While Ireland might not boast some of the gaudier tourist attractions you’ll find in other countries, its wealth of mythology, beautiful countryside and unique activities means there’s loads of stuff to keep the whole family entertained. Venture into the mysteries of ancient castles or trek across the landscape on horseback and find yourself transported to another time – and at the end of the day, everyone can head back and enjoy staying at one of our fantastic holiday homes in Ireland, and you can even rent your own castle so the whole family can feel like royalty!
1. Go ball crazy at Experience Gaelic Games
Why go: If you’ve got a family of sports nuts with a whole lot of energy to burn then you could do a lot worse than enrolling in this course, where you’ll learn how to play some of Ireland’s ancient sports. You might dabble with fast-paced hurling, which uses a paddle-shaped stick and ball, or try your hand at Gaelic football, perhaps best described as regular football, rugby and basketball all rolled into one. As well as picking up some handy ball skills, you and the family will also hear about the role of these sports in Ireland’s rich history, plus be pitched against one another in a ‘friendly’ match. You’ll come away mentally and physically exhilarated.
Book: Online at experiencegaelicgame
Location: Various, Dublin, Cork and Galway
2. Kayak around Dingle Harbour with Irish Adventures
Why go: Novices and experts alike can enjoy this wonderful kayaking trip around Dingle Harbour, on the South West coast of the beautiful County Kerry. It’s an ideal introduction for young first-time paddlers and adults will relish the out-at-sea experience and stunning views of the multi-hued Irish houses. Little ones will love the brightly-coloured fishing boats that bob in the harbour and you may be lucky enough to see the famous Fungi, a friendly bottlenose dolphin. Children need to be over eight years to participate, and those between eight and 12 will share a kayak with an adult.
Book: Call +353 87 419 0318 or Book online at Irishadventures
Location: Dingle, Co. Kerry, Ireland
3. Spot whales out at sea on a Cork Whale Watch
Why go: Surely high on any family holiday wish list would be to spot a whale roving the thrashing ocean, and off the coast of Cork, this dream could be a reality for your brood. This adventurous trip is likely to create the kind of holiday memories you’ve always longed for, as you tick fin, minke and humpback whale off your to-see list. Be warned though, this excursion is not for the faint-hearted: it lasts up to four-five hours and there is no guarantee that you will see a whale (although you could well see dolphins or basking sharks instead). If you’re willing to take your chances though, this could be a winner for any wannabe naturalist.
Book: Trips run April-November Call +535 (o)86 3850568 or Online Corkwhalewatch
Location: Cork Whale Watch, Reen Pier, Near Union Hall, Co. Cork, Ireland
4. Fire up your family’s imaginations on a Boyne Valley Tour
Why go: Just north of Dublin is an area known as Ireland’s Ancient East. During a private, bespoke tour of the lush Boyne Valley area, you and your family will navigate some 5,000 years of history as your little ones get to grips with a heritage that includes pagan gods, sword fights, and magic. Knowledgeable guides bring the ruinous castles, spooky graveyards and bizarre rock formations to life by recounting captivating tales and legends associated with the region.
Location:Unit 44 Guinness enterprise centre, Taylors lane, Dublin 8, Ireland
Book: Call +353 1 410 0700
5. Get in the saddle at Dartfield House Museum
Why go: The brilliant thing about Dartfield Horse Museum and Heritage Centre is that it has options to suit both gung-ho and more timid kids. Located near not-to-be-missed Galway, Dartfield attracts families who want to ride an Irish pony around the undulating parkland. Those less confident in the saddle can have a carriage ride or get to know some other farm animals. Falconry displays make an entertaining addition to an afternoon at Dartfield. If you get caught in one of Ireland’s signature rain showers, you can head to the museum to admire the brightly-coloured horse carriages and farm machinery, which is guaranteed to cheer up restless tots.
Location: Dartfield Horse Museum & Heritage Centre Kilrickle, Loughrea, Co. Galway
Book: Call 091 843968
6. Ride the rollers at Ben’s Surf Clinic
Why go: After you’ve admired the majestic ocean from the famous Cliffs of Moher, been out for the day on the foamy peaks whale-spotting and cable car-ed across it to Dursey Island, there’s nothing for it now but to get your wetsuits on, grab a board and catch some waves. Based on Lahinch beach on the west coast of Ireland, Ben’s surf clinic is on hand to ensure you and your family learn the basics easily and safely. Top instructors will promptly have the family out on foam boards in baby waves. Progression is encouraged so after a few sessions you could be out the back waiting for the next big roller to give you a smooth ride to shore. Be aware that the water can get very cold so little ones may want to opt for a shorter session.
Location: Promenade, Co. Clare, Ireland
Book: Online Benssurfclinic
7. Get sticky at Butler’s Chocolate Experience
Why go: There’s one thing that will always put a smile on your child’s face: chocolate. At Butler’s Chocolate Experience just outside Dublin, you can release your inner Willy Wonka. You and your family will explore the factory and find out why Butler’s is Ireland’s favourite chocolatier. Tours include a chocolate movie, a glimpse at the factory production and, of course, ample tasters. At the end each child has the opportunity to hand paint a chocolate to take home (if it makes it that far). It is definitely advisable to book early to avoid (your child’s) disappointment.
Location: Butlers Chocolates, Clonshaugh Business Park, Dublin 17
Book: Online butlerschocolates
But the inspiration doesn’t end there! Our blog is full of fantastic suggestions of brilliant things you and the whole family can enjoy, so why not read up on 5 great ways to spend a weekend in Ireland or take a look at some of the best things to do in Ireland for grown ups. Picked one that you like? Get in touch with our concierge team and they’ll answer all your questions and help you to book a magical place to stay.