There are so many fun, interesting and exciting places to visit in Ireland that we could fill every day of the summer holidays with something different, but who has the budget to stretch that far? Having lots of ideas for free things to do is essential, so here are my top 10 ideas for FREE family days out in Ireland – and they’re all kid-approved!
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I’m going to be straightforward here – my kids are young, loud and boisterous so when you see lists of free family days out they are usually full of museums and the like, and you can guarantee something: I won’t be there.
All of my kids are adventure seekers, curious little explorers if you like, they love the great outdoors. I have visions of my monkeys swinging out of a precious vase in the National Museum someday – I’m sweating just thinking about it! So as you can imagine, at the moment, we avoid free days out like that and prefer something that’s usually outdoors.
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Great Ideas for FREE Family Days Out
Here are my top rated FREE family days out in Ireland that need to go on your fun-filled summer bucket list because, let’s be honest, it’s going to be a long one and you can only stretch your pocket so far!
#1. Visit a Castle
Rich in history and architecture, there are hundreds of castles across Ireland to set your eyes on and in some cases, entry to the stunning courtyard, playgrounds and nature trails are completely FREE.
For example, Ardgillan Castle is set on spectacular parklands overlooking the Irish Sea in Dublin and offers free entry to a state-of-the-art sea and castle-themed playground, a magical fairy trail (free maps available from reception) and three stunning gardens. The woodlands surrounding Ardgillan are a sanctuary for a variety of animals, making a nature walk lots of fun.
Top Tip: At the right-hand side of the castle you will see a large bell, climb through the trees just below it to ring the bell.
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#2. Festival Fun
We are spoiled for choice when it comes to street performances and free family fun here in Ireland and we even boast some of the best family festivals across the world.
Some of our favourites free family festivals include:
Bray Air Display, Wicklow
Renowned as one of Europe’s top air displays, thousands will flock to the Bray seafront in July. In recent years, Ireland’s biggest air festival wowed crowds with aerobatic performances from the Irish Air Corps, Red Arrows and the dare-devil Breitling Wingwalkers.
Dublin Kite Fest
The skyline at North Bull Island will be bursting with colour with an array of colourful kites alongside a heap of free entertainment, such as kite-making workshops and flight demonstrations.
Ireland’s national maritime festival takes place in June, turning the harbour into an open air sea world with a host of free events, including educational workshops, exhibitions and free kayaking and sailing lessons.
Durrow Scarecrow Festival, Laois
Join the masses as hundreds head towards the little town of Durrow for a week at the end of July for the annual scarecrow festival which features an array of handmade scarecrows in all shapes and sizes. Other free entertainment includes a massive playground, live music, a scarecrow trail, puppet shows and giant board games.
#3. Visit a Sanctuary
Time is precious and teaching our kids the importance of helping others is just as valuable. Ireland has numerous sanctuaries looking for a helping hand throughout the year, so there is no better time to volunteer your families times.
The Donkey Sanctuary, Cork
Set in the beautiful rolling countryside just outside Liscarrol, The Donkey Sanctuary has rescued and rehabilitated more than 5,600 neglected donkeys. The Knockardbane Farm is currently home to 130 donkeys and mules, and you can visit them for free any day of the week where you can enjoy beautiful walkways, a picnic and a Visitor Information Centre.
Seal Rescue Ireland, Wexford
Seal Rescue Ireland rescue, rehabilitate and release wildlife found around the coast of Ireland at their Courtown sanctuary. While the centre opens to the public daily, they also offer numerous free family events throughout the year, including weekend workshops suitable for families with small children, seasonal events such as egg hunts, beach clean-ups and guided tours of the sanctuary.
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#4. Library Events
While a visit to the library to return some much loved (and usually overdue) books is an afternoon out in itself, most libraries across the Emerald Isle offer a host of free events including themed workshops, exhibitions, storytelling, toddler mornings and after-school activities. So why not head over to your local library’s ‘what’s on’ page and see what events are coming up close to you?
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#5. Castlecomer Discovery Park, Kilkenny
While the Tree Top Walk and mining museum are ticketed, the wooden adventure playground, stunning woodland trails and magical elf and fairy village are all free to use.
Pack a picnic on a warm summer day and hit the road because this is one gem of a destination that you won’t want to miss.
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#6. National Botanic Gardens, Dublin
Set across 50 acres, the National Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin features include Ireland’s only tropical rainforest, Victorian glasshouses, ponds and rose and rock gardens.
Get out and let the kids explore the stunning gardens which are home to more than 17,000 different plant species. Entry is completely free, however there is a small charge on the car park.
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#7. Glendalough, Wicklow
Set in a picturesque glaciated valley with two lakes and historical monastic remains, including a 1000-year-old round tower, a cathedral and a church known as St Kevin’s Kitchen, a day at Glendalough is a fascinating and educational day out for both young and old.
Other amenities at this top tourist attraction include a wooden adventure playground, large outdoor picnic area, and the self-guided audio-visual tour in The Visitor Centre is not to be missed.
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Using a free-to-download app from iTunes and Play Store, geocaching is a pocket-friendly day out to introduce to the whole family.
Described as a real-life treasure hunt, you look for caches using GPS in hundreds of parks, forests and nature trails dotted across Ireland. It’s thrilling, exciting and extremely addictive. Try it!
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#9. Colin Glen Forest Park, Belfast
Fast becoming one of Northern Ireland’s top free family attractions, the Gruffalo Trail in Colin Glen Forest Park attracts over 1,000 visitors a day.
Children will be in awe as they meet their favourite Gruffalo characters set in the stunning forest park in Dunmurry and, best of all, it is completely free.
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#10. Find A Fairy Trail
Why not open a world of magic and wonder by visiting one of the many enchanting woodlands and fairy trails in one of our many beautiful forests?
Some of the best fairy walks in Ireland include Erica’s Fairy Forest in Cavan, the Elf and Fairy Village in Castlecomer Discovery Park in Kilkenny, and the Marley Park Fairy Tree in Dublin.
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