21 Free Family Things To Do In Ireland Summer 2018

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City Spectacular

Summer holidays can be a costly time with summer camps, stocking up for back to school, and the long school holidays. Looking for ideas this summer for things to do with your child that won’t cost a penny? We’ve got you sorted! Here are 21 Free Family Things to do in Ireland with the Kids this Summer.

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#1. Enjoy Free Family Fun at Riverfest 2018, Limerick

Riverfest Limerick 2018 header

Riverfest Limerick is back for 2018 and has a host of amazing activities, events and workshops for all ages, many of which are free of charge. Riverfest Limerick takes place over the May bank holiday weekend, from May 4th to 7th 2018. A great way to start the summer.

When: May 4th to 7th 2018

#2. Enjoy Free Museums & Free Family Events

national museum of Ireland events and workshops

The National Museums of Ireland in Dublin offer a great day out and are hosting an array of family workshops and events throughout July and August. Admission is free.

The award winning Museum of Country Life in Mayo has lots of great free workshops and events throughout the year. There are interactive exhibitions and a fun games box for the kids. Admission is free.

When: All Summer long!

#3.Have a Free Sailing or Kayaking Class at SeaFest Galway

SeaFest 2018 Powerboarders

Ireland’s national maritime festival, SeaFest 2018 takes place in Galway from June 29th to July 1st 2018.

Galway Harbour will be transformed into an ‘open air sea world’ for the three-day festival with a host of FREE family friendly entertainment and attractions on water and land. PowerFly’s world champion flyboarders will perform stunning aerial acrobatics and there will be a veritable flotilla of ships, many of which are open for public tours. Visitors can enjoy 600 free kayaking classes and sailing classes and you can sample seafood, watch demonstrations, hear talks, take part in workshops and much more. Free fun for all the family!

When: June 29th – July 1st

#4. Enjoy Free Street Performances in Dublin & Cork

free things to do in Ireland Rainbwo Disco Laya Spectacular

Laya City Spectacular is back in Dublin & Cork again this July. Watch the world’s best all-round entertainers compete for the coveted ‘Street Performance World Champion’ title, and there’s a host of many more free family friendly events throughout the festival.

When: In Merrion Square, Dublin from 6th – 8th July, & Fitzgerald Park, Cork from 14th – 15th July 2018.

#5. Celebrate the Mighty Salmon in Ballina

free things to do in Ireland Ballina Salmon Festival

Ballina Salmon Festival is the largest community-run festival in the West of Ireland with over 50 individual events. The 54th annual festival takes place from July 8th to 15th 2018. Over a third of the programme is dedicated to children’s events, with a number of free events included.  There are also lots of fun events for adults!

When: July 8th to 15th 2018

#6. Visit the Most Romantic Gardens in Ireland in Carlow

altamont garden

This Summer take the Carlow Garden Trail which features more than 21 gardening attractions including the most romantic garden in Ireland, Altamont. Near Tullow, Altamont is an enchanting blend of formal and informal gardens located on a 100 acre estate. Whilst still little known, it ranks in the top ten of Irish gardens and is often referred to as ‘the jewel in Ireland’s gardening crown’.

The formal lawns slope down to a romantic lake, and there’s a fascinating walk, which kids love, through the Arboretum, Bog Garden and Ice Age Glen with its canopy of ancient oaks leading to the River Slaney. There’s a garden centre, tea-rooms during summer months, and picnic areas.

When: All Summer long!

#7. Find the Gruffalo at Colin Glen Park, Belfast

free things to do in Ireland the gruffalo trail

Colin Glen Forest Park near Belfast is home to Northern Ireland’s only official Gruffalo Trail. Each character has been magically recreated by sculptor Andrew McIntyre and set against the backdrop of a stunning forest park.

Enter through the Gruffalo Archway and walk through the leafy park to a beautiful Gruffalo themed seating area next to the cascading Colin river. Your children will be completely amazed at meeting their favourite Gruffalo characters, whilst getting out in the fresh air.

When: All Summer long!

#8. Visit an OPW site on a Wednesday

During the Summer months, most OPW Heritage sites are free to visit on the first Wednesday of each month. Tickets are allocated on a first come, first served basis.

  • Cork Charles Fort, Desmond Castle (French Prison), Ilnacullin (Garinish Island)
  • Donegal Donegal Castle, Glebe House and Gallery
  • Dublin The Casino, Marino, Dublin Castle, State Apartments, Kilmainham Gaol
  • Galway Athenry Castle, Aughnanure Castle, Dún Aonghasa, Portumna Castle and Gardens, Patrick Pearse’s Cottage (Teach an Phiarsaigh)
  • Kerry Ardfert Cathedral, Derrynane House, National Historic Park, Ionad an Bhlascaoid Mhóir, The Blascaod Centre, Ross Castle
  • Kildare Castletown
  • Kilkenny Dunmore Cave, Jerpoint Abbey, Kilkenny Castle
  • Laois Emo Court
  • Leitrim Parke’s Castle
  • Limerick Adare Castle
  • Louth Old Mellifont Abbey
  • Mayo Céide Fields
  • Meath Battle of the Boyne – Oldbridge Estate, Brú na Bóinne Visitor Centre (Newgrange and Knowth) Please note that the monuments can only be accessed via the Visitor Centre. A: Exhibition B: Exhibition & Newgrange C: Exhibition & Knowth D: Exhibition, Newgrange & Knowth Hill of Tara Trim Castle (including keep) Trim Castle (excluding keep)
  • Offaly Clonmacnoise
  • Roscommon Rathcroghan
  • Sligo Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetery Sligo Abbey
  • Tipperary Cahir Castle, Rock of Cashel, Roscrea Heritage (Castle and Damer House) and the Blackmills Swiss Cottage
  • Waterford Reginald’s Tower
  • Wexford John F. Kennedy Arboretum, Tintern Abbey
  • Wicklow Glendalough Visitor Centre

When: First Wednesday of each month.

#9. Cycle the Waterford Greenway

The Waterford Greenway is now open and encompasses 46km along a disused railway, and has been specially designed for cycling, walking and running.

You can hire bicycles and stop at lots of interesting places along the route which has coastline views, viaduct, tunnel and even a spectacular gorge.

Find out more and download an interactive map at www.visitwaterfordgreenway.com.

When: Anytime

#10. Enjoy a Street Spectacle in Galway

As part of the annual Galway International Arts Festival, which has events running from July 16th to 29th 2018, there is a free Street Spectacle, where visitors can be prepared to be amused & often surprised.

When: July 16th to 29th 2018

#11. Find Prehistoric Footprints on Valentia Island, Kerry

free things to do in Ireland Tetrapod 3

Visit the Tetrapod Trackway on Valentia Island to see footprints that are older than dinosaurs! Valentia Island lies at the end of the Iveragh Peninsula, more familiar to many as the location of the Ring of Kerry.

And on the island you will find one of only 4 sets of prehistoric footprints in the world! The footprints give an invaluable view of the transition of life from water onto land.

When: Anytime

You may also enjoy – 10 Terrific Places to See Dinosaurs in Ireland & Best Places to See Animals, Birds & Beasts in Ireland

#12. Take a Gallery Tour at Visual Centre for Contemporary Art, Carlow

free things to do in Ireland visual carlow

Admission to the galleries at the Visual Centre for Contemporary Art in Carlow is free of charge, so why not take a trip and see the latest exhibition.

Gallery tours on Sundays are also free of charge – they take place at 2.30pm & 3.30pm and last 30 mins. No prior booking needed for families and small groups.

When: During opening hours

Recommended Reading: You may also like 101 of the Best Ideas for Your Family Vacation in Ireland 2017

#13. Spot some Fairies in Tipperary and Kerry

free things to do in Ireland templemore fairy trail

Head to the lovely Town Park in Templemore, Co. Tipperary and walk past the lake, to find the fairy trail in the woods. Try and spot all the fairy doors, which are updated at seasonal times like Christmas and Halloween (there are about 38 we believe). Afterwards feed the ducks and swans and let the kids play in the playground, while you get a “workout” on the outdoor adult gym. Be sure to pack a picnic and bring your teddy bears along for a great day of free family fun.

There are also two magical fairy trails to be found in Kerry: one in the wooded surrounds of Derrynane House, Caherdaniel, and the other in the woods of the Parknasilla Resort. Both are free and open to all visitors.

When: Anytime

You might also like 15 Magical Places to find Fairy Trails in Ireland

#14. Cycle or Walk the Greenway in Mayo

free things to do in Ireland The Greenway Co Mayo

The Greenway in Co Mayo is the longest cycling and off-road walking trail in Ireland. Spanning 42km from Westport to Achill you are guaranteed traffic free routes which take you through some breathtaking scenery.

Pack a picnic and take a stroll or cycle with the family this summer.

When: Anytime

#15. Enjoy Nature at Clara Bog Nature Reserve, Offaly

free things to do in Ireland clara bog

Clara Bog Nature Reserve in Co. Offaly is free to visit and has many free events for children. The bog itself is reputed to be the best remaining example of raised bog in Western Europe.

There is a boardwalked 1 km looped walk on Clara Bog which lets you see the wonderful plants, birds and animals which Clara Bog is home to and to soak up the atmosphere of an exceptional raised bog in the heart of Ireland.(NB wear trainers or shoes).The Visitor Centre also organises walks, art and nature activities on a regular basis.

When: During opening hours

#16. Explore the Festival of Curiosity, Dublin

free things to do in Ireland The Festival of Curiosity Dublin

Head out to play at Festival of Curiosity this summer, in various Dublin venues from July 19th to 22nd 2018. From the free day time family programme to lively and curated curious nights, expect a programme full of surprise and delight.

The Festival of Curiosity is Ireland’s annual celebration at the intersection of art, science, technology and design and has quickly grown to being one of the most exciting and innovative festivals of its kind in Europe.

When: July 19th to 22nd 2018

#17. Hit the Trails at Curragh Chase, Limerick

free things to do in Ireland curragh chase

Curragh Chase Forest Park is located 22km west of Limerick on the N69 coast road close to Kilcornan and Askeaton.

There are a number of looped way marked trails in the park to suit all visitors. They vary from the multi-access trails suitable for wheelchair users and family walkers to the longer Curragh and Glenisca trails suitable for those looking for more demanding walking and cycling.

Amenities include Public toilet, Picnic Site, Playground, Barbecue, Boat launch, Orienteering Course, Walking Trails, Cycling Trails, Arboreta/Gardens.

When: During opening hours

#18. Go Retro at Birr Vintage Week & Arts Festival, Offaly

free things to do in Ireland birr vintage week

Birr Vintage Week & Arts Festival runs from August 3rd to 10th 2018 with free entertainment for children including music, markets, fairs, arts and craft activities a parade and much more.

When: August 3rd to 10th 2018

#19. Take a Day Out to Lough Muckno Leisure Park, Monaghan

A day out in Lough Muckno Leisure Park in Castleblayney is a must for all the family. There’s plenty to keep the whole family occupied too, including walking trails, a Waterski & Wakeboarding Club, fishing, nature walks and a lovely picnic area. It is open all year around and there’s no admission fee.

When: During opening hours

#20. Spot a Deer at Phoenix Park, Dublin

free things to do in Ireland phoenix park deer

At 1752 acres, the Phoenix Park is the largest urban park in Europe. It is home to Dublin Zoo, Áras an Uachtaráin (President’s residence), Farmleigh House, visitor centre, picnic spots and plenty of playgrounds. Free admission tickets are issued at the Visitor Centre to visit Áras an Uachtaráin on Saturdays.

The park is also home to a huge amount of wildlife, including a large herd of deer. Pack your bikes and scooters and enjoy some of the many cycling trails around the park while you see if you can spot a deer! Afterwards relax and enjoy watching play in the polo or cricket grounds.

The playground and tearooms at the Visitor Centre are well worth a visit. Admission to the Visitor Centre exhibition is free, and visitors can enjoy a historical interpretation of the park from 3500BC, including the history of Áras an Uachtaráin. Every Sunday morning free children’s workshops on nature awareness, history and heritage and arts and crafts take place, suitable for ages 6-12 years.

When: Anytime

#21. Discover your heritage at National Heritage Week, Nationwide

National Heritage Week 2018

National Heritage Week runs from August 18th – 26th 2018 with free events for all ages across the country. Events take place across the country, including opportunities for free guided tours of many of our heritage attractions. This year the theme is Sharing Stories.

The perfect way to finish off the school holidays!

When: August 18th – 26th 2018

If you are looking for family friendly accommodation this summer, compare hotel prices to ensure you get the best rate possible for your chosen destination.

Have a great summer!

If you have any other suggestion for free things to do this summer that you’d like us to share with other parents, let us know in the comments below.