Guide to Wicklow for Families: Where to Eat, Stay, Play and Explore

Jill Holtz

August 21, 2022

Wicklow county guide

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Wicklow is known as the “Garden of Ireland” for its scenery, which includes beaches, woodlands, loughs and ancient ruins. Enjoy nature, history, culture, delicious food, and a whole host of unique family-friendly activities and places to visit to keep you busy.

In our Guide to Wicklow for Families, we’ve picked some interesting and exciting things to do with the family around Wicklow, whether you’re planning a weekend break, looking to fill a rainy day, explore in the sunshine, or just try something new.

Our Guide to Wicklow for Families

Family-Friendly Things to Do in Wicklow

Powerscourt

Powerscourt Estate offers a fantastic day out for families with a choice of attractions to visit. Experience one of the best views in Ireland at Powerscourt Gardens, featuring award-winning ornate Italian and Japanese Gardens perfect for strolling and smelling the flowers, to rambling, wooded walks where little ones can play hide and seek. Enjoy the audio Family Action Quest Tour with 8 stops around the estate taking between 60-90 minutes to complete.

Children love climbing the Pepper Pot Tower and posing for a picture with the cannons nearby. Powerscourt Waterfall, the highest in Ireland, is located 5km from the main Estate and also has a picnic area, bbq facilities and playground. Discover trees that are hundreds of years old, such as the Giant Redwoods which grow up to 80m high! Discover more fun things to do with the kids at Powerscourt.

The Treetop and Viewing Tower located at Beyond the Trees Avondale is the first of its kind in Ireland and the UK. It is a unique visitor attraction that is fully accessible to all generations. Your journey through the forest on the Treetop Walk begins as the boardwalk makes its way out over the Avonmore River valley. Play areas and interactive games along the route encourage you to take a different view of the forest and explore the bird and animal life of the surrounding area.

Reaching 38 metres into the sky, the Viewing Tower can be seen peeping above the eucalyptus trees for miles around. It is accessed via a short underground tunnel, where you will learn about the abundant life below the forest floor before emerging for the next part of your adventure! The spiral ramped boardwalk rises slowly through the forest and has a gentle gradient. It is fully wheelchair and pram accessible with resting points on each level.  After 10 gentle circuits you will reach the circular viewing platform at the top, with 360° panoramic views over Avondale Forest Park, the Vale of Avoca, the Wicklow Mountains and beyond. To continue the adventure, take the option to whizz back down to earth on the giant spiral slide inside the Viewing Tower. Alternatively continue back down the ramped boardwalk to the forest floor once more.

This tricky celtic maze at Greenan Farm, Maze and Museum in Rathdrum will puzzle the family! A stream flows through it to the pond in the middle and a viewing tower overlooks the excitement below. Unique in design, this hedge maze is the highlight of day. The Dragonfly Walk is a raised wooden walkway leading through native woods and wetlands, and has three ponds with raised viewing platforms. It is an unspoilt area which supports an abundance of wild life such as wild deer, moorhens, frogs and dragonflies.

Clara Lara Fun Park and Outdoor Adventure Centre, also in Rathdrum, offers water-based fun with assault courses, water slides, boating lakes, kiddie-karts, tree houses and playgrounds. Have a go on the breathtaking Aqua Shuttle, the biggest water slide in Ireland. Children can sail away on the Pirate Galleon. For the less energetic, there are riverside picnic areas and barbecues, mini golf and miles of hill walking through the spectacular countryside.

Situated in the picturesque village of Kilcoole, Glenroe Open Farm offers easy access to a wide selection of farm animals from March to October each year. Children can enjoy the outdoor playground and find their favourite furry animal to hold, such as rabbits and guinea pigs. A 300-year-old thatched cottage on the farm offers a nostalgic look at the way our ancestors lived. Bring a packed lunch to enjoy outdoors or in the indoor picnic area (aka The Piggery!).

Take a visit to SEA LIFE Bray Aquarium where you can see sharks, rays, seahorses and clownfish, and even get to touch some sea life in the touchpool. Then enjoy a wander along the seafront to enjoy an ice cream or candy floss, pop into the amusements and maybe even catch a funfair or festival depending on the time of the year.

Russborough House & Parklands at Russelstown has plenty to keep families amused, indoors and out. Try your hand at the 2,000-metre beech hedge maze with a statue of Cupid at the centre of the maze. Kids will also enjoy the playground with a picnic area alongside, and a Fairy Walk through their woodlands and out to Lady’s Island. Kids can pick up a brochure from reception and learn all about the fairies’ adventures. There is a restaurant and gift shop.

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Free Things to Do in Wicklow

avondale house wicklow

© Coillte

Avondale Forest Park offers a variety of walks with scenery including the towering impressiveness of the massed conifers on the banks of the river. The park has six way-marked walks and trails with picnic areas throughout; there is also has a lovely wooden playground area near the walled garden with swings, slide and climbing frames. You do have to pay to visit the Beyond the Trees attraction, but the trails and forest park are free to access. Note: A €5 parking charge applies which can be paid by contactless payment on entry to the carpark or booked in advance.

Most of the towns in Wicklow have playgrounds, but here are some great playgrounds in Wicklow that we can recommend, including South Shore Playground in Greystones which is accessible and offers a variety of facilities, including a sensory path and musical play area, toddler play areas, wheelchair swing and wheelchair-accessible sand factory.

Bring your bikes and scooters out to enjoy part of the Blessington Lakes Loop Cycle. The views are unrivalled! Also known as Poulaphouca Reservoir, set in the Wicklow Mountains, it is the largest man-made lake in Ireland. The road around the lake offers amazing views over the reservoir and the Wicklow Mountains. You can walk or cycle around the lake going through historic villages such as Valleymount, Ballyknockan or Lacken.

Wicklow Mountains National Park covers 20,000 hectares of mountain scenery and features a fabulous 6th century monastic Round Tower and the ruins of St Kevin’s Church. You can download nature trail walks before you go to enjoy on your visit.

There are over 66km of coastline in County Wicklow with three great blue flag beaches – Bray South Promenade, Brittas Bay North and Greystones South Beach. All the beaches offer great opportunities for family fun and outdoor pursuits. Many beaches are just amazing stretches of sand. Even stony beaches have a lot to offer, being great places for rock pooling, skimming stones and in some cases rock climbing.

Outdoor Activities in Wicklow

Glendalough for places to learn about Irish history

© Failte Ireland & Tourism Ireland. Courtesy of Chris Hill

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 enthral 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.

The Bray-Greystones Cliff Walk, one of the highlights of Wicklow, is a stunning walk with unique coastal views. It’s not all buggy-friendly with rocky and narrow stretches, but small kids can manage it on foot, although you may want to bring a carrier just in case. At just over 6km long, the breathtaking views are certainly worth the challenge though!

The Sean Linehan Walk, named in honour of a local Aughrim man, is a lovely walk in the picturesque, historic village of Aughrim. It has a number of short walks available, the longest being 4km, which are more suitable for little legs. It’s also a great place to observe nature, though some of the route is unsuitable for buggies. The walk starts at the old Tinnakilly Bridge, a short walk from the center of town, from where it follows the path of the Macreddin River. The river is an important habitat for many different forms of wildlife, and kids will love keeping an eye out for birds such as dippers and herons.

At the Meeting of the Waters, the Avonmore and beg rivers come together to form the Avoca River. It’s a spot of such beauty that it inspired Thomas Moore to write his famous Irish Melody, “The Meeting of the Waters”. There is also a riverside café, restaurant and craft shop to visit while you’re there.

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Family-Friendly Museums & Galleries in Wicklow

Wicklow Gaol

© Dylan Vaughan

On entering the building of Wicklow’s Historic Gaol, one of Ireland’s best and most interactive experiences, you will be transported back in time and meet face to face with some of the most notorious characters to have walked the floors of this dramatic and history-filled building.

Mermaid Arts Centre in Bray hosts art exhibitions in their gallery space, as well as running a full programme of events from cinema to theatre.

Arklow Maritime Museum displays information on the maritime history of Arklow, focusing in particular on its boat building, lifeboat and fishing traditions. They have a children’s quiz based on items in the collections and small kids can enjoy colouring in drawings of sailing ships.

For those with a tractor-mad child in the house, The Coolakay Agriculture Museum at Enniskerry shows the evolution of Irish farm life from the early 18th century up to the present day. On display at the museum is a collection of farm implements and machinery dating back to the early 1700s, giving a wonderful and accurate historical account of country life in Ireland.

Rainy Day Activities in Wicklow

Bowling pins at Leisureplex rainy day ideas

Diamond Bowl & KidZone in Wicklow Town offers bowling, quasar and soft play for younger kids.

Coral Leisure Arklow has a 25m swimming pool with separate pool for learner swimmers. On Fridays they have Fun Pool Inflatable sessions in the pool, walk ins welcome.

Bridge Street Books is an independent, family run bookshop in Wicklow Town. They are happy to recommend reads for all ages and run a book club for 9-12 years old as well.

At Sea Life Bray Aquarium, you can go on a fascinating journey to the deep…without getting wet! They have over 30+ displays including: Rivers of the World, Nemo’s Kingdom and their breathtaking Tropical Shark Lagoon. They have a kids quiz trail and a colouring table. Feeding times take place throughout the day and children have the opportunity to handle some of the animals. They also have a soft play area and an indoor picnic area.

The Omniplex in Arklow and Mermaid Arts Centre in Bray show movies.

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Family-Friendly Hotels & Accommodation in Wicklow

Druids Glen Hotel & Golf Resort, Newtownmountkennedy offers 5* luxury family-friendly accommodation with plenty to do, including playground, walking trail, driving range, picnic area, swimming pool, DVD library, kids’ high tea club (seasonal), and Baby Pantry with bottle steriliser, microwave and dishwasher.

The award-winning Glenview Hotel is another family-friendly option. As well as an 18m swimming pool and kiddies pool, they offer an in-house crèche called Gymbos that is free for children staying in the hotel, as well as seasonal kids clubs and camps for ages 5+. Kids will enjoy the gardens or woodland walk with lots of fun trails, looking for deer and rabbits as they explore. The hotel also offers a babysitting service and all their team are Garda-vetted.

The stunning 5* Powerscourt Hotel is set overlooking the Sugar Loaf Mountain in Enniskerry, with plenty of services, amenities and special touches to keep your little ones entertained. These include colouring books at check-in, 20m Swarovski crystal-lit swimming pool, children’s playground, giant chess on the hotel’s lawn, complimentary bicycles to discover all the Powerscourt Estate has to offer, and their unique falconry experience.

Known as one of the most family-friendly hotels in Wicklow, The Arklow Bay Conference & Leisure Hotel welcomes families with a host of facilities at their fantastic seaside location. As well as spacious family rooms, they have babysitting on request, nutritious kids’ menus, restaurant and bar staff are happy to heat bottles or baby jars for you, and the leisure club has a 20m heated pool.

The Glendalough Hotel, right in the heart of Glendalough, offers large family rooms with plenty of space for all. Some family rooms have an alcove with a seating area ideal for bedtime stories or playtime for younger family members, so ask if one is available when you are booking. You can explore the monastic site across from the hotel or walk to the lakes and experience the beauty in this Wicklow valley. Children’s menu available at Casey’s Bar & Bistro.

Check out more of our favourite family-friendly hotels and accommodation in Ireland – from luxury breaks and hotels with kids clubs to self-catering choices and family camping and glamping.

Family-Friendly Restaurants in Wicklow

There are many good restaurants in Wicklow to choose from, here are some that have been recommended by Mykidstime parents:

  • The Avoca Terrace Café in Powerscourt: Enjoy spectacular views at the self-service café which offers customers the very best of deli-style fare, from homemade quiches and tartlets to freshly prepared sandwiches, soups, gourmet salads and lots more.
  • The Seed Café at Beyond The Trees Avondale – Relax and enjoy a taste of Wicklow at the contemporary Seed Café, where the culinary team design seasonally inspired menus from local produce.
    The view from the Seed Café extends out over the picturesque walled garden and there is an adventurous playground there, conveniently located by the patio of the Café.
  • Platform Pizza Bar, Bray: Fresh oven-baked pizza including gluten free options, and kids’ meal deals with starter + main + dessert + drink.
  • Bates Restaurant, Rathdrum: Award-winning food to enjoy, where the children’s menu includes breaded chicken breast, steak strips, fish of the day and other yummy options.
  • Powerscourt Arms Country House Hotel, Enniskerry:  Offers a mix of classic and more modern dishes. Their kids’ meals come with chips and/or mash & veg, a cordial drink and a scoop of ice cream.
  • The Beach House, Greystones: A family-owned pub overlooking the harbour serving apparently the “best chicken wings in Ireland”.

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Things to Do in Wicklow for Older Kids and Teens

splash valley aqua park at hidden valley

Hidden Valley in Rathdrum is a holiday park, but you don’t have to stay there to try out the facilities! Why not try out something adventurous to get the adrenaline pumping with the whole family, such as kayaking or archery? They even offer the unique Combat Laser Tag for the more energetic teenager. They also have a large outdoor kids adventure park, bumper boats and football, and for water-based fun, their Splash Valley Aqua Park covers 1,800 sq m and has more than 30 obstacles.

Squirrel Scramble at Killruddery House in Bray is an outdoor adventure park with different challenges to traverse from tree to tree, including 16 zip lines, rope bridges, magic carpets and lots more! Starting from a height of 2 metres up to 12 metres, you have one and half hours to get around 5 levels of tree-top high jinks.

Clara Lara Fun Park in Knockrath, Rathdrum is an outdoor adventure park. Activities include the ‘Aqua Shuttle’, their massive water slide, their amphicats canoes, go karting and rowing boats, as well as an obstacle course, zip-lining, climbing and much more.

Bray Bowl offers video arcades, ten-pin bowling, laser tag, ticket redemption arcades, pool, and snooker.

Don’t Miss!

Howard Mausoleum

Courtesy of the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

Did you know Wicklow has its own pyramid?! The Howard Mausoleum in Kilbride cemetery was built as a burial place for Howard family members, it is a pyramid made from granite and sits 30 feet high. It was described by John Betjeman as the largest pyramid tomb ‘beyond the banks of the Nile’.

The pyramid mauseleom has space for 33 coffins, but only 18 are occupied. There is a spooky story that reports for weeks following the interment of an infant family member, tenants living at Kilbride reported the sound of a child crying at night. The body was apparently removed and buried elsewhere, after which the crying is said to have stopped. The pyramid was sealed and never used again.

Read more about this unusual building here.

Does your family have a favourite place in Wicklow that you love to visit? We want to hear about it!

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Mykidstime Ultimate Guide to Wicklow for Families

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Published On: August 21st, 2022 / Categories: Ireland / Last Updated: August 29th, 2022 / Tags: , , , /

About the Author: Jill Holtz

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Jill is one of the co-founders of Mykidstime and a mum of 2 girls

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