One great thing about Ireland is many of its star attractions are owned by the government. Why is this a great thing, you ask? It’s because so much history has been preserved and opened to the public instead of left to crumble.
Also, most government owned sites of interest for visitors have affordable entry fees. Even better is that visitors (or locals for that matter) can purchase a Heritage Ireland card for a single price and get free entry to dozens of castles, abbeys, and other historical sites free for one whole year!
Yes, the card is valid for an entire year from the date of purchase, and just a few admission fees will more than cover the cost of the card (currently 40 EUR for an adult).
However, there are some things I wish I knew about this card before purchasing. If I had known about these issues beforehand, I feel like I could have better utilized the card and eased some of my frustration.
Make my pain your benefit by reading the caveats below before purchasing the card.
The Heritage Ireland website can be a little overwhelming:
The format isn’t the easiest to discern because it’s listed by region instead of city or county, so if you don’t know what region the cities you’re visiting are in, it’s a little confusing. I found this page of the website the most helpful when determining what sites were included because it lists all sites on one page according to the city they are in.
Many of the sites listed on the Heritage Ireland website are free to the public:
I found it to be pretty deceiving that more than half of the sites listed in the Heritage Ireland brochure had free admission even without the Heritage card. However, if you know this in advance it’s not a problem.
With just a few sites, you’ll make back the money spent on the Heritage Ireland card:
I analyzed the price list to death before deciding to purchase, and I was extremely skeptical when I saw that so many “included” sites were already free to enter, but purchasing the card ended up being a no-brainer. Even a short visit to Ireland might justify buying the Heritage card. If going on a guided tour of Dublin Castle, Kilmainham Gaol and visiting the Rock of Cashel as well as all sites at the Bru na Boinne Visitor Center, you’ve already made back your money. The savings from any other sites visited is a bonus.
To give you an idea of what the card offers, below are the most popular sites with adult prices as of 2017:
Dublin Castle, Dublin – Guided tour 10 EUR, Self-guided tour 7 EUR
Kilmainham Gaol, Dublin – 8 EUR
Bru na Boinne Visitor Center, Meath – Access to the exhibition, Newgrange and Knowth 13 EUR
Battle of the Boyne Visitor Center, Meath – 5 EUR
Trim Castle, Meath – Guided tour of the keep 5 EUR
Glendalough Visitor Center, Wicklow – 5 EUR
Kilkenny Castle, Kilkenny – 8 EUR
Jerpoint Abbey, Kilkenny – 5 EUR
Rock of Cashel, Tipperary – 8 EUR
Muckross House and Gardens, Kerry – 9 EUR
Ross Castle, Kerry – 5 EUR
Reservations are required in advance for popular sites year round, not just in high season (June-August):
The website makes it sound like the Heritage card is a golden ticket to any site on the list, however, when tickets are sold out, they’re sold out. This means if you don’t reserve in advance you might just be out of luck. I found this to be true for Kilmainham Gaol, so if planning a visit go directly to their website and make a reservation with your Heritage card at least a few days in advance. Newgrange/Knowth and Trim Castle offer tickets on a first-come, first-served basis, so arrive early in the day to get a spot on a tour.
Unfortunately I didn’t have time to visit all of the sites included on the Heritage Ireland card. Therefore, I don’t know all of the sites that require a reservation in advance. I think it would be wise to attempt to reserve a spot in advance for as many sites as you can.
Purchasing the Heritage Ireland card in-person is easy:
The card can be purchased in advance online by filling out an application form, mailing it to Ireland, and waiting 4 weeks to get your card. Or, you can purchase the card in-person at major attractions listed on the website. Purchasing in person was extremely easy (no application required), and some locations even take credit card.
In summary, while I think the Heritage Ireland card is a great value and worth purchasing when analyzing your cost savings, there are a couple of things about it that are confusing. However, if you’ve read this article you are now informed enough to utilize the card to its full advantage. You can now purchase it without hesitation and enjoy happy travels to Ireland!
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