Families and children
Experience the endless joys of a trip to the island of Ireland with all the family
Why Ireland for families
Whether it’s to discover a landscape drenched in myth and folklore or to visit some fantastic festivals, museums and galleries, a trip with the kids to the island of Ireland means you’ll never be short of something to do – and all without spending a fortune! Miles of golden sands stretch around the country’s coastline offering opportunities for endless hours of fun. The island of Ireland’s national parks allow you to soak up their stunning scenery – the Connemara National Park alone has 2,000 hectares of beautiful countryside, rich in wildlife on the slopes of the Twelve Bens. The National Museum of Ireland’s four branches are all free to visit and present a wealth of ancient treasures and fascinating stories. In the city, you can lose yourself in Belfast’s Lagan Valley Regional Park, a mixture of public parks, picnic areas and wildlife sanctuaries, as well as a pre-historic monument. And throughout the year the island of Ireland plays host to a number of festivals that celebrate the very best in the country’s culture and heritage.
The island of Ireland has a well-deserved reputation for being home to some of the most spectacular coastline in the world. The Atlantic coast, especially, is perfect for enjoying all the adventure of the outdoor life at little or no cost at all. Families with older children can trek across the dizzying heights of the island’s highest seacliffs at Croaghaun on Achill Island, and Slieve League in County Donegal. Both sets of cliffs are more than 600 metres high! Or follow in the footsteps of St Patrick and climb Croagh Patrick, which rises 764 metres above the village of Murrisk in County Mayo. It’s a long, slow ascent but the views from the summit are exquisite. Following some or all of the epic Ulster Way you’ll encounter the Mourne Mountains and the Sperrins. Not forgetting the spectacular Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland – the children will be enthralled with its tale of giants trekking across the sea to neighbouring Scotland.
Rainy days in Ireland
Sometimes the ‘softness’ of Ireland’s climate means that spending a day in the breathtaking countryside is not an option, but you’ll still find plenty of inexpensive ways to keep the family entertained. The Ulster Museum in Belfast reveals the history of the area, both political and natural, and is a fascinating introduction to Northern Ireland. A trip around the murals of Belfast and Londonderry also offer a unique and colourful insight into the lives of the communities in Northern Ireland. The National Museum of Ireland’s branches in Dublin and Mayo exhibit everything from dinosaur skeletons to Irish traditional dress!
Ireland’s great for kids of all ages
While the kids are entertaining themselves, don’t forget that there are plenty of ways for parents to have fun without breaking the bank. Local authorities throughout the country provide public golf courses that are open to all, with very reasonable fees. If you fancy a little pampering, the island’s spas and wellness centres offer a complete range of beauty and therapy treatments to soothe away any holiday stresses and strains. Irish traditional music is played in bars and pubs so you can enjoy all the thrill of a live concert for the price of a drink – and children are welcome to join in the fun in many pubs until 9pm. And most pubs serve up delicious family menus for its patrons, too.
Festivals for all the family
Ireland is host to a staggering number of children’s street and family festivals, which are guaranteed to entertain you for hours on end. St Patrick’s Festival Dublin takes place over five days around 17th March, the centrepiece of which is the Parade featuring thousands of performers and an audience of more than 500,000 people! The Spraoi Festival held in Waterford on the first weekend in August celebrates all that is best in street performance and each year hosts a number of Irish premieres. The Pickie Family Fun Park in Bangor, which year-round offers traditional seaside fun and games, means the kids can enjoy all the fun of the adventure park, while parents can enjoy a leisurely drink on the patio bar.
If you have a yearning to explore Ireland’s mystical and turbulent past, you’ll find stunning heritage sites within easy distance of your base. The ancient court of the Kings of Ireland is little more than an hour’s drive from Dublin at the Hill of Tara, a settlement whose mystical power is still evident. Two miles west of the city of Armagh, Navan Fort, otherwise known as Emain Macha, was the stronghold of the Kings of Ulster from 700BC and is said to be where the Irish hero Cuchulainn spent his youth. For more dramatic history, you could take a trip to Leap Castle in County Offaly, which is said to be haunted by a number of spectres, the most terrifying being a small hunched creature whose apparition is accompanied by a rotting stench of a decomposing corpse and the smell of sulphur. Risk a visit if you dare…and make this a family holiday to remember