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Unique Family Travel Experiences in Ireland

5 min read

By Dawn Rainbolt
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Travelling With Families in Ireland

With families are travelling more than ever, family-friendly adventure travel itineraries are growing. But from an operational perspective, planning a unique adventure fun for kids and adults isn’t always easy.

At Wilderness Ireland, we’ve compiled a list of several family travel experiences and activities that custom travel designers can use to build ideal family vacations in Ireland.

Each of the suggested family travel experiences in Ireland is based on the intriguing and colourful characters and dramatic landscapes your clients will encounter on the Emerald Isle and can be seamlessly woven into any family travel itinerary, whether that be custom built or new scheduled tours. The list is designed for parents with children aged 6-18, and can be tailored to meet the needs of children on the older or younger end of the spectrum.

1. Ahoy, Matey! Hunt for Treasure in Pirate Castle on Clare Island

What child – or adult! – doesn’t dream of finding pirates or lost treasure? In 15th century Ireland, Galway Bay and Clew Bay (on Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way north) were ruled by the infamous Pirate Queen, Grace O’Malley. The whole family will love taking part in an exciting treasure hunt on Clare Island, following clues to locate an old pirate’s map. Kids and parents can work together to decipher the map to solve the puzzles, leading to buried treasure at the end! Then, the family can explore the Pirate Queen’s castle themselves.

kayaking Ireland Clare Island family travel activities

Explore Ireland’s west coast by kayak for a family adventure with a splash!

2. Say Goat’s Cheese! Hang Out With Goats and Sleep in a Yurt 

Ireland’s landscape may be dotted with sheep, but goats are just as fun and family-friendly! One of southwest Ireland’s best-kept tourism secrets is located on Cape Clear Island. A rugged little island with a pronounced Gaeltacht (Irish-speaking) community, Cape Clear’s most famous resident is a blind goat herder who will not only introduce your clients to his goats, but give them a taste of his delicious, homemade goat’s milk ice cream – a fantastic culinary family travel activity. While there, consider skipping the hotels and instead go glamping in a luxury yurt for a night to remember.

If your clients are visiting Connemara instead, be sure to hop over to the Aran Islands where you can give them similar family travel experiences in Ireland. Full of ancient forts and cliffs as well as a thriving Gaeltacht community, your clients will get their goat’s cheese fix on Inishmore. They’ll meet the hardy island goats and learn how to make homemade goat’s cheese before sampling some of it themselves.

Cape Clear goats family travel activities

Meet the youngest members of the goat herd on Cape Clear Island! Photo by Cleire Goats.

3. Chase Leprechauns on the Cooley Peninsula

Fun fact: Leprechauns are technically protected under the European Habitats Directive, and even have a picturesque sanctuary on the Cooley Peninsula. For an unusual family travel activity, send your clients to this region’s hills to search for the roughly 230 leprechauns supposedly living on the peninsula. The guide will teach them about local legends such as the magical bull from the mythical tale of The Tain, and will take them to magical Carlingford Lough, an inspiration for CS Lewis’ Narnia.

Afterwards, the group can dine in a particular family-friendly pub to look at leprechaun artefacts found in the area by PJ himself. Kids (or parents for that matter) who are intrigued by Narnia will find places that inspired the mythical land throughout Northern Ireland.

4. Boating with Charlie the Dog on the Lakes of Killarney

Take your clients back in time on a ride through Kerry’s world-renowned Gap of Dunloe in a jaunting car – a quirky, horse-drawn carriage – to take in the dramatic landscape. Then, clients boat across the lakes of Killarney to the historic Ross Castle in Killarney National Park while listening to your host weave local stories and folklore. In Dora the Explorer fashion, clients are accompanied on the boat is Charlie the Dog, a friendly golden retriever who just so happens to be best friends with Phyllis the Pheasant, a wild bird living along the lake’s shore who loves to greet each boat along the way. Parents and kids will love this experience.

5. Hawk Walk in the Woods at Ashford Castle

Family Travel Experiences in Ireland hawk walk Connemara

The elegant Ashford Castle Hotel is the epitome of Irish luxury, and welcoming to families looking for high-end holidays in Connemara. While at Ashford Castle, enjoy an exciting lesson in the ancient art of falconry. The whole family can learn how to care for the birds before embarking on a hawk walk where they’ll get to see the birds in action! Then, family members can learn how to properly hold the bird on their own arms, how to fly the bird and call it back to them.

Alternatively, if you’re in the northwest, stay at the Gothic-style hotel, Mount Falcon Estate, where true to its name, clients can meet their resident falcons as well as other birds of prey, learn to handle the birds and hunt with them and their hounds on an immersive hawk walk.

6. Bike the Car-free Great Western Greenway

Family Travel Experiences in Ireland great western greenway

Fancy proposing itineraries with an exciting family bike ride in Ireland included, but worried about client safety? Look no further then the wild, new Great Western Greenway, a 42-km path from the bustling town of Westport and to the beautiful Achill Island. Following what once was the railway, which closed in 1937, the track was recently turned into the exceptional Great Western Greenway.

Local bike rental for the whole family can be organised from Westport, and clients can pedal at their own pace to Achill Island. There’s plenty to see and do along the way: lovely beaches, the archeological Ciede Fields, the eerie Deserted Village – left over from era of cattle herding – dramatic cliffs on Achill Island and the elegant Westport House. Families can choose to cycle part or all of the Greenway and itineraries can be matched with your clients’ ability levels. Lifts back to town are organised for families electing to do a shorter version. 

7. Watch Sheepdogs at Work on a Sheep Farm in the Lost Valley

Connemara Family Travel Experiences in Ireland

If there’s one thing that parents are requesting on their upcoming family travel experiences in Ireland, it’s a bit of education, the opportunity to learn a new skill. So we propose to have clients mix education with the great outdoors by spending a day on a working farm in the Lost Valley, a remote part of western Ireland, and a last true vestige of Irish wilderness. Groups will meet a local farmer to learn about the Irish Famine, mass emigration to North America and even visit 19th-century cottages to learn what life was like in remote regions.

Kids will love learning how farmers work alongside with their sheepdogs, how they sheer sheep, and then children can cuddle with lambs while learning how to feed them.

8. Making Island Pottery on Inishbofin

Under the expertise of a local artist, parents and kids can try their hand at family pottery-making on the tiny island of Inishbofin. Once again, kids get the opportunity to learn a skill: in this case, pottery-making techniques, how to texture the clay and how to decorate each piece as Lol the host spins tales about western Ireland and island life. The island is also a great place for dramatic yet family-friendly hikes on the coast. At the end of the day, each family member will bring home a pottery piece to act as souvenir to their adventurous family travel experiences in Ireland.

9. Encounter the Ghosts of Kinsale

By day, Kinsale is a bright, colourful and fun town – but by night, the spirits and phantoms of Kinsale roam free. Once darkness falls, families join an interactive ghost tour to learn about Kinsale’s vibrant history, led by actors portraying the colourful characters of Kinsale’s on an entertaining evening stroll about town. Excitement for the whole family!

10. Seaweed Foraging & Tasting with a Local Legend

seaweed foraging family travel

On a guided coastal walk on either the Ivereagh Peninsula (also known as the Ring of Kerry) or the shores of Connemara, an exciting (and wildly unique!) family activity is foraging for seaweed with a local legend and expert chef. Families can splash in the waves along the coast while foraging for seaweed as their local host explain about the superfood of seaweed, how to find it and various ways to cook it. Afterwards, your clients get to taste his delicious seaweed and seafood-inspired dishes! Seaweed spaghetti, anyone? Adults may want to escape in the evening for a relaxing seaweed bath in one of seaside resorts.

Bonus: Create Your Own Toy Soldier or Fairy in Kerry

toy soldiers factory Family Travel Experiences in Ireland

At an off-the-beaten-path toy factory, kids and adults alike can participating in a specialised workshop where you’ll learn how toys are created… before sitting down to make your very own! Families will enjoy bonding time while finding their inner artists as each member paints their own toy – and at the end, your clients will have a souvenir to bring home. If you have the time, let clients visit the world’s largest model battle scene, depicting the Battle of Waterloo.

Meet the Author: Dawn Rainbolt

American by birth but European in spirit, Dawn has called the US, Costa Rica, Spain, England, Poland, France and now Ireland home over the years. While she has travelled to more than 30 countries, she has fallen in love with the rich Irish culture, intriguing history, ancient castles, cheery locals and sweeping landscapes of Ireland.

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