Here’s an alphabetical list of fantastic reasons why you should book a family trip to Ireland today!
A is for Airplane: Long flights with kids don’t have to intimidating; arrive prepared, pack smart, and ship items ahead to make life simpler for you. You should always purchase a seat for your child, no matter their age. If your child is still in a car seat we highly recommend using it on the airplane; it is familiar and will help make this new experience a bit less stressful. Meanwhile you and the other adults can get in the mood for Ireland by having a pre-Ireland drink!
B is for Bed & Breakfast: Like any half sane people we love Irish B&Bs! The warm welcome (often accompanied by tea and biscuits) and home-like atmosphere are easy to settle in to, and your hosts can offer local insight and tips that no guidebook can match. B&Bs are often a terrific value for budget minded travelers-and the traditional Irish breakfast served every morning will provide energy for wherever your journeys take you.
C is for the Irish Castles: Ireland is spotted with castles. Some are glorious, serving as tourist destinations and hotels; others lying in ruins, their crumbled walls holding stories that may never be told. No matter its state, a castle will always evoke a sense of magic, mystery, and timelessness. One of our favorite castles in Ireland is Cahir Castle in Tipperary. Often overlooked due to its close proximity to another famous castle- the Rock of Cashel- Cahir Castle is wonderfully restored. Stand under the portcullis, stroll the battlements, climb the towers… It’s all open to explore, and not quite as busy as some of the better-known castles.
D is for Dublin: The capital of the Republic of Ireland is often the first stop for visitors. Dublin is a walkable city and the public transport is excellent. It is also crowded. If you’re in Dublin with children be sure to break your day of museums, Guinness, and shopping with time in the city’s magnificent parks- St. Stephen’s Green (which is very central) and Phoenix Park (home of Dublin Zoo).
E is for English: While most of us Irish do speak English (sometimes with an accent that can be difficult for even us to understand) and most signs you read will also be in English, it is also helpful to know just a few words of Irish (or Gaelic, as many non-Irish call it). Two of the most important words would be, Sláinte (slawn-cha) meaning to your health or cheers (literally ‘health’) and craic (crack)- meaning good times or fun; as in “where’s the craic?” As you move into the west of Ireland you will notice more signs in Irish. It can be a bit tricky to read but once you have a clue as to the way the Irish alphabet works it (bh together makes a ‘vee’ sound) can be quite fun to speak- and you will impress many people!
F is for Fairies: Scattered throughout Ireland are faerie rings- over 40,000 of them. It’s said that faeries live under the rings and if you cross one they will take you to live with them for 100 years. Which likely explains why so many fairy rings lie undisturbed and so many faeries still exist in Ireland. The fae are beautiful, but quite shy. So shy, in fact, that they will hide before you see them. But faeries also want humans to know they exist. So, before they hide they leave a shiny coin to let you know they were there.
G is for Giant’s Causeway: These hexagonal columns along Northern Ireland’s Causeway Coast set so perfectly close together they almost look like a road disappearing into the sea. While geologists say the columns are a result of volcanic actions, the Irish have a much more poetic explanation.
The giant Finn McCool built the causeway to comfortably bring a lady giant from the island of Staffa to Ireland. Another tale has Finn building the causeway to reach Scotland to fight another giant. Upon finishing the causeway, Finn was too tired to fight, so he devised a plan- when the opposing giant crossed the causeway he was told Finn was away, but was shown Finn’s baby (Finn), sleeping peacefully. The opposing giant was so scared to face a giant that could produce such a large child that he ran back to Scotland without a fight!
H is for History: While all of Europe is filled with history, in Ireland it almost seems to saturate every bit of the land. You’ll hear Ireland’s history through stories and songs, see it in the megalithic tombs and cairns, climb it in the castles and abbeys, and walk quietly amongst it in the High Cross filled cemeteries. History surrounds you and every place has a story- if you’ll only stop to listen. Maybe stop at Newgrange, the 5000 year old burial tomb is one of Ireland’s true gems.
I is for Irish Wolfhound: The Irish Wolfhound is the tallest of all dogs- if it stands on its back legs the wolfhound is over six feet tall. Once Irish Wolfhounds could only be owned by royalty; in the 17th century it was illegal to take them out of Ireland. Though that law no longer applies, a pure bred Irish Wolfhound can be difficult to find outside of Ireland and is absolutely magnificent (and a little frightening) to see running across a verdant field.
J is for Jaunting Cart: This horse-powered cart may be cliché, but it is really quite fun to take a tour in one. Strike up a conversation with your driver, and you’re sure to learn lots of fun tidbits about Ireland. Jaunting cart drivers usually know where to find some craic (see E is for English, above).
K is for Killarney: Probably the most tourist-ed area of Ireland, though for very good reason. The lakes of Killarney are famed for their beauty, as is the nearby “Ring of Kerry”- whose tour buses often begin in Killarney. You’ll definitely enjoy a jaunting cart tour to Ross Castle or Muckross House, wander through Killarney National Park, walk the ancient trading path through the Gap of Dunloe, or just indulge your desire to shop- you’ll find everything from Aran knits and hand-blown glass to local whiskeys and chocolates.
L is for Left: In Ireland cars drive on the left side of the road. When crossing a street remember to look right, then left, then right again- or you may cause an accident, or worse, take a trip to local hospital instead of the local pub!
M is for Moher: As in the Cliffs of Moher. These magnificent cliffs have been a tourist attractions for hundreds of years. Though you can’t walk to the edge and look straight down you can get the feel of it in the visitor center Atlantic Edge exhibit. Climb to the top of O’Brien’s Tower; on a clear day you can see the Aran Islands. On a very windy day you’ll see and feel the ocean mist as it rises over 700 feet. For a view few people see, take a Cliffs of Moher boat cruise. Really the best way to see the cliffs.
N is for Northern Ireland: Northern Ireland is still part of the UK and, while being Irish, it is in many ways a different country. Belfast is a top tourist destination with the Titanic Quarter at its heart and out from the city you’ll find dramatic coastlines, gorgeous walled cities and stories with a decidedly different flavor than the Republic.
O is for OPW Heritage Cards: The Office of Public Works (or OPW) Heritage Card allows access to any fee charging OPW managed site for one year from the date of purchase. With OPW sites all over Ireland and including popular sites such as the Rock of Cashel, Muckross House & Gardens, Kilkenny Castle, and Sligo Abbey to name only a few, this card can save a family hundreds of dollars during a week-long trip. For a family, the card will more than pay for itself if you visit 4 sites.
P is for Pub: Every village in Ireland has at least one (or three) pub(s). While alcohol is served, the pub (short for “public house”) is like the community center. Families are welcomed and sharing stories is encouraged. Don’t expect to be waited on, place your order at the bar. And while you’re there, say hello to people, strike up a conversation, and get advice from the folks who know the area best.
Q is for Quick Steps: Irish dancing has become famous in the past few years. Who can resist the lightning fast feet, the incredible dresses, and the music that makes your own toes tap? While you’re traveling watch for a pub or festival that has a ceili (kay-lee), a gathering where you can learn a bit of Irish dancing yourself.
R is for Rings: Ireland has quite a few rings, the most well-known being the Ring of Kerry- a driving route also known as the Iveragh Peninsula. Heavily touristed because of gorgeous views and its easy proximity to Killarney, you’ll find tour buses rumbling round this ring year-round. Nearby rings- the Ring of Beara and the Dingle Peninsula– both have beautiful views and are less busy.
The Beara Peninsula is famous for its natural beauty and wildlife, while Dingle has spectacular views, Fungi the Dolphin, and the highest concentration of ancient monuments in Ireland. Also well-known is the Claddagh ring. Created by Richard Joyce after his return to Galway from slavery to a Turkish goldsmith, the Claddagh ring has two hands, clasping a heart topped by a crown. The ring represents friendship, loyalty and love.
S is for Self-Drive: In our opinion there is no better way to see Ireland than from your own rental car. You have the freedom to go as you please, stop as the kids demand, and follow any intriguing sign or road you wish. Move on from where you are, stay another day, or change your itinerary altogether. You can’t do that on a tour bus…
T is for Traditional Music: Traditional music is the story of Ireland. You’ll find it everywhere- from the buskers on the streets of Dublin and at the Cliffs of Moher to the sessions at the local pubs. The music of Ireland will move you; one minute you’ll be filled with sorrow and the next you’ll find yourself clapping your hands and attempting a jig. Stop and listen to the music of Ireland as often as you can.
U is for Ulster: Ireland has 32 counties lying in 4 provinces, those being Ulster, Leinster, Munster, and Connacht. Ulster is now mostly Northern Ireland excluding the counties of Donegal, Cavan, and Monaghan. Home to the Giant’s Causeway, Ulster Rugby, the highest sea cliffs in Europe, and the Titanic Museum, it’s a destination within itself
V is for Vikings: The Vikings raided Ireland for centuries. Around 841AD they settled in what they called Dyflin, from the Irish Duiblinn. You can get a taste of Viking Dublin at the Viking Experience in Dublin’s city center. Waterford, Ireland’s oldest city, was settled prior to Dublin and the ‘Viking Triangle’ is home to three incredible museums with 1,000 years of history.
W is for Wells: Hundreds of holy wells dot Ireland. Many of the wells have been attributed to famous saints and are said to have healing powers. While a few wells are marked- like St. Brigid’s Well in County Clare and St. Patrick’s Well in Dublin- many are unmarked and simple in appearance. You’ll often see bits of fabric tied to trees around the well. The custom holds that as the rag rots away so will the illness you came seeking to cure.
X is for Xtreme Activities: You’ll find plenty of activities to get your blood pumping in Ireland. Jet skiing, kayaking, orienteering, and surfing are just a few of the exciting, family friendly, activities you’ll find.
Y is for Yarn: Ireland is dotted with sheep. And from those sheep comes the wool which is spun into yarn, dyed, and used to create so many wonderful items such as Aran sweaters, scarves, and warm woolen hats. You can visit Ireland’s oldest working woolen mill, Avoca Handweavers in Wicklow, and see how weaving was once done in Ireland.
Z is for Zoo: The Dublin Zoo in Phoenix Park makes a wonderful family outing. The Dublin Zoo opened in 1831; you can still see parts of the zoo that date to its opening! The zoo is home to over 600 animals and is open year round. Or visit Fota Wildlife Park near Cork City to see animals in larger, more open habitats. For a hands-on experience, schedule a ‘Behind the Scenes Tour’ with a zoo warden!
This list is only a tiny taste of what Ireland has to offer so do yourself a favour and book a trip to the Emerald Isle today!