Even though we may give out about the weather in Ireland a lot, thanks to our mild climate and stunning landscapes, Ireland’s outdoors are always in season. Coupled with the fact that we are trying to play our part with social distancing at the moment and seek outdoor adventure we tried out some of Cork’s best loved outdoor activities for families over the last few weeks. As a Cork native, I am asked very regularly what are my top favourite family activities or things to do in Cork and I and delighted to say they are all outdoors. Also, these activities would make great communion and birthday party alternatives or even gift ideas!
Zipit is a fantastic outdoor adventure centre not far from Cork city where you can climb high into the treetops, swing into cargo nets, surf with a difference or try cycling over a treetop bridge before zipping down one of our many ziplines. As most of you will have learnt by now Tree Climbing is our national family pastime.
I have been meaning to try out Zipit for some time but I did not appreciate what was in store until I saw it for myself. Once harnessed, you are given a short instruction, followed by a practice circuit, then away you go, into the trees as you ascend higher with each circuit, secure in the knowledge that qualified instructors are around if you need them, to offer guidance, encouragement or get you back down to the ground. There are 5 circuits ranging from 1 – 20 metres high and you have 3 hours to complete the circuits or if you like you can do the first few circuits more than once. From beginners to adrenaline junkies, there are circuits for all abilities. The minimum age is 7 and this is a perfect family activity as many adults will enjoy discovering their inner child with this one.
It is quite an exhilarating and energetic activity both mentally and physically so three hours is plenty and in fact we called it a day just before our time was up as our crew were wrecked at this stage. However, they absolutely loved it and we will be going again in the next few months. Rain would not put me off this activity either as the tree canopy would provide some shelter and it is meant to be more fun in the rain as the zip wires move more freely.
Farran woods is home to many walking trails with beautiful views of Iniscarra lake, a children’s playground (just next to Zipit), deer enclosure and duck pond, so there is plenty to entertain everyone in the family and make a day of it with a picnic. It is the perfect destination for a kid’s birthday party and you could bring a picnic (ham sandwiches) or bag of treats each to eat at the playground after before heading on a walk around the duck pond. For the winter months Zipit opens on weekends only and pre-booking is essential so click here to find out more about Zipit in Farran Woods.
Cork Harbour Boat Hire offer the perfect solution to social distancing outdoor fun with their self-drive boat tours of Cork Harbour for families looking for fun things to do in Cork. There is one family unit in each boat and the tour guide is in his own boat leading the group around Spike Island, the old monastic settlement and prison which resides in the middle of Cork Harbour. The boats are really easy to drive and there was full training before we were let loose out on the water. We had great fun spotting all the activity on the harbour including Haulbowline (the Irish Naval base), the canons of spike Island, St.Colman’s Cathedral, and much more. We were told some days you may spot cruise liners or ships along the route.
The highlight of the trip was when the kids sat on Craig’s lap taking turns of steering the boat. They all loved it even the little one so much so that we have treated our granddad to a trip for his birthday in the next few weeks. It would make the perfect birthday present for children or adults. There is a max of 5 per boat with no more than 4 adults and the one hour tour costs €50 in total. Click here for more information on Cork Harbour Boat Hire.
My final activity probably deserves a blog post all on its own as there is so much to do here and offers great family quality time when it comes to things to do in Cork. Ballyhass lakes is a 40 acre site and home to 20 activities across land, water and height. However, for quality family time I would recommend the adventure day pass or aqua park as it is fantastic value for money and an unforgettable family day out for all the family.
Ballyhass lakes is not only home to Ireland’s largest cable wakeboard facility but it also offers a large yet manageable inflatable waterpark for all ages. What makes this waterpark unique to any other one we have visited is that the water was crystal clear with water temperature a perfect level being an inland lake. The temperature has been known to hit 15 degrees. While the inflatable park is large, it is well laid out so it is easy to get around and you are not really queuing for anything.
The Adventure Day Pass is only €30 per person or €100 for four and with this you can enjoy a land, water and height activity. You would want to leave a day for this and leave some time in your day to have lunch and a rest. For lunch you can bring a picnic or there is a hot food option on site with chips and burgers etc.
We choose to do the aqua park and the zip wire which I would highly recommend. The zip wire goes over land and water and there are two lanes one of which takes you through the tree tops before coming out over the water. The team here are very encouraging and patient with anyone who is nervous but I must say I did not see one child holding back…..(only a few adults…..)
We ended our day with Archery but at this stage we were starting to tire so if you feel that three activities may be enough you could do tow activities for €25 per person or just the aqua park for €15. There was no extra charge for wetsuits which I thought was very fair and the social distancing measures were really impressive even though we were outdoors. Entry to the inflatables were staggered and the numbers on these reduced.
I must say it would make the perfect day out for small communions or birthday parties and best of all it is outdoors. We adored our day here and will be regular visitors as we all had such a laugh and it was a great way to take a break from every day life! For more information on Ballyhass lakes Click Here!
Trabolgan Day Passes
Lucky for us we live only a half an hour from Trabolgan and so we can make regular day trips with the kids. Trabolgan was one of my own favourite spots as a kid and I love to watch the kid’s excitement when we head down there now. Trabolgan day passes are great value as you get a full day of fun so get down early and plan it out beforehand!
Trabolgan Holiday Village is located on over 140 acres of woodland beside the sea, 30 mins from Cork city and operates as a holiday camp or day visitor attraction.
Family Things to Do at Trabolgan
We normally start at the playground so kids can have a run around and I a coffee. One word of advice take a good look at the activities timetable for the day at this stage as there may be shows that you want to see and some of the activities have specific time slots. I prefer to organise our swimming around the shows as the kids will be starving after swimming and you can get lunch into them while watching a show.
There is a glass roof over the main outdoor area and the main stage is under this so if you get a fine day like we did last week it is was perfect to sit outside and relax while actually enjoying a picnic while being entertained.
Our next port of call is normally the swimming pool and with the waves and slide we normally pass away an hour or two here. The water was actually quite warm last week and I was pleasantly surprised with the renovations in this area. There is new flooring running throughout the changing area and a new seated area for those who wishing to sit this one out.
After our picnics we head back to the playground for a walk out towards the water area. However, last week I stumbled across the duck pond which has been developed into a nature area. It is a gorgeous spot to sit with a prompt board to encourage children to search the surroundings for little titbits of nature. I am glad to see Trabolgan making use of their gorgeous natural setting more.
The sports centre houses a jungle gym (admission included in the day pass) and a coffee shop for more hours of fun and it is here you can buy tickets to any of the TAS activities. You can also use your day pass for these instead of the swimming pool but to be honest we would not do these everytime as there is so much without having to include them.
Places to Eat in Trabolgan
At this stage we would head back down for another show as they are normally getting quite tired. A great way to end the day is Sally O’Hara’s Restaurant in the main square so I don’t have to cook when we get home and I know they will be starving after going all day so they will eat a belly full. Along with the main menu a carvery is available which is brilliant for the kids. There is a family special at the moment of €45 for two adults and two kids. I have never been disappointed with the food here and they have excellent coeliac choices. The staff are extremely friendly and always so accommodating.
Other dining options are Costa Coffee for a quick snack or Big Als@Casey’s Fast Food so there is something for everyone!
I am delighted with the renovations they are doing every year but I hope they might add new shower cubicles some time soon as I am not too fond with the open showers!
At the moment the Trabolgan day passes are €12 per person/ €50 for a family pass which is outstanding value as you can have one of the main activities which are swimming, crazy golf, birds of prey, TAS (Trabolgan Adventure Sports). Follow Trabolgan on facebook and keep an eye on their website as there are always doing offers on Trabolgan day passes. Click here for more.
What the Kids Said about Trabolgan
“Next time we go we are staying so we can do more stuff”
We associate campervans with holidays in France and not so much Ireland but this misconception is fast changing and campervans are becoming a popular choice for families wishing to explore this great country. Now when I mentioned campervans to a few friends they raised concerns such as space and having to drive it everywhere but I can assure you that the campervans of today are very spacious and so convenient. Cara Motorhomes offer modern and spacious campervans that are no more than a couple of years old. Each of their campervans houses all the mod cons one would expect for an enjoyable family holiday and plenty of storage for the endless paraphernalia required for any family break. You can take the bikes, toys, hiking gear, plenty of clothes for all eventualities and even the kitchen sink (if one is not enough) and I bet you will have room to spare.
The staffs at Cara Motorhomes are very friendly and offered great advice and tips for us novices. All we had to do was turn up with our suitcases and a grocery shop and they had everything else we needed for the next few days. To say I was impressed with our new home was an understatement as my own house has never been so spotless and pristine and I would challenge any hotel to beat it in that department. It was well laid out and fitted so much into such a small space without feeling cramped even offering plenty of segregated spaces to enjoy.
The children were mesmerised by what seemed like a little playhouse on wheels and were full of excitement for their journey ahead. Once on the road I soon forgot all concerns I had about been over crowded as the campervans offer oodles of space and comfort for not only mum and dad on the journey but also the children who were belted into seats at the kitchen table where they had their snacks and played with their toys. This was a most relaxing spin and rarely were the words “are we there yet” uttered.
Our journey took us from Limerick to Westport in luxurious style. What I liked the most is that we could pull in at any stage for a snack or a spot of lunch and the children could stretch their legs or have a toilet break before we headed off again. Some may say that you have the bring the campervan everywhere with you when you are travelling around but I thought that was a great advantage with small kids in tow as everything was on hand and did not have to be packed or unpacked and there was no searching for restaurants at the last minute as meals and snacks could be prepared at the side of the road when required, not to mention a luxurious toilet always on hand.
We had all the facilities we needed included a toilet that you could eat your dinner off, shower, cooking and washing facilities and we had gas and water if we were parked up off a campsite and needed to cook. On one occasion during our trip we took off once we were up and before breakfast to get to our destination early and enjoyed our breakfast once we had arrived, cleaned ourselves up and headed off from here!
Our destination was Westport House and the trip did not take us too much longer than a car. Once we arrived at our campsite we were hooked up in no time as we had been given an in depth briefing on our campervan before we set off that day. The campervan was cleverly laid out with our double bed coming down from the roof and we even had a television to enjoy once the kids had nodded off or even a cheeky glass of wine on our outdoor table and chairs provided. Many parents sat out of an evening and enjoyed a chat while the children were in blissful slumber which you cannot do in a hotel or a lot of holiday homes.
Each morning it took just a few minutes to organise ourselves again before we were set up for the day but no more than you would do when tidying up a hotel room or holiday home and in fact the campervan was so neat and organised that there was little if no cleaning most of the time. We just got the kids in the habit of putting things back in their place once they were finished with them.
Westport House is very conveniently located close to Westport town so we often walked into town and had a shop on site which meant we did not have to pack up if we ran out of milk but just throw the bike in the back where you could fit an army tank and if you need to run out for something use that! We never found it inconvenient and we would not always be the most organised. We explored the beautiful countryside around Westport and Mayo for a few days but I was sorry that we had not planned a longer trip, may be along The Wild Atlantic way as I found it to the easiest way to travel and holiday with children while covering a large area of ground.
We met some families on our journey that were travelling from Mayo through Galway and onto Clare over two and three weeks in the campervans and without one I don’t think you could do such a trip lugging all the gear and going from place to place. Every few days the children of these families had the opportunities to explore new surroundings and make new friends in the many caravan and camping sites doted along the way which I must say are fast coming up to European standards. Once you get bored of a place you can move on or if you are pleasantly surprised why not stay longer. Most sites can be booked that day or a day in advance. Some mums suggested that they used the facilities on site when they were good and if they were not 100% they always had the fall back of the shower and toilet on the campervan.
I would certainly recommend a campervan as one of the best ways to discover the dramatic beauty and adventure that Ireland can offer you and your family to create memories that will cherish for many years to come. Take it to the beach for a day, explore the rugged parklands and woodlands or just park it up and head off for a cycle on our every growing greenway routes. Campervans Ireland is fast becoming two words associated with one another. A campervan is no more expensive than other family options but there is a large deposit which I can appreciate as it ensures that the standards of these fabulous vehicles are keep to a very high standard. Cara Motorhomes will offer a drop off and collection service in most of the main cities of Ireland and are very flexible in their dealings so why not give their team a call and find out more …
Westport House is one of Ireland’s best known and loved family attractions and Westport itself is one of the top destinations for families in search of adrenaline and action packed holiday in Ireland so where better to enjoy our latest break but you guessed it, Westport House. Westport House offers top of the range camping, caravan and campervan facilities right in the heart of their vast and adventurous pirate park. With our campervan fromCara Motorhomes in tow we found our pitch in a very spacious and clean camp site.
The campervans and caravans are in one site while the tents are in another. I must say from the outset we could see that the site was extremely clean and well kept. The toilet and washing facilities were some of the best I have seen so far and the site is well laid out so you never have to travel too far to the facilities but the best of all is that there is a large sand pit in the centre of the site offering the little ones plenty of entertainment while you relax. They also have bell tent options for those of you who have not invested in a tent yet or wish to enjoy the great outdoors without any of the hard work. We were booked in for three days which included a two day pass to the Pirate Adventure Park. There are plenty of packages to choose from which include most of the rides and you may extra for some of the bigger rides such as zorbing and archery.
On our first evening after a long spin we were glad to just hook up the campervan and stroll down to the pirate park to Gracy’s Gastro Bar just a few minutes away from the campsite. It is located in again some of the gorgeous historical work buildings of the original estate and not only offers an extensive Italian menu but also the most delicious stone baked pizzas cooked in the centre of the restaurant. It was the most perfect restaurant for families.
Picture this, seating outdoors under a canopy (as well as indoors) opening on to a large playground and grasslands for the little ones to explore while they wait for their kiddies meal from an extensive children’s menu with options to suit all needs including delicious healthy ones. Once our meal was over and as the evening became darker and colder we moved upstairs to an indoor play centre to run off the last of their summer energy to ensure a good night sleep for us all. What more could you ask of any family dining experience.
After enjoying a nice glass of wine and beautiful meal we walked back to our campervan and settled in for a good nice sleep. I was very impressed by the lack of noise once darkness was drawing in and was only woken in the morning to the sounds of the sheep in the adjacent field. It is clear that this camp site is very family friendly and offers the perfect solitude to sleeping children. There is nothing worse than a camp site where our sleep is broken by other late night or early morning guests.
Westport House is also open to day visitors but if you are coming for a day make sure you have a full day or even plan two days so you can enjoy the full experience. So the park is made up of a couple of sections. You can explore the main house with its many rooms displaying life as it was in a prominent manor house and even the children loved it as there was plenty for them to see and enjoy also. There is a quaint little café in the original kitchens where you can take a break and soak up the surroundings.
Outside, the park offers rides for young and old including Cannonball Run slide, Pirates Swinging Ship and Pirates Plunge log flume ride, Swan Pedal Boats on the lake and much more. The best part of all is that the rides will excite all ages and offers loads of opportunities for families to enjoy together. Most of these rides we took part as a family something that excites our kids the most. Even the large slides are open to families and we had a family tournament on one of these many slides. There is so much more including karting, bouncy castles, the train express and indoor soft play centres. We had great fun paddling the swan pedal boats on the lake to the rear of the house and this called for plenty of teamwork, the ultimate family challenge……
There is plenty to keep you entertained before you move onto the extra activities on site and these can be easily avoided if you don’t want to be saying no which I taught was quite clever. We started with zorbing which can be done wet or drive. The wet option is a lot easier and again we jumped into the zorbs as a family. This was the ultimate adrenaline ride and even though we were drowned at the end we would have done it again and again. Zorbing starts at €18 or €39 for three. You can team the zorbing up with the zip wire for a combo ticket starting at €20.00. The zip wire is well worth a go, even though it is from a scaringly large height. After a shaky start we could not get back up fast enough for our second go.
Some of the other extra activities on site included archery, tag archery and a sky challenge. We tried out the sky challenge on our second day. Starting at 3 meters in the air we worked our away around 26 different elements over 3 different levels taking you closer to the sky each time. When I say “we”, I mean Craig and the children as I chickened out after the first level. Thomas managed the first two while Saoirse and Craig completed all three.
Elements include; Steps in the Sky, Heebie Jeebie, Postman’s Walk & Swinging Bridge to name a few. The course finished with the Skyline, an adrenaline filled ride through the trees. And if that’s not enough we had to come down via a free fall jump to the ground.
Thankfully, there is a stairs for the less adventurous. The staffs were amazing here and encouraged the children all the way offering plenty of support. This activity takes an hour and you will need a rest once you are back on the ground.
The Sky Challenge starts at €18. We found archery great fun for the adults but I would recommend that this is an activity for older children with mum and dad but be warned, it can get quite competitive.
I would certainly suggest adding in one or two of the activities with your park tickets as they offer amazing adrenaline fuelled experiences which you are unlikely to experience that often. They were exceptionally organised and very good value.
All the activities encouraged children big and small to take a chance and come out of their comfort zone developing their confidence and improving their self-esteem.
The location of Westport House could not be more convenient as it is just a five minute drive and a 15 minute stroll from Westport town while situated in the park’s rich historical surroundings, enchanting forests and the action-packed adventure activities and attractions.
The gates open out in the centre of the large town of Westport. We choose to walk out to the town on our second evening for a bite to eat in one of the many family friendly restaurants in this beautiful town, The Milltimes Restaurant. There are plenty of little shops to catch your eye and we stopped off in some of the lovely bakeries to pick up fresh bread and treats to bring back to our campervan. We found Westport House to be an ideal base to explore Westport and many other locations beyond.
After a long day off exploring Westport House offered the perfect oasis for a family to unwind. You could just stay on site and enjoy all the park has to offer if you would never feel the need to go any further also. Westport House is well worth a visit either for a day or a fun relaxing break even so much so we are planning another trip to Westport this year as we did not get a chance to explore all that was on offer around this wonderful area and I don’t think we could tire of such an actioned packed park. To find out more click here!