Ireland is a magical destination to explore with children. The locals are charming, the scenery is spectacular and many of the popular attractions are right out of a fairy tale. One of the difficulties with planning an Ireland vacation has to do with setting an itinerary — where should you even begin? We have plenty of suggestions for exploring Ireland with kids and put together this 10-day itinerary to help plan your family vacation.
Dublin deserves at least a day and a half of exploring. Odds are the first day will be spent acclimating the family to a new time zone, so it’s best to take it easy. Take a walk up Grafton Street to listen to local musicians and window shop. Afterwards, head over to St. Stephen’s Green, the city’s main park. This is a great spot for children to run and play, feed ducks or have a picnic. Grab a bite to eat at one of the nearby pubs or walk over to Temple Bar for an early dinner.
Depending on the ages and interests of your children, there are many fun spots to enjoy in Dublin with kids. The Dublin Zoo and the surrounding Phoenix Park are perfect for younger children. A Viking Splash Tour is a thrilling way to explore the city on land and water via a World War II amphibious vehicle. Inside Christ Church Cathedral is Dublinia, an interactive museum where kids have fun learning about medieval and Viking history. The National Museum of Ireland, Trinity College (including the Book of Kells) and Dublin Castle are enjoyable with older children.
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Kinsale is a charming village in County Cork. On the way there make a stop at Fota Wildlife Park, a 100-acre preserve that allows animals to roam freely when possible. After your visit, head on to Kinsale and plan to stay for the night. While here, be sure to make time to see Charles Fort (a fun way to reach it is via the Scilly Walk) and/or James Fort (not as restored as Charles Fort). Explore the colorful town center, and consider taking a ghost tour at night with older kids.
Located in the southwest of Ireland, Killarney is the perfect home base for many of Ireland’s best sights. Many day tours begin and end in Killarney, so depending on your children’s appetite for exploring, there are several possibilities.
A Ring of Kerry tour involves a scenic 100-mile drive through the Iveragh Peninsula, with possible stops at Torc Waterfall, Staigue Stone Fort, the town of Portamagee (where you can catch a ferry to Skellig Michael of Star Wars fame) and Ladies View. It’s a full-day experience, but worth it for the stunning scenery.
For a less crowded drive, take a day trip to the Dingle Peninsula, only 30 miles long. Be sure to stop at Dingle town, Inch Beach, Minard Castle and along Slea Head drive (the views are spectacular; just find a place to pull off the road safely).
Killarney itself offers many spots to enjoy, including Ross Castle, Killarney National Park (26,000 acres to wander) and the Gap of Dunloe (take a bicycle tour or jaunting car, or hike the 10-mile trail). It’s fun to visit Muckross House; eat at the delicious restaurants in town, especially Bricin Restaurant; or visit Killarney Falconry to have close-up experiences with birds of prey.
Heading north from Killarney, make time for an overnight in Limerick. This allows time to visit King John’s Castle, a 13th-century medieval fortress; take a trip to Lough Gur to see the ancient stone circles, or spend the day exploring Bunratty Castle and Folk Park, a living history museum. This stop is optional, but convenient on a drive to see the Burren and Cliffs of Moher.
The scenery throughout Ireland is exceptional, but no vacation would be complete without a visit to the stunning Cliffs of Moher. The view from the rugged cliffs rising majestically from the ocean will take your breath away. Plan on a half day for visiting, walking along the coastal way and soaking it all in.
Nearby, The Burren is a limestone landscape unlike anything else. Its name means “stony place,” and the area is covered with large flat stones and caves made for exploration. Children will enjoy the Burren Nature Sanctuary (with animals and adventure playgrounds), Caherconnell Stone Fort and Aillwee or Doolin Cave. Prepare for everyone to be amazed by this area.
The city of Galway offers the perfect home base, but there are many castle hotels in County Clare as well as country estates if you prefer to end your trip with a splurge. Dromoland Castle, Ballynahinch Castle and Glenlo Abbey Hotel are all fabulous choices.
Editor’s Note: Photos by Kirsten Maxwell.
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