Though often thought of as a destination for young people pub hopping or older travelers on a guided tour, Ireland should not be dismissed as a great destination for families. Filled with magic, castles, crisps, and chocolate, an Ireland family vacation offers plenty of fun for all ages.
10. The Irish National Stud
Just 30 minutes from Dublin, the Irish National Stud is a must for any horse loving kid. The grounds are large and open for exploring. Curious foals dot the pastures in the spring while magnificent stallions enjoy their retirement in large pastures. An Irish garden offers a quiet place for relaxing, while the Japanese Garden leads you through tunnels, up craggy hills, and across bridges as it follows the Life of Man.
9. Viking Triangle in Waterford
Waterford’s cultural and heritage quarter, the Viking Triangle, has a trio of museums that come alive with a character led tour. Past residents of Waterford lead you through 1000 years of history, from the top of Reginald’s Tower to the catacombs under the city, and into the Bishop’s Palace where you just might meet a ghost.
8. Inishowen Peninsula
Taking you to the most northern tip of Ireland, a drive around the Inishowen Peninsula is filled with magic, history, and discovery. The ‘Inishowen 100’ will take a couple of days to explore properly, but with magical stops like the ancient Granian of Aileach (Temple of the Sun) and magic road of Mamore Gap, historical stops like Fort Dunree and Doagh Famine Village, and amazing photo opportunities like Malin Head, the most northerly spot in Ireland. You’ll certainly find something for everyone to enjoy!
7. Giant’s Causeway
How will you explain the thousands of interlocking basalt columns that rise from the Antrim Coast? Whether you choose the Irish legend of Finn MacCool or the scientific explanation of volcanic eruption, everyone in the family will be fascinated as they discover objects like ‘The Giant’s Boot,’ ‘The Shepherd’s Steps,’ and ‘The Chimney Stack.’
6. Birr Castle Demense
While Ireland is known as the Land of Saints and Scholars, it is also a land of scientific discoveries. In the center of Birr Castle Demense sits ‘The Great Telescope,’ the largest in the world from its construction in the 1840s until 1917. The restored stables house an incredible science museum, while the extensive grounds showcase flora from across the globe. If the kids aren’t tired from wandering the demense, Birr Castle is also home to Ireland’s largest tree house.
5. Bunratty Castle and Folk Park
The best castle experience in Ireland for families, Bunratty Castle can be explored from top to bottom. The surrounding folk park allows you into the traditional Irish homes of the past couple centuries. Friendly animals, including playful Irish Wolfhound pups, are always a favorite. Consider staying for their Traditional Irish Night – an evening of music, storytelling, and Irish culture.
Possibly the most touristed town in Ireland, Killarney is known as the gateway to the Ring of Kerry. But beyond that, you’ll find plenty to occupy your family. Spend a day exploring Killarney National Park, which includes Muckross House and Gardens. Enjoy a jaunting cart ride to Ross Castle. Take a boat ride across Lough Leane – the Lake of Learning – to the monastery on Innisfallen. Hike to the Torc Waterfall. Cycle through the Gap of Dunloe. Or just spend an afternoon shopping in the many craft shops and stores downtown.
3. Marble Arch Caves Geo Park
Bisecting the border of the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, Marble Arch Caves Geopark covers a wide variety of sites including Plantation Castles, Iron Age forts, wetlands, and waterways. Not far from Inniskillen you will find the caves for which the park is named. A tour of the caves, by boat and on foot, is entertaining and educational. Spend a few more days exploring other aspects of the park, including Castle Caldwell Forest Park where the remains of the castle have been reclaimed by the forest.
2. Cliffs of Moher
An Ireland itinerary doesn’t seem complete without a visit to the Cliffs of Moher. Before walking to the tops of the cliffs, take the time to visit the Cliffs Exhibtion and virtual reality experience ‘The Ledge.’ For an entirely different view, drive to nearby Doolin and hop aboard a Cliffs of Moher Boat Cruise.
1. Chocolate Garden of Ireland
A sweet stop in County Wicklow, the Chocolate Garden of Ireland produces hand made chocolates, delicious Tipperary Ice Cream, and thin waffles (like cookies) in their premises near Tullow, County Carlow. Plan in advance and take part in a chocolate workshop, where you will learn about chocolate, taste chocolate, and even create your own chocolate treat to take home.
By choosing one or two (or all!) of these sites, you’ll be able to plan an Ireland vacation for your family that is both magical and memorable!