Everyone has seen photos of Ireland with its rolling emerald green hills, beautiful countryside, and charming cottages, but Ireland is more than that. With a fairly moderate temperature and easy to get to location, it’s the perfect spot for a family vacation. It’s as if the country was made for families and in our opinion, it certainly feels that way. Here our are top reasons to travel with kids to Ireland.
7 Reasons to Travel with Kids to Ireland
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A common lament of many parents these days is the amount of time children spend indoors. Ireland has an abundance of natural beauty and outdoor activities to get children outside. In Killarney there is Killarney National Park with over 26,000 acres, three lakes, mountains, and islands to explore. Bundoran, Donegal is the surfing capital of Ireland, where families can put on wet suits and try out the waves. Head to Giant’s Causeway in Antrim, North Ireland so kids can explore the massive 40,000 basalt columns along the sea and the surrounding beaches. Throughout the country there are plenty of opportunities for horseback riding, hiking, cycling, kayaking, and wildlife vieiwing, so there is something for kids of all ages.
If your children are animal lovers, they will be thrilled to visit Ireland as there are animals everywhere. Flocks of sheep and herds of cattle are sprinkled across the picturesque countryside providing frequent photo opportunities. There are also pet farms that allow visitors to feed and sometimes hold the animals. For something truly unique, consider a farm stay where the entire family can enjoy life in an Irish home and help with chores around the farm. It’s an experience kids will fondly remember.
Have a budding princess or knight? What child wouldn’t love exploring castle ruins? Castles vary in their states of restoration, but I don’t know many children who wouldn’t love wandering the grounds of these historic estates. Bunratty Castle in County Clare is a favorite for families with its Folk Park featuring over 30 buildings in a living village and beautiful walled garden. Kilkenny Castle in Kilkenny has a commanding presence so kids will marvel at this “true castle”. There is a wonderful play area and adults and kids will love walking the grounds. King John’s Castle in Limerick is a 13th century castle with many interactive exhibits for the kids. The courtyard features a medieval tent where kids will be enthralled by blacksmiths showcasing their craft.
And castle hotels…
Ireland has many family friendly castle hotels. Don’t miss Adare Manor, which was closed for over a year while it underwent a multi-million dollar makeover. The property features family friendly activities such as golf, falconry, and archery. Dromoland Castle Hotel offers tennis, cycling, a kids club during school breaks, and a special bedtime treat of milk and cookies. Ashford Castle has horseback riding, falconry, a lake cruise, and fishing. All of these properties are five star, and while not inexpensive, they are certainly worth it for the luxury experience they provide.
There’s been a massive movement in the U.S. to have farm to table restaurants, but it seems every restaurant here serves farm to table food and it’s delicious. The cheese, sausages, potatoes, beef, and butter, it’s all marvelous. There are the traditional dishes such as fish and chips, Irish stew, and shepherd’s pie, but don’t expect to find these dishes in every restaurant. The Irish food scene is evolving and there are many options beyond the local pub. Even the pickiest of eaters can find something on almost every menu, and from what I’ve experienced, restaurants are always willing to accommodate food allergies.
Since Ireland is an island there are beaches everywhere, but the water isn’t as warm as the Caribbean. Most kids won’t mind the water temperature, but if they do, you might want to pack a wetsuit (but know that some beaches will rent them). Inch Beach in County Kerry is a massive flat beach where kids can run for hours and play in the water. Banna Strand in Kerry is a six mile stretch of golden sand, perfect for building sandcastles. Brittas Bay and nearby Silver Strand Beach in County Wicklow are well suited for families as well and many will enjoy visiting the area and its dunes. Many kids might be content to spread their beach toys along the long stretches of soft sandy beaches and play for hours.
In my experience, kids like music and they will be in luck when they’re in Ireland because there’s music in spades. It comes out of the restaurants, musicians play on the streets, it’s piped into the stores, it’s part of daily life. Encourage the kids to dance a jig and they’ll dance their way through the entire trip.
Irish people know hospitality like no other. Every person I’ve met, from the taxi driver, to the restaurant owner, to the person sitting on the park bench, is willing and able to strike up a conversation. They love to engage with others, and children are no exception. Listen carefully as the accent might give you some trouble. Just nod your head or laugh when it seems appropriate, and in the end, you might walk away with a new friend.
Have you been to Ireland with kids? What are you waiting for?