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Top Ireland Family Vacations, Activities & Experiences

Posted on Dec 03, 2017 by Dawn Rainbolt

Looking for Ireland family vacations but not sure what family travel activities to do? Looking for authentic, off-the-beaten-path Ireland experiences fun for the whole family?

At Wilderness Ireland, we’ve compiled a list of top family travel activities and experiences for Ireland family vacations. Each one is based on the intriguing and colourful characters and dramatic landscapes you’ll encounter on the Emerald Isle.

Explore our new for 2018 Family Tours for vacation inspiration! See below for our top 12:

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 were under the control of the infamous Pirate Queen, Grace O’Malley. The whole family will love to take part in an exciting treasure hunt on Clare Island, following clues to locate an old pirate’s map. Work together to decipher the map to solve the puzzles, leading to buried treasure at the end! Then, explore the Pirate Queen’s castle yourselves. For families searching for adventurous family travel activities, explore the Pirate Queen’s former empire by stand up paddle on our new family-friendly itinerary, Paddling & Pirates

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 & 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 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 you to his goats, but give you a taste of his delicious, homemade goat’s milk ice cream – a fantastic culinary family travel activity! While there, skip the hotels and instead opt to go glamping in a luxury yurt for a night to remember!

If you’re visiting Connemara, be sure to hop over to the Aran Islands. Full of ancient forts and cliffs as well as a thriving Gaeltacht community, get your goat’s cheese fix on Inishmore. Meet the hardy island goats and learn how to make homemade goat’s cheese before sampling some of it yourself!

Cape Clear goats family travel activities

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

3. A Pot of Gold? Chase Leprechauns on the Cooley Peninsula

Fun fact: Leprechauns are technically protected under the European Habitats Directive, and have a picturesque sanctuary on the Cooley Peninsula! For a day of unusual family travel activities, families visiting the region can head off into the hills in order to search for the roughly 230 leprechauns supposedly living on the peninsula. Learn about local legends such as the magical bull from the mythical tale of The Tain and admire Carlingford Lough, an inspiration for CS Lewis’ Narnia. Afterwards, head to the family-friendly pub, PJ O’Hare’s, to look at leprechaun artefacts found in the area by PJ himself. If you’re intrigued by Narnia, find places that inspired the mythical land on our Family Adventure – Giants, Myths and Legends

4. Swim with Ireland’s Favourite Sea Creature, Fungie the Dolphin

The Dingle Peninsula is beautiful by land, but even better by sea. Starting in Dingle town, famous for traditional Irish music in its family-friendly pubs, set sail for panoramic views of the famous peninsula… and a chance to meet and even swim with Dingle’s most famous resident: Fungie the Dolphin! Fungie, the wild but friendly Bottlenose dolphin has been living off the coast of Dingle for over 30 years and loves his town as much as we do. The most adventurous family members can don a wetsuit, braving the chilly waters to meet and swim alongside Fungie the Dolphin in his own home – among Ireland’s most memorable family travel activities!

Ireland family travel activities - Fungi the dolphin

Swimming with Ireland’s favourite dolphin! Photo by Lukasz Warzecha.

5. Boating with Charlie the Dog & Phyllis the Pheasant in Killarney’s Lakes

Go back in time to take a family ride through the world-renowned Gap of Dunloe in a jaunting car – a quirky, horse-drawn carriage – to take in the dramatic landscape. Then, take a 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, accompanying you 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! 

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6. Hawk Walk in the Woods at Ashford Castle

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 you’ll get to see the birds in action! Then, it’s your turn – you’ll get to learn how to properly hold the bird on your arm, how to fly the bird and call it back to you! 

Alternatively, if you’re in the northwest, stay at the Gothic-style hotel, Mount Falcon Estate, where true to its name, you 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.

family travel activities hawk walk Connemara

Take part in a family-friendly hawk walk to learn the ancient sport of falconry

7. Bike the Car-free Great Western Greenway

Fancy an exciting family bike ride in Ireland, but worried about 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. Rent bikes for the whole family in Westport and pedal at your 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. Choose to do part of the Greenway, matched with your family’s ability levels, and get a lift back to town on our exciting new Family Adventure – Paddling & Pirates!

family travel activities great western greenway

Cyclists exploring the Great Western Greenway

8. Meet Sheep, Lambs & Sheepdogs on Working Farm in the Lost Valley

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 one of the last true vestiges of Irish wilderness. Meet Farmer Bourke to learn about the Irish Famine, mass emigration to North America and visit 19th-century cottages to learn what life was like in remote regions. Learn how farmers work in alongside with their sheepdogs, how to sheer sheep, and cuddle with little lambs while you learn how to feed them. Cuddle with Irish lambs on our Family Adventure – Paddling & Pirates while exploring western Ireland with your whole family.  

family travel activities Connemara

The kids will love watching sheepdogs in action! Afterwards? Cuddling a lamb.

9. Make Your Own Island Pottery on Inishbofin

Under the expertise of a local artist, try your hand at family pottery-making on the tiny island of Inishbofin! Learn about pottery-making techniques, as well as how to texture and decorate your pieces as Lol, your host, spins tales about western Ireland and island life. In creating your pottery, get inspired by the rugged island landscape around you – the rocky cliffs, bird colonies, ruined Cromwellian castles, quiet coves and white sand beaches. At the end of the day, each family member will bring home a pottery piece to act as souvenir to your Ireland adventures!

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10. Encounter Ancient Spirits & Ghosts in 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, join an interactive ghost tour to learn about Kinsale’s vibrant history while you meet the colourful characters of Kinsale’s past as they come alive during an entertaining evening stroll about town. Excitement for the whole family! Meet Kinsale’s spirits of old on our new 2018 Family Adventure – Legends of the Southwest.

11. Seaweed Foraging & Tasting with a Local Legend

On a guided coastal walk on either the Ivereagh Peninsula (also known as the Ring of Kerry) or the shores of Connemara, forage for seaweed with your host, a local legend and expert chef. Splash in the waves along the coast as you forage for this exciting product of the sea. Your host will explain to your family about the superfood of seaweed, how to find it and various ways to cook it. Afterwards, its time to eat one of 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. Go seaweed foraging on our Family Adventure – Paddling & Pirates.

seaweed foraging family travel

A family treasure hunt to forage for Ireland’s best seaweed!

12. Create Your Own Toy Soldier or Fairy in Kerry

At an off-the-beaten-path toy factory, kids and adults alike will enjoy participating in a specialised workshop where you’ll learn how toys are created… before sitting down to make your very own! Enjoy family bonding time while finding your inner artist as you each paint your own toy – and at the end, you’ll have a little souvenir to bring home! Also, take the time to visit the world’s largest model battle scene, depicting the Battle of Waterloo. Create your own toy on our Family Adventure – Legends of the Southwest.

toy soldiers factory family travel activities

Proud artist showing off her toy creations! Photo by the Toy Soldier Factory.

Wilderness Ireland offers unique Ireland family vacations throughout Ireland’s wild corners. See our Family Tours page for more information on family adventures in Ireland, or contact us to create a tailor-made tour specialised for your family

See our NEW for 2018 Ireland family vacations & travel activities to inspire you in your next Irish holiday! Choose to follow the itinerary as is, or mix and match to tailor-make a vacation perfect for your family.

Northern Ireland: Causeway Coast & Giant’s Causeway Family Adventure – Giants, Myths & Legends
Western Ireland: Connemara and Mayo Family Adventure – Paddling & Pirates
Southwest Ireland: Cork & Kerry Family Adventure – Legends of the Southwest

 

About the author

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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 and sweeping landscapes of Ireland. Armed with a Masters Degree in Tourism Marketing and a love of writing and photography, she is Wilderness Ireland's Marketing Executive since 2017.

Read more articles by Dawn | View Dawn's Profile


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