Family Day Trips: Are we there yet?
Beat the back-to-school blues with Pól Ó Conghaile’s pick of the best family days out.
On your bike at Avondale Forest Park, Co Wicklow
The fact that Avondale was once the home of Charles Stewart Parnell could be considered reason enough to let it amble along as a fusty old museum. But no, the home of Irish forestry just keeps on developing.
The playground has recently been refurbished, and there are now six waymarked trails in the park and woodlands, so everyone from tiny toddlers to rangy teens can engage in a spot of Gruffalo-hunting or wildlife watching. A cycling trail is the very latest addition.
Details: €5 parking charge (bring coins). Tel: 0404 46111; coillteoutdoors.ie.
Grab a bite at Taste of Carlow
Think of Carlow and food isn't exactly the first thing that springs to mind. Trailblazers such as Lennons, the Step House and the Chocolate Garden are looking to change all that, of course, and there's a further boost for the county in tomorrow's Taste of Carlow Festival.
Taking place on the new promenade along the River Barrow, the food and crafts fair will showcase the best local artisan fare, with plenty of cookery demos, tasting menus, water activities and features such as face-painting and a pig on a spit thrown in.
If you're driving to Carlow, there's free parking in the Town Hall car park.
Details: 2pm-6pm; free. Tel: 059 913 1554; carlowtourism.com.
Dublin Garden Squares Day
Today is Dublin Garden Squares Day, with a smorgasbord of free events aimed at getting people interacting with the city's five Georgian squares.
Pick of the crop are Argentinian Tango at the bandstand in St Stephen's Green, watercolour classes in Fitzwilliam Square (a private garden that will be opened for the day), Gaelic games and a mini-performance of 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' in Mountjoy Square. There's also a chess exhibition with grandmaster Alexander Baburin (pictured) in St Stephen's Green.
Music, balloons and other treats are on hand for kids.
Details: Free. Tel: 01-475 6911; dublincivictrust.ie.
Podcast the past at Lough Gur
Everything about Lough Gur suggests ancient history -- from the Bronze Age stone circle to the medieval Bouchiers Castle and crocodile-shaped wedge tomb.
Technology has been playing a role in the enchanted lake of late, however, in the form of two new i-Trails you can download free on to your smartphone or MP3 player.
'Magical Lough Gur' and 'Legendary Lough Gur' run to about an hour each, but you can pause the podcast whenever you like. If the weather's co-operating, bring a picnic -- even without the history, Lough Gur is a seriously sweet spot.
Details: Free. See loughgur.com; shannonregiontrails.ie.
From bog bodies to road-bowls at the National Museum
The National Museum has several branches around Dublin and beyond, and there's still time to catch its last run of school holiday events.
Today at 3.30pm, a tour of the bog bodies at the Museum of Archaeology on Kildare Street tells the stories behind these mysterious Iron Age finds.
Tomorrow at 2.30pm, you can watch a road-bowling demo before trying your hand at the sport yourself at the Museum of Country Life outside Castlebar.
Tuesday brings an opportunity to handle objects (think skulls and bones) at 'Inspectorium' at the Natural History Museum, from 2pm.
Details: Free. Tel: 01-677 7444; museum.ie.
Beat the crowds in Killarney, Co Kerry
Ross Castle is undoubtedly worth a visit, but the Killarney National Park treasure can be overwhelmed with tourist traffic at this time of year.
Walk on past the castle, however, towards the series of trails threaded around the claw-shaped Ross Island, and a whole other option presents itself.
The paths here are all very manageable and flat (my toddler walked most of the way), with forest tracks, old copper-mining sites and several shoreline spots where you can take in the views of Lough Leane. You can go by bike or foot and you can be guaranteed there won't be a jarvey in sight.
Details: Free. See killarneynationalpark.ie.
Get the munchies at the Milk Market in Limerick City
Queen Elizabeth visited the English Market in Cork, but many foodies will tell you she missed the real deal in Limerick.
You'll find no end of nibbles beneath the spanking new canopy, from Pióg pies to buttery fudge and prosciutto freshly cut at the bustling Country Choice.
But it's the streets and laneways outside that really define the experience. The bric-a-brac stands here keep it all from getting too sundried-tomatoey -- with mucky carrots, crab claws, chainsaws and second-hand golf balls all competing for your custom.
Saturday morning is when to catch the market at its liveliest.
Details: Friday to Sunday. Tel: 086 028 1828; milkmarketlimerick.ie.
Life's a beach at Curracloe, Co Wexford
Wexford's R742 is one of the most underrated coastal drives in the country. The winding drive from Courtown to Curracloe is never more than a bohareen from the southeast's long, sandy shoreline, and stop-offs include Shrule Farm and the brilliant Ballinesker Beach.
Past Curracloe, there's a unique walk circling the Raven Point Nature Reserve -- a 10km loop that begins with a pine-forest trail, turns at the tip of the spit overlooking Wexford Harbour and returns along grassy dune trails.
When we visited recently, punters at the beach ranged from young lovers to a local hurling team.
Details: Free. Raven Point, Curracloe; wexford.ie.
Walk the edge of Europe on Achill Island
Achill Island is saving one of the best summer walking festivals until last, with a series of hikes along its rugged mountains running until the coming Monday.
Departing at 10am, tomorrow's walk is a moderate trek taking in Polranny Hill and the Great Western Greenway.
Going to press, places were still available on Monday's hike up Slievemore Mountain, too.
Slievemore is home to Achill's most famous deserted village, so you can pick your way through the atmospheric ruined cottages during a day throwing up an unrivalled experience of the West Coast -- weather permitting, of course.
Details: €15/€7.50. Tel: 098 20705; achilltourism.com.
Flights of fancy in Shannon, Co Clare
Before the summer holidays take flight, check out the aviation show taking place tomorrow at Atlantic AirVenture in Shannon town. Visitors can sit in the cockpit of an RAF Hawker Hunter, watch the aerobatic displays of Gerry Humphreys in his ‘Flying Cow’ RV-7, take a closer look at the CHC Sikorsky search and rescue helicopter, and watch a special fly-over of ‘Iolar’, a restored version of the first aircraft flown by Aer Lingus 75 years ago.
You can make your own model aircraft too, and Atlantic Flight Training will be on hand to answer future pilots’ questions on training options.
Details: €5/€2.50. Tel: 061 363687; atlanticairventure.com.