Europe, Wanderlust

Ireland with kids: four road trip ideas from Dublin

For years, my only experience of Ireland was Dublin – a city break exploring as a student, a more stylish romantic weekend with my husband, cocktail-fuelled fun with friends. But after a work trip which took me to Cork and Kerry, I couldn’t help wonder why I hadn’t explored more of Ireland before.

A sheep wanders along a road in Connemara, Ireland - my four road trip ideas from Dublin

And after our great road trip to California, the idea of exploring the equally beautiful scenery of the Emerald Isle is very tempting – especially with no worries about driving on the other side, or failing to understand road signs.

We’d still want a few days in Dublin first, of course; no need for a car there, but it’s easy to hire one in the city or at the airport – car rental comparison site Easyterra is ideal for checking out all the Irish capital’s different options.

Then onwards to the open road. I’ve come up with four different routes to try – all doable in two or three days if you’re having a short break with kids, or stitch them together if you have longer to discover Ireland.

A view of Cork City in Ireland across the River Lee - my four road trip ideas from Dublin

Ireland road trip 1: Dublin to Cork via Kilkenny

Take the motorway and you can be in Ireland’s second city in just over three hours – tempting when you consider how much there is to do there.

Even better though, stop on the way in the ancient city of Kilkenny with its 12th century castle and the attractions of its medieval mile, or try a cycling tour. It’s a famously foodie city, so at the very least stop to have lunch…

Save some room for dinner though, Cork has its own claims to foodie fame, including the English market and some great seafood. Work up an appetite wandering along the picturesque streets and over the many bridges, or from a kayak – over-eights can paddle along the River Lee to explore.

And don’t miss Fota Wildlife Park, a 100 acre wildlife park on an island just outside the city itself where many of the animals roam free – more than 200 cheetahs have been born here.

View across the water to Ross Castle in Killarney National Park, Ireland - my four road trip ideas from Dublin

Ireland road trip 2: Dublin to the Ring of Kerry & Killarney

The Ring of Kerry is one of Ireland’s most famously beautiful scenic drives – even if you won’t be the only ones with that idea in peak season. Heading west to Killarney, Cashel Castle makes a good stopping place to stretch your legs, or follow the fairy trail at Templemore Park.

Then head outdoors into Killarney National Park, whether that’s walking or a traditional pony and trap ride, between spotting waterfalls. Or try a wander around the Tralee Bay Wetlands Centre before taking a boat trip there. If you’ve developed a taste for hunting fairy doors, there’s the Derrynaene faerie trail not far away too.

And on to the Ring of Kerry itself – the big question is: should you travel clockwise or anticlockwise? It’s something people have very strong opinions on, but I’d defer to Ring of Kerry Tourism which asks drivers to travel anticlockwise to avoid problems on narrower roads. And gives plenty of tips about what to do on the way around the circular route.

SPEND AN EXTRA DAY: Star Wars fans won’t want to pass up the chance to take a boat trip to Skellig Michael, which appears in The Force Awakens.

Kylemore Abbey at Connemara National Park - my four road trip ideas from Dublin

Ireland road trip 3: Dublin to Galway & Connemara

For scenery with added drama, the Wild Atlantic Way lives up to its name – stretching over 1,500 miles it would be a voyage in itself, but if you only travel part of it, head west to the Bay Coast and the winding roads between Galway and Westport.

The Aran islands sit off the coast, with a car ferry to the largest, Inis Mor. Or continue to the wonderfully named Sky Road, with its fabulous views.

Stop off at fishing villages, the Atlantic beaches or simply to admire the crashing waves – but make sure you save time for Connemara National park. There are even buggy-friendly trails like Lower Diamond Hill, just under two miles long, as well as a playground, longer routes for older kids and the grounds of Kylemore Abbey.

View of the waves crashing on the rock of Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland - my four road trip ideas from Dublin

Ireland road trip 4: Dublin to Belfast & the Giant’s Causeway

Before you say it, I do know that Belfast is in Northern Ireland – but while there’s plenty to keep you exploring Ireland, there’s also a lot to tempt you north too. For Game of Thrones fans, there are locations galore including the famous Dark Hedges and Castle Ward, aka Winterfell.

Or head beyond the city to the Causeway Coastal Route, including the Giant’s Causeway whose own story is as legendary as anything out of Westeros. With 40,000 basalt columns stretching out to the sea, legacy of a battle between an Irish and Scottish giant (or made by cooling lava, whichever you prefer), it’s an epic sight – then test your own valour by venturing across the Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge to see Dunluce Castle.

Not to mention Belfast itself, which I visited a few months before my daughter was born and loved – and which has too many family attractions to mention here, including Titanic Belfast.

For more ideas, Marta from Learning Escapes has some great tips on Dublin with kids as well as ideas for longer Ireland itineraries

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Four road trip ideas from Dublin with kids - from the capital to Ireland's second city Cork and medieval Kilkenny,, or a trip to the Ring of Kerry and Killarney, as well as a route to drive some of the Wild Atlantic Way from Galway through Connemara. Last but not least, a road trip with a twist taking you from Ireland to Northern Ireland, travelling from Dublin to Belfast and the Causeway Coast including Game of Thrones filming locations and the Giant's Causeway.

Disclosure: compiled in association with Easyterra*

Images courtesy of Pixabay

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