School holidays are finally underway, to the delight of children everywhere. But while the younger people are giddy with excitement, their parents may be less enthusiastic, wondering how on earth they are going to entertain them for two long months.
Never fear, Ireland is full of fabulous spots to visit! Museums and galleries have their appeal, but since most children want to be outside, free to roam – when they’re not inside on the Xbox at least – we’re looking to the great outdoors.
The weather has been pretty decent this summer, give or take the random wet day, so why not take them to a beautiful garden near you. Pack a picnic and you’ll have all the makings of a memorable day out.
This is popular with both tourists and locals. The gardens stretch over 47 acres, making them perfect for rambling walks. Whether your preference is walled gardens, Italian-style or Japanese zen, you’ll find something to appreciate here.
Once inside, you’re greeted with a stunning view of a huge ornamental lake flanked by winged horses and water features. Children and the young at heart will enjoy exploring the pet cemetery or climbing the Pepperpot Tower. Those who want to take it easy can hang out in the airy café, tucking into scones and a pot of tea.
If trees are your thing, this is the garden for you. Dedicated to the memory of the late US president JFK whose antecedents hailed from Wexford, it contains 4,500 types of trees and shrubs from all over the world. If trees don’t particularly interest you, head towards the lake and take in the stunning panoramic views.
If you’re concerned that there may not be enough here to tempt your brood away from the world of Minecraft, not to worry, there’s also a miniature railway, a pony and trap as well as a playground and picnic area.
Located off the coast of Glengarriff in Cork, Garnish is a stunning island garden that feels almost tropical. Home to specimens of plants rare for our climate, with beautiful walkways, this is well worth the gentle ferry trip across the bay.
The children will probably enjoy the journey as much as the destination since it includes a visit to Seal Island, home to a colony of friendly seals just waiting to show off for their young visitors. All in all, this is a wonderful, peaceful way to spend an afternoon.
One of the oldest gardens in Ireland, Kilruddery House and Gardens is well worth a visit. With its formal garden layout, lush lawns, mature woodland and large ponds, it can feel as if you’re stepping back in time.
That is, until you spot the list of activities. From paintball to yoga, dance to falconry, as well as bush craft skills – the list goes on. No child, large or small, will complain of boredom here. A good lunch of local produce will set you up for the day.
The gardens are set in the grounds of the cookery school and if they don’t inspire you to go home and get your own plot in order, nothing will.
Open from June to September, these gardens have lots of interesting features, whether your horticultural tastes run to herbs, ornamental fruit, organic vegetables or the art of composting.
There’s a Celtic maze to get lost in and a meadow of wild flowers but the children will make a beeline for the giant chess set. Say hello to the cocky rooster called Percy.
This family-run farm is a peaceful haven in the Wexford countryside. With two acres of heavenly scented lavender, you’ll think you’re in Provence. It’s Ireland’s first lavender farm and has long woodland walks and a fairy trail that delights children as they search for the little people among the ancient trees.
A barrel train pulled by Billie the Friendly Bull will take you on a spin around the farm – small carts pulled by a quad – if you’re not too busy with the indoor and outdoor play areas and workshops. With a café and craft shop displaying local art, you won’t go home empty-handed. It’s nice to see the bees thrive here too.
From ornamental to kitchen gardens, woodland walks to a working farm, Airfield is the ideal place to play hide and seek. The gardens are not only beautiful, but educational as well, providing training programmes for all ages. If you arrive at the farmyard mid-morning, you’ll catch the cows being milked and get to feed the hens.
The family area has an interactive Naturescape for 4 to 12-year-olds, and for budding adrenalin junkies, an exciting zip wire. Chances are they’ll sleep in the car on the way home.
Greenan Maze is tucked away in the scenic Wicklow hills. Its tall hedge maze, with multiple dead ends, will keep your children busy for ages as they try to find their way out. Excellent fun! The wild nature walk that leads down by a stream to the dragon-fly ponds will take your breath away.
There’s the added attraction of farm animals and a fascinating farm museum. And after all that activity, you get to relax in the tearooms and treat yourself to some delicious home-baked goodies.
This beautiful garden has a wide range of trees and shrubs from all continents of the world. With an amazing Red Cedar, Mexican Blue pines and Eucalyptus trees, the garden was designed to delight all year round. You’ll find the free map handy on your journey around the gardens.
The Maple and Azalea walks are popular, and the river and weir running through the grounds really add to the atmosphere.
Once you have admired all that nature has to offer, take the weight off your feet in the café, or have a walk around the courtyard shops in this sylvan setting.
This should be up there on your list of things-to-do while visiting Dublin. It has a small botanical garden full of unusual plants, and an impressive interactive exhibition. The beautiful butterflies in the greenhouse are a pleasant surprise, and a tour of the famous walled garden is not to be missed.
The visitor centre offers bike hire, so whether you just want to pedal around the grounds or venture further afield to Malahide village, it’s a fantastic way to see the area. For a more relaxed pace or if you simply want to bribe the children, head into the café for treats to put everyone in a good mood for the journey home.
As you can see, there’s no shortage of gorgeous garden outings in Ireland to create happy memories for your children this summer. But come September, be prepared for the question on how to spell ‘rhododendron’ when they get to writing about a fun day out!