Considering Ireland for your next family vacation? If you’re wondering ‘is Ireland kid-friendly?’ you’ve come to the right place. I took an amazing road trip around Ireland in the summer with my 3-year old. We visited Dublin, Galway, Cork, Limerick, The Ring of Kerry, and many small villages. Ireland is kid-friendly, safe, and has many outdoor, nature-based activities.
In addition to its rich history and medieval buildings found in cities and in the countryside, Ireland has stunning natural landscapes. I’d heard Ireland was beautiful my whole life, but when I finally saw it, it was even prettier than I’d imagined!
Is Ireland kid-friendly? There are definitely a few things to keep in mind. Whether you live there or are planning to visit or move to Ireland, there are lots of reasons why Ireland should be on your wish list for places to go with your kids.
Is Ireland is kid-friendly?
Here are the reasons why I think Ireland is one of the best family-friendly destinations, and why I had an amazing time there with my 3-year old.
A lot of tourism in Ireland is based on the outdoors.
Ireland is the perfect place to spend time outside with your kids, rain or shine. There are fairy gardens trails through forests, lots of camping, and quaint little villages to stroll through. It’s famous for its rolling greens, and otherworldly landscape in the countryside. As you’re driving through the country, your children will spot a lot of animals, such as sheep and cows. Ireland also has decent beaches that you can spend time at in the summertime.
Ireland has something for every member of the family.
There are a lot of activities that both adults and kids have an appreciation for, even for different reasons. Ireland has a vast history, with old cities, castles and churches dating back to the middle ages. Adults will appreciate learning the fascinating history behind these monuments, while children will often enjoy the outdoor activities, interactive museums and fairy trails. Ireland has something for everyone.
The cities in Ireland are relatively safe.
Ireland is one of the safest countries in Europe, and in the world; the crime rate in Dublin, its largest city, is significantly lower than in other cities in the UK.
Irish people are nice!
And I’m sure most Irish may roll their eyes at this, but from my personal experience anecdotally, this was really how it seemed – everyone was so nice and helpful to us: the customs officials at the airport, the people making our orders at Burger King, to the cop that pulled me over when I made a driving mistake.) In the countryside, we had many people offer to go out of their way to help us. One day, we were lost on the way to our Airbnb and asked for directions; a lady offered to get into our car with us in order to show us the way. These kinds of offers to help aren’t unheard of in the countryside. You’ll find kind and honest people who want to help !
Ireland is rich in history.
Cities in Ireland have roots that go back to before the Middle Ages. Cities such as Limerick and Dublin were discovered by the Vikings. You’ll find buildings are literally 1,000 years old, and look much different from ones your children are used to seeing.
A visit to Ireland can activate your children’s imagination.
From the tales of the Vikings, folklore of leprechauns, and fairy walks, to the talking about royalty who once lived in the medieval castles you will visit; all these things your children will be exposed to and see firsthand will prompt them to think about things that they can’t see and use their imaginations. Kings, queens, fairies, dragons and leprechauns are all things that my 3-year-old thought about during our trip to Ireland.
Did I mention Ireland is downright beautiful?
I knew that Ireland was beautiful before going there, but it far surpassed my expectations. There was no way to describe how pretty it was to people when I told them; even my photos didn’t do it justice. Driving through Ireland, exploring the towns, the cities and the countryside; I often felt like I wasn’t living my real life – I was in a novel. The small towns with colourful houses and thatched rooves, stone fences, castles, and You could just imagine that there would be mythical creatures like fairies, dragons, and yes, even leprechauns.
Is Ireland Good to Visit with Kids?
Yes, Ireland is kid-friendly, but there are some things to keep in mind when planning a trip to Ireland with kids.
- Children under 18 are banned from being in pubs after 9 pm. It’s not often rigidly enforced, but it’s considered a courtesy to make sure your kids are no longer in the pub after that time so that the bar can become an adult-only atmosphere at night. Will you be kicked out right at 9 pm on the dot? Probably not, but you’d be hard-pressed to see any children in pubs after that time. Pubs around the country in general are still welcoming to children and child-friendly during the day, particularly those that serve food.
- Most restaurants around the country will have booster seats and highchairs, but it isn’t guaranteed and they may also be limited in quantity. Bringing a travel highchair would be a good idea if your kids are under 3.
- If you’re from mainland Europe or North America, like me, you will be driving on the ‘other side of the road.’ Roads in Ireland are very narrow, which for a foreign driver (like myself) is a bit scary. They also have a high-speed limit for how small and narrow they are. As a Canadian, I was shocked to see 80 km (49 m) per hour posted for streets that would be size of a residential street at home. We didn’t have any problems driving in Ireland, but you want to pay close attention and go at the speed you feel comfortable with. I’d caution against driving a lot at night, as accidents can more easily happen at times when people are more likely to be consuming alcohol. The danger of being hurt is exacerbated when the road has no shoulder to pull into in case of an emergency.
- Carseat and booster seat laws are strict in Ireland, with children up to sometimes 11 or 12 still being in a booster seat. So if you’re planning to rent a car there, you’ll either need to bring your own car seat or rent one from the car rental company. There are also a few companies that you can rent baby equipment from.
- It rains a lot, all year long. There tend to be some showers anywhere from ⅓ to almost ½ of the time on any given day, so you should expect and prepare for rain during your visit. The warmest months of the year are July and August, with highs of 20 C. Heatwaves aren’t super common in Ireland, but they can happen. Even during the summer, you should be prepared for rapid changes in weather – from rainy and cloudy, to warm and sunny.
- The summer months are peak travel season, so the popular places and attractions (such as Cliffs of Moher, Galway, etc) will have more crowds during those months. Rain is also still very common in the summer, so you should factor that into your plans.
Now that you know a little bit about what to prepare, you’re probably wondering what there is to do with kids.
Best things to do in Ireland with kids
Here are the best things to do and places to go in Ireland, as well as how to make them kid-friendly, or seek out family-friendly experiences from these destinations.
1. Visit kid-friendly attractions in Dublin
Let’s start with Dublin since it’s likely where you’ll arrive. Some people will be very eager to see Ireland’s capital, and others would rather set off right away for the countryside. Personally, we chose to spend three nights in Dublin with a three-year old child. Dublin has cobblestone streets, fruit and flower stands, street performers, a bustling little old town, Irish pubs, parks, castles, and interactive museums for kids.
Yes, Dublin can have a bit of a party atmosphere at night, because of being popular for stag and does, and the fact that kids are banned from pubs after 9 pm. However, since we were there with a small child, we were usually back at our accommodation well before then and weren’t negatively impacted at all by its nightlife. Dublin was a charming city to visit with kids, and it’s also a very walkable city if you’re staying in the city centre.
Things to do in Dublin with kids:
- St. Stephen’s Greens – a large historic park in the city centre with gardens, ponds and a playground
- 1000-year-old monuments: Christ Church Cathedral and St. Patricks Cathedral
- Walks through the old town
- Children-friendly museums with engaging, interactive exhibits: Dublinia (a viking museum) and Epic, the Irish emigration museum
- Dublin Zoo, the first Victorian zoo and one of the top attractions in Ireland. Save 15% by pre-booking your visit online.
We stayed right downtown in Dublin and were able to walk to all of the above, except for the zoo which is located about half an hour outside of the city. Read more about how Dublin is a kid-friendly city.
2. Search for Fairy Houses
Ireland is famous for fairy trails. They are very common throughout the country. You can find them almost anywhere. All major cities (Dublin, Galway, Cork etc) will be close to a national park that has fairy trails.
Fairy trails are a great way to engage kids in nature and the outdoors, and activate their imagination. Most of the fairy gardens are small, and don’t have their own website. They’re often attached to another attraction, such as a castle, hotel or national park.
Here are some of the best fairy trails in Ireland:
- Derrynane House Fairy Trail in the Ring of Kerry
- Malahide Castle fairy trail north of Dublin
- Mill Road Fairy Garden in Limerick
- Glenview Gardens Fairy Trail near Cork
- Fairy Woods in Castleconnel
3. Soak up Irish culture in Galway
In Galway, you feel connected to Ireland’s real charm and culture. On the opposite end of the country, and about a two-hour drive from Dublin, Galway is well worth a visit with kids. It was by far my favourite city that we visited. It has everything you would picture about an Irish town: cobblestone streets, street performers and vendors, street art, quaint little shops, pubs, cafés and outdoor eateries. Its also known as the festival capital of the country, with over 120 festivals and events throughout the year taking place here.
Galway is the 3rd largest city in Ireland with a population of 83,000. It’s a student town, with the University of Galway. However, it feels more like a large town than a city. It’s very compact, the downtown is easily walkable. There are many pedestrian-only streets.
Things to do in Galway with kids:
- Strolling through Quay street- this is where you’ll find the core of the music, art, history, great restaurants and more
- Hang out in the Spanish Quarter, and take pictures under the Spanish Arch throughway
- Take a short drive to see some of the other sights that are within an hour away: Oranmore Castle, the village of Cong, The Burren, Aran Islands, Connemara National Park
My 3-year-old loved the street performers in Galway, and we always stopped to listen to them for a while, and she loved throwing some change into their guitar cases.
One to two nights should give you enough time to explore Galway. If you want to see the surrounding areas (such as Connemara, The Burren or Cliffs of Moore – listed below) then you will need 3-4 nights in the area. Galway is less than a 2-hour drive to the Cliffs of Moher. (1 hour, 45 mins)
3. Explore The Burren
The name is a natural landscape that means “rocky place” in Irish. The Burren has a different terrain from the rest of Ireland. Limestone rock covers much of the surface of the land, and there are rivers that flower underground, beneath the rock. There are also unusual flora and fauna that grow there. There are a lot of interesting places to explore outdoors.
Things to do in the Burren with kids:
- The Burren Cave
- Burren Birds of Prey Centre, open year round from 10 am – 5pm.
- The Burren National Park, which has 6 trails that are declared kid friendly
- Ailwee Cave
- The Doolin Chocolate Shop. There are experiences such as visiting and tasting chocolate at the factory, making your own chocolate, and building your own chocolate bar.
The Burren is open year-round. If you’re coming from Galway, The Burren is on the way to Cliffs of Moher. It will take just over an hour to get to The Burren from Galway, and an additional 21 minutes to the Cliffs of Moher.
Remember that The Burren is a fragile ecosystem. Leave it better than how you found it, and throw away or pack up any garbage to take with you.
4. Get the best view of the Ocean at the Cliffs of Moher
The Cliffs of Moher is the most popular tourist attraction in Ireland. It was also a filming location for a scene in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince – the scene where Harry and Dumbledore arrive on a shore and enter a cave to find a Horcrux!
Cliffs of Moher is the only place where you’ll see cliffs like these in Ireland – the stacks of rocks tower 700 feet above the water level. I would definitely build this into a trip if you’re going to be on Ireland’s west coast.
At Cliffs of Moher, you will also find O’Brian’s Tower. Sir Cornelius O’Brian, a local MP in the 1800s, built the tower for English tourists who often visited the area to see the cliffs. It also said that O’Brian built the tower in order to impress the women that he was courting. Either way, it’s a great way to get a better view of the cliffs, and land sights far away. From the Tower, you can see the Aran Islands, the mountains in the ring of Kerry, and the Twelve Bens in Connemara National Park off in the distance. (Probably more visible on a clear day.) It’s lovely inside, with a fire often going, so you can warm up if its a cold day.
The walking path around Cliffs of Moher is slightly stroller friendly, but there is uneven terrain and some very narrow paths. If you bring a stroller, an umbrella would be best. O’Brian’s Tower wouldn’t be stroller friendly, simply because you can’t bring a stroller to the top. However, you could collapse it or leave it at the entrance. Overall, a baby carrier is your best bet at the Cliffs of Moher!
There is a large parking lot on the opposite side of the road from the cliffs. From there, it’s probably a good 10-minute walk to the cliffs. You’ll see many cars, and likely tour buses as well. The parking fee you pay when you enter the Cliffs of Moher will include the cliffs, as well as the entrance to OBrian’s tower. It costs 8 euros during the high season.
5. Go Hiking at Connemara National Park
Connemara is a 3,000-hectare park just north of Galway. It has beautiful scenery with mountains, rocky terrain against the view of the ocean, and grasslands. You can see the beautiful view of Twelve Bens, which are a range of connected mountains.
Things to do in Connemara National Park with kids:
- Hiking trails (Lower Diamond Hill Loop is kid friendly and said to be the best trail in Connemara – however, it is 3km long. The easy trails are Ellis Wood Nature Trail, and Strauffonboy Trail which are both only 0.5 km – easy enough for small children!)
- Special children’s activities in the summer
Connemara is open year-round, and both the entry and activities in the park are free of charge. Parking is also free. If you drive here from Galway, you’ll find the park entrance just 200 m from the village of a town called Letterfrack.
If you’re trying to choose between Connemara and The Burren, Connemara is more scenic and beautiful, whereas The Burren has a terrain that’s more ‘unique’ to Ireland.
6. Step back into time in Limerick
Limerick is one of Ireland’s oldest cities, founded by the Vikings in 922 AD. Needless to say, you’re walking through quite a bit of history when you explore its landmarks!
Things to do in Limerick with kids:
- St. Mary’s Cathedral, built in the 1100s. It’s open year-round, and children 0-10 are free. You can reserve your visit online here.
- King John’s Castle looks just like what you’d picture of a classic Medieval castle built in the 1100s, and is a must-see. Reservations online are required in advance in order for them to control the numbers inside the castle.
- Limerick Milk Market, if you’re there on a Saturday. Its one of the biggest farmers’ markets in the country.
- Take a stroll through People’s Park; see gardens, large green space with little trails, a Victorian fountain, and half polystyrene horses for kids to ride
The outskirts of Limerick have a more industrial feel, with some major motorways leading into it. We found a parking garage that was close enough to the city centre, and from there we walked into the heart of the city.
7. Admire breathtaking Views at the Ring of Kerry
The Ring of Kerry of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen in my life. Many of the landscapes felt so otherworldly. It’s no surprise that scenes from Star Wars were filmed here. The Ring of Kerry is literally a circuit around the southwestern tip of Ireland, part of it which looks out onto the Atlantic ocean. The circuit ‘or ring’ is 179 km long, which takes about 3.5 hours to drive. There are places to stay in the Ring of Kerry, or it can be done as a day trip if you just want to do the loop.
With kids, who may get bored with such a long drive, and factoring in the stops that you’ll likely want to make, I would recommend at least two days in the Ring of Kerry with kids. In addition to giving them breaks from the car, I can guarantee you that you’ll want to stop quite often to get photos of the majestic landscapes and even scroll through some of the towns.
Things to do in The Ring of Kerry with kids:
- Visiting the beach and grabbing lunch in a village called Waterville (you could also stay overnight in Waterville)
- Many, many stops along the way to admire the natural landscape. They’ve built the roads in a way so that is quite easy to pull over safely to take photos or get a stretch from the car.
- Fairy trails at Derrynane House
- Staigue Fort, one of the oldest fortresses in the country, built before Christianity came to Ireland
8. Lough Key Forest Park
Lough Key is a nature park in north Ireland mostly popular with locals. It has forests, meadows, a kid’s playground, bike and walking trails, boat tours, picnic and dining areas, and campgrounds. My favourite part about this spot though is that in the centre of the lake, there’s a small island with a 13th-century castle on it. This castle is called McDermott Castle. You can see McDermott’s Castle from many of the activities you may take part in Ireland.
It rained for part of the day, which I didn’t mind personally, because I love the rain. It was great to get outdoors and spend time in nature and nurture my child’s natural curiosity by exploring tunnels, the forest and other unfamiliar settings.
Lough Key is about 15 minutes away from Carrick on Shannon, where we were glamping at the time. The closest city would be Boyle, which is less than 10 minutes away. Lough Key would be considered ‘off the beaten track’ for most travellers since it isn’t close to any other major attraction or city, and it is mostly popular with locals. I wouldn’t recommend it to the general traveller, but its a great place to visit if you’re in Ireland with kids!
From Dublin, it would take 2.5 hours to get to Lough Key, and just under 2 hours from Galway. However, it would be a good road stop in between the two or if you’re driving or RVing through Ireland with kids.
9. The village of Cong
Cong is a small village on Ireland’s west coast, about 40 minutes north of Galway. It’s not super well known outside of Ireland anymore, but it was famous for a long time because of a 1950s classic starring John Wayne being filmed here. The film was called The Quiet Man. You can still see Quiet Man statues throughout the village.
In Cong, there are some restaurants with outdoor eateries, pubs and cafes. Its also home to Ashford Castle, which was built in the 1100s which is now a very upscale hotel. You can’t walk into the grounds, but you can get a glimpse of the castle from the street and point it out to your kids.
My 3-year-old had a good time exploring and climbing the ruins of Cong Abbey, which also date back to the 12th century. Cong Abbey is also surrounded by a courtyard that we also had a nice walk-through after. You’ll see ducks in the stream and can walk along the trail. The village of Cong is also a very pleasant place to stroll through, to see the little shops, grab a bite to eat, and see the ducks in the stream.
10. Check out Cork
Cork, despite being the second largest city in Ireland, has lots of things for kids to do outdoors in the city, and in the surrounding areas.
Things to do in Cork with kids:
- Hang out in the city centre on St. Patrick’s street. You’ll see street performers, pubs, cafes, restaurants and shops. In the heart of the city, there are also plenty of pedestrian-only streets.
- Visit The English Market, which has been running since 1788. It’s one of the oldest markets in Europe, open daily from 8 am – 6 pm except for Sundays. Here you can find fish, meats, cheeses and produce.
- Take a leisurely stroll through Fitzgerald park in the city centre. There are beautiful rose gardens, ponds and bridges
- Within a half-hour drive of Cork, there are a lot of family hiking opportunities in forests with stroller-friendly trails, and fairy gardens.
Conclusion: Is Ireland Kid-Friendly?
With a bit of preparation of what to bring, where to visit, and where certain equipment is needed (strollers vs. baby carriers) I think Ireland is kid-friendly and an excellent choice for a family trip.
Final Thoughts: Is Ireland Kid-Friendly?
Ireland is a kid-friendly destination and somewhere worth bringing your family. We hope that you now feel more prepared and knowledgable for a trip to Ireland with the kids!