Family vacation: 11& 7 yr. old - England/Scotland or Ireland?

My husband and I took a trip to Ireland last fall and loved it! We would like to take our kids (11 and 7) to either Ireland or the UK this summer. We are not city people and would like to possibly stay at Ashford castle (Ireland/Co. Cong) again. Perhaps Dromoland castle as well. The kids would love to stay in a castle and see great scenery, like Ring of Kerry/Dingle, etc. Any suggestions for reasonable airfare, independent tours or ala carte itineraries? I have checked out Globus, Tralfagar, CIE, and Sceptre (we went with Sceptre last fall).

Posted by Pamela
New York City, NY, USA
4208 posts

I would take them to Scotlan. You can start in Edinburgh show them Edinburgh Castle. Climb Arthur's seat for great view and to burn up energy if you need to. If it's a rainy day, think about taking them to Dynamic Earth. It's a science museum that has some interactive parts. You can see how the Scottish Landscape was formed. Lots and lots of Scottish children in attendance! Do a day trip to Stirling to see the Castle. Then I would take them north. There are lots of castles to see and lochs to run around. You might want to think about Orkney. The Ring of Brogdar and all the Viking lore might be great fun for them. Or just go to the Highlands. In the Inverness area, there is, of course, Loch Ness and it's Monster. There is a great ruined castleUrqhart which is great to explore and is right on the edge of the loch. The Aviemore area has a stream train up to the top of mountain. Rothiemurchus estate has lots of trails you can rent bikes. You can go to Chanery Point and look for Dolphins. There are lots of castle hotels. Oh, and in Glasgow there is one of the great transport museums, so if your children are into trains, it's fantastic. It's right on the Clyde and has ships to now. Oh and one more, the Castle at St. Andrews has a mine under the walls that you can go into and explore! and a bottle dungeon. ; ) Pam

Posted by Pamela
New York City, NY, USA
4208 posts

I would have thought more people would have responded. But, I just realized that I didn't even mention the Harry Potter connections. The famous Viaduct is north of Fort William, so it's pretty far north. Beautiful country of course. In the Borders, you might want to check out Hadrian's Wall. It's got great ruins of Roman Forts as well. Also, in the Borders is Traquair House. The grounds are great and include a maze. Pam

Posted by Susan
Atlanta, Georgia
2 posts

Hi Jo, I would suggest heading to England, so much to do and so much variety. A day or two in London, or stay in the suburbs and travel into the center on the Tube, the underground rail system. What kid does not want to see the Tower of London or ride on the London Eye, and there are wonderful central London parks for kids to let off a little steam. Then off to the countryside and coast, south west England, Somerset, Devon and Cornwall are lovely have history and some of the best weather and you can go via Stonehenge another unique site to spur a child's imagination. Or go to northern England, Yorkshire, Hadrian's Wall and Jane Austen country. There is scenery and history everywhere and being an island you are never really far from the coast and a beach. The rail system is good for the long haul runs or the motorways, freeways, will shorten the driving time and the "Are we there yet" questions. Remember NEVER think about driving in central London. I would not go with a tour, with the help of the internet and an English speaking country, it is easy to research and plan an independent trip and has the advantage of being able to work around the timing and interests of your children.

Posted by JANET
Westford, VT, us
27 posts

Hi, Jo I'm going to England next month but have never been before. But even though you're not "city people", there is so much to do in London, you might think about staying outside the city and taking the train in for a couple of day visits. Esp. with the rail system being as comprehensive as it is. In any case, here are the same two cents I put in whenever anyone asks about Ireland. My 3 favorite spots were 1)the Aran Island of Inishmoor just off Galway. There is a swimming beach and, since there are no visitor cars allowed on the island, a fabulous & affordable way to get around is by bike. No castles but lots of ruins (including a fort) and spectacular places to hike. Lodging can be pricey but if you only spend a couple of nights, it might work for you. 2) The Antrim Coast of Northern Ireland is spectacular with plenty of places to hike around as well. 3) Donegal - peat bogs, the beach, wide open spaces, the road less travelled but equally as friendly and welcoming as any place in Ireland. We found these 3 places a lot less crowded and less expensive than SW Ireland, inc. Dingle. Also, as you know, there are castle ruins everywhere. We managed to find modest lodging in B&B's every step of the way (except Inishmoor, but it all evened out in the end....). After overseas flights, our single biggest expense for the two of us was car rental. I'm not sure where you are but often flights in and out of Shannon are a bit less than Dublin. BTW, we found nearly all these places thru RS's book. If you haven't tried airbnb for lodging and yapta to track fares, these are two powerful travel tools. Good luck to you.

Posted by Barb
Central Florida
483 posts

Last Summer, I went to Scotland with a 7 year old. Had a great time. Castles are great for Kids. Alnwick Castle is at the North England, Scottish border and has fun activities for kids. I wish we had more time there. We were on a small group tour and had to leave after a few hours. We didn't have time to see the spectacular gardens at Alnwick. You can look-up Alnwick online. Bring high-quality rain jackets that can pack into small pouches for the whole family. It's worth the extra money for good quality ones. You can see Puffins and marine life Staffa/Treshnish Isles tour. (Oban area) Scotland, England, and Ireland are all great choices. You can't go wrong with any of them. Have a fantastic time with the Tikes! Turn them loose!

Posted by Kim
986 posts

when i went to Orkney as a child, the site at Skara Brae completely captured my imagination. Add that to Brodgar and the other sites Pamela mentioned, and it's pretty darned cool! (See if you can't find some of the works of George Mackay Brown to fill your kids in on some of the Orkney legends.).

Posted by Jo
7 posts

Thank you all for the informative responses! This gives us a little more to consider.

Posted by Christina
New York, NY, 10025
365 posts

Hi! I don't know when you are planning to go, but a word of warning. If you choose Scotland, Edinburgh is crowded in August due to all the Festivals. I was there for the Fringe this past August and the party atmosphere of the town at that time didn't strike me as being particularly kid friendly. (By all means, someone correct me if I am wrong, but I didn't notice lots of kids about.) Also, you'd probably have to book now. That warning aside, I think Scotland would be great for a family vacation.