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...
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
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.
2. The Gruffalo Trail
Where: Colin Glen Park, Belfast
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.
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
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.
4. Lullymore heritage park
Where: Rathangan, 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.
5. Castle Espie Wetlands Centre
Where: Co Down
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.