Do you like visiting museums when you get to new places? Ireland has a variety of little-known museums focused on the country’s rich cultural heritage that many tourists don't know anything about.
In Dublin alone, there are at least 20 museums, with many more scattered in various parts of the country.
This post and page contain affiliate links and I may earn compensation when you click on the links at no additional cost to you.
Here are the Top 11 little-known museums in Ireland that are definitely worth visiting while you are on visiting Ireland on a budget.
The National Leprechaun Museum, Dublin
The National Leprechaun Museum in Dublin will take you on a lighthearted journey through all of the myths associated with Ireland and its mythical little people (otherwise known as leprechauns or fairies).
Exhibits include the history of the leprechaun, including the supposed first sighting of them in the 8th century right through to Walt Disney’s visit to Ireland in the 1950s seeking inspiration for his film, “Darby O’Gill and the Little People.”
In an environment where you’ll find oversized furniture mixed and various optical illusions, there’s nothing but fun to be had at this playful museum.
Choose between a daytime guided tour (the last entry is at 5 p.m.) or if you’re looking for something a little more sinister, how about the DarkLand tour, complete with “twisted tales from the darker side of Ireland?”
Admission to the museum is between €11 and €18 for the daytime 45-minute tours and €20 for the 60-minute night-time tours, eligible for those 18 and over.
- Book the best tours and guides on Tripadvisor, Viator or GetYourGuide
- Get reliable travel insurance with Travel Insurance Master
- Get the best flight tickets with Aviasales
- Rent a comfortable car via Discovercars
- Find the best accommodation on Booking.com or BandBIreland
The Little Museum of Dublin
For the culturally curious, a visit to The Little Museum of Dublin is a must.
The crowdsourced museum contains over 5,000 artifacts that have either been donated or loaned by Dublin residents.
They include James Joyce’s death mask, the first edition of his novel, “Ulysses,” as well as President John F. Kennedy’s lectern.
There’s also an entire room dedicated to the Dublin band U2.
Some of the interesting artifacts on display include signed albums, an East German Trabant car that was used for the band's Zoo TV tour, and much more.
Feel free to visit the first floor of the Little Museum of Dublin on your own. However, the second and third floors are usually viewed with a guide.
There are a number of different tours you can take at the museum. They include the museum's half-hour guided tour known as The Green Mile Walking Tour, The Big Little Treasure Hunt, The Football Walking Tour, as well as additional weekly events.
Exhibitions are also a feature of this great Dublin treasure.
An all-day ticket to the museum will cost you €20. Prices to the museum's special tours can be found on its website.
The Quiet Man Cottage Museum, Cong, Co. Mayo
If you’re a fan of the “Quiet Man,” the iconic movie that put Irish actress Maureen O’Hara on the international map, you’ll find the Quiet Man Cottage Museum enthralling.
The museum, which is located within a white-washed cottage, is an exact replica of the “White-O-Mornin’” cottage from the movie.
Inside you’ll discover all of the furnishings, artifacts, and costumes used in the making of the film.
They include Sean Thornton’s four-poster bed, Mary Kate’s piano, the tandem bicycle, as well as the tables and chairs that were part of the movie set.
You’ll also find the largest collection of Irish newspaper articles related to the making of the 1951 film, all sourced from local library archives.
You can even watch the film while sitting inside the cottage, a thrilling experience for die heart fans of the movie.
The cottage/museum can be found on Circular Road in the village of Cong and is open from April through Oct. 31.
Walking tours and chauffeur-driven tours of the Quiet Man locations are available.
Admission to the museum is €5 for adults, €4.50 for seniors and students, €4 for children ages 12-18, and €3 for children under 12.
Admission to the museum’s other attractions and walking/chauffeur-driven tours is extra.
The Michael Davitt Museum, County Mayo
This award-winning museum is a must-see if you are interested in learning about 19th-century Ireland and in particular about land reform in Ireland.
It is housed in a beautifully restored church that was used prior to the enactment of the 1690s Penal laws in Ireland and is part of the Michael Davitt Visitor Centre.
Be sure to explore the nearby Straide Abbey.
The Michael Davitt Museum contains an extensive collection of historical artifacts related to the life of Michael Davitt, the notable land reformer who grew up around Straide, where the museum is located.
It includes photos, documents related to Ireland’s Land Acts, letters, posters, postcards, Davitt’s rosary beads, and much more.
Open from 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., March through September, and 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., October through February.
The entrance fee for adults is €8 and €3 for children. A family ticket (2 adults, 3 children) is an affordable €20. Tours are also available.
Cork Butter Museum, County Cork
Learn about Ireland’s most important food export at The Butter Museum, a fascinating place that delves into the production of butter and its importance in the Co. Cork region.
You’ll discover lots of great visuals on the history of butter-making and the Butter Exchange in 19th-century Cork City.
You’ll learn about the traditional craft of butter making, which was at one time a common practice in many rural Irish homes.
You’ll also read about the success of the Kerrygold brand, which has gained a huge following in the U.S.
The museum is open from March through October, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Admission is €4 for adults, €3 for seniors and students, and €1.50 for children. There is no charge for children under the age of 12.
Jackie Clarke Collection, Ballina, Co. Mayo
What might seem like an unassuming place at first glance is actually a fascinating look into Irish history.
It was designed by the Victorian architect Thomas Manly Deane, who also designed the National Museum in Dublin and that city’s government buildings.
The rare and precious items that you’ll discover here are the result of years of collecting by the late Jackie Clarke, a local businessman.
His love of historical items began when he was a schoolboy in the 1940s.
What started out as memories and collections in a scrapbook soon turned into a true passion as Clarke gathered the letters of Irish political figures, rare books, posters, and an impressive collection of maps, some as old as 400 years.
Some of the items that are housed here include letters from Michael Collins, Douglas Hyde, Michael Davitt, and O’Donovan Rossa, as well as plenty of personal items related to the leaders of the 1916 Rising.
Mountmellick Embroidery & Heritage Museum, Co. Laois
This County Laois town was once known as the “Manchester of Ireland.”
What started off as a Quaker settlement gradually turned into a boomtown in the 1800s, with several industries to its name, including distilling, brewing, tanneries, woolen mills, cotton, and a special type of “white on white” embroidery, otherwise known as the Mountmellick Work.
Today, the Mountmellick Embroidery & Heritage Museum tells the story of Johanna Carter, who in 1825, taught the town’s poor the embroidery skills that were usually a pastime of upper-class ladies at the time.
Learn about this rich tradition that has been handed down through the generations and that has been used to make bed coverlets, pillow shams, children’s dresses, tablecloths, and even fashionable dresses.
There is a nominal fee for admission.
Greenan Farm Museum and Maze, Co. Wicklow
If you want to know what farming life was like in Ireland hundreds of years ago, a visit to the Greenan Farm Museum and Maze will leave you with a real appreciation for the hard work that was done on the land.
The complex includes the two-story Barn Museum, the Bottle Museum, and the Old Farmhouse Museum.
The Barn Museum houses the largest collection of horse-drawn machinery in Ireland, including plows, harrows, carts, and traps, as well as hand-made farm materials.
In the Bottle Museum, you’ll find a large collection of antique 19th and early 20th-century bottles, jars, and vessels.
The fully restored farmhouse, which dates from the 16th century, was a safe house for local rebels who took part in the 1798 Rebellion. You’ll find various weapons on display, including pikes.
There are also a number of mazes on the property, perfect for exploration, especially if you have kids with you. Nature walks and a visit to the farm’s animals make for a thoroughly enjoyable day in the Co. Wicklow countryside.
The attraction is open during the weekends only in April, May and June.
Admission is €8 for adults and €8 for children, with kids under 2 admitted free. Family tickets are €30.
Lifford Old Courthouse, Co. Donegal
At the Lifford Old Courthouse in Co. Donegal, you can walk through its prison cells and learn what life was like for the many prisoners who found themselves in this once dire place, including debtors, felons, and even prisoners who were considered “lunatics.”
The building, which was constructed in 1746, was the town’s first courthouse and jail.
Penal transportation (most often to Australia) was a common punishment served on prisoners in Lifford. They were often sent to the penal colonies for petty crimes like stealing food or blankets.
Public hangings were also common here, with one hanging in 1831 attracting close to 12,000 spectators.
The jail’s most notable prisoners include Napper Tandy, a member of the United Irish Men, the crew of the French frigate that landed off the Donegal coast with Wolfe Tone on board, and a fellow named John Half-Hanged MacNaghten, an Anglo-Irish landowner, gambler, and murderer.
Guided tours are led by an experienced actor and cost €8.50 per adult, €6.50 for students and seniors, and €5 for children.
The courthouse also includes an escape room game called Jailbreak, where participants are locked up in one of the jail cells and must figure out how to escape within 30 minutes.
A Junior Jailbreak game is also available for younger children. Tickets for Jailbreak are €14 per person. You must book all tours in advance.
The museum/heritage center also includes a bistro serving breakfast and lunch.
Sligo County Museum
This is a small museum but worth visiting, especially if you have an interest in WB Yeats as well as Countess Markievicz, the nationalist and suffragist, and the first woman elected to the British Parliament.
At this County Sligo museum, which is next door to the library on Stephen Street (once a Presbyterian church), you’ll find Yeats’s Nobel Prize medal and citation, in addition to other Yeats memorabilia such as manuscripts, photographs, letters, and newspaper cuttings.
A complete collection of his poems from 1889 through 1936 is also housed there, as are paintings by Irish artists George Russell, Sean Keating, and Jack B. Yeats, the brother of the poet.
Don’t miss one of the more unusual artifacts at the museum, a piece of preserved bog butter. The museum is free to visit.
The Legend of the Claddagh Ring, Galway City
The Claddagh ring is iconic the world over, but do you know the history of this famous piece of jewelry?
Learn, also, about the fishing village of Claddagh, now a part of Galway but very different from the rest of the city, given its unique customs and history.
Watch a film, played every 20 minutes, that also explains the meaning of the ring, how to wear it and how it became a symbol of Irish heritage.
You’ll also get up-close to a craftsman as he creates a Claddagh ring in the in-house thatched cottage and workshop.
You can also find your family’s coat of arms at the museum and visitor center.
Admission to the museum is free.
Dysert O’Dea Castle, The Clare Archaeology Centre, Co. Clare
You may not find the Dysert O’Dea Castle in mainstream tourist brochures of Ireland, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t visit this 15th-century Co. Clare tower house, along with the 25 archaeological field monuments that surround it.
The castle, located at the gateway to the Burren region, was the stronghold of the O’Dea clan.
The refurbished building now houses the award-winning Clare Archaeology Centre museum that tells the history of the castle, badly damaged by Cromwell’s army in 1651.
Inside you’ll find a chapel, local artifacts dating from 1,000 B.C. to the 1700s, an audiovisual presentation on local archaeology, in addition to a Medieval mason’s and carpenter’s workshop.
You’ll also have access to the castle roof, where you can see the monuments, as well as a church, which is located on the site of an early Christian monastery.
Other attractions include a round tower and a high cross called St. Tola's Cross, one of the finest examples of its kind in Ireland.
Be sure to take the archaeology trail, a 4-km (2.48-mile) walk that includes all of the monuments on the surrounding property.
They date from 1,000 B.C. to 1850, as well as a number of holy wells, landlord houses, and much more.
The trail is open throughout the year.
The castle is open from May through September. Admission is €5 for adults, €3 for seniors and students, €3 for children, and €15 for a family of 5.
Cavan County Museum, Co. Cavan
For a county museum, this one packs way above its weight in terms of the artifacts and exhibits you’ll find there.
Housed in a beautiful Georgian building, there is so much to see at the Cavan County Museum in Ballyjamesduff, including an outdoor exhibition titled, “Road to War – Path to Reflection,” the only replica trench of its kind in Ireland or Britain.
The exhibit was officially opened in 2018 to mark the centenary of the end of the Great War that killed between 35,000 and 49,000 Irish people.
The exhibit tells the story of 15 of those people, including a number of Cavan men from various religions and backgrounds who all died on the same day, often in the same battle. The trench is currently closed for maintenance.
The exhibit also includes a Peace Garden, where visitors can reflect on the horrors of the war.
There is much more to this museum, though.
Other exhibits include a fascinating display of artifacts and information from the Easter Rising of 1916 titled, “Visualizing the Rising: 1916 Experience.”
The exhibit includes a replica GPO façade and a series of tunneled-through contemporary building interiors that are meant to illustrate the claustrophobic conditions the rebels faced during that time.
Ancient history is also on display in the form of arrowheads, the three-faced Corleck Head, and the cursed Killycluggin Stone.
Other exhibitions include The GAA Gallery, The Famine Gallery, The Farnham Gallery, The Pighouse Collection, and much more.
Have you visited any of the little-known museums in Ireland mentioned above? If so, let me know in the comments below.