Going back to Ireland for a summer visit is a very different experience if you are bringing kids! The usual rules don’t apply; you can’t drag a three year old around town shopping, or bring them along for lunch with the girls, restaurants become tricky and pub sessions are definitely out..yet the kids do require a bit of entertaining, so what to do? Dubliner and Mum of two, Olivia Mai gives us the inside scoop on what local families do during the summer months in Ireland.

When the weather is good…

We go out! I know Ireland isn’t really world renowned as a place to go to the beach for the day, but when the sun is shining, it is a fantastic day out. Being a Dubliner, and a Northsider at that, I usually opt for Portmarnock and Donabate beach with the kids (blue flag) or the North Wall baths for a dip and maybe a walk down Dollymount Strand, locally known as “The Dollyer”. Southsiders would tend to head to Seapoint and Killiney, both retaining their blue flags this year. I’ll pack a picnic, bring a ball and a Frisbee and a bucket and spade and let the kids run in and out of the water for hours. Regardless of the beach I pick, I do make sure it has a blue flag which means it’s safe and clean for swimming.

Parks are also an option and while Dublin Zoo is really great, there generally tends to be massive queues there in the summer, so I personally would head to Newbridge House and Farm or Dundrum House as smaller, less crowded alternatives. We’re planning on going to Phoenix Park this summer, and renting bikes, going for a potter to see if we can see any of the famous deer, which I have never managed to actually see… and then maybe going up to the playground there or pop up to the Saturday food market at Farmleigh.

Summer Events

I’m still mourning the loss of the Dun Laoghaire Festival of World Culture but I’m hoping that Groove Family Festival is a good alternative on Saturday 4th and Sunday 5th July. It’s on in Kilruddery House in Co. Wicklow and aside from the music line-up the activities for kids looks really good, and again weather permitting, it looks like a really nice weekend.

The Wooly Wards Petting Farm in Marley Park is always a good bet too. There are guinea pigs, hamsters and rabbits and the little ones can watch the ducks splash around and chase the kid goat around the enclosure. It’s on August 22nd and 23rd but only for a few hours in the afternoon. No booking required and it’s free.

I’ll also be taking the kids to the Bray Air Display (July 19th) as it’s a great family friendly event and draws a massive crowd to enjoy stunts of all kinds in the skies. The Defence Forces Parachute Team and aerobatic teams take part too. If you get the weather it’s a fantastic day out for everyone. I get the DART to Bray to avoid car parking, as it’s a short walk from the station to where the action is happening.

Rainy Days

When it’s raining, which it often is of a summer's day in Ireland, I sometimes bring the kids to Imaginosity. It’s an excellent interactive museum for children under ten. There’s an art studio and kid’s stage, and a climbing wall for the older ones. There is always a full programme of events and activities so I always book first though.

The Butlers Factory chocolate tour is always a winner. Butlers is famous in Ireland for its yummy coffee and the complimentary chocolate that’s given out with it. They do tours at their factory in Clonshaugh, Dublin 17 but booking is a good idea as I showed up once and they were full. You get to see exactly how the chocolate is made, taste it and then the kids decorate their own bunny/pumpkin or whatever and bring it home as a souvenir.

Weekend Escapes

For a weekend away my favourite is the Great Western Greenway in County Mayo. It’s the longest traffic-free cycling and walking trail in Ireland and it follows the route of the Westport to Achill railway, which closed about 90 years ago. It’s an absolute winner and is really family friendly with loads of good places to stay from camp sites to hotels and farmhouses. I love it!

Dunmore East in Wexford is another great break away with Hook Head lighthouse not too far. Dunmore East village is a charming little coastal town with plenty of thatched cottages that are so picturesque. Hook Head is a ferry trip away and does involve a bit of driving but it’s well worth the trip. When you get to the lighthouse, there are loads of kids activities out front on the lawn with a nice café and a few food stalls to satisfy the hunger.

Wherever you end up, you’re sure to have a good time on holidays in Ireland.

For more information on visiting Ireland with children, visit The Stork Exchange