In a bid to make Ireland's beautiful and historic tourist attractions accessible the Office of Public Works (OPW) has introduced free first Wednesdays of every month. This means that from July 2011 Ireland's famous heritage sites will be open to everyone.
According to the RTE report the OPW hopes that their initiative will attract more national and international visitors to the site.
Here is our list of the top ten heritage sites that everyone should go and visit -
1. Kilmainham Gaol, County Dublin
Kilmainham Gaol is now a museum but played an important part in Irish history, as many leaders of Irish rebellions were imprisoned and some executed in the prison by the British and latterly in 1923 by the Irish Free State.
In the period of time extending from its opening in 1796 until its decommissioning in 1924 it has been, barring the notable exceptions of Daniel O'Connell and Michael Collins, a site of incarceration of every significant Irish nationalist leader of both the constitutional and physical force traditions. Its history as an institution is intimately linked with the story of the Irish nationalism.
2. Kilkenny Castle, County Kilkenny
Kilkenny Castle was built in 1195 by William Marshal, 1st Earl of Pembroke. It was a symbol of Norman occupation and in its original thirteenth-century condition it would have formed an important element of the defenses.
In 1967 the property was transferred to the people of Kilkenny for £50.
3. Newgrange, County Meath
Dating back to 3200 B.C the passage tomb at Newgrange is older than the pyramids in Egypt and is officially a World Heritage site.
A large mound, spread over an acre is surrounded by 97, uniquely carved curbstones. The cremated remains of the dead were buried a large stone basins under the mound in a chamber assessable by a narrow passage.
At dawn on the December 21, the shortest day of the year, every year, sunlight shines directly into the central chamber of the tomb. It is believed that this was an ancient way of measuring the passage of time, like a calendar for the ancient farmers, or that the light has some religious significance for those in the afterlife.
Newgrange is part of the Bru na Boinne complex which includes similar tombs at Knowth and Dowth.
4. Dublin Castle, State Apartments, County Dublin
The State Apartments in Dublin Castle are an extensive suite of rooms which were used by the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland for personal accommodation and public entertaining. Most of the rooms date from the era of British rule in Ireland.
Nowadays these richly decorated rooms are used by the Irish Government for official engagements including policy launches, hosting of State Visit ceremonial, and the inauguration of the President every seven years.
5. Patrick Pearse Cottage, County Galway
This small restored cottage overlooking the lakes and mountains of Connemara was used by Patrick Pearse (1879-1916) leader of the 1916 Rising, as a summer residence and summer school for his pupils from St Endas, in Dublin.
The interior, although burned during the War of Independence, has been reconstructed and contains an exhibition.
6. Dunmore Cave, County Kilkenny
Dunmore Cave is a limestone cave in Ballyfoyle, County Kilkenny. The cave is particularly well known for its rich archeological discoveries and for being the site of a Viking massacre in 928. It contains almost a quarter of a mile of passages and at its deepest point is 150 foot below the surface. The beauty and magic of its calcite formations as well as its scientific and historical interest make it one of Ireland's most fascinating caves.
7. Ross Castle, County Kerry
Ross Castle is is located on the edge of Lough Leane, in Killarney National Park. It is considered a typical example of the stronghold of an Irish Chieftain during the Middle Ages. The date of its foundation is uncertain but it was probably built in the late 15th century by one of the O'Donoghue Ross chieftains.
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