The grass is always greener in Ireland! If ever a European destination to travel to, Ireland is a country you definitely want to visit in your lifetime. This is a great vacation for busy moms on the go. The quaint towns, slower pace, and fresh air are sure to bring you peace during your travels.
Ireland is known as the magical land of fairies and leprechauns. Children love the folklore that originates from Ireland. The people are so friendly and witty. And the small towns are incredibly accessible and fun to explore and walk around.
Walk around the city, get acclimated and pop into a pub for a bite to eat. I don’t like to plan much on arrival days just in case there are any delays or changes to your travel. It also lets you adjust to the time difference and get to know the layout of the city. You may want to hire a cab to show you around or consider a hop on/hop off bus to get your bearings and a little history of the city.
This city is fun just to walk and explore. Kids will love Phoenix Park, originally a royal deer park it is home to wildlife, playgrounds, trails and the Dublin Zoo. Grab some great photos in the flower gardens and enjoy a traditional tea at one of the tea shops. Most museums are free so you can pop in and not feel like you didn’t get your money’s worth if the subject matter doesn’t hold your child’s attention. Other activities include wandering through Trinity College’s cobblestone paths, do some shopping on Grafton street, and let the kids run around the playground at St. Stephen’s Green. I am sure the Guinness Storehouse is on many folks’ list of must dos and it is actually pretty family-friendly. Finally, for older children, a tour of Kilmainham Gaol, the famous jail where the leaders of the 1916 uprising were imprisoned and executed is a great learning experience.
On your way to Cork make a stop midway in Cashel. You have a few options here. You can walk up the hill to the Rock of Cashel, the seat of the Kings of Munster. Explore the plateau populated with medieval buildings crowning the hilltop of Tipperary’s Golden Vale. Or, learn details about the baptism of St. Patrick.
If you need additional stops or are looking for something a little further down the road, Cahir Castle is Ireland’s largest and most well preserved castle and is often overlooked. Athassel Abbey is another rarely explored site, so you’ll likely have it to yourself.
If you have older children you can choose something a little more active, like kayaking during a tour on the River Shannon or Lough Derg.
There are quite a few options for this day. I recommend leaving the day loose and decide on the days activities depending on how everyone is feeling a few days into the trip.
If you need an easy day walk around the city of Cork, visit their world famous English Market and Cathedral. There is a signpost Walking Tour, so get the accompanying booklet and set off to explore the hilly streets and meet the people.
If the kids need to let off a little steam consider Monkey Maze, an indoor activity center, or spend the day at Fota Wildlife Park. Just 10 minutes away from Cork’s city center, the Wildlife Park is home to many endangered animals. You are able to come face to face with cheetahs and giraffes as they roam free in the park.
Another option is to go explore the Ballyhoura Region. From short loop walks to long hikes, seemingly every bit of the area is welcoming to walkers. You can explore a working dairy such as Molanna View Farm. Get to know their cows, ponies and donkeys. Another favorite of animal lovers is the Donkey Sanctuary which is home to hundreds of rescued donkeys and is completely free to wander the trails and pet the mules. You can also go horseback riding at the nearby Hillcrest Riding Centre in the Glen of Aherlow.
It’s the most well-known attraction in County Cork – the Blarney Stone. But Blarney Castle & Gardens is more than a stone to kiss! Throughout the vast estate you’ll find beautiful walks that lead to gardens, caves, a baronial manor, and even a bit of magic. Let your imagination roam free as you follow the pathways to places like the Poison Garden, the Rock Close, the Witch’s Kitchen, and Fairy’s Glade.
Next to the city centre of Killarney is the edge of Killarney National Park, which includes Ross Castle, Muckross Abbey, and Traditional Farms, and miles of walking and cycling trails. Plus this tourist town boasts plenty of shopping, dining, and lively pubs.
Killarney is often the starting point for many tourists who plan day trips around the Ring of Kerry. Kerry is a small peninsula stretching into the Atlantic Ocean. The ‘ring’ is a looping road that follows its edge and that offers incredible panoramic views. The road is very popular and you can drive it all in one (long) day. It is one of the most scenic drives in Ireland but it is not for the faint-hearted; the road is narrow (Irish roads often are) and some bends bring you worryingly close to the cliff edge.
If your kids are a little younger skip the Ring of Kerry and head to the Dingle Peninsula instead. The Dingle Peninsula (or Corca Dhuibhne) stretches 30 miles (48 kilometres) into the Atlantic Ocean from Ireland’s southwest coast. The peninsula is dominated by a range of mountains, dramatic cliffs, and ancient ruins. Make sure you stop in the town of Dingle to introduce your children to Fungi, the Dingle dolphin. If they need some time out of the car pop into the Oceanworld Aquarium.
Or consider a day trip through the Gap of Dunloe and the Beara Peninsula.
This morning you will head towards the tongue-tied city of Limerick. Lough Gur is quite possibly one of Ireland’s most magical – and least visited – areas. Lough Gur lies just south of Limerick City. In this small area you’ll find Ireland’s largest stone circle, the entrance to faerie land, castle ruins and incredible archaeological sites. Easily, an entire days’ worth of exploration and discovery for the kids.
You could also explore the picturesque Adare, one of Ireland’s prettiest villages. Adare’s streets are lined with original thatched cottages that house local restaurants, arts and crafts shops, and a few privately owned houses. Other famous attractions in this quaint town include Desmond Castle, the Franciscan Friary, and the Trinitarian and Augustinian Priories. For fans of aquatic history, a little outside of Adare you will find the Foynes Flying Boat Museum which preserves the aviation history of the Shannon region; its 1940’s cinema, Radio and Weather Rooms, and a full sized replica of a B314 flying boat make this museum a constant family favorite.
For older kids interested in history, Bunratty Castle and Folk Park and King John’s Castle are both amazing living history castles for an interactive peek into the past. At King John’s, the 13th century castle combines evocative ruins with high-tech flash and dash (such as computer-generated ghost figures!) and lots of hands-on activities. Actors tell fascinating stories and put on reenactments.
The Cliffs of Moher seem a very obvious choice of a place to visit in Ireland with kids. It is the most popular tourist destination in Ireland, and people have been coming here for hundreds of years to take in the incredible views. Before walking up to the cliffs – a bit of a hike – be sure to stop in the Visitor’s Centre. The Atlantic Edge exhibit is well worth the time.
As you return, spend some time exploring Burren National Park. You’ll find walking trails of various lengths and difficulty winding throughout the parklands. Even if you are feeling spent, a short nature walk is worth the time. The Burren Nature Sanctuary is made for children to explore, with friendly domesticated animals, a famine village, a disappearing lake, and a fairy woodland. There is also an outdoor adventure playground with zipline, mobilis, and tower slide for kids under 12, and a soft indoor playground that is terrific for toddlers.
For older children, go caving to discover what lies under the Burren’s famous landscape! Two terrific options offer different experiences. Aillwee Cave features underground caverns with waterfalls while above ground you’ll find the Birds of Prey Centre. Doolin Cave is home to the largest stalactite in the northern hemisphere while above you’ll find a wonderful Farmland Nature Trail Walk.
Head back to check in to Drumoland Castle. Spend the evening exploring the Irish estate. Dine in one of the award winning restaurants or grab a picnic to enjoy on the 450 acres.
Spend the morning enjoying all the activities the estate has to offer. Take the kids fishing, horseback riding or cycling. You can also spend the morning learning archery, clay shooting or falconry. Begin preparing for your return home. Drive the 20 minutes to the Shannon Airport for your departing flight and plan where you are going to go next.
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