At the end of this week begins National Heritage Week, an eight day celebration of Ireland's history and heritage.

This year the focus lies on Ireland’s built heritage, so many sites and houses will be made publicly accessible, some for the very first time. Some 60,000 people are set to attend the various events and the Heritage Council have one message for the people of Ireland – get involved! Over 1500 events are being organised, the bulk of which are free.

Speaking ahead of the week, Isabell Smyth, Heritage Council Communications Manager commented, “2012 is shaping up to be the biggest National Heritage Week to date...This year will be particularly unique in that a number of built heritage properties will open their doors to the public for the first time. Ireland’s built heritage supports over 35,000 jobs and contributes in the order of €1.5 billion to the national economy” Isabell Smyth, Heritage Council communications manager said at the launch.

“The value of our built heritage as an economic resource has for too long been misunderstood and underplayed. This is particularly evident in the case of our tourism offering. The range and quality of our built heritage environment is a powerful motivating factor for wider tourism and related visitor expenditure, with 1/5 of all out of state visitor expenditure closely attributable to our built heritage.”

For budding photographers or really anyone with a keen eye and camera to hand, the National Heritage Photo Week Competition is up and running. Images do not have to be taken within the week, but must be from 2012 only. The theme is ‘built heritage’. Entering is simple, images should be uploaded to the Photo Competition site, while closing date is August 31st.

For more information about National Heritage Week, long onto their website or find them on Twitter and Facebook. Over 50,000 copies of the programme and event guide have been dispersed to local libraries, tourism offices and transport stations.