From fun and free things to do to family festivals and hidden gems you might never have heard of, you won’t want to miss these tips and ideas to help you plan your best ever family vacation in Ireland!
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For such a small country, Ireland offers a vast array of unique cultural, historical, sporting and scenic experiences. With nowhere more than a few hours away, you can pack in as much as you like during your trip.
Nothing beats local knowledge when it comes to organising a trip. Our team of parents are based around the country so we can highlight those extras that you may not find in the guide books when planning your family vacation in Ireland.
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Fun Places to Take Kids on a Family Vacation in Ireland
#1. 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
- Kids Jeep Safari
- Zipit Forest Adventures
- Lough Key boat tours
- Orienteering trails
- Picnic spots and beautiful walks along the shores of the lake.
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#2. Strokestown Park, House, Gardens and Irish Famine Museum
Strokestown Park houses the Irish National Famine Museum, a must-see visitor attraction for families. Strokestown House is open daily and visitors will get a real insight into days gone by at this Georgian Palladian mansion in which many of the original furnishings can still be seen.
Visitors can take a stroll through the 6 acre walled garden and surrounding woodlands.
Don’t Miss: The Victorian Nursery complete with toys.
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#3. Johnstown Castle, Wexford
Johnstown Castle is a spectacular gothic Castle in Wexford and offers an amazing day out for all ages. Surrounded by beautiful ornamental gardens designed by Daniel Robertson, they offer walks by the lake, gothic statues, peacocks and other wildlife and a Victorian Walled Garden to discover.
The Irish Agricultural Museum is housed within the ground of Johnstown Castle and displays one fo the most comprehensive collections showcasing farming and rural life in Ireland with everything from tractors to kitchens!
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#4. Beyond The Trees Avondale, Wicklow
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.
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#5. glór, Clare
More than just a theatre, glór sits in the heart of Ennis town in Co. Clare and offers ample parking for visitors. They attract the best of local, national and International entertainment for all ages. And have a full line up of family fun and regular events including films, music, dance and theatre performances, classes and workshops. They also boast an art gallery and an on-site café.
And we love their BYOK (Bring Your Own Kids) events, where well behaved kids can avail of discounted tickets and come along to shows with their parents! Saving you money on a babysitter.
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#6. 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!
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#7. 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 the website for more details.
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#9. 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.
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#9. The Cool Planet Experience, Wicklow
Based in the picturesque Powerscourt Estate, the Cool Planet Experience is Ireland’s first interactive experience aimed at inspiring the next generation to take positive climate action.
Cool Planet Experience aims to inspire visitors to make sustainability so cool it becomes the norm! This is achieved through a series of interactive and engaging exhibitions, games and competitions.
Visitors to the Cool Planet Experience will see for themselves the highs and lows of our changing climate while discovering new and exciting innovations and how they can put them in place, not just during their visit, but through their everyday life to make a change.
- Time Travel to 2050
- Discover how to help in the Disaster Scenario
- Become an Agent of Change in the Brighter Futures Experience
- Enter the Forest of Hope
- Take part in Interactive Workshops, Demonstrations & Activities
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#10. Powerscourt Estate, Wicklow
Powerscourt Estate, just 20km south of Dublin, offers a fun family day out with wonderful family walks around the 47 acres of gardens which include themed Italian & Japanese gardens, tower valley, hundreds of different plants and trees, water features, statues and much more. There are shops and restaurants to enjoy before or after you explore all the Powerscourt has to offer.
You can also visit the Powerscourt waterfall, Ireland’s highest waterfall and explore the countryside surrounding it. Pack a picnic, enjoy the playground and spot many different varieties of birds.
Powerscourt run regular family themed events during school holidays so be sure to check their events page regularly for updates.
#11. Bunratty Castle and Folk Park, Clare
At Bunratty Castle & Folk Park everywhere is open for you to explore! The Castle is the most complete and authentic medieval fortress in Ireland. Kids will enjoy the sights, sounds tastes, scents, of Bunratty Folk Park as you stroll from house to house or around the charming village street complete with school, post office, doctors house, hardware shop, printers and a pub.
The gardens at Bunratty Folk Park have been restored to their former glory. The gardens are modelled on the original Regency period garden which supplied fruit, vegetables, and flowers to Bunratty House (built in 1804) and are refurbished in typical Victorian style. This is your opportunity to experience one of the great gardens of Ireland.
There’s also a Fairy Trail and playground for the kids to enjoy.
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#12. 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.
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#13. Nore Valley Park, Kilkenny
Nore Valley Park in Kilkenny offers everything you need for a family day out, a celebration or a break away from it all. From interactive encounters with the animals, to attractive camping facilities, to fun activities suited to all ages, Nore Valley Park is perfect for occupying an afternoon, or for spending a week or more.
The variety of animals is vast on this working farm, with hens, ducks, turkeys, geese, quails, owl, pheasants, sheep, goats, pigs, deer, ponies, donkeys, cow, rabbits, and even ostriches! Feed, pet and cuddle animals such as lambs, rabbits and chicks for a truly interactive experience.
Enjoy a variety of activities at Nore Valley Park including:
- Tractor and trailer rides
- Crazy golf
- Indoor 3D maze
- Animal feeding
- Crazy golf
- Giant chess
- Indoor straw bounce
- Nature trails and much more
The campsite at Nore Valley Park is open from March to October annually. For those who want to stay on-site but have no tent or caravan of their own, Nore Valley Park has a number of lovely wooden lodges and spacious mobile homes available to rent, they can be booked in advance.
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#14. Cork City Gaol
Get behind bars for a few hours with a visit to Cork City Gaol. The amazing castle like building gives visitors an insight into prison life with an array of exhibitions bringing it all to life.
As a bonus your entry ticket also gives you access to the radio museum where you can learn more about the birth of Marconi.
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#15. Fota House & Gardens, Cork
Fota House and Gardens in Cork offers visitors a look at how life was lived in the past, whether as a servant or as a member of the gentry. When you tour the house you get to see behind the scenes to the bedrooms and a Victorian nursery. Then visit the service wing, where you can see the working conditions of all the servants.
“Where is Mrs Kevin’s Cat?!” is a families tour through the House with a dedicated guide, solving the mystery of where the house keeper’s cat has got to. It’s a great way for children to enjoy learning about the House and the people who lived here.
Or you can go Digging for History in their award winning Victorian Working Garden, with a tour through the Victorian glasshouses with fun facts for kids, finishing off with a chance to pot up their own plant to take home and cherish. Both the Mrs Kevin’s Cat tour and Digging for History are suitable from 4 to about 11.
They also have fantastic trails for kids to follow in the gardens they have some really fun ones e.g. Junior Plant Hunters Activity Trail, Little Explorers Trail, and a Tree Trail.
And after all that fun you can refresh yourselves in the Bakestone Café!
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#16. The Dunfanaghy Workhouse, Donegal
Visit the Dunfanaghy Workhouse to see a traditional workhouse from famine times. Meet Wee Hannah and hear her story, visit the exhibitions and learn about the history of the workhouse and the surrounding Sheephaven Bay.
The kids can play in the community playground or visit the library or take part in a workshop or class. And you can enjoy tasty homemade treats at the on-site café.
#17. Corralea Activity Centre, Fermanagh
At the family run Corralea Activity Centre in Fermanagh your family can enjoy kayaking, mountain biking, windsurfing, paddle-boarding, archery, caving, climbing and the thrills and spills of the floating waterpark!
#18. 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.
#19. 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.
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!!!
#20. Westport House & Gardens, Mayo
Enjoy a fun filled holiday experience this summer with a trip to the award winning Westport House and Hotel Westport. Westport House and Adventure Park has activities suitable for all ages to enjoy including:
- House tours with the new audio app
- Victorian afternoon tea
- Ramble through the gardens, parks and visit the lake
- Cannonball run slide
- Pirate Queen swinging ship
- Pirates plunge
- Activity centre with zip-lining, archery, off-road mini jeeps, kiddy kars, foot darts and more
- New 24 metre inflatable obstacle course
- Swan pedalos
- Go Karts
- Westport House Express
- Pony Rides
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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.
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Stay at The Clonakilty Park Hotel, Cork
If you are looking for a family friendly hotel in Cork, a warm welcome awaits you at The Clonakilty Park Hotel in Clonakilty, a coastal town on the Wild Atlantic Way, in the heart of West Cork. Families return year after year not just to stay, but to experience the unique facilities and service that is remarkable with a warmth and willingness by staff to make every guest feel extra special.
When you book a break at the Clonakilty Park Hotel everything is taken care of. The hotel will provide not just the travel cot, but the mattress, sheet and blankets if you wish, meaning that busy parents, who have to think of everything during the year, get to relax too.
#21. Clonakilty Beaches, Cork
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.
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#22. Seafari Kenmare, Kerry
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, Kerry
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 Ice cream before taking the ferry off the island back to the mainland.
#24. Dingle Oceanworld Aquarium, Kerry
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.
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#25. Tralee Aquadome, Kerry
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, Limerick
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.
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#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!
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#28. Lahinch, Clare
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.
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#29. Cliffs of Moher, Clare
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.
#30. Ballyvaughan, Clare
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, Clare
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.
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#32. Rinville Park, Oranmore, Galway
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.
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#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.
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#35. Roundstone, Connemara, Galway
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, Borders of Galway & Mayo
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 spectacular scenery, with mountains and water and birdlife. You may even get to see some dolphins!
#37. Westport, Mayo
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.
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#38. Strandhill Beach, Sligo
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 coffee, plus delicious eats for all the family.
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#39. Tropical World, Donegal
Tropical World is Donegal’s very own family friendly mini zoo. Based in Letterkenny and opening seasonally, you can see beautiful butterflies in full flight, lemurs, owls, meerkats, parrots and many more tropical birds and reptiles.
#40. Bundoran Waterworld, Donegal
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.
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Free Things to Do with Kids in Ireland
#41. National Museum of Ireland – Dublin
The three National Museums in Dublin, now open 7 days, 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.
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#42. National Museum of Ireland – Mayo
The National Museum of Ireland – Country Life in Castlebar, now open 7 days, 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.
#43. Clondalkin Round Tower, Dublin
For a totally FREE interactive day out with the family head to one of South Dublin County’s cultural highlights, The Round Tower Clondalkin which is built on the site of a monastery founded by St. Mochua in the 7th century, and is one of only four remaining round towers in County Dublin. The recently launched Visitor Centre provides the perfect FREE family day out, as it brings the story of The Round Tower Clondalkin and the surrounding area to life through an exciting interactive experience. Fully accessible and can be reached by public transport.
What’s more, The Round Tower Clondalkin is located close to Corkagh Park, the Grand Canal Greenway and Áras Chrónáin Irish Cultural Centre, which combined together add a different heritage experience, away from the city centre and close to the natural outdoors of Dublin.
#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.
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#47. Find Some Fairies, Tipperary & Kerry
Head to the lovely Town Park in Templemore, County 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. 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.
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#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. The Parkland and River Walks are open every day throughout the year. There is no admission fee to walk and explore the parklands. Dogs are welcome, but must be kept on a lead and are not allowed in the lake, as there is wildlife nesting.
If you plan your visit for the first Wednesday of the month then you can also visit the House for free.
#50. Deer Spotting 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.
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#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 1km 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.
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#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 its rich heritage and geology.
And while you are there, The Waterford Greenway offers great cycling and walking opportunities for the family.
#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.
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#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. Be sure to look out for the Pollock Holes along the way.
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.
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#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 Gráinne’s Cave too.
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#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.
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Hidden Gems for Your Family Vacation in Ireland
#61. Birr Castle Demesne & Science Centre, Offaly
Birr Castle Demesne 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.
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#62. Castlecomer Discovery Park, Kilkenny
Located 18 km North of Kilkenny City, Castlecomer Discovery Park has a range of exciting recreational, cultural and educational activities for visitors of all ages. Attractions include pedal boats and Canadian canoes on one of the picturesque lakes, a Tree Top Adventure Walk course nestled 10m high in the great Sycamore and Lime trees, a ‘Leap of Faith’ and Climbing Wall.
The park has 80 acres of natural woodland with 6km of trails throughout, a fishing lake, an interactive coal mining museum, design craft workshops and award winning Jarrow café.
The Elf & Fairy Village at Castlecomer has a small yellow sweet shop, cute café, an underground bunker, and an amazing Head Quarters for the fairy folk! It’s full of colourful hand-carved toadstool mushrooms where children can meander through the woodland paths. Visitors, of all ages, can enjoy the woodland village which is FREE and is a short 7-10 minute walk from reception.
#63. Waterford & Suir Valley Railway
The magic of rail’s golden age has been brought to life in Kilmeaden 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!
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#64. 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.
#65. 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.
#66. 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.
#67. 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.
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#68. 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.
#69. 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.
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.
#71. 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.
#72. Boda Borg at Lough Key Forest Park, Roscommon
Basically the Boda Borg is like a physical version of a computer game. It’s not completely unlike the Crystal Maze, for those of you who remember that show. There are about twenty quests to choose from. Each quest is made up of between three and five rooms, each with different tasks to be completed.
What is really interesting is that there are no instructions given and you have to work together as a team (groups of 3-5) to complete the task before the time runs out. You are not told how much time you have, although most rooms give you between two and four minutes.
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#73. Waterford Treasures Medieval Museum, Waterford
Waterford, Ireland’s oldest city, founded by the Vikings in the last 9th century, 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.
#74. 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.
#75. 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.
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#76. 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!
#77. Loophead Lighthouse, Clare
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.
#78. 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.
#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.
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Fantastic Fairytale Castles in Ireland
Ireland certainly has its share of dramatic castles, from medieval tower houses to Palladian style mansions to ruins perched by the sea or rivers
#81. Cloughoughter Castle, Cavan
Cloughoughter Castle dates back to the early part of the 13th century and is part of the Marble Arch Geopark, and situated beside the picturesque Killykeen Forest Park which has accessible nature walks. The castle itself sits on a Crannog (man-made island) and so is only accessible by boat or canoe. You can rent canoes from Cavan Canoe Centre, they also offer guided day trips to the castle.
If you don’t fancy a canoe trip, you can view the castle from several spots. It eventually became the last remaining stronghold for the rebels during the Cromwell era, but sometime in March 1653 the castle fell to Cromwell’s cannons. The castle walls were breached and the castle was never rebuilt after this point.
Enjoy a visit to the Marble Arch Caves and Geopark afterwards.
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#82. Duckett’s Grove, Carlow
Duckett’s Grove is a ruined 19th-century great house was formerly at the centre of a 20,000 acre estate that dominated the Carlow landscape for over 300 years. Even in ruin, the surviving towers and turrets of Duckett’s Grove Walled Gardens and Pleasure Grounds form a romantic profile making it one of the most photogenic historic buildings in Ireland.
After exploring the two recently restored Walled Gardens you can enjoy a visit to the Tea Rooms.
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#83. Malahide Castle, Dublin
Malahide Castle has a long and rich history and played a central role in Medieval Irish history. The oldest parts of the castle date back to the 12th century. The estate was home to the Talbot family for almost 800 years between 1185 and 1975, the only exception being the period from 1649–60, when Oliver Cromwell granted it to Miles Corbet after the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland; Corbet was hanged following the demise of Cromwell, and the castle was restored to the Talbots. The building was notably enlarged in the reign of Edward IV, and the towers added in 1765.
There’s plenty to do at Malahide Castle:
- Take a guided tour of the castle
- Follow the fairy trail
- Explore the Walled Botanical Gardens
- See a 400 year old tree at the West Lawn
- Enjoy shops and Avoca cafe at the Courtyard
- Have fun in the playground and exploring the grounds of the Demesne
#84. Rock of Dunamase, Laois
The Rock Of Dunamase overlooks the valley of the O’Moores, just outside Portlaoise, County Laois. Spectacular views of the surrounding countryside made this a strategic place to build a fortress. When the Normans arrived in Ireland, Dunamase became one of the most important Anglo-Norman strongholds in Laois.
Despite the castle’s ruined state, visitors can get a sense of its former grandiosity and also have the opportunity to take in stunning views of the surrounding countryside. The Rock of Dunamase is now maintained by the Office of Public Works and is open to the public year round.
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#85. Enniscorthy Castle, Wexford
Once home to Norman knights, English armies, Irish rebels, prisoners, and local merchant families, Enniscorthy Castle is located in Enniscorthy Town in the heart of County Wexford.
Children will love exploring the dungeons and the battlements of the castle and viewing the exhibitions as you move through the castle.
Tip: You can dress up as a knight at the Castle when you visit, and there’s also a great view from the roof.
#86. Carlingford Castle, Louth
Carlingford Castle also referred to as King John’s Castle was built in the 12th century overlooking Carlingford Lough. Built by Hugh de Lacy, this dramatic fortress offers stunning views across the Lough towards the Mourne Mountains and it is said that King John of England stayed here for a few days in 1210.
The original Castle consisted of an enclosed D-shaped courtyard with two rectangular towers at the entrance. The eastern part of the Castle was built in 1261 with a number of rooms and a great hall.
There is a viewing area on the shore side of the Castle with lovely views across Carlingford Lough towards the Mourne Mountains in Co. Down and to the Irish Sea. Then head back into Carlingford to enjoy wandering its narrow streets with medieval buildings, for example, Taaffe’s Castle, a 16th-century tower house. There’s also Carlingford Heritage Centre, located in a medieval church, which has displays on local history as well as seasonal events.
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#87. Blarney Castle, Cork
Blarney Castle is one of Ireland’s most popular visitor attractions probably due to the fact that it is the home of the Blarney Stone. Legend has it if you kiss the stone you will never again be lost for words.
Built nearly six hundred years ago by one of Ireland’s greatest chieftains, Cormac MacCarthy, King of Munster, who is said to have supplied four thousand men from Munster to supplement the forces of Robert the Bruce at the battle of Bannockburn in 1314. Legend has it that the latter king gave half of the Stone of Scone to McCarthy in gratitude, what is now the Blarney Stone.
#88. Ardgillan Castle, Dublin
Although referred to as a Castle, the residence at Ardgillan is a large country-styled house built in 1738 with castellated embellishments. The house consists of two storeys over a basement which extends out under the lawns on the southern side of the building. The Castle has now been restored and the ground floor rooms and kitchens are open to visitors for guided tours.
As well as castle tours, you can enjoy the parklands in the Demesne, visit the Walled Garden, Rose Garden and Ornamental Gardens, take afternoon tea at the tearooms, find fairies on their fairy trail and enjoy seasonal events.
#89. Portumna Castle, Galway
Portumna Castle, on the shores of Lough Derg on the River Shannon, is an imposing example of Irish architecture of the early 17th Century. It was the main seat of the de Burgo family for over 200 years, and marks the transition from the medieval Tower House to the Renaissance style manor house.
Following a fire and the ravages of time, the castle became just a shell, but the Office of Public Works have undertaken conservation and restoration works, with the ground floor open to the public and housing an exhibition on the history and restoration, there’s a virtual reality presentation to help bring the story to life.
The castle is set in formal gardens, there’s also a walled kitchen garden at the side and an old shrub rose garden, all helping to re-create a sense of what it was like in the 17th century. Be sure to visit nearby Portumna Forest Park where you’ll find walks and forest trails and might even spot a deer running through the forest!
#90. Nenagh Castle, Tipperary
Built around 1200, Nenagh Castle was the main seat of the Butler family until 1391, before they moved to Kilkenny, partially driven out by the native clan of the O’Kennedys and their allies. It was here, in 1336, that a peace treaty was signed between James Butler, 1st Earl of Ormond, and a representative of the Irish O’Kennedy clan. Some 600 years later the original treaty was presented as a gift to President Kennedy during a state visit to Ireland in 1963, and is now on view in the J.F.K Library in Massachusetts.
Nenagh Castle has a 100-foot high cylinder-shaped keep with four storeys and stone spiral stairs to the top. There are 101 steps in all to the top. Access to the tower is through a passageway within the base of the wall. This has low head room and visitors will need to stoop to avoid hitting the stone above. All children under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult.
The Castle is open for visitors from April to October with some limited winter hours.
Fun Ideas for Your Family Trip to Dublin
#91. Head to Howth
Head to Howth in North Dublin where you can go seal-spotting and crab-fishing in the harbour, watch the fishermen unload their catches, browse the market, or get some fresh air and take in the views with a hike up Howth Head.
#92. Go Bird Watching
Head to North Bull Island and discover an extraordinary wealth of wildlife within the many different coastal habitats found here. At times this tiny manmade island, just 5km in length and 1km wide, plays home to up to 180 different bird species. This was the first bird sanctuary in Ireland and the first National Special Amenity Area in Ireland.
In addition to birds and other wildlife, you can find over 300 species of plants, including some rare and officially protected species. These in turn provide food and shelter for rare insects (such as butterflies and bees) and birds.
#93. National Botanical Gardens
Get lost in the glorious green haven and excite your senses with a visit to the National Botanical Gardens in Glasnevin, just 3km from the city centre.
Home to thousands of plant species, you’ll also find some stunning restored glasshouses, daily tours, a regular programme of family events and seasonal activities.
#94. Hike to the Hell Fire Club
Hike to the Hell Fire Club on Montpelier Hill by taking the newly refurbished walking trail. This is a popular site, and at the top of the hill you’ll find the ruins of an old shooting lodge that has many legends associated with it.
The city views from the Hell Fire Club are sprawling and unlike anywhere else. Pack a picnic to enjoy at the top, or walk the woodland in search of pixies and fairies.
#95. Go On an Interactive Fairy Trail
Enjoy the fun and interactive fairy trail at Lucan Demesne home to 17 fairies. Families can use their smartphones to scan the doors and find out more about each fairy who lives there.
#96. Stroll Through Merrion Square
Merrion Square is one of the best maintained Georgian Squares in the heart of Dublin city centre. It is home to some important and impressive buildings and there are lots of free things to do here with the family, including statue-spotting – don’t miss Oscar Wilde, who resided at 1 Merrion Square from 1855 to 1876.
Merrion Square also plays home to numerous family festivals and events throughout the year.
#97. Visit the President
Áras an Uachtaráin is the official and private residence of the President of Ireland and is open to the public for hour-long tours every Saturday morning.
Tickets are available on a first come, first served basis from the Phoenix Park Visitor Centre and can not be booked in advance. The Phoenix Park Visitor Centre is a separate heritage site, located outside of the grounds of Áras an Uachtaráin, which has a children’s playground and café.
#98. Chester Beatty Library
With free admission and described by the Lonely Planet as “one of the best in Europe”, the Chester Beatty Library is also the only museum in Ireland to win ‘European Museum of the Year’.
The library’s rich collections from countries across Asia, the Middle East, North Africa and Europe open a window on the artistic treasures of the great cultures and religions of the world. There are regular art workshops for preschoolers, primary aged children and teens.
#99. The Little Museum of Dublin
The award-winning The Little Museum tells the story of the Irish capital. Described as “Dublin’s best museum experience” by The Irish Times, The Little Museum is also the number one museum in Ireland on TripAdvisor.
A brilliant new addition to the cultural map of Ireland, their famous guided tours reveal the history of a city that has undergone remarkable changes in the last 100 years, from the visit of Queen Victoria to the global success of U2.
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#100. National Maritime Museum
Experienced guides will bring you on a voyage of discovery at the National Maritime Museum, enthralling you with stories of discovery, heroism, war and disasters at sea. You will learn about maritime history, exploration, navigation, radio, deep-sea cable technology, nature, wildlife and view art inspired by the sea.
See the 10-tonne revolving Baily Optic, try the electrified steam engine, and pause to reflect at the Titanic exhibit, the re-created radio room, the Royal Navy prisoners docks and the war memorial.
Try your hand at sailor’s knots, or learn how they lift heavy weights. Afterwards visit the shop and café for a treat.
Tip: Don’t miss being photographed with the pirate!
#101. Dublin Zoo
No round-up of family days out would be complete with a trip to Dublin Zoo! Located in the heart of Dublin city, Dublin Zoo is one of Ireland’s top attractions with millions visiting from around the world each year.
Although Dublin Zoo is one of the oldest zoos in the world, it is constantly enhancing the visitor experience. And there has been a whole heap of baby animals born in the past few years, so there’s always something new to spot. We love the herd of magnificent Asian elephants, as well as watching the Orangutans climb the ropes over your head (watch out for a ‘surprise’ dropping from a height…!).
Make time for as many of the keeper talks as you can, they are a great way to learn more about your favourite animals and what life is like as a zookeeper.
Top Tip: Check out the Eco Explorers Trail when you first arrive. This free app shows kids what Dublin Zoo is doing to protect the planet, while also teaching families how to be more sustainable.
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Have your say! What are your must-see spots for your family vacation in Ireland? Leave a comment below and let us know – we’d love to hear from you!