National Heritage Week is Ireland’s annual celebration of our natural, built and cultural heritage and this year it takes place from the 19th to the 27th August. The focus for the 2017 events is on the natural heritage of Ireland, which makes a trip to any one of the hundreds of free, public events and activities along the Wild Atlantic Way the ideal way to take part in this unique, week-long celebration.
From the windswept Northern Headlands to the bustling harbours of the Haven Coast in the south, the Wild Atlantic Way will be abuzz with celebrations of everything from archaeology to architecture, folklore and placenames. Irish culture is deeply rooted in nature, and nowhere is this more palpable and fascinating than on Ireland’s breathtaking western seaboard, where wave-crashed coastlines trace the perimeters of towns and villages rich in custom and tradition.
National Heritage Week is Ireland’s most popular cultural event and this year over 450,000 people are expected to participate in nearly 2,000 heritage events taking place in towns and villages around the country. With two very special days taking place during this year’s Heritage Week - Wild Child Day, dedicated to wild children everywhere, on Wed 23rd August, and a celebration of our most precious natural resource, water, on Sun 27th August - it’s set to bigger and better than ever.
Here are just a few of the Heritage Week highlights to be found along the Wild Atlantic Way.
Get out onto the open water with Arranmore Charters for an unforgettable way to celebrate the rich and longstanding marine heritage of Donegal. This spectacular 2.5hr tour will take in the history and culture of the islands off Burtonport - which include the Rosses and Arranmore - havens of tranquility where life has hardly changed for hundreds of years.
Where: Burtonport Pier Slipway, Co. Donegal
Take in magnificent views of Arranmore Lighthouse, perched at the northwest corner of Arranmore Island and still guiding ships to safety today. Along the way, keep your eyes peeled for an enormous variety of seabirds, as well as dolphins, seals, and even basking sharks as you cruise past towering sea cliffs, wave-hewn caves and sea stacks, and placid, wind-caressed beaches. Before the journey’s end, enjoy a warming cup of tea or coffee with delicious homemade scones under the cliffs of Arranmore - a simply sublime way to cap a perfect voyage.
Admission: Adult €25 | Child €12.50
Tel: +353 (0)86 330 0516
From Baskets to Beasts - Wed 23rd August, 11am-4pm
Step into the lush green enclave of the Jackie Clarke Collection in Ballina, Co Mayo, where natural wonders are yours to discover at this intriguing Heritage Week event. Set inside the walled Victorian heritage garden - the last true green space in the heart of town - children and adults alike will have a wild time learning about the flora and fauna growing all around.
Take advantage of one of the many fascinating talks and demonstrations on the live willow, flowers and herbs, along with interesting displays about the creatures and wildlife lurking quietly beneath the scrubs. Enjoy visual displays placed around the garden offering information about the medicinal and nutritional values of the collection’s home-grown herbs, and discover the story behind their beautiful oak exhibition wall.
The garden is a place of relaxation, exploration, and education - an oasis of green that invites you to peer a little closer at the wildlife of the Wild Atlantic Way.
Where: Jackie Clarke Collection, Pearse Street, Ballina, Co. Mayo
Tel: +353 (0)967 6805
Heritage Week at Connemara National Park - Sat 19th - Sun 27nd August
Wed & Fri - Guided Nature Walk 11am | Tue & Thu - Fun with Nature for Kids (5 – 10yrs) 11am | Mon, Wed & Fri - Connemara Pony Information 2pm-4pm
The wild natural riches of Connemara are yours to discover this Heritage Week on the Wild Atlantic Way. Situated in the west of Ireland in County Galway in the invigorating Bay Coast region, the Connemara National Park covers some 2,957 hectares of scenic mountains, western boglands, heaths, grasslands and woodlands.
The park is a sanctuary for local wildlife, with rabbits, foxes, stoats, shrews, bats, and many species of bird including peregrine falcons often spotted. The largest mammal - the Connemara Pony - can also be seen roaming contentedly across the landscape.
A range of plant life can also be found, from the colourful purple moorgrass to bog cotton, milkwort, orchids and bog myrtle, with lichens and mosses and even carnivorous plants such as sundew and butterworts trap weaving a winsome tapestry.
The area is popular with cyclists, hikers and walkers, rock climbers and all manner of outdoor enthusiast, and this Heritage Week, complimentary guided nature walks, children’s activities, talks about the Connemara Pony and lots more are on offer, so get out of the city and into the great outdoors.
Where: Connemara National Park, Letterfrack, Co. Galway
Tel: +353(0) 76 100 2534 | +353 (0)87 291 9721
Laneways & Bow-ways of Ennis - Mon 21st August, 7pm-9pm
Perched on a bend in the River Fergus in the heart of the Cliff Coast Region of the Wild Atlantic Way, Ennis - from the Irish Inis, or, ‘island’ - is the capital of rugged and beautiful County Clare.
A historical town, Ennis boasts one of Clare’s most characterful and picturesque centres. With its narrow, winding streets, heritage buildings and busy market town atmosphere, it’s the perfect place to take in a little culture, and this Heritage Week, Ennis Tidy Towns has just the thing to pique your curiosity. Join local historian Larry Brennan on a leisurely stroll through town to find out the history of Ennis' laneways, bow-ways and hidden backstreets.
Learn the forgotten stories of the places and spaces of Ennis - from the Franciscan Friary that dates back to 1242 to the courthouse, cathedral and the many homes and shop fronts lining the lanes.
You’ll be taken with the many charms along the way, and, once you’ve satisfied your inquisitive side, you’ll have plenty of opportunity to discover what makes makes Ennis the ‘Boutique Capital of Clare’, with delicious eateries, bars and restaurants, shops, and even a spot of live traditional music to be found.
Where: Club Bridge, Ennis, Co. Clare
Biodiverse Food / Nature Trail - Sat 19th August, 10:30am-12pm
Spend an afternoon exploring the rich and plentiful wildlife habitats of Kerry while learning how to integrate food production and enhance biodiversity on this relaxed walk around Gortbrack Organic Farm in Tralee.
Gortbrack is an award-winning, innovative centre for environmental education, local organic food training and development and eco-landscaping based on a nine-acre site overlooking scenic Tralee Valley. The farm contains a diverse range of ecological and native Irish habitats, ranging from ponds to wild bogland, hedgerows, woodlands, ditches and stonewalls.
The experts at Gortbrack will be delighted to take you on a tour of their lovingly-kept grounds, which also includes organic vegetable and herb patches, tunnels, composting facilities, willow features, reed bed systems and even cabins, to say nothing of the resident ducks and donkeys. This splendid setting in the Wild Atlantic Way’s Southern Peninsulas region will be the perfect way to get in touch with the local heritage, inspired by nature with the aim of ensuring well-being for all.
Where: Gortbrack Organic Farm, Ballyseedy, Tralee, Co. Kerry
Tel: +353 (0)87 924 6968
Ellen Hutchins Festival - Sat 19th - Sun 20th August
Join lovers of science and the great outdoors on the Haven Coast at the Ellen Hutchins Festival this Heritage Week, an inspired celebration of Ireland's first female botanist.
The Ellen Hutchins Festival will be a perfect way to spend a weekend this August, with a plethora of events and activities for all the family to enjoy on offer. Put your toes to the trail on a guided nature walk or be fascinated at an illustrated talk. On Whiddy Island, a seaweed event will detail Hutchins’ extensive discoveries, while children's nature art activities will provide educational fun for little ones in Glengarriff Woods. You can take part in a botanical art workshop at beautiful Bantry House or head off to Garinish Island, where an exhibition on Hutchins waits to be marveled over.
You’ll also have the chance to observe firsthand seaweed specimens collected by the famous botanist over 200 years ago, complete with a display of her very own seaweed illustrations.
Enjoy a little bit of Cork heritage with this tribute to one of Ireland’s most influential naturalists.
Where: Inner Bantry Bay (Bantry, Whiddy Island, Ballylickey, Garinish Island and Glengarriff), Co. Cork
Tel: +353 (0)87 678 1613
Youghal Medieval Festival - Sun 20th August, 12pm-6pm
An established commercial sea port since 853, Youghal is one of the finest examples of a medieval settlement in Ireland, and still bears many of the monuments and structures from this exciting time in Irish history.
Celebrate its intriguing heritage by spending a Sunday at the Youghal Medieval Festival, taking place once again this summer as part of the programme of events planned nationwide for Heritage Week 2017. Witness daring battle reenactments from the White Horse Living History Society; try your hand at wool spinning or coin striking; amuse your palate with a taste of authentic medieval-style food and drink, or even have your gruaig done up in the old style by a medieval hairdresser.At this fun, fascinating family-friendly event, you can really step back in time.
Where: The College Gardens, Emmet Place, The Raleigh Quarter, Youghal, Co. Cork.
Tel: +353 (0)248 1814
Dancing at the Crossroads - Sun 20th - Sun 27nd August, 8pm-10pm
Put on your dancing shoes and head down to Laharn Cross in Mallow for Dancing at the Crossroads, a delightful way to celebrate Heritage Week 2017 in North Cork.
Situated in the heart of Lombardstown, Laharn Cross is the location where people gather each and every Sunday night throughout the summer months to enjoy open air crossroads dancing as the light of the day begins to fade. Large crowds step it out on the raised timber platform and dance the night away to live music performed by traditional Irish bands.
Waltzes, quicksteps and foxtrots, not to mention the polka, shoe-the-donkey and the Siege of Ennis are the order of the evening for the hundreds of enthusiastic dancers who gather for the fun and festivities. This August, two very special Sunday dances will take place in honour of Heritage Week, and everyone is invited to take part in the free event. Learn a new step or two or show off your own moves - either way, you’ll enjoy an exhilarating evening on the Wild Atlantic Way.
Where: Laharn Cross, Lombardstown, Mallow, Co. Cork
Tel: +353 (0)87 918 7222
Various locations along the Wild Atlantic Way
Whale Watch Ireland 2017 - Sat 26th August, 2pm-5pm
With 25 different species of cetaceans (aquatic mammals such as whales and dolphins) roaming Irish waters throughout much of the year, what better way is there to celebrate the maritime traditions of the Wild Atlantic Way this Heritage Week than by joining Whale Watch Ireland for an All-Ireland Whale Watch Day?
Break for the coast at any one of twenty whale watches at sites throughout the country and take part in the free, guided watch among other passionate whale and dolphin spotters.
Staffed by conservationists, whale watchers, researchers, educators and passionate volunteers, the IWDG is a registered charity that organises and takes part in local and national marine events year-round. Join them this August for an unforgettable experience on the coast.
Where: See here for full list of meeting points
Irish Landmark Trust Open House - Sun 27th August, 10am-4pm
From lighthouses and tower houses to former schoolhouses, mews, gate lodges, and stately apartments, the Irish Landmark Trust is always on the lookout for interesting and unusual properties across the island of Ireland that are in need of conservation. A non-profit organisation, the trust works together with a generous community of donors and trustees to give these structures new life, thus preserving and maintaining the past for future generations to enjoy. Over the past two decades, they’ve conserved and taken care of 31 quirky, eccentric, and distinctive buildings around the country.
As part of Heritage Week 2017, eight of their historic buildings will be open to the public for one very special day where you can enjoy some of Ireland’s most unique examples of built heritage.
Step inside the miniature castle at Annes Grove in Castletownroche, County Cork, or gaze wistfully out to sea from the shelter of the Galley Head Lightkeeper’s Houses in nearby Clonakilty. Tour the elegant Inchiquin House, in the rural have of Corofin, County Clare, or head down to Loop Head for a peek inside the Lightkeeper’s House. In Sligo, step back in time at the 1860s Schoolhouse at Annaghmore, or if you’re in the Northern Headlands, the Railway Crossing Cottage at Drumstevlin, the Clipper and Schooner at St.John’s Point, and Termon House in Maghery all invite you in for a taste of historic Donegal life.
This open house event will consist of a self-guided tour with information provided at each location, as well as a complementary activity sheet for children.
Where: Various locations along the Wild Atlantic Way
Tel: +353 (0)1 670 4733
So what are you waiting for? Plan your trip now and head west for a taste of wild Irish heritage. Admission for all events free unless otherwise stated.
For a full listing of all National Heritage Week events please go to www.heritageweek.ie or pick up a brochure from your local library or Tourist Office.