You would be forgiven for thinking that Ireland isn’t a family-friendly destination. After all, the tourism board doesn’t really market the country that way, instead choosing to target the tour bus and honeymoon crowds.
But the Ireland I have discovered in nearly 15 years (and as many trips to her verdant shores) is a land custom made for family travel. Ireland is a country where magic exists beyond each curve of the hedgerow lined road, where the language barrier is nearly non-existent, and where the culture of the past so perfectly melds with the present that nary a ripple appears.
Choosing Ireland Activities for Everyone in the Family
Though small this island country is well varied in landscape, allowing for a wide variety of activities.
For sports and active families:
Over 3000 years old, hurling is the oldest and fastest field game in the world. Learn the skills and try your hand at The Kilkenny Way.
Ireland is one of the top surf spots in the world! Learn to surf at Lahinch Adventures, not far from the famed Cliffs of Moher. Also offered here: cycling, rock climbing, and kayaking.
For the truly adventurous book an afternoon coasteering on the Ring of Kerry. This sport combines rock climbing, cave swimming and even cliff jumping- you’ll definitely get your adrenaline pumping!
Choose how you see your views! Both cycles and horses can be hired across the country allowing you to take in Ireland’s incredible scenery at your own pace.
For families who enjoy animals and nature:
Though not the largest animal in the world, there is really nothing that compares to flying a falcon. Hawk Walks can be found at some of the finest estates in Ireland, including Mount Falcon in Mayo, Ashford Castle in Mayo, Dromoland Castle in Clare, and Adare Manor in Limerick.
Neglected donkeys across Ireland find a forever home at the Donkey Sanctuary in County Cork. Sweet, shaggy faced donkeys greet you upon arrival. The sanctuary is free to visit and walking paths spread for miles.
Near Cork city, Fota Wildlife Park is a massive privately funded nature preserve. The wide open spaces offer a wonderful habitat for the animals and terrific visitor experience. Don’t miss the daily cheetah run as it is truly amazing to see these big cats exercise. For a truly memorable day book a VIP family experience for a behind the scenes tour.
At the northern end of the Burren in County Galway the Burren Nature Sanctuary offers a great day out for all ages. The Burren walk through the grounds leads you through fairy woodlands, past ancient dwellings, and to a disappearing lake. The large play areas, both indoors and out, will keep the kids amused, while the wonderful café provides sustenance (and wifi).
For families who love learning:
Science may not be your first thought when it comes to Ireland, so it may come as a surprise to know that the largest telescope in the world from the mid-1800s to the 1920s is located at Birr Castle. The Earls of Rosse were a very scientifically minded family and you’ll find much to learn in the science centre in the restored stables. The large demense is a botanists paradise, and Ireland’s largest treehouse will delight the kids.
Walk through Ireland’s history – from the late Bronze age (1200-500 BC) through the Elizabethan period (1558-1603) at Craggaunowen. Historically costumed guides share the stories of crannogs, castles, and underground tunnels as you explore the pathways.
Whether you find yourself in Dublin or on the western coast, the National Museum of Ireland should be on your itinerary. The Museum of Archaeology in Dublin has some of Ireland’s most incredible treasures – as well as the intriguing bog bodies. In Castlebar, County Mayo the Museum of Country Life shares the traditional Irish way of life in a fun, interactive way.
Have I surprised you with the activities you’ll find in Ireland? And these are only scratching the surface! By combining a few of the activities that appeal to your family with Ireland’s stunning scenery, haunting castles, and incredible culture, will help you create an Ireland family vacation to remember.
Jody Halsted has been traveling across Ireland for over a decade with her own children, discovering the most family friendly sites and activities on the tourist trail and off. Dedicated to Ireland family travel, her website Ireland Family Vacations, provides exceptional advice for a magical Ireland vacation. For families looking for a perfectly tailored Ireland vacation, Jody offers Ireland vacation coaching, working with your family to help you choose the perfect lodging, destinations, and activities to fit your budget, interests, and expectations.
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