We just returned from a week-long family vacation in the beautiful area around Galway, Ireland. We, 9 adults and 7 children, rented a lovely manor 30 minutes north of the city. This rural location offered plenty of rest and relaxation among quintessential Irish farms, but also meant that we had to drive quite a distance to most activities.
The scenery around this west coast area was incredible. We had the natural beauty of the Burren to the south and Connemara to the north. Think rolling green hills, stone walls, and sheep, combined with the charming Irish towns. This is just what we were hoping to see. What we weren’t expecting was seven days of sunshine without a drop of rain – lucky us!
Each day, we planned one special activity. Here is a list (in order of preference) of the five we enjoyed the most.
1. Ireland’s School of Falconry at Ashford Castle: This was amazing. One of the best activities of the week. First of all, the setting at Ashford Castle was stunning and formed the perfect backdrop to learn the sport of kings. The kids all participated in flying the hawks – even my 23 month-old. Also, by booking a group rate ahead of time, we cut our price by half.
2. Athenry Castle: This living history exhibit provides a hands-on experience that brings medieval history to life. Your group dresses up and participates in multiple medieval games (archery, relay races and tug-o-war) followed by an interactive instruction on the weapons, gruesome punishments and interesting ways of life in the middle ages. This all takes place in and on the grounds of the beautiful 13th century Norman castle. The city of Athenry, one of the last walled cities, was a great spot to enjoy lunch and play on the playground across from the castle.
3. Killary Adventure Center: Our drive out to Leanne was long, but breathtaking. As you enter the mountain range, the views got increasingly more beautiful. This was how I imagined Ireland; huge green mountains spotted with sheep, sloping down to the water with a house every once in a great while. We were actually dodging sheep in the roads. Just past Leanne (skip the Wool Center) was Killary Adventure Center. With a choice of multiple adventurous sports, our children chose the ropes course and archery. The ropes course was perfect because it required the siblings to work together to reach the top of this 50-foot ladder. I literally teared up (I’m a sap!) as my 8-year-old son helped and encouraged his 6 year-old brother up to the top of the ladder. Other activities included: high swing, bungee jumping, rock wall climbing, zip lines, and water skiing, just to name a few. All of this while you are surrounded and isolated in the gorgeous mountains that drop down to the forge.
4. Galway City: This vibrant city had a lot to offer for both the adults and children. After taking in the historical parts of the city, what the kids really loved were the street entertainers, the fun stores along Quay Street, the double-decker bus tour and the traditional music. For traditional music, which usually started around 5:30 we loved Taaffe’s and Tig Coili. Also, we had a great picnic with the cheeses from Sheridan’s Cheesemongers. For great fried fish try the famous McDonagh’s.
5. Hurling: One way to take in the local culture is to attend local sports games. Because we were out of the city, there were local hurling fields everywhere. We happened to drive by and watch a game on the way in from Dublin. The kids playing ranged between 8-10 years old, the same age as the boys in our group. It was such fun for everyone to see this traditional sport played and to see the Irish families out and supporting their local teams.
* For help finding activities in the area I strongly recommend Take the Kids: Ireland by Cadogan and ordering a copy of both of these: Family Time: Galway City & County ([email protected]) and Galway Magazine. They are filled with pages of fun children activities.