We love this time of year when we put together our annual guide to Family Holidays in Ireland. Here are 101 of the Best Ideas for Your Family Vacation in Ireland this year – packed full of extra-handy tidbits for you and your family. From top fun things to do, to family festivals and free things, and hidden gems you just might never have heard of. We have all this and more, to help you plan your best ever holiday in Ireland with children!
Fun Places to Take Kids
#1. The Ark, Dublin
The Ark Dublin, based on Eustace Street in Temple Bar, is a unique, purpose built, cultural centre where children aged 2-12 and their families can explore theatre, music, literature, art, film, dance and more. Expect a different experience every visit!
The Ark’s event programme is always a big hit with families looking for creative and fun activities, so be sure to check their website for what’s on during your visit.
#2. Croke Park Stadium Tour & GAA Museum, Dublin
The Croke Park Stadium Tour offers you the chance to explore the home of Gaelic sport and take a behind-the-scenes journey through this 82,300 capacity stadium. Enjoy an access-all-areas experience on the guided Stadium Tour, as you walk in the footsteps of legends and visit the team dressing rooms, before going pitch-side via the players’ tunnel and taking a seat in the VIP area.
Explore the GAA Museum with its exhibition galleries that vividly illustrate the story of Gaelic games, from ancient times to present day. Exhibitions include the Sam Maguire and Liam MacCarthy Cups, the official GAA Hall of Fame, and lots more. Test your hurling and football skills in the interactive games zone – a must for museum visitors of all ages!
# 3. Irish National Stud & Gardens, Kildare
Enjoy a great day out for all the family at the Irish National Stud & Gardens in Kildare Town. Just off the M7 motorway, the Irish National Stud is home to both wonderful horses and great gardens.
The Irish National Stud offers an unforgettable experience in 800 acres of beautiful Kildare countryside that can be enjoyed by all the family. Enjoy the beautiful Japanese Gardens, St Fiachras Garden, see the magnificent horses, and tour the Horse Museum. Afterwards let the kids run off some steam at the playground. There are free pony rides for kids during school holidays on selected days.
#4. Belvedere House, Westmeath
Belvedere House, attracting over 160,000 visitors a year, sits on a magnificent 160 acre lakeside estate with restored Georgian Villa, Victorian Walled Garden, naturalistic designed 18th century parkland, punctuated with Romantic follies including the largest in Ireland; “The Jealous Wall”. A day visitor to Belvedere can explore the restored Belvedere House, Victorian Walled Garden and rolling parkland with its numerous follies.
An excellent day out with a difference, Belvedere House Gardens & Park offers something for young and old. Open daily, all year round, visitors can enjoy 8km of safe and serene walks, a Georgian Villa, a Victorian Walled Garden, Fairy Garden, & 4 Children’s Areas. There is also a Gift Shop, picnic areas and licensed café.
Annual Membership available. Belvedere also has a year round calendar of events – check out www.belvedere-house for more details.
#5. Westport House & Pirate Adventure Park
Winner of Best Family Holiday Destination 2015, a family visit to the West is not complete without a trip to the home of family fun at Westport House & Pirate Adventure Park set on a 480 acre estate. Explore the House and Gardens, or have some fun in the Pirate Adventure Park – a treasure trove of family fun with its Grace O’Malley-themed amusement park with rides and activities. Or take a trip on the Westport Train Tour which runs right through the grounds.
You also have a choice of milder to wilder adventure activities including zorbing, zip wire, archery, combat games, high ropes frame as well as tree climbing and archery tag. Be sure to arrive early for a full day’s fun – and dress for the weather!
#6. Lough Key Forest & Activity Park, Roscommon
Located in Boyle, Co. Roscommon and set in the grounds of the old King-Harman Estate on the shores of island studded Lough Key, the Lough Key Forest & Activity Park, offers hours of entertainment for all the family. A wonderful enclosed Adventure Play Kingdom will entertain the smallest visitors, while the Boda Borg Challenge will test the mental skills and physical agility of everybody over seven!
Be guided back in time through 19th Century tunnels and stroll Ireland’s only Tree Canopy trail on the Lough Key Experience. Take a well-earned break and enjoy the vista of Lough Key in the Lakeside Café. You can even stay over in the landscaped Caravan and Campsite.
Other Fun activities in the park include:
- Woodland Segway offering fun glides and historical tours.
- Electric Bike trails with traditional and electric bikes.
- Zipit Forest Adventures.
- Lough Key boat tours.
- Orienteering trails.
#7. King John’s Castle, Limerick
King John’s Castle delivers a modern visitor experience with a dramatic history of over 800 years of stories, all brought to life in a stunning exhibition. Touch-screen technology connects you to tales of siege and warfare, and a dazzling array of computer generated imagery, animations and ghostly projections are all part of the experience. Try on historic costumes including 18th century dresses or chainmail tunics. 3D models, discovery drawers and audio visuals help you to delve into the Castle’s history.
The busy Castle courtyard is home to a medieval campaign tent, a blacksmith’s forge and scenes from a 17th century siege. An array of colourful characters, reveal the secrets and scandals of castle life. Not to be missed!!! Read what Jill and her family thought of King John’s Castle.
#8. Bunratty Castle & Folk Park, Clare
Bunratty Castle & Folk Park is an experience that the whole family will enjoy. The Castle is the most complete and authentic medieval fortress in Ireland. Built in 1425 it was restored in 1954 to its former medieval splendour and now contains mainly 15th and 16th century furnishings, tapestries, and works of art which capture the mood of those times. Wander through the castle and marvel at the finest collection of medieval furniture in the country which brings to life a vital part of our medieval past.
Visit the farm houses and cottages and watch the tasks of rural Irish life, making sure to see the baking of the griddle bread next to the fire and tasting it hot with fresh creamery butter. Meet a variety of farm animals including the Irish Wolf hounds, the piglets the Billy goat and his playful kids and more! Let the kids run off some steam in the fabulous playground which includes a timber tower, Playship themed area, 25 metre zipline and a variety of swings!
#9. Craggaunowen, Clare
A highlight of any visit to Ireland is the Living Past Experience at Craggaunowen. It is off the beaten track and will give you a real sense of stepping back in time. The many paths of Craggaunowen have something of interest to adults and children alike. Explore the grounds and you may even meet some Bronze Age animals, our wild boar and soay sheep!
Don’t forget to visit the ‘Brendan Boat’ – a leather hulled boat built by Tim Severin who sailed across the Atlantic re-enacting the voyage of St. Brendan. To get away from the hustle and bustle of life stop into the wonderfully relaxing Tea Room and enjoy a fresh scone and other homemade fare on offer. It’s fun for all the family!
#10. The Hunt Museum Limerick
The Hunt Museum in Limerick is home to one of Ireland’s greatest private collections of Art and Antiquities, dating from the Neolithic to the 20th Century. From tours of the museum, to camps and classes, there’s plenty for all ages.
Children love The Hunt Museum due to the range of kid-focused activities and events. Young visitors might choose to explore the collection through one the age-appropriate Discovery Trails, or explore their creative side in an Arts & Crafts classes, or even get ghoulish in a Halloween Camp!
See the website for up-to-date information on all of the activities for kids – big and small!
#11. Powerscourt Estate, Wicklow
Powerscourt Estate, just 20km south of Dublin, offers a fantastic day out for families with a choice of attractions to visit – Powerscourt Gardens and Waterfall, and the children’s museum, Tara’s Palace, in Powerscourt House. There are some great value options for family dining also. Enjoy the year-round events programme of treasure hunts, enchanted walks and lots more.
#12. Zipit Forest Adventures, Cork, Dublin & Roscommon
From beginners to adrenaline junkies, Zipit Forest Adventures offers up to 4 hours of tree-top, fun-filled, thrilling experiences in a healthy, outdoor setting for adults and children from age 7. At their locations in Farran Park in Cork, Tibradden Wood in Dublin and Lough Key in Roscommon, you can climb poles and climbing walls, swing into cargo nets, balance on a rope bridge, and hurtle down a zip wire.
#13. Imaginosity, Dublin
Imaginosity, Dublin Children’s Museum is a child-centred creative, educational & interactive space, suitable for children up to the age of 9 years & their families. The 3 floors of exhibits are educationally designed to inspire life-long learning through play, celebrating children’s imaginations, on the journey from curiosity to discovery.
Booking is essential, and there are regular workshops and camps so check before you visit.
#14. Galway Atlantaquaria, Galway
The first time you venture through the entrance to Galway Atlantaquaria, Ireland’s largest aquarium, we guarantee you’ll jump! That’s because their first exhibit is Ireland’s largest “Splash” tank! You’ll also enjoy the ray pool, ocean tank, fin whale skeleton, touch pools and heaps of activities and fun things to do while you visit, such as feeding the fish and touching starfish and crabs.
#15. Fota Wildlife Park, Cork
See a Kangaroo hop in front of you, watch the cheetahs being fed, or get up close to a Ring-tailed Lemur at Fota Wildlife Park. Only 20 mins from Cork city, the Park is a great day out for all the family whether you’re seeking outdoor activities in the summer, holiday camps for kids, or you simply want to take advantage of some sunny weekend weather.
#16. Lifetime Lab Cork
Lifetime Lab is a multi award winning visitor centre located at the Old Cork Waterworks offering a fascinating insight into industrial heritage and environmental issues. Visitors will journey through Victorian architecture and explore the age of steam, investigate the interactive exhibits, and transform into environmental detectives discovering how daily choices impact our world.
Lifetime Lab is suitable for all ages and they run regular family-friendly events and workshop. Make sure to allow time for the playground and garden overlooking the River Lee.
#17. Viking Splash Tours, Dublin
Viking Splash Tours is Ireland’s only tour company that shows you the sights of Dublin on both land and water, without having to leave the vehicle! Take a trip on their World War II amphibious DUKWS as they bring you on a fun filled tour through the streets of the capital with engaging Viking captains, before splashing down in Grand Canal Dock! Children must be aged 3 or over to travel on the water section of the tour.
#18. Lullymore Heritage & Discovery Park, Kildare
Head to Lullymore Heritage and Discovery Park, in Rathangan, for a unique and fascinating insight into the development of the Irish people over our 9,500 year history. Take a walk on the Peatland Biodiversity Boardwalk, visit the Famine Cottage and Mud Huts, learn about Stone Age Settlements, and see some magic on the Fairy Trail.
Kids will love the pet farm, indoor and outdoor play areas and the train ride to the bog. There’s a cafe on site also.
Image via Lullymore Heritage and Discovery Park
#19. W5, Belfast
whowhatwherewhenwhy – W5 is Ireland’s award winning science and discovery centre at Odyssey in Belfast. With over 250 interactive exhibits and a changing programme of events, shows and exhibitions, W5 is a great value day out for all the family. Allow at least 2 hours for your visit.
#20. Waterford & Suir Valley Railway
The magic of rail’s golden age has been brought to life in Kilmeadan on the Waterford & Suir Valley Railway. Experience the beauty of the Suir Valley from a partially opened carriage as you take in the panoramic views of the river and rolling farmland of Waterford and across the river to County Kilkenny on return trips on Saturdays.
The track runs mostly along the picturesque banks of the River Suir offering a glimpse into the world famous Mount Congreve Gardens (which you can also visit), and across the river to County Kilkenny. You will also see The Magic Wood, a magical Fairy glade – sometimes the fairies can be seen among the trees but you have to look carefully!
Things to Do On Wild Atlantic Way
The Wild Atlantic Way is the world’s longest defined coastal touring route, passing through nine counties, three provinces, and some of Ireland’s most beautiful scenery.
#21. Clonakilty Beaches
There are 5 beautiful beaches near Clonakilty: Inchydoney, Long Strand, Red Strand, The Warren and Owenahincha. It’s hard to pick one favourite but we love the Blue Flag beach at Inchydoney Island, just a few miles from Clonakilty.
It’s not only family friendly but very beautiful, with plenty of sand dunes and a long stretch of sand ideal for flying kites, paddling, or even surfing for the more adventurous.
#22. Seafari Kenmare
Seafari Cruises are a great way to explore the wildlife of Kenmare Bay. You go out on the bay in a comfortable and sheltered passenger vessel, out to one of the largest seal colonies in Ireland. See if you can spot Kathleen, a stunning seal with a red coat. The rumour is that Kathleen is a selkie, a seal which was once human according to legend.
You may also get to see otters, white-tailed sea eagles and other sea-birds. Humour and fun are part of a Seafari cruise and whilst the boat is not often rocked by waves in the calm waters of the bay, it is frequently rocked by laughter. Tea, coffee, squash and biscuits are offered on all cruises and for those feeling a nip in the air there is a medicinal shot of rum.
#23. Valentia Island
Valentia Island is well worth a stop on your travels on the Wild Atlantic Way. Valentia Island lies at the end of the Iveragh Peninsula, more familiar to many as the location of the Ring of Kerry. You can drive onto the island at one end via a bridge and stop at the Skelligs Experience to find out about the amazing islands that you may have seen in the latest Star Wars movie.
Then drive around this small island enjoying the scenery, go see the prehistoric Tetrapod footprints and enjoy some Valentia Island Icecream before taking the ferry off the island back to the mainland.
#24. Dingle Oceanworld Aquarium
Dingle Oceanworld Aquarium is situated in Dingle town in County Kerry and hosts Ireland’s largest collection of Sharks as well as
- A Gentoo Penguin display, the fastest swimming penguins
- Amazonian Displays with creepy crawly exhibits
- Touch Tank
- 9m Underwater Tunnel and much more.
Book your tickets online in advance to get 10% off.
#25. Tralee Aquadome
The Aqua Dome in Tralee is one of Ireland’s largest indoor waterworlds with tropical temperatures all year round, making a good day out option if the weather is a bit iffy.
- Swim with the current
- Surf the Waves
- Wrestle the River Rapids
- Relax in the Lazy River
- Ride the Sky High Flume
- Plunge down the Outdoor Falling Rapids
- Enjoy the Whirlpool spas, Bubble seat, Sprays, Cannons, Gushers, Geysers, Children’s pools, Spa pools
#26. Foynes Flying Boat Museum
The Foynes Flying Boat Museum is the only aviation museum in Ireland and the only dedicated flying boat museum in the world.
This unique attraction preserves the rich history of aviation and the development of passenger travel. It takes you back to that nostalgic era when Foynes became the centre of the aviation world between 1937 and 1945, and you will enjoy
- an authentic 1940’s cinema
- the Radio and Weather Room—complete with transmitters, receivers and Morse code equipment
- the Brendan O’Regan restaurant
- the only full sized replica B314 flying boat in the world
- try your hand at flying the B314 on the flight simulators with amazing visuals.
#27. Ferry from Kerry to Clare
Catch the ferry from Killimer in Kerry to Tarbert in Clare. It is a 20 minute journey across the estuary linking the iconic tourist destinations of the Kingdom of Kerry to the Banner County of Clare. Ferries leave every hour during winter months with extra half hour ferries during the summer.
You will enjoy views of the majestic Shannon Estuary and if you’re lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of the dolphins, which in the summer, can sometimes swim so near the ferry, as if just to entertain you. The captain will announce if he spots dolphins so keep an ear out and your eyes peeled!
Lahinch is a pretty seaside town on the coast of Clare, well known for its golden sandy beach which stretches for a mile.
Popular with surfers, if you’ve a learner surfer in the family this would be a great beach for them. And the rest of the family will enjoy paddling or even a dip in the sea.
If the weather isn’t so great then stop into Lahinch Seaworld and Leisure Centre where you can while away a few hours having a splash in the swimming pool areas which include a 25-metre pool, sauna, jacuzzi, steamroom and kiddies pool.
#29. Cliffs of Moher
A must see on the Wild Atlantic Way, the Cliffs of Moher stand 214m (702 feet) at their highest point. On a clear day you will be able to see the Aran Islands and Galway Bay, the Twelve Pins and Maum Turk mountains in Connemara to the north, Loop Head and the Dingle Peninsula and Blasket Islands in Kerry to the south.
Be warned that due to the popularity of the Cliffs of Moher as a tourist attraction, during the months of July and August the Cliffs can become quite crowded during the peak times of the day, 11am- 3pm. Here is some advice on planning your visit:
You will want to allow some time to visit the Cliffs Experience to take in the exhibits about the Cliffs, and be sure to stop at Postcard from the Edge, where you can choose a backdrop and make a short movie of yourselves which you can email to friends and family. There’s also a kids area where children can play a fun game and learn more about wildlife at the Cliffs and create some digital artwork to email home.
We recommend a stop at Ballyvaughan to enjoy the shops and cafés or pick up a picnic to enjoy at Fanore Beach which is one of the best beaches in Clare. The vast expanse of beach is ideal for races, running, walking and making sandcastles.
The Burren Birds of Prey Centre and Ailwee Cave are worth a short detour. At the Cave you can take a 30 minute stroll through caverns seeing all the unusual formations underground including a waterfall. Then enjoy the dynamic flying displays learning about different birds of prey.
#31. The Burren
As you drive up County Clare towards Galway you will reach The Burren, a unique area of historic, cultural and geographic significance. The landscape made of limestone is crisscrossed with cracks and interspersed with rocks and plants. Kids will enjoy clambering about the landscape.
Here are some of our favourite attractions as you make your way through The Burren:
- The Burren Centre – explore the flora, fauna, geology, legends, archaeology and natural history of the Burren.
- Burren Perfumery – perfumery, tearooms and lovely gardens to wander around;
- Hazel Mountain Chocolate – need we say more
- Burren Nature Sanctuary, on the outskirts of Kinvara which has an Adventure Playground, Nature Trail, cafe and soft play area.
#32. Rinville Park, Oranmore
One of our favourite family friendly spots near Galway, Rinville Park has a beach walk or a forest walk with a playground located in the original castle orchards with some excellent play equipment, suitable for different age groups. There is plenty of parking as well as designated picnic and barbecue areas. Public toilets are situated near the playground.
Often during the summer months you will find a visiting ice cream/coffee van, but do bring a picnic to enjoy the great facilities on offer here.
#33. Eyre Square, Galway
Eyre Square in the heart of Galway is a handy spot to take kids. Pick up a picnic at a nearby shop, settle on one of the grassy areas to have your lunch, then make a stop to the mini playground at the side of the Square.
If the weather is warm the fountains at the top of the square may be on, they switch off and on a timer, and the kids will enjoy running about (and in and out of the water).
Afterwards you can always drag them away by promising them a visit to another playground (by the Cathedral) once you have stopped at our next stop Galway Market.
#34. Galway Market
Open on Saturdays and Sundays, my kids always enjoy a visit to Galway Market, located off Shop Street near St Nicholas Collegiate Church. The narrow space with stalls either side makes it a busy spot so hold tight to small hands. Be sure to find the doughnut stall where you can buy a freshly made doughnut dusted either with sugar, cinnamon or cocoa (or all 3!).
You can pick up the makings of a delicious lunch to enjoy at the nearby Claddagh (and see the swans), or by the canal at the Cathedral (where you can feed the ducks) – both are nice spots to enjoy on a fine day with kids.
At Roundstone in Connemara you will find a pretty little fishing village with a busy little harbour, where local fishermen prepare and return with the day’s catches. You will also enjoy the views of the Twelve Bens and the Atlantic. There are cafes and craft shops and a playground to stop at too.
Nearby beaches at Dogs Bay and Gurteen Beach have pure white sand and clear waters, ideal for a splash and some beach time.
There’s also a playground at the nearby Connemara National Park, and the route up and back from Diamond Hill offers kids of all ages an easy climb which they will enjoy. The route loops back again to the start. It takes about 3 hours to do the route.
#36. Killary Harbour
When we think of fjords we think of Norway but Ireland has its very own fjord at Killary in North County Galway.
Take a 90 minute boat tour of Killary Harbour (kids go free) leaving from Leenaun and enjoy the spectactular scenery, with mountains and water and birdlife. You may even get to see some dolphins!
Westport is a lovely town to visit with the family. With lots of family friendly accommodation options, this is a nice spot to stop off and spend some time enjoying the town, the shops and surrounding attractions. During your Westport stay we would recommend:
- 18th century Westport House and its adjoining Pirate Adventure Park
- Westport Skate Park & multi-use Games Area
- Westport Leisure Centre for a family swim
- Cycle the Great Western Greenway
- National Museum of Ireland: Country Life as you head out of Westport again to continue the Wild Atlantic Way.
#38. Strandhill Beach
Strandhill Beach is an area of great natural beauty located 5 miles west of Sligo town with panoramic views of Knocknarea and Benbulben. As well as being an extremely popular surfing spot, there are some great walks to Culleenamore Strand and also to Killaspubrone.
N.B. Due to dangerous currents and tides, it is advisable not to swim from this beach but you will still enjoy your time at Strandhill, especially during the summer months, when dolphins and/or porpoises can sometimes be seen jumping from the waves at sea.
Be sure to stop at Shells Cafe & Little Shop, the perfect beach cafe, bright and airy with wooden floors and fabulous (organic, fairtrade) coffee, plus delicious eats for all the family.
#39. Tropical World, Donegal
Tropical World is Donegal’s very own family friendly mini zoo. Opening seasonally, you can see beautiful butterflies in full flight, lemurs, owls, meerkats, parrots and many more tropical birds and reptiles.
#40. Bundoran Waterworld
Bundoran Waterworld is an indoor aqua adventure playground, located on the seafront in Bundoran, County Donegal.
It currently has the fastest slide in Ireland, The Whizzer (9.2 degree drop), a Tornado slide (50m long) and a Twister slide for the younger kids. There are two 24 metre swimming pools, one is a slide pool (the slides finish into this pool) and the other is a wave pool.
You’ll also find a multi slide, a toddlers’ pool, a pirate ship, a speed slide and good changing facilities, snacks and drinks, and picnic tables in the adjacent playground.
Free Things to do with Kids
#41. National Museum of Ireland – Dublin
The three National Museums in Dublin are all free to visit and have great collections as well as a wide range of ongoing events for families. They include:
- National Museum of Ireland – Decorative Arts & History is home to a wide range of objects, which include weaponry, furniture, silver, ceramics and glassware; as well as examples of Folk life and costume.
- National Museum of Ireland – Museum of Natural History has galleries of animals from Ireland and overseas, also geological exhibits form a total collection of about 2 million scientific specimens with a Discovery Zone.
- National Museum of Ireland – Museum of Archaeology is the national repository for all archaeological objects found in Ireland and displays artefacts dating from 7000 BC to the 20th century. The Irish archaeology collections include The Treasury, featuring outstanding examples of Celtic and Medieval art.
#42. Galway City Museum, Galway
Galway City Museum is a spacious, modern building, situated in the heart of Galway City, on the banks of the River Corrib, overlooking the Spanish Arch and the Claddagh. The museum, which is free of charge, tells the story of Galway’s past and regularly hosts touring art and craft exhibitions.
Be sure to pick up a ‘My Favourite Object’ activity sheet at reception. The museum also holds a regular programme of events with activities for all ages.
#43. National Museum of Ireland – Museum of Country Life, Mayo
The National Museum of Ireland – Country Life, Castlebar, brings to life the traditions of rural life in Ireland. Exhibitions are full of wonderful objects from long ago.
See what schools were like, the toys children played with, and how they marked special events like Halloween & Christmas. Learn about how people lived in the towns and countryside, cut turf, caught fish and worked in the home. Workshops, exhibitions and family programmes for all ages. Free entry – it’s perfect for those rainy days.
#44. Spire of Lloyd, Meath
The Spire of Lloyd in Kells is an inland lighthouse designed by Henry Aaron Baker (designer of the King’s Inn, Dublin) for the First Earl of Bective in memory of his father Sir Thomas Taylor in 1791. At 30m high, one can see magnificent views of the surrounding countryside as far as the Mourne Mountains in County Down, Northern Ireland on a clear day.
The Spire was used to view horse racing and the hunt in the 19th century. It is open on selected dates during the summer. Don’t miss the “Paupers Graveyard” in the community park (The People’s Park) in which many victims of the mid-19th century famine lie buried.
#45. Slieve Foye, Louth
According to legend, Fionn Mac Cumhaill hurled the Cloghmore (a forty ton glacial boulder perched on a projecting spur on Slievemartin) from the slopes of Slieve Foye, in a running battle with a neighbouring giant in the Mourne mountains. Slieve Foye has plenty of marked trails, suitable for older kids and adults, with stunning views of the lough.
Or visit Slieve Foye Woods at the base of the mountain, located 3.5km from Carlingford on the road to Omeath/Newry. There are two car parks, lots of picnic areas and beautiful panoramic views of Slieve Foye mountain and the Lough.
#46. Altamont Gardens, Carlow
Known as the most romantic garden in Ireland, Altamont, near Tullow, is an enchanting blend of formal and informal gardens located on a 100 acre estate. Whilst still little known, it ranks in the top ten of Irish gardens and is often referred to as ‘the jewel in Ireland’s gardening crown’.
The formal lawns slope down to a romantic lake, and there’s a fascinating walk, which kids love, through the Arboretum, Bog Garden and Ice Age Glen with its canopy of ancient oaks leading to the River Slaney. There are picnic areas, and a garden centre with tea-rooms, which host free music sessions on Sunday afternoons in summer.
#47. Find Some Fairies, Tipperary & Kerry
Head to the lovely Town Park in Templemore, Co. Tipperary, and walk past the lake, to find the fairy trail in the woods. Try and spot all the fairy doors, which are updated at seasonal times like Christmas and Halloween(there are about 38 we believe). Afterwards feed the ducks and swans and let the kids play in the playground, while you get a “workout” on the outdoor adult gym.
In Kerry, there are two magical fairy trails to be found: one in the wooded surrounds of Derrynane House, Caherdaniel, and the other in the woods of the Parknasilla Resort. Both are free and open to all visitors.
#48. Glendalough, Wicklow
Glendalough has long been an area renowned for its natural beauty and history and it is one of the most visited places in Ireland.
The Glendalough Valley is located in the Wicklow Mountains National Park and has many attractions to entice, entertain and delight visitors, from its world famous Monastic Site with Round Tower (Can you stretch your arms around St. Kevin’s cross and have your wishes granted?) to its scenic lakes and valleys, as well as a selection of walks and trails in the area including The Wicklow Way. Glendalough has everything to offer the whole family.
#49. Castletown House, Kildare
The first, and largest Palladian manor in Ireland, Castletown House, built for William Conolly, is an awesome sight. You and the kids will enjoy the Self-Guided Nature Trail, where you can explore the wildflower meadow, cross a ha-ha or sunken fence on their way to the garden temple or make your way to the river Liffey at the bottom of the meadow.
Plan your visit for a Sunday, where free afternoon music recitals take place throughout the summer from 2pm. Open from March to October, there are tours of the house daily – admission price applies.
#50. Deer Spotting & President’s House at Phoenix Park, Dublin
The Phoenix Park is the largest urban park in Europe, and home to the Zoo, Áras an Uachtaráin (President’s residence), Farmleigh House, Visitor Centre, plus playgrounds, cycling trails & lakes. Take bikes/scooters (or rent them) and enjoy the many great cycling or walking trails. There’s a huge amount of wildlife in the Park, so there’s a good chance that you will spot deer roaming around.
The playground and tearooms at the Visitor Centre are well worth a visit. Admission to the Visitor Centre exhibition is free, and visitors can enjoy a historical interpretation of the park from 3500BC, inlcuding the history of Áras an Uachtaráin. Every Sunday morning free children’s workshops on nature awareness, history and heritage and arts and crafts take place, suitable for ages 6-12 years.
Top Tip: Free admission tickets are issued at the Visitor Centre to visit Áras an Uachtaráin on Saturdays only.
#51. Avondale Forest Park, Wicklow
With 500 acres, Avondale Forest Park in Wicklow has an endless variety of walks with fabulous scenery. The park has four way-marked walking trails as well as a family cycling trail. There’s a lovely wooden playground area with swings, slides and climbing frames. Sure to be lots of opportunities for wildlife and bird spotting!
You can also visit Avondale House, the birthplace of Charles Stewart Parnell – admission cost applies.
#52. Clara Bog Nature Reserve and Visitor Centre, Offaly
Clara Bog Nature Reserve is free to visit and has many free events for children. The bog itself is reputed to be the best remaining example of a raised bog in Western Europe.
There is a 1 km boardwalk looped walk on Clara Bog which lets you see the wonderful plants, birds and animals which Clara Bog is home to, and to soak up the atmosphere of an exceptional raised bog in the heart of Ireland (NB wear trainers or shoes). The Visitor Centre also organises walks, art and nature activities on a regular basis.
#53. Copper Coast, Waterford
A designated European Geopark, Copper Coast has several beautiful coastal landmarks, dunes, cliffs and clean beaches. It offers small, sheltered beaches surrounded by rugged cliffs – ideal for quiet getaways. Annestown Heritage Trail will guide you around a section of the Copper Coast Global Geopark introducing you to it’s rich heritage and geology.
#54. John F. Kennedy Arboretum, Wexford
The John F. Kennedy Arboretum near New Ross, has lovely walks and great trees. Feed ducks by the pond and watch the fish dart about. This is a good place to bring the bikes to help small legs get around more easily!
There’s also a miniature railway, and the playground has plenty of picnic tables, a cafe, a small maze, a great slide and a house grown out of hedging! Drop into the centre and take a look at the exhibitions.
#55. Curraghchase, Limerick
Curraghchase Forest Park, located 22km west of Limerick on the N69 coast road, is the woodland estate and lakes around the shell of the 18th century house, which was the home of poet Aubrey de Vere. There are a number of looped way marked trails in the park to suit all visitors. They vary from the multi-access trails suitable for wheelchair users and family walkers, to the longer Curragh and Glenisca trails suitable for those looking for more demanding walking and cycling.
Amenities include Public toilet, Picnic Site, Playground, Barbecue, Boat launch, Orienteering Course, Walking Trails, Cycling Trails, Arboreta/Gardens, and there’s a €5 charge per car.
#56. Kilkee Habitat Trail, Clare
The Kilkee Habitat Trail is a scenic walk which follows the beach and cliffs. There are six panels, each one themed to its location, illustrating the diverse wildlife habitats of Kilkee. While you’re in Kilkee, take the nets and try to catch fish in the rock pools, or play the unique local game of Racquets (a form of outdoor squash) against the West End wall on the beach.
#57. Shannon Dolphin Trail, Clare
Start at the Shannon Dolphin Information Board in Kilkee’s Market Square. Follow the trail markers and it will take you to the Shannon Dolphin & Wildlife Centre where you can listen to sounds from the bottlenose dolphins, see real skeletons of whales and dolphins, and enjoy many more ‘dol-fun’ educational activities for children.
#58. Enjoy Hidden Sculptures at Gleniff Horseshoe, Sligo
Visit Gleniff Horseshoe in North County Sligo and enjoy hidden sculptures along the way. Then carry on walking/driving/cycling (it’s approx a 10km loop) this incredibly scenic hidden valley. If you are driving check out the spot where you car will ‘roll up the hill’ too and keep an eye out for Diamuid and Gráinnes Cave too.
#59. Glenveagh National Park, Donegal
Glenveagh National Park is one of six national parks in Ireland. Situated in the Northwest of Co. Donegal, Glenveagh encompasses some 16,000 hectares in the heart of the Derryveagh Mountains.
The award-winning Visitor Centre incorporates a living heather roof mimicking the surrounding landscape causing minimum disturbance. The extensive displays contained within provide an introduction to the parks natural and built history as well as providing information on walking trails, events etc. Guides on duty will also be happy to provide visitors with information about the park and surrounding area.
#60. Lough Muckno Leisure Park, Monaghan
A day out in Lough Muckno Leisure Park in Castleblayney is a must for all the family. Walking Trails, Waterski & Wakeboarding Club, Fishing, Nature Walks and Picnic area. It is open all year around and there’s no admission fee.
20 Hidden Gems
#61. Slieve League Cliffs, Donegal
Almost 3 times higher than the Cliffs of Moher, the Slieve League Cliffs in Co. Donegal reach to a height of almost 2,000 feet making them some of the highest sea cliffs in Europe. With 2 car parks families can opt to leave their car at the lower level and walk the road to the base, or drive along the winding road to the upper parking level.
From here enjoy the view across the Atlantic to Sligo, Leitrim and Mayo. The cliffs cater for all levels of climber, with a rocky path leading you to the top. The more adventurous can climb to one man’s pass, and discover early stone dwellings and sacred sites.
#62. Marble Arch Caves, Fermanagh
The Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark is located in the rugged mountainous uplands and the gentle rolling lowlands of counties Fermanagh and Cavan. Taking in the world-famous Marble Arch Caves, the Geopark boasts some of the finest natural landscapes in Ireland and offers a window into the area’s 650 million year past.
Be sure to stop by Lough Navar Forest, located approximately 5km outside the village of Derrygonnelly, and undoubtedly one of the jewels in the Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark. Truly a spectacular forest.
#63. Lough Boora Discovery Park, Offaly
For something unique, visit Lough Boora Discovery Park, one of the most important Mesolithic sites in Ireland – go to the site of the ancient settlement by following the Mesolithic Route. There are walkways and walking trails, a fairy trail, sculptures, picnic benches, cycle tracks, angling, bird watching and a bike hire facility. Guided tours also available.
#64. Birr Castle, Offaly
Birr Castle is an experience of discovery for the whole family – home to extensive gardens and parkland, as well as the Historic Science Centre and the great telescope of the 1840s.
Kids will adore the play area, complete with picnic areas, sandpits, and the most spectacular tree house – in fact you may find it hard to pry them away! There is also a lovely cafe on site.
#65. Leprechauns & Fairies, Louth
Head to Carlingford’s Leprechaun & Fairy Cavern and meet the Leprechaun Whisperer who has built the underground cavern to connect with two old tunnels, one linking with the fairy glen in Rostrevor Co. Down, and the other with Foy mountain and the home of Ireland’s last remaining 236 leprechauns. It is only belief that keeps them alive now.
Image via Leprechaun & Fairy Cavern
#66. Trim Castle, Meath
Did you know that Trim Castle in County Meath took more than 30 years to build, back in the 12th century? It’s the largest, best-preserved, and most impressive Anglo-Norman castle in Ireland, and it’s a fascinating place to explore. You may remember it better as the backdrop to the Oscar-winning film, Braveheart.
#67. Loughcrew Cairns, Meath
The Loughcrew Cairns, also known as the Hills of the Witch, are a group of Neolithic passage tombs dating to 3000 BC. The tombs are located on three different hills and Cairn T, one of the largest tombs in the complex, is situated on Cairnbane East. A visit to Loughcrew Cairns is more suitable for older children as it’s a fair hike up to the top of the hills, but it is worth it for the amazing views.
Image via Loughcrew Cairns
#68. Iveagh Gardens, Dublin
Why not plan a picnic in Iveagh Gardens, Dublin 2, arguably the most beautiful park in the capital and not all that well known, so it’s trully a hidden gem! Stunning grounds, beautiful waterfall, so much space to run around and it’s always peacefully quiet – a real oasis in the city! Located near St. Stephen’s Green and Luas stop.
#69. The Little Museum of Dublin, Dublin
The Little Museum of Dublin conveniently located on St. Stephen’s Green, is truly a little gem, telling the story of the capital over the last 100 years from the visit of Queen Victoria to modern day. Over 5000 items are displayed over 3 floors. Entry to the museum is by guided tour only, so book online to be sure of entry. There are worksheets available for children of all ages, and interactive artefacts that they will enjoy.
#70. Tara’s Palace Museum of Childhood, Wicklow
Kids will love exploring the magical miniature world of Tara’s Palace Museum of Childhood at Powerscourt House.
Each room in Tara’s Palace is furnished with miniature masterpieces, hand painted ceilings and hand crafted wooden and marble floors. The museum is home to Ireland’s largest period dolls house, Tara’s Palace and contains hundreds of fascinating exhibits, including the amazing 17th century house in a bottle, the smallest doll in the world and a 300 year old doll’s house.
#71. Wexford Lavender Farm, Wexford
Wexford Lavender Farm is Ireland’s first Lavender Farm, with 2 acres of Lavender and woodland walks with 3 routes to suit all abilities. Kids will love riding through the lavender field on Billy the friendly Bull quad train, and playing in their outdoor playground.
Afterwards, enjoy a homemade treat or lunch in The Purple Haze Cafe, and of course you can take home some Lavender plants for your own garden.
#72. Waterford Treasures Medieval Museum, Waterford
Waterford, Ireland’s oldest city, founded by the Vikings in the last 9th cetury, is home to the Viking Triangle, a collection of museums dedicated to the history of this ancient city.
The Waterford Treasures Medieval Museum is a tribute to Medieval Waterford and life in the city during that period. Carefully preserving several medieval structures within its walls, the Museum was opened to the public in August 2012. Guided Tours available from historic characters in period costumes.
Afterwards, stop for a bite at the magnificent Bishop’s Palace, and relax in the stunning gardens surrounding the Bishop’s Palace, which are based on a design by celebrity gardener Diarmuid Gavin.
#73. Shandon Bells & Tower, Cork
Head up the steps into the old part of Cork city and ring the world famous Shandon Bells in the beautiful surrounds of St. Anne’s Church – one of the oldest churches in the city built in 1722. Climb 132 steps up the tower to get a spectacular 360 degree views of the city. You can view the internal workings of the clock (the Four Faced Liar, so called as every face tells a different time) and see the 18th century bells.
Image via Shandon Bells
#74. Dursey Island Cable Car, Cork
Originally opened in 1969, the Dursey Island cable car remains, to this day, the most used means of transport across the turbulent waters of the Dursey Sound and offers a truly singular experience. Ireland’s only cable car, and one of the very few cable cars that traverses seawater in all of Europe, it is one of the great attractions of the island. As long as you and the kids have a good head for heights, that is, as it can be a wild ride over the waves!
There are no shops or restaurants on the island so pack a picnic and enjoy a walk around the island.
#75. Lough Gur, Limerick
Lough Gur is a magical and mysterious place that is rich in folklore, along with a wealth of archaeology and history dating back to Stone Age times. The Heritage Centre provides a fascinating interpretation of the sites associated with Lough Gur.
At the Heritage Centre you will find interactive exhibitions with touch screens. There’s a fully guided tour and also audio guides and outdoor acoustic guides to help you enjoy your visit. For children there’s an activity sheet, dressing up, and a neolithic pot building section. Check out the Archaeology Dig where kids can try out some digging!
#76. Loophead Lighthouse
Visit the iconic Loophead lighthouse in Kilbaha, West Clare, from May to September, and experience the remarkable panorama extending as far as the Blasket Islands in Co. Kerry and the Twelve Bens in Co. Galway, from the top of the tower.
A wonderful guided walk around the Loophead Peninsula will bring you by the fabled Diarmuid and Gráinne’s Leap. You might also spot some of the whales and dolphins along the Shannon Estuary too.
#77. Vandeleur Walled Garden, Clare
Beautiful old stone walls enclose the sheltered gem of Vandeleur Walled Garden (2.158 acres) near Kilrush, which is set among 420 acres of native woodland. Formerly part of the Vandeleur Family Demesne, this garden has been restored around the old path system with a horizontal maze, unusual water-features and a free-standing Victorian-style working glasshouse which is accessible to visitors.
Chess enthusiasts can test their skills by playing the giant outdoor Chess game, and children will enjoy the living willow structure, sand area and follow the butterfly trail. There is a garden centre and coffee shop also.
#78. Brigit’s Garden, Galway
Brigit’s Garden in West Galway, located between Moycullen and Oughterard, is a magical place for families to explore. With family-friendly Celtic gardens, children’s discovery trail, willow play area and sandpit, Nature trail, ring-fort and crannog, gift shop and the award-winning, family friendly Garden Café.
#79. Athenry Heritage Centre, Galway
The Athenry Heritage Centre is the ideal place to experience history the fun way. The ‘Medieval Experience’ provides visitors of all ages the opportunity to dress up in medieval costume and become a Knight, Princess, a Lord or Lady of the Manor. Discover your inner Robin Hood with our exciting Have-A-Go Archery activity and engage with history using interactive exhibits, which includes weapons and armour from the middle ages.
Experience the market street and see the dark side of life in the centre’s medieval dungeon. Relax in the picnic area afterwards, and don’t miss exploring the wooden maze.
#80. Glencar Waterfall, Leitrim
Glencar Waterfall is 50ft high and is situated in Glencar Lough, 11km west of Manorhamilton. It is particularly impressive after rain (shouldn’t have to wait too long in Ireland for that!), and can be viewed from a lovely wooded walk. There are more waterfalls visible from the road, although none is quite as romantic as this one. Pack a picnic to use at the on-site picnic facilities and an information kiosk.
Fun Festivals & Events
#81. Enniscorthy Rhythms Dance Festival, Wexford
Enniscorthy Street Rhythms Dance Festival in May, is a fun, family friendly dance and rhythm festival in Enniscorthy, with live dance acts, baby bop for the tots, and lots of fringe events for everybody from age 2 to 102! This year expect to meet lots of Disney Princesses and fairytale characters.
When: 28th – 29th May
#82. Bloom in the Park, Dublin
Ireland’s largest gardening, food and family event, Bloom in the Park is back this year at Dublin’s Phoenix Park in Dublin City this June Bank Holiday weekend. Families visiting the event this year will once again be entertained by the outdoor entertainment stage and highly enjoyable and educational Kids Zone.
When: June 2nd – 6th
#83. Dublin Port River Fest
The Dublin Port River Fest will be fun for all the family, taking place on and around the river Liffey. Visit the large old sailing ships or pop along to the Pirate Village with arts and crafts for the kids. There’ll be a Dublin Port Tug Boat Dance with Water Canon on the river; face painters; balloon artists; port boat tours; a fun fair; food market; and live entertainment.
When: June 3rd – 6th
#84. Baltimore Pirate Festival, Cork
All pirates (past and present) are invited to celebrate and commemorate the demise of 108 settlers taken away as slaves by Algerian Pirates on 20 June 1631 at the Baltimore Pirate Festival this June. Highlights includes visits to the thirteenth century fully restored O’Driscoll Castle, pirate dress competition, pirate boat trips, a family treasure hunt, and pirate bouncy castles and games.
When: June 17th – 19th
Image via Baltimore Pirate Festival
#85. Cork Midsummer Festival, Cork
Cork Midsummer Festival is Cork’s largest annual multi-disciplinary arts festival for all ages along the banks of the river Lee, with many national and international theatre and music events, and the return of family favourite, Picnic in the Park.
When: June 17th – 26th
#86. Trim Haymaking Festival, Meath
Find your inner farmer and try your hand at some sheaf tossing at the National Hay Making Festival in Trim, Co. Meath mid June. Just a stone’s throw from Dublin, this is a fun day for all the family with working horses, vintage tractors, a pets’ corner, kids play area, and folklore and tales.
When: June 19th
#87. Westport Food Festival, Mayo
“Food” will be the word on everyone’s lips as the Westport Food Festival returns in June, catering for all from mini chefs right up to mature foodies. Events include a food village at The Octagon, seaweed foraging, foodie tours, kayaking, mushroom foraging, children’s pizza making, foodie tours, a pop up restaurant and more.
When: June 24th – 26th
#88. Wexford Maritime Festival, Wexford
At the Wexford Maritime Festival in June, you’ll find a celebration of Wexford’s rich maritime heritage, and can enjoy maritime activities, family fun, artisan food and music. Children can enjoy dance and musical activities, arts and crafts, science workshops, circus workshops and shows at the Children’s Village. Discover Wexford’s Viking past in the Viking tent where children can try their hand at brass rubbing and sword making.
When: June 25th – 26th
#89. Féile Brian Ború, Clare
Féile Brian Ború celebrates the life and legacy of Brian Ború (founder of the O’Briens) – the most famous son of the historic twin towns of Killaloe and Ballina. Fun activities include historical guided tours on lake and land; fireworks display over the River Shannon, traditional street games, garden party, children’s art competition, street theatre and much more! There really is something for everyone in the family at this fun event.
When: June 30th – 3rd July
Image via Féile Brian Ború
#90. Promenade Festival, Waterford
The Promenade Festival, Tramore is the biggest family fun festival in the South East with an airshow, international artists, street entertainers, live wrestling, puppet shows, and an artisan food & drink village.
When: July 1st – 3rd
#91. Ennis Street Festival, Clare
The Ennis Street Festival is a celebration of the many cultures and artistic ways that make Ennis, Co. Clare, a special place, with a colourful mix of music, dance, visual arts, puppets shows, arts exhibitions, workshops, acrobatics and many more surprises for all the family.
When: July 4th – 10th
#92. Laya Healthcare’s City Spectacular, Dublin & Cork
Celebrating its 11th birthday this year, Laya Healthcare’s City Spectacular is going to be even bigger, better and more spectacular than ever as it takes to Dublin’s Merrion Square & Cork’s Fitzgerald Park, Cork city this July. Featuring some of the best street theatre performers around, and with a host of exciting events, fantastic exhibitions and absorbing interactive workshops, there will be plenty to entertain the whole family.
When: Dublin: July 8th – 10th; Cork: July 16th – 17th;
#93. Galway International Arts Festival, Galway
See Galway City come alive for the annual Galway International Arts Festival this July. Showcasing street performers music and theatre, there are events for all ages, and surprises around every corner. This is a great time to visit Galway.
When: July 11th – 24th
#94. Sunrise Festival, Brigits Garden, Galway
Brigit’s Garden is hosting the first ‘Sunrise Children’s Festival’, a unique weekend festival with camping, dedicated solely to children and their families. ‘Sunrise’ will be a celebration of music, creativity, nature and all things magical in the beautiful Celtic gardens and surrounding woodlands. This summer festival takes place from Saturday 23rd to Sunday 24th July 2016. The festival has a full two-day programme of Live Music & Theatre, Circus, Puppet shows, Story-telling, Yoga, Fire Spectacular and more, in three tented areas. There will also be lots of delicious artisan food, café and bar,
Come and enjoy a unique opportunity to dance, celebrate, sing, create, and camp with your kids and all the family!
#95. Enniscrone Black Pig Festival, Sligo
Head to Enniscrone this July for the Enniscrone Black Pig Festival, where you can enjoy treasure hunts, fireworks, music, street performers, great food and a Market Day at this family friendly festival.
When: July 21st – 25th
#96. Festival of Curiosity, Dublin
The Festival of Curiosity runs in various Dublin venues late July. The festival programme is packed full of arts, science and technology events and has a host of free daytime activities for families. From a giant outdoor Bubblearium, to special Lego Workshops and much more, indulge your curiosity this July.
When: July 21st – 24th
#97. Durrow Scarecrow Festival, Laois
The Durrow Scarecrow Festival is a fun family event for young and old, with over 300 scarecrows to see around the village, in many different designs and themes. There’s plenty more on offer too including live music, craft workshops, country market, adult, teen and children’s entertainment, and scarecrow treasure hunt.
When: July 24th – August 1st
#98. Lughnasa at Craggaunowen, Clare
Celebrate Lughnasa at Craggaunowen this August Bank Holiday weekend with an array of costumed re-enactors from the Bronze Age to Medieval times. Activities include combat demonstrations, Brehon law trials and much more!
When: July 31st & August 1st
#99. Duncannon Sand Sculpture Festival, Wexford
Duncannon Sand Sculpting Festival is a family fun event for all ages with free activities, spectacular professional sand sculptures, fireworks, beach games, music and street entertainment. There’s also an Amateur Sand Sculpting Competition that’s open to all, and a spectacular firework display over the bay of Duncannon.
When: August 5th – 7th
#100. Kilkenny Arts Festival
In August the city of Kilkenny will come to life with the annual Kilkenny Arts Festival. There’s visual art, classical music, theatre and dance, jazz, world & traditional Irish music, literature, film, indie music, craft, children’s and street events and more – something for everyone!
When: August 5th – 14th
#101. Loughrea Medieval Festival, Galway
The 3 day Loughrea Medieval Festival held during National Heritage Week, comprises scenes of everyday life in Medieval Loughrea, as well as being jam-packed with fun events and performances that will entertain the whole family.
Celebrate Walled Towns Day with re-enactments, craft demonstrations, medieval music, food and craft market, boat trips, traditional ‘have-a-go’ craft workshops, children’s traditional games, grand parade and lots more.
When: August 26th – 28th
Over to you! Have you any more suggestions to add? Let us know in the comments below.