Does anything feel quite as long as a badly-planned summer?
One where the children seem to be constantly asking ‘what are we doing today?’ or worse, moaning ‘I’m bored…’ as you try to fit in your many commitments alongside the dawn-’til-dusk presence of your darlings?
Don’t forget, it’s your summer too!
Make the most of it by doing things together as a family. Not every excursion has to be dramatic and life-changing. The point is to get out, do something new, and spend time in each other’s company. And if you all learn a little along the way, so much the better!
It’s not hard to interest children of all ages in this megalithic portal tomb, the heaviest in Europe. The capstone (that’s the top stone) is estimated to weigh 100 metric tons, and speculation as to how they got it up there, way back in 3000BC, is always interesting. The dolmen is located 3km east of Carlow town, on the Hacketstown Road. Bring wellies as the walk can be muddy.
Rancho Reilly Pet Farm
If yours spend most of the year in a city, they will love the chance to get friendly with animals including reindeer, miniature goats, ponies, pot-bellied pigs, rabbits, hens and ducks. There is pony riding, miniature golf, go-carting, an obstacle course and more, set across five acres. It’s at Springhill Road, just outside Carlow town.
€7 per child over one year, €3 per adult; ranchoreilly.com
The Great Outdoors
One of the greatest things about Dublin is the speed with which you can get out of it, and into countryside or seaside. Hike through Tibradden Woods, climb the Sugarloaf, spend the day on beaches from Seapoint to Killiney. Bring a picnic and none of these things should cost you anything, except perhaps an ice-cream at the end.
Little Museum of Dublin
Packaged right, kids love history, and the Little Museum packages very well. From arresting photos from Dublin’s tenements to gold-painted Monster Munch, this is a lively introduction to the story of Dublin. The Wings of Ireland: A People’s History of Irish Aviation is a brilliant temporary exhibition from now through August.
Family pass €16. littlemuseum.ie
There are free events and activities — including puppet shows, drumming workshops, arts & crafts, storytelling and more — in libraries across Dublin throughout July and August. Check dublincitypubliclibraries.ie for information and to book.
Seamus Heaney: Listen Now Again
A wonderful exhibition of the poet’s manuscripts, letters, unpublished works, diary entries, photographs and multi-media recordings, as well as personal items, including the desk where he wrote, and sods of turf, all watched over by the legend: Don’t be Afraid, an artwork based on Heaney’s last text to his wife – ‘Noli Timere’. At the new Bank of Ireland Cultural and Heritage Centre at College Green, entry is free. nli.ie
Dublin Horse Show
If yours have even a passing interest in horses (and find me a pre-teen girl who doesn’t), this is five days of brilliant fun. Show jumpers, ponies, draught horses, Connemara hunters, international superstars, music, shopping, food, and more horses. Family pass €60; dublinhorseshow.com
Grown to mark the millennium and inspired by the St Brigid’s Cross, this extends to 1.4 acres with over 1.5km of paths in which to get thoroughly lost. if you make it to the centre, you will be rewarded by panoramic views over the countryside from the Viewing Tower. Family pass (2 adults & 3 children) €29, thekildaremaze.com
National Stud and Japanese Gardens
Still one of the best family days out around, after all these years. See the world’s most beautiful horses, including some legendary winners, then visit the tranquil gardens created by Japanese master horticulturist Tassa Eida and his son Minoru in 1906. Family pass (2 adults & 4 children) €28, irishnationalstud.ie
It isn’t cheap, and despite the club’s name is in Kildare, and isn’t exactly a family day out — although family are welcome to come and watch — and neither is it really suitable for anyone younger than 16, but as a truly spectacular day out, it can’t be beaten. Take a flight in a two-seat, dual-controlled glider with an experienced instructor. Trial memberships are €120 and that includes an initial trial lesson. dublinglidingclub.ie
The Butler Gallery
Junior film buffs will be enthralled by a series of free events, workshops and talks, taking audiences behind the scenes of Cartoon Saloon’s Oscar-nominated film, The Breadwinner. The Kilkenny exhibition features original drawings, storyboards, cutouts and animation, as well as the exquisite watercolours and cutouts that serve as vibrant backdrops to the animated action. Admission free; butlergallery.com
The National Reptile Zoo
If your idea of a good day out is mingling with snakes, crocodile and spiders, you can meet some of the world’s rarest and most unusual animals in Ireland’s only reptile zoo in Gowran. It has over 50 exhibits, an animal encounter zone, a tropical walk-through habitat, indoor and outdoor picnic area and a soft play area. Family ticket from €27; nationalreptilezoo.ie
National Design and Craft Gallery
Families are invited to the Kilkenny city gallery on Saturdays at 3pm for a ‘Crafternoon Tour’. It also hosts a diverse range of craft club workshops throughout the year and, on the second Saturday of the month, it invites young makers to take part in a hands-on craft workshop. Admission free, ndcg.ie
Castlecomer Discovery Park
While older kids will love zip-lining, archery and the climbing wall, the Junior Woodland Adventure Course is designed to encourage small children to become more adventurous in a woodland environment. Then there’s the enchanting Elf and Fairy Village to explore.
Activity prices vary, Elf and Fairy Village is free, discoverypark.ie
Donaghmore Famine Workhouse Museum
See history come to life at this fascinating museum, which tells the story of the families who lived and died within the Famine Workhouse walls as a result of the Great Famine. Visitors will also enjoy the agricultural collection, which includes farm implements, household items and hand tools donated by local people.
Family ticket €10; donaghmoremuseum.ie
Emo Court House
Enjoy the beautiful gardens and parklands at Emo Court House, which were first laid out in the 18th Century. You can take a tour of the neoclassical mansion, and have lunch at The Cupcake Cafe. Family ticket €13, admission to gardens is free; emocourt.net
Take a walk along the longest stretch of bog road anywhere. This oak walkway dates back to the Iron Age and was built in the year 148 BC. There are more than 10 different walkways branching out across the Corlea bog, and an interpretive centre to give them context. Three kilometres from Kenagh village, on the Longford-Kenagh road. heritageireland.ie/en/midlands-eastcoast/corleatrackwayvisitorcentre
Take a tour around the grounds and restored walled gardens of Edgeworthstown House, ancestral home of novelist Maria Edgeworth (Castle Rackrent) and her famous father Richard Lovell. Hear stories of visits by Oscar Wilde and William Wordsworth. €5 per person, edgeworthstown.net
Carlingford Adventure Centre
The picturesque town of Carlingford is a must-see for history buffs, and it’s also a perfect destination for thrill-seekers. Try zorbing, rock-climbing and kayaking.
Family ticket €160, carlingfordadventure.com
Leprechaun and Fairy Cavern
Visitors to this Carlingford attraction will be greeted by the Leprechaun Whisperer, who will introduce them to the story of The Last Leprechauns of Ireland. Following the enchanting storytelling, you visit the leprechaun cavern below the ground and Queen Sadhbh’s Fairy Village.
Adult €3.50/child €7, thelastleprechaunsofireland.com
For a different and challenging experience, head to Carlingford where you and your family will be locked in a themed game room. Your goal is to escape within 60 minutes, and this is achieved by completing a series of challenges and puzzles that allow you to progress in the game.
Adult €18, child over 5 €12. escapehq.ie
Take the slog out of cycling by renting an electric bike and cycling the new scenic Greenway from Carlingford to Newry. Suitable for ages 14 upwards, you’ll get a map of the area and an information booklet on all the interesting sights and local legends.
Full day €35, escapehq.ie/e-bike-escapes
Loughcrew Gardens and Adventure Centre
Head to Loughcrew in Oldcastle for zip-lining, archery, climbing wall, assault course, witches’ ropes and a forest crystal maze. Family members opting for a quieter life can check out the breathtaking gardens, with their medieval motte, church and tower house.
Adventure Centre full day rate — adult €55/child €52, Gardens — adult €7/child €3.50. loughcrew.com
Red Mountain Open Farm
Aside from checking out the animals, children can enjoy this Drogheda farm’s indoor and outdoor playgrounds, a straw maze, swings and slides, play houses, pedal tractors and go-karts, and tractor, blue barrel and horse carriage rides. Family ticket from €24, plus extra for rides, redmountainopenfarm.ie
With over 100 attractions in its theme park and zoo, there’s no chance your hard-to-please darlings will get bored in Ashbourne’s Tayto Park. If you’re feeling adventurous, jump on the Cu Chulainn roller coaster, which is the largest wooden ride in Europe.
Admission €17.50-€33, under 3s go free. taytopark.ie
Lough Boora Discovery Park
Lough Boora is a natural wonderland in Boora that the whole family can enjoy. You can take one of five walking routes and stop off at one of the bird-hides, or rent bikes and take three off-road cycle routes. Be sure to visit the recently opened Fairy Avenue, which is home to 14 fairies. Admission is free, loughboora.com
Birr Castle Gardens and Science Centre
Inquiring minds will be fascinated by the Science Centre, which houses the famous Great Telescope. Budding knights and princesses will love the epic Treehouse Adventure Area, which features Ireland’s largest treehouse along with a bouncy pillow, sandpits and a hobbit hut.
Family ticket €25, birrcastle.com
More: Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands: Top 10 things to do in Ireland’s newest tourism region
Viking Tours Ireland
All aboard for a fun history lesson with the Vikings aboard a replica Viking ship. Sailing from Athlone, you can cruise upriver into majestic Lough Ree or downstream to the famous monastic settlement at Clonmacnoise.
Family ticket — Lough Ree €40 and Clonmacnoise €55. vikingtoursireland.ie
Belvedere House, Gardens and Park
Belvedere’s parklands in Mullingar offer a Victorian walled garden, fairy garden, woodland and lakeshore walks and four children’s play areas. It is hosting summer family theatre events, including a performance of Robin Hood and his Merry Men on August 2. Family ticket €20, Robin Hood €48, belvedere-house.ie
Mollie Moo’s Pet Farm
Animal-mad children will love interacting with both well-known farm animals and exotic animals like the alpacas at this Mullingar farm. Children are provided with a bag of food to feed the animals, and facilities include a sandpit, crazy golf and pedal cars. Admission €8pp, molliemoos.ie
Irish National Heritage Park
Walk through five millennia of history, from pre-historic to early Christian and the Age of Invasion, then try a family sleepover in a replica 1,500-year-old ring fort. No child will be able to resist.
Family pass (2 adults and up to 3 children), €25; stayovers (flat rate for six people), €400; irishheritage.ie
More: So, you think you know Wexford? Try this fab family trip to the Sunny south East
Hook Head Lighthouse
The glorious beacon that is Hook Head Lighthouse has been guiding ships around here for almost 800 years. Take a closer look, then make for the nearby Dunbrody Famine Ship and Irish Emigrant Experience. irelandsancienteast.com
They say you never forget the first time a falcon lands on your arm. Certainly, getting up-close with these magnificent birds of prey is a memorable moment. See for yourself at Wells House Falconry and Hawk Experience, under the eye of an experienced falconer. And there’s heaps more to do, including a fairy walk and adventure playground. Falconry family pass €60; wellshouse.ie
Seal Rescue Centre
This is the only facility of its kind in the country, and any animal-loving kids will adore it. Orphaned, sick and injured seal pups are rescued from around the country — thanks to tip-offs from members of the public — and brought here for care and rehabilitation.
You can visit at no cost (although donations are welcome), and learn about the work.
The ‘Secret’ Beach
Nothing is really secret this close to the capital, but Magheramore beach, past Wicklow town, is certainly a gem. White sand, clear sparkling water and, at low tide, plenty of room for football or races. This is where a record number of women (over 2,500) went skinny-dipping in June to raise money for cancer research, but in general you won’t be thronged. Parking might cost €5, depending on how far you’re willing to walk.
Cool Planet Experience, Powerscourt Estate
This is an interactive, immersive opportunity to educate, engage and inspire yourself and the kids about climate change. There is some doom and gloom — how could there not be? — but also plenty of encouraging suggestions and innovations. Be prepared for kids to leave with promises to cycle to school and reduce the family carbon footprint.
Family pass €25, cpe.cool
National Botanic Garden at Kilmacurragh
There is, obviously, great walking to be had throughout Wicklow, whether it’s Glendalough or the Wicklow Way, but if yours are smaller, the National Botanic Gardens at Kilmacurragh are gorgeous. Set on 52 acres, around the ruins of a Queen Anne house, these were begun in 1712 and have plenty of rare trees and shrubs.
Entry is free although guided tours can cost €5 per person depending on when you go. botanicgardens.ie
Glamping in Doolin
Yes, camping should be a basic, back-to-nature experience, but there is definitely a place for a more luxurious version too. Doolin Glamping is pretty gorgeous, with bell tents raised off the ground, complete with pine beds, tealight chandeliers, Moroccan lanterns, bean bags and rugs. Everything you need in terms of kitchen and bathroom is nearby.
Four-person tents from €70 per night. doolinglamping.com
The Burren and The Flaggy Shore
Frankly, you can’t visit Clare and not take time to soak up the extraordinary landscape of the Burren. The Flaggy Shore is a family-friendly coastal walk, starting from New Quay, just off the Kinvara/Ballyvaughan road. On one side is the Atlantic Ocean, on the other the unique limestone rocks of The Burren. Look for fossils and check out the Martello tower at Finavarra Point. Breathe deeply; this might be the cleanest air in Europe.
This can be tried at various spots around the country, but the place where the Shannon runs into the sea, at Carrigaholt on the Loop Head Peninsula, is a feeding ground for a range of wildlife, including bottlenose dolphins and grey seals, and Dolphinwatch have both a high ‘encounter rate’, and a good attitude towards conservation and ecotourism.
Trips last 2-3 hours, adult tickets €35, children (15 and under) €20. dolphinwatch.ie
Fota Wildlife Park
Your own little bunch of wild things will enjoy the summer programme of outdoor concerts, educational weekends, art workshops and yoga at the very-popular Fota in Carrigtwohill.
Family pass from €48. fotawildlife.ie
Blackrock Castle Observatory
If your offspring have stars in their eyes, the observatory offers interactive exhibits and fun activities on outer space and the universe. Discover the night sky in the planetarium and share theories on alien life with Cosmo, the friendly virtual astronaut.
Family ticket €18, bco.ie
West Cork Model Railway Village
You’ll step back in time and see life as it was in the 1940s, and kids will love the old West Cork railway line portrayed in delightful miniature. You can even take a tour of Clonakilty aboard the Choo Choo Road Train.
Family ticket €25 or €35 with the train ride, modelvillage.ie
A day trip to Sherkin will provide inspiration for budding creatives, as many of its 100 residents make a living from craft, painting and writing. Wild flowers abound on Sherkin, seals, otters, dolphin and porpoise can be observed, and you can hire bikes to get around.
Family ticket Sherkin Ferry €28. sherkinisland.ie
A perennial family favourite, Trabolgan Holiday Village in Midleton is well-known for its glorious surroundings, excellent facilities and range of indoor and outdoor activities. Family ticket €45, trabolgan.com
Sea Synergy and Activity Centre
Any exploration of Kerry’s coast and seashore will be wonderful, but for a more informed experience, try the Sea Synergy and Activity Centre at Waterville. An exhibition shows whale and dolphin bones and a touchpool with rockshore creatures, while guided tours and adventures are provided by marine biologists and local specialists — seashore safaris, guided snorkelling, guided boat tours, island visits, and even a guided beach walk at night.
Family pass for the exhibition €12, tours priced separately per person. seasynergy.org
Ireland’s longest rope-bridge is found at Kells Bay House. You don’t need to stay here to explore it — entrance to the gardens is independent of the hotel — and there are various other walks, as well as the Sky Bridge; 11m long, suspended above the River Delligeenagh.
Family pass €25 (2 adults 3 children) kellsbay.ie
Don’t go if you get seasick, or are scared of heights, and don’t bring small children, but for everyone else, this is the most spectacular trip you can take. Some 12km southwest of Valentia Island, past the gull-and-gannet-covered Sceilig Bheag, up a 1,000-year-old stairway, to the ancient monastic settlement at the top.
Boat trips start from around €65 per person, usually departing between 9am & 10.30am, and returning between 2.00pm & 3pm. Book early. wildatlanticway.com
University of Limerick Activity Centre
You can all dive straight in at the deep end with a visit to ULAC, where you can take a lesson in sailing, kayaking, canoeing or your choice of water sports. Family ticket, half-day €99, ulac.ie
Thomond Park Stadium
Munster Rugby’s full stadium tour consists of a museum visit, where you can experience the club’s history and test your skills in the interactive game zone. You’ll also get entry to the dressing rooms, plus visits to pitch-side and the Munster dugout. Adult €10/child €8. thomondpark.ie
The Hunt Museum
With gallery trails and art activities, this Limerick city museum, preserves and exhibits the original artefacts gathered, over a lifetime, by John and Gertrude Hunt. The fun and engaging activities include an interactive hunt around the museum, and children’s arts and crafts on the first Sunday of every month.
Family €12, huntmuseum.com
Bike Park Ireland
Now that cycling is such a Thing, check out this purpose-built mountain bike park, suitable for all abilities: 450 acres, eight trails, and two army lorries to bring you to the top, so you get all the fun of whizzing down.
Prices vary but a family pass for park entry, with own bikes (2 adults & 2-4 kids) is €25; bikeparkireland.ie
St Patrick’s Well
This beautifully serene spot doesn’t offer much in terms of bells and whistles, but is compelling all the same. One of the country’s largest holy wells, flowing into a pool with an early-Christian, Celtic-style cross at its centre. Just outside Clonmel, near Marfield Village;
The Rock of Cashel
We defy any child not to get a thrill from this former seat of the High Kings of Munster, later gifted to the Church. A good steep climb up sets the scene, after which the sheer size, scale and magnificent views take over.
Family pass €20; cashel.ie
The Waterford Greenway
This has been used by a quarter of a million people since it opened in 2016, and no wonder. A 46km off-road trail that runs along an old railway line between Waterford and Dungarvan; perfect for cycling, walking or running, for people of all ages and abilities.
Waterford and Suir Valley Railway
A beautiful picturesque trip along the Suir Valley with panoramic views of the River Suir, all easily admired from a charming period railway carriage. For fans of Thomas the Tank Engine, and the Golden Age of Travel.
Family pass, €23, wsvrailway.ie
Charter a Traditional Boat
From trains to boats, keep up themes of comfort and elegance. The Brian Boru is a graciously-restored 56ft ketch that voyages around Waterford Estuary and up the River Suir to Little Island, and can be booked for parties up to 12. Departs Waterford Quay. For prices, check traditionalsailexperience.com
Spraoi International Street Arts Festival
From August 3-5, Waterford is all about street performance, showcasing the best from home-grown and international acts. See tumblers, jugglers, magicians, musicians, fire-breathers, acrobats and entertainers of all kinds. spraoi.com
Burren Nature Sanctuary
Explore the winding tracks of the fairy woodland trails while learning about the natural history of The Burren, the flora, fauna and karst geology. Along the way, you’ll meet a variety of friendly animals, from goats and Shetland ponies to alpacas, rabbits and guinea pigs.
Family ticket €35, bns.ie
Killary Sheep Farm
Visitors can see sheepdogs Sweep, Lassie and Fly in action with the sheep, and take in sheep shearing and turf-cutting demonstrations. The Leenane farm also brings its guests on picturesque walks along country trails, overlooking the Killary Fjord. Family ticket €25, killarysheepfarm.com
Brigit’s Garden in Rosscahill takes you on a magical journey into the heart of Celtic heritage and mythology, within 11 acres of native woodland and wildflower meadows. There’s a kids’ discovery trail, a natural playground, an ancient fairy ring fort and a thatched roundhouse and crannog.
Family ticket €24, brigitsgarden.ie
Loughwell Farm Park
There’s a host of animals for children to pet at this farm in Moycullen, including pigs, ponies, alpacas, donkeys and reindeer. There’s also bouncy castles, an obstacle course, sand dunes with slides and play diggers, a straw bale maze, zip wire and pedal go-karts.
Adults €5, children over 3 €12, under 3 €5, under 18 months free. loughwellfarmpark.ie
Name-checked by Yeats in The Stolen Child, this 50ft-high waterfall is truly glorious, and a good fall of rain only makes it more so. Located 11km west of Manorhamilton.
Lough Allen Adventure Centre
Kayaking, windsurfing, hill walking and general outdoorsy-ness, including the kind of team-building challenges that can cement a family, particularly one with teenagers, who enjoy the problem-solving challenges.
Prices vary, check loughallenadventure.com
Hire a boat and explore Leitrim from the rivers Shannon and Erne. Boats of all sizes, sleeping from two to 10 people, can be hired for just a night or two, or longer. All have well-equipped galleys (kitchens to us) in case you want to cook up a storm, and are easily navigated (no licence is required for cruising, but you must be over 21).
Prices vary, check cruise-ireland.com
Built on the foundations of Pirate Queen Grace O’Malley’s many castles, Westport House has 30-odd rooms to visit, while outside on the estate is the Pirate Adventure Park, with the Cannonball Run slide, Pirate Queen Swinging Ship, go-karting, pedalos and more.
Family pass, €57, westporthouse.ie
Cycle the Great Western Greenway
One of the country’s best recent initiatives, this, the longest stretch of off-road walking and cycling in Ireland, 42km along the disused Westport to Achill railway line, is a brilliant day out — or series of days out if you chose to stay overnight along the way. greenway.ie
Snorkel or Kayak the Blueway
Yes, there are blueways too, including this, at Old Head, Louisburgh village, a network of clear water trails perfect for kayaking and snorkelling. The snorkel trail starts at the beach and continues north for around 500m to the Western headland.
Bring your own gear, or rent it; check diving.ie/blueway for information on providers.
Roscommon Equestrian Centre
Between Roscommon town and Lanesboro, near Lough Ree at the foot of the Slieve Bawn mountain, this is a great place to begin or improve on horseback. There is plenty of scenic ground to trek through, as well as lessons.
A one-hour family pass costs €55, roscommonequestrian.ie
If your family’s idea of heaven is a series of giant inflatables — slides, rafts, castles — and a chance to recreate Total Wipeout, this Co Roscommon destination is definitely for you. As well as the waterpark there is kayaking, stand-up paddling, pedal boats and something called Chinese Dragon boating.
Prices vary, from €17 per adult for the waterpark, see baysports.ie
The Arigna Mining Experience
The last coal mine here closed as recently as 1990, and with it an entire way of life going back generations. Learn the mining history of the area, and understand something of the lives miners and their families led by accompanying an ex-miner on a fascinating tour.
Family pass €28, arignaminingexperience.ie
The beautifully grand Strokestown house may seem an odd location for the National Famine Museum, but a quick dip into the history here will explain all. This record of the greatest social disaster of 19th Century Europe is a meticulous and affecting one, and all but the smallest children will be fascinated. strokestownpark.ie
Sligo Folk Park
History fans will love this community-based attraction in Riverstown, which provides a true experience of rural life and Irish heritage in the late 19th Century. Check out the recreated creamery store, grocery shop and pub, as well as the school, traditional dairy, blacksmith’s forge and museum. Kids will also love the farm animals and play area.
Family ticket from €20, sligofolkpark.com
Inject a bit of fairy magic into your day with a trip to Gillighan’s World, near Tubbercurry, where miniature villages and delightful fairy habitats nestle in botanical gardens. Searching the park to solve the clues you’ve been given is great fun, and you’ll escape into a land of artistry and imagination.
Family ticket from €28, gillighansworld.ie
You’ll be awed by the residents of the Irish Raptor Research Centre in Ballymote, Ireland’s largest sanctuary for raptors and owls. Currently home to more than 100 eagles, hawks, owls, falcons and vultures, scientists give information about these magnificent creatures during interactive shows. Family ticket €35.90, eaglesflying.com
With over 250 interactive exhibits, W5 in Belfast provides fantastic fun for all ages. In addition to permanent science, engineering and exploration exhibits, this summer’s special exhibition is Dinosaur Encounters, and there’s a daily programme of live science demonstrations and shows.
Family ticket from £27.50 / €32.35, w5online.co.uk
Puffins are a huge attraction on beautiful Rathlin Island, which can be reached by ferry from Ballycastle. Check out the seabird centre, explore a real working lighthouse and examine artefacts from local shipwrecks at the Boathouse Visitor Centre.
Family return Rathlin Island Ferry £32/€36.15, rathlincommunity.org
The captivating Titanic Belfast, the world’s leading tourist attraction in 2016, draws together special effects, dark rides, full-scale reconstructions and innovative interactive features. Complete your experience with a visit to the world’s last remaining White Star vessel and RMS Titanic’s original tender ship — SS Nomadic.
Family ticket £45/€50.87, titanicbelfast.com
Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge
If your family has a head for heights, crossing the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge is an exhilarating experience. Located 8km from the Giant’s Causeway, it’s 66ft long and is suspended 98ft above the rocks below, giving you a dramatic viewpoint.
Family ticket £17.50/€19.78, nationaltrust.org.uk/carrick-a-rede
Armagh Observatory and Planetarium
Children fascinated by astronomy will love the planetarium’s interactive daily shows, including one that introduces them to the sun, moon and stars and the animal constellations in the night sky. Minecraft-made kids will enjoy special workshops taking place on August 24 and 25.
Family ticket from £23/€26, armaghplanet.com
For a day out that incorporates exercise and fun, why not enjoy a roller-skating session at The Rink in Portadown. Re-live your youth and show the kids how it’s done.
Family ticket from £25/€28.26, therink.co.uk
Tayto Factory Tour
Adults and children alike will enjoy a visit to Tandragee Castle in Craigavon, home of Tayto. Visitors will get the opportunity to meet Mr Tayto, the brand’s lovable mascot, and see how the ever-popular crisps and snacks are made.
Adults £5/€5.65, children £3/€3.39, tayto.com
Here you could see staff working on new teddy bear designs or restoring much-loved bears at the Teddy Bear Hospital in Bawnboy. The Silver Bear Centre even contains a vintage early 20th Century teddy bear collection.
Admission is free, bearessentials.ie
Cavan Canoe Centre
If you fancy adventures on the water, hire canoes and kayaks at the centre in Killykeen Forest Park or take guided tours of the local waterways. Bike tours, horse trekking and paddle-boarding are also available.
It costs €10 per hour for canoe/kayak hire, facebook.com/cavancanoecentre
You can see different fish swimming in the tanks, as the Derry aquarium represents eight different habitats found in the area. There are free activity packs to keep the kids entertained, and sheets that are designed to encourage them to ask questions.
Free admission, loughs-agency.org
All ages can enjoy Tower Museum’s interactive Discovery Zone, and youngsters will enjoy finding out more about archaeology, dinosaurs, early people, Colmcille, woodlands and the contemporary city of Derry.
Family ticket £9, derrystrabane.com
Ards Forest Park
Getting properly out into nature with very small children can be difficult — buggy-friendly terrain can be hard to come by, but the 480-hectare Ards Forest Park in Sheephaven Bay, between Creeslough and Dunfanaghy, has a specially designed boardwalk, built with buggies in mind, as well as the remains of four ring forts, a number of megalithic tombs, and a play area.
Earagail Arts Festival
This runs until July 29 and celebrates the rich culture of Donegal with music, theatre, visual arts, film and literature in venues up and down the county, showcasing home-grown and international acts, including the Californian Feetwarmers and Moh! Kouyate.
Check eaf.ie for details
This Regency-style house outside Letterkenny was the home for nearly 30 years of renowned artist Derek Hill, who left it to the people of Ireland in 1982. The house is decorated with William Morris textiles, has collections of Islamic and Japanese art as well as work by 20th Century artists such as Picasso and Kokoshka, all displayed in a deliberately informal manner.
Admission to the gallery is free. The house can be seen by guided tour only, family pass €13. glebegallery.ie
The restored Fintown Railway runs a three-mile return trip in old-style carriages through spectacular scenery along the shores of Loch Finn. It is a delight trip for railway enthusiasts, certainly, but reliably entertaining for the rest of us too.
Family pass €24; fintownrailway.com
Tollymore Forest Park
Tollymore covers an area of 630 hectares and has stunning trails, but the Newcastle park’s most obvious claim to fame is playing the Haunted Forest in Games Of Thrones. See where the White Walkers began their march into the Realm of Men, or where the Starks discovered the Direwolves.
Admission £5/€5.65 per car, discovernorthernireland.com
Mount Ida Pottery
If your family loves creating, you can learn to throw clay on the wheel and make something special of your own at this Banbridge studio. The cost includes materials and a second visit to glaze the work completed in the session.
Morning/afternoon classes, adult £65/€73.44, child £50/€56.49, mountidapottery.co.uk
If wandering around a giant maze won’t make you lose your marbles, head to the Peace Maze in Castlewellan Forest Park, which is a symbol of hope in Northern Ireland. It covers nearly three acres and has 2.18 miles of pathway, so make your way to the middle to ring the bell.
Admission £5/€5.65 per car, discovernorthernireland.com
Corralea Activity Centre
For fans of Total Wipeout, and anyone else who enjoys a bit of water-based rough-and-tumble, check out Corralea. There’s orienteering, wall climbing and archery, and you can even stay here if you wish, but we love the water park, with its 12ft waterslide, floating trampoline and rafts, on Upper Lough MacNean.
There are a variety of deals and packages on offer, see activityireland.com
Marble Arch Caves
These are among Europe’s most accessible caves, and decidedly lofty for underground. Stalactites glisten above underground streams and spectacular walkways that allow easy access. Tours are 75 minutes, cover 1.5km, and are suitable for all ages and average fitness levels.
Family pass £26.80 (2 adults and 3 children); marblearchcavesgeopark.com
AWOL Outdoor Adventure Centre
From the full-on active paintballing and water rafting, to the more cerebral boat building, paddle making and bushcraft, all in the magnificent Blackwater Valley, this is a one-stop shop.
Prices vary, check awolpaintball.ie
Lough Muckno Leisure Park
Set on 900 acres of wooded terrain close to Castleblayney town, this park is built around the biggest and most beautiful of Monaghan’s lakes, Muckno. The two wooded islands — Black and White Island — offer orienteering, nature walks/trails, water skiing and fishing. Otherwise, just wander and admire. monaghantourism.com
More: 10 great reasons to visit Monaghan
Nature-lovers will adore this outdoor play and education space in Omagh, designed to enhance children’s holistic development through the encouragement of natural play. A full programme of cultural events and festivals provides traditional music, song and dance every weekend.
Admission free, an-creagan.com
Ulster American Folk Park
History buffs visiting this Omagh attraction can immerse themselves in the story of the brave emigrants who made the journey across the Atlantic to America hundreds of years ago. Wander through thatched cottages, log cabins and meet costumed characters who’ll show you traditional crafts, tell stories and even share their food.
Family ticket from £19/€21.47, nmni.com/uafp
The Abingdon Collection
You’ll get a blast from the past at The Abingdon Collection, near Omagh, which is divided into two areas of interest. There are over 2,500 World War II items, and a collection of classic vehicles, complemented by over 500 model cars, photographs and automobilia.
Admission free, visit by appointment only, theabingdoncollection.com
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