Looking for ideas for an active family vacation in Ireland?
Kristi @TheMountainSun was, & asked me for suggestions. So, like I did for Leah over on this post about eating in Kilkenny City, I’m going to give you all a few ideas, thanks to Kristi’s question. She and her family are coming in Summer and want to go south & west. Here are some ideas for her, and you, here in the sunniest part of Ireland 🙂
Sunny Southeast of Ireland
The sunny southeast of Ireland is a wonderful place to be, especially in summer. The mountains and river valleys are not filled with big tour buses, but are filled with beauty & outdoor activities! There are loads of clean beaches, several of which are quite magical– coves surrounded by cliffs, caves and rock pools, uncrowded. Our favorite is the stretch of coastline from the 13th century ruins of Tintern Abbey, Co. Wexford all the way to through the Copper Coast in Co. Waterford. Along with swimming, rock pooling, & enjoying the riverside/seaside in general, in the sunny southeast of Ireland there are family adventure activities, horse riding, cycling, mini farms, kids’ power kite-ing, and The Magic Road. (There’s a map with the places I mention at the end of the post.)
Enjoy the Barrow River Valley
The Barrow river valley of counties Kilkenny and Carlow, nestled under the Blackstairs Mountains is a hidden gem. There, all in the vicinity of the non-touristy medieval village of Graiguenamanagh Co. Kilkenny & Tinnahinch Co Carlow, families can rent bikes and, as I did in, take an easy cycle along the river tow path.
You could also take a half day or longer trip on the most gorgeous barge in the world, Larry’s Barge. You can see it moored on the river near beautiful St Mullins, Co. Carlow’. And of course, you can just walk along the paths & trails in the area, too. If you are in the area for the Graiguenamanagh Traditional Regatta on the August Bank Holiday Sunday you may want to try your hand at tub racing, diving for plates, climbing the rope across the river, & more!
Head out to the Coast
Continuing on down by the Barrow, you’ll come to the town of New Ross, Co Wexford. There you can tour on the old emigrant ship, Dunbrody. Ok, it isn’t an adventure activity, but children often find it cool to be on an old Tall Ship & they really do seem to enjoy this bit of history, as the tour is done as a live re-enactment. From New Ross if you’d like to take in a beautiful ruin you can head to Tintern Abbey & roam that 800 year old ruin and walk the wooded trail to find another hidden ruin or two on site. From there you can go to Hook Head Peninsula & Hook Lighthouse. At the far west of County Wexford is the lovely seaside village of Duncannon. Here Hooked Kitesurfing offers a power kite lesson to children, and there is a big sandy beach that hosts a Kitesurfing Festival- 17 August 2013, & Sand Sculpting competition 12-14 August 2013. Historic Duncannon Fort is also there, and may be of interest if there are military fans in the family. I’ve not been, nor know anyone who has, so I can’t comment. (On to-do list!) Duncannon is also where off The Hook Whale watching goes out from in winter. ( Have done & is FAB!)
Oh, Where’s This Go?
From Duncannon the quickest way over to county Waterford is by the little ferry that leaves from Arthurstown/Ballyhack. It goes every few minutes, & the first time we encountered it was by accident on one of our ‘exploring’ drives. We asked where it was going, in case it was headed off to Wales, but it only goes 5 minutes across the bay over to Passage East 🙂 That’s another gorgeous little fishing village.
Full of Fun
From there you can go to one of our absolute favorite seaside villages, Dunmore East. It is a great place for families. There on the main strand you can swim, high tide or low, and there are lifeguards. There’s not a huge amount of beach left at high tide just at the jetty, but you can always get a drink at The Strand Inn just above the beach and watch the boats go by 🙂 There are more beaches in the area, too. Tip: the fish n chips, and the chicken n chips from O’Shea’s take-away (up the road inland from The Strand, 2 minutes walk) are very good. The village is rather large, and down by the fishing harbour is Dunmore East Adventure Centre, where all sorts of activities are available. My husband, who had been very nervous of the sea, did a day’s mini sail boat course with them and loved every minute.
From Dunmore East, you may want to head farther west along Waterford’s unspoilt Copper Coast. The next town is Tramore, home to sandy beaches, & with a busy family seaside holiday feel. Here is Tramore Surf Shop & School, where in the Summer kids can have a surf lesson at either 10am or 2pm. There are also family lessons & more. If you need a break from getting wet, in the Tramore area are Lake Tour Stables, where you can do a horse trek suitable for the family. You can go several times a day, all year, and is suitable for beginners & up. (There’s an all day Copper Coast trek, too–I’d love to do that!) The Copper Coast is full of magical wee beaches, and it is well worth taking a leisurely drive along it & investigating the strands & coves (and if the younger children need a visit to something just for them, Copper Coast Mini Farm may fit the bill) before reaching Dungarvan Town & heading inland a bit to the The Magic Road (great fun!)
Helpful Apps & Sites
Knowing the high/low tide times is quite helpful, as some beaches (like Bannow Bay, a wild, pebbly stony beach good for birdwatching) will nearly disappear at high tide. If you have a smartphone, a tide app is useful. I have Tides Near Me – Free (Android,) & there’s also a version for iphones. A good website to visit is Irish Water Safety, it will also list beaches which have lifeguard cover. If you enjoy nature identification, there are free apps on Android for Irish Butterflies, plus bees, and mammals. Another good app is Ireland Green Travel, for Android and on itunes. As well as outdoor activities, it has info on green places to stay and so on. It isn’t free, but is certainly worth the couple of euros. Specifically for families is Are We There Yet Ireland, very handy for just over €2!! Android and itunes. Also, feel free use the search function to search my site, as I’ve posts on other things to do, eat, etc, particularly in Kilkenny and Graiguenamanagh.
Here’s a map I made of the places mentioned, move it around to see ’em all. Click on the pins for more info on each.
View Sunny Southeast Active Holiday (family friendly) in a larger map
Hope you’ve gotten some ideas you’d like to pursue. Have fun!