No plans this weekend? Here's some of the best free things to do across the country

From hill walks to art and film screenings

January can be quite a gloomy month - the weather is miserable and everyone's pockets are empty after the festive season.

Rather than spending your free time doing the same things you always do, why not explore some of the amazing things that are happening across the country this weekend? 

Whether you're looking for family fun events, folk music sessions or something a bit more active, Ireland has plenty to offer when it comes to interesting things to do.

The best part of course, is that all of these events are completely free, so no need to worry about breaking the bank just to get out of the house for a few hours.

These are the events that we're looking forward to the most:

Dublin

 

Temple Bar Tradfest

This niche festival, showcasing the cream of both Irish and international trad and folk artists, has lots of free events this weekend.

Highlights include live folk sessions in The Old Storehouse and a family petting farm in Temple Bar Square for children to see ponies, rabbits and goats.

More information here.

 

Dublin Chinese New Year Festival 

2017 will celebrate The Year of the Rooster, and the annual Chinese New Year Festival has some fantastic events organised around Dublin.

The opening ceremony on Friday is a family-friendly event that will see dragons, drummers and daring circus performers take over Meeting House Square. Other free events over the weekend that shouldn't be missed include a live illustration session of a fusion of Western and Asian art techniques, by Chinese artist Angela Wang.

More information here.

 

Image: Angela Wan - Arnotts Illustration

Public tour of the National Gallery

The National Gallery of Ireland offers free tours of its main collection every weekend, with no booking required. 

The gallery have a permanent collection of paintings by Picasso, Rembrandt, and Van Gogh, alongside a stunning portrait exhibition of the shortlisted artists from 2016's Hennessy Portrait Prize.

More information here.

 

Meditation and yoga session

Feeling stressed? A Friday evening class of Sahaja Yoga Meditation in Temple Bar might be just what you need.

This is a gentle session that aims to help you get in touch with your inner energy and re-balance your emotions and stress levels. 

More information here.

 

Last winter swim at the 40 Foot

Brave the cold and join in with a group for a dip in the sea followed by a dunk into a hot bowl of soup or mug of tea to warm up.

The swim caters to all levels, so whether you want to aim for a distance or simply get your feet wet is completely up to you.

More information here.

 

Photo credit: Outdoorswimming.ie

Galway

 

Between Dog and Wolf exhibition

Galway Arts Centre opens its latest exhibition that feautres seven artists' work on the phrase "between dog and wolf".

The phrase can refer to the twilight or gloaming hour when transformations can happen; people can take risks, adopt different characteristics or turn from one form into another. Expect stunning visual arts and sculpture.

More information here.

 

Why Galway? - Talk and film screening

Galway is home to artists and creative people from all over the world. But why did they decide to move here, and to stay here, and what do they think of Galway now?

On Saturday 28th, film-maker Tomás Conway will introduce his charming and original film in which these questions are put to four celebrated Galway resident artists, followed by a talk on his work.

More information here.

 

Knocknagussy hill walk

Join Galway Walking Club for its weekly Sunday hill walk up Knockagussy hill. This is a moderately tough walk for people with previous hiking experience, and proper hiking gear is required.

They also have a short walk for newcomers along Kilcolgan pier, which takes just two hours and is a great way to get some fresh air on a Sunday afternoon.

More information here.

Photo credit: Galway Walking Club

 

Cork

Ballincollig Winter Music Festival

The Ballincollig Winter Music Festival is on all weekend, with renowned Irish and American folk and trad musicians performing in venues all over the town.

Many of the larger performances and music workshops are paid entry only, however there are some brilliant trad-sessions planned for the weekend which are free for all.

More information here.

 

Irish art highlights at Crawford Art Gallery

The Crawford Art Gallery has some truly excellent exhibitions on this month, including their permanent display of Irish Art from 1870-1970 that features work from Jack B. Yeats and Seán Keatings.

A temporary collection of woodcarving and lacework craft produced in Cork from 1880-1920 is a must see.

More information here.

 

 

Vegan cheese tasting

A local Meetup group in Cork have organised a Sunday tasting session of homemade vegan cheese.

Flavours that will be on offer include Earthy Cumin, Indian Fenugreek and Golden Cheddar, and pre-orders can be made on the day.

More information here.

Photo credit: No Whey Man cheese

Belfast

 

Belfast Castle cave hill walk 

Join a local walking group for a trek to Belfast Castle for a walk up the infamous cave hill.

Dogs are welcome to come along, and the group are going for food and drink afterwards. Bring boots as the path can be slippery!

More information here.

 

Big Garden Birdwatch at the Ulster Museum 

 

Big Garden Birdwatch is the World's largest wildlife survey, and it helps to build a picture of garden wildlife across the UK and Northern Ireland.

Join in with other bird lovers for this family event where you can borrow binoculars and scan the sky for birds from the third floor of the Ulster Museum.

More information here. 

 

Mayo

Craft Demonstration: Biddy's Straw Hat

The National Museum of Ireland is hosting an event on Sunday with straw craftsman Pat Broderick, from Iniscross Crafts in Co. Limerick. Pat will demonstrate how a straw hat is made and the variety of St. Brigid's Crosses made long ago. 

You can also learn about how rural communities marked other festivals with traditional crafts and customs, and see artifacts associated with St.Brigid's Day.

More information here.

 

Kilkenny

Shape the Future design exhibition

Shape the Future at Kilkenny's National Craft Gallery presents new work by 20 of Ireland's most exciting and creative designer makers, across fashion, jewelry, textiles, furniture, ceramics and more.

The work on show explores how craft and design shape our cultural identity, and is a must see for any design enthusiast. 

More information here.

Photo credit: National Craft Gallery - Shape the Future

More free walking events on this weekend can also be found in Wicklow and Donegal.