Outdoors Ireland: Outdoor Ireland for kids

Ireland isn’t just a playground for grown-up visitors. Whether yours is a city or a countryside kind of family, you’ll find plenty of holiday fun for children, too

An Creagan visitor centre, County Tyrone

If you visit Causey Farm in County Meath, bring spare clothes. Why? Well, because when you planned your trip to Ireland jumping into a squelchy bog may not have featured on the itinerary.

But if you make it to this farm, it soon will.

Amongst activities like breadmaking, turf-cutting and bodhrán-playing, you’ll find an invitation to bog-jump. The activity is best played out in “monsoon conditions,” says the Murtagh family.

If you can’t beat ’em... jump right in.

Dublin Zoo, Dublin city

That’s just one of many Irish farms providing a surprising array of family-friendly playgrounds. Visit Funny Farm Adventures in County Down, and you can lose yourselves in a maze made of... well, maize.

At Irish Country Quads in County Monaghan, teens can roar, splash and race around the Keenan family farm on all-terrain vehicles impervious to muck and mulch!

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Roaring great times

Of course, you’ll find plenty of petting farms too. But if it’s close encounters of a more exotic type you’re after, then make sure to swing by our city zoos or Fota Wildlife Park in Cork.

At Dublin Zoo, tens of millions of euros have been spent rebooting it for the 21st century, with a brand new Gorilla Rainforest being just one exciting addition.

In Belfast Zoo, they have everything from apes to Sumatran tigers roaming around, with all the giraffes, monkeys and lions you’d expect in between. Here you can also get a thrilling safari experience, cruising by all sorts of wildlife from cheetahs to Chilean Flamingos.

Only in Ireland

Then there’s Tayto Park, an attraction you’d surely find nowhere else on earth. It combines a boutique zoo – including mountain lions and albino wallabies – with thrill zones, zip-lines, adventure playgrounds and a cool tour of the Tayto factory, which makes the eponymous and much loved potato chip.

(On a little childhood sidebar, to know Tayto Cheese and Onion Crisps is to love them. These Twitter users sum it up: British food ambassador @jamesmcintosh calls them “A taste of home,” While @jordan_wbu “went to Italy for a week, no, didn’t miss my family…I missed Tayto Crisps”.)

Explore the countryside

Back to the great outdoors, Ireland’s landscape is bursting with natural wonders, and there are several centres for exploring it in ways to keep the giddiness at bay. Take the Lough Neagh Discovery Centre, which is on Oxford Island, a National Nature Reserve in County Armagh. Here, you’ll find footpaths, bird-watching hides, wildflower meadows, picnic and play areas.

Or what about An Creagán, in the Sperrin Mountain foothills? Here, you have a state-of-the-art interpretive centre on the site of a 10,000-year-old glacial esker. But it’s much more than that, too – after learning about the surrounding bogland, families can explore the stone circles at Beaghmore, or venture off to walk or cycle several forest trails stitched into the landscape.

Of kayaks and pirates

All over Ireland, you’ll find adventure companies offering activities like kayaking, rock-climbing, surfing and horse riding. Older kids can try falconry against the sumptuous background of Ashford Castle in County Mayo, or fling themselves into a coasteering adventure from the jagged coast of Wexford’s Hook Peninsula.

You can even go en masse to the Mournes for a spot of wet bouldering (that’s climbing up a mountainside, taking time out to jump into the cool clears waters of the Bloody Bridge River to you and me). Don’t worry, all gear will be supplied by your hosts at Outdoor Concepts!

There is Westport House, on the shores of Clew Bay in County Mayo. At first glance, this is a historic house with a fascinating back story (it was built on a dungeon formerly owned by Ireland’s Pirate Queen, Grace O’Malley).

But look closer. There’s a Pirate Adventure Park. There are pedal boats, a 200-metre zip line, a new zorbing run, Halloween and Christmas villages... something for everyone, in other words.

Likewise, you may be familiar with the Norman castles in Malahide or Kilkenny. But did you know that stashed away in the surrounding parkland and demesnes, there are some of the best playgrounds in the country?

Bring the kids. They’ll get as much out of Ireland as you will.

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