County Wicklow Heritage Week Event Guide

Its in Your Nature is the theme for National Heritage Week 2017, Co-ordinated in Ireland by the Heritage Council and across Europe by the Council of Europe as part of European Heritage Days.

In County Wicklow we have a busy schedule of events taking place at  over 60 venues, the majority free of charge and family friendly. See for full details of all events, pick up a county event guide at your local library, tourist office or council offices and plan your visits. Below is a summary of whats on offer, download a pdf copy of the guide at the end of the page;

For the Wild Child

There are lots of opportunities for kids to get close to nature this Heritage Week. Get to be a Wild Child in Hollywood village hosted by the local Tidy Towns, or sign up to  nature camps and Storytelling in Nature at  Season Park farm in Newtownmountkennedy.

Its all about the bugs and bees at Easthill Organic Farm outside Newtownmountkennedy at their open event.  Meet the beekeepers at Russborough House, take the ‘find the queen bee’ challenge and learn more about the fascinating journey from hive to honey.

At  Glendalough kids can explore birds with National Park staff or attend an open day at Birdwatch Irelands East Coast Nature Reserve a coastal wetland teeming with wildlife.

The ‘Big Dig’ in Glendalough is a must for budding archaeologists, while the miniature hat making at Tara’s Palace in Powerscourt and the ever popular Teddy Bear’s Picnic at Bray library are bound to keep younger audiences enthralled.

It’s in your Nature at Sharpeshill WSPCA Animal Sanctuary, Rathdrum with  an entertaining and educational day out for all the family promised to include  demonstrations of traditional crafts of pottery, wood whittling and knitting and storytelling.


Go Visit

There are a host of buildings to visit this year, many of them ‘new’ venues  for Heritage Week. Visit a castle that is not a castle but a rare castellated Georgian house, at Altidore in Kilpedder and enjoy a tour by the current owners, direct descendants of Robert and Thomas Addis Emmet.

Visit the Masonic Lodges at Greystones, Arklow and Wicklow Towns. In 1725 the first Grand Lodge of Freemasons was formed in Ireland and from then to now members are part of many communities and will be on hand to talk and answer your questions over a cup of tea.

Easthill Farm, Newtownmountkennedy will host an evening focussing on bees, bugs and other pollinators, Christchurch in Dlegany will be open for visits, while Arklow Lifeboat Station, one of the first in Ireland, built 1826, will also open its doors.

Visit Wicklow Head Lighthouse on its ever popular open day to see the conservation work of the Irish Landmark Trust. Imagine life as a lighthouse keeper on your self-guided tour of this restored C18th lighthouse now run as holiday accommodation.

Ballymurrin Farmstead near the Beehive, south of Wicklow town: Visit two 17C Quaker farmsteads, one unroofed; the farmhouse with bread oven and muted classical style. Milking parlour; stables; dower house; complete the courtyard and garden in front of house

Arklow Maritime Museum: The Museum is a treasure trove of shipbuilders’ models, half models, plans and a unique collection of eight paintings of Arklow sailing ships, open for visits with free entry for Heritage Week on Sunday 20th Aug.

Nuns Cross Church outside Ashford is celebrating 200 years, a treasure trove of art and history not to mention connections with the architect of the GPO Francis Johnston, the playwright JM Synge and Sir Roger Casement. Visit on one of the open days to find out more.   Keeping with the Synge theme, this is one of three exhibits on display at the nearby Ashford Community & Heritage Centre, the other two being a replica  copy  the Book Of Kells and artworks by local artists Susan and kenneth Webb.

Killruddery House has a very special afternoon ‘trains, planes and automobiles’ with local history and storytelling promised, while the ever magnificent Russborough House will host the North Kildare Beekeepers for demonstrations and talks.

 Get Outdoors

Heritage Week is a great time to be outdoors and this year you can take your pick from a selection of walks and guided visits to suit all interests.  At all times dress appropriately for the weather and terrain and contact organisers in advance for further information or to book a place if required.


As part of the All Ireland Whale Watch Day join the IWDG for two free and guided land-based Whale Watching outings at Bray Head and at the Black Castle Wicklow Town. While there are no guarantees of sightings, given reasonable weather you have a good chance of seeing some of our wonderful local marine mammals.

Follow the footsteps of Pilgrims along St. Kevin’s Way from Hollywood to Glendalough, one of five  Pilgrim Path events taking place in Ireland,  or walk part of Wicklow’s newest way marked trail, the Avonmore Way, meeting at Trooperstown and exploring wildlife.

For those interested in mining heritage, join Nick Coy in  a guided walk through Avoca, ‘The Greatest Irish Mine’ a  landscape of the Copper and Sulphur mines unique to the Avoca Valley. For the more seasoned hikers, join a 20 km guided trek over the mountains from neighbouring valleys at Glendasan and Glendalough as far as Barravore and Glenmalure learning more about the wonderful mining and associated heritage along the way.

Archaeology:  At Baltinglass Hills there will be a very special opportunity to take a guided tour with James O Driscoll of the three hillforts on Tuckmill and find out about recent archaeological research. At the ancient site of St. Crispins Cell in Greystones there will be a talk and music, at Dunlavin there will be a walk to the nearby holy well, and at Delgany village there are tours of the old graveyard including the ruins of the church and the high cross. Keep an eye out for activity at  Raheen na Cluig where the community based Medieval Bray Project hopes to be excavating at this early church site. Glendalough will be a host of archaeological activity (see below) involving daily tours, an excavation and more.

For History buffs, join a walking tour of Bray tracing the history of the ‘Big Houses’ from the Town Hall along Killarney Road with the ever knowledgeable Brian White, or a historical walk around Newcastle village from the Community Centre to accompany the map exhibition. Also in Newcastle, local author, Sean O Suillebhean will lead a special ‘walk and talk’ event encompassing local nature, placenames and history

There will be a guided geology walk along the coast at Greystones with Koen Verbruggen from  the GSI, while at Wicklow town,  the Friends of the Murrough are leading a  scenic coastal cliff loop looking at local wildlife and archaeological sites.

For a more flexible option take a self guided tour and wander in your own time.  Pick up a leaflet at the Glenmalure Lodge Hotel to find out more about the History, Culture & Biodiversity of the local PURE Miles, take the Macreddin Mile outside Aughrim to find out more about local historical landmarks along with edible herbs, leaves, berries, mushrooms and fruits as well as a range of native wildlife. Mount Usher Gardens are including a free guided tour with your admission ticket on the Wednesday of Heritage Week while the ever beautiful Knocknaree Gardens in Avoca will be open for visits every morning..


Talks & Exhibitions

The Week That Was’ comes under the microscope of Jim Scannell at this talk at Bray Library looking back at events in Bray, Co. Wicklow, 100 years ago during the week of August 19th to August 27th 1917 and also in a separate talk the same week in Bray 75 years ago in 1942.

Newcastle’s History will also be examined via a historical map exhibition in the Community centre and a walk and talk while you can find out more about the former Union Workhouse at Shillelagh.  David McIlreavy from the Medieval Bray Project will give a talk about Raheen na Cluig Church and recent research undertaken by this community based archaeological and research group.

Art & Atmosphere is an exhibition running all week in the Brockagh Resource Centre which will display historical depictions of  the Glendalough Valley ‘through the artists eye’ from the 18th century in various etches, sketches and drawings , many quite rare.

Blessington Tidy Towns are hosting a display of a selection of entries to their Lakeside photography competition highlighting the beautiful landscape of the Blessington Lakes.


The Geology of County Wicklow is an exhibition from the Geological Survey of Ireland (GSI) / Heritage Office of Wicklow County Council that runs for the week in County Buildings giving highlights from the recent Geological audit of county Wicklow and telling the story of the formation of the county’s underlying geology including Leinster granite, glacial features and mining deposits.


Music & Comedy

St. Kevin’s Church in Hollywood provides the historic setting for Ceiliruadh: An Acoustic Celebration of Music, Song and Poems with Paul Bradley (fiddle), Ger Fitzgerald (Bean an Sean Nos) and Rachel Conlan (fiddle).

Listen out for music as part of a celebration at St. Crispin’s Ancient church in Greystones and in the House of Storytelling evening at the Courthouse in Shillelagh. In Ashford, , Paul Sharkey promises an evening of humour featuring excerpts from the works of Eamonn Kelly, Hugh Leonard, Flann O’Brien and others.

‘Spudfest’ is new to Heritage Week this year, taking place over an evening in the Horse and Hound pub in Delgany, this homage to the humble potato seems guaranteed to entertain.


Hands on Archaeology@ Glendalough

The monastic complex at Glendalough is the hub for an exciting programme of activities, leading up to and including Heritage Week, with lots of opportunities for hands on participation. Interested individuals (over 18’s) are invited to take part in a Community Archaeology Excavation taking place from 8th -18thth Aug, while teenagers (13-17 year olds) can volunteer for a Junior Excavation on Sat. 12th Aug. No experience needed, just enthusiasm and willingness to dedicate at least one full day. All training and supervision will be provided by the School of Archaeology, UCD, who will continue the excavation with their own field school throughout Heritage Week. Recent discoveries by UCD have unearthed evidence of the monastic enclosure wall, a Viking coins, jewellery, pottery and other interesting artefacts.

Also at Glendalough, the Community Graveyard Survey team plan to give tours of the recently developed graveyard trail.  For children there will be the opportunity to take part in the ‘Big Dig’ a one day simulated archaeological dig on Sat 19thth Aug and a family open day Food & Resources on Sat. 26th Aug featuring food, stalls and craft demonstrations focussing on human interaction with the landscape over the millennia.   These projects are organised collaboratively by the Glendalough Heritage Forum, (more information and booking at and   made possible by support from the Heritage Office of Wicklow County Council and The Heritage Council.



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