Tuesday 22 October 2019

Top 20 rainy day activities in Ireland - weather-proof ideas for all ages!

Skip the drizzle for weather-proof fun this winter. Jillian Bolger saves the best visitor attractions for a rainy day...

Transition year students Eleanor Grennan (15) and Eva Whelan (15) from Loreto Abbey in Dalkey view a model of the earth at the Cool Planet Experience. Photo: Damien Eagers
Transition year students Eleanor Grennan (15) and Eva Whelan (15) from Loreto Abbey in Dalkey view a model of the earth at the Cool Planet Experience. Photo: Damien Eagers
Awesome Walls
Ardgillan Castle, Dublin
JumpZone, Sandyford
Doagh Famine Village
Cork city Gaol
Science Gallery Dublin
W5 Interactive Discovery Centre, Belfast
The National Museum of Ireland
The Dead Zoo - Dublin's Natural History Museum
The Boda Borg activity room at Lough Key Forest and Activity Park, Boyle, Co Roscommon
Mitchelstown Caves
National Gallery of Ireland. Photo: Fáilte Ireland
26. Oceanworld Aquarium, Dingle

Jillian Bolger

Ireland is a grand country, if only we could roof it. We've all heard the refrain... but you don't have to be outdoors to have fun. Here are 20 great reasons why.

1. W5

W5 Interactive Discovery Centre, Belfast

Where: Belfast

Why: Standing for Who, What, Why, Where and When, W5 is a brilliant interactive discovery centre that will engage everyone from toddlers to teens and adults. Try experiments, figure out puzzles, learn through games and challenges. With 250 exhibits over six themed zones, everything from robots, nature, technology and outer space to inventions and science are brilliantly brought to life. A captivating day out.

Details: w5online.co.uk, children £7.50, adults £9.80.

If you like that, try this: Imaginosity in Dublin is an interactive children's museum where younger kids get to play grown-up - from driving cars to building structures, running and shopping in a supermarket to learning about the environment. imaginosity.ie

2. Dingle OceanWorld Aquarium

26. Oceanworld Aquarium, Dingle

Where: Dingle, Co Kerry

Why: A Polar penguin display of Gentoo penguins, Ireland's largest collection of sharks, a new jellyfish tank and an Ocean Tunnel are just some of the reasons Dingle aquarium is a top-class attraction. Playful otters, scaly reptiles, turtles and seahorses are all on the bill too - as are scheduled feeding times, allowing you to plan a visit around a reptile, otter or penguin encounter.

Details: dingle-oceanworld.ie, family tickets from €41.

If you like that, try this: Handy to the Dart and with enthusiastic staff, there are 70 different species to enjoy at the National Sea Life centre in Bray, Co Wicklow. sealife.ie

3. National History Museum - Archaeology

The National Museum of Ireland

Where: Dublin

Why: Take the family on a treasure hunt with a visit to the Museum of Archaeology on Kildare Street. The beautiful building will take time travellers back to Ancient Egypt, and Viking, medieval, Celtic, Iron Age and prehistoric Ireland. The impressive hoard includes ancient jewellery, vessels, ceramics, weapons and an original Viking board game from 10th-century Dublin.

Details: museum.ie/archaeology, admission free.

If you like that, try this: With three museums in the Viking Triangle, Waterford Treasures tells the 1,100-year-old story of Waterford, from a virtual reality Viking adventure to Reginald's Tower and the Bishop's Palace. waterfordtreasures.com

4. Science Gallery Dublin

Science Gallery Dublin 2.jpg
Science Gallery Dublin

Where: Trinity College, Dublin

Why: Dublin's Science Gallery opens a different exhibition every few months, on everything from fake news to the end of the world to the future of humans. With a target audience of ages 15-25, it's not for younger kids, but perfect for bored teenagers stuck indoors on a wet day. Imaginative exhibits mix art, design, technology and science in novel and accessible ways - and there's a tasty café onsite too. Unusually, they don't have a permanent collection, which necessitates checking online before visiting.

Details: dublin.sciencegallery.com, free admission.

If you like that, try this: Also run by Trinity College, the Zoological Museum (as distinct from the Natural History Museum) opens each summer. With 25,000 species, including 12,000 insect specimens, it allows visitors to touch the exhibits and offers live animal displays. Expect it to reopen in May/June 2019. tcd.ie/Zoology/museum

5. Cool Planet

et Experience DE 03.jpg
Transition year students Eleanor Grennan (15) and Eva Whelan (15) from Loreto Abbey in Dalkey view a model of the earth at the Cool Planet Experience. Photo: Damien Eagers

Where: Powerscourt Estate, Co Wicklow

Why: With children more environmentally aware than ever, Cool Planet is an on-point day out at the Powerscourt Estate. Taking visitors on an immersive hour-long experience, it uses high-tech displays, games and competitions to reveal what climate change is all about. Kids will love time-travelling to 2050 to try and save their city, and learning about how simple, everyday choices can collectively make a difference. Powerful and fun.

Details: cpe.cool, family ticket €25.

If you like that, try this: Perfect for budding space explorers - learn about outer space at CIT Blackrock Castle Observatory, with its pan-galactic email station and award-winning exhibition on extreme life forms on earth. bco.ie

6. Cork City Gaol

Cork City Gaol 2.jpg
Cork city Gaol

Where: Cork City

Why: Kids are always fascinated with prison, and Cork's old gaol allows them step back in time to learn about Irish life in the 19th and early 20th century, both inside and outside the prison walls. The era is brought to life through figures, furnished cells and sound effects, with more cells and interactive content on track for 2019. A new walkway around the perimeter of the gaol building will open too, allowing visitors to explore the site further.

Details: corkcitygaol.com, family tickets cost €25; prices due to change on January 1, 2019.

If you like that, try this: Head down the road to Lifetime Lab, the Old Cork Waterworks Experience, and journey through the era of Victorian architecture - discovering 100-year-old machinery, Cork's industrial heritage and learning about environmental issues. lifetimelab.ie

7. Funtasia Waterpark

Where: Drogheda, Co Louth

Why: So what if it's raining? Why not get wetter with a family jaunt to Funtasia? A classic water park that's crucially indoors, this boasts a heap of water-based activities. Think slides, including the double-rider, gravity-defying Boomerang drop, toddler splash areas and an adults-only Jacuzzi. A bowling alley and indoor adventure centre are onsite too, if you fancy changing things up.

Details: funtasia.ie, €18, including one activity; family €95, including waterpark, three activities and €20 meal voucher.

If you like that, try this: AquaZone at the National Aquatic Centre in Dublin is an action-packed water park with water slides, surf machine, lazy river and thrilling rollercoaster that blasts riders uphill on water jets. aquazone.ie

8. Ardgillan Castle

Ardgillan Castle 1.jpg
Ardgillan Castle, Dublin

Where: Balbriggan, Co Dublin

Why: A tour of Ardgillan Castle, the Taylor family home from 1738 until 1962, is the ultimate step back in time. You'll get to experience castle life - from the fascinating period kitchen complete with Victorian gadgets and an old range to the formal dining room, taxidermy, musical instruments and old books. A guide will ensure the children are kept entertained and, once there's a break in the weather, dash outside to the fairy trail, beautiful walks and top-class playground. Don't miss the treats, served inside the castle's tea room with a roaring fire.

Details: ardgillancastle.ie, park, fairy trail and playground free; castle tour €13 for a family of four.

If you like that, try this: Wells House in Wexford is a beautiful, welcoming historic estate offering tours, woodland walks, seasonal events, a fairy trail, adventure playground, animal farm and restaurant. wellshouse.ie

9. Mitchelstown Cave

Mitchelstown Caves

Where: Burncourt, Cahir, Co Tipperary

Why: The entrance may be underwhelming, but it belies the vast subterranean world that awaits inside Mitchelstown Cave. One of the largest and most complex cave systems in Ireland, guided tours here will take you along more than a kilometre of well-lit passageways to explore impressive caverns and learn about its history and geological secrets. Surprisingly warm in winter and cool in summer, the constant 12˚C temperature means there's no bad time to visit.

Details: mitchelstowncave.com, €20 for a family of four.

If you like that, try this: Check out Ireland's other exceptional caves in the four corners of the country - Crag in Kerry, Ailwee and Doolin Cave in Clare, Marble Arch in Fermanagh and Dunmore in Kilkenny, for starters.

10. National Gallery of Ireland

National Gallery of Ireland (2).jpg
National Gallery of Ireland. Photo: Fáilte Ireland

Where: Merrion Square West, Dublin

Why: The perfect place to hide out on a wet day, the National Gallery is a bright, engaging space filled with wonderful canvases and imagery. Family-friendly tours, baby workshops, Sunday drop-in family workshops, seasonal activities and creative packs are all on offer from the inventive education team, with workshops for older children scheduled too. Look out for performance events, and don't miss the popular, child-friendly café.

Details: nationalgallery.ie, free admission.

If you like that, try this: Family Sundays at The Glucksman in Cork offer free creative workshops for children. Fuel their imaginations first with a walk around the impressive art collection. glucksman.org; purecork.ie

11. Jump Zone, Dublin

Jump Zone 2.jpg
JumpZone, Sandyford

Where: Santry and Sandyford, Co Dublin

Why: Go for a natural high with a giggle-inducing mass trampolining session. Jump Zone is an indoor trampoline park that's great for burning off excess energy on a rainy day. Get competitively high, try some flips, launch yourselves into the foam pit or take on a bouncy game of Trampoline Dodgeball. Open jump sessions last 60-90 minutes and there's a new Ninja course (and West Dublin venue) about to open. Children must be over five years of age, and booking is recommended.

Details: jumpzone.ie, from €11 per person per hour.

If you like that, try this: With two South American-themed mini golf courses at Rainforest Adventure Golf in Dundrum Town Centre, the whole family can take on the Inca or Aztec courses in this high-tech, colourful indoor facility. rainforestadventuregolf.ie

12. Turoe Pet Farm

Where: Loughrea, Co Galway

Why: A farm visit mightn't seem ideal on a damp day, but Turoe Pet Farm's 14 acres are well set up for the rain. Cue the indoor Inflatable City and Jungle Town, a large café as well as an all-weather walkway that's both wheelchair and buggy-friendly. Once the weather clears, there's an outdoor playground, plus resident pigs, ponies, shaggy Highland cows, llamas and donkeys.

Details: turoepetfarm.com, €40 for a family of four.

If you like that, try this: Reptiles your thing? Kilkenny is home to The National Reptile Zoo. With over 50 exhibits, you can handle snakes and meet everyone from crocodiles to chameleons. nationalreptilezoo.ie

13. Boda Borg

The Boda Borg activity room at Lough Key Forest and Activity Park, Boyle, Co Roscommon

Where: Lough Key Forest Park, Boyle, Co Roscommon

Why: Up for a bonding Crystal Maze-style family challenge? The two-storey Boda Borg is an adventure quest house at Lough Key Forest Park that's suitable for adults and children (aged seven-plus) with three to five people required for your team. The real-world gaming environment presents a mix of mental and physical challenges, with success required each time to unlock the next challenge. Neither video game nor virtual reality, Boda Borg promises a thrilling real-world experience like no other.

Details: bodaborg.com, €70 for a family of four.

If you like that, try this: Check into Athlone's Exit Escape Rooms for a family-friendly themed challenge, where you're locked in a room with an hour to work as a team to solve the clues and escape. exitathlone.com

More: Top 10 things to do in Ireland's Hidden Heartlands

14. Awesome Walls

Awesome Walls 2.jpg
Awesome Walls

Where: Cork and Dublin

Why: Test your strength, agility and bravery as you scale these rock-like climbing walls in Dublin and Cork. Walls are graded to suit all levels, from complete beginners to pros, and there are ropes and harnesses to keep everyone safe. Don't underestimate the ability of younger children either. Their tenacity and bravery will astonish you.

Details: awesomewalls.ie, from €9.50 per child, plus €3.50 non-member fee.

If you like that, try this: Hit up Delphi Adventure Centre in Connemara for a day of outdoor fun that might include kayaking, a bog obstacle course, zip-lining or bushcraft survival. Don your waterproofs and have fun. delphiadventureresort.com

More: The Fab 50: Ireland's 50 best places to stay for 2018

15. The Kilkenny Way

Where: Kilkenny city

Why: The world's fastest and oldest field game, hurling is celebrated in style at The Kilkenny Way. A family visit combines a visit to Legends Hurling Museum with a video of the history of GAA, a skills session on a pitch (real hurlers don't mind a drop of rain!) and the chance to watch a skill-packed televised hurling game while tucking into a bowl of Irish stew afterwards. A perfect daytrip for GAA fans and newbies to the sport.

Details: thekilkennyway.com, €50-70 for a family of four.

If you like that, try this: A game-changing introduction to Ireland's national sports, Experience Gaelic Games is a super spot to bring overseas guests, offering an interactive hands-on cultural and sporting experience in Dublin; €35/€25 for adults/kids. experiencegaelicgames.com

More: First Look: Inside Kilkenny's €6.5m Medieval Mile Museum

16. Croke Park Tour

Cian Nolan guiding a stadium tour at Croke Park

Where: Dublin

Why: Backstage at Croke Park, the third-largest stadium in Europe, is a thrill for anyone who's ever watched an All-Ireland final. This access-all-areas tour takes in the dressing rooms, media area and a walk pitchside via the players' tunnel. Insider secrets and defining moments in Irish history will be revealed too at this top day out. The excellent GAA Museum is onsite... leave time to test your football and hurling skills at its Game Zone.

Details: crokepark.ie, family of four tour, €38, museum, €18.

More: Croke Park Stadium Tour: Pól Ó Conghaile's review

If you like that, try this: Bring your little fans to Thomond Park, the home ground of Munster Rugby, with a stadium tour that takes them to the dressing room, tunnel and places accessible only to players and officials. thomondpark.ie

17. The Chocolate Garden of Ireland

Where: Rath, Tullow, Co Carlow

Why: A chocolate workshop sounds like a kid-proof day out that will turn a rainy day into one that's truly delicious. Learn all about chocolate making, cocoa growing and how handmade chocolates are made, before having a go at making and decorating your own chocolate product, which you get to take home. There are tastings too, and you'll learn how ice-cream is made at this artisan producer. Workshops must be booked in advance.

Details: chocolategarden.ie, from €13.50.

If you like that, try this: The Butler's Chocolate Experience in North Dublin sees visitors watch a chocolate movie, explore the interactive museum, enjoy a demo and decorate their own chocolate to take home. butlerschocolates.com

18. King John's Castle

Where: Limerick City

Why: A top-class exhibition brings to life over 800 years of King John's Castle and Limerick city's history through CGI animation and touchscreens. Period dress-up, firing cannons, crawling into a siege tunnel and the medieval castle animators ensure everyone has a fun and engaging experience. Allow 80 minutes to visit the exhibition area and the castle courtyard and explore the viewing towers.

Details: shannonheritage.com/KingJohnsCastle, €35.50 for a family of four.

If you like that, try this: A tour through Carlow's quirky 17th-century Huntington Castle - with a temple to Isis in the basement and mesmerising family history, artefacts and architecture - makes for a fun and fascinating day out. huntingtoncastle.com

More: 10 Great Reasons to Visit Limerick

19. Doagh Famine Village

Doagh Famine Village, Inishowen, Co. Donegal (2).jpg
Doagh Famine Village

Where: Doagh Island, Inishowen, Co Donegal

Why: On the northern tip of the Wild Atlantic Way, Doagh Famine Village reveals the history of a Donegal community surviving through Famine times right up to the present. Original thatched dwellings, still inhabited 20 years ago, stand alongside a Presbyterian Meeting House, Hedge School and Republican Safe House, depicting the diverse history and culture of this corner of the Inishowen peninsula. Guides will keep children engaged as they learn the links from past to present.

Details: doaghfaminevillage.com, adults €9.50; children €4.

If you like that, try this: Telling the story of Irish emigration and Cork's maritime history, this Cobh Heritage Centre celebrates Queenstown's special place in Irish history. cobhheritage.com

20. Activity Barn at Tinahely farm

Where: Coolruss, Tinahely, Co Wicklow

Why: Can't go to the beach in the rain? Well, there's always Wicklow's indoor beach! The Activity Barn at Tinahely Farm also offers pedal car tracks, traditional games, ping-pong, foosball and an animal walkway with donkeys, ponies, pot-bellied pigs and goats to pet and feed. With tearooms and a farm shop for stocking up on artisan treats, there's much to engage parents too.

Details: tinahelyfarm.ie, €5 per child.

If you like that, try this: Engage curious minds with a trip to Mayo's exceptional Museum of Country Life. The free programme includes activity sheets, games, a dress-up station and cool handling table. museum.ie/Country-Life

NB: All prices/details subject to change

Read more:

The Irish family bucket list: 25 days out for every price point!

Irish Independent

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