By far the most cost-effective way to enjoy Ireland’s heritage sites is by purchasing an OPW Heritage Card.
The Office of Public Works (OPW) manage and maintain the monuments and historic properties that are in state ownership (which are the bulk of the significant and famous sites). Many of the smaller sites and ruins are freely accessible, as there are no guides or facilities on-site, you just open the gate and explore at your own pace. However, all of the major attractions (Newgrange, Trim Castle, The Hill of Tara, The Cliffs of Moher, etc.) do require a ticket to enter, and in return provide excellent interpretation, tours, and facilities.
What is a Heritage Card?
The Heritage Card is a pass that affords the holder access to all the sites managed by the OPW (with the exception of Muckross Traditional Farms in Killarney). Pre-booking is not required, just present the card and you will be admitted. The ticketed admission fee for different sites varies, but for an individual the card should pay for itself once you visit about four sites, while for a family of four the card will have paid for itself after visiting just two. Cards are also valid for one year from purchase, so if you’re there for a few weeks or plan on travelling to different regions, getting a heritage card is a no-brainer.
Family Heritage Cards
It always makes me chuckle to see how the OPW acknowledges the Irish propensity for large families in their definition of a family: “2 adults & a reasonable number of children under 18 years.” It’s also wonderful that the card can be used for grandparents with their grandkids or parents and kids, as it affords more flexibility.
Where to buy Heritage Cards?
Cards can be purchased at any of the fee-paying sites (or online in advance), although only the bigger sites may be able to process payment by credit card. I purchase a family heritage card as soon as we arrive in Ireland (although sometimes it’s unnecessary, as the previous year’s card has not yet expired) and we get our money’s worth for sure.
Having the card allows you to visit places like Bru-na-Boinne on separate days so you can explore Newgrange on one day and Knowth on another, ensuring the kids don’t burn out, and enabling everyone to take in more because of the slower pace. As young kids can sometimes hit the point of no-return without much warning, the card enables families to leave when they need to, without parents feeling that they have to stay longer as they’ve already paid for the tickets. Leave the site, do something different, feed the kids, and return later that day or the next for no extra cost. Flexibility is essential when you’re traveling anywhere with children, and the Heritage Card enables families to be that much more flexible on their trip around Ireland.
Find out more information or purchase a Heritage Card at Heritage Ireland…
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