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What’s on for mid-term break? 10 spine-tingling day trips countrywide for all ages

There’s a host of Halloween outings from all over the country to keep young devils busy this mid-term, says Sarah Caden

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Gardens at the National Stud, Co Kildare

Gardens at the National Stud, Co Kildare

Horse fun at the National Stud, Co Kildare

Horse fun at the National Stud, Co Kildare

Crumlin Road Gaol, Belfast. Photograph courtesy of Discover Northern Ireland

Crumlin Road Gaol, Belfast. Photograph courtesy of Discover Northern Ireland

Nature attractions at the National Stud, Co Kildare

Nature attractions at the National Stud, Co Kildare

Halloween fun at the Aboo Festival in Co Galway

Halloween fun at the Aboo Festival in Co Galway

Autumn colours at the National Stud in Co Kildare.

Autumn colours at the National Stud in Co Kildare.

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Gardens at the National Stud, Co Kildare

The combined effect of relaxed restrictions later this week and the damp squib that was last year’s Halloween means we’ve a lot of making up to do on the spooky activities front.

There’s a feeling we need to do it with gusto this year, and it’s heartening to see an abundance of attractions for families in all age brackets around the country.

Certainly, it was far from pumpkin patches that we, or even our children, were reared, but they’re all over the place this year and you’ll be no one without a clumsily carved one in your front window.

Farms have thrown themselves into offering spooky outdoor walks and anywhere with a public gardens seems bound to have put a scary twist on their environs. If it’s a fright you’re after then there’s a lot on offer, with the desire to support local business and get back out and have some fun at the heart of it all.

And, yes, this is a warning that it’s never too soon to start thinking about Christmas...

1. Try potions and spells, Dublin

Through this week up to Sunday, October 31, the Botanic Gardens in Dublin’s Glasnevin has a frightening flora-based tour fit for families, who also get to enjoy the gardens themselves. The morning Magical Plants tour is a fun outing where adults and kids find out about plants used for potions and spells while younger ones get to seek out invisible plants.

Tickets are free, but must be pre-booked. See botanicgardens.ie

2. Make spooky arts and crafts

The National Museum website has details of events at their locations around the country, including pumpkin hunts and nature walks and mask-making at the NMI Country Life, Co Mayo. If the weather or WFH stand in the way of getting up to any Halloween antics, however, the website is also home to a selection of pre-recorded spooky arts and crafts activities including Viking-themed ‘Valhallaween’ and a class in making a crow-skull headpiece.

Booking required for some activities. See museum.ie

3. Visit a witch’s lair, Co Cork

There’s a lot going on for kids at Leahy’s Open Farm, near Midleton in east Cork, but they add to the fun for Halloween with their Boo! event, from 10.30am to 4pm every day this week and up to October 31. Entirely outdoor this year, pre-booked tickets for the Boo! haunted hay ride also get you access to the farm, and then you can choose to pay a few euro more for picking and carving a pumpkin or making your own spooky lollipop. The hayride takes you to the witch’s lair, where kids can help the crone make a spell by finding the necessary ingredients hidden around the place.

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Booking required, €5. See leahysopenfarm.ie

4. See a haunted house, Galway

The annual Macnas parade is postponed but there are other Halloween events around Galway including a ticketed pumpkin patch in Castletaylor Demesne in Ardrahan and a Spooky Fest for families at Loughwell Farm Park, at a €3 supplement to regular admission. The Slieve Aughty Centre in Loughrea has a Howl-o-Ween Festival from noon until 6pm daily until Sunday. There’s a spooky forest walk to a haunted house, as well as a witch’s storytelling, face-painting and crafts. Children over five can ride a pony through the forest, and there’s even a Halloween Evening Kids Disco party.

See galwaytourism.ie; @galwaypumpkinpatch; loughwellfarmpark.ie; slieveaughtycentre.com

5. Be bewitched, Co Kildare

Between 11am and 3pm daily until next Sunday, the Irish National Stud and Gardens will have Halloween Spooktacular activities aimed at younger children. Themed arts and crafts, spooky storytelling, magic shows, an eerie tunnel experience and dressing up is optional, with all the usual attractions of the horses, playground, fairy trail and am on-site cafe.

Spooktacular is included in price of admission. Tickets from €14 for adults, €8 for children. Advance booking is advised. See irishnationalstud.ie

6. Trick or treat in Co Meath

From this weekend until October 31, Tayto Park has its Tricky Trail as part of Junior Zone and All Access General admission, while under-threes go free. There are games, song and dance from the start at the Haunted Hall. Bring them dressed up for a picture on the Scare Chair, then follow the treasure map to find missing items and end up with a trick-or-treat item for everyone on the trail.

See taytopark.ie

7. To hell and back, RDS Dublin

If a fright is what your family feels like then The Nightmare Realm at the RDS, Dublin, has just that. Creators Karl and Sylvia O’Connor promise that the ‘three levels of hell’ experience is bigger and better than ever, given that Covid-19 gave them two years to plan since the last one. Visitors walk through three terrifying experiences, The Church of the Damned, Panic Attack and The Butcher Boys, with all your senses sent in a spin, scary creatures throughout and physical frights. An internationally award-winning attraction, it’s for adults and teens only, and restrictions including pods of limited numbers are in effect until Friday.
Tickets from €31, group and pod deals available. See thenightmarerealm.ie or @thenightmarerealm

8. Get the chills at Derry Festival

The theme of this year’s Derry Festival is ‘Awakening the Walled City’ and there are spooky events with a local theme from October 29-31, 5pm-10pm. Ghosts and ghouls, Cailleach Queen of Winter and the Red Branch Knights of Ulster are the other-worldly characters who populate the chilling carry-on. By day, for families with young children there are craft and storytelling events through the week, as well as an In Your Space Circus production in the Guildhall of ‘Married at First Fright’, which tells of the “boney matrimony” of Walter the Skeleton, who appears on the city coat of arms, and his equally dead wife.

For further events, this year extending into Co Donegal, see the Derry Halloween page on Facebook.

9. Jail of Horror, Belfast

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Crumlin Road Gaol, Belfast. Photograph courtesy of Discover Northern Ireland

Crumlin Road Gaol, Belfast. Photograph courtesy of Discover Northern Ireland

Crumlin Road Gaol, Belfast. Photograph courtesy of Discover Northern Ireland

This year they’re taking a two-pronged approach to Halloween at Belfast’s Crumlin Road Gaol. Every night, concluding next Sunday, they offer a pair of scare experiences, neither of which are recommended for young children or the easily frightened. Jail of Horror is a journey through the prison’s D-wing dungeon, with only one way out through a sequence of shocks and Halloween frights. The Paranormal Ghost Hunt features a chance to perform real-life paranormal experiments, as well as a tour through the sites of reported spectral activity, including the Hangman’s Cell.

Tickets from €12.50, booking essential and flat footwear advised. See crumlinroadgaol.com

10. Fright nights, Co Down

The grounds of Hillsborough Castle are fitted out for Halloween, its creepy side on show for children big and small. On October 28-31, families with small kids can enjoy a 40-minute evening Wild Raven Walk, following a darkly lit path through the historical grounds to end up at the Stable Yard, where Cahoots Theatre Northern Ireland put on a show of Hercat the Illusionist’s best tricks. Then, their Friday Fright Night is aimed at the over-14s– though under-16s must be accompanied by an adult– where the same walk is set up as a ghost route of terror.

See hrp.org.uk/hillsborough-castle


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