Lorna Hogg offers some attractions where you don’t have to put your hand in your pocket
If the best things in life are free, for Irish residents, access to many of them comes with your 66th birthday, courtesy of free travel, with your new Public Services Card – details on www.welfare.ie. This allows more visits, not just to loved ones, but also to take advantage of the many free attractions, concerts, talks, exhibitions and events we have in Ireland……
Freedom for Culture Vultures
September isn’t just about the start of evening classes and college terms – it’s also the time of the increasingly popular Culture Night, this year on September 22nd. Whilst now an all island celebration, Dublin in particular has many attractions on offer. If you’ve ever wondered what the top Clubs, Academies and Associations, the great houses, old Barracks and even the Whiskey Museum! are like – this is the time to find out.
From the theatre of Smock Alley, originally created in 1662, to the ‘food is culture’ viewpoint at Dublin Food Co-Op’s night market in the Liberties, the late night concerts, walks and talks, the Night opens up what we mean by culture. To help you get around, Dublin Bus provides a Free Culture Night Bus service. Check also for local events in your area.
Open House Dublin, running from 13th -15th October, is bigger and better than ever this, showcasing the best in Irish architecture,from Georgian style to cutting age modern. There are walks and talks plus plenty of visits to buildings of all shapes and sizes. Highlights are expected to include the new Central Bank building – and a chance to view a canal houseboat or a new `container’ home.
Check details before travel. Full details not available at time of going to press.
If your particular type of Public Services Card type allows, you can be accompanied on your travels by a spouse/ civil partner/cohabitant – or a companion if medically necessary. Whilst many people just use the card to visit family and friends or shop, it can also open a new lease of life. Services on Bus Eireann, Irish Rail, DART and LUAS are all included. Some private carriers accepting the pass on certain services– e.g. CityLink.
A Free Travel pass will allow you to attend food festivals, literary gatherings, garden visits, special interest museums or courses. It can take you on walking, fishing or boating outings, to explore old haunts or new interests. It will allow you the advantages of off-season travel, and off- peak hotel deals. Check up on the latest Irish Rail connections around the country – you might be surprised at the variety, as well as the comfortable new rolling stock.
One of the most popular travel routes is, of course is the Enterprise train to Belfast. Remember that you’ll have to fill in the Free Cross-Border Travel Scheme Rail Warrant, Form FT100, to show with your Pass. You can collect one at Connolly Station, or go online. Remember also that you can travel to any destination within Northern Ireland with the Pass, on one rail/ bus trip,on a through-ticket. You could go from Cork to Belfast, providing your ticket states your ultimate destination.
We’re fortunate that in Ireland, many standard Bus Eireann routes cover beautiful regions, and some are especially ‘tourist friendly.’ The 480 service, from Sligo to Derry, travels through Donegal, via the beautiful Bluestack Mountains. The 279A route runs from Killarney to Cahirciveen and Waterville. The 280 (summer only ) service covers the Ring of Kerry The 282 (summer only) `Ring of Beara’ will take you from Kenmare to Glengariff, while 276 (summer only) covers part of the Dingle Peninsula, from Killarney to Inch and Dingle. You will, however, need to carefully check timetables – day trippers may find themseleves returning on their outgoing bus!
Don’t overlook city suburbs or nearby attractions. From Dublin, the No. 44 Dublin Bus route still goes past the Scalp to Enniskerry. The DART service covers the beautiful Dublin Bay area, from Howth around to Greystones, the last section through a series of old tunnels and stunning clifftop views.
Heritage Ireland’s ‘Free Monday’ on the first Monday of the month offers a countrywide choice, from Fota and Garinish Islands to the Rock of Cashel and Kilkenny Castle. Remember, many of the National Parks, fom Connemara and Killarney to Wicklow, plus other attractions, have free entry at all times.
Look out for seasonal free concerts, shows and talks. ‘Opera in the Open’ in the amphitheatre on Dublin’s Wood Quay offers a weekly hour- long live opera performance on Thursdays in August, weather permitting. The Music Library, in ILAC Centre, has regular talks and concerts. Go to www.dublincity.ie for details and also www.dublineventguide.com.
Fancy being part of the audience at a TV show? You can get free tickets to some live TV shows or recordings – go to:
Freedom of the city
Plenty of Dublin and Belfast’s attractions are also free. Why not get your bearings with a free walking tour of Dublin? It leaves from the Spire twice daily – just look for the big yellow umbrella, with a choice of North and South city attractions. Afterwards, you can leave the gratuity of your choice.
The President’s Residence in Phoenix Park offers free tours on Saturdays, with tickets on the day. Collect them early at Visitor Centre. Government Buildings has free tours – but you need to book. Farmleigh House, in Phoenix Park and where official State guests stay, is another free attraction though it can be closed on short notice, so check the website.
Many galleries and museums are free – and The National Gallery also has many free talks. Modern artlovers enjoy the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham and the Hugh Lane Gallery, Mountjoy Square. Add on the medieval St. Audoen’s Church, the Pearse Museum in Rathfarnham, and there is plenty of choice. Don’t forget the open spaces at Trinity College and Dublin Castle, plus The Botanical Garden .
Belfast’s free entry attractions start off with a free bus ride into the city from Central Station, courtesy of your rail ticket. City Hall has free tours twice daily, Stormont Parliament Buildings daily. Belfast Castle and Gardens plus Cave Hill Country Park have spectacular views. The MAC galleries and exhibitions, whilst Culturlann McAdam O’Fiaich has a varied programme of Irish language attractions. Like Dublin, Belfast is a `walking’ city – take a stroll around the Titanic and Cathedral Quarters to soak up the atmosphere.
Free family research
If you’re already an enthusiastic family history reasearcher, you’ll know how costs can mount up as you search for records. However, the excellent Back to Our Past Show, Shelbourne Hall, RDS, Dublin, 20th – 22nd October, includes free lectures and advice from major research companies and sources . You can also book a 20 minute free consultation with a professional genealogist. (Entry to the event itself is 5 Euro). Clearly, there are time constraints on any detailed research. However a genealogist can clarify the best sources and holders of information for you, and save both time and money by suggesting your best plans. Bring along as much information as you have – e.g. places of birth, family land holdings, street addresses, gravestone details etc..