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Ireland with young teens

Hello, my family of 4 is starting to plan our next family adventure. We have our sights set on Iceland/Ireland and possibly back to Paris. I have done quite a bit of reading on Ireland, but I am still at a loss of where to book our accommodations. We will most likely be flying in and out of Dublin. I would like to do a few days in Dublin, explore the south and west coast and a day trip up to Belfast and area. Total time in Ireland would be 14 days (+/-3). I would like a couple of recommendations for apartments or towns that you might suggest as home ports for our daily adventures. We plan on renting a car as well. We would like to do some exploring and hiking as much as we can. Any suggestions for places that the girls might enjoy would be great as well, they will be 12 and 14 at the time of our trip. We will be traveling in July of 2015. It would have been this year, but due to an unforeseen incident, we have to put it off. More time for me to research!! Advice, suggestions, tips, recommendations or general comments are greatly appreciated.

Thank you in advance for your help

Posted by
237 posts

Hello Tania,
Sounds like a great trip! Some general tips first:
-Don't get a car in Dublin - it will be nothing but trouble in the city. After your time in Dublin go back to the airport - I recommend the bus but with four there may be other options - and rent your car there.
-Pack light for a lot of reasons but also to limit the size of the car you need for four plus bags because Irish roads are narrow.
-If you want to day trip to Belfast you should consider the train and make it adjacent to your Dublin days.
-Read up on the history of "the troubles" to give historical sites - especially in Dublin more significance.

Pay attention to the girls interests (obviously) and limit drive times. About everyone's (on this board anyway) favorite area is Dingle. It is great from a cultural perspective but like a lot of rural Ireland experiencing it requires slowly down and appreciating the quiet. The attraction of this may not go as far with your younger companions.
Some possible sites:
Many people suggest The National Stud which has gardens and horses.
If they have any interest in archeology or ruins the Newgrange/Knowth are amazing and easily reached (<45 minutes) from the airport after the car rental. Also the archeology museum in Dublin is an amazing building with great displays.
The castle in Cahir is large and mostly intact if castle exploring is on the wish list. The smaller castle in Trim is nice (parts were used in shooting Braveheart) and has a great tour and is easily reachable from the Newgrange site.
Dingle, of course, the girls are old enough that they can stay in the pubs to listen to 'trad' music until at least 10 and probably beyond if they with adults and no one is paying too close attention. But there are more adventurous tours too like boat tours to the Blasket Islands from there and you can explore the remnants of people removed from the island - visit the museum before you go. Skellig Island tours are certainly a challenge as well.
The Burren and Cliffs of Moher are the classic West Coast sights and both are worth doing. A guided tour of the Burren might help bring some of the charms of this unique landscape to life.
The Killarney National Park (in the southern area reachable from Dingle) is a great sight with tons of picturesque areas to explore as well as the Muckross House tour (nice if you like that sort of thing) and recreations of historical lifestyles in Ireland through time. The park is free (aside from the tours and things) and is well worth checking out - especially if exploring is on the wish list.

Some suggestions to skip:
The "Dublin Castle" tour. Mostly a tour of official government buildings in which important matters of state happened. Not bad but not the 'castle' most Americans think of when they hear the word.
Galway. I know some people like this town and it seems convenient as a hub but it is probably the least "Irish" town in the Republic and it has no street signs at all making driving there very frustrating.

If you haven't gotten the Rick Steves book for Ireland you really owe it to yourself to get a copy. He has recommendations on places to stay and we've never gone wrong with one of his places. Most have been great and the few that weren't were fine. Also he has kids and gives tips specifically for keeping them entertained. If you want to wait for the 2015 updated version see if you can your hands on an older copy and it will give you a real feel for what places interest you.

Have a great trip!

Posted by
9361 posts

Because much of what you want to see is in the south and west, I would suggest flying into Shannon airport and out of Dublin. Two reasons - it saves sightseeing time because you aren't backtracking to Dublin when you ready to leave, and it is much easier to get used to driving on the other side of the road when you start out in Shannon. Shannon is out in the country and there is almost no traffic. Dublin airport is near the motorway, but is still on a busy, multi-lane road with lots of traffic.

Posted by
206 posts

Thank you very much!! This all sounds great! My thoughts were of renting a car out of the airport or Shannon as well. My husband said that since he is doing much of the driving, I had to keep him out of the cities!!

Posted by
8 posts

Hi - My family of 3, including our then 14 yo daughter, did a similar trip last year. Flew into Dublin (5:00am), got our car and headed up to Newgrange. Great way to start driving with practically no traffic on the road! Daughter LOVED Knowth and Newgrange! Stayed in Trim that night - nice castle, low stress when we were recovering from 8hr jet lag. Drove to Kinsale next day with a highly-recommended stop at Cashel. Kinsale was a bit touristy; don't drive into the downtown if possible! Stayed there 2 days and it was enough. Visited the fort & took a guided tour - great info and background on Irish history. Even with a cold, daughter enjoyed it. Drove to Dingle next along the N71, with a stop at Drombeg stone circle, through Killarney and wished we had scheduled a stay there to hike in the national park. Dingle was great - stayed 2 nights just out of town so not noisy; the drive around Slea Head was beautiful; Blasket Island Center a good stop; you can also take a boat out there and we kind of wish we had; nice beach somewhere along the road. Next headed to Cliffs of Mohr, via ferry at Tarbert. Cliffs are crazy touristy but astounding. Nice walk/hike south towards Hags Head along the cliffs. We stayed in Ballyvaughn in the Burren and did hikes in there. Different but beautiful! Drove to Shannon and flew to England. Flew back to Dublin (had RT tix out of Dublin). Stayed right on the river Liffey and was glad to be close in to town - we were at the end of our 3 weeks and a bit worn. Lined up for Book of Kells early and was worth it, along with the Long Room! The archeology museum another a highlight of the trip - bog bodies especially :-).
This year we're going back (it's addictive over there!) and visiting the north half of Ireland and Scotland.
Let me know if you want specifics on anything!