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.
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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.
- Our recommended family hotel in Dublin City center is the Hilton Garden Inn on the Quays (our review here)
- Other family hotels in Dublin you may want to consider can be found here
- If you are from outside of town, you can follow this Dublin itinerary to see the best of the city
- Our full guide to visiting Dublin with kids is here, packed with practical tips
- Should the rain be against you, these are our pick for the best things to do in Dublin when it rains
- These are some of our favorite family friendly restaurants in Dublin
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:
- Our favorite hotel in the area is Brooklodge and Macreddin Village (find our review here)
- A family favorite for an easy walk and relaxed lunch is Glendalough
- For a multigenerational day with the grandparents, one of our top picks is having lunch and a stroll around Powerscourt Gardens
- In spring, we love to explore the wonderful Mount Usher gardens
- For a fun day our for the kids, we love Russborough house (playground, maze, falcon walks), Kilruddery House and gardens (large estate with ziplining and playground) and Greenan farm (farm animals and a fun maze)
- If you want an outlook on the many options in this area, you can find our full family guide to Wicklow here
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
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:
- This is our guide to Killarney (without driving the ring)
- This is an excellent family hotel in the city
- This is a lovely B&B we recently stayed in, with nice rooms and great welcome
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.
- When we visited, we got an airbnb near Tralee but booking com has several good options.
- This is our guide to visiting 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:
- Our hotel in the area was the Maldron hotel Oranmore, very child friendly and with a pool
- This is a guide to visiting the cliffs with young kids (yes you can, lots of area are not dangeours nor exposed)
- A fun place to visit with kids are the Ailwee caves and the attached bird of pray center
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)
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:
- The Giants causeway
- Carrick a rede bridge
- Dunluce Castle
- The dark hedges (they have a fairy village just beside, fun for kids)
- The museums of transport and the heritage center in Belfast
- You can read our full itinerary for our long weekend in Northern Ireland here
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!
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.
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.
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!
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!