Itinerary for the Open Palace PROGRAMME ireland 2020


Saturday 5th September 2020 to Thursday 24th September 2020

Please note the full itinerary for 2020 will be published in May 2020 but this shorter version will be regularly updated. Some details may change.

From Europe’s most breathtakingly beautiful eighteenth century buildings to the longest defined coastal route in the world, Ireland is a country brimming with extraordinary natural and built heritage. This programme offers you the opportunity for unique behind the scenes experiences working alongside heritage specialists, gaining privileged access to collections at key heritage sites in Ireland.


Day 1 We will meet in Belfast city . Belfast is a vibrant modern city with a fascinating past and a wealth of arts and culture to offer visitors. The history of Belfast as a settlement goes back to the Iron Age, but its status as a major urban centre dates to the 18th century. Belfast was throughout its modern history a major commercial and industrial centre with a world famous shipping industry.

belafast 2.jpg

 Days 2 & 3 We will travel to the glorious Castle Ward where we will focus on design and interpretation in relation to the house and estate as well as the impact of ‘Game of Thrones’ on the visitor experience. ‘Castle Ward is a marvellously eccentric house built in 1762 for Bernard Ward, later 1st Viscount Bangor. The entrance façade to the east and the interiors immediately behind it are solidly Palladian. However, Lady Anne, Ward’s wife, favoured the Gothick, and so the garden front and the rooms to the west all feature pointed doors and plaster vaulting.

Days 4 & 5 We will visit the Giant’s Causeway to explore issues of sustainable tourism at the site and to learn key guiding skills. ‘The wonderful Giant's Causeway is an area of about 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, the result of an ancient volcanic fissure eruption. The tops of the columns form stepping stones that lead from the cliff foot and disappear under the sea. Most of the columns are hexagonal, although there are also some with four, five, seven or eight sides. Much of the Giant's Causeway and Causeway Coast World Heritage Site is today owned and managed by the National Trust and it is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Northern Ireland.’

We will also explore the iconic ruin of Dunluce Castle (another Game of Thrones location) which bears witness to a long and tumultuous history. First built on the dramatic coastal cliffs of north County Antrim by the MacQuillan family around 1500, the earliest written record of the castle was in 1513.

Giant_s Causeway.jpg
mount stewart.jpg

Day 6 We will go behind the scenes at Mount Stewart, a delightful 19th-century house and garden in County Down, Northern Ireland, where we will be finding out about collections management and youth programming. The house and its contents reflect the history of the Vane-Tempest-Stewart family, who played a leading role in British and Irish social and political life. The Marchioness redesigned the gardens in the most lavish way possible after 1915.

In the afternoon we will meet the Education team of the Titanic Experience. ‘The self-guided Titanic Experience extends over nine interpretive and interactive galleries, which explore the sights, sounds, smells and stories of RMS Titanic, as well as the city and people who made her.’


Days 7-9 We will travel across Ireland visiting the Counties of Derry, Fermanagh, Mayo and Galway and exploring some of the most significant heritage sites along the way.

We will be meeting the specialist staff at The Tower Museum which is a compelling heritage site with permanent exhibitions at the museum include the Story of Derry and An Armada Shipwreck - La Trinidad Valencera.  The museum also boasts the only open-air viewing facility in the heart of the city centre with stunning panoramic views of the city and River Foyle.

We will also be working with the professionals and considering the management issues at The Céide Fields which is a unique Neolithic landscape of world importance, which has changed our perception of our Stone Age ancestors. The remains of stone field walls, houses and megalithic tombs are preserved beneath a blanket of peat over several square miles.

As we travel onwards we will reach the magical Kylemore Abbey which is one of the most interesting site management models we will review. Kylemore Castle was built in the late 1800s by Mitchell Henry MP, an enlightened landlord and vocal advocate of the Irish people. Today Kylemore Abbey is owned and run by the Benedictine monastic community. The Benedictine community has restored the Abbey's gardens and Cathedral with donations and local artisans in order to be a self-sustaining estate.

pic of ceide fileds for days 7-9.jpg
Muckross House in Killarney National Park.jpg
Aerial view of Muckross House and Dundag Point in Killarney National Park.jpg

Days 10 & 11  Muckross House was designed by the Scottish architect William Burn and completed in 1843 for Henry Arthur Herbert and his wife, the water-colourist Mary Balfour Herbert. The House is presented to the public by the Trustees of Muckross House (a charity), in partnership with the Department of Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht.  Here we will glimpse behind the scenes at the work of Muckross House Research Library, which is responsible for collections care within the House, the Library and on Muckross Traditional Farms.

Muckross Traditional Farms is an open-air museum comprised of three actual working farms depicting local rural life during the period of the 1930s and 1940s. Here we will consider the interpretation of rural life and the difficulties of conserving ‘working’ collections. Finally, we will visit Muckross Bookbindery and paper Conservation Workshop, where you will learn about paper conservation first hand from our resident paper conservator.

Killarney National Park near the town of Killarney, County Kerry, was the first national park in Ireland, created when Muckross Estate was donated to the Irish Free State in 1932. The park has since been substantially expanded and encompasses over 102.89 km2 of diverse ecology, including the beautiful Lakes of Killarney, oak and yew woodlands of international importance, and mountain peaks.


Day 12 We will be meeting the Shelswell -White family at Bantry House, ancestral home of the Earls of Bantry situated overlooking the magnificent Bantry Bay in West Cork. The title lapsed in 1891 but the house is still owned and lived in by the direct descendants of the 1st Earl of Bantry. The House has an important collection of art treasures mainly collected by the 2nd Earl of Bantry on his Grand Tour. The garden was inspired by travels of the 2nd Earl. It is laid out in the Italian style and features the famous Hundred Steps, a monumental staircase built of local stone, set amidst azaleas and rhododendron.

Belfast City Hall and Donegall Square.jpg
day 12 and 13 Castletown.jpg
Newgrange County Meath.jpg

Day 13 We are delighted to be able to work alongside the professional team at Castletown House and Gardens which is Ireland's largest and earliest Palladian-style estate. It was built between 1722 and 1729 for William Connolly, speaker of the Irish House of Commons and the wealthiest commoner in Ireland. The façade was almost certainly designed by the Italian architect Alessandro Galilei. We will visit Castletown House to explore the beautiful 18th-century parklands, with river walks, a temple and the remains of a bathing house. We will arrive in the capital of the Republic, Dublin at the end of the day.


We will also be experiencing Newgrange which is an extraordinary prehistoric monument in County Meath. It is an exceptionally grand passage tomb built during the Neolithic period, around 3200 BC, making it older than Stonehenge and the Egyptian pyramids.


 Days 14 & 15 We will travel from Dublin to meet the Slazenger family at Powerscourt House which was a 68-room mansion completed in 1741. Tragedy struck in 1974 when Powerscourt House was burned to the ground in a huge fire. The Slazenger family set about saving the estate. In addition to the gardens, waterfall and restored folly known as Pepperpot Tower, Powerscourt now encompasses a commercial nursery, garden centre, golf club and courses, holiday apartments, conference rooms and a wedding marquee.

After which we are delighted to be able to visit Glendalough, home to one of the most important monastic sites in Ireland. This early Christian monastic settlement was founded by St. Kevin in the 6th century and from this developed the “Monastic City”. Most of the buildings that survive today date from the 10th through 12th centuries. Despite attacks by Vikings over the years.

Powerscourt house for days 14 and 15.jpg
Castletown House Celbridge.jpg

 Days 16 & 17 We will return to Castletown House and Gardens to continue our explorations, after which we are delighted to be able to go behind the scenes in the National Archives of Ireland. Occupying a key position in the cultural and intellectual life of the nation, the National Archives of Ireland holds the records of the modern Irish State which document its historical evolution and the creation of the national identity. It has custody of archives relating to the administration of the state from the late 18-century to the late 20th-century, and many other archives dating from the 14th-century to the late 20th-century.


Day 18 We will have privileged access to the famous Library and Archives of Trinity College Dublin and we will be shown round by their specialist team of archivists. Catering to the knowledge-hungry for over three centuries, this stunning library holds over 200,000 books, ranging from popular classics to all known genres of printed books.

Finally we will be visiting the unique Book of Kells exhibition at Trinity College in Dublin City. This is Ireland’s greatest cultural treasure and the world’s most famous medieval manuscript. Written around the year 800 AD, the Book of Kells contains a richly decorated copy of the four gospels in a Latin text.

day 18.jpg
Old Book.jpg