We are flying in and out of Shannon. We are staying for 7 nights with our 2 boys ages 13 & 10. I know that the boys would like to see a castle and it looks like there are quite a few to pick from. I am wondering which ones people would recommend. It looks like the western side of the island is much more scenic. I am wondering what sights people think are musts for this trip. Also the boys are interested in seeing a sporting event there.
Bunratty Folk Park is one possibility. It's very close to the airport, and is a wonderful introduction to Irish life at various times in its history and in various parts of the country. You can also explore the restored Bunratty Castle during the visit--although it was restore as a residence. There are other castles that might be more exciting for your children to explore.
Bunratty would be a good choice, with the folk park there, but I wouldn't call it restored (not sure what castle the previous poster is thinking of). They do hold medieval banquets there, but it isn't really "restored as a residence". When we have traveled with kids, they enjoyed the Cliffs of Moher, a donkey sanctuary in Liscarroll, Blarney Castle and kissing the stone. We stayed in farmhouse B&Bs where they got to see a sheep farm and a farm where they raised and trained jumping horses. At one B&B, the host showed them how to use divining rods to find water (his profession was drilling wells).
Bunratty is again one of the more popular castles out west, there are also Ross Castle in Kerry, Dunguire Castle in Galway, King John's in Limerick... lots!
Depends on the time of year for sport - Rugbywise, Munster play in Thomond, Connaught play in Galway. There will be a good bit of hurling and football over the rest of the summer so just look out for gaa.ie for more information on Gaelic sports. There will be a bit of soccer also, but the soccer games in League of Ireland can be lackluster enough.
To really enjoy the scenery, why not try cycling - especially around the Aran Islands, Achill Island, or the Greenway Cycle in Mayo - there's no better way to see the countryside, and the boys would love it. Achill Island is a great part of the country with beautiful beaches, and lots of watersports too.
Hope that is of some help.
Thank you for the great ideas! It sounds like Bunratty castle it is. The cycling idea is a good one and the sheep and donkeys will be a hit with them. Have any of you taken a boat to see the Cliffs of Moher?
Depending on your budget, you might also check out the Hawk Walks that are offered at Ashford Castle (which is lovely to visit and even more lovely for stay) and Dromoland Castle (smaller, but also lovely).
You can put Ashford Castle Hawk Walk into YouTube and watch videos, and I think both castles also have a link from their web site.
With a hawk walk, each person gets a huge leather glove and his/her own hawk. The guide will teach everyone how to launch and land one's hawk. You walk thru a path in a wooded area on the castle grounds, and it is great fun. Your two sons or your family would be one group....groups are small.
The web sites will show the prices, but I think it is Ashford that does not charge for one to watch (with the paying guests), so you could let your boys do the Hawk Walk and take video/photos, etc. But, if you all participate, the guides/instructors are great about taking photos for you.
Doing the Hawk Walk was one of the highlights of our trip to Ireland. The instructor also gives a short intro session, explaining how hawks fly, how they eat, and a little about how they think. We learned where the term 'fed up' came from, too. So, your boys will learn a lot.
Ashford Castle if very close to the Connemara region (which is a lovely drive) and also Kylemore Abbey, a castle-like home open to the public. If you stay a night at Ashford, the boys can also take a boat out and fish on their lake (or fish from the banks). Dromoland also has a lake. Bikes are available to bike around the lake, etc., which is also great fun.
Both castles have some special rates...or could just email to inquire, if your date(s) don't show up as offering a special. If the overnight does not work, just book the Hawk Walk and enjoy lunch at the castle.
Totally agree with those who suggested the Bunratty Folk Park.....great for kids (and adults, too). Ashford Castle is much grander than the Bunratty Castle.....both are interesting in different ways.
P.S. We didn't visit one, but I'm sure others reading can advise, but there are several places where the boys could watch a sheep dog demonstration (where they round up sheep). You can also put 'sheep dog demonstration Ireland' into YouTube and see what it's all about. Googling will likely give you some options of where you can see this in Ireland.
I agree that Bunratty is a good choice. They do a fun medieval banquet and have a good folk park. Blarney is fun too. I would visit the Aran Islands- you can bike there or take a pony cart to visit the fort, visit the Cliffs of Moher, Kilmainham jail is very interesting in Dublin. If you go up north the Giants causeway is a must. Another idea is to visit Newgrange outside of Dublin.
P.S. kids are always welcome in pubs :)
For games check out the following website. http://www.gaa.ie/ or go to ticketmaster Ireland
In a lot of pubs, kids are only welcome until certain hours. In many places, there was a sign saying that they had to leave by 8 or 9 p.m., before the music started in most of them.
I also vote for Bunratty folk park/castle......a sheep dog demonstration, and if your family likes horses, the Irish National Stud is a nice stop. there are also Japenese gardens and st fiachra''s garden on site.....i'll try to link the site for you ;; http://irishnationalstud.ie/visitors/44/st-fiachras-garden.html
will your boys accept horse jumping as a sporting event to watch?
Best things to do with kids in Ireland? Have you read Jonathan Swift. He had some ideas on that subject. :)