Guide to visiting Wicklow with kids: things to do for families, best family hotels in Wicklow, tips for visiting.
County Wicklow doesn’t often appear in travel itineraries in Ireland.
Some of its most famous landmarks get mentions as suggested day trips from Dublin, but the spotlight is firmly on the Irish capital and the West of the country with their, respectively, vibrant urban scene and wild coastal scenery.
However, the few who do make their way to Wicklow and take the time to discover this county never fail to fall in love with it and usually refer to it as one of the most pleasant discoveries of the whole trip.
We know Co Wicklow well.
Philip, my husband, is from there and Wicklow is where his parents still live. Weekend trips to visit them are frequent and, whenever we go, we make a point of turning the day in an excursion.
Over the course of the years, we have visited many of Wicklow’s most beautiful corners and taken many wonderful family hikes in and near the Wicklow Mountains. In this guide, I am going to share our favourites.
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Where is Co Wicklow, Ireland
Wicklow is the county located immediately to the South of Dublin.
It stretches from just South of the capital all the way to the town of Arklow and encompasses much of Ireland’s most beautiful scenery.
Its coastline is varied, with some beautiful sandy beaches and rugged rocky heads, while the inside of the county is crowned by the Wicklow mountains, covered by a blanket of forests crossed by hiking trails.
Exploring Wicklow: Top things to do in Wicklow with kids
Wicklow is a very family-friendly part of the country.
County Wicklow’s nickname is ‘the garden of Ireland’ and this definition expresses well some of the characteristics of this area.
Gentle sloping hills, quaint villages and a relaxed atmosphere are in stark contrast with the wild and remote nature of the West and are easy to enjoy for families looking for a beautiful and well-served area.
The landscape is serene (‘pristine’ is the word of choice here), the attractions numerous and the roads well kept.
Whether you are staying a weekend or a week, you won’t run out of things to do in Wicklow!
The Wicklow landscape is dominated by the Wicklow Mountains National Park, the largest of Ireland’s 6 National Parks and the only one in the East of the country.
The highest peak of the range is Lugnaquilla but the beauty of the park doesn’t lie in rugged mountain scenery (Lugnaquilla is 925 meters, the Wicklow Mountains don’t break any records in terms of altitude!) but, rather, in the vast and pleasant forests coating these rounded peaks.
Hikers will find a plethora of trails in this area (the famous Wicklow Way) but many spots are family-friendly and can be enjoyed with little ones and, sometimes, even with a stroller in tow!
If you love hiking, you can find a good list of child-friendly hikes in Wicklow on the local website Wicklow Walks.
Of the several mentioned, we are particularly fond of the Devil’s Glen, an easy walk with a path dotted with interesting art, the Bray to Greystones coastal walk and the walk from Crone, which crosses nice woods before offering a view over the cascading waters of Powerscourt Waterfall.
For scenery, you don’t get better views than the ones from the Sally Gap, one of the two East to West passes across the Wicklow mountains.
Reachable by car through a rather narrow but well-paved road, the Sally Gap is an impressive site both in summer and winter (in winter, do check for road conditions as it often gets snow).
The pass got its road after the Irish rebellion of 1798 and its name, the ‘Military Road’ bears witness to that time. If you are interested in Irish history, I highly recommend a stop in Glencree, an ‘Irish peace and reconciliation centre dedicated to transforming violent conflict and building peace’.
Glencree is not, as such, a place to visit with young kids but if you are in the area, it is worth a visit and the coffee shop makes it easy for parents to take turns watching the exhibition upstairs.
My favourite place of all here is Lough Tay. This small lake is to be seen, rather than experienced, as it is located on private land owned by the Guinness family. It is referred to, by locals, as ‘the Guinness lake’ and while you may think this comes from the proprietors of the land around it, this is only partially correct.
The reason for the name is the very peculiar colour of the lake: it has dark waters surrounded by white shores, the colours of the perfect pint of Guinness!
As I mentioned, the lake can only be admired from above (last time we checked, you needed to obtain permission to access it), but nearby it is possible to go on a simple hike to another lake that is fully accessible, Lough Dan.
The walk to Lough Dan is beautiful and easy even for kids. It starts with a rather steep, paved road which is indeed pretty tiring when done uphill, but is for the most part flat.
During the walk, you hike along a fence opening up to wide loans where you can spot groups of wild deer. It’s a wonderfully secluded spot. No food establishments are here so make sure you pack a picnic.
The walk to Lough Dan is one of my favorite things to do in Ireland with kids as it is easy, scenic and full opportunities to watch wildlife. It is also a good place to experience Ireland off the beaten path: you will find locals here but hardly ever foreign visitors.
Discover medieval Ireland
Another gorgeous spot to enjoy in the Wicklow mountains is Glendalough and the valley of the two lakes.
Glendalough is the part of Wicklow tourists usually know about and this is because of the important and beautiful lakeside monastic site it hosts (many day tours from Dublin come here).
St Kevin lived here and walking across his dwellings is a memorable experience with plenty of photos ops!
What makes a visit to Glendalough one of the most enjoyable things to do in Wicklow with kids are the easy hikes around the lakes.
Flat and stroller friendly, they go around the lower and upper lake and are a favourite family spot for picnics (if you prefer a hot meal, the Glendalough Hotel on site serves lunch).
You can read our here all our tips about visiting Glendalough with kids
Go to the beach
In the summer, Wicklow becomes a favourite destination for sunbathers.
I know, this comes as a surprise as Ireland is usually known for foggy, rainy days but we do get some gorgeous summer days here too and, when we do, we all go to Brittas Bay, Wicklow!
The beach here is sandy and wide and perfect for sandcastle building.
Locals do also bathe but, personally, I have never tried: blame it on me being Italian (as my family always does) but the Irish sea is equally stunning and freezing!
Farms and estates in Wicklow
Wicklow has many family-friendly farms and estates perfect for days out with the kids.
Farms and country estates are one of the things I often mention when giving tips for visiting Ireland with kids: they are fun for little children and usually also have pleasant restaurants for parents to enjoy.
Powerscourt House and gardens
One of the most famous estates in the area is Powerscourt, known for its award-winning grounds made of Italian gardens, a fabulous pond, Japanese gardens and a beautiful waterfall.
The estate has a lovely Avoca restaurant, craft shops and toy museums and often hosts family-friendly events (Santa usually stops here over Christmas).
You can read here our full Powerscourt gardens review
One of my kids favourite estates in the whole of Ireland, Russborough is a short drive from Dublin.
The estate has a beautiful manor house, a fantastic playground, a maze, fairy trails and a falconry centre.
It also hosts a cafe and restaurant: it is my go-to place for a day out with the kids and can be visited in a day or even just for the afternoon thanks to its proximity to Dublin.
You can read here our full review of Russborough House Wicklow with kids
For a multigenerational day out, I always recommend Killruddery.
This estate has beautiful tearooms and formal gardens but also a working farm, often hosting family events.
We were there last at Halloween, when they had a pumpkin patch and kids activities, but their calendar is full of events and almost every weekend there is are kid-friendly workshops worth attending.
Just outside the estate, there is a zip lining course open to kids and adults alike that will jeep the most adventurous happy!
Greenan Farm and Maze
If your kids are into animals and fairy trails, they are bound to love Greenan farm (review here).
Here you have a lovely café serving coffee, cake and light meals, a fairy trail, a playground, a farm, a small country life museum and the star of the show: a maze!
Another farm kids are bound to love is Glenroe Farm.
What makes this place special is the petting farm (you can cuddle rabbits!), a large grassy playground and a gorgeous secret garden where you can be pretty sure to spot fairies and elves (or at least the little doors to their magical homes)
Avondale house is famous for being the home of Charles Stewart Parnell, one of the leading figures in Irish history.
What we love about Avondale is the beautiful land around it. Just to the back of the main house, you have a large playground, lovely nature walks and an arboretum with unusual trees worth seeing.
The presence of eucalyptus trees make this corner of the estate fragrant: make sure you get your kids to stop and notice that – my two always get so surprised that you can discover a place with your nose and not just your eyes!
Clara Lara Fun Park
We discovered Clara Lara almost by chance, during one of our Sunday drives.
It is called a fun park but I prefer to describe it as an adventure playground.
They have climbing frames, slides, a pond with boats, ropes etc – it’s a great place to get the kids to burn off some steam but be warned: they will get muddy and wet so bring a change of clothes!
Go to the gardens
Wicklow has gorgeous natural landscapes but it is also the home of some beautiful man-made gardens worth visiting.
One you cannot miss is Mount Usher gardens (you can read our full article about it here: Mount Usher gardens with kids): here, you have stunning Robinsonian gardens, a lovely Avoca shop and restaurant and boutique shops with local artifacts, fashion and plants.
What to do in Wicklow with kids when it rains
In Ireland, it rains often so it is a good idea to have a rainy day plan should you be here when the weather decides not to cooperate.
For rainy days, a great place is Sea Life, in Bray.
This is a nice aquarium where kids can learn about marine life.
It is a good day out when the weather is against you as it is in Bray, which is a nice town with also restaurants and shops, and has some interactive tanks for kids to get close and personal with the animals (under supervision)
Zoom: located in Greystones, this place was a favourite with my two kids when they were little. Indoor climbing frames, slides, a soft play are for the younger kids, it’s the perfect spot for a rainy day
For older kids, an interesting site is the historical Wicklow Gaol. Ireland has a sad history when it comes to imprisonment and submission, so visiting jails here is a good way to teach older children about the history of this country, both ancient and recent.
Wicklow Gaol, in particular, entertain kids with actors in costumes and interactive experiences.
Please note: the attraction and experiences recommended in this post are all chosen on the basis of our own experience and we received no compensation or incentive to include them
Where to stay: family-friendly hotels Wicklow
Wicklow offers many accommodation options to suit all budgets
Druids Glen Resort (luxury hotel + holiday homes)
A gorgeous hotel with facilities for children including a playground, dedicated kids swimming times in the hotel pool and high tea kids club with supervised activities (school holidays only).
The atmosphere in the hotel is exceptionally welcoming for families and the hotel cafe has a good children menu (for VIKS, ‘very important kids’!)
This is one of our favourite luxury family hotels in Ireland.
Brooklodge and Macreddin Village (luxury)
This is a fantastic hotel, perched on the Wicklow mountains.
It is an oasis of calm, it has award winning restaurants on site and, if you have an obliging husband who volunteers to take the kids, even a spa that is guaranteed to make you forget all the bad things in the world.
While not a family hotel as such, children are welcome: family rooms are available.
You can find our review here.
Arklow Bay hotel
A good hotel offering family rooms for up to 5 people and a kids club for age 4 and up.
To get a taste of the famous Irish hospitality, a good alternative to hotels in Ireland in general and in Wicklow, in particular, is to stay in a B&B.
You can find a good selection through this search box powered by Booking.com, a site we use regularly for all our holiday bookings
Cow to get to Wicklow with or without a car
Getting to Wicklow by car
The best way to discover County Wicklow is to rent a car.
The roads here are often narrow but well kept and scenic: most of the attractions in this guide can only be reached by private vehicle so if spending time in Wicklow, I do recommend to secure one from one of the many car rentals providers in Dublin – one we trust is Auto Europe
Getting to Wicklow by train
The train connects Dublin with some of the towns along the Wicklow coast. The DART, the Dublin Rapid Area Transport System (urban train) arrives at Greystones and Bray, and a regular train service connects Dublin to Arklow via Wicklow town and Rathdrum.
While a good system for direct connections, trains are not a good option to discover farther into the county so if you choose this option, make sure you make alternative arrangements for daily excursions.
The official site of Irish rail is here
Getting to Wicklow by bus
Bus Eireann offers a reliable bus service around county Wicklow.
This is a good alternative for people who wish not to drive but can be tricky with children especially if staying in a country house or establishment far from the main road.
Many companies offer day trips from Dublin to Wicklow’s most famous landmarks, so the bus is a good way to get a taste of this county should you not be able to stay here.
The official site for the Irish bus service is here
Wicklow is a stunning part of the country and one of our favourite family destinations in Ireland.
I hope this introductory guide will make you want to discover Wicklow with kids, I promise you will not be disappointed!
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