There are plenty of things to do in Wicklow with kids: from farms to historical sites and beautiful hikes, Wicklow is a great destination for families with kids of all ages 

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 pretty 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. In this guide, I am going to share our favourites.

Introduction to 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!

Mr M and I, enjoying a summer day in Co Wicklow. Hikes and forest walks are one of the many things to do in Wicklow with kids and some are easily accessible also to buggies and strollers

A very small Mr M and I, enjoying a fabulous summer day at Lough Dan, Wicklow. Have you noticed our jackets? In Ireland, you can never trust the weather and an extra layer is always a good idea!

Explore nature

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 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.

View over the Valley of the two Lakes, wicklow

This is the view from the mountain road leading to the Sally Gap and, down, to Glendalough, Wicklow

The view from near Loch Tay Wicklow

Getting off the car near the Sally Gap allows you see beautiful scenery. Part of the hikes have boardwalks since some areas have very wet, boggy grounds

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!

This is me and the lake below is Lough Tay, with its peculiar dark waters

This is me and the lake below is Lough Tay, with its peculiar dark waters

Lough Tay Ireland with its famous black waters and white sands

Lough Tay Ireland with its famous black waters and white sands. I was told, but cannot confirm, that the sand was imported on purpose to give the pint of Guinness effect!

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 OUR FAVOURITE THINGS TO DO IN WICKLOW WITH KIDS BECAUSE OF ITS BEAUTIFUL SCENERY AND THE CHANCE OF SEEING WILDLIFE SUCH AS BIRDS, DEER AND SQUIRRELS


Wild deer roaming free in the area near Lough Dan

It is not that common to run into a group of deer less than one hour from Dublin!

Lough Dan, Wicklow, in spring

Lough Dan, Wicklow, in spring

White cottage on the shores of Lough Dan

This old cottage is just beside Lough Dan and is currently not in use

A dark river flows from Lough Tay to Lough Dan

A dark river flows from Lough Tay to Lough Dan

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).

The ancient cemetery and round tower in Glendalough monastic site, ireland

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

Mr M and Little Ms E in Glendalough: even in winter, Wicklow is a fantastic place to visit 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!

Brittas Bar, Wicklow

I know what you are thinking: blue sky, blue water and white beach with people sunbathing: this cannot be Ireland! It is: this is Brittas Bay on a summer day!

Farms and estates in Wicklow

Wicklow has many family friendly farms and estates perfect for days out with the kids.


AMONG THE BEST PLACES TO GO IN WICKLOW ARE THE MANY BEAUTIFUL ESTATES AND FARMS, CATERING FOR CULTURE LOVERS AND KIDS ALIKE


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 

Powerscourt house and gardens as seen from the pond

Powerscourt house and gardens as seen from the pond. Powerscourt House and Gardens are one of the better-known places of interest in Wicklow

Russborough House

One of my kids favourite estates in the whole of Ireland, Russboroguh 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

Russborough house playground is excellent and a great way to let the kids loose after more strucured activities around the estate

Russborough house playground is excellent and has many climbing frames and toys suitable for most ages

Russborough house bird of prey centre: holding an owl at the end of the tour

Little Ms E was half terrified and half delighted to be holding what she thought was a baby owl. as it turned out, the owl is not a baby but a full-size adult: his name is Gizmo and he is 7, older than both my kids!

Kilruddery Estate

For a multigenerational day out, I always recommend Kilruddery. 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!

Zip lining wicklow adventure: me and my son on suspended wooden pathways

The things we do for our children! Me and Mr M on our tree adventure: this was one of the lowest branches and, despite that, you can see how tense I am even in photo!

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!

Greenan maze with its tall hedges

Greenan maze and its tall hedges

Glenroe farm

Another farm kids are bound to love is Glenroe. 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

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!

Rwing with kids in Clara Lara Fun park in Wicklow

Papa and Mr M in Clara Lara Fun park. On that day, the weather was not on our side but in Ireland you can never let rain get in the way and we were rewarded with about 10 minutes of blue sky!


FARM VISITS ARE AMONG THE MOST ENJOYABLE THINGS TO DO WITH KIDS IN WICKLOW. MANY OFFER NOT JUST ANIMAL ENCOUNTERS BUT FAIRY TRAILS, ADVENTURE PLAYGROUNDS AND LOVELY CAFES


Go to the gardens

Wicklow has gorgeous natural landscape 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.

Mount Usher gardens are one of the must see places in Wicklow in pretty much any season. While the spring is the obvious season to go, the fall is also surprisingly pleasant in Mount Usher because of the amazing colours of its foliage

 

What to do in Wicklow 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)

sea life Bray: one of hte many things to do in Wicklow when it rains

Sealife, Bray: the starfish tank

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’!) Check latest prices on hotels combines here (affiliate link).

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 latest prices and rooms here (affiliate link)

Parkview Hotel Newtownmountkennedy: a hotel complete with a kids club (from age 3) and even offers evenings when you can join in and learn Irish dancing! Check prices and offers here (affiliate link)

Arklow Bay Hotel, a good hotel offering family rooms for up to 5 people and a kids club for age 4 and up. Check latest prices and offers here (affiliate link)

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 our partner site hotels combined

Wicklow county: transport options

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 (affiliate link).

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

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 this

Wicklow is a stunning part of the country and one of you 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!

If you are from Wicklow or know it well and have additional places to suggest, please let me know in the comments!

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A family travel guide to gorgeous county Wicklow, Ireland. Wicklow is a part of Ireland many overseas visitors skip but it is stunning and exceptionally family friendly. In this guide, we share the places worth seeing in Wicklow, the best family walks, rainy day activities and kid-friendly hotels that are guaranteed to make you love Wicklow as much as we do!

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