Planning a visit to Ireland with the kids? Chances are your itinerary will include stops at some of the most popular attractions, like Blarney Castle. While your experience will undoubtedly be tons of fun—-what kid doesn’t want permission to hang upside down somewhat precariously?—the fact is, your photos will probably look astonishingly similar to those taken by a plethora of other families hashtagging #kissthestone there. So what’s the key to capturing truly unique travel footage and creating unforgettable moments you’ll cherish forever? Making your way off the beaten path to lesser-known locations based on shared interests and passions.
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The Irish countryside is just the place for the animal lovers in your crew. Though there are many places to explore falconry in Ireland, there’s none quite like the National Bird of Prey Centre in Blessington, County Wicklow. Here you can meet over 40 different birds including Ireland’s own Golden Eagle. End your tour by holding hand-reared owls or a Harris Hawk while snapping away enough photos to last a lifetime.
Perhaps marine life is more to your liking? In that case, book a tour to meet Fungie the Dolphin, who has been cheerfully greeting visitors to Dingle, in the County Kerry, since 1983. He’s such a local legend there’s even a statue of him in town!
Is your family the type that runs a 5k together for fun on holidays? Ireland is the perfect place to get your sporty spice on. You might even be surprised to hear the coast here is becoming known as a great surfing destination. Sligo is a particularly good spot if you’re dealing with a wide range of abilities, as it has waves for beginners and experts alike. There are even surf schools offering classes specifically for girls and women.
If you have a need for speed, be sure to make a stop at one of Ireland’s thrilling zip lines. A relative newcomer to the game is Castlecomer Discovery Park in Kilkenny, featuring the country’s longest over-water zipline at 300 meters long and 30 meters high.
Or maybe you’re looking to reach new heights as a family. If so, a visit to the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge is in order. Built 1755 by salmon fisherman, the bridge is suspended 100 feet over the ocean. It’s high enough to satisfy even the biggest adrenalin junkie.
Have children who dream of a career in pro sports? Give them a taste of the fame with a tour of Croke Park, home to traditional Gaelic games. Accommodating over 80,000 fans, it is one of the largest stadiums in Europe. Learn the history of Irish football, hurling, and walk the pitch and through the players’ tunnel here. Just think of all the photo ops!
Natural wonders are some of our best teachers (and also the best places to take pics). Your family will be blown away by The Burren, vast limestone fields located in County Clare that make it feel like you might just be walking on the moon. More than 80 tombs scatter the area, some dating all the way back to the Mesolithic Era. The most famous of these is the Poulnabrone, a gravity-defying stack of enormous rock slabs dated over 5,800 years old. The epitome of cool? We think so.
Also in County Clare, buried deep below the earth, you’ll find the Aillwee Cave. Stalactites and stalagmites plus one thundering waterfall and another frozen one make this dark destination a great place to explore. Calcite samples from here have been dated as far back as 350,000 years. Say what?
Big imaginations demand over- (and under-) sized activities. For the dreamers of the family, be sure to make a pit stop at Tara’s Place. Here, incredibly detailed miniature rooms reign supreme. The 22 rooms on display took over 20 years to make, with many of the pieces carved from bone by Napoleonic prisoners of war.
Along the same small lines, be sure to go on a fairy walk while in Ireland. Trying to find the diminutive sprites that fill Irish folklore is an incredible flight of fancy for the young and old alike. Erica’s Fairy Forest in Cootehill is particularly charming and has an origin story that will choke everyone up, but you’ll find similar spots to enjoy throughout the countryside.
Want to go big before you go home? The Giant’s Lair and Adventure Park at the Ring of Guillion is the place to be. Just imagine how many likes you’ll rack up with pictures of your “tiny” family next to the enormous giant’s table and chair found there.
Want to give your kids a bit of a history lesson while having fun at the same time? Ireland offers a wide variety of places that fit the bill. In Dublin, be sure to schedule some time at Dublinia, which recreates life as it was here in Medieval and Viking times. Their interactive recreations tend to really capture young minds.
In the county, Wexford, pay a visit to the Dunbrody Famine Ship. An authentic replica of a 1800s boat, costumed performers demonstrate what the Irish emigrant experience was like during the difficult times in Ireland. It will make everyone complain less about travel times and a crowded car, that’s for sure.
Or for the ultimate chills and thrills, take a tour of Loftus Hall. This now-abandoned estate is said to be the most haunted place in all of Ireland. Legend has it the devil himself roams the grounds here. Freaky!
By tailoring your Ireland vacation to your family’s shared interests, you’ll be sure to make it the best trip yet. Your kids will thank you for scouting out all the coolest spots in the country. Bonus points: Everyone back home will be amazed at what a savvy digital traveler you are.
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