Thinking of planning a family escape to Ireland, but not sure where to begin? This post will help kick-start your travel planning and give you confidence that (yes!) a vacation in Ireland with kids may be your family’s best adventure yet. With tips from our Ireland travel expert at Family Travel 411 (our sister site for travel with school-age kids) and author of the new guide Planning the Ireland Vacation of Your Dreams, Jody Halsted lays out just what makes each of these five Ireland destinations magical and memorable for families, with links to more recommendations and tips to plan an excellent family adventure in any one–or more!–of these family destinations in Ireland. Let’s go!
Jody writes, “Thatch-roofed cottages amid a maze of stone walls, fluffy sheep sprinkling the rocky hills, towering cliffs marching in formation to meet the crash of the ocean, and the promise of unrivaled craic and entertainment. County Clare, in the heart of Ireland’s western shores, awaits visitors with the stuff Irish travel dreams are made of: castles, megalithic tombs, majestic abbeys weathered by time, and then some.” From looming, ancient Bunratty Castle to the stomach-dropping sunsets at the Cliffs of Moher, County Clare is equipped to give you maximum spectacles even on a “short break.” To find out more about family-friendly attractions in County Clare–including castles that happily sleep kids, read The 411 on County Clare with Kids.
Of County Cork Jody writes, “As Ireland’s largest county, Cork is difficult to place into a specific box. Does it have castles? Yes, in fact one of the most famous in all the land is located here. Does it have sheer stone cliffs that tumble into the pounding ocean? Yes, and the most dangerous areas are topped with picturesque lighthouses. Does it have mountains draped in purple heather, valleys with lakes so clear you can see the deceptively deep bottom, or brightly colored cottages lining seaside village streets? Yes, yes, and yes.” Whether you want to kiss the Blarney Stone, drive the breathtaking Wild Atlantic Way, visit historic Kinsale Harbor, or snuzzle a donkey or two, it’s all possible on a short break in Ireland’s County Cork. You can read all about Jody’s recommendations for families playing, staying, and dining in County Cork in The 411 on County Cork with Kids.
As home to the celebrated town of Killarney and its namesake national park, Jody writes “… in this land filled with ‘must visit’ destinations, the county of Kerry may have a few more ‘musts’ than most. Located in Ireland’s ‘Sunny Southwest’, County Kerry is revered for its incredible scenery. Stunning coastline, historic castles, and sparkling caves are only the beginning of the wonders you’ll find as you explore County Kerry with kids.” To get the most from your family’s time in this region, Jody offers up kid-pleasing recommendations from tours in a jaunting cart (horse-drawn carriage) leading from castle through national parkland, biking or hiking the Gap of Dunloe, and taking a hawk walk, among other adventures. Read more about Jody’s recommendations for families in The 411 on County Kerry with Kids.
“On the western coast, the county of Galway seems to amplify the magic that emanates from the Irish land… (and) the city of Galway is the shining centerpiece of a deceptively large county which stretches from the country’s midlands before reaching far into the Atlantic Ocean. You may need four days just to take in all the activities you’ll want to undertake on your visit to County Galway with kids,” advises Jody. Sometimes called the “Wild West” of Ireland, you’ll find wide, sweeping outdoor spaces to explore such as Connemara and the Burren, and enjoy scenic routes both by car along the Open Sky Road and also by boat if you should call upon Ireland’s fabled Aran Islands. But you will want plenty of time to explore the city of Galway itself, with its medieval Latin Quarter, colorful shops and pubs, and the Galway City Museum. You can read all about Jody’s recommended family adventures, lodgings, and dining in The 411 on County Galway with Kids.
“Dublin, the capital city of this enchanting land, is often the first and last place the traveler to Ireland sees. From one of the largest walled city parks in Europe to some of the smallest and oldest artifacts in the world, exploring Dublin with kids is a must during your Ireland holiday,” writes Jody. For starters, there is plenty to see and do right in the city’s Phoenix Park with 1752 of walled parkland that includes the Dublin Zoo and Victorian Tea Rooms among other delights (you may also spot descendants of King Charles II’s deer who still call this park home). The Dublin Museum of Ireland’s Archaeology offers fascinating glimpses into Ireland’s past, including bejeweled treasures, surprising superstitions, and more. For more advice in visiting Dublin as a family, see The 411 on Dublin with Kids.
Ten more tips –> Whichever counties and towns you decide to call on, don’t miss Jody’s latest tips for Family Travel 411: Ten Things You Should Know Before Traveling to Ireland with Kids.
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Shelly Rivoli, author of the award-winning Travels with Baby guidebooks
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