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Cheap and free family things to do over the summer holidays in Ireland


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Laya Healthcare City Spectacular, Dublin & Cork
Celebrating its 12th birthday this year, Laya Healthcare’s City Spectacular is going to be even bigger, better and more spectacular than ever as it takes to Dublin’s Merrion Square & Cork’s Fitzgerald Park, Cork city this July. Featuring some of the best street theatre performers around, and with a host of exciting events, fantastic exhibitions and absorbing interactive workshops, there will be plenty to entertain the whole family.
Location: Merrion Square, Dublin & Fitzgerald Park, Cork.
Date: Dublin: July 7th – 9th; Cork: July 15th – 16th 2017
Cost: Free
Ennis Street Festival, Clare
The Ennis Street Festival is a celebration of the many cultures and artistic ways that make Ennis, Co. Clare, a special place, with a colourful mix of music, dance, visual arts, puppets shows, arts exhibitions, workshops, acrobatics and many more surprises for all the family.
Location: Ennis, Co.Clare.
Date: July 3rd – 9th 2017
Cost: Free to Various
Galway International Arts Festival, Galway
See Galway City come alive for the annual Galway International Arts Festival this July. Showcasing street performers music and theatre, there are events for all ages, and surprises around every corner. This is a great time to visit Galway.
Location: Galway City
Date: July 17th – 30th 2017
Cost: Free to Various.

Earagail Festival, Donegal
The Earagail Festival which runs in July in Donegal is a unique bilingual cultural festival with events from music to outdoor events to theatre and visual arts, taking place in a mix of venues. Every year the festival includes family friendly events.
Location: Letterkenny, West Donegal and Inishowen,.
Date July 4th -23rd 2017
Cost: Free to Various.

Ballina Salmon Festival, Mayo
Is the largest community-run festival in the West of Ireland with over 50 individual events. The 53rd annual festival takes place from July 9th to 16th 2017. Over a third of the programme is dedicated to children’s events, with a number of free events included.  There are also lots of fun events for adults!
Location: Ballina, Mayo
Date: 9-16 July 2017
Cost: Free to Various.
Clonmel Junction Festival, Tipperary
Over the course of 7 days Clonmel Junction Festival presents a programme of events including live music, theatre, street performance, comedy, visual art, food events and much much more.
Date: 3 – 9 July 2017
Cost: Free to Various.
Chester Beatty Library workshops

Silk Worm Club
Workshops designed for children aged 6 -11. Free, 20 places per session – booking essential

Chester Beatty's Creative Lab Club for Teens
Workshops designed for teens aged 12 - 14 and 15-17. Free, 15 places per session – booking essential
Summer Stars, Libraries Ireland
Summer Stars is a free programme, open to all children. Each child who registers for the programme at their local library joins in the fun of reading lots of exciting books during the summer. Children will receive their own Summer Stars Reading Card to record their progress and the Summer Stars Reward Stamp will be added to their card at the library for each book read. Fun rewards will be provided along the way. At the end of the programme, all children who have participated will be invited to attend an awards event.
Durrow Scarecrow Festival, July 30th – August 7th 2-17
The Durrow Scarecrow Festival is a quirky festival with something for young and old alike. With scarecrows of seemingly endless designs and themes - from the traditional to the hilarious - you will find plenty to enjoy at this family-friendly event. 

There is also plenty more on offer in Durrow during the festival, including live music, craft workshops, a country market, adult, teen and children's entertainment, and even a scarecrow treasure hunt. 

The highlight of the festival is the All Ireland Scarecrow Championships in which over 120 scarecrow makers from the four corners of Ireland - and even further afield - will compete to win a prize.
Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann 2017
Date: 13 August 2017 To 21 August 2017
Location: Ennis, Co. Clare
Don't miss this huge annual celebration of Ireland's rich and vibrant cultural traditions, featuring a range of events for anyone with an interest in traditional music, singing and dancing.
Various prices
Waterford Spraoi International Street Arts Festival
August 4th, 5th & 6th 2017
Join the throngs of onlookers catching a glimpse of acrobats, aerial dancers, comic artistes from Mexico to Australia at this massive three-day street party. Choose your location carefully to watch how performers, decorative floats and fireworks transform the streets of Waterford in the grand finale Spraoi Festival parade
National Heritage Week, nationwide
National Heritage Week promotes awareness of Ireland’s built, natural and cultural heritage, with hundreds of community and national organisations staging events across the country.

In Dublin, explore some of our oldest buildings, take part in the many workshops and talks taking place, or indulge in a performance which shows off our vast musical and spoken word heritage.

Taking place over the last weekend in August, National Heritage Week will celebrate summer 2017 in style before the Back to School season commences.

Community participation is core to this initiative, and with a remarkable range of activities based on a broad interpretation of heritage, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors each year, 2017’s National Heritage Week will be bursting with exciting events for the whole family. 
Waterford Greenway
It’s the first summer that this 46-kilometre, off-road track along a disused railway is open to cyclists and walkers. Bring your own bikes or hire some to pedal part or all of what was considered to be Ireland’s most scenic rail route when it opened in 1878. There are three high viaducts to cross and the villages of Kilmeadan and Kilmacthomas en route offer the chance to stop for coffee.
Bike rental from €15.
Summer of Space
Cork and beyond, June 26th-August 25th
Sights are set on outer space for a programme of more than 50 events in Cork city, county and further afield. The second man to walk on the Moon, Buzz Aldrin of the Apollo 11 mission, will be in “the real capital” to kick off events ranging from space camps, family workshops and lectures to planetarium shows, rocket-building and a MoonCycle. The Blackrock Castle Observatory is at the heart of the action, as the Cork Institute of Technology hosts the International Space University’s annual Space Studies Programme.
Free and paid for
Ulster Folk and Transport Museum, Co Down, July 22nd-23rd
A perfect chance to try family camping, but you do need to bring your own equipment and food. Hosted by the nature charity RSPB as a fundraiser, there will be activities to keep all ages entertained, from mini-beast hunting to bat detecting and bushcrafts to stargazing. Toilets, security and cooking areas provided.
£17-£20 (under-4s free);
Bray Air Display
Bray, Co Wicklow, July 22nd-23rd

Look up to see the UK’s aerobatic Team Raven, an F-18 jet from the Spanish Air Force and the Catalina Flying Boat, among many other performers, at Ireland’s biggest air show. On the ground there is a food and craft village, seafront funfair and the chance to climb aboard a helicopter for a pleasure flight (€50/€35). But do travel by public transport to the town this weekend if you can. Meanwhile, on the same Saturday, on the other side of the country, Foynes Flying Boat and Maritime Museum in Co Limerick hosts its now annual air show.
Slieve Gullion Forest Park
Co Armagh, all summer

Check out the new Giant’s Lair story park at what was voted “family visitor attraction of the year” in the 2016 Ni4Kids Family Awards. It’s a bewitching trail for all the fairies and elves in your life. There’s also an extensive adventure playpark. The Lúnasa Festival, July 30th-August 27th, with a programme of more than 30 events, is a particularly good time to visit.

Free First Wednesdays
Countrywide, July 5th, August 2nd

The Office of Public Works offers free admission to almost 50 heritage sites around the country on the first Wednesday of each month. Tickets are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis, so families are encouraged to get there early. The Dublin Castle State Apartments, the Brú na Bóinne Visitor Centre for Newgrange and Knowth in Co Meath, Kilkenny Castle and the Charles Fort, Co Cork, are among the participating venues.
West Cork Literary Festival
Bantry, Co Cork, July 14th-21st

 A Children’s Festival within the main festival presents a variety of workshops for young scribes, as well as 3pm readings by popular authors such as Jane Mitchell (age 11-plus) on July 15th; Dave Rudden (age eight-plus), July 19th, and “Geek Girl” Holly Smale (age 11-plus), July 20th. If your children are wondering what to read next during their summer holidays, take them for a free consultation at the Book Clinic for all ages in Bantry Library on July 18th, 9.30am-12.30pm.
Readings €6;

Galway International Arts Festival
Galway, July 17th-30th

July 21st will be a night to forget bedtimes when Transe Express’s stunning, high-energy spectacle, “Chariot of the Sea” starts to wind through the streets from Eyre Square at 10pm. If that’s too late, catch its large-scale aerial performance, “Mobile Homme”, the next day, at St Nicholas Church, 4pm. One children’s show for age four-plus not to miss is an adaptation of the Oliver Jeffers book, “How to Catch a Star”, using puppetry and music, running July 18th-29th (no shows July 22nd-24th) in the O’Donoghue Theatre.
Free, show €10-12
Kilkenny Arts Festival
Children can enjoy twice daily, secret garden pop-up concerts, theatre shows and workshops at a festival which generates an entertaining buzz in the Marble City’s medieval streets. The classical music programme of lunchtime and evening concerts gives budding musicians the chance to hear inspiring, world-class performers.
Some free, various prices;

Agricultural shows
Countrywide, June-August

 The sounds, sights and smells of a traditional agricultural show make for a transfixing summer outing. Big and small, these celebrations of rural life take place all over the country, with events ranging from “beauty” competitions for cattle, horses, sheep and poultry, to show-jumping, horticultural competitions and tug of war. Ones to look out for include Cork Summer Show (June 17th and 18th), West Kerry Show in Dingle (July 16th), Tullamore Show (August 13th), Connemara Pony Show, Clifden (August 16th-19th) and what claims to be Ireland’s oldest – the Iverk Show in Piltown, Co Kilkenny (August 26th), which was founded in 1826.
Pirate Day
Hook Lighthouse, Co Wexford, July 2nd and August 27th

Captain Hook and his cronies arrive on the peninsula of the same name to take over the oldest operational lighthouse in the world. Children are invited to come dressed as pirates to blend in and avoid capture, and perhaps win themselves a fancy dress prize. There’s music and nautical games on the lawn.
Adults €9, children go free on these days

Enniscrone Black Pig Festival, Sligo

Head to Enniscrone this July for the Enniscrone Black Pig Festival, where you can enjoy treasure hunts, fireworks, music, street performers, great food and a Market Day at this family friendly festival.
When: July 27th – 30th 2017
Kilkenny Arts Festival
 August 11th – 20th 2017
In August the city of Kilkenny will come to life with the annual Kilkenny Arts Festival. There’s visual art, classical music, theatre and dance, jazz, world & traditional Irish music, literature, film, indie music, craft, children’s and street events and more – something for everyone!

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