Thursday 21 June 2018

Five fab toddler days out in Ireland - from Gruffalo trails to cool castle gardens

Toddlers are tricky to entertain, but our little list should get you started...

Family fun at Castle Espie (Photo: DiscoverNorthernIreland.com), with the Gruffalo Trail (inset; Photo: ColinGlen.org)
Family fun at Castle Espie (Photo: DiscoverNorthernIreland.com), with the Gruffalo Trail (inset; Photo: ColinGlen.org)
The Gruffalo Trail at Colin Glen Park, Belfast (colinglen.org)
The Gruffalo Trail at Colin Glen Park, Belfast (colinglen.org)
Lullymore Heritage Park, Co. Kildare
Malahide Demesne
Family Fun at Castle Espie. Photo: discovernorthernireland.com
Glenveagh National Park. Photo: Getty

Susan Morrell

Looking for a top day out with your toddler in Ireland? Susan Morrell has five fab suggestions.

1. Malahide Castle & Gardens

Where: Malahide, Co Dublin

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Malahide Demesne

Why: Wheel around the 22-acre gardens or try baby in the sling for a guided tour of the 12th-century castle (where under 3s go free). Kids will love the playground; parents the onsite Avoca café which has treats, salads, a kids’ menu, high chairs and baby changing facilities. Hop aboard Toots the road train and make a day of it in Malahide village... visit off-peak if at all possible.

Details: Daily from 9.30am-5.30pm. Adults €12.50, families (2+2) €30; malahidecastleandgardens.ie.

More: Top 10 toddler-friendly breaks: An Irish mum's insider tips!

2. The Gruffalo Trail

Where: Colin Glen Park, Belfast

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The Gruffalo Trail at Colin Glen Park, Belfast (colinglen.org)

Why: It’s an attraction that could have been dreamt up by Axel Scheffler and Julia Donaldson themselves. Colin Glen Forest Park is home to an official Gruffalo Trail, with sculptures set against a forest park backdrop, allowing you to find your favourite Gruffalo characters — and screentime for selfies only. The trail takes about 20 minutes, and you can reward yourselves with a treat at Mona’s Café afterwards.

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The Gruffalo Trail at Colin Glen Park, Belfast (colinglen.org)

Details: Dunmurry, Belfast; the trail is free; colinglen.org; discovernorthernireland.com.

More: Like this? Read our list of the Top 25 family days out in Ireland - the ultimate family guide!

3. Glenveagh National Park

Where: Glenveagh, Co Donegal

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Glenveagh National Park. Photo: Getty

Why: Gravelled walking paths and a handy shuttle bus make this vast parkland easy for families to enjoy. The scenery is stunning, with acres of mountains, woods, lakes and waterfalls free to access, and trails catering to various abilities (buggies, too). The 19th-century castle (a family ticket costs €15) and surrounding gardens are lovely, and you can head for the restaurant afterwards for a kids’ menu. Baby changing facilities are at the castle and visitor centre... just make sure to prepare for midges during summer visits.

Details: Entrance is free. Bus tickets from the car park cost €1.50. Visitors centre open daily 9.15am-5.30pm; glenveaghnationalpark.ie.

More: A Circuit of Donegal: 12 great reasons to visit The Forgotten County

4. Lullymore heritage park

Where: Rathangan, Co Kildare

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Lullymore Heritage Park, Co. Kildare

Spend a day at this 60-acre woodland refuge, set in the ecologically rich Bog of Allen, with buzzing nature trails, buggy-friendly boardwalks and a wheelchair-accessible train. Older kids will love learning the gruesome secrets of bog bodies, while you can let toddlers loose in the age-appropriate Funky Forest play area and fairy village. There are train trips too, and the themed gardens are perfect for picnics.

Details: Family tickets (2+2) cost €30, with extra children at €7.50, including all services. Under-2s go free. lullymoreheritagepark.com.

More: The Irish family bucket list

5. Castle Espie Wetlands Centre

Where: Co Down

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Family Fun at Castle Espie. Photo: discovernorthernireland.com
 

Why: Winged wildlife is the focus at this nature reserve,  home to geese, ducks, kingfishers and even bats. Rent binoculars from the shop, buy grain to feed the birds and take a tour to meet the hand-reared ducklings. Buggy accessible trails, a spacious café, Arctic-themed soft play area and sensory garden keep things relaxed. (Older sibs can head for the zip wire and swamp walk.)

Details: Daily, 10am-5pm. Adults £9, kids £5, under-4s go free. wwt.org.uk/wetland-centres/castle-espie

NB: All details/prices subject to change.

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