfort of your own home.

14 | See gorgeous Lough Gur, Co. Limerick

Spend time by the water at Lough Gur and have a gorgeous day out without breaking the bank. Listen to the water gently lapping against the shore and relish in the tranquillity and peacefulness of the Limerick countryside. Humans lived here 3,000 years ago and their impact can still be seen today.

Wander around Grange Stone Circle, see the dolmen, three crannogs and even the remains of Stone Age buildings. There is a small fee to enter the Lough Gur Visitor Centre, but everyone is welcome to enjoy the picnic area, wander the walking trails and relive history for free.

15 | Walk the streets of Galway City, Co. Galway

With so many things to see in Galway City, some of the best experiences are found simply by walking the streets of this much loved city. Feel the buzz of the Galway Farmers Market and bask in the aroma of beautifully cooked food and freshly cut flowers. Stroll down to the historic Spanish Arch and watch buskers performing songs and magic tricks and entertain the whole family.

Visit Eyre Square, the bustling hub of the city centre and experience life as a true Galwegian. After your day in the heart of the city, head for the coast and enjoy a stroll along Salthill Promenade, if you’re feeling brave throw on your swimsuit and leap into the sea.

16 | Relax by the edge of Lough Muckno, Co. Monaghan

Head to Lough Muckno to get away from it all. A visit to the peaceful lake just outside of Castleblayney is one of the best free things to do in Monaghan. Enjoy any of the four short walks ranging from a quick 340m long route to a 1.7km trail, each taking in the forest’s bluebells and birdsong.

Bring your rod and perch up at one of the fantastic fishing spots dotted around the lake. Lough Muckno has healthy stocks of bream, roach and pike so you’re bound to catch something. Check out the nearby White Island and Black Island for even more great places to cast your rod.

17 | Explore the streets and landscapes of Carlingford, Co. Louth

Relive history, take in spectacular views and explore the Cooley Mountains, all without putting your hand in your pocket on a visit to Carlingford. The cute medieval streets and lined with charming pubs, colourful flower pots and signs from a bygone time. Start your hike up Slieve Foye from the centre of the town, keep an eye out for the trinket laden fairy trees along the way. The views from the top will stop you in your tracks.

Take in the sights of the gorgeous Cooley Mountains and the Mourne Mountains in the distance, gaze over Carlingford Lough watching boats sail into the harbour below. Once back in Carlingford, head out to the pier and cool off with a swim in the clear waters for the perfect end to a free day out.

18 | Discover ancient history at the Hill of Tara, Co. Meath

The ancient Hill of Tara in Co. Meath is a great choice if you’re looking for fun things to do with kids for free. Dazzle them with stories of the High Kings of Ireland and past civilisations going as far back as the Stone Age and inspire their imagination to bring the place back to life. There’s a short 1.2km long walk that brings your around the mounds, past the old banquet hall and the Stone on Destiny.

19 | Enjoy the Cathedral of Saint Patrick and Saint Felim, Co. Cavan
Towering over the heart of Cavan Town is the Cathedral of Saint Patrick and Saint Felim, known locally as Cavan Cathedral. Although this fine structure was built in 1938, the site has been a place of worship since the 1400s and continues to be an important location for the people of Cavan.

See the six stained glass windows made by famed Irish illustrator and stained glass artist Harry Clarke, sculptures by Edward Smith and the 70m tall spire. The cathedral is free to visit and a great way to spend a few hours in Cavan Town.

The Cathedral of Saint Patrick and Saint FelimThe Cathedral of Saint Patrick and Saint Felim

20 | Take in the beautiful scenery of Glencar Waterfall, Co. Leitrim
A cascading waterfall with a backdrop of rich greenery
See the beautiful Glencar Waterfall in Leitrim.

Look up in amazement as water cascades down a 15m high rock face through a lush forest in Co. Leitrim. Explore a woodland that inspired W.B. Yeat’s poem ‘The Stolen Child’ and let the beautiful landscape inspire you. Entry to Glencar Waterfall is free and there’s even a short 1km long walk for keen hikers and a playground to help entertain the kids.

Extend your free day out in Leitrim and take the short drive over to Eagle’s Rock and see one of the most striking rock formations in the country – it’s Ireland’

ARTICLE C/O DISCOVER IRELAND

FEATURED IMAGE C/O DESTINATION IRELAND

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