There are so many beautiful cities and destinations within Ireland. For this family itinerary, I cover only a few favorite highlights that focus on nature, outdoors and family time. This is an itinerary to maximize the scenic beauty of Ireland in about a weeks time.
Spend a couple nights in Dublin, taking in the friendly, bustling city vibe. A perfect day would be grabbing a picnic from Fallon & Byrne and walking over to St. Stephen’s Green for a picnic. Then head over to one of Dublin’s fantastic museums (several, including the National Library of Ireland and the National Museum of Ireland – Archaeology are within walking distance from the Green) before grabbing some afternoon tea at the Shelbourne.
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After a night or two in Dublin, grab the bus or a cab to Dublin airport and pick up a car for the rest of your journey. While you can pick up a car when you arrive, you won’t need it in Dublin (it’s a very walkable and easy to navigate city) and parking can be quite expensive.
On your drive straight West across Ireland to Dingle, I suggest stopping at the Rock of Cashel on your way. About 2 hours outside of Dublin, the Rock of Cashel is a historic site where St. Patrick baptized King Aengus around A.D. 450. It’s a beautiful elevated site with a nice parking lot just down from the hill it’s perched on. You’ll see tombstones and the ancient Cathedral.
After touring the Rock of Cashel, try a soup and sandwich or scone lunch at the tiny Granny’s Kitchen, which is next to the parking lot with a brightly painted exterior.
From here, Dingle is about another 3 hours or so. Stop at Muckross House ( a Victorian Home) near Killarney on your way, or just go straight through.
Try to get to Dingle in time to settle into your accommodations and have dinner. If you have time, try The Chart House Restaurant (6 pm -10 pm). It’s in the center of Dingle and give you a beautiful glimpse of the city. There is locally caught fish and warm breads. It’s an upscale restaurant, so bring a few card or conversation games for the little ones. Kids can order any menu item as a 1/2 portion.
The next day explore and drive around the peninsula. Be sure to take many stops on the way for whatever suits your fancy. You can pull over and walk to right to the water’s edge in many areas. Don’t miss the Clogher Head trek (an easy to miss, very short trail) that takes you through a sheep farm and out to the sea, with a small beach, beautiful rocks and cliffs, and all kinds of bog.
3. Cliffs of Moher
Drive north from Dingle from Tralee via Listowel to the Tarbert-Killimer ferry. The car ferry departs about every hour during high season. It’s about a 20 minute trip and the kids will feel like you are on a tourist boat excursion! Have fun pointing out birds, old mansions and other spots in the landscape around you.
From Killimer, drive to the Cliffs of Moher via the coastal route for some gorgeous scenery of Ireland, cliffs, seaside towns and ocean. While the Cliffs of Moher itself is saturated with tourists and buses, it’s definitely worth visiting.
Start in the visitors center and then walk the cliffs, ending at O’Brien’s Tower. Skip the 2 pound fee to climb O’Brien’s tower but do walk the five minutes up to the tower and look to your right (north) and in the distance you can see the Aran Islands.
As you continue up the West coast of Ireland, I recommend taking a brief stop around the Burren region and, in particular, the Poulnabrone Dolmen. It’s a portal tomb in the Burren, which is one of the country’s most desolate, barren regions, and it dates back to somewhere between 4200 BC and 2900 BC. It’s a great place to pull over and have the kids explore these rock formations around the tomb. They’ll have fun jumping from rock to rock as you take in this historic area.
As you continue on to the Connemara region, you’ll stop through Galway. It’s a wonderful, vibrant city with great restaurants and a down-to-earth vibe. Stop at one of the restaurants (try Busker Brownes for a family friendly, casual meal) and walk around the city, or spend the night before continuing on.
If you won’t spend the night, for daytime parking, the most central place to park is under the Jurys Inn Galway in the town center or you can pay-and-display ticket and put it on the dashboard on the city streets.
Take your time enjoying the scenic drive from Galway to Clifden. This region of Ireland is called Connemara and it’s a beautiful coastal drive with so much natural scenery. Take your time and pull over often for pictures or to breath in the air and listen to the silence.
Clifden is a logical place to explore the region. They have a fabulous town with fully equipped grocer, great restaurants, bike rental shops, etc. Make a reservation at Mitchell’s for dinner one night. It’s a wonderful, cozy, upscale restaurant in the town center with fresh seafood and delicious entrees. Kids can enjoy a regular menu item as a half portion. Don’t forget to bring a notebook for them to play tic-tac-toe or have them grab a book to keep themselves entertained.
From here you can make the close treks of visiting Kylemore Abbey, drive along Sky Road and explore the beach, and walk to Omey Island. If you spend a day or two days just exploring Sky Road and Omey Island (an island that you must time your visit so you can walk to it during low tide), those could easily be the highlights of your trip.
If you spend a day or two days just exploring Sky Road and Omey Island (an island that you must time your visit so you can walk to it during low tide), those could easily be the highlights of your trip.
Kids will love to walk and explore the beaches, rocks, shells and landscape and your guaranteed some awesome pictures.
5. Aran Islands
If you have an extra night or two, I highly recommend making the effort to visit the Aran Islands. You’ll enjoy even more solitude and peace (particularly if you stay overnight) and you can walk, bike and explore the island as a family, stopping where you fancy and just slowing down time.
From Clifden, you will head back toward Galway, to Connemara Regional airport (it’s about an hour car ride). You can leave your car at the airport parking for free if you’ve booked a flight. Book a flight with Aer Arann Island to Inishmore.
The quick flight is in a small plane, that the kids will just love that experience in itself. Stay at the Ard Einne House, Inis Mor, Aran Islands. It’s literally 300 feet from the air strip so you can easily walk with your luggage to it once you land. Because it’s a teeny airport, there won’t be noise during the evening that will keep you up and the B&B itself is in a nice quiet part of the island so you can enjoy solitude during your stay.
On the grounds of the Ard Einne House are rolling hills and greenery the kids can explore, just be ware of the stinging nettle. There is a beach across the road right by the airstrip, where the kids can explore and walk while watching the planes take off and land. Quite a treat!
Arrange for bike hire for the whole family. If you contact, Aran Bike Hire, The Pier, Kilronan, Inis Mor Island, you can have bikes delivered and waiting for you at the B&B so you can take off and explore as soon as you land!
Exploring the island by bike is very accessible. You’ll pass through the main town of Kilronan with restaurants, pubs and shops, on your way to most of the sites. Pull over on your bikes in a secluded corner of the island and have a picnic lunch.
Don’t miss cycling to Dun Aenghus. It’s an awesome prehistoric fort on a cliff. The kids will love running around and exploring the fort and its many areas to hide. Be ware of wind and don’t get too close to the cliffs, however. Bring some carriers for little ones as the hike up to Dun Aenghus once you park your bike is about 30 minutes. There is a cafe and shop with bathrooms at the bottom of the site where you’ll park your bikes.
On your way back to the B&B, try Joe Watty’s in Kilronan for a late lunch or dinner. (Usually closed between 3:30-5 pm.)