OPW welcomes strong visitor numbers at its heritage sites in 2022

The Office of Public Works (OPW) today (25 April 2023) announced that 2022 was another successful year for visitor numbers at its heritage sites.

The number of recorded visitors last year exceeded 15 million, up by 2.3 million on 2021, an increase of 18%. 

The OPW manages and maintains the most important of Ireland’s historic buildings and heritage.

They take meticulous care of the 780 heritage sites in their charge and, at the 70 sites with visitor services, they work hard to present them to their best potential, making sure that they give visitors from Ireland and abroad the best experience they possibly can.  

The numbers show the top 10 heritage locations in each of two categories: Paid Visitor attractions and Free Access Sites.

 Paid Visitor Attraction Free Access Site
1Kilkenny Castle1St. Stephen’s Green
2Dublin Castle 2Phoenix Park Visitor Centre
3Rock of Cashel3Kilkenny Castle & Parklands
4Kilmainham Gaol4Castletown House & Parklands
5John F Kennedy Arboretum5Doneraile Park
6Dún Aonghasa6Irish National War Memorial Gardens
7Trim Castle7Battle of the Boyne/Oldbridge Estate
8Brú na Boinne (incl. Newgrange & Knowth)8National Botanic Gardens
9Clonmacnoise9Emo Court 
10Charles Fort10Iveagh Gardens

The major parks, such as the Phoenix Park, St. Stephen’s Green and parklands around Castletown House, Doneraile Court and Kilkenny Castle, have remained top of the list, continuing the trend as magnets of natural beauty and as places for recreational use.

Other individual regional sites have seen a striking increase in their visitor numbers, for example, Cahir Castle – winner of the European film location awards last year – Carrowmore, which was announced as part of Ireland’s Tentative World Heritage List last year, the Glebe House and Gallery in Co. Donegal, Pearse Cottage and the refurbished Blasket Visitor Centre in Co. Kerry.

Significantly, the Rock of Cashel recorded a visitor increase of over 200% in the previous 12 months. 

Here, as well as at other iconic Irish heritage sites such as Dublin Castle or Kilmainham Gaol, last year’s visitor numbers indicate increased tourism and visitor activity. 

Minister of State with responsibility for the OPW, Patrick O’Donovan, T.D., said: “These figures clearly indicate that there is an enormous interest in heritage tourism and that an increasing number of tourists and domestic visitors regard Ireland’s heritage sites as great places to visit.”  

The Minister added: “It is wonderful to see that these sites are doing so well, both the paid attractions, which reflects very well on Ireland’s tourism performance, as well as the sites, parks and gardens which the public can access for free year round. Every heritage site contributes to the local sense of place, the local economy and is a precious and unique place to discover for visitors of all ages and interests.”  

The 2022 visitor numbers for OPW-managed sites with a facility to record visitor numbers are attached or can be viewed at www.opw.ie

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