Even though we may give out about the weather in Ireland a lot, thanks to our mild climate and stunning landscapes, Ireland’s outdoors are always in season. Coupled with the fact that we are trying to play our part with social distancing at the moment and seek outdoor adventure we tried out some of Cork’s best loved outdoor activities for families over the last few weeks. As a Cork native, I am asked very regularly what are my top favourite family activities or things to do in Cork and I and delighted to say they are all outdoors. Also, these activities would make great communion and birthday party alternatives or even gift ideas!
Zipit is a fantastic outdoor adventure centre not far from Cork city where you can climb high into the treetops, swing into cargo nets, surf with a difference or try cycling over a treetop bridge before zipping down one of our many ziplines. As most of you will have learnt by now Tree Climbing is our national family pastime.
I have been meaning to try out Zipit for some time but I did not appreciate what was in store until I saw it for myself. Once harnessed, you are given a short instruction, followed by a practice circuit, then away you go, into the trees as you ascend higher with each circuit, secure in the knowledge that qualified instructors are around if you need them, to offer guidance, encouragement or get you back down to the ground. There are 5 circuits ranging from 1 – 20 metres high and you have 3 hours to complete the circuits or if you like you can do the first few circuits more than once. From beginners to adrenaline junkies, there are circuits for all abilities. The minimum age is 7 and this is a perfect family activity as many adults will enjoy discovering their inner child with this one.
It is quite an exhilarating and energetic activity both mentally and physically so three hours is plenty and in fact we called it a day just before our time was up as our crew were wrecked at this stage. However, they absolutely loved it and we will be going again in the next few months. Rain would not put me off this activity either as the tree canopy would provide some shelter and it is meant to be more fun in the rain as the zip wires move more freely.
Farran woods is home to many walking trails with beautiful views of Iniscarra lake, a children’s playground (just next to Zipit), deer enclosure and duck pond, so there is plenty to entertain everyone in the family and make a day of it with a picnic. It is the perfect destination for a kid’s birthday party and you could bring a picnic (ham sandwiches) or bag of treats each to eat at the playground after before heading on a walk around the duck pond. For the winter months Zipit opens on weekends only and pre-booking is essential so click here to find out more about Zipit in Farran Woods.
Cork Harbour Boat Hire offer the perfect solution to social distancing outdoor fun with their self-drive boat tours of Cork Harbour for families looking for fun things to do in Cork. There is one family unit in each boat and the tour guide is in his own boat leading the group around Spike Island, the old monastic settlement and prison which resides in the middle of Cork Harbour. The boats are really easy to drive and there was full training before we were let loose out on the water. We had great fun spotting all the activity on the harbour including Haulbowline (the Irish Naval base), the canons of spike Island, St.Colman’s Cathedral, and much more. We were told some days you may spot cruise liners or ships along the route.
The highlight of the trip was when the kids sat on Craig’s lap taking turns of steering the boat. They all loved it even the little one so much so that we have treated our granddad to a trip for his birthday in the next few weeks. It would make the perfect birthday present for children or adults. There is a max of 5 per boat with no more than 4 adults and the one hour tour costs €50 in total. Click here for more information on Cork Harbour Boat Hire.
My final activity probably deserves a blog post all on its own as there is so much to do here and offers great family quality time when it comes to things to do in Cork. Ballyhass lakes is a 40 acre site and home to 20 activities across land, water and height. However, for quality family time I would recommend the adventure day pass or aqua park as it is fantastic value for money and an unforgettable family day out for all the family.
Ballyhass lakes is not only home to Ireland’s largest cable wakeboard facility but it also offers a large yet manageable inflatable waterpark for all ages. What makes this waterpark unique to any other one we have visited is that the water was crystal clear with water temperature a perfect level being an inland lake. The temperature has been known to hit 15 degrees. While the inflatable park is large, it is well laid out so it is easy to get around and you are not really queuing for anything.
The Adventure Day Pass is only €30 per person or €100 for four and with this you can enjoy a land, water and height activity. You would want to leave a day for this and leave some time in your day to have lunch and a rest. For lunch you can bring a picnic or there is a hot food option on site with chips and burgers etc.
We choose to do the aqua park and the zip wire which I would highly recommend. The zip wire goes over land and water and there are two lanes one of which takes you through the tree tops before coming out over the water. The team here are very encouraging and patient with anyone who is nervous but I must say I did not see one child holding back…..(only a few adults…..)
We ended our day with Archery but at this stage we were starting to tire so if you feel that three activities may be enough you could do tow activities for €25 per person or just the aqua park for €15. There was no extra charge for wetsuits which I thought was very fair and the social distancing measures were really impressive even though we were outdoors. Entry to the inflatables were staggered and the numbers on these reduced.
I must say it would make the perfect day out for small communions or birthday parties and best of all it is outdoors. We adored our day here and will be regular visitors as we all had such a laugh and it was a great way to take a break from every day life! For more information on Ballyhass lakes Click Here!
Camping in Waterford
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!
On a beautiful summers day in South Kerry we took to the gorgeous picturesque beach of Ballinskelligs for an afternoon of sand, sea and fun! Not only does the beach have very good facilities but there is a quaint little coffee shop and Skellig Watersports have a beach hut where you can try out some water fun activities.
We rented a duo kayak as the bay of Ballinskelligs is the perfect place for kayaking being very sheltered and surrounded by gorgeous scenery to enjoy, not to mention the many nooks and crannies you can explore. Craig, Saoirse and Thomas all shared the one kayak which was ideal as they all had a chance to use the oars without being exhausted. The kayaks were only €20 an hour to rent even the duos which take up to three which I thought was very reasonable for the fun you get out of it!
There is a rich variety of sea life to see in Ballinskelligs bay including schools of bottlenose and common dolphins as well as grey seals which are often seen basking on the harbour rocks but unfortunately we did not come across any while we were there.
Skellig Watersports have two types of kayaks available to rent – singles and duos (these can take up to 3 people). All the kayaks are ‘sit on top’ boats which means complete beginners can easily master them. They also offer surfing, paddle boarding and windsurfing. I thought this was the perfect activity/facility to have available at a beach and a fantastic combination for those family days out in South Kerry!
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.