With this post, I open a new series of articles about family travel in Ireland. I have been living in beautiful Emerald Isle for over 10 years now (10 years and 2 days to be precise!) but incredibly, since I started this blog, I haven’t talked about things to do with kids here. This is most peculiar, considering how beautiful Ireland is and also that we spend our weekends scouting for great family days out near Dublin.
I guess I was a victim of the trap of considering what is faraway more interesting that what is near and now I want to fix this and dedicate to Ireland all the space it deserves.
I want these posts to be useful to families who are travelling with kids, as well as locals looking for days out in Dubln with kids, so I will review places that are a good experience for people who might not have the time to travel far from Dublin but still want to get a taste of the country.
Favourite family days out near Dublin
The old fishing village of Howth
Howth is part of Dublin but it feels a world away from the busy city centre area. It’s one of the easiest days out for families, even with young children and a great destination on a sunny afternoon. It’s a small fishing village on a hilly promontory stretching out into the Irish sea and it can be easily reached by DART, the urban train connecting Dublin city centre with the coast, car and boat (with a Dublin boat tour)
The main attractions in Howth are the fishing port, with colourful fishing boats, and the seals! The seals come to the port hoping for some fish and while you can’t be sure to see them, more often than not there will be enough fish in the water for them to make an appearance. Look for them alongside the first pier, where restaurants are.
Whenever we go to Howth, we always have a fish based lunch – my favourite place is probably ‘the bloody stream‘ just below the DART station: it has a lovely pub-like atmosphere, very cosy especially in winter. With kids, we also love ‘Crabby Jo‘ that has a nice menu and offers crayons and paper to little guests.
Please note: these are my personal recommendations and I received no compensation of any kind for this mention.
Howth is also great for a walk on the beach (just behind the DART line) or, if you have older kids, the scenic cliff walk. The cliff walk has beautiful views but is not something to do with toddlers or strollers and kids should definitely be kept very close!
Dun Laoghaire is also on the coast, just on the opposite side of the bay from Howth. It’s a lively part of town with a great artsy vibe about it and a great park here you can find a busy market on Saturdays and a playground, as well as many lunch places and shops.
The most beautiful part of Dun Laoghaire is the sea: you can stroll down the pier to the lighthouse, head to Sandycove to access the beach or even just catch the sun on the long lawn along the coastline. In the summer, you can also catch one of the passenger boats cruising the bay
You can reach Dun Laoghaire by DART and especially on a beautiful summer day the car is best avoided as parking can be crazy!
Petting farms near Dublin
Some of our best days out as a family have been visiting farms. I find farm visits one of the most fun ways to enjoy the countryside while keeping the kids entertained and the variety of locations and activities means adults can get a glimpse of the Irish landscape without compromising on fun for the kids.
One of my favourite farms is Greenan Farm, in Co. Wicklow. This is a lovely farm and it’s in a beautiful part of Wicklow, with lush hills and woods. Inside, you will find farm animals, a nature fairy trails dotted by fairy doors and animal facts, a maze and a playground. There is also a great coffee shop with lovely sandwiches, soups and home baked cakes.
Lullymore heritage park
Lullymore is another lovely farm, this time in Co Kildare (full review on the way, stay tuned). The landscape is very different from the one in Wicklow as it’s less hilly but there is plenty to do for the kids. As well as a fairy trail (organised like a treasure hunt, to do in your time – real fun) the farm has a road train, a heritage museum and an indoor and outdoor play centre.
What I found most interesting is the wetlands of the bog, typical of this part of Ireland, while the kids were mostly impressed by the playground… Still, I hope the educational value didn’t get completely lost for them!
Another gorgeous farm, Glenroe farm is in Co. Wicklow (full review coming soon). We were there on a rainy day and despite this, we loved it! It has a wonderful nature trail with a sensory garden (lovely for adults) and a secret fairy garden (amazing for all ages) and one thing that made special for the kids: the petting corner, where you can hold one some of the cutest animals: rabbits and guinea pigs.
Castles, houses and estates
One of our favourite days out on the North side of Dublin, Malahide is worth a visit for both the castle itself, its massive grounds (with lovely Avoca cafe, managed by the same people who now run Mount Usher Gardens in Wicklow) and a fabulous playground. My kids adore it, so much that I confess I never visited the castle inside as they always refused to be peeled away from the toys!
Another fantastic castle within easy reach from Dublin is Ardgillan: it boasts lovely grounds, a pleasant walk in the woods (dotted with fairy doors) and a large playground that overlooks the sea. It is a lovely place for a family day out near Dublin and the sea view makes the playground a good stop for parents as well as kids!
Not far from Argillan, the Skerries mills are a great place for adults and kids alike: the windmills look out of a farytale (or an episode of ‘Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom – do you have them on tv?) and there is a nice coffee and souvenir shop that will warm you up if visiting, like we did, on a cold winter day. Tours of the mills are available, kids are welcome.
One of my favourites is Avondale house, in Co. Wicklow: you can visit the house but the best part of it, for the kids, is its grounds. There is a playground there, but most of all a great nature walk that includes an exotic trees trail with eucalyptus trees. Really magical and the smell is just amazing!
Powerscourt house and waterfall
The Powerscourt estate has two parts: the main one with house and gardens and one with the Powerscourt waterfall. The part with the waterfall is my favourite: it’s beautiful and includes a playground so if you visit the main house, I’d suggest you do get the ticket that includes the waterfall (you can also opt to visit the waterfall only).
Top tip for families with young children:The main house has a wonderful toy museum with old school toy and a pretty impressive collection of toy cars.
Stud farm and Japanese gardens
Again in co Kildare this is a beautiful day out.The national stud farm is much more than a place to just see horses: after you visit the studs, make sure you stay in the estate for the wonderful Japanese garden, St Fiachra’s garden and of course the playground – always useful addition to any site!
Glendalough lakes and monastic site
One of my favourite sites in the whole of Ireland! An ancient monastic site, lakes, easy hikes and a cafe/restaurant where to have an earthy lunch: a busy spot but lovely in all seasons. You can read my full post about it here
Do you know the area and have other places to suggest? I’d love to hear from you in the comment or on my FB page! Click here to find me on facebook