Woo Hoo, the summer holidays are nearly here. I love the lazy mornings and not having to rush and get out the door by 8.30am however, by 11am, my kids are getting restless and it’s time to decide what to do. The summer can be an expensive time for us parents, so I thought I’d compile a list of free activities to do with your children in Ireland this summer.
Antrim – The Gruffalo Trail at Colin Glen Forest Park
If you have a Gruffalo fan in your house, then this forest park is definitely worth a visit. Take a stroll down the deep, dark woods and discover all the characters from the book, carved out of wood. Then continue on to the fairy trail.
Armagh – Armagh County Museum
This looks like a really cool museum to visit. This museum will ignite your child’s imagination as they see pre-historic artefacts and there are military uniforms, wedding dresses, ceramics, natural history specimens and railway memorabilia.
Carlow – Visual Carlow
Introduce modern art to your child by taking a visit to this lovely art gallary. Check out what exhibition they have on as some are more suitable for children than others. Bring some sketch pads and get your child to copy a piece or a design a piece of their own. Perfect for children who love creativity.
Cavan – Walk up Flemings Folly
Fleming’s Folly is a hill situated about three miles from the south of Cavan town. The hill is covered with funze and heather. In the top of this hill stands an unfinished tower about sixty feet in height. Great to burn off some energy and to explore the outdoors. Bring a picnic.
Clare – Fanore Beach
We may not get the weather, but kids love beaches no matter what the weather. Bring a bucket and spade, some warm clothes, a wind breaker and Bob’s your uncle! Fanore Beach is a gorgeous beach for playing on the sand or in the water or for strolls and shell collecting. If you are visiting beaching this summer don’t forget to do your research for safe places for children to swim, life guard areas, car parks and public toilets – all which make a trip to the beach more relaxing.
Explore the walkways and picturesque surroundings while meeting donkeys and mules that were rescued and are now enjoying sanctuary.
Derry – St. Columb’s Park
This park is laid out with several walkways and play areas for kids. A small stream runs down the center of the park which leads to the main kids play park with slides, swings and roundabouts etc. Follow the path a bit further and another play area with rope slides and climbing logs. One walk can take you through a woods and then along side the railway track and river Foyle, this will go right up to the new Foyle Bridge. There are plenty of grassy areas for picnics or just to sit and relax.
Donegal – Glenveagh National Park
Glenveagh National Park has amazing views, if you can take your eyes off your children, that is! Wander though the gardens or a schedule a visit when they have an event organised. They organise family events including music events and birds of prey displays at weekends over the summer, so it’s worth checking out their website and planning ahead.
This is a beautiful scenic area which both children and adults enjoy. Whether you decide to go for a small hike around or just park yourself at the BBQ area – it’s a lovely way to spend an afternoon. There’s grassy areas for ball games or pick up a children’s nature trail quiz to follow and activity packs from the Visitor’s Centre to keep your less sporty children busy.
Dublin – The Natural History Museum
This is a great one to do on a rainy day if you live near Dublin. Inside this museum you’ll find the skeletons of some very large animals, other animals have been stuffed and placed in glass cabinets and there’s tons of small insects, butterflies etc to check out.
Fermanagh – Castle Archdale Country Park
Walk through the meadows, beside the lough or through the forest taking in nature. Why not bring along a telescope for your child to make the walk more interesting?
Galway – Thomas Dillon’s Claddagh Ring Museum
Hear thrilling tales of pirates, lost love and Ireland’s famous Claddagh ring at Thomas Dillon’s Claddagh Ring Museum.
Kerry – The Irish Fairy Trails
There are two magical fairy trails to be found in the south west of Ireland in County Kerry. These family fun activities can be found in the woodlands of both Derrynane House and also in Darryquin, part of the demesne of Parknasilla near Sneem on the Ring of Kerry.
Kildare – Fly a Kite in The Curragh
The Curragh is a flat open plane of almost 5,000 acres of common land in between Newbridge and Kildare. It’s a great place to fly kites and watch horses. If you have an army enthusiast in your family, you’ll probably spot a few army trucks going back and forth, as they are based here. If you don’t fancy a picnic, Kildare Village Outlet is just around the corner and they have several nice restaurants and a lovely playpark.
Kilkenny – Spend an afternoon at Aghaviller Round Tower
Bring a picnic and spend an afternoon relaxing at Aghaviller Round Tower and the ruins of the church. The top part of the tower has worn away, leaving only the bottom 9.6 meters. However, you can still see the raised door and teach your children why the door was raised and the original purpose of such towers. There is a holy well not far from the site, to be visited too. Let the children play ‘hide and seek’ among the ancient grave stones or if you have older children, send them on a treasure hunt to find things like the oldest grave, the oldest and youngest person to die that’s buried there, the grave that’s holding the most people etc.
Laois – Visit Heywood Gardens
Heywood Gardens were completed in 1912, and consist 50 acres of gardens, lakes, woodland and architectural features. Bring the family for a stroll and take in the fresh air and beautiful views.
Leitrim – Visit the Organic Centre and Fowley’s Falls
The Organic Centre promotes healthy and sustainable living. Teach your child a little about nature as you stroll through their gardens and see different plants growing. Finish off with a picnic around the corner at Fowley’s Falls and take in the power of nature at this water fall.
Limerick – Visit the Fields of Dreams Animal Sanctuary
Go along and see all the animals. You are welcome to walk a dog, pet a cat, take a stroll through the beautiful gravel walkways which wind through the fields and you will experience the extraordinary views of the surrounding countryside and The Ballyhoura Hills. Visit the farm where all the rescue horses enjoy good food and care. They have rabbits, goats, pigs and chickens. It’s equally as good as a pet farm and it teaches your child the importance of minding their pets (although you may feel under pressure from your kids to bring a new one home!)
Longford – Walk the Corlea Trackway
This really unique path dates back to 148BC and stretches over bog land. Do a little bit of research together before you leave on bogs and what life might have been like back in 148 BC and then talk about it together as you walk the trackway. Visit the visitors centre to finish off your trip.
Louth – Build a Den in Ravensdale Forest
When I was a kid, one of my favourite summer activities was building a den. I’d collect tree branches that had fallen, large stones, pine cones, ferns and whatever else I could to make my own little hideout. Forests like Ravensdale Forest are ideal places to go and be creative. Walk off the path a little and find a clearing, then start your building project with your kids. Great for team work.
Mayo – Slievemore on Achill Island
Explore the Deserted Village and 5,000-year-old megalithic tombs on the slopes of Slievemore on Achill Island, County Mayo.
Meath – The Cairns at Loughcrew
Clusters of Megalithic Cairns are dotted around the Slieve na Caillaigh hills. Visiting them involves a small walk from the car park but you can actually get inside one of the Cairns, so it’s worth it! It’s like a mini Newgrange.
Monaghan – Have a Scavenger Hunt at Lough Muckno
Bring a bag and challenge your children to find something beginning with each letter of the alphabet, as you walk around the beautiful lake or the wooded areas. Finish off with a nice picnic.
Offaly – Visit Ireland’s only Pyramid in Kinnitty.
Did you know that there’s a replica pyramid in Ireland? Located in the quant village of Kinnitty you will find a 30ft high pyramid built as a crypt by Lt. Col Richard Wesley Bernard for his family on his return from Egypt in the mid 1800’s. Building began in 1830 and was completed in 1834. It is permanently sealed now. After viewing this and talking to your kids about ancient Egypt, head into Kinnitty, where there’s a public play ground.
Roscommon – Go Fishing on the River Shannon
If you don’t own a rod (or net) borrow one from a friend and head off for a fun activity. Check the website above for safe spots to fish and if you catch anything nice, dinner will be sorted for that evening!
Sligo – Learn about Yeats together at Sligo County Museum
Yeat’s poetry might still be a little hard for your child to grasp, but they’ll love hearing about his life as they wander through this museum. Perfect to put in a few hours on a rainy day.
Tipperary – The Fairy Trail at the Town Park in Templemore
Find the Fairy Doors as you walk through the park, then finish off having a picnic, feeding the ducks and swans and hanging out at the playground.
Tyrone – Parkanaur Forest
Choose a trail that suits your abilities and wander through these gorgeous forest park. You might be lucky enough to spot some beautiful white Fallow deer. Spend some time at the wildlife pond before settling down for a picnic at the tables provided.
Waterford – Cycle the Greenway
The Waterford Greenway is 46km long so too long for most children (and a lot of adults!) to manage. However, why not choose a section of it to cycle together. Bring plenty of water and edible incentives to keep going and to give you all energy.
Westmeath – Check out the seven wonders of Fore
Explore Fore, site of a 7th Century abbey, and home of the seven wonders of Fore, including the tree that won’t burn and the water that flows uphill.
Wexford – Ballyhack Castle
Last year we holidayed in Wexford and my girls absolutely loved visiting Ballyhack Castle. As they wandered around, they imagined what life was like back in 1450 with Knights and ‘fair maidens’! The guide helped build a story around their imaginations. They got activity sheets and crafts to work on and even got to try on some clothes worn back then. Right around the corner is a Ferry that can bring you to Passage East in Waterford. It’s possible to get on without a car and if I remember, it costs less than €5 return for our family. The kids loved the short journey on the ferry and in Passage East there is a lovely play park (but no coffee shop, so bring your own if you like relaxing with a cuppa while the children.)
This is one of my children’s favourite spots. Walk through the stunning gardens with a bug viewer. It’s not a long walk but makes for an easy stroll for young children. There’s a lovely pond with a bridge where they can play pooh sticks and at the end is a picnic area. Beside the picnic benches, there’s an amazing tree whose branches swoop down to the ground. Work your way through the branches and foliage and you’ll find an amazing natural climbing frame from the inside branches. If you don’t fancy a picnic, there’s a coffee shop too.
As I’ve researched for this blog post, I’ve realised that there are lots of activities for free for kids all around Ireland. Most large towns have a play park, so if you’re bored with your local one, pack a picnic and drive to a town you haven’t been to in a while. If the weather is wet, take a trip to your local library.
I realise that I haven’t been to most of the places listed above. Please share in the comments box below any local free attractions that your kids love doing and we’ll all benefit from each other!
Have a lovely summer,