Where to go for a long weekend in Ireland? Ideas for families

lake view wicklow ireland

Where to go in Ireland for a weekend break? Long weekend break ideas for families and our selection of the best places for a weekend away in Ireland.

The bank holiday weekend is just around the corner and the travel chatter in our household is at a whole time high. What shall we do with these days off?

There are four of us in the house and each has a different idea on the best way to spend a long weekend in Ireland. 

I want to go to Cork/Westport/The West! I want to stay in Dublin!

Ideas are flying around and a decision is becoming urgent so I tacked this weekend doing what I do best: making a list of options!

These are ideas of where to go for a long weekend in Ireland. Which one would you pick?

What should I do on a long weekend in Ireland?

Our family list of the best places to go in Ireland for a long weekend.

Please note: this post contains affiliate links and, should you make a purchase through them, we might make a small commission at no extra cost to you. 

Have a ‘staycation’ in Dublin

A weekend in Dublin is always fun and a long weekend can be a great opportunity to experience the city like a tourist, even if you happen to live here.

We have been living in Dublin for over 10 years however, lately, we spent two weekends here playing tourists and it worked out great.

For these experiences, we went all out: we got a hotel, we made detailed itineraries with things to do during the day and went out for dinner. 

The first time we did it all together and the second time I did it alone with my daughter, while the men in the family went to Cork instead. 

If you think this is something that may appeal to your family, there are some resources that will help you plan a good stay.

Connect with nature in the stunning Wicklow Mountains

The Wicklow mountains have a special place in our heart.

My husband is from Co Wicklow, his family lives there and we are regular visitors at the weekend, when we like to leave the city to go and explore wilder landscapes. 

You can visit the Wicklow mountains on a day trip from Dublin but if you can spend some night here, you can venture farther afield and really connect with the beautiful walks and coastal area of this County. 

If you are thinking of heading to the Wicklow mountains for this long weekend, here are some useful resources:

Wicklow mountains landscape
View over the Wicklow Mountains

Explore Cork city and Blarney castle

My son declared last year that Cork is his favorite city in the work and since then Cork has featured heavily on our Ireland travel plans.

Indeed, a trip to Cork is a lovely idea for a family weekend away. The city itself has a great vibe and nice hotels and restaurants and the surrounding area is packed with things to do.

On their father and son trip, my two men went to cork city and to the Blackrock observatory but on family trips we also went a little farther afield. Some of our favorite things to do in the area are:

  • Explore Cork city and the Blackrock observatory
  • Take a day trip to Fota Wildlife Park (with an option to stay at their hotel and spa)
  • Explore the emigration museum in Cobh
  • Play tourist in Blarney castle (seriously, it is stunning! I avoided it for years thinking it would be a tourist trap but it is one of my favorite Irish castles now, really worth a stop!)
  • Head to stunning west cork and take the walk to beautiful Three Castle head
Blarney castle
You do not need to kiss the stone and line up for it if to enjoy Blarney. The castle and the grounds are worth a visit anyway

Relax and explore in Killarney

Killarney is one of the best-known tourist destinations in Ireland and it is really easy to understand why.

The town is lovely, colorful and well equipped with restaurants and shops, the area around it is stunning and there are several good hotels for families that make for a pleasant stay for families with kids of all ages. 

Depending on how you feel, you can drive the famous Ring of Kerry or simply take it easy in Killarney.

You can find resources that will help you make your plan here:

Killarney town

Take the time to explore the Dingle Peninsula

The Dingle peninsula is one of my favorite parts of Ireland.

We went there again with both my children and my parents last summer and the landscapes are just stunning: beaches, green spaces, colorful houses: it is a place that strikes that perfect balance between welcoming and remote the West of Ireland does so well.

Colorful corner of Dingle town with flowers and blue shop
Colorful Dingle

Visit the Cliffs of Moher and surrounding area

The Cliffs of Moher are maybe an obvious destination but I love them and always marvel at their majestic size.

During the day they get crazy busy with tourists but no matter how crowded they get, I still think their beauty shines though. 

I love making a stop at the cliffs anytime we go West. Some resources and things we like doing int he are area:

Cliffs of Moher, Ireland
Even on a cold, wet day, the cliffs are so worth visiting!

Venture up to Donegal 

If I was to pick on part of Ireland that takes my breath away every time I go, it would be Donegal. I love the vast beaches of this corner of the country, the screaming birds, the lighthouses: it feels a million miles away from everything but actually, all is very accessible if you are willing to drive!

During our last weekend in Donegal we loved:

  • Derry (which is not in Donegal but is in the area and worth a visit)
  • Malin Head, which is fun to explore by bike too
  • Fanad Head, which has a fabulous lighthouse
  • Slieve League cliffs, a surprising underrated by tourists yet stunning place 

As a base, we chose Donegal town and we stayed in the Abbey Hotel, which is excellent, right on the main square and with a lovely bar and restaurant on site (family friendly)

Donegal beach, Ireland
Donegal has some of the most beautiful beaches in Ireland

Explore Northern Ireland

We went to Northern Ireland in May and it was, to date, one of our most successful short trips of all.

We perched ourselves in the excellent Hilton Templepatrick Hotel (you can find our review here) and we spent two days exploring the areas. We saw:

Coastal view from Carrick a Rede bridge, over very blue sea
I know it looks like the Caribbeans but this is the Antrim coast in Northern Ireland

Stay in a castle

A stay in an Irish castle is a very popular way of experiencing Ireland for tourists and now that we have done it, we can see why!

Waterford castle hotel in Ireland with pink flowers in front

Ireland has some lovely castles open to the visitors and they come in all shapes and sizes as well as level of elegance and budget.

If you can and want to go all out, you can stay in castles such as Ashford or Dromoland but if you prefer to keep the budget in check, there are several more affordable alternatives (some very nice!).

We stayed in Waterford castle for a  weekend, which was surprisingly affordable and also has nice self catering apartments, should you prefer, but we have researched extensively other options and came up with a full list of family friendly castles in Ireland you can stay in.

You can find our full list of great castles to stay in Ireland  here.

Enjoy Kilkenny

One of our favorite day trips from Dublin and a city that is super easy to enjoy with kids, especially if you have a few days to make it your base, is Kilkenny.

My kids love it because of the large castle grounds and the playground, I love it because of its lively streets and ancient architecture and we all love it because of its good family friendly hotels.

Kilkenny castle, front view with lawns and turrets
Kilkenny castle as seen from its front garden. The grounds extend to the back of the castle with stunning lawns

Relax in a family hotel

As much as I like exploring, sometimes the best way to spend a long weekend is simply taking it easy and for this, there is nothing better than picking a good family hotel where all you need to do is roll from your bed, to the breakfast room, to the swimming pool

If this is what you are after, I hear you! 

You can find my list of favorite family hotels in Ireland for a relaxing weekend here 

Go camping

I leave camping to close the list as this is a controversial topic in our family as some of us love camping no matter what, while some of us only love camping in 40 degrees and sunny weather (that would be me). 

Despite my mixed feelings about camping in Ireland, if you get a good weekend or don’t mind the weather, there are some good options. 

  • A great one for kids is Lough key forest park, which also has kids activities
  • A nice laid back and eco friendly option is Pure camping in County Clare
  • If you prefer more structured accommodation such as a yurt, we stayed in the Inch hideaway in Cork which had a lovely Mongolian yurt that got my approval after it kept us warm and dry in an awful storm
  • For a close to Dublin option, we love going to the silver strand in Wicklow: the morning with nobody around is wonderful there

I hope you enjoyed this list and it helped you decide where to go in Ireland for a long weekend. Safe travels!

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