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Ireland with our babies!

My wife and I are taking our children (daughter will be almost 4, son will be almost 2) to Ireland late April-early May. I do have roots in Ireland, but one of the main reasons we chose Ireland is because it would be a trip that our children could also enjoy. We've been to Italy and France and know that taking toddlers into churches and museums day after day would be the opposite of a vacation for us. Everyone told us to travel before we had children because we wouldn't be able to after, and we say BOO TO THAT, so Ireland's beautiful scenery and countryside it is!

Please keep in mind that we've planned this itinerary to be a "vacation" as well as a "trip." Unlike our previous adventures, we know that we won't be able to see as much, but we'd rather like to take our time in each place that we do visit. We are planning for slow driving, many potty stops, and spontaneous picnics. We will not be taking our kids anywhere near the CLIFFS of Moher, rope bridges, causeways, etc., regardless of how breathtaking they are. We will be looking for parks, castles, animals, music, friendly people, and maybe trying to squeeze in a few churches here and there. With all of that said, please feel free to give us as much expert advice and wisdom as you wish. Here is our proposed itinerary:

Day 1 - Arrive in Dublin (get settled and rest, maybe do hop on hop off bus tour)
Day 2 - Dublin (St. Patrick's & Christ Church, archaeology museum?)
Day 3 - Bus tour to Glendalough
Day 4 - Dublin (Trinity College, what else?)
Day 5 - Rent car at airport / Drive to Kilkenny (try not to crash)
Day 6 - Kilkenny (Kilkenny Castle, St. Canice's?)
Day 7 - Rock of Cashel / Drive to Kenmare (Ugh so much driving, but Rock of Cashel!!!)
Day 8 - Kenmare (Killarney National Park)
Day 9 - Kenmare (Beara peninsula?, NOT the whole Ring of Kerry, but Derrynane house?)
Day 10 - Drive to Dingle
Day 11 - Dingle (Slea Head drive)
Day 12 - Dingle (Find Fungi, relax, enjoy life, remind ourselves how blessed we are)
Day 13 - Drive to Shannon Airport / Drop off car (what to see on the way? Adare? Bunratty?)
Day 14 - Fly home (hate every second)
Day 15 - Post 1,000+ pictures to Facebook / Begin planning next trip

Comments? Concerns? Constipations? Let us have it and thank you!

Posted by
9363 posts

Your itinerary is far from a relaxing one, even for someone with no kids to consider. You don't want to take your kids to places of natural beauty, but you think they will enjoy archaeology museums, monastic settlement ruins in the mountains, and spending a lot of time in the car? Sure, you will see sheep everywhere (quite possibly in the road), but I don't see that you have planned anything specifically for the kids. Bunratty Castle has a wonderful "folk park" with animals that kids would like. There is a donkey sanctuary in Liscarroll that could be added to your itinerary without going much out of your way (and it over looks a castle ruin). Cahir Castle is just down the road from Cashel and the kids could actually move around and explore it. Kenmare is a nice little town, but Killarney would give you more opportunity to hear music, since it's a bit more touristy (and the national park is there). Keep in mind that the kids might have a tough time adjusting to the time zone changes, and might have really uneven schedules for a few days, so you need to be flexible. Another possibility to see animals would be to stay in farmhouse B&Bs along the way. We have stayed on a sheep farm, a cattle farm, and one that raised and trained jumping horses. Or you might want to consider choosing only a couple of locations and renting a self-catering place. You would have more space and a "home base" that might make the kids more comfortable.

Posted by
1994 posts

If your children prove to be comfortable traveling, I think the pace is reasonable. I did a very similar trip with handicapped relative, and it didn't feel rushed. A few thoughts… Rather than doing Glendalough as a bus trip from Dublin, I would suggest finishing your visit in Dublin, renting the car, and driving to Glendalough for your first night after leaving dublin. Then continue the next day to Kilkenny.

On the Dingle Peninsula, the drive around the head is really beautiful, but it's difficult to enjoy the scenery and focus on the narrow winding road. We hired a driver/guide for that day, and it was a good decision. It would've been hard to enjoy the scenery without it.

Your older child may enjoy the folk park at Bunratty. And I second the suggestion to find some farm house B&Bs with animals – I think your children would enjoy that.

Posted by
46 posts

Thanks for the ideas Sherry. Do you know of a good place in particular near Glendalough to stay? After doing some more research I'm starting to lean more towards driving ourselves instead of taking a bus tour. The drive from Dublin looks easy enough on viamichelin.com and only about 90 minutes. Glendalough to Kilkenny is over 2 hours though, and I'm not sure if that would be too much for one day. Especially considering our plan for day 7. Essentially, driving ourselves to Glendalough would give us more time in Dublin, but less in Kilkenny. Good and bad I guess. I'll suggest it to my wife tonight and possibly alter our plans.

Any ballpark price or reference you could give me to hire a driver to show us the Dingle loop?

We specifically have a couple of farmhouse b&b's lined up for Kenmare and Dingle. We're especially excited about them because we know the kids will love them! Thanks again!

Posted by
13968 posts

Dublinia in Dublin should be enjoyable for your daughter. It's a "Viking experience" - lots to interest adults but enough hands-on stuff to keep children happy too. . . look around, there are boxes with clothes to try on and helmets, even chain mail for dad to try. When I was there recently, I saw lots of small people in attendance. There is a combined ticket with Christ Church, which is right next door, and connected by a bridge. The Viking Splash Tour is usually fun for kids, though usually older ones. You will see them riding through the city and can decide then. It's corny, but people who've done it with kids say it was good fun.

The Trinity College Library (and Book of Kells) may be difficult with small children, especially if they are antsy - it's pretty crowded. The archaeology museum, on the other hand, is free and is a Wow. Lovely gold stuff for your daughter to look at.

Posted by
4690 posts

Because they are not in school yet, I'd urge you to make sure their vaccinations are up to date. Ireland is just as civilized as the U.S., but there's always a little more chance of exposure with international travel. Most measles, etc. outbreaks in the U.S. start with someone who has just traveled.

Would you set aside some money for overpriced horse and carriage rides? I think it's a bit of a waste for adults, but the kids will love it. Locals took us to a weekly/monthly? horse auction, which was pretty neat. Sorry, I forget where.

Posted by
46 posts

Great suggestions Chani. Most of the bad reviews of Dublinia on TripAdvisor specifically say that it's cheesy and more for kids, so that sounds perfect to us! We are very excited for the archeology museum, and although we understand Trinity College may be difficult, with good planning and some creativity we are confident that we can make it happen. Thanks again!

Posted by
388 posts

I agree with the advice on this thread. To add to this, I wouldn't consider the Beara Peninsula. That would be an awful lot of driving. Instead, Derrynane and Abbey Island are worth a visit as is the Staigue fort enroute. Its a windy two lane road to Derrynane so it will take perhaps an hour or 1.5 hours to get there. You could stop for lunch either in the tiny town of Derrynane or in Sneem. Or if you feel like splurging you could stop at the Parnasilla resort for lunch or tea and explore the grounds. I hope this helps some.

Posted by
1994 posts

Sorry for the delayed response to your questions to me. There are a number of B&Bs in Glendalough, very near monastery. I have a computer problem, so I can't give you the name of the one we used. Also, with very young kids, it would probably be worth a call to ensure the room would work for you. I think Dublin to Glendalough to Kilkenny would be a pretty tiring day. A couple of years ago, some of the roads from Dublin to Glendalough were narrow, challenging, and shared w many bikes; plan for slow going.

For a guide at Dingle, I'd check RS guide book. That's where we found ours (again, his name has vanished in a hard disk crash).

Posted by
1994 posts

When you estimate driving time in much of Ireland, it would be a good idea to add about 25% to Michelin time to allow for challenging roads, slow traffic, farm equipment, etc

Posted by
13968 posts

if it's cold, windy, and raining every day? It's very probable that could be the case. Since most sites are outdoors, is it still worth going to Ireland?

I was lucky and had great weather most of the time. But the pubs are dry and the people are so friendly, even when the weather sucks.

Posted by
235 posts

Be prepared for any kind of weather in Ireland no matter when you go and make the best of it. Totally unpredictable but expect some rain. I went one September for 18 days and saw rain twice. The next year I went the exact same time and had horizontal rain from the minute I got there until I left ten days later. I think I slept in my Gortex rain jacket. I don't ever remember taking it off. Still had a great time though.

Posted by
7686 posts

Regarding Fungi....follow Ricks directions for the walk to the lighthouse. Head out there before the first Fungi boat tour leaves for the day so you are positioned by the lighthouse when the first boat gets there, maybe a half hour walk. There are a couple of stiles to put the kids over. We saw Fungi streak out from a side cove as soon as we could hear the boat motor! Some of this path is gorse lined (stickery) and it is cliff top but not that near the edge. Take snacks and water. No potty out there.

Posted by
65 posts

Josh, I am following this thread because we plan to bring our kids for the first time in May--though ours are big galoots relative to yours! (12 and 14 by the time we go in May.) I wish we had made it back with them sooner, as I thought the Irish would be such good hosts to little ones. The last time we were there I was pregnant with our first, and all our landlords and ladies couldn't gush enough about it. :-)

You didn't mention your accommodations--I'd recommend "country house" b&bs (i.e., not in the towns). Cheaper, and you're more likely to end up on a farm, or at least with some critters around. We had hosts in Adare with horses they couldn't wait to show off, and our hosts near Cashel had a litter of farm puppies in the kitchen. I know my kids would love that, and I hope we find the same this time.

I also think little ones would love exploring some of the ruins. They wouldn't be the dangerous sort--we found so many ruined churches with high crosses, and even several stone circles, and often had them to ourselves. The Hill of Tara--us and the cows. (Just watch for the cow pats!)

As far as pubs go, most welcome kids earlier in the day. We found Sunday afternoons particularly family-friendly in the country, and if you're lucky or do your research, Sunday afternoons often come with a trad music session.

Have fun, and tell us about it--with luck I'll be deep in prep for our journey when you get back.

Posted by
9363 posts

"How does Josh's plan work out if it's cold, windy, and raining every day? It's very probable that could be the case. Since most sites are outdoors, is it still worth going to Ireland?"

Seriously? It's always worth going to Ireland! On my April trip, it was only rainy all day one day (and it didn't stop us from doing anything we had planned, except that our drive of the Ring of Kerry was fogged out). It was sunny several days, and cloudy with a lot of cold wind one day, and a couple of other days had periods of "soft weather" - misty drizzle. Just be prepared for rain at any point, take layers, and have fun.