We have our friend Marta, from Learning Escapes, back on the blog today to share tips on visiting Ireland with Kids. I visited Ireland with my kids about 5 years ago. It was a wonderful, welcoming country to visit with young children. Marta lives in Ireland with her 2 children and has great information for families planning to visit the country. Visit her blog for more of her family’s travel adventures.
Visiting Ireland with Kids
I have been living in Ireland for over 12 years, so you may say that I am biased when I say it is a brilliant destination for a family vacation. The fact that I am married to an Irish man and my kids are half Irish probably doesn’t help the bias, but personal reasons aside, I believe Ireland truly is magical for families!
Grownups love Irish literature, the country’s rugged landscape and the cozy atmosphere of the local pubs, while kids are sure to get excited about the many fairy walks and beautiful castles that seem created on purpose to welcome little knights and princesses in the making!
These are my best tips to make your Ireland family vacation one to remember.
Best time to visit Ireland
The best time to visit Ireland are the month between May and September, when the hours of daylight are long and the temperature mild.
The driest months are usually August and September, while the wettest and darkest months are from November to February, when at 4.30pm darkness starts to set it.
Ireland has a reputation for being very rainy and indeed, rain is a pretty common occurrence here. However, Irish weather is not as awful as many think, especially in the summer. While you will get frequent grey skies, you can expect showers more than solid rain for hours and usually it’s a light sort of rain, not the type that still allows for some sort of outside playtime if geared up with boots and jacket.
We joke that in Ireland you have 4 seasons in one day and indeed, whatever season you choose, layers are your best friend. Ireland is very windy and the weather changes frequently, so it is not unheard of to start the day with a coat, spend the central hours of the day in short sleeves and reach out for a scarf in the evening!
How to get around
Ireland is a small enough country and the best way to visit is by car. In Ireland, we drive on the left and car seats are compulsory for children up to age 12 (approx. 36 kg).
If you do not drive, a reasonably good bus network exists and bigger cities are also connected by train. If you decide not to drive, just be aware that some of Ireland’s most beautiful areas are the most remote ones, where buses and trains do not go: should you opt for public transport, my suggestions is to base yourself in Dublin or Galway’s and book local day tours form local providers.
Must see places and attractions in Ireland
Ireland is full of cultural and natural gems, many of them close enough to each other to be visited during a short vacation. I usually recommend to spend in Ireland 10 to 15 days and you can find my favourite Ireland itinerary here, covering most of the must see family friendly attractions you don’t want to miss.
All Ireland itineraries must include a stop in the Irish capital, Dublin. Located on the east coast of the country, Dublin is where most international flights arrive and it is a fantastic first stop before adventuring across the country.
The best way to visit Dublin with kids is to find accommodation in the city centre and, from here, take a stroll around town: stops not to be missed are the famous Trinity College library, home of the ancient book of Kells, Dublin castle, the old bastion of English power in Ireland, and Dublin’s beautiful parks. Make sure you stop in the playground in Merrion square, know as the Giant’s garden: here, Ireland’s elegant Government buildings overlook a large green space with a beautiful adventure playground.
You can read our guide to Dublin with kids here.
Two beautiful smaller cities worth visiting are medieval Kilkenny and Galway. Located, respectively, in the centre of Ireland and on the West coast, these two cities are the ones that most closely matched the Ireland on my imagination when I first moved here.
Medieval streets, colourful houses and the music of violins raising from the warm interiors of the traditional pubs are a normal sight here but so is a dynamic intellectual vibe: they both are an exceptional overnight stop and tend to become a visitor’s most distinctive memory.
The real beauty of Ireland, however, can be found in its nature and windswept landscapes. Probably the most famous spot of all are the cliffs of Moher, in the west of the country, tall cliffs that plunge into the Atlantic Ocean from a height of over 207 mt! They are the most visited site in Ireland and they are safe to visit with kids thanks to well manned pathways, a good visitors centre and tall fences.
The west of the country is also the home of one the country’s most famous route, the ring of Kerry. Kerry is a small peninsula stretching in to the Atlantic Ocean. The ‘ring’ is a looping road that follows its edge and that offers incredible panoramic views: the road is popular with road trippers and you can drive it all in one (long) day. It is one of the most scenic drive but it is not for the faint hearted: the road is narrow (Irish roads often are) and some bends bring you worryingly close to the cliff edge. Do not attempt if you are afraid of heights!
Ireland is said to be home of over 30.000 castles. I find this number hard to believe and I suspect many of these ‘castles’ are a little more than a pile of bricks (I have often gone of a quest for a castle to then find just a derelict wall). However, some impressive castles do exist in Ireland and are worth a visit. Two of my favourite are Dunmore castle on Three castle head and Trim castle, which you may recognise as the one where they shot ‘Braveheart’, both easy to visit even with young children in tow.
Where to stay
Ireland has a plethora of accommodation options from hotels to holiday cottages and private stays (homestays, B&Bs, airb&b). Irish people holidaying in Ireland usually select holiday cottages but for visiting families, I always recommend B&Bs of farms stays. Irish hospitality is famous and kids are adored here: staying in a private home will truly give you a sense of this hospitality and will give you the chance to speak with the (usually very chatty) locals.
Fun fact about Ireland for kids
- Ireland has 2 official languages: Gaelic (Irish) and English. Laws are issued in both languages and street signs are bilingual too. Irish kids learn Irish in school and some professions such as primary school teacher and solicitor, require proficiency in Gaelic
- The official symbol of Ireland is the harp, that you can see on Irish passports and official documents.
- Many people think the shamrock, the 3 leaf clover, is the symbol if Ireland but this is not correct. The shamrock is associated with Ireland indirectly, though St Patrick, the country’s patron saint. When converting the local population to Christianity, St Patrick’s is said to have use the shamrock as a way to teach the concept of Trinity: this connection meant the small plant quickly became associated with Ireland even if it has no official status as a symbol and is not even an Irish native species!
- Ireland is said to be the land of fairies and leprechauns, small creatures depicted as little bearded man with a coat and a large hat. Folklore tells us that they are full of mischief and are to be blamed when something goes missing or stops working! Catching a leprechaun is said to be extremely difficult but the skilled one who does catch them is then granted three wishes, in exchange for setting the leprechaun free. Should you find yourself in this lucky position, however, don’t abuse of it: leprechauns can grant wishes but also bring a lifetime of bad luck so, if you see them, thread carefully!
I hope you enjoyed my tips for visiting Ireland! You can find more travel ideas on our family travel blog.
Written by Marta of Learning Escapes