Dublin is a fantastic city for a family breaks because like many cities there is so much to do but Dublin City is unique in that it offers a lot for families in a small geographically area. Our children love the hustle and bustle of this busy capital and look forward to a trip every so often. We have not been in a couple of years so with the opening of the new and exciting Explorium, National Sports and Science Centre, we decided to head off.
I have previously stayed in The Castleknock Hotel amongst others and decided to return here for a number of reasons, namely location, service, facilities and most importantly the family rooms. The hotel is located in Castleknock just off the M50 and very easy to find following google maps. We prefer a hotel on the fringes of the city centre for parking and it is easier to find your way around. The rooms sizes and prices are also always more favourable. It’s not as if we need to be close to the nightlife these days so The Castleknock is more convenient for our needs as a family. It’s location in relation to some of Dublin’s main family attractions is perfect. Go back onto the M50 and go north to Tayto Park (approx 25 mins) or head south the Imaginosity (approx 20 mins), Explorium (approx 25 mins) and Dundrum Shopping Centre (approx 25 mins). Fort Lucan is only a 7 minute drive while Dublin Zoo is only a 10 minute drive as Castleknock is situated just behind Phoenix’s Park. You will actually enter the back of the Phoenix Park thus avoiding the city centre.
In fact Phoenix Park is so close that we took a walk here on our first evening to stretch the legs and the kids were excited to spot Mr. D’s pad. We found a gorgeous restaurant/pub called Hole in The Wall just outside one of the side gates (Blackhorse Avenue Gate). It has such charming decor, outside seating and plenty of space for families. The children’s options were excellent. Saoirse got the kid’s chicken curry and rice and I was sorry I did not get it myself even though my salmon dish was divine. Thomas got battered fish and chip which was a half portion of the adults option and Craig was very pleased with his steak. It is a very relaxed place for kids and very reasonable as the kids got a drink and dessert all for €10.
When we returned to The Castleknock Hotel we were not surprised to see quite and few families around the lobby area having a drink or some food as it really is one of Dublin’s top child friendly hotels. You can see evidence of how they pride themselves on being family friendly throughout the hotel. From the table at reception with directions to all the top family attractions, offers of board games for the rooms, to the table with sun cream and hand wipes at the door to the outdoor area. However, it is the facilities such as the swimming pool and the playground which make you feel really welcome as a family. The pool area is beautiful and there are two little pools for the small ones but best of all it was a very warm pool so much so that you would notice it.
There is a large seating area just off the bar and restaurant and the playground sits adjacent to it. This was perfect for dining as the kids could play while we were waiting for our food and after dinner we squeezed in a little glass of wine while they were busy playing. It’s a great place to enjoy a cup of coffee after breakfast in the morning also!
With any family break I always feel that the room size is most important as if it’s too small you can get somewhat claustrophobic. The Castleknock Hotel prides themselves on their family rooms and their rooms have recently undergone a refurbishment. They are an excellent size and they have options for up to 5 in one room very comfortably or interconnecting rooms which we had. The decor is very stylish, there is no scrimping on luxury for size.
The kids received goodie bags on arrival so they felt extra special and in that were our passes to Dublin Zoo as they were included in the package we were booked under. They also have a summer package including Tayto park passes. The goodie bags are handy for taking with you on your day out as they included little treats and water.
We were very excited to check out Explorium and were not disappointed. The National Science and Sports centre contains more than 300 exhibits spanning 110,000 sq ft near Sandyford. Our top favourites were the G-force anti-gravity loop where Craig was harnessed into a bicycle and rotated 360 degrees on a circular track, the lightning room where we learned how it is made and saw a lightning show and Movie world where Saoirse got to try out to try out the different tricks and techniques that can be used to craft a piece of video content. In the Senses exhibit, visitors will be able to test their sensory abilities compared to animals with extraordinary abilities, exploring bio-electricity, magneto-reception and thermos-reception. In the sports area you can try scaling dizzy heights with climbing, caving in Ireland’s longest indoor cave, experience a formula one race and so much more. They even had a section for little ones with dress up area, make and do, sensory area, climbing, outdoor play area and again many exhibits where they learn through play. There is something for everyone but a day is not enough as they are wrecked after a few hours and our two were keen to get back to the pool in The Castleknock Hotel. I have promised them I will bring them back soon as there is more they want to try out. A family ticket for two adults and two children is €70 for the science centre and well worth it. The climbing or caving is €15 but I would keep this for another day as there is so much to do in the science centre alone.
While we have been to Dublin Zoo a couple times already, the kids were insisting on going again as they love Dublin Zoo even though we go to Fota Wildlife Park regularly. There is always something new to see here and the animals never disappoint especially the Sea Lions and Gorillas. This time around we planned our day in accordance with the talks as our older two are of an age where they learning about conservation and love to ask questions making for a very interesting day. All the zoo keepers gave interesting age appropriate talks and answered every questions with great patience.
As coeliacs we are limited in options for dining in Dublin Zoo and we were in the mood for something more substantial so we had our lunch in The Phoenix Park Cafe just around the corner from the zoo. The Phoenix Park Cafe is really a hidden gem for families. I love it. Here you will find an array of healthy and vibrant salads, freshly baked quiches gorgeous organic coffee roasted in Wicklow. Cakes and slices are baked fresh everyday, and there are plenty of freshly made gluten free options too. What a treat! The outdoor seating area is the courtyard of what seems to be the renovated farm buildings of Ashford Castle and now the visitor centre. It is truly unique.
Right next door is one of Dublin’s largest and in my opinion best playgrounds as well as the old walled Victorian gardens. You could even make a second day in Phoenix Park by renting bikes at the front gate of the park, cycling around and discovering Farmleigh, Áras an Uachtaráin, the resident deer and this area (Ashtown Castle visitor centre).
Back at our hotel we were also very well taken care of in terms of dining as both coeliacs and a family. There are two restaurants, Earth & Vine, their signature restaurant and 22 Bar & Restaurant for casual dining. The Lobby is the hotel patisserie while the Lime Tree Bar is the main bar. We choose the Earth & Vine Restaurant which has been recently refurbished and awarded ‘Best Place to Eat’ for two consecutive years at the Fingal Dublin Business Excellence Awards. The surroundings were very sumptuous and the food only divine. They even had gluten free pizzas for the kids. There is no questioning their credentials as Dublin’s top child friendly hotels with the pancake machine at breakfast causing great excitement in our party and each morning they cooked a gluten free Irish breakfast for Saoirse and I so there was no cross contamination and with gluten free sausages and puddings we were truly spoilt!!
After all that fun we were sad to leave our room at The Castleknock Hotel and Dublin because as usual there was so much more we could have done but we are looking forward to returning sometime soon. I could not fault it as the service was excellent and the welcome we received as a family was very genuine which is why I feel it is one Dublin’s top child friendly hotels. Click the above names to find out more!
Killarney as a base to explore the world famous Co. Kerry!!
As a big fan of the mobile home holidays, this year we choose to stay in Beech Groove Caravan Park so we could explore probably our most famous county, Kerry!! Killarney is a fantastic base for exploring Kerry as it is in easy reach of most of the major towns and tourist hotspots of Kerry. There are many Family Fun Things to do in Killarney and we wanted to check these out!!
Family Accommodation in Killarney
Beech Groove Caravan Park is situated in Fossa which is just a few short miles outside Killarney and on the main road to Killorglin and Dingle. It has fantastic views of the Mc Gilly Cuddy Reeks and is a quiet haven to the hustle and bustle of Killarney town.
It is easy to know that Beech Groove Caravan Park is a family-run caravan as you will regularly meet Joan, Tony and their family as they ensure the caravan park is well run and everyone is happy. They cater for touring caravans, dorm mobiles, motor homes and tents. We stayed in one of the 8 static luxury mobile homes for hire.
Our mobile home had three bedrooms, two with two singles and one double. There was a separate shower and toilet as well as a large open plan kitchen, dining and sitting area. It was very bright and most importantly spotless clean. Often I would give the mobile home a quick clean before we unpack but on this occasion I was pleasantly impressed as there was not a speck of dust in site! The mobile homes were not only modern but well-kept and what I loved the most is they offered plenty in the way of storage for all our paraphernalia.
Next door our friends stayed in another mobile home which was slightly bigger but with a similar layout. We had all we needed for cooking and in the larger mobile home there was a separate fridge and freezer, perfect for this type of holiday as we came armed with some dinners we made at home so we reduced our workload while away! Most evenings we were enticed to eat outdoors as we were provided with outside table and chairs and even though it was not the warmest part of our summer the holiday feel onsite would encourage you outdoors! Just to note though that bed linen is not always provided but can be at an extra charge.
Facilities at Beech Grove Caravan Park
The park has all the usual facilities such as a Shower/Toilet block, large camper’s kitchen with kettle, toaster, microwave, fridge/freezer etc. and finally a shop next door to the TV Room with a pool table and other games also. Wi-Fi is free onsite and there are plenty of barbeques as well as outdoor table and chairs to enjoy. There was a small playground in front of the camping area and next door to the kitchen.
The Park is a 10 min drive from Killarney town center. If you wanted to walk, there is a beautiful walk through the Fossa way, which links with the National Park. A five minute walk from the park is a pub and restaurant while just next door on the other side is a new public playground with a mini gym for adults.
It’s best feature by far was the view and if you were camping I would suggest requesting a spot on the upper level which is more private but the views are gorgeous! To find out more about Beechgrove Caravan Park Click Here!
Family Fun Things to do in Killarney and Surrounds
Killarney is famous as a tourist hotspot for a reason, there is an abundance of fun to be had at every turn. We visited some of the many Family Fun Things to do in Killarney and around the area to discover our favourite family attractions.
This was our first visit to Kennedy’s Pet Farm even though I had passed their sign on the Cork road many times. Kennedy’s Farm stands out from all the others in that when you first enter you are greeted by the local resident committee made up of calves, sheep and goats rambling around and beware they are not shy about checking your hands for any treats you may have picked up for them at the gate. All the children loved this and proceeded to play and cuddle these very friendly animals. However, Lonán, as a toddler, was mesmerised and if she had got her way we would have spent the whole day here and ventured no further.
There is very little farm machinery but plenty of animals to pet including cuddly kittens, puppies and rabbits. For us fairy fans the fairy walk through the wood was a treat and the outdoor play area has something for every age and child with plenty of seating for us to enjoy the views while they play. However, the indoor areas were superb especially for a wet day. There was an indoor wooden maze with play areas to discover as well as an indoor sand pit area which is another word for paradise for our children so we had to beg, drag and bribe them out of here. There were plenty of showers that day so this place is perfect for a wet day also. They even brought some pets indoors for petting when it rained! To find out more about Kennedy’s Pet Farm Click Here!
Just make sure you bring a packed lunch and plenty of snacks as we got caught out here and we could have stayed the whole day if we had more food. There is a coffee shop onsite but it only offers light snacks and beverages. The charge is €8 each for adults and children with a family ticket (2 adults & 3 Children) costing €35 and under 2’s are free.
Next on our list is The Playdium in Tralee as it rained for few days we were there and this was another excellent thing to do on a rainy day. This was my second time at the Playdium play centre in Tralee and I was looking forward to returning. One of the first things that will strike you is the cleanliness of this place and at all times you will see someone cleaning! The staff are very helpful and even took time to play with Lonán on a number of occasions in the baby play area. If you arrive in flip flops like us they have a variety of socks in all colours and sizes for just €1. While this play centre is here for quite a number of years it is as fresh and modern as the day they opened. It is easy to see that one of the owners are on site at all times, paying great attention to detail. A child’s entry costs €8. The playdium is located is a large retail park which is also home to Debenhams, Next and many more house hold names if you want to get some shopping in too!
Tralee was approx. 30 mins from our campsite so we also paid a visit to The Aqua Dome. You would want to give yourself a full day here and if the swimming pool with all the slides and play areas was not enough they have now added Aqua Golf outside. So the aqua dome is much more than your typical swimming pool as it boosts a lazy river, high fume slide, river rapids, waves, outdoor falling rapids, toddler slides and general play areas with a pirate theme. For lunch we just wrapped some towels around the kids and popped into the coffee shop before we went back to it. They loved it so much they stayed until they were too exhausted to do any more so I would definitely recommend a day here.
Adult day passes are €16 while children are €13 and under than 2 are free. Family Tickets start at €52.20 for 2 adults and 2 children but what I loved the most is that they offer weekly passes for those holidaying in the area and can tailor a pass depending on the length of the stay. This is perfect if you are camping locally and wanted a daily swim. The weekly family pass was €150 and I am sure you would get your money’s worth.
The Aqua Golf is beautifully landscaped with water features, a cave, fountains, ponds full of leaping trout and a 40 foot high water fountain. It is a very new feature with a very modern look and feel and offers a good challenge for those families that like a bit of competition. A family ticket will set you back €15.00.
Cragg Cavewas the biggest surprise of the week. Only 30 mins drive from our caravan park and in the Castleisland direction. Cragg Cave is one of those hidden gems that I love to discover. Cragg Cave is not only a 1 million years old cave wonderland of stalagmites and stalactites but it is also home to a large fun filled play centre with separate toddlers play area, a climbing wall and rodeo bull ride. It has a gorgeous gift shop and the restaurants draws locals as well as the tourist from far and wide. You can get a combined ticket to both the play centre and cave for just €11 a child and this also includes the climbing wall and rodeo bull when they are open. However, Cragg cave also offer a holiday membership from €30 for three months over April, May and June if you were staying again for a length of time in the area.
What made the cave visit so unique is that is very much geared towards the young audience and our guide had amazing patience to answer the avalanche of questions she was asked (sometimes twice) throughout the tour. But to top it all off when we emerged out of the cave at the end of the tour she offered the children some “samples of bone fragments, gem stones, diamonds and rock that had been discovered in the cave” from her pocket to take home and they were not only thrilled but amazed……. Needless to say this selection process went on for as long as the tour!!!!
Back inside we were hard pushed to fit in the rodeo bull, climbing wall, back to the play centre and all before we even enjoyed the outdoor play ground. Believe me there is another full day here so come early and bring a book to enjoy!! Click here to find out about Crag Cave!
Not many people know about our next find, The Kerry Bog Village Museum just a 25 mins drive from our caravan park beyond the town of Killorglin. An adult ticket is €6.50 while children are €4.00. The village is made up of a selection of period thatched cottages, fully furnished with authentic antiques, complete with sound effects and figurines. Outdoors, there were displays of rural farm equipment, used by turf cutters and farmers of the time period. Thomas had great fun trying to guess what they were.
The village is also home to some friendly Kerry bog ponies and two large but very friendly Irish wolf hounds. I would suggest you bring a picnic as it is small and compact so you could take a seat and enjoy a picnic while the children wander and explore at their own pace for an hour or two. There is a very well-known pub with excellent bar food next door, The Red Fox Inn if you want something more substantial.
Killarney’s National Park is famous the world over and the best way for families to enjoy it I think is by bike. You can join the bike trail just about 400 yards from the caravan park and the first stop would have to be the Knockreer Playground or the little tea rooms not too far from this before heading down to Ross Castle 3 km from the tea-rooms. The children will not notice the km go by as they will be distracted by the many jaunting cars on the route along with the spectacular surroundings. There is a charge to enter the castle itself but I think a cycle around is plenty for the kids!
We also discovered a little hidden gem in The Blue Pool Walk that is left just after The Blue Pool Art Gallery on the road to Muckross House, apporx 10 mins drive from Killarney. It is a gentle loop walk for children that takes around an hour and the main attraction is the most unusual blue pool of water surrounded in the most magnificent array of trees and scenery. It is very easy to miss from the road so look out for Cloghereen Woods and you are in the right spot just after The Muckross Park Hotel.
Knockreer Playground is a 6 minute drive from Beechgrove Caravan Park on the road into Killarney and is one of my firm favourites as playgrounds go for many years. It is situated in to lush surroundings of the national park and has plenty to offer in the way of fun from climbing frames to little wooden trains! For more information on Knockreer Playground Click Here!
Beech Groove Caravan Park is beside the main road to Killorglin and some of the mobile homes are situated along the front by the road which can be noisy at night. If you have children that need peace and quiet to sleep or may make a dash to hop the wall for the main road I would suggest that you book one of the mobile homes higher up the park and away from the road.
We head off for a week with friends every year so we can catch up, the kids are occupied and we have company in the evenings as our other halves often head to work mid-week. It is very relaxing staying in a caravan park as the kids will play together on the bikes, trot up and down to the playground and explore more freely than at home. As you know once they are happy, we are happy and can relax. The mobile home is even easier to manage especially if we are on our own mid-week. The location of the campsite was great with the national park and local playground on its doorstep as well while Killarney and many of the attractions were easy and quick to access. Killarney surprised with all there was to do for families and we even had plenty of choice on the wet days!
What the Kids said about Killarney
The highlight for the kids was the playground next door to the caravan park and our day at The Dome in Tralee; they certainly feel they did not have enough time here!!
The Family Explore Westport, Co. Mayo
I am often asked, “Where is my favourite or the best holiday destinations in Ireland for families?”. Without hesitation, I say it has to be Westport town. Why is that? Well, for many years now it has been voted best place to live and is a regular tidy town winner. But more importantly, it just offers so much for families.
In fact, I am sure that the businesses of Westport must have come together at one time and decided that families were their priority. Then, they worked hard as a business community to become the best holiday destinations in Irelandfor families from the point of view of activities, restaurants and most importantly accommodation. They just cater for families so well in Westport.
So, I was really pleased to make a return visit this summer to this picturesque town and experience again all that it has to offer.
On this occasion we choose to leave the car at home and make the journey by bus instead. From Cork to Galway we used Citylink which brought us directly to the main bus and rail station in Galway. This took 2.5 hours . After spending a few hours strolling around Galway city we then took a CIE bus to Westport town and this leg of the journey took us just over an hour and a half. Citylink is ver y convenient as there are toilets and WIFI on board so it was very relaxing for both the kids and me of course! The journey would take you approx. 3.5 hours from Dublin and the same from Cork by car.
Family Accommodation in Westport
There is certainly no shortage of places to stay for families in Westport whatever your budget or holiday needs. Choices range from Glamping in magical hobbit houses (Mayo Glamping- Click Here) to family-friendly hotels in the heart of Westport town.
We stayed with The Castlecourt Hotel in Westport town. Here, the family rooms are not only luxurious and so comfortable, but the rooms are an excellent size for families, this means plenty of space!
Things to Do in The Castlecourt Hotel
The hotel runs a kid’s club called the Buzz Club. Although we didn’t take advantage of the club during this visit, it did look really great. It is available during Mid Term Breaks, July & August excluding Christmas & New Year, (I gather an unsupervised play room is available then). The Club is for boys and girls aged 5-13 years. The club places a big emphasis on sport. But they also facilitate Hip Hop Dance Classes, Bike Trails, Beach Trips, Treasure Hunts and loads more. In addition, they have an unsupervised playroom for children aged 2-4. If you are a resident this is all free of charge.
We did have a splash-around in the hotel swimming pool. The times we went were always nice and quiet giving us free rein over the kiddies’ pool and main pool.
We had the option to dine in The Castlecourt Hotel and its sister hotel in The Westport Plaza across the courtyard. The food was simple Irish cuisine with plenty of your family favourites. They were extremely accommodating in particular for gluten free and even offered us some options outside the menu.
For more information on The Castlecourt Hotel Click Here!
Family Fun Things to do in Westport
The Great Western Greenway is always on top of our list when we holiday in Westport. And, no surprise that it was named the 2011 Irish winner of the European Destinations of Excellence award. The greenway is 42 kilometres (26 miles) long, beginning in Westport and goes all the way to Achill. It passes through the towns of Newport and Mulranny as it runs along the coast of Clew Bay. It is an off-road trail used by cyclists and walkers. It follows the route of the former Achill extension of the Westport railway line which closed in 1937.
One piece of advice for you! Head out early in the morning so you can explore the island a little before you head back towards Westport. We hired bikes from Clew Bay Bike Hire and took their shuttle bus out to Achill. If your children are seasoned cyclists they may make the whole journey to Westport but you can also book a bus pick-up at Mulranny or Newport and cut out some of the 42km journey. We met some families who cycled to Achill and back again in one day! But honestly, that would be waaaaay too much for us.
The cycle is incredibly scenic and takes you through bog fields, magically woodlands as well as open fields with sheep and goats often blocking your path. It is not surprising that the farm animals are completely used to the Greenway visitors as an estimated 300 people cycle and walk the trail each day. From what we experienced, the four-legged users of the Greenway expected us to get out of their way rather than the other way round. This caused much hilarity and enjoyment with our little ones.
Here’s my second piece of advice! Don’t travel all this way without visiting Clew bay as it is probably the most beautiful bay in Ireland. It’s said locally to have 365 islands; one for each day of the year. The largest island which is Clare Island has a population of 130 residents year-round. Its historical association with the Pirate Queen Gráinne amongst other historical and archaeological sites really makes it a must-see among the islands.
Westport House has to be one of the best adventure destinations in Ireland. I know, I hear you thinking. When you imagine a gorgeous country house you do not immediately think ‘kids’, but tucked in behind the house and situated in the vast parklands is a day-out that will excite every child young and old. A ticket for the house and adventure park for two adults and up to four children, costs €75 (€71.50 online). We agreed it was money well spent as it would be hard to find a day out that offered more. As there is so much else to do for free in Westport this could be your one big spend. Walking up the main entrance feels like entering the set of a Jane Austen novel. While the house itself offers a glimpse of a polite time gone by, the dungeons have been converted with kids in mind offering some spooky fun.
In the pirate adventure park there is a pirates playground and indoor soft play area, a bouncing castle, water attractions, a birds of prey show, bumper cars, a train that runs through the forest, a swinging ship attraction, go-karting, mud kitchen, sand pit and a carousel. The swan pedalo boats are very popular and you have a large lake to explore.
Wild West Play Centre is Ireland’s only indoor wild west play village and play centre for kids to have some wild west fun. This is something different to all other indoor play centres and the kids love exploring the village and having some good old-fashioned imaginative play. They have a sensory room offering a quite haven with plenty sensory equipment for any children that may struggle with noise or larger groups and this is in the middle of the centre so the whole family can enjoy the wild west.
The children’s playground in Westport is located beside the Leisure Centre and cinema. This new state-of-the-art skate park and games area is right beside the Great Western Greenway. In addition to the purpose-built skate boarding area this facility has an astro turf pitch.
The Museum of Country Life is another day out, and best of all, admission is free. There is a children’s activity area with puzzles, books and games, dress up station, traditional game box for outdoor fun as well as the grounds and museum to explore. Click here to see more!
There is so much more to do in the area surrounding Westport but one thing is for sure there is plenty to do outdoors and whatever your age.
Places to Eat in Westport
When it comes to eating out in Westport you are spoiled for choice. Cian’s Restaurant, Bridge Street recently won “Best Restaurant in Connaught” with the Restaurant Association of Ireland. So, this was where we choose to eat on our first night. It looks quite small downstairs but there was plenty of room for our brood upstairs with lovely views of the town and clock tower. However, it is not the views that will occupy you, as the food was mind-blowingly amazing. We had beetroot and cumin soup which introduced me to a whole new vegetable. The risotto was amazing and the fish was superb. When it came to dessert it was a challenge to eat more as we were so full from over indulgencing on the first two courses. You know that feeling, of being so full but you have to keep eating because it’s so tasty. A main course here ranges from €16.00 to €25.00 per adult. To check out more about Cian’s Restaurant Click Here!
Westport is also home to another award-winning restaurant, Sol Rio Restaurant, which we tried on our second night. This restaurant won “Best Kiddies Menu” over many years with the Restaurant Association of Ireland. When we walked in the front door we were immediately greeted with wall to celling awards on all sides. We knew we were off to a good start and had high expectations as we received a friendly welcome from Sinead, our warm and colourful hostess for the evening. The atmosphere was contagious and the décor was fun and entertaining and the food was one hundred percent gorgeous from start to finish. I even made room for dessert on this occasion as I knew it would be superb.
The kids were also spoiled for choice with the kiddie’s menu which included dishes that could take a place on the main menu they were so good, from Irish steak, vegetarian risotto to bolognaise and homemade sausages to suit our fussier ones. I was delighted to see the banana split taking centre stage for dessert as it is a sneaky bit of fruit disguised in a bowl of yumminess. It is easy to see why they have won the “Kids Size Me Award” as the kiddies menu offers plenty of choices for every palette including some delicious healthy options! The kiddie’s menu would make it to my top ten also. Each award owned a place on their walls and I am certain there will be many more to come.
Third piece of advice! Book a night out here if possible as this is a family hot spot for locals and visitors alike. For more info click here!
We had a most wonderful evening and had to drag ourselves out of there at the end of the night. A main course would set you back on average €15 with a lot of dishes starting at around €13/€14 while a three course kiddies meal costs €10.
On a previous stay we dined in The Milltimes Restaurant which offers a playroom and supervised kids club next door to the restaurant during peak dinner times to keep the little ones entertained while you enjoy a more relaxed meal.
If you can, don’t let the night end at the restaurant as there are so many quaint and unique pubs in Westport town all offering trad sessions to lift your spirits. The town itself has a very friendly and safe atmosphere.
It is worth your while to book a babysitter whatever night of the week you stay and have a few drinks in one or two of the pubs. We visited Matt Malloy’s on a Monday night and it was clear to see that every night of the week is a weekend night in Westport. There was some great music and singing and it is easy to find a little nook or cranny to while away an evening after a busy family day. Click here for more info!
Unless you are living near county Mayo which many of you are not, Westport is a good spin. However, it is certainly worth it and once you are here you can park up the car and jump on your bike! You could get on the citylink to Galway with its free Wi-Fi to occupy the kids and there are plenty of buses taking you to Westport from there in just over an hour. This is how we travelled and I do feel strongly that as a nation we do not use public transport enough like our European neighbours. If we expect an efficient service we need to start supporting it. The Castlecourt Hotel is in the heart of Westport town so the bus is very convenient.
As I said at the start Westport Town itself offers so much to do for families regardless of your budget or interests, therefore for me it is one of the best holiday destinations in Ireland for Families. You can camp in Westport house or in one of the many campsites nearby and purchase a pass to the adventure park. You can ramble around this gorgeous town and while away many hours on the Great Western Greenway. An entertaining afternoon or morning can be spent at the playground, on the basketball courts and football pitches. You could have a fun-packed holiday for very little expense on activities.
Alternatively, you could add a touch of luxury to you break away with very little extra cost as Westport has an abundance of great family hotels at very good prices with kids’ clubs and swimming pools to boot. Click here for more info on hotels!!
What the Kids Said about Westport
The kids have always been Westport fans as Westport House and the pirate adventure park is a firm favourite of theirs. Thomas said “If we went every weekend I would never get bored of it”.
My three adore cycling with us in tow so we would go up and down that Greenway at a moment’s notice.
Explore the Birthplace of Ancient Ireland – Co. Meath – Family Holiday in Ireland
For our Easter Family Holiday in Ireland this year we decided to explore County Meath as Saoirse has been learning all about Newgrange this year and was eager to make a visit. We had planned a five days break but ended up spending six days in Meath as we were trying to fit in so much.
Tourism Ireland describes Meath as the “Birthplace of Ancient Ireland”. I was anticipating plenty of heritage sites to explore on our family break, from the Hill of Tara, Newgrange, The Battle of the Boyne and Slane Castle, and I wasn’t disappointed. What’s more, as a family holiday destination, county Meath has also so much more to enjoy.
Family Accommodation in Co. Meath
On this trip we choose self-catering Family Accommodation in Co. Meath. We stayed in Decoy Country Cottages, a short 10 minutes from Navan town. The cottages themselves are situated around a courtyard within the old stable and farm buildings of the country house nearby.
When we arrived, I was really pleased to see how luxurious and spacious our cottage was inside, and picturesque and quaint from outside.
The cottage provided all the usual mod cons and so much more. In fact, it was almost better equipped than my own kitchen at home, which made family breakfast and dinner time so easy. The holiday got off to a great start when I saw our beautiful welcome pack of locally sourced eggs, bread, chocolates and more. Most of the normal kitchen condiments were provided as well; olive oil, herbs, salt, pepper etc. This just takes the hassle out of holidays, making more time for spending quality time with my family.
The cottages were extremely spacious with a large kitchen and sitting room downstairs as well as two large ensuite rooms upstairs but most importantly the interior was fresh and elegant throughout.
What I loved the most was the eco-friendly policy, which is evident from the solar panels to the eco-friendly detergents provided. I particularly loved the Voya spa products in the bathrooms which I was determined to enjoy (and I did!). They also added a touch of pampering to the already luxurious feel of the cottages.
The area outside was very secure, as there is a ‘no car’ policy in the courtyard and the front gate required a code for access. I felt comfortable letting Lonan, my two-year-old daughter, ramble around herself. One of the cottages is a dedicated children’s’ den which was equipped for all ages, from small babies, tweens to teens, with a play station, toy kitchen, blackboard, board games, air hockey, snooker table and much more. There is a gym next door to the children’s’ den, open to over 16s.
Every morning, the children would excitedly open the cottage door to greet their new four-legged friends, Milo the dog and three friendly cats. Instead of trying to get the kids to put their tablets away, we had to convince them that their new pets had enough petting so we could go and explore the area.
There was so much to do outside and it felt so safe and secure, I often had to search for the kids and encourage them in when it rained. The playground was modern and clean and had a brilliant sand pit with toys, for major excavation work. Ducks, geese and hens proved to be an enormous source of entertainment for Lonάn, but the kids were most excited about the tree house which was straight from a movie set, built in the amongst the trees in the garden of the main house. Let’s just say when we ventured out for day trips and it was time to go home, they were always happy to oblige so that they could play some more back at base.
The most amazing aspect of this place was the location. On the Bank Holiday Monday, we drove into Heuston train station in Dublin city and it only took us 37 minutes door to door. There is also a train in the nearby town of Dunboyne that will take you into the city. Imaginosity was another day trip, only a 40-minute drive along the M50. Newgrange was ten minutes away, while The Hill of Tara was ten minutes in the other direction. The Battle of the Boyne was about a 15 minute drive. You do need to book in advance for Newgrange and if you are making a trip to the Hill of Tara, Maguire’s café is a must.
There is so much more to do in this region, such as Tayto Park, Waterpark Funtasia, Rathbeggan Lakes and Slane Castle. To be honest, if you had a week you would not cover it all, and there really is something for everyone. Belfast would also make for a fun day trip, approx. 1 hour away.
Navan town has plenty in the way of retail therapy and gorgeous options for eating out so if you don’t want to travel too much, then you don’t have far to go to find everything you need!
Places to Eat in Meath and Surrounds
There are many restaurants to choose from in the nearby village of Johnstown or even the town of Navan but our top picks for the area are Room 8 Cafe and Restaurant which is located on the high street. The food here is exceptional, decor is only divine and most of all the service was superb. They had lovely kids options and overall it was reasonably priced. So if you want a five star meal in a family friendly hotel this is for you.
Another favourite for an evening meal would have to be Crave Restaurant just minutes from the main street. The food here was divine and we had excellent choice. What I loved the most was they brought carrot, cucumber and celery sticks with a dip for the kids, while we waited for the food. I never saw them eat so much veggies! The presentation was so attractive the kids gobbled all this healthy food up. Extremely family friendly and the fact that they were busy on a Tuesday night at 7pm shows the locals are major fans too!
For lunch we took a recommendation from the locals and were not disappointed. Maguires Cafe is located at the entrance to The Hill of Tara and locals travel far and wide to this spot – so be prepared for a small queue. However, it is truly worth the wait. The kids got a toastie, chips and hot chocolate all for €5 and we were amazed with our main courses of a goats cheese salad and burger. It was more like an evening meal than lunch. I could see why the locals love this place and why the car park was full on a Wednesday at 2pm. Best of all, you can take in the Hill of Tara from here.
It is hard to come up with a negative. The only thing I could think of was the Wi-Fi – not the strongest during our stay but there was work underway while we were there to rectify that.
County Meath gets our thumbs up. I would recommend to visit it now before it gets discovered! It is certainly a hidden gem right now. Since I have come home, I am recommending this location for families wanting to visit Dublin city, as you have all the convenience of brilliant travel links without the cost or inconvenience of staying in the city with kids. All in all, if you wanted a holiday taking in the attractions of the City, exploring Ireland’s Ancient East and stay in a relaxing and luxurious accommodation, then you would look no further.
What the Kids Said about Decoy Country Cottages
Saoirse, “I loved it because it was really fun and you never got bored.”
To Find out more about Decoy Country Cottages click here!
Family Christmas Gift Ideas
Is anyone else in the trying to free up more space around the house to accommodate the oncoming avalanche of toys due to hit shortly?
This year why not ask your family and friends to club together for an annual pass to one of your special places that the whole family will enjoy all year long or that you can visit more than one place over a year and go on many family outings…….. Here are some of my favourite family gift ideas!
Membership Shannon Heritage
Shannon Heritage manages some of the most popular visitor attractions in the country. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to visit these over and over and still save money? The Shannon Heritage Annual Membership Programme gives you this option.
Free admission & parking at all Shannon Heritage Visitor Attractions for 1 calendar year from the date of purchase. (Attractions are Bunratty Castle & Folk Park, Craggaunowen, King John’s Castle, Dunguaire Castle and Malahide Castle & Gardens).
10% discount on all purchases at Shannon Heritage Tearooms, Retail Shops including Shannon Heritage gift shop at the Cliffs of Moher and Gift Voucher sales.
Family Membership – €125.00 (includes free admission for 2 adults and up to 4 children)
Family Membership – €140.00 (includes free admission for 2 adults and up to 6 children)
The Heritage Card provides for free admission to all fee-paying State managed OPW Heritage Sites located throughout the country for one year from the date of first use (with the exception of Muckross Traditional Farms, Killarney).
Having the card allows you to visit places like Bru-na-Boinne on separate days so you can explore Newgrange on one day and Knowth on another, ensuring the kids don’t burn out, and enabling everyone to take in more because of the slower pace. As young kids can sometimes hit the point of no-return without much warning, the card enables families to leave when they need to, without parents feeling that they have to stay longer as they’ve already paid for the tickets. Leave the site, do something different, feed the kids, and return later that day or the next for no extra cost.
Family €60.00 (Max. 2 adults & a reasonable number of children under 18 years)
At certain locations, parking facilities and ancillary services are provided by other bodies or agencies.
Other sites include Castletown House, Kilmainham Gaol, Dublin Castle, Kilkenny Castle, Clonmacnoise, Ionad an Bhlascaoid Mhóir (The Blasket Centre) and Muckross House.
The quickest and most convenient way to purchase an OPW Heritage Card is to buy it at the first OPW fee-paying site you visit (click on this link for a list of our fee paying Sites List of Fee Paying Sites .
3. Dublin Zoo
Dublin Zoo in the Phoenix Park is Ireland’s Number 1 Family Attraction s and one of the very best places for a family day out, combining fun with some learning about the world we live in. Kids of all ages will love the huge range of animals on view – from the City Farm to the African Plains. Allows free admission to Dublin Zoo for one year. Dublin Zoo annual pass holders are also admitted free to Fota Wildlife Park (Cork), as well as Chester Zoo, Edinburgh Zoo and Paignton Zoo in the UK!
Fota Wildlife Park in Cork is a special zoo and Ireland’s premier wildlife attraction. In Fota Wildlife Park wherever possible they have chosen animals, which thrive in a free-range environment are allows to roam free, while mixed with other species and with us human visitors!
1 Adult + 2 Children from €120.00
Consevration Membership – Member + 2 adults + 2 kids from €180.00
Free Admission to Dublin Zoo
One visit per year to Edinburgh Zoo, Highlands Wildlife Park and Belfast Zoo (card & receipt must be produced)
Admission concession to (as of date of print): Paignton Zoo, Newquay Zoo, and Living Coasts (card & receipt must be produced)
The Donkey Sanctuary is set in the beautiful rolling countryside of County Cork just outside the village of Liscarroll in Ireland.Over 5,200 donkeys from all parts of Ireland have been taken into our care here in Ireland since The Donkey Sanctuary in Ireland was set up. Many donkeys have been abandoned or put in a field and given little or no attention after having worked for their owners for years, hauling peat or pulling a cart. Great care is given to ensuring that each donkey has individual attention.
Adopt a donkey for a year as the perfect Christmas gift and go visit him/her when you can!
Your adoption of €25 will last 1 year. By adopting one of these nine donkeys, you will be helping us in our work of improving the lives of countless donkeys throughout Ireland.An official certificate
A pencil drawing
A bio sheet
A twice yearly report
Clonea in Co. Waterford is home to one of the many fantastic blue flag beaches of the sunny south East with brilliant watersport activities available all summer and if that’s not enough it recently became a gateway to the Deise Greenway. Casey’s Caravan & Camping Park has always been know as a very well run family park overlooking the beach so we made it our mission to check it out this Summer and see why Camping in Waterford is so popular!
There was plenty to do onsite for the kids with a games room, toddler play area (spotlessly clean), outdoor toddler play area, crazy golf, daily kids club, large and well equipped playground and plenty of other children to have fun with. However, our kids only visited the games room and kids club once as they were having too much fun selling their homemade crafts, baking and anything else they could get their hands on at the Marrakech style market stalls outside the playground. This seems to be a yearly phenomenon synonymous with Casey’s Caravan & Camping Park and a cause for great excitement among the younger folk. Many children arrive with their crafts ready to set up their stall before the tent is even unpacked and I loved the spirit of entrepreneurship as well as the maths lesson it gave them!
Camping in Waterford
Now the one thing I noticed since I last visited Dungarvan and Clonea was that every second person seems to be walking with a bike or cycling one and that is a result of the completion of The Deise Greenway. There is a 4 Km route that will take you into the bustling town of Dungarvan and a brilliant playground or why not head the other way towards Waterford. The Greenway offers fantastic little distractions as you enjoy the picturesque countryside namely a little playground, bridges, tunnels and road crossings!! Most days we went for a cycle if we could drag everyone away from the park. Bikes are allowed onsite also so from early morning the kids were outdoors and cycling which seems to be the second favourite thing to do on site, second only to the wheeling and dealing!!!
The facilities were just as fantastic as the atmosphere on site and were spotlessly clean. I even commented to a friend one day that I walked in on the toilets been cleaned three times in one day! There were more than enough showers, toilets, wash basins and best of all a room with a baby bath and changing facilities. There were no dark corners hiding creepy crawlies or wet muddy cold floors in the showers and you could see your reflection in the tiles!!!
The camper’s kitchen was not to be scoffed at either with its washing facilities and two large chest freezers to avail of and all in immaculate condition. Next door was the laundry room with irons, washing machines and dryers. All in all you will find it hard to beat these facilities and we were informed that next year they are adding two family shower rooms to make it easier for families to wash together. It is easy to see that this park is run by a family who are very conscious of parents’ needs and with a passion for camping themselves!
My favourite part of the park was the toddlers play area as it was the perfect place to go with a book as Lonan (15 months) pottered around the play kitchen and all its paraphernalia and I was not a bit bothered about germs. You could clearly see the area was cleaned daily and there was not even a spec of scum never mind dust! This was a perfect indoor activity with little ones when there were rain showers about.
So there is all this fun to be had and we have not even mentioned the gorgeous beach on the doorstep! The beaches in this part of the country are gorgeous and one of the reasons why Camping in Waterford is so popular. The sandy beach of Clonea was the best playground of all and seemed also to be popular with some of our fellow campers for fishing but best of all it’s a watersport haven and you can hire equipment and wetsuits on the beach. Waveworld not only provide many water activities but they also run a kids camp for the month of July and August and you can sign the kids up for as little or many days as you like with offers for a full week. This is a must as children of all skills and abilities are brought together to have fun in the water with the enthusiastic team and believe me all fears and insecurities will quickly disappear while they burn their energy in a most positive way! This activity can be enjoyed in all weathers and there was an excellent variety of beach games, and water activities including kayaking and banana boats. I even noticed some adults hiring kayaks for a relaxing break while the kids were busy at kids camp!!! For more information on Waveworld click here!
We had friends also on site and the common theme amongst us all was the safety of the site. Not only were fellow campers very aware of the children cycling and playing around but the owners have a strict policy of absolute quietness after 11pm and before 8am as well as respecting your neighbours. You have to swipe to get in or out and with security on site we felt very safe and looked after. We were comfortable giving the children scope to roam more freely and this in a way was a great opportunity to teach them responsibilities. Speaking of responsibilities the kids also enjoyed completing the task of collecting water, taking rubbish to the bins and next year they will be promoted to wash up I think!!
Camping is not only great fun for all the family but on a site like this when the kids are having too much fun to do anything else, mums and dads have nothing else to do but sit down, relax, have a chat and most of all chill!!
I could go on about all the activities around the area but really there is no need as you won’t want to venture to far with the beach, Greenway and park itself. To find out more about Casey’s Caravan and Camping Park in Clonea click here!
Eggstronauts at Blackrock Castle Observatory
Blackrock Castle Observatory are running a fabulous one day workshop during the Easter holidays to keep young minds well entertained and we went along this morning to try out Eggstronauts as we are great fans of the observatory and all their activities! It is a great place for an afternoon out but keep an eye out for the camps as while they are very educational, they are also great fun!
Today the workshop included learning all about astronauts landing on different planets and in particular the failed Schiaparelli misson on mars last year. So the kids had to design a parachute that would land an egg (astronaut) that would land safely (without breaking) when they dropped if from the tower of Blackrock Castle to the tower below! Saoirse was delighted that her astronaut (aka egg) survived to be boiled for tea!!
I would recommend that kids would be at least 8 as they had to work completely off their own initiative
and design the concepts. They were aided step by step by the friendly team but they were very much encourage to try out and explore their ideas.
On a scale of one to ten and ten been the best, Saoirse gave it a nine as she deducted one mark because she felt it was to short and would loved a longer day. However, Thomas gave it a resounding 10 out of ten. Blackrock Castle Observatory do some brilliant camps at Easter and Summer and also it would be a novel place for a birthday party. If you have not been make sure you go along some day as it is brilliant facility that Cork should be proud of and offers an a great fun and educational day eye. Ignite their interest in learning!!
The workshops last 1.5 hours and costs €10.00. They still have places but you would want to book in advance to ensure a place and make sure you bring a book as The Castle Cafe is a glorious spot to enjoy brunch, lunch or just a cuppa!!
Fun at Ardmore Open Farm
While Ardmore in Co. Waterford is not only a gorgeous part of the world it is also home to one of the most beautiful beaches in the sunny South East, a fabulous playground just off the beach, a picturesque village with a delicious gourmet fish shop that would give any five star restaurant a run for their money and best of all Ardmore Open Farm with breathtaking views in all directions looking out across not one but three bays! So if you are looking for things to do with the kids in Waterford make sure you include here!
Once we dragged ourselves away from the views and venture inside we were greeted by a very impressive jungle gym and family restaurant with plenty of homemade options for all the family. Here we were welcomed by a very helpful team of staff ready to fill us in on all that was going on that day. Outside we discovered quaint wooden play areas which suited their setting perfectly before embarking on our walk around the park. Now this is no traditional Irish farm as I am certain you would not find half of these animals in the zoo never mind the farm and so it is only fitting that Ardmore Open Farm is now know as Farm and Mini Zoo.
We encountered Racoons, Porcupines, Parrots, Owls, Kookaburra, Emu, Alpaca and much more as well as the usual farm animals of horses, ponies, sheep, cows and more unusually a highland cow! If all that was not enough there were plenty of pit spots for a little play along the way including karting, a maze and my favourite a pitich! Yes you heard me right, a pitch, with picnic benches all around perfectly positioned to take in the views and great zip wire alongside. I imagined that on my return I would be bringing a picnic and meeting a few friends here on a bright sunny day as I am sure we would have peace and quite to catch up while the kids are well entertained and getting plenty of exercise.
Once you are finished the walk around the farm itself you then enter into an indoor section which is perfect if the weather turns and offers plenty more fun with indoor electric karts, diggers, more animals and best of all a petting area for small animals. There are scheduled petting times and make sure you check these before you start on your journey as it is well worth fitting it into your day. All the children had plenty of time to pet and hold various animals including hens, lizards rabbits and snakes while there were many more small animals to study and enjoy.
Ardmore Open Farm and Mini Zoo is a great day out for all but I would recommend that you wrap up as it can be quite a chilly spot being so high up and so close to the sea! We visited in January and still enjoyed it immensely. Make sure you include enough time to take a spin into the village for a walkabout as it is a beautiful quaint fishing village with lots to do and should certainly be on your list of Things to do with the kids in Waterford!!
Cork Skate Parks
The Regional Park in Ballincollig is a fantastic facility for the the city, county and visitors alike housing one of the best of Cork Skate Parks! This year Santa brought two stunt scooters so we went along to this popular Cork skate parks located in the Ballincollig Regional Park to have some fun with the kids.
This is a very busy Corks skate park with many different types of uses so the car park is very busy so do take car. The park is just about a mile from Ballincollig and the skate park is the first of its amenities to greet you.
Don’t worry you don’t need just a skate board to visit the skate park but scooters, roller blades, roller skates are all welcome and in use in this skate park. There was a mixture of young and old kids but mainly young kids so it was not intimidating for little ones. There was plenty of different ramps for all levels and the park could cater for a large number at any one time.
After standing around watching them trying out their few stunts and learning from others we finally managed to encourage them further into the park to explore what else was on offer. I can’t explain how much of a fantastic facility this is as once you go over the little foot bridge there is so much more to do.
Along with being one of the biggest of Cork Skate Parks, the park itself is home to vast open Grass areas, soccer and rugby pitches, woodland, playground & Multi Use games areas. The variety of attractions within the park means that there is currently a significant degree of usage by a cross section of the community.
The playground was not only extremely large but full of colour, adventure and excitment. There was so much to attract their attention and soft flooring for any mishaps. The basket ball courts were extremely busy along side some very competitive soccer matches.
This would be a great place for a large group outing. If you can manage to drag the kids away from all of this then there are many walking trails to explore including a fairy trail which was set in a magical woodland setting and very well done to make most of the natural enviorment.
There are marked walking trails. The trails consist of four looped walks,
colour-coded according to length, which take place within and around the
Regional Park, Ballincollig which was once home to a major gunpowder works. The
Military Trail begins at the Shopping Centre Square and continues to the
Regional Park by a westerly route. Three other trails of varying lengths begin
and end at the western end of the park at the Inniscarra Bridge. All walks are
multi-access and dogs on leads are permitted on the trails.
The Regional Park itself comprises the now defunct Gunpowder
Mills complex and the networks of sluices and canals installed in the grounds
and used in the manufacturing process still remain today along with most of the
original buildings. There is a rich tapestry of woodland, rivers, canals and open areas creating an exciting natural habitat to explore. It is an ideal place for walkers, scooters, bikes, joggers or just strollers! It is very buggy friendly and make sure you bring a picnic and make a day of it!
Things to do with the kids in Clare – Aillwee Caves
No trip to Co. Clare can be complete without going to see Ireland’s premier show cave, The Aillwee Caves. The caves are renowned as one of the top things to do with the kids in Clare and it is easy to see why. When planning a visit to the caves, be sure to put aside a full day as there is much more than a cave to see here. Your journey starts at the main entrance with the Birds of Prey Centre where you can view a large number of birds and have an in-depth audio guide explaining all about our birds, their conservation and the myths and legends surrounding these magnificent birds in Ireland before enjoying a fantastic birds of prey show. This was a most entertaining show for us as well as the kids and was on for at least a half an hour. The auditorium is a lovely size and the show was quite interactive. After the we went back in to look at the birds armed with the knowledge we had received.
From here we went into the woodlands surrounding the caves to try out some Archery which was only €10.00 for 15 bows and includes a one to one tutorial. The kids loved this part as even though we have tried our hand at archery before, the setting here was magical and it felt like you were really hunting in the woods. The woodlands is also the setting for the popular guided bush craft walks which are only €5 per person but need to be booked in advance. We did not have time for this walk but it sounded fascinating and something I am sure the kids would have enjoyed immensely.
At the entrance to the archery and bush craft walks there is a beautiful stone building housing the farm shop stocking local food and drink produce as well as the world famous Burren Gold Cheese. You cannot walk past here without picking up some tasting delights!!
Now from this point you can drive up the hill to the caves carpark but if it is anyway fine I would suggest walk up the walking trail and enjoy a picnic along the way. You will be up in 15 mins or take your time so you can appreciate your surroundings as there are regular tours of the caves so you wont miss out. If you have not brought a picnic there is a delicious cafe at once you into in the caves centre. Be prepared as you will need to walk through the gift store to get to the tour and there was plenty to spend our money on. We were prepared here and gave them a budget of €5 from their pocket money for here before we went in and you will be glad to know there was plenty for that.
The tour itself was approx 30 mins and was well geared towards the small ones without being too boring for adults, bringing us through the beautiful caverns – over bridged chasms, under weird formations and alongside the thunderous waterfall as well as the frozen waterfall and past the now extinct brown bears bones. It was very safe and not at all steep, we had two kids and a three month old baby in tow in a sling.
We were all tired at this stage but if you have the time and energy you can walk to the top of the mountain which the cave lies under or even try out a Hawk Walk. There really is plenty to do and a must see for families visiting the Clare or Galway area. We got excellent value for our money and if you bring a picnic you will need to spend very little while here. Our car journey back through the Burren brought us past the most stunning vista of this unique and rocky landscape and even a neolithic tomb stone but our crew were almost to exhausted to take this in after their jam packed day!