Shannon Jones is a Guest Writer with KeeKee’s Big Adventures
Forts and castles, falconry and Vikings, shamrocks and leprechauns, cliffs and rolling green hills can all be part of your family’s Emerald Isle adventure. Ireland is a great international destination for families. It’s incredibly laid back, and everyone speaks English. The welcoming Irish people make you feel right at home. They have a saying, Céad Mile Fáilte, Irish Gaelic for “one hundred thousand welcomes.” Ireland is a relatively small island about the size of Maine or Indiana. It’s divided into Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom, and Ireland is a separate country. Whether you’re looking for an active vacation full of hiking or a historical and cultural trip, you’ll find it here. And as over 40 million Americans claim Irish heritage, many families do a genealogy tour of Ireland to explore their heritage.
Let’s explore the family adventures you can have across the island.
The Ancient East
The Eastern side of Ireland is known as Ireland’s Ancient East. Here you can explore the country’s 5,000-year history. The Ring of Hook has the oldest working lighthouse in the world, built by the “greatest knight that ever lived.” The Rock of Cashel, constructed to look like a cross from above, was once the seat of many of Ireland’s great High Kings. And in Waterford, you can walk in the footsteps of Vikings and explore how crystal is crafted at the House of Waterford Crystal.
Dublin is the capital city of Ireland. As far as big cities go, it is very manageable for all age kids as it’s more like a small town. It’s packed with something for everyone in the family from its historic sites like St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Dublin Castle to its museums and experiences like the Leprechaun Museum and Medieval Dublinia to its expansive green spaces like St Stephen’s Green.
The Guinness Storehouse is a family-friendly destination with seven levels of different activities, from restaurants to tasting rooms to entertainment. The top has excellent views across the city.
Take a boat trip down the River Liffey. Stroll famous Grafton Street’s wide pedestrian ways full of shops and pubs. (Note most pubs in Ireland are child friendly.) Roam through Trinity College’s spiral staircase and ancient book collection including the Book of Kells.
Did you know Ireland has more than 1,000 castles? Malahide Castle and Gardens is located just outside of Dublin and easily accessible by public transportation. Set on 260 acres of parkland, you can tour the castle and the gardens, including the Butterfly House and Fairy Trail.
Wild Atlantic Way
The West Coast of Ireland, known as the Wild Atlantic Way, is packed full of breathtaking scenery thanks to its 1,500 miles of coastline. Tour the Cliffs of Moher, the moon-like Burren, Ring of Kerry, Killarney, The Blarney Stone, Galway, and Limerick.
Cliffs of Moher are an awe-inspiring site for adults and kids in the heart of the Wild Atlantic Way. Peer over the edge of the 700-feet-high 300-million-year-old cliffs. Check out the visitors center’s state-of-the-art interactive exhibition. The Cliffs are also a special protected area for seabirds with over 20 species represented and are a breeding site for over 30,000 birds, including the Puffin.
Killarney National Park is the first national park established in Ireland and spans more than 26,000 scenic acres encompassing the Lakes of Killarney and surrounded by the Purple Mountains. Hike the short path to breathtaking Torc Waterfall. Take a jaunting cart (a two-wheeled, horse-drawn wagon) to Muckross House, an 1800’s Tudor-style mansion with working farms and sprawling gardens. Keep your eyes out for the native red deer.
From Killarney National Park, you can explore the Ring of Kerry. This popular scenic drive around the Iveragh Peninsula. Journey through its villages, dramatic overlooks, and stunning beaches below cliffs. On your way to the ring from the park, consider a stop at Kissane Sheep Farm, a real working 200-year-old sheep farm where you can see sheep shearing and expert sheepherding.
Visit the 600-year-old Blarney Castle and climb the ancient spiral steps 13 stories to kiss the Blarney Stone. The tradition has been around for several and gives a person the gift of eloquence and persuasiveness.
Bunratty Castle & Folk Park, just outside of Shannon, is great fun for the whole family. Set on 26 acres, the Folk Park features a recreation of a 19th-century Irish village. There’s also a Pet Farm and a Fairy Trail. You can dine like royalty at the Bunratty Castle Medieval Banquet. Enjoy music, song, and dance while you feast in the Great Hall of Bunratty Castle.
Staying in a castle is another royal experience to have. Ashford Castle, the famous former home of earls, princes, and the Guinness family, is an 800-year-old castle on a 350-acre sports estate where you can stay and attend the oldest established Falconry School in Ireland.
Visiting Northern Ireland is worth it if your family is interested in Game of Thrones or the Titanic. Belfast, Northern Ireland’s capital, is home to The Titanic Experience, located at the docks where the famous liner was built and departed. Giants Causeway is an enormous hexagonal column formation reaching 80 feet tall created from volcanic activity over 60 mission years ago. Game of Thrones was filmed in 25 locations around Northern Ireland, so fans have many places to visit.
This small island is packed with fun for your whole family. Plan your vacation here.
Ireland Adventure Awaits!