From Dublin to Limerick to Killarney, FTF reviews dozens of kid-friendly ideas for places to go on your next family vacation to Ireland.
Exploring Family-Friendly Dublin
Ireland’s capital is a great place to start your journey. It is full of exciting places for children to explore, and you can ride on a double-decker bus to get to them!
Amongst the favorites are the Dublin Zoo in Phoenix Park, the National Wax Museum (including the Children’s World of Fairytale and Fantasy) and the Museum of Childhood. At Dublin’s VikingAdventure you can enjoy an interactive experience of life during the Viking age, while at Dublinia, you can explore medieval times. Visit The Ark, an arts center for children and plan to stop at the Lambert Puppet Theatre.
For something a bit more relaxing there are: Saint Stephen’s Green, a Victorian public park full of beautiful gardens and an ornamental lake, and Saint Enda’s Park along the riverside, also lovely and relaxing amidst waterfalls and greenery. Both are perfect spots for strolling and allowing the kids to let off steam.
Dublin has a new public bike service called dbs that’s great for older children and fit parents. There are over 450 bicycles available at 40 locations around the city and many of the stations are located close to the city’s most celebrated attractions and landmarks including Trinity College, St. Stephens Green, Christchurch Cathedral, Merrion Square and the Hugh Lane Gallery. The rate is just 2 euro per ride.
Family-Friendly Attractions in Shannon, County Clare & Limerick
If you fly into Shannon Airport, you can begin your exploration of the Shannon/Clare/Limerick area at the Bunratty Folk Park, an ideal introduction to Irish customs. In this Irish “theme park” visitors can explore a 15th-century Irish castle and a re-creation of a 19th-century village with farmhouses and a working blacksmith shop.
Craggaunowen, in the town of Quin, is an area full of early Irish history. An original wooden roadway from Celtic times and Ireland’s oldest dugout canoes are on display. Not far from Quin is The Burren, a geologic phenomena with lunarlike scenery. Your family can explore underground caves such as Aillwee Cave and observe rare flowers and butterflies. A five mile stretch of coastal cliffs, the Cliffs of Moher are less than an hour’s drive and an exquisite view of the Clare coastline awaits you when you climb atop O’Brien’s Tower on Moher’s highest cliff.
A second day in the Shannon area will allow you to explore the inland marina on the shores of Lough Derg, the largest lake of the Shannon River. You can set out on a boat cruise or try sailing, canoeing or kayaking.
Visit Brian Boru Oak, Ireland’s oldest oak tree in the Raheen Oakwoods, and the Clonmacnois & West Offaly Railway, a five-mile narrated tour around the boglands on a narrow-gauge tourist railroad. Also in the area is Athlone Castle, a restored 13th-century fortress overlooking the Shannon River.
In the Limerick area, there are many open farms such as Ballyneety Pheasant Farm, Springfield Deer Farm and the Fitzgerald Pet Farm, all of which welcome children. If you’re traveling with toddlers, be sure to allow plenty of time for them to visit with the animals.
County Kerry Family-Friendly Attractions
In Tralee, in the County Kerry region, visit “Kerry the Kingdom,” to learn the history and customs of County Kerry. Included are an audio-visual display, an interactive museum and a time-car ride through Tralee in the Middle Ages. The Tralee & Dingle Steam Railway, another narrow gauge train, takes you to the Blennerville Windmill, the largest in Ireland and Britain. Tralee’s Aqua Dome is an indoor amusement area complete with waterslides, waves and rapids that is especially fun if you’re traveling during inclement weather (which, let’s face it, is often.)
The Dingle Peninsula is home to a variety of coastline vistas and mountain roads. The town of Dingle is a lively fishing port from where you can arrange fishing and sailing trips, and it is the residence of Fungie, a bottlenose dolphin who is fun to watch, or even to swim with! Make contact with one of several boat companies who arrange such excursions.
In Dingle, you can also visit the Mara Beo/Oceanworld, a brand new aquarium with a walk-through subterranean tunnel.
Killarney for Family Fun
Killarney is a favorite stop for families interested in exploring the beautiful outdoors. Visit Killarney National Park for walking or biking, stop at the Torc Waterfall, or take a horse-drawn car or waterbus cruise. At Muckross Traditional Farms, your children can watch a variety of seasonal farm activities such as potato-picking and haymaking. Also in the Killarney area you can visit Ross Castle, a recently restored 15th century fort, and a collection of classic cars at the Museum of Irish Transport.
Not far from Killarney is the Ring of Kerry Drive, a 110-mile scenic coastal route brimming with remarkable sights. One of Europe’s most famous road trips, this winding waterfront route can be very slow-going in the busy summer season, and is not suitable for children prone to motion sickness. However, you can break up the trip by booking B&Bs at the many tiny towns along the route. You can make a stopover at the picturesque Kerry Bog Village which demonstrates life in the 1800’s. The Ring of Kerry ends near Kenmare, a very charming town you should consider for an overnight stay. If you’re only there for a short while, do try to see a demonstration of lace-making.
Kilkenny County’s Family-Friendly Attractions
If your travels take you to Kilkenny County, your children will enjoy a visit to the Nore Valley Park Open Farm where they can feed lambs and kids, handle chicks and rabbits, and frolic in the playground and sandpit. There is a 2 mile riverwalk and, when everyone gets hungry, a picnic area and a tearoom which serves homemade cakes and scones.
County Mayo with Children
A similar spot, the Westport House and Children’s Zoo is located in Mayo County. It is a country estate, open to touring, which offers an incredible array of activities for children including a zoo, ball pond, pitch and putt, playground, boating, fishing, miniature railway, model railway, and “dungeons” as well as a tea room for sampling traditional treats.
For more information, please visit Ireland Travel & Tourism
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