Monday 11 December 2017

A-Z guide to summer family fun

From music and food to make-and-do, there's something for everyone this time of year

The Fleadh Cheoil takes place in Derry.
The Fleadh Cheoil takes place in Derry.
Waterford Heritage Railway.
A vintage car at the Bray Summerfest.
The Red Arrows will appear at Newcastle, Co Down.

Chrissie Russell

There can be no complaints of boredom this summer. Start planning now...

A is for ... Aquatic fun at the Blackrock Raft Race and family fun day (June 23), with beach games and water races. The John Barry Maritime Festival in Wexford (June 20-23) also has a super sea-faring line-up, with kayaking, Viking boat races, lifeboat and rescue helicopter demos and raft races. Or for something with a seaside vibe, but without getting into the tide, why not sign up for a rock pooling tour at Sandycove Beach ( on August 3?

B is for ... Beard-making and bouncy castles (as well as storytelling, swings, slides, pony rides and lots of other fun) at the Town of 1,000 Beards event, where hundreds of facial-hair aficionados will be gathering in a record-breaking attempt in Ballymoe, Co Galway ( June 28-30.

C is for ... Classic side-splitting cinema at the Charlie Chaplin Comedy Film Festival in Waterville, Co Kerry. Not only are the old slapstick comedies guaranteed to get viewers of all ages chuckling, there is also a specific children's film programme, as well as family activities and street entertainment ( August 22-25.

D is for ... Dancing to the beat of over 300 drummers at the Drogheda Samba Festival (, June 28-30.

E is for ... Ennis Street Festival (ennisstreet with acrobatics, music, dance, theatre, puppet shows and arts and crafts. July 5-7.

F is for ... Feile 25 (August 1-11) and Fleadh Cheoil (August 11-18). Belfast and Derry host two of Ireland's biggest celebrations of Irish culture bursting with family fun days, pageants, carnival parades and teddy bears' picnics. See for details.

G is for ... Graffiti, as well as mc-ing, rapping and workshops on street art and dance, all of which are guaranteed to keep budding mini hip-hoppers entertained at the Make a Move festival in Limerick ( July 26-28.

H is for ... Hay Festival. The literature event in Kells, Co Meath has some super kids' events in the line-up, with children's writer, Sarah Webb leading interactive nursery rhymes for little ones and Jenny Valentine, author of 'Iggy and Me', reading from her books and hosting a creative workshop for the over-sixes ( June 28-30.

I is for ... India week. A first-of-its-kind event, put on by Belfast City Council, celebrating the sights and sounds of India with food markets, bazaars, henna tattoos, storytelling sessions, animal quizzes and much more ( indiaweek) June 22-29.

J is for ... Jigging your way into the history books by joining thousands of Irish dancers in a bid to form the biggest Riverdance along the Liffey. Toe-tappers that know the steps can join the fun or, for those less nimble, there's family fun with face painting, bouncy castles and other events in Merrion Square ( July 19-21.

K is for ... Kinsale Arts Festival. Family-friendly events include the 'Make Your Own Monster' creative workshop and story-telling games (, July 6-14.

L is for ... Learning a new skill. Roll up to the Ark in Dublin's Temple Bar to find out what it takes to join the circus with classes in mask-making, juggling, plate-spinning and puppeteering (, running from July 4 to August 31.

Or learn to be a mini Bear Grylls at the Bushcraft Skills survival event in Marlay Park, where an expert will teach adventure lovers how to make woodland tools in the wild ( on August 18.

N is for ... National Trust. From boat trips and bug detectives to archery and bat nights, there's an amazing summer schedule of events taking place at National Trust properties across Northern Ireland. The organisation has also launched '50 Things To Do Before You're 11 and Three Quarters', a fantastic interactive checklist of outdoor adventures, like building a den, skimming a stone and tracking wild animals, that young nature fans will love ticking off.

O is for ... Owls, hawks and falcons at the Munster Falconry display at Imecofarm, Clarecastle, Co Clare. There are also animals to feed, a reptile house, treasure hunts, a bouncy castle and spiral slides ( on July 7. Or, for other winged wonders, try a Hawk Walk at Dublin Falconry (

P is for ... Picking up a pencil or paintbrush and getting creative. The Ballina Salmon Festival (ballinasalmonfestival) has papier-mache workshops, tips on making tissue stained-glass windows, silk painting as well as other family-friendly fun, such as firework displays and puppet shows (July 7-14).

Budding artists might also enjoy an opportunity to press flowers at Dublin's Botanic Gardens ( on June 29, as well as learning to make beach sculptures on Killiney Beach ( on July 7 or making badges and masks at the Children's Art Cart workshops in Phoenix Park Visitor's Centre every Sunday (

Q is for ... Quizzes, treasure hunts, archery, music, baking, ice-cream party and a line up of excellent entertainment at Skibbereen Children's Festival, Co Cork. There is a lot of super workshops, including photography classes and drama lessons, on offer at a great price. Booking is essential but many of the festival events are free ( July 22-28.

R is for ... Ratty, Moley , Mr Toad and co in an open-air theatre performance of 'Wind In The Willows' at Castle Barracks, Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh. Grounds open at 6pm on July 3, with visitors encouraged to bring blankets and picnics.

S is for ... Scanning the skies for hot-air balloons at the Balto Balloon Fest, Baltinglass, Co Wicklow (June 21-23). The Red Arrows will be at the Festival of Flight in Newcastle, Co Down (August 3-10) on the 10th and there will be fireworks for the 4th of July celebrations in Limerick on July 6 (

T is for ... Turning back time and learning to make a mosaic like the Romans at the National Museum of Ireland on Kildare Street (June 29), hearing about the life of a soldier 100 year ago at Collins Barracks' 'Barracks Tales' (June 30) or a host of other activity-based educational events throughout the summer (

U is for... Ukulele Hooley by the Sea, a fun family day out for fans of the uke. Dun Laoghaire, August 24 and 25. See for details.

V is for ... Vintage funfair – just one bit of the brilliant bill of events at Ireland's largest free summer festival, Bray Summerfest. Five weekends will host over 60 events in Bray, Co Wicklow, including outdoor cinemas, a kidzone and a Family Fiesta weekend ( July 6-August 5.

W is for ... Welly throwing and other wacky fun at the Family Day festival in Ballygawley, Co Sligo ( on July 20 or watching the pros compete at the National Welly Throwing Championships, at Araglin, Kilworth, Co Cork on July 19.

X is for ... Xylophones made out of pots and other amazing percussion courtesy of Coetus, a one-of-a-kind band from Barcelona who are putting on a vibrant concert, Iberian Percussion Extravaganza, at the Ark in Temple Bar, June 29 (

Y is for ... Young chefs getting to grips with making yummy meals at the Cookery School's head chef/junior chef cookery class on August 18. The Co Wicklow class sees kids (€39) and adults (€59) cooking together to whip up a selection of delicious dishes (

For older kids, Donnybrook Fair ( has a great Leaving the Nest cooking class running from August 26 for teens about to slip the bonds of mummy's apron and head off to uni.

Z is for ... Zesty fishy dishes to suit all age groups and child-friendly fun at the Carlingford Oyster Festival in Co Louth. With magic shows, free kayaking, a funfair and kiddies' oyster pear welly hunt, where the whole family can search the shores of Carlingford Lough for treasure. There is plenty to tickle the taste buds of tots at this fabulous festival ( August 8-11.

Irish Independent

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