I’ve been asked about visiting Ireland with kids twice in the past week or so. So, given that and the fact that St. Patrick’s Day is coming up, I thought I’d be patriotic and devote a few posts to visiting Ireland.
Let’s say you’re arriving in Shannon and renting a car. You want to spend five or six days exploring and you’ll fly out of Dublin continuing on to visit another European country.
Before you travel, use Google or Bing maps to create a customized route map. Even if your rental car has GPS, with narrow roads, bilingual signs and the overall shock of driving on the “wrong” side of the road, you’ll be glad to have every little bit of extra help.
After you pick up your car in Shannon Airport, head South-East towards Limerick. You’ll be skirting Limerick City – beware, there are many, many roundabouts required to do this – and drive to Adare, a picturesque little town just 30 miles from the airport. Adare is an excellent place to base yourself for your first couple of days. I recommend staying in Adare Manor, a small (castle) hotel on beautiful grounds. Your little ones will be excited to explore the grounds and check out the thatched cottages in the town. All that activity will make it easy for you to keep them awake during daylight hours – which is, really, the only way to help kids adjust to a new time zone quickly.
On day two take a day-trip to enjoy Bunratty Folk Park. This recreation of an 19th century rural Irish village was always a hit with my boys. Check out the map on the schoolhouse wall – I remember being fascinated by the changes in national boundaries and country names. There’s an activity sheet here which older children will enjoy completing during their visit to the park.
Kinsale is your destination on day three of your visit. This is one of my favorite places in Ireland. I love the colors of the buildings in the village, the views out over the harbor and the food. (Oh! The food! Kinsale is known as the gourmet captial of Ireland). Stay at Actons, a family-friendly hotel on the waterfront, or one of the cottages at Oysterhaven. Once settled in Kinsale, you can explore the West Cork area, just enjoy Kinsale itself or beachcomb around the Old Head of Kinsale. Definitely plan a visit to Cork city and Cobh. The port at Cobh was the the last port of call for transatlantic ships before and during the Irish Potato Famine and up to the 1950s. The Cobh Heritage Center tells the story of the people who emigrated from Ireland to the U.S.
Take a sight-seeing day trip up towards Dublin, stopping at the abbey in Cashel and Kilkenny castle. Spend the morning in Cashel and explore Kilkenny in the afternoon. There’s pretty good shopping in Kilkenny so you might want to stay overnight to allow yourself time to stop at the Kilkenny Design Center the next morning. If you choose to do that, I recommend the River Court Hotel which is central, has a pool for the kids to play in and has great views of the castle over the river.
An overview of visiting Ireland with kids.
Check back later this week for Road Trip Ireland Part II: Dublin To Belfast.