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25 outings and activities to do with the kids this summer… and they’re FREE

Keep those wails of ‘I’m bored!’ at bay with trails, tunes, and art and craft activities across Ireland


Wexford Lavender Farm owner Moira Harte at the venue in Inch, Co Wexford. Photo: Patrick Browne

Wexford Lavender Farm owner Moira Harte at the venue in Inch, Co Wexford. Photo: Patrick Browne

Bray Air Display. Photo: Joe Keogh

Bray Air Display. Photo: Joe Keogh

Kari Oslie from California in the National Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin, Dublin. Photo: David Conachy

Kari Oslie from California in the National Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin, Dublin. Photo: David Conachy


Wexford Lavender Farm owner Moira Harte at the venue in Inch, Co Wexford. Photo: Patrick Browne

The summer holidays have arrived but with families facing many extra expenses, free events and activities are always welcome.

Here is our guide to some of the best things to do and places to go around the country to keep the dreaded cries of “I’m bored!” at bay.

1. The Ark Children’s Cultural Centre, Dublin 2

The Rock, Paper, Scissors exhibition is open every Tuesday to Saturday from July 9 to August 20 at The Ark in Temple Bar. After exploring the exhibition, children aged five to 12 can drop into the Creative Zone with their families to create unique artworks from fabric, wood, paper or plastic. Ark.ie

2. Bray Air Display, Wicklow

The main Bray Air Display event takes place on Sunday, July 24, although on-the-ground activity kicks off on Saturday, July 23, with some aircraft activity throughout the day. Kids will be thrilled by some of the best display teams and individual acts from around the world showcasing their aerobatic skills. BrayAirDisplay.com

3. Museum of Style Icons, Kildare

Youngsters who love fashion, music and film will get lost in the Newbridge Silverware Museum’s featuring costumes and memorabilia previously owned by stars such as Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, Princess Grace, Princess Diana and The Beatles. VisitNewbridgeSilverware.com

4. Wexford Lavender Farm, Wexford

There are three free woodland walks through the lavender fields and woods of Wexford Lavender Farm in Gorey. The Purple Haze Café provides free maps of the walks, which range from 2-7km in length. There is also a 1km Woodland Warriors trail for smallies, which is a looped walk with rustic playground equipment, and they are bound to love the Enchanted Woods. WexfordLavenderFarm.com

5. Old Rail Trail, Westmeath

The 43km Old Rail Trail goes from Mullingar to Athlone, in Co Westmeath, so you could cycle a route that suits the age and fitness levels of your family. A nice option is heading to Ballinea on the Old Rail Trail before returning to Mullingar on the Royal Canal Greenway.

6. Kilkenny Arts Festival

Kilkenny Arts Festival runs for 11 days from August 4 to 14 and it has lots of free events. These include the Secret Music Series, which are pop-up performances from leading Irish and international musicians, and the Conjuring Form exhibition at the National Design & Craft Gallery. KilkennyArts.ie

7. OPW Free Days

Did you know you can visit some amazing Heritage Ireland sites for free? Thanks to the Office of Public Works (OPW), admission fees are waived at some of these amazing sites across Ireland on the first Wednesday of each month.


8. Solas Eco Garden Centre, Laois

Pretend you’re in France by heading to Solas Eco Garden Centre in Portarlington for its Festival Francais on July 16 and 17. There will be disco and live French music, street performers and French mime, face-painting, guest speakers, history talks and food samples. Kids will love the centre’s dedicated area for hens and chickens to roam wild. EcoGardenShop.ie

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9. Glencar Waterfall, Leitrim

This famous Leitrim landmark served as an inspiration to WB Yeats in his poem, The Stolen Child, and it boasts a 15-metre-high waterfall. There’s a playground to help entertain the kids, picnic tables and a cafe, and you can stretch your legs by walking in the lush wooded forest. LeitrimTourism.com

10. Áras an Uachtaráin, Dublin

Áras an Uachtaráin holds free guided tours most Saturdays organised by the OPW, where you can view the main reception and state rooms of the President’s residence. You might even glimpse his dogs, Bród and Misneach. Tickets are available from the Phoenix Park Visitor Centre, which has a playground and cafe. President.ie

11. Galway Arts Festival

Free events at Galway Arts Festival include LifeLine, which features 150 people performing Europe’s largest high-wire spectacle over the River Corrib on Saturday, July 16. It culminates with BassAlto, a visual and poetic circus show by an all-female company of professional wire-walkers and local community performers. Giaf.ie

12. Adventure Walks, Limerick

Adventure Walks is a collection of 1km and 2km fun-filled treasure hunts designed for explorers aged four to 15 across 12 locations throughout Limerick. Download the Adventure Walks app to your smartphone and let the fun begin. Limerick.ie

13. National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin 2

Budding artists will enjoy a guided tour of the National Gallery, designed for children of all ages and their guardians, parents and carers. It takes place every Sunday at 12.30pm. NationalGallery.ie

14. National Sandcastle & Sculpturing Competition, Meath

For a visual treat, Bettystown Beach will be the setting for this annual competition on July 24. It awards prizes to the best sandcastles and sculptures crafted by those aged under five, eight and 13, families, junior sculpture under 16, and senior
sculpture over 16. It’s free for spectators. Participants pay €2-€5 to enter. Register on Eventbrite.ie.

15. Leebeen Park, Longford

The gorgeous Leebeen Park has been developed with nature trails, a fairy garden, benches and picnic tables, green gym outdoor exercise equipment and walking loops. There’s a boardwalk along the lake, which is home to swans and other wildlife, and the playground has swings and a zip wire. Longford.ie

16. Earagail Arts Festival, Donegal

As part of the Earagail Arts Festival, the Regional Cultural Centre in Letterkenny will host a hands-on art room where visitors can find out about the exhibitions on display and make their own artworks. The art room can be accessed from Tuesdays to Saturdays between July 9 and August 27.


17. Rockin’ Food and Fruit Festival, Wexford

The Food Marquee at the Rockin’ Food and Fruit Festival in Enniscorthy is an artisan food market with over 50 local and artisan vendors. There are also free outdoor gigs at the festival, which runs from July 28 to
August 1. RockinFoodandFruitFestival.ie

18. National Botanic Gardens, Dublin and Wicklow

Tours take place daily at the National Botanic Gardens, which are oases of calm and beauty. The glasshouses, visitor centre, herbarium and library are huge attractions at the Glasnevin gardens, while Kilmacurragh is particularly famous for its conifer and rhododendron collections. BotanicGardens.ie

19. Duckett’s Grove, Carlow

The surviving towers and turrets of Duckett’s Grove Walled Gardens and Pleasure Grounds in Carlow are great to explore. Kids won’t be bored as there’s a playground with slides, poles, an obstacle course and lots more. CarlowTourism.com

20. National Museum of Ireland, Dublin and Mayo

The three different museums that form the National Museum of Ireland – Country Life in Mayo and Archaeology and Decorative Arts & History in Dublin – are all fascinating. They’re a great way to pass a few hours and keep young minds engaged. Museum.ie

21. Delgany Fairy Trail, Wicklow

Refreshed for 2022, the Delgany Fairy Trail in Greystones is an autism-friendly, sensory experience. It’s a magical woodland
area where residents and visitors are welcome to visit the tiny homes and cottages of the resident fairies. This includes a Ukrainian fairy, who has decorated her cottage with sunflowers and the signature blue and yellow colours of Ukraine. GreystonesGuide.ie

22. Cavan Burren Park

Budding geologists can discover 350 million-year-old fossils, ancient rock art and prehistoric tombs at the geopark. There are also free tours every Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday in July from 11am to 1pm. On August 20, children will have the opportunity to experience what it’s like to be an archaeologist by learning how to excavate the remains of a Viking house. CavanBurrenPark.ie

23. Fitzgerald’s Park Playground, Cork

Kids will love the playground in Fitzgerald’s Park with its castle and sunken pirate ship structures. There’s a 2.6m climbing wall, with slides, swings, a climbing pyramid, basket swings, hedgehog and ladybird springers and horizontal bars. The disability-friendly playground is entirely accessible, with wheelchair access to most of the sensory-rich equipment.

24. Slieve Gullion Forest Park, Down

Those heading up north should check out the enchanting Slieve Gullion Forest Park in Newry,
which takes visitors to a fantastical childhood land of mystery, dragons, giants, witches and fairies.
There’s also an adventure play park and a purpose-built trail designed for children and adults with additional sensory needs.

25. Summer Stars, Nationwide

Summer Stars is the free national reading programme for children that takes place in all public libraries and online each summer. It runs until August 31, so check your local library’s social media and website for upcoming events and activities. LibrariesIreland.ie

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