Cork on Ice is one of our favourite family Christmas traditions and while we normally go on 27th December this year we went a little later just after new year and I must say it was much more enjoyable as the crowd was smaller and it was more relaxed. In particular the beginner area was much quieter which is very important if you are nervous with the smallies like me.
This year was Lonán’s first time taking to the ice and as Frozen mega fan she was all excited. They had cute little skates for her age (aged 3) which were very safe and allowed her to walk as normal on the ice. While she had fun, she only lasted about half an hour before giving up for the all important hot chocolate and tempting crepes.
The older ones (10,11) loved flying around the larger rink and it’s amazing to see how confident they are on the ice after the annual visit over the last few years. The time slot was 50 mins which is a perfect amount of time as they were just getting tired. The new location of centre park road is very central and the parking is excellent. All in all a most enjoyable experience and we are hoping to return for saoirse’s birthday in a couple of weeks.
Nature Trails at Fota House & Gardens
The gardens at Fota House are truly a hidden gem here in Cork and one of my favourite family fun activities in Cork. They are beautifully preserved (cared for by the OPW) and offer adventure, escape and tranquillity around almost every corner. There are many walkways and trails to discover and you could spend hours lost in amongst the trees, languishing in the open areas or exploring the formal and Victorian walled gardens. All of this is free and there is only a charge of €3 for the car park.
Family Fun Activities in Cork
However, should you wish to add a bit more fun to your day you can buy one of their trail packs for €4 each. They have two to suit both young and older children. We had great fun following the map as children always love map reading and leading the way. While our three were running along, working out which way to go at each juncture, stopping to find little titbits and clues as per the instructions, Craig and I wandered along at our own pace, chatting and enjoying the surroundings. Pure Bliss!!!
We stopped on route at the giant’s chairs for a picnic before continuing along the trail and discovering the Victorian walled gardens, the shed with old tools and the formal gardens. The children were extremely curious and enjoyed the few hours we spent wandering along. I really do think it was the nature trail and activity pack that added that element of structure and fun to our afternoon.
We spent the next hour rolling down the grass hills, playing ball and generally chilling out in the open area just behind the house. As family fun activities in Cork go this one got big thumbs up from me and I am looking forward to trying out their house tour as I believe they have one geared towards children coming shortly!
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”
Clare is a county that has been ingrained in my brain as a place of fun, sea, sand and holidays as we were brought to this beautiful county time and time again as a child. I still love to make a trip here when I can as I always feel the minute you go over the border cars slow down and the relaxed way of life embraces you.
Family Fun in Co. Clare
When we think “Family Breaks Clare“, the first thing that usually comes to mind is surfing in Lahinch, Aillwee Caves and The Cliffs of Mohar but if that was not enough there is so much more in this county such as:
~Irish Seaweed Safari – The Irish Seaweed Safari is an experience not to be missed! Join the 4th generation Seaweed Foragers and enjoy the spectacular shore walk from the rugged coastline of Caherush meandering along the shoreline enjoying nostalgic views looking out on Spanish Point Bay along with the spectacular Cliffs of Moher and the Aran Islands.
~ Trip to Aran Islands -Sail to the Aran Islands or Cruise under the Cliffs of Moher ! Daily sailings to the Aran Islands from Doolin. Visit the spectacular Dún Aengus fort on Inis Mor, get away from it all on Inis Meain or take a quick trip to the smallest one – the beautiful island of Inis Oirr. Or take a Cruise under the Cliffs of Moher. Admire the scale and majestic beauty of the Cliffs of Moher on a 1 hour voyage of discovery.
~ Bunratty Castle– Bunratty Castle & Folk Park is a must on your itinerary to Ireland. This is your chance to experience a window on Ireland’s past and explore the acclaimed 15th century Bunratty Castle and the 19th century Bunratty Folk Park.
~Explore the Burren– The Burren National Park is located in the southeastern corner of the Burren and is approximately 1500 hectares in size. The Park land was bought by the Government for nature conservation and public access. It contains examples of all the major habitats within the Burren: Limestone Pavement, Calcareous grassland, Hazel scrub, Ash/hazel woodland, Turloughs, Lakes, Petrifying springs, cliffs and Fen
~ Cliff Coastal Walk – Beyond the grounds of the Cliffs of Moher Visitor Experience you can now explore a new 20km coastal walking trail in Clare which will bring you along one of the most outstanding landscapes of Ireland. From LIscannor and Hags Head in the south, along by the majestic Cliffs of Moher and to Doolin in the North, with views over Aill Na Searrach, the Aran Islands and Galway Bay. The trail follows the line of the cliffs and passes through the grounds of the visitor centre. The trail starts on road from Liscannor where you will witness theamazing views of the Cliffs, the famous Aran Islands, Kerry mountains, Galway Bay, O’Briens Tower and the thousands of seabirds make the Cliffs a magical place. Talking telescopes are dotted along the paths as you go.
~ Caving – Doolin Cave is home to the Great Stalactite. At 7.3 metres (23feet) it is the longest free-hanging stalactite in the Northern Hemisphere. The Great Stalactite, suspended from the ceiling like a chandelier, is truly astounding. Visitors can hardly believe that it was formed from a single drop of water over thousands of years. Extend the adventure from underground to over ground following a charming Farmland Nature Trail that takes a looped walk around the cave setting.
~Dolphin Watching– On the western seaboard of Ireland there are places where the distinction between land and sea is blurred. The west Clare peninsula in County Clare, guarding the northern shore of the Shannon estuary is one such place. The Shannon estuary is home to Ireland’s only resident group of bottlenose dolphins. Over 100 dolphins have been identified using the estuary at different times; calves are born each year and are usually encountered.
~Rock Climbing– The Burren climbing area is beautiful, with amazing cliffs and spectacular views and climbing instruction for all levels. With a large number of indoor climbing walls developing around the country, there is an increasing interest in trying it out on the real thing.
Music for Families in Co. Clare
I think we all know Clare can boost of her nature credentials and stunning beauty but it is also a place rich in culture as around every corner there is a trad festival or trad music nights to enjoy. It is a place where you can bring children to enjoy these fabulous sounds and events often with live music during the day. While my children don’t normally see the inside of a pub from one end of the year to the next I love to bring them in to see a session and Clare is the perfect spot to do so. Some of the great pubs renowned for their sessions would be:
~ Gus O’Connors Pub, Doolin
~ The Roadside Tavern, Lisdoonvarna
~ Brogan’s Bar, Ennis
~ Vaaughan’s Pub, Kilfernora
The most famous Trad festival in Clare has to be Scoil Samhraidh Willie Clancy taking place every year on the first year of July. It is a week-long summer school of Irish traditional music, song and dance, incorporating tuition, lectures, recitals, concerts and céilithe. Thousands decend on the small town of Milltown Malbay every year and it is a mecca of traditional players from across the globe.
The long, mild afternoons at Scoil Samhraidh Willie Clancy are devoted to lectures on the various aspects of Irish traditional music heritage and its connections with mainland Europe and North America. There are recitals each evening showcasing the instruments taught at the school, performances in traditional song and dance, and céilithe nightly. The serious work of tuition is complemented by the festival atmosphere in hotels, pubs and on the streets, as students, locals and visitors celebrate Irish traditional music. It’s simply perfect for lovers of music, history, and the craic agus ceol. If you enjoy trad music and are looking for something different look not further than this as one of the top family breaks Clare.
Places to Stay in Co. Clare
When looking for places to stay you will have plenty of choice for the family in the following hotels never mind all the camp sites available:
So when you are thinking about your next break away there is something for everyone in Clare and that’s I would consider family breaks Clare to one of the best.
Exhilarating Adventures at Castlecomer
Our latest adventures took us at last to the renowned Castlecomer Discovery Park in Kilkenny which is set in the former grounds of the Wandesforde Estate, comprising of 80 acres of stunning natural woodland and lakes and among the top 5 attractions in Kilkenny listed on Trip Advisor.
While many visit the park to stroll along the many walking trails throughout, play in the playground or enjoy the beauty we tried our hand at some of their key attractions such as a Tree Top adventure walk, a climbing wall, pedal boats and canadian canoes on the upper lake, woodland play area (Junior Woodland Adventure Course, hand-crafted Bluebell Playhouse and Elf & Fairy Village), the longest over-water zipline in Ireland (300m long and 35m at its highest point), Advanced High Ropes Course and finally archery.
When we arrived we were delighted that we booked our activities in advance as the crowds were building as early as 9.30am. However, we soon discovered that many were just going for a stroll. The tree top adventure walk was our first activity of the day and suited for children aged 7 years plus. Saoirse was our only brave solider to complete the course with confidence and I for one was delighted that I was the one left holding the camera.
Sean was able to take Shanea through most of the obstacles which was great for any small ones with a fear of heights and she was more than thrilled that she had completed such a challenge when she was done.
The team were very friendly and encouraged them to figure out each part from the ground and up in the towers which was a great support. By the time we had finished it the queue was quit long so I would recommend you book this in advance and get there early. This activity alone is enough to travel to Castlecomer for as the children were so excited by it and it was a great boost to their confidence.
The climbing wall is also in this area and once the children had finished their tree-top walk they tried the three different levels of the climbing wall and we were delighted to see how far they each got. Again, the team members here helped them figure out the best moves and encouraged them all the way.
We barely had time to catch our breaths before we were racing after Saoirse and Shanea in search of The Elf and Fairy Village. It was not hard to find and only a short distance into the woodland.
It was the first time we came across a fairy village of this size and it was gorgeous to walk around and see the children play their games among the fairies and around their village. The Canopy Cafe is now open here so this is the perfect spot for a cuppa, chat and some general R&R time in picturesque surroundings.
With our tummies rumbling after all the fresh air and fun we strolled back down to the entrance to find a spot of lunch and in the charmingly restored farm buildings is a splendid restaurant serving most sumptuous food. We did not expect a restaurant with such creative and tasty gourmet. The Jarrow Cafe offers plenty of choice for both parents and children and at very reasonable prices.
Give yourself a little time to digest the food before heading out for more adventures with a wander in the craftyard or even take in The Coal Museum at next to The Jarrow Cafe.We had a busy day ahead though so we headed straight back out into the woodlands and discovered some delightful little animals along the way. Sean and Adam bravely had a go on the Zipwire which is the longest over-water zipline in Ireland! It is 300 metres long and 35 metres over the ground at its highest point. This took some time as it was no easy task and they had to find the courage to take the jump but once done they said it was amazing. I was only glad that someone had to hold the camera again but my pictures do not do justice to the scale of the wire.
The advanced high ropes are also located up with the zipwire but my two boys were still shaking after the zipwire so asking them to try out these could have been pushing it and made a plan to try these on our next visit.
Our last activity for the day was the pedal boats which were great craic after all the early exhilarating challenges. This is such a relaxed activity and all the family had great fun. The boys were on one boat and the girls another so there was nothing for it but a half an hour of boys against the girls as we raced up and down the lake.
You can also canoe on this lake but we had already tried to fit in too much into our day.
The children had to be coaxed back to the car on our backs and with alot of pleading. All in all we had an amazing day and we could return time and time again with so much to keep us occupied as we get braver and braver!! We did not even try out all the activities available or strolled through the woods on the many walkways as we had so much to do. The only fault I had was that there is no Caravan and campsite at the edge of the park as you could have days and days of fun here which is why it deserves to be among the top 5 attractions in Kilkenny. There is nothing for it but Castlecomer we will be back to sample the rest of what you have in store. To find out more about prices and opening times for Castlecomer Discovery Park click here or for more info on our top 5 attractions in Kilkenny click here!
Seaside Foraging with Sea Synergy
Seaside foraging is an age old fun activity and something that I love as the children are outdoors and learning but best of all my children love it more so much so we went out on a drizzling August day and by the end of the session the rain down poured but I had to still drag them off the beach kicking and screaming as they did not want it to end!
Sea Synergy based in Waterville in Kerry offer sea activities including foraging all along the South Kerry coast and a morning foraging is a great way to spend some time with the kids. We met Lucy, a marine biologist Sea Synergy on Glanleam Beach in Valentia Island and she brought us on a little adventure!
Lucy first introduced us to a number of items she has collected over the years including shells and marine wildlife bones before we all took to the shoreline looking for items washed up from the sea. Marine life can be found in so many places including along the walls, on the rocks, under rocks and in rock pools as well before you even go to the sea. Lucy also provided fishing nets for a spot of fishing and Saoirse picked a crab out of the water causing for great excitement.
The children were in their element learning about all the items we discovered and even did not notice the drizzle of rain that began a little while into our adventure. We got great ideas and tips from Lucy for our own expeditions but found this session very good as we got so much information from Lucy on our travels and she knew just where to look for things we would never find.
Sea synergy run workshops from Waterville and are also hoping to do the same from Valentia in the summer. I for one would travel just to attend these workshops as it encourages a great interest in exploring and the great outdoors in already curious minds! Sea Synergy will also come out to locations of your choosing for small groups or families t so you can enjoy a spot of foraging. They offer a huge range of services so make sure you check out their page.
Foraging for blackberries is such a fun and uplifting experience for kids to enjoy while encouraging children to set a life-long interest in nature and natural un-processed foods. Look out for blackberries growing on bramble bushes in woodland and hedgerows. (Avoid picking any next to roadsides though – they’ll be polluted by traffic fumes).
With blackberry picking, it’s all about timing keep an eye out from the end of August but do not wait too late and miss out to Jack Frost. My advice is to get picking as soon as possible to ensure a quality yield. There are superstitions around picking berries after the end of September. It is said that they are then to be left for the fairies, (or the Púca). This coincides with the fact that the berries tend to be mouldy and quite unappetising by that stage.
Blackberries are bursting full off berry goodness, being mineral rich and high in magnesium and potassium. They are an excellent source of dietary fibre and it is said that some varieties have more dietary fibre, weight for weight, than wholemeal bread. They are a good source of Vitamin C, so feasting on blackberries is a pleasurable way to build up resistance to winter colds and flus.
Once you have collected your bounty its time to go home and have fun making jams, smoothies, blackberry crumble or just freeze a few so you can continue to enjoy their flavour throughout the winter. All in all you can get more than just a few hours of fun from your day out and best of all, you don’t need your wallet to cash in on the yields.
Quick and Easy Recipe for Blackberry Jam
Place 1kg of sugar, 1kg of blackberries and juice and zest of one lemon in a large pot.
Bring the mixture to the boil, stirring until all the sugar dissolves.
Cook the jamfor approximately 15 minutes or until it reaches 105˚C on a sugar thermometer.
A Beach Trek in Caherdaniel
Eagle Rock Equestrian is one of Ireland’s best known, oldest established equestrian centres and is located in the stunning surroundings of Derrynane National Historic Park. There are a number of routes available including a beach trek, woodland trek and mountain Trek. We choose to try out the beach trek as the beaches in this area are just gorgeous.
The equestrian centre is very easy to find and was only a 40 minute trip along the most breathtaking coastline from our base in Valentia. The base itself is a beautiful listed building and a ten minute trek to the beach itself. As we prepared for our trek a more experienced group of riders on a two hour trek were returning and most of these riders seemed to be regular tourists who were very impressed with Caroline Donnelly’s service so much so that they were eager to book further treks which was difficult as they were so busy.
As novices to the horse riding world our tutors were very helpful and took alot of time to ensure the children were at ease on their saddles before heading off onto the road to make the short trek to the beach. The beach was the perfect safe enviornment for the children to enjoy this age old activity and offered plenty of areas to explore such as the sand dunes and streams to cross making for a very exciting ride.
Some treks can be a walk from A to B with pleasant scenary but what we experienced was a trek with a difference with the most breathtaking views in a comfortable and safe enviornment.
The trek itself was approx 1 hour which was just enough to tire everyone out and costs €30.00 per person in a group or you can also get a 30 minute ride out for children from €15.00.
There is something very special about the relationship between horse and man, its a magical activity and such a fun things to do with the kids in Kerry!
Cara Motorhomes, Campervans Ireland
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 …
Fota House Easter Egg Hunt
This year the annual Fota Easter Egg Hunt had a a Peter Rabbit and Friends theme and even the sometimes damp weather did not spoil our fun.
The grounds at Fota House are gorgeous and lend themselves perfectly to the adventures of Peter Rabbit including Mr. McGregors garden and much more…
The children had great fun enjoying the activities set up for them, following the trail and most of all running along the gorgeous landscaped gardens. They did not even notice the drizzle of rain that fell from time to time.
The trail was set it very well with plenty of sign posts to follow and fun stops on the way. There was plenty of time and space to run and explore for little excited ones! Fota House and Gardens is an excellent place to explore to pass away an afternoon, check out more by clicking here!
The team members at each stage were very friendly and interacted great with the children but that was not the end of the Fota Easter Egg Hunt as there were old time games set up for the children to enjoy while the parents sampled the delights of the market stalls in front of the house! Once the children had completed the trail and handed up their cards, they received a well deserved chocolate egg!
The egg hunt was well organised and collecting your cards was seemless so well done to Fota House and Gardens for organising such a fun activity in the great outdoors. Each ticket cost €8.50 and adults were free and you could spend a good half a day here so great value for money! Don’t forget to keep an eye out for more activities on http://fotahouse.com/