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Ireland with Kids: One of the Easiest European Destinations to Visit

Ireland with Kids: One of the Easiest European Destinations to Visit

Ireland is a popular destination for Americans to visit when they’re tracing their roots, but it’s also just a fun and beautiful place to visit with kids! As we dig into what makes Ireland a great place to plan a European adventure with family, you’ll see that in general many of the day to day experiences in Ireland are family friendly and great to incorporate children into. Travel in the UK and Ireland is particularly easy coming from the USA, so give a listen a see if it’s a fit for you!

Visiting Ireland with kids doesn’t have to be a stressful trip, so listen to these great tips and itinerary ideas to put together your own Irish adventure. Give a listen to the podcast episode (just below) as Keryn, our friend who runs Twist Travel Magazine, shares her favorite places to visit in Ireland with kids as well as her own cultural experiences that keep her and her family returning.

If you have any questions about visiting Ireland with kids (or specifically pre-teens and teenagers) feel free to leave a comment or send us a note. We’ll be sure to follow up or have our resident Ireland expert get back to you with advice and answers!

Visiting Ireland with kids is a great introduction to traveling in Europe. A very easy country to get around, Ireland is full of sights and activities that are family friendly, full or culture and there are tons of beautiful sights. Get tips, itinerary ideas and listen to our podcast about Ireland with kids.

Ireland with Kids Podcast Episode

As you listen to this episode, you’ll notice that Ireland with kids isn’t a complex trip to plan or execute. Being a country that’s quite mellow and community oriented, you’ll see that many of the things that make Ireland interesting and fun are not restricted by age or interest. You can make a trip to Ireland with kids as simple and chill as you like.

In this episode:

  • What makes Ireland a family friendly destination
  • When is the best time to visit Ireland
  • Planning a fun Ireland itinerary with kids
  • Favorite Irish towns to visit

Travel Tips for Visiting Ireland with Kids

So, Ireland – I think of the stereotypical icons that are broadcast into our homes in the USA. I think of mossy castles, druid, leprechaun, potatoes… There’s much more to it than that, and this is the reason traveling with kids is so important: it shows the reality of another world and gives context to the elements from that place that they are familiar with.

If you’re thinking you won’t be able to convince kids or pre-teens that they’ll enjoy visiting Ireland, think again and let your kids surprise you by what they’re interested in. Some things kids will love in Ireland for lots of different reasons…

  • Football aka soccer – this really is a community event when there’s a game, and it’s very different from in the USA
  • Family friendly pubs – yes, kids are welcome in pubs and they’ll think they’re cool
  • Cultural immersion – from music sessions to performances, it’s all family friendly and will absolutely pique kids’ interests
  • Historic sites – Irish history is not what you’d expect, or maybe it is? Let your kids show you what they know or want to learn.

Tip: as you’re planning to visit Ireland with kids, ask them what THEY want to do and see, or have them do some research. We do this with our kids and they get really invested in our travels. When I did New York City with our pre-teen, he guided our plans and we both had the most amazing time together.

Cultural Immersion in Ireland

Irish sessions in pubs are one of the best things to watch for when you’re doing Ireland with kids. Local musicians and performers will fire up their instruments, sing or dance right there in the pub and it’s pretty normal. Some pubs will post notices of who will be performing, and sometimes it’s just a free flowing event.

Irish dance is another common performance to see. You can find public shows, ticketed shows, or even just Irish dancing in pubs. You never know who’s going to be dancing and performing. For example, Keryn shared a great story of being in the Dingle Pub and then their server at dinner turned out to be a championship Irish step dancer performing that night.

While it may not strike you as cultural immersion, when you’re visiting Ireland with kids, you may want to make your way to a pub on the afternoon or evening of a televised football (soccer) game. Professional soccer isn’t hugely popular in the USA in comparison to pro football (American football) so being present within a community cheering on their team is quite the Irish experience.

Irish Pub in Kenmare Ireland

Heritage Tours in Ireland

Many people do seek out family roots when they visit Ireland. For a lot of people, they want to see where their grandparents or great grandparents came from, and maybe even meet some cousins for the first time. If that’s not you, either because you’re not interested or if you don’t have any Irish heritage, that’s fine. You can still travel in Ireland and dig into the history that leads you to understanding why there was such a huge migration to the USA in the late 19th and 20th centuries, particularly through Ellis Island in New York City.

Historic Sites and Irish Castles

Did you know that there actually aren’t many castles left in Ireland? The English are the ones who built them and with the turmoil between the two countries over the years, many of the castles were razed. There are many historic abbeys though, both still in use and in ruins. The ones in ruins still have walls and fascinating structures, but no roof.

Kylemore Abbey is one of the most beautiful castle-like places to visit with kids. It’s beautiful, well maintained and actually operational. You can visit Kylemore Abbey on the way to Donegal from Dingle. Abbeys like this are mostly what you’ll find around Ireland, although not all are open to the public.

Killarney does have Ross Castle (southwest), there’s Dunmore Castle near Galway (central coast), and you’ll find others, but if you’re looking to tour and learn all about castles, you’ll find many more in Scotland and England.

Ross Castle in Killarney Ireland

Where to Visit in Ireland with Kids

Whenever we visit a place that’s completely new to all of us, it feels like a mad scramble to understand the layout and pick places that will be great as a family. That means we’re looking for a combination of adventure and downtime. Ireland with kids can be just that if you know where to go. Here are three regions that are GREAT to visit with kiddos.

Dingle Peninsula

Here on the Dingle Peninsula, there are LOTS of things to do and see. Slea Head Drive on the the Dingle Peninsula is a great place to explore with kids. You’ll find beautiful landscapes, Star Wars filming locations, and more. Small museums make for easy stops along the way and there are lots of opportunities to just get out and walk.

Inch Beach is a great place to visit with kids, as they can actually learn to surf on the Irish coast. Yes, surfing is a thing in Ireland, even if it doesn’t seem like something you’re into. Living in St Augustine Beach, Florida I cannot imagine surfing on the Irish coast, but with the large waves coming off the Atlantic Ocean, it’s a popular option.

Sligo and Donegal Region

This is the part of Ireland that’s next to Northern Ireland, Northwest Ireland you can call it. Here in the Donegal area you’ll actually find more castles than other areas. The Donegal, Lough Eske and Glenveagh Castles are all in this area. There are lakes, small towns and a national park. You’ll find historic sites like the Owencarrow Viaduct and the Bridge of Tears, and then lots of hiking in the hills as well.

In Sligo you’ll find another cool Abbey, waterfalls and hiking. This part of Ireland isn’t as traveled as the most popular areas like Cork and Killarney, so visiting Stone Age sites and getting into nature is easy and quiet.

Glenveagh Castle near Donegal Ireland

Doolin for the Cliffs of Moher

The Cliffs of Moher are one of the most famous sights to see in Ireland. These cliffs are rough, mossy, green and gorgeous. They’re also crumbling so stay back and follow the rules, thus preserving the Cliffs of Moher and your life. The Cliffs are one of the most famous/popular sights to see in Ireland, with or without kids, so the nearby town of Doolin is a great place to visit with lots of family friendly options and stays. Check out this great 10 Day Wild Atlantic Way itinerary!

Gus O’Connor’s Pub is a place to experience a traditional Irish session any given night. This is a popular place during the day because of tourists visiting the Cliffs, but at night it turns a big more local, including the nightly performances and Guinness. Yes, there really is Guinness everywhere but you need to find it on draft. Jameson is the other adult beverage that you’ll find everywhere. Guinness steak stew is one of the highlights of Doolin when it comes to food. Gin has become popular too so watch for local gin in addition to the Guinness, but maybe not in the cooking.

Cliffs of Moher in Doolin Ireland

Visiting Northern Island AND the Republic of Ireland

It’s very easy to cross the border from the Republic of Ireland to northern Ireland which is a part of the UK. If you’re not familiar, you should watch Derry Girls on Netflix to get a little insight into the border towns of the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Until there was a ceasefire, these towns were at the center of conflict, so suffered into the 1990s. Today, you can easily travel between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland as easy as walking down the street. Yes, they are different countries with Northern Ireland being a part of the UK, but you can easily visit both.

How to Get Around Ireland

You can easily take the train from Dublin into the larger towns and cities in Ireland, but ultimately exploring is best as a road trip. The spontaneity of being able to drive wherever you like is a big benefit to having your own car as you explore Ireland. If you’re trying to do visit Ireland with kids and do it via the train system, you’ll find that from the main lines you’ll need to use the bus system to get to smaller towns and the coast.

If you choose to get a rental car when you’re in Ireland, you will experience driving on the left side of the road. It’s not that difficult to mentally switch yourself over to being on the opposite side than we drive on in the USA and Canada, but if you get a manual transmission car (which is cheaper than an automatic) you’ll have to reverse your physical process for driving, and that may feel like a struggle.

You are required to carry Irish collision damage waiver insurance if you’re renting a car in Ireland. This can double your cost for a rental car, so depending on your plans and how long you’ll be touring, hiring a driver may be cheaper or the same cost. When we plan big trips, or even just road trips here in the USA, we lay out our costs and see what’s the most effective. When it comes to planning international travel, this become even more important so you’re not shocked when you get home and you’re paying the bills from all of it.

Driving on left side of road in Ireland

When to Visit Ireland with Kids

The weather in Ireland is very similar to that of Maine or Western Washington. It’s very rainy and moist. You need to plan your packing to reflect the weather you’ll likely have, and then be ready for slightly worse weather. Rain is often guaranteed but much less common in the summer. In the winter you’ll get snow probably, but it’s not as likely as if you’re visiting Scotland in the winter.

Keep in mind that when you’re visiting Ireland with kids, so are other families. Because it’s a wet, cooler climate, it’s a popular summer travel destination. When kids get out of school in the UK, US and Canada, Ireland is a great place to jaunt off to. This doesn’t mean that it’ll be busy like Disney World or London, but there’ll be more tourists than visiting in winter.

Tips for Planning Ireland

I am a planner and while I might not plan everything down to the minute months ahead, I make sure that key things we know we want to do are booked and that I’ve done my due dilligence to experience things plenty in advance. And that goes for visiting Ireland with kids too. You’ll want to be sure that you’ve done your research about specific activities and booked the hotels you’re interested in as far ahead as possible. Journeying across the sea is a great experience when you’ve set yourself up for success. Research and planning is a great way to manage travel anxiety.

Here are some key things to know or expect as you’re planning travel to Ireland:

  • Automatic cars are more expensive to rent
  • book the most popular places (Ring of Kerry, the Blarney Stone…) as soon as you know your dates
  • Watch flight prices as deals with Aer Lingus happen all the time (and they partner with American Airlines, which is our preferred airline)
  • Dublin and Belfast are great for shopping, but the small towns of Ireland are great for finding wool sweaters and Irish yarn products.
  • Ten days to two weeks is ideal for exploring Ireland. The slower you can go, the better, spending at least two nights in each town you want to visit.

Be sure to check out the Ireland itineraries Keryn (our podcast friend) has put together. She’s a pro when it comes to exploring Ireland and is happy to share her knowledge!

If you have any questions about visiting Ireland or the UK, please leave a comment or send us a note. We’re always down to help plan travel and have lots of experience with many destinations.