Our expert guide to the best things to do in Ireland with kids of all ages. From castles to ziplining adventures and surfing opportunities, these are 50 cool and unique things that make Ireland a great family destination
The island of Ireland in an incredibly family friendly destination. Famous for its stunning green scenery and friendly attitude towards visitors, the country is safe, beautiful and rich in cultural traditions that capture the imagination of travellers of all ages.
From fairy trails, to hikes and historical sites, this is our selection of cool and unique things to do in Ireland for the whole family!
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50+ awesome things to do in Ireland with kids (includes Northern Ireland)
Cycle to Ireland’s most Northerly point
Malin head, in Co Donegal, is the most northerly headland in mainland Ireland and wonderful to visit at all ages.
The land here stretches gently into the treacherous waves of the Atlantic Ocean and touches the highest latitude at Bamba’s crown, a spot named after the Irish mythological queen Banba.
Malin head is easy to access by car but the most scenic way to visit is by bike.
You can find bicycles for rent in the area for both adults and kids (6 years of age and up) and bike trailers and tag along are available for families with younger kids.
Explore the second most beautiful beach in the word
Donegal has some of the most amazing beaches in Ireland and, according to some sources, it is home to the second best beach in the world: Ballymastocker!
The beach is indeed stunning and has some gorgeous golden sand perfect for playing.
Make sure you wrap up even in summer: while the sand is golden and inviting, the wind can be strong here and the water is never warm!
Visit the tallest sea cliffs in Europe at Slieve League
Slieve League cliffs in con Donegal are the tallest accessible cliffs in Europe and one the most beautiful corners of the whole in Ireland.
Less famous than the well known cliffs of Moher, Slieve League cliffs plunge into the ocean from 601 metres (1,972 ft) and are easily accessible by people of all ages and most levels of fitness thanks to a large paved road. The best way to visit is park the car at the lower car park and head up: the walk offers beautiful views leading up to a viewing platform.
In summer, your walking efforts will be rewarded by the presence of an ice cream truck on top!
Hear Gaelic in the Gaeltacht
Ireland is a bilingual country and its original language is Gaelic. Gaelic is still the main language of the law, it is taught in school and it is very much alive in some parts of the country called Gaeltacht.
One of the most scenic and atmospheric of these areas in Donegal, especially around Fanad head.
Cycle the Western Greenway to Achill island
The great Western Greenway is the longest off-road walking and cycling trail in Ireland and brings you from the lovely town of Wesport to Achill island and its stunning beaches.
This is a pleasant, flat part of the country easy to enjoy with kids too. Wesport is a lovely town and well served by the train system and local hotels and B&Bs, perfect for a family stay.
Stay in a farmhouse in Connemara
Connemara, in the West of Ireland , is one of the most atmospheric areas of the country and a great place to experience the famous Irish hospitality.
Book a a farm stay for you and your kids and let them get acquainted with the farm house dogs, cats, chickens and ponies for a real break from city life but make sure you come prepared with wellington boots and a waterproof layer: the weather in this part of the country tends to be temperamental even in summer!
Visit a castle, turned abbey, turned school at Kylemore Abbey
Kylemmore Abbey is one of the most photographed buildings in the whole of Ireland and one of the country’s most famous. Built in 1868 as a castle, in 1929 it changed use and became an abbey, home to a group of Benedictine nuns escaping from Belgium.
The nuns ran it as a school for girls, surely one of the most scenic school in the country if not in Europe!
Discover the lunar landscape of the Burren
The Burren is an area in the West of Ireland characterized by very peculiar rock formations. Here, the land is covered by vast blocks of limestone with large cracks in between them that give the area an otherworldly, almost lunar aspect.
The best way to experience the Burren is to base yourself in the area and explore by car or bus, which will save you from driving along small albeit beautiful country roads.
Experience total darkness in the Ailwee Caves
Did you ever wonder what complete darkness looks and feels like? This is exactly what you can learn visiting the Ailwee Caves, in the west of Ireland.
The caves are a peculiarity of the Burren landscapes and can be visited with guided tours. The tour is suitable for adults and kids alike (no strollers, bring a carrier) and the visit culminates in a moment when the lights are turned off to experience what total darkness is. Very powerful!
Get into falconry at National Birds of Prey Centres
Ireland has a love affair with falconry and it is easy to partake of this passion. Several locations offer falconry experiences ranging from flying displays to full falcon walks.
One of the best ways to experience this sport tradition is to stay in a castle offering family activities that include falcon walks.
A place we love for this is Russborough house, near Dublin and an exceptionally scenic one is elegant Ashford Castle, in Co Mayo which offers family friendly accommodation in stunning castle surroundings.
The combination of the castle experience and the falconry makes a stay in Ashford castle one of the best things to do in Ireland with kids.
Take an iconic photo at the famous cliffs of Moher
It is the most famous view of the whole of the country and one you don’t have to miss if visiting with young kids or if you have anyone in your party afraid of heights!
The cliffs of Moher are well equipped for visitors and can be safely visited at all ages, if staying (as you should) on the manned part of the path. Try visit late in the afternoon for fewer crowds.
Cycle around the whole of Inisheer
Adults and kids alike can cycle along the perimeter of the smallest of the Aran islands, Inisheer.
The island is tiny and scenic, it has a beautiful lighthouse and allows you to see the Cliffs of Moher from across the water.
The best way to explore the island is staying the night. While not particularly equipped for families, this is a great place to get away from it all and experience the quietness of a small island in the middle of the Atlantic. Families with small children may prefer a trip to one of the bigger islands, better equipped for tourism and still beautiful.
Listen to live music in Galway
Live music is never far away in Ireland and a great place to listen to it is the university town of Galway, on Ireland’s West Coast.
Stroll along Shop Street, Galway’s main thoroughfare or head into a pub (child friendly, during the day) for live performances of traditional and current pieces.
Go surfing in Lahinch
Ireland is a fabulous surfing spot and one of the best places to experience Ireland’s swell is Lahinch, on the West coast of the country. Here, surfers of all levels can take to the water, alone or under the wing of one of the local surfing schools.
Visit Fungie the dolphin in Dingle
Animal lovers should not miss the opportunity to pay a visit to Fungi, Ireland’s beloved dolphin!
Fungie lives in the waters in front of the Dingle peninsula and special cruises are arranged for visitors of all ages to see him in its natural habitat. He is exceptionally friendly and made its home in Dingle over 20 years ago!
Pay a visit to the black Kerry cows
Maybe less agile than Fungie but nonetheless unique to this part of the country are the Kerry cows. They are a special breed native to Ireland and they are considered the most ancient type of cow in Europe.
You can see them in Kerry, the area they are names after, and you can recognize them because of their almost entirely black coat.
Spotting them from the car is a family favourite while driving the fabulous ring of Kerry (click here for our guide to the area).
Learn about ancient rural Ireland in Muckross house
Travelling around Ireland with the help of GPS technology and data at our fingertips, it is easy to forget how recent these developments are. In Muckross house you can take a step back in time and experience what Ireland was like at the start of last century. Get acquainted with traditional jobs and housing and discover how Irish kids experienced school in the 1830s!
Experience a medieval banquet in Bunratty Castle
Bunratty castle is is the most complete and authentic medieval castle in Ireland. Built in 1425 and restored in 1954, the castle has elegant interiors recreating the mood of the 15th and 16th century and treats is guests to something special: a full medieval banquet to experience life in the castle in times of splendor! The banquet is child friendly.
Catch the only cable car above open seawater
How do you cross a turbulent stretch of water? But by cable car, of course! Dursey Island, in the west of Ireland is separated from the mainland by a temperamental stretch of sea water and the best way to reach it is by cable car. The gondola connects the island to the mainland with regular rides and holds a record: it is the only cable car crossing open sea water in the whole of Europe.
Take a hike to 3 Castle Head
One of the most scenic spots in the whole of Ireland is Three Castle Head, a small promontory in West Cork home of the impressive Dunlogh Castle. The castle can be reached with a short hike, its ruins sit on the shores of a lake and its tower is said to be haunted! A perfect place to experience legendary Ireland.
Learn about Irish diaspora in Cobh
Emigration plays a huge role in the history of Ireland and nowhere like in Cobh it hits home what it must feel like, to leave family behind and face the unknown to make a living. The emigration museum in Cobh is suitable for all ages and is a great piece of living history. It ties in with the lives of many and with the dramatic stories of the Lusitania and the Titanic, who has Cobh as a last stop before facing its fatal journey.
Get the gift of the gab kissing the Blarney stone
One of the most famous localities in the whole of Ireland is Blarney, a small town in Co Cork famous for its impressive castle as its legendary stone.
According to the legend, if you bend over backwards (literally) and kiss the stone, you will get ‘the gift of the gab’, meaning you will be exceptionally eloquent.
Kissing the stone requires you to bend over across a tall tower and is unsuitable for young kids or people afraid of heights. However, it is still worth visiting the castle for its scenic ruins, grounds and the fabulous poison garden.
Visit the animals in Fota
Did you know you had cheetahs in Ireland? They are not in the wild, as you can imagine, but they do live on the southerns coast of Ireland in the safe enclosures of Fota wildlife park.
Fota is a favourite with kids and families from all over Ireland and abroad visit for the day or buying family packages with park entrance + hotel stay in the park resort or other hotels in the area such as the Clayton Silver Springs
Admire the powerful Rock of Cashel
One of the most scenic ancient sites in Ireland is the Rock of Cashel, in County Tipperary.
The rock of Cashel is an ancient fortress perched on a hill overlooking the town by the same name.
It sits on a high hill overlooking the otherwise flat land and immediately casts on the visitor a sense of power and might. Legends report this is where St Patrick converted the kings of Munster to Christianity and all it takes is to cast your eyes on this ancient fort to see why legends blossomed around it. It looks truly unique.
The rock is enclosed by high walls and it is made of a Gothic cathedral, a chapel and a round tower.
Visit the oldest operational lighthouse at Hook Head
At the very top of Hook Head in Co Wexford, Hook head lighthouse holds the record for being the oldest operational lighthouse in the country and the second oldest in the whole world! The lighthouse is open to visitors and you can climb all the way to its viewing platform for great views over the sea in front.
Climb to the top of Trim Castle
Mel Gibson fans may recongise Trim Castle from the scenes of Braveheart since, to the surprise of many, the Scottish saga was filmed in Ireland!
More than that: 4 of the castle appearing in the movie, including the inside of the tower of London, were actually Trim. The castle is great to visit and you can climb all the way to the top for beautiful views over the surrounding landscape.
The climb is unsuitable for those afraid of heights but surprisingly child friendly once of top because of the high railings (caution if of course recommended regardless)
Discover the biggest telescope in Europe at Birr Castle
Not many realise that Ireland, for a long time, was an important centre for astronomic discoveries. Birr castle in County Offaly is the home of what used to be the biggest telescope in Europe.
It is still located in the grounds of the castle and it is a sight to behold even now that its technology is surpassed. A visit to Birr castle is one of the best things to do in Ireland with kids also because of the castle playground equipped with bouncy hill, a hobbit house and the biggest tree house in the country!
Explore Strongbow’s castle in Kilkenny
The beautiful city of Kilkenny graces most Irish itineraries and with a beautiful castle, a stunning cathedral and a lively main steer, it is easy to see why!
With kids, make sure you take the time to explore its beautiful castle and learn the history of Strongbow, its founder, before letting off steam in the castle garden playground.
Go Kayaking on the river Nore
A fun way to experience the Irish landscapes to kayak along one of Ireland’s rivers such as the river Nore, which crosses Kilkenny. River kayaking experiences are offered by local operators and they are a fun day out for all ages:bring a picnic!
Learn about the ancient monastic centre of Clonmacnoise
For centuries, Ireland was a in important centre of monastic life and one of its most important localities was Clonmacnoise, a vast monastic centre along the river Shannon. Clonmacnoise is open to visitors and it is a very interesting site to discover the scale and importance of monasticism in Ireland and in Europe for culture and trade.
Explore the monastic site of Glendalough
Glendalough monastic site sits amidst the beautiful Wicklow mountains in the east of Ireland. The site is a place of incredible natural beauty and can be visited by travellers of all ages, including very young kids and families with strollers.
Two things are truly special here: the beauty of the valley and the monastic settlement dating back to medieval times.
Don’t miss in particular the round tower, a type of building typical to this part of the world and whose origin and use has puzzled historians for decades.
Hike to the very top of a mountain in Co Wicklow
How would it feel to climb all the way to the top of a mountain and look at the Irish sea below? You can find out in Co Wiklow, where you can hike all the way to the top of the Sugar Loaf, one of the area’s most pointy yet accessible peaks. This is one of the many family friendly activities in beautiful County Wicklow.
Visit Parnell’s house in Avondale
A great way to mix a cultural visit with children fun is to pay a visit to Avondale House. Sitting amidst wide lawns and native woodlands, Avondale house is famous for being Parnell’s home and is now a museum open to the public.
On its grounds, now you can find a nice coffee shop, nature walks and a fabulous playground perfect for even very small kids. It’s the perfect place for a picnic and a great day trip from Dublin.
Take your time exploring Powerscourt House and Gardens
A stunning hotel, beautiful Italian style gardens and a cafe expect families in Powerscourt, one of the mos beautiful estates in the whole of the country. A favourite day out for local families and a famous landmark for visitors, a visit to Powerscourt is one of our favourite things to do in Ireland with kids and grandparents as it is easy to enjoy at all ages.
Visit the stunning Mount Usher Gardens
Take a break from it all and spend one afternoon in the wonderful Mount Usher Gardens, in County Wicklow. Equipped with a family friendly restaurant on site and quaint shops, mount usher gardens are an example of Robinsonian gardens and are one of the most beautiful corners of Ireland.
Take a Cliff walk in Howth
Just to the north of Dublin city centre sits the charming fishing village of Howth.
On a sunny day, local families flock here to enjoy a meal of fresh fish from the market, make friends with the local seals in the harbour and to take a walk along the coastal path of Howth head, offering lovely views over Dublin bay.
Visit the Neolitcal sites of Newgrange
There is something powerful and mysterious about prehistoric sites and Newgrange makes no exception.
The complex of Newgrange is listed in the Unesco list of work heritage sites and it is indeed special: the tombs here appear like large man made hills but hide a secret. In Newgrange, a small aperture on the roof is positioned in such a way that a ray of light comes in exactly at the time of the winter solstice.
The Brú na Bóinne monuments, as they are officially named because of their location in the Boyne Valley, represent the largest and most important expression of prehistoric megalithic plastic art in Europe.
Visit Trinity College Long Room and the book of Kells
Trinity college is a sister university to Oxford and Cambridge and a wonderful campus to visit.
Its most impressive corner is the long room, Trinity’s old library. The room is covered in books from floor to ceiling and holds a copy of each booked published in the country!
Trinity is also the home of the book of Kells, a manuscript dating back to monastic times with incredible drawings and decorations crafted with unbelievable craftsmanship.
You can find additional information about Trinity college and why we considering it one of the not to be missed things to do in Ireland with kids here
Learn how Guinness is made in the Guinness storehouse
Kids cannot drink Guinnes because of its alcohol content but a visit to the brewery and storehouse is fun for all ages. The Guinness storehouse is in Dublin and the tour ends in the gravity bar, which has a 360 degrees view over the city
When visiting, take the time to also explore the small alleys around the factory as they are peculiar to this part of Dublin.
Learn the history of the Irish republic in Dublin castle
To learn why Ireland is bilingual and the country’s complex history, there is no better place than Dublin castle. Once the seat of the British rule in Ireland, this castle tells the story of the British occupation of the country and the events that lead to its end and is now an elegant backdrop for State events.
Explore your Irish heritage in the Epic Ireland exhibition
Do you have Irish origins? You can discover if you have family connections with Ireland in the Epic Ireland genealogy centre: here you can learn about the history of the Irish diaspora and trace your history back to your Irish ancestors.
Hop aboard a famine ship
Nothing brings home how hard it must have been to flee Ireland at the time of the family as stepping onto a family ship, the small vessels that used to sail across the Atlantic to bring people to what they hope would be a better life or even just survival.
You can visit a family ship in the heart of Dublin: the Jeany Johnston is anchored in front of the Epic Ireland exhibition and carries memory of an important piece of Irish history (and not only).
Admire Irish horses at the National Stud Centre
Ireland has a love affair with horses and a great place to see the country’s best is to visit the National stud centre in Kildare.
Here you can come up close and personal with the studs and also explore some of the centre stunning gardens including the impressive Japanese gardens.
Look for fairies on Ireland’s fairy walks
Ireland is said to be the land of fairies and leprechauns, small creatures depicted as little bearded men with a coat and large hats.
Their stories fill Irish legends and folklore, sometimes with scary and child-unfriendly behaviours. However, in recent years several locations have embraced the Irish fairy tradition creating fairy trails kids can follow and enjoy without fear.
These are paths in parklands and woods with small fairy doors hidden in bushes and trees: a great treat for little kids.
The latest we visited was in Russborough House but there are several around the country, usually in manor houses or castle grounds.
Go Ziplining in Ireland’s adventure centres
Outdoorsy and adventurous kids will be delighted to hear Ireland has several adventure parks offering tree top adventures, ziplining opportunities and more. Age restrictions apply but many are open to even small children who can zipline along the lower sections of the network.
The most recent we tried was in Kilruddery house and in Lough Key forest park which also operates as a well equipped, family friendly playground.
Visit the Game of Thrones famous Dark Hedges
Game of Throne fans will love a visit to the dark hedges, a road framed by incredibly atmospheric and ghost like trees.
The road is scenic and families with young children can enjoy a small fairy village just beside it, which makes a visit to this part of the country one of our all time favourite things to do in Ireland with kids. You can read our road trip report here.
Walk on the Giants causeway
One of the most impressive sites in the whole if the island of Ireland is the Giants causeway.
The causeway is equipped with a large visitors centre that teaches you its history and origin and it is an incredible site to visit at any age. Several paths allow you access to the causeway and the coastline above, some suitable for children and others only to experiences hikers.
The one along the coast is suitable for all levels of fitness and is served by a shuttle bus.
You can read how to visit the Giants Causeway and our favourite itinerary in Northern Ireland here.
Walk across a rope bridge
Would you walk across a rope bridge dangling 30 metres above sea waters?
If the answer is yes, then head to Carric-a-rede bridge, on the Antrim coast! The bridge is an impressive site. It is not suitable for young children or people who are afraid of heights because of its exposed position across sea waters.
However, it is worth seeing and you can enjoy it even without stepping on it! The path towards the bridge is safe and suitable also for young kids (some steps towards the end, if you are visiting with a stroller) and the views spectacular.
Learn about Irish history with a tour of Belfast
Brexit and the recent developments in UK and European history made more relevant than ever the long history of the relationship between what are now the republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
To learn about it, there is no better way that n to take a tour of Belfast. Several types are available (bus or taxi).
Learn about the Titanic in Belfast
The Titanic set sail from Southampton but its body was built in Belfast, where you can visit the shipyard where the the ship was born. The Titanic shipyard is an interesting site and you can easily visit with kids too.
Take a walk along the Derry’s walls
The historical city of Derry still retains its original fortifications and it is nowadays possible to take a walk on the wall themselves and look at the city from above.
The walls follow almost the whole of the city’s perimeter and make the perfect itinerary to see some of Derry’s most impressive sites. Make sure you don’t miss the city’s significant murals, the city’s cathedral and the Reconciliation bridge, just beside one of the city gates.
Feel like royalty spending one night in a castle
Ireland is home to thousands of castle and spending the night in one is, for many visitors, one of the highlight of their Irish vacation.
If you want to feel like royalty and bring the kids along, make sure you pick a castle hotel that is welcoming to kids. You can find our handpicked selection our guide to family friendly castle hotels in Ireland.
I hope you enjoyed this list of cool and unique things to do in Ireland with kids. Safe family travels!