Ireland

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A trip to the Emerald Isle is a wonderful way to introduce your family to Europe.  From medieval castles to evocative early Christian ruins, Ireland has something that all ages can appreciate.  

Most of the Republic of Ireland is easily seen in 7-10 days.  If you want to visit Northern Ireland, additional time is recommended.  While staying in Dublin is the most popular itinerary, I encourage you to rent a car and take your family to the countryside to truly experience Irish culture.

Ireland is a great first European experience for children.  The Irish speak English, its history is familiar, and the food is similar to American favorites.  Plus the friendliness of the Irish and the welcoming atmosphere to tourists make it a great vacation stop for families!

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General tips on an Irish vacation with kids:

  • The major historical sites in and around Dublin can get crowded during peak summer months, particularly Trinity College/Book of Kells, Kilmainham Gaol, and Brú na Bóinne.  However unlike the major historical sites in Italy or France, advance purchase of tickets is usually not necessary outside of these select sites.  Be sure to check the individual site for confirmation.
  • Ireland is very kid-friendly.  You will see parks and playgrounds all throughout the cities and the Irish people are very welcoming to children in stores, restaurants, and historical sites.  
  • Transportation: 
    • Dublin: Dublin is a compact and walkable city.  All of the major sites are within a 30-minute walk from the center of the city (except for Kilmainham Gaol).  Buses and the light rail are also easy to use and readily available.  Renting a car is not recommended in Dublin.  Start or end your trip in Dublin and wait to rent your car after you have finished your time there.  There are several car rental facilities on the outskirts of Dublin that are reachable by taxi.  
    • Outside of Dublin: Unlike other European destinations, you do not need a guide or driver to see the countryside.  While driving here can seem like a dangerous experiment (you have to remember to drive on the left and the roads can be super narrow and curvy), it is truly doable.  On the highways (M is the prefix), driving is fairly easy but once you exit onto the local roads, be careful.  GPS will work but may send you on some smaller roads to save time so be sure to review your route beforehand.  Stay on M, N, and R roads as much as possible and avoid L roads.
    • Rental car tips: Auto Europe seems to have good service in Europe, according to my experience.  You will want to get the extra protection, especially tire protection for all of the curbs you will hit!  For a family of four, a small SUV was fine – however the trunk space was miniscule!  When packing, plan accordingly!  
    • Getting to and from the airport: See my Dublin post for more details about Dublin’s airport.  If you are flying into the other main international airport (Shannon), I recommend renting a car. 
  • Food: Restaurants in Ireland are mostly kid-friendly and accessible.  Kids can order goujons (chicken or fish fingers), burgers made from Irish cattle, or chips (fries) at about every restaurant.  My children also loved the vegetable soup (no chunks of veggies, all pureed) and the Irish brown bread.  Most hotel stays will include breakfast so be sure to try the Irish specialties!  Irish pubs do not necessarily serve food so double check before entering.    
  • Lodging: Ireland has a wide range of lodging available, from small B&Bs to large country estates.  No matter where you are going in Ireland, I recommend that families with children stay in 4 and 5 star hotels.  For Americans accustomed to large chain hotels with expected amenities (air-conditioning, larger rooms, updated bathrooms, etc.), 4 and 5 star hotels are most comparable.  Also note that at most hotels, there is a 2-3 person occupancy limit on the rooms so you will need two rooms if you have a family of 4.
    • Dublin: See my Dublin post for details about staying in Dublin. 
    • Outside of Dublin, I recommend staying in at least one former castle/abbey/manor house – it is truly memorable!  Many of these estates have special activities like falconry.  Two that we enjoyed were Glenlo Abbey Hotel and CastleMartyr.
  • Weather: Ireland is very temperate and is nice and cool even in the summer.  Be sure to pack pants, long-sleeved shirts, and a jacket, especially a rain jacket!
  • Laundry: If you are visiting Ireland for more than 4 days, it may make sense to find a laundry facility to wash your clothes halfway through your trip.  We do this on all of our vacations so we can pack lighter (remember how small the car trunks are!). Most towns, even small towns, have a laundry business that will take your clothes in the morning and have them cleaned by the end of the day.
  • City passes: There is an Ireland Heritage pass that you can purchase to save on entrance fees at many of the country’s historical sites.  There is also a Dublin City Pass available.
  • Websites to help you plan your trip:

Sites to see: Check back often for more of these sites to be reviewed by The History Mom!  Note that only sites reviewed by The History Mom are marked with *.  Other links are external links to the museum’s own web site.  For more attractions and additional regions, visit Heritage Ireland’s site.

Books to Read:

 

This page is continually updated.