Saturday 20 July 2019

50 things for children to do this summer


Swan boats at Westport thouse
Swan boats at Westport thouse
There is much entertainment nationwide for children to enjoy over the summer
Young enthusiasts on Waterford Greenway. Picture: Patrick Browne

Sarah Caden

There's abundant entertainment for children nationwide, so to avoid the inevitable cries of 'I'm bored' read on...


Zipping along

Margaret Nolan from Castlecomer trying the zip line, Ireland's longest over-water one. Photo: Dylan Vaughan

There is fun to be had up in the trees and down on the water at Castlecomer Discovery Park near Kilkenny city. Set in 80sq km of woodland, there is a zip wire and a tree-top walk for young and old; they also have pedal boats on the lake.

West's Awake

Swan boats at Westport thouse

It's all go in the outdoors at Westport House, with a piratical theme to the adventure park, a log flume ride, swinging ship, bouncy castle and playground. Rain won't interrupt play, as there's also an indoor soft-play area and a tour of the dungeons.

Perennial Favourite

Clara Lara Fun Park in Co Wicklow was the stuff of dreams during your childhood and not much has changed. Except that it's now even better. Rafts, a huge water slide, stable canoes, row boats and, if you must, crazy golf.

Beat Around the Bush

On the first Saturdays in July and August at Killruddery House and Gardens near Bray, Co Wicklow, check out the Firefox Bushcraft Family Adventure days. Fire-lighting, shelter-building, woodcraft and animal tracking will bring out their inner Bear Grylls. €20pp, booking required.

Donegal Detectives

At Glenveagh Castle, Donegal, on July 20 and 27, there is a nature trial for junior detectives, with a map challenge and different hands-on, back-to-nature activities. Make a day of it and bring a picnic. Free of charge, but booking required.


Jump Around

Carlingford Adventure boasts, among other things, a zip wire, raft-building and foot-golf, but we love the water trampoline, out of which the adventurous of all ages bounce into the sea.

Damp on the Dodgems

Hidden Valley Holiday Park at Wicklow's 'Meeting of the Waters' has cabins and glamping, but you can also use day-visit tickets for kayaking, paddle-boats or, best of all, bumper-boating.

On the Water

See the capital from a new perspective from a Dublin Bay Cruises boat. Go from Dun Laoghaire to Howth, take a quick spin around Ireland's Eye or Dalkey Island, or even take a boat trip to town.

Make a Splash

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The Viking Voyage at The Park. Photo: Leon Farrell / Photocall Ireland

Up, down, backwards, forwards, at speeds of up to 60kmh, the new Viking Voyage flume ride at Tayto Park, Co Meath, is a major draw for kids this summer.

Viking Visit

Take the Viking longboat from Athlone Castle to Clonmacnoise, where the marauders first arrived in Ireland. The boats leave several times a day and the trip takes about 90 minutes each way. Children's tickets from €6.


Active Inflatable

Wild Air Run

Last year, more than 20,000 people took part in the Wild Air Run. This year, the inflatables are back at locations around the capital and the country over July and August. Run and bounce through 5km of blow-up obstacles. All abilities accommodated. Booking required.

Wheely Good

According to age, ambition and ability, you can cycle near or far on a bike hired at Malahide Castle. With bikes of all sizes, including kids' bikes, chariot trailers and tagalong bikes, they will provide maps and tips. A family favourite goes along the North County Dublin seafront.

Love All

Parks Tennis is now an established part of the Irish summer. Low-cost tennis lessons without the need to be part of a club or the right set. At 150 locations around the country, with 20 hours of lessons in Dublin for only €45. Booking required.

Rainbow Run

Today in Bray, Co Wicklow, adults and children five-plus can join the annual colour run, a 5km that sees you doused in paint and water along the route. Tickets are €25 for adults, €20 for kids, €70 for family tickets.


Birr Castle has a glorious fairytale castle treehouse by Blue Forest but they’ve also built state-of-the-art kitchen treehouses, pool rooms, children’s dens, home offices and eco-lodges. You can dream up your own bespoke eerie or choose an off-the-shelf design. Prices from £25,000stg,

The Treehouse Adventure Area at Birr Castle, Co Offaly, is a magical place. The treehouse is from a fairytale, with the added bonus of sandpits, a bouncy pillow and a hobbit hut.

Happy at Hook

The cliff walk to Hook Lighthouse is probably best enjoyed by children over seven, but all ages will love the art classes held with Rose Finn. Summer workshops run daily - drop in and doodle on shells and driftwood and stuff of the sea.


Near Naas is the Kildare Maze Activity Park, where there are two mazes - a classic 2km hedge and a wooden variety for younger kids - as well as a zip wire, adventure trail and crazy golf. Under-twos are free; family tickets from €25.


Bookmaking Bet

Enda Kenny inspects a poster from a collection of political ephemera on display at the National Print Museum

The National Print Museum in Dublin 4 runs several workshops through July, ranging from printmaking for four-to seven-year-olds to hardback-bookmaking for eight-12-year-olds. Two-hour workshops, €12.50pp. Booking required.

Spin the Wheel

Children aged six to 13 can enjoy the monthly visit from real-life potter, Christien Van Bussell, who lets the children spin the potter's wheel at Giddy Studios in Dundrum Town Centre. €25 for a two-hour class; booking required. Dress them for the tropics - it gets hot in there.

Wonka Land

The chocolate-factory experience is more one of tasting the wares (for free) than getting close up with the production line, but who's complaining? You won't get away without spending, though, as the shop and cafe are too tempting. If it stops raining, nearby St Finian's Bay is a must for a bounce in the waves.

Hang with the Monks

On Sundays at noon, from now through to the end of September, you can take a child-friendly tour through Christchurch, dressing up like a monk and learning how they lived in days gone by. €5 admission.

Let Rip

Waterpoint in Enniscrone, Co Sligo has a 65m flume waterslide, a kids' pool, a new inflatable feature for kids and a heated pool for plain-old swimming, too.

Wheel Magic

On the right track: Sean Gallagher with Rally School Ireland owner David Smyth at the track in Scotstown, Co Monaghan

Children aged 10+ can get the real rally-car experience in Scotstown Co Cavan, if your own nerves will permit. At the Rally School Ireland, they drive on a real track with a real instructor. And, yes, in a real car. €130pp, for 12 laps.

Work It

At some point over the holidays, particularly if it's raining, they may need reminding just how good they have it. If so, why not bring them to the Donaghmore Famine Workhouse in Co Laois. Find out how people lived and died during the Famine and see the agricultural exhibit.


Bloody Vikings

At the Country Life Museum, Castlebar, you can Meet the Vikings on July 2 from 2.15-4.15pm. The museum's resident Viking, Ragnar Olafson, gives a tour of his camp and shares his bloody exploits, including the Battle of Clontarf. No booking required.

City Centre Culture

At the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin Castle, art is made accessible to children as young as three with free activity books of drawings, jigsaws and puzzles available on arrival. On June 29, there is also a teens' screening of Sing Street, with pizza. It's free, but booking is required.

Happy Birthday

On July 16, Wells House and Garden in Gorey, Co Wexford, celebrates its fifth birthday with a Victorian garden party. Feel free to dress up for celebrations that include puppet shows, music, face-painting and magicians.

Up, Up and Away

The Red Arrows at last year's Bray Air Display

Bray Air Display, July 22-23 has "performances" from the Spanish air force, a flying boat and historic Stearman and Chipmunk aircraft, as well as terra firm entertainment in the craft village and funfair. The display is free, but helicopter rides are €50 for adults and €35 for under-12s.

Tree Tops

The woods and forests of Ireland welcome almost 20 million visitors every year for everything from a simple walk to camping or orienteering. Coillte's website offers a clear run-down of what you can do where, with downloadable maps, notes on levels of difficulty, car parking and local pit stops.

Return to the Library

Bring your child to the local library this summer for their free Summer Stars Reading Card. They get stamps for the books they read, an invitation to an awards event at summer's end and rewards for their reading along the way. And just to emphasise, it's entirely free.

Go to the Greenway

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Young enthusiasts on Waterford Greenway. Picture: Patrick Browne

The 46km Waterford Greenway is now open to walkers and cyclists. The old rail track is a dream surface for bikes, and the views from the viaducts are stunning. The Greenway itself is free of charge, as is bringing your own bike, while local rentals are available.


Fota Favourite

The Colombian spider monkey is classed as critically endangered in the wild by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Fota Wildlife Park outside Cork has a bonus Activities Tent for the summer, where children can get their faces painted or do some arts and crafts. And it's all included in your admission fee to the park.

Rural Racing

Nore Valley Farm in Bennettsbridge, Co Kilkenny has fun for families with conflicting ideas of what makes a good day out. On the farm, gentle souls can feed the sheep and goats, while speed-freaks can let rip on the go-kart track.

You Can Come Too

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Baby elephant Vani cooling down at Dublin Zoo. Photo: Justin Farrelly

Dublin Zoo is a fail-safe outing, but on July 5-7, fans of cold-blooded animals can join in their Reptile Weekend. Guided tours of fun facts about lizards, snakes and other creepy creatures, with interactive activities and family fun.

City Farm

Every day at Airfield House there is egg-collecting, cow-milking and animal-feeding. Over the summer they also have Young Farmer and Young Chef activities, as well as arts and crafts. Booking is required.

Horsey Set

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James Derwin (7) with his jumping pony Yorkie at last year’s Dublin Horse Show – the image features in the Irish Independent 2017 calendar free with today’s paper. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Even if your little ones have no interest in getting up on a horse, they will enjoy the Dublin Horse Show. Watch other kids compete and see Connemara pony and donkey events. On the band lawn, there are puppet and magic shows, chill-out story times and music and dance.

August 9-13.

Pet Paradise

Donkeys and ducks, emus and alpacas, there are all manner of animals, plus two play areas with a bouncy castle, mini golf and go-karts at Clonfert Pet Farm in Maynooth. Bring a picnic.


Two by Two

The Beautiful Beasts exhibition returns from its national tour to The Ark in Temple Bar. Animal sculptures in curious materials and unexpected guises will delight young minds and they get the chance to try out their own animal art at the end. Best of all, entry is free. July 1-August 27.

Young Masters

From today and throughout the summer, the National Gallery of Ireland will have drop-in family Sundays from 11.30am-1.30pm. Themed to tie in with the Vermeer exhibition, artist Caomhan Mac An Iomaire guides tots to teens through the art works. All materials supplied. Last entry 1.10pm. Free of charge.

Catch a Star

There's an adaptation of Oliver Jeffers' How to Catch a Star at the Galway International Arts Festival, July 17-29. Parents of the under-sevens need hear no more. With puppets and music, it's a non-verbal production from the acclaimed Branar company. No shows July 22-24.


They will never be bored with a book but the West Cork Book Festival boasts a Book Clinic to help those kids who are stuck in a reading rut. The children's wing of the festival also has readings from Laureate Na nOg, PJ Lynch and Geek Girl author, Holly Smale. July 14-21 and booking out fast.


Carlow Military Museum is worth a look for the small people in your life who like espionage and instruments of violence. Check out their 1798 section, the recreated World War II trench and the Cold War map of Co Carlow in Russian. Adults, €2.50, children, €1.30.

Choo Choo

Steam trains and vintage buses are among the exhibits at the Cavan and Leitrim Railway museum in Dromod, Co Leitrim. You can also take a 50-minute trip on a restored steam train, choo-chooing through the countryside. Tel: (071) 963-8599

Going Underground
Mitchelstown Caves: A spectacular setting that is being actively considered as a concert venue.

Guided tours of Mitchelstown Caves, Co Tipperary, bring visitors young and old through some of the most impressive limestone caves in existence. Children's tickets are €3 and are bought from the family home of Michael Condon, who found the caves by accident in the mid-1800s.


Winged Wonder

Find your glitter at summer's end at the Sensational Kids Enchanted Fairy and Elf Festival in the Rathwood Centre, Tullow, Co Carlow. With dressing up, decorating a fairy house, riding the fairy train and games. There are dedicated times with lower numbers and a quieter vibe for kids with additional needs. Admission €13.

Set up Camp

If Electric Picnic with the kids is too awful to contemplate, but you still fancy a festival, check out the Sunrise Children's Festival outside Galway, July 29-30. Come for the day or set up camp in the woodlands around Brigit's Garden, and enjoy arts and crafts, theatre, comedy, puppet shows and archery tag. Weekend family tickets from €169, including free Saturday night camping.

Chill Children

The Body & Soul Festival in Westmeath, which finishes today, has a family camping zone that isn't just quiet, but also offers morning activities like yoga for the early risers and story time in the evening for the sleep-resistant. Daytime kids' activities include circus, den-building and lots of arty stuff.

Just for Laughs

Family comedy - is there any other kind? Farmleigh becomes a funny farm from July 1-2, with stand-up from the likes of Joe Rooney and Paul Tylak, rib-tickling storytelling and comedy workshops for the kids. Yes, you will be their material. But at least there will be no charge for the humiliation, as it's a free event.

Guilty as Charged

The Happy Pear Twins Steve and Dave with Dustin the Turkey at the City Specacular Launch.

Let them take out their bored frustration on you in the Kids' Court at the Laya Healthcare City Spectacular. You'll be tried and, inevitably, found guilty, just so they can throw a bucket of iced water or custard pie in your face. There are food stalls, entertainment and music, too. In Dublin and Cork, over the weekend of July 7. Admission free.

Eat Enniscorthy

Attendees at the launch of Enniscorthy Rockin' Food Festival in Slaney Street

During the August Bank Holiday in Enniscorthy, Co Wexford, discover the Rockin' Food Festival with Punch and Judy shows, a Mad Hatter's Tea Party and a Junior 1798 re-enactment. Food stalls, outdoor film screenings and a bungee trampoline too.

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