8 things to see and do in Ireland with kids

by The Traveling Canucks

Ireland is one of the best travel destinations for families. Loaded with activities that the whole family will enjoy, it’s a destination that you’ll want to come back to more than once. 

Over the past few years, airlines like Air Canada have started adding direct flights to Ireland from major hubs in Canada such as Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal. It’s now easier than ever to get there – we used our Aeroplan Miles to travel to Ireland directly from Vancouver.

Today, we are sharing 8 things you should see and do if you plan to visit Ireland with kids.  

Rent a car and explore the countryside

You’ll definitely want to rent a car while in Ireland so you have the freedom to explore the country. On a map, Ireland looks deceivingly small. We spent two weeks driving around Ireland, but we easily could have spent more time there. 

If you want to make the most of your trip, you can cut down on driving time by sticking to the main highways. This will help you get from one big city to the next faster than through country roads, which could easily add hours to your drive.

Having a car gives you the freedom to explore at your own pace, and you might stumble upon something special. One memorable moment for us was when we discovered the town of Cahir. It was not originally on our radar, but we were getting hungry and we saw that Cahir has a beautifully preserved castle. So we changed the game plan and added Cahir Castle to the trip. It ended up being a highlight from our 2-week road tip

We also enjoyed coming across the small picturesque town of Cobh, which is home to Ireland’s only dedicated cruise terminal. Once known as Queenstown, Cobh is widely known as the final port of call for the RMS Titanic when it set out on its maiden voyage across the Atlantic.

A few things to know if you do rent a car in Ireland: the side roads are narrow and windy so it’s best to get a smaller car, and the Irish drive on the left side of the road, so have someone help you navigate the roads and road signs. 

Spend a few days walking around Dublin on foot 

After arriving in Dublin, you and your kids will likely be getting over jet lag. One suggestion is to keep your schedule open for the first few days and explore when the timing is convenient for the family.

You’ll want to find a hotel that’s centrally located. We rented a 2-bedroom apartment in the financial district, two blocks from the River Liffey. It was a decent location, about a 20- to 30-minute walk to the popular Temple Bar area.

If you are traveling with very young kids whose legs quickly get tired, then you’ll want to bring a good-quality stroller. The cobblestone streets don’t work well with a flimsy umbrella stroller. We brought our large City Select double stroller and we were happy we did. 

Visit the Guinness Storehousein Dublin

While in Dublin, make sure you visit the famous Guinness Storehouse and sample a pint of its finest brew. 

You might not think that the Guinness Storehouse is family friendly, but it absolutely is! As you walk through the various floors, you’re guided through the story of Ireland’s celebrated beer with lots of interactive exhibitions that your kids will enjoy. It’s quite big, spreading over seven floors of exhibits. You can easily spend a few hours here.

Enjoy the 360° view of Dublin on the seventh floor and don’t miss the art of the perfect Guinness pour. Make sure you stop for a pint on the way out – it’s complimentary with your adult admission ticket.

Visit Blarney Castle and kiss the Blarney Stone

Without question, one of Ireland’s most popular tourist attractions is Blarney Castle – a medieval stronghold in the town of Blarney, located just outside the city of Cork.

Visitors from all over the world come to this old castle to kiss its famous Blarney Stone. While kissing the stone is not for everyone, visiting Blarney Castle and its surrounding gardens is a must for every Ireland itinerary. The views from the top of the castle are quite impressive and well worth the climb up the narrow stairs.

Visit a pub and try a local dish

In Ireland, children are welcome in pubs and the pub culture is arguably the best in the world. People don’t come to pubs in Ireland only to drink; they come to join together as a community. It was so nice to be able to enjoy authentic Irish pubs with our kids. 

You’ll want to try a few of the local dishes, like a traditional Irish stew. The stew comes in many forms, but the most widely used recipes usually involve mutton with mashed potatoes, onions, carrots and herbs. Fish and chips is another common dish, similar to what we know in Canada. For something different, try coddle: a stewed, layered dish made with leftovers – often bacon, pork sausages, potatoes and onions. If your kids like chicken fingers like ours do, know that they’re called chicken goujons in Ireland (and they are really good!).

Visit a castle or two

You can’t visit Ireland without seeing a few of its historical castles. We already mentioned Ireland’s most famous castle, Blarney Castle, but there are many more castles to explore and photograph.

You can’t visit Ireland without seeing a few of its historical castles. We already mentioned Ireland’s most famous castle, Blarney Castle, but there are many more castles to explore and photograph.

Most of the castles in Ireland are worth seeing, so you really can’t go wrong. This is also why it’s nice to have a car. You will find most castles listed on the road maps. There are hundreds of them, but the big ones are the Rock of Cashel, Ashford Castle, Bunratty Castle, King John’s Castle, Kilkenny Castle, Cahir Castle and Dunguaire Castle.

Visit the cliffs of Moher

Arguably Ireland’s top tourist attraction, the towering Cliffs of Moher live up to the hype. Located on the west coast of Ireland, these rocky cliffs are recognized as a UNESCO Global Geopark.

You really can’t visit Ireland and not visit the Cliffs of Moher and the coastal region that surrounds them. These spectacular seaside cliffs run for 14 km and rise 700 feet above the ocean at their highest point. In 2018, the Cliffs of Moher saw a record 1.5 million visitors.

Even the drive to get to the Cliffs of Moher is stunning. You’ll zig-zag along the Atlantic coast, passing through cute traditional Irish towns and villages that are hundreds of years old. The weather at the cliffs can be unpredictable, so plan for cold wind and rain (it is Ireland, after all!).

Drive part of the Wild Atlantic Way

The scenic coastal roads that make up the Wild Atlantic Way showcase Ireland’s most spectacular landscapes, but it’s unlikely you’ll drive the entire 2,500 km route in one visit – especially with kids. It’s said to be the world’s longest defined coastal touring route.

The coastal roads are quite windy and narrow, so you have to drive slowly. What looks to be an hour on the map can actually take up to 3–4 hours if you make a few stops for photos. If you’re traveling with young kids, it’s best to limit your drive times or just pick a section to explore. Our kids found the winding road a little tough on their bellies, so we made a lot of stops along the way. 

A few final tips for your trip to Ireland:

  • The weather in Ireland is unpredictable. Dress for rain, wind and cold – even in the summer.
  • Kids’ nausea medication was handy to have on hand for the windy roads.
  • If you are staying at a hotel that has a pool, head caps are mandatory for both kids and adults.
  • Rent a smaller car because the country roads are narrow.