With the school summer holidays coming to a close, you’re probably spending time trying to organise some day trips to keep the kids outdoors and entertained! We’ve set out to find the best family days out across the country – and the best part is; all of our selections are either completely free of charge, or are part of OPW Heritage sites and offer free entry on the first Wednesday of each month!
A memorable day out can take many forms depending on your family’s interests: a water sports filled day at Lissadel beach, a historic walk though Malahide castle, a coastal drive down the Wild Atlantic Way or a relaxing ramble though a Forest Park – or a combination of the lot. So whether you feel like packing your family up into the car and taking mini road trip around the country, or want to take a quick drive somewhere closer to home, check out our favourite suggestions from each Province:
This is a great day out for all the family, and there’s sure to be something to suit all interests. One of Ireland’s oldest castles, Malahide castle, dates all the way back to the 12th Century. Entry to the castle is free with additional guided tours also available. On a sunny day though, you might prefer to roam the expansive (22 acre!) landscaped gardens and walled garden with a picnic. The Demese also boasts a children’s playground, with designated areas for toddlers or older children.
The Phoenix Park is a national landmark, which spans an impressive 1752 acres, and really offers something for everyone, and best of all, you can enjoy most of it for free. With the expansive park for wildlife watching, summer walks through Furry Glen, a friendly five-a-side, a sightseeing trip (The Wellington Testimonial, The Phoenix Monument Papal Cross or The Tumulus) or take a historical pit-stop into the Phoenix Park visitor centre, you and your family can easily spend a summer’s day exploring all The Park has to offer.
With additional treats to explore such as Farmleigh House, which offers free guided tours daily, Dublin Zoo, and Aras an Uachtarain.
As part of Heritage Ireland, Rathfarnham Castle offers free entry on the first Wednesday of each month. History buffs can marvel at the historic, original parts of Rathfarnham Castle which date back to the 16th Century. There are also some tearooms & a children’s playground on the castle’s grounds.
Dublin Castle, is one of the most important buildings in Irish history, but due to its central location, is often overlooked as a day trip destination. Built in the early 13th century on the site of a Viking settlement, Dublin Castle was initially the headquarters of British administration in Ireland. The castle still holds many state occasions & banquets, but as part of the OPW Heritage sites, it offers free entries on the first Wednesday of every month.
The castle holds various art and historical exhibitions throughout the year along with some dedicated children’s workshops. Home to the spectacular Chapel Royal, the State Apartments, Viking Excavations and the castle gardens, the daily Guided Tours showcase the best of the castle are available daily.
One of Ireland’s designated heritage towns; Westport is extremely picturesque and bubbling with family friendly activities. You could try your hand at climbing Croagh Patrick or go on a family pony trek, visit the historical Westport house, its Pirate adventure park or use its caravanning park. Make sure you don’t miss out on walking or cycling The Great Western Greenway, Ireland’s longest off-road trail. Or if you want to take in the stunning scenery why not take a Road Trip along the Wild Atlantic Way.
Sitting proudly on the shores of Lough Derg of the River Shannon, Portumna Castle offers free entry to the public on the first Wednesday of each month. Originally built in the 17th Century, the house has undergone major reconstruction over the last few years with the original 17th-century kitchen garden restored to its original splendor; there are also three formal gardens to explore.
Surrounded by Lough Derg, and Portumna Forest Park, the area is a great choice for a summer family day out.
Lissadell Beach, Sligo:
Nothing sounds better than visiting a beach on a summer’s day, Lissadell Beach in Sligo, is popular with locals and offers some action packed activities. The beach is ideal for walking, summing, surfing and a whole host of water sports for you and the kids to enjoy.
After some restoration works, completed in 2005, Athenry Castle is now open to the public via an external wooden staircase reconstruction. Offering free entry on the first Wednesday of each month, history buffs will marvel at the castle, a beautiful example of a medieval keep, with original battlements and exterior carvings.
Steeped in history and legend, the Dun a Ri Forest Park would make a great family day out, with attractions such as a wishing well, an ice house, old military barracks and some castle ruins, this picturesque park is like something out of Irish Folklore, in fact, it’s said that Cuchullain himself rested here at night while fighting the armies of Queen Maeve of Connaught.
Situated in Donegal town, the Castle is built on a bend in the River Eske make sure to visit on the first Wednesday of the month for free entry. The Castle has been carefully restored to it’s former 17th Century glory, furnished with stunning Persian rugs and French tapestries.
The perfect day out for art lovers, this regency style house was constructed in 1828 and offers free entry on the first Wednesday of each month. Housing over 300 works by leading 20th Century artists such as Picasso and Kokoshka, and set amongst woodland gardens its well worth a visit.
Set in the expansive Muckno Forest, just outside Castleblayney, you and your family can try your hand at waterskiing and wakeboarding, or orienteering. Or if you prefer something more leisurely, you can take in the picturesque surroundings and enjoy a walk or nature trail in the woods, with a host of picnic benches you can pack a lunch to take with you.
Garnish Island in Glengarriff Harbour, Bantry Bay, has gardens full of rare and beautiful flowers to explore. Kids will love the Garnish Island Ferry, which passes a seal colony en route. For the history buffs, the Island also has a fully restored Martello tower, where you can take in the amazing views of the bay from the battlements of the tower. Entry to the public is free on the first Wednesday of the month.
A very new addition to our list is the newly opened Ardnacrusha Power Station. In the 1920’s the hydro-electric station became a symbol of Ireland’s forward thinking and to mark the ESB’s 80th anniversary, it has been made open to the public for free guided tours.
Another destination stop, Killarney has so much to offer, from boat trips out on the many lakes, dolphin spotting off the coast, Killarney National Park or take part in one of the towns many seasonal festivals. Or if you would prefer something a little more leisurely, a stroll around Muckross House & Gardens might just be the thing.
Declared a national monument in 1938, Desmond Castle has had a varied existence through the ages, originally a customs house in the 16th Century, it served as a prison during the 18th Century and a workhouse during the Great Famine – guided tours are available daily and entry to the public is free on the first Wednesday of every month.
Hopefully some of these Irish spots are yet to be explored by your family & have made it onto your list of day trip destinations. If you are taking to the road on an Irish adventure this summer, you can learn more about Aviva car insurance here or call us in Galway on 1890 33 22 11.
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