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The biggest highlight of this summer was our Ireland family vacation. If you are into fun, fast-paced trips, and love making the most of your time at a new destination – this 7-day itinerary for Ireland is for you.

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Our Ireland Family Vacation

To begin with, Ireland has always been one of the places in Europe that I wanted to visit the most.

Therefore, this summer our whole family was excited about making this trip happen. My kids haven’t taken a plane since the pandemic (although we have done two Mediterranean Cruises together and traveled extensively across Spain in search of new child-friendly destinations). My husband wanted to celebrate his Bday with a memorable getaway. As for me, I have always been mesmerized by the Celtic myths, mysterious Irish castles, and ancient ruins.

So, even planning an Ireland family vacation felt special, since there were so many things we wanted to experience on this trip. I have tried to include a bit of everything into this 7-day Itinerary for Ireland: museums, nature, castles, places for the kids, a few guided tours, and even a mini road trip.

Nevertheless, those of you who have more than one week for this Ireland trip – can still easily use my itinerary, just without any rush.

Why visit Ireland?

Is Ireland for you? – Based on my Ireland family vacation, I have put together everything I genuinely loved about this country, so that you could check for yourself whether Ireland matches your personal expectations and travel cravings.

So, what makes Ireland unique?

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Our Ireland Family Vacation – Blarney Castle

Stunning landscapes

First of all, Ireland is an extremely beautiful country.

Its unique landscapes were featured in numerous iconic movies. You can watch them to fuel your wanderlust: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and The Princess Bride ( filmed – The Cliffs of Moher), Braveheart ( filmed – Trim Castle), Star Wars (filmed – Skellig Islands), Saving Private Ryan (filmed at Curracloe Beach), P.S I love you ( filmed – County Wicklow’s Blessington, Sally Gap, and Dublin). As to the Tv Shows – Normal People ( filmed – Sligo and Dublin), The Vikings (filmed – County Wicklow), and of course, there are lots of Game of Thrones filming locations in Northern Ireland.

Celtic cultural heritage

Ireland is known for its unmatched Celtic heritage since Romans have never conquered it (unlike the rest of Europe). Most of the things we know today about the lifestyle of the Celtic people are actually based on what Romans wrote about them (let´s take for instance, Julius Cesar´s memoirs of the Gallic Wars). Most European countries today, for instance, Spain – are full of Roman Ruins and legendary battle stories (like the one of Numancia in Soria), but the Celtic People of Europe were absorbed by The Roman Empire at some point (some destroyed, others conquered).

But in Ireland, those original Celtic traditions have always been a part of national folklore and were passed through myths and legends to the next generations. A few Celtic landmarks we visited on this Ireland family vacation were absolutely unique – the Boyne Valley and The Rock of Cashel.

Our Ireland Family Vacation - Blarney Gardens
My favorite place of our Ireland Family Vacation – Blarney Gardens

Irish roots

There are more people with Irish ancestry outside Ireland than in it.

Chances are high that you (or someone you know or admire) might have Irish roots. Ireland has lately got trendy thanks to genetic tests. Throughout the complicated and dramatic history of the Emerald Isle, many locals were forced to immigrate across the globe. As a result, today some of the biggest politics and pop icons have Irish roots.

Traveling to Ireland to discover the land of your ancestors has a unique personal touch. Plus, there’s a new interesting Dublin museum on this topic – The Museum of Immigration.

When to visit Ireland

Typically, late spring and early autumn are always the best for getaways in Europe.

However, my Ireland family vacation took place at the beginning of July. By and large, it was an enjoyable experience.

It might be just me ( living on the Mediterranean coast of Spain with everywhere getting extremely touristy during the summer months), but I didn´t suffer from the summer peak season during this Ireland family vacation. Obviously, Dublin was not empty. It has always been a popular city break destination for Europeans. But it was still fine (can’t even compare it to Madrid or Barcelona in the summer months).

So, to my surprise I felt like summer was a good moment to visit Ireland.

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An early morning near Ross Castle

How much time do you need in Ireland

To see most of the landmarks in Ireland you’d need 2-3 weeks.

Yet, a 7-day itinerary for Ireland is a great chance to get your first impression of the country. Even though Ireland is a relatively small country and you can cover a lot of ground just in 7 days: if having one single week for this trip – you´d have to set your travel priorities and skip lots of national landmarks.

Nevertheless, it is all entirely possible. We were visiting Ireland with kids (4 and 5 y.o) and had a blast on the road. In fact, for family travels I lately prefer shorter trips (I feel like this way all of us get less tired).

What you need to know about Ireland

On the island of Ireland, you find two countries – the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

The first one is a part of the EU, and the second one – the UK. Consequently, in the Republic of Ireland, you’ll pay with euros, and in Northern Ireland – with pounds. While for now there´s no actual border control between the two, visa requirements might differ for both (depending on your country of origin).

Also, note that if you rent a car in Northern Ireland and then leave it in the Republic of Ireland (or vice versa) – you’ll be charged extra costs.

As you will see on this post: during this 7-day Itinerary for Ireland we briefly visited both countries – the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, and I haven’t regretted it.

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Rural landscapes of Ireland

How to get to Ireland

This whole idea of an Ireland family vacation was born by accident, while we were comparing our Europe Bucket List to the current flight deals. We discovered budget flight tickets to Belfast in Northern Ireland and decided it was time to make our dream trip happen.

While our flight was to Belfast, upon arrival we immediately took a bus to Dublin and left Northern Ireland for the end of our 7-day itinerary

The best way to reach Ireland is to find flights either to Belfast or to Dublin. From the States, there are seasonal flights to Londonderry (or Derry), but locals don’t recommend it. One of the taxi drivers told us the story of how he once drove to Derry an American couple all the way from Dublin (there was an error with the car booking, and they were forced to take a taxi for 600 euros just not to miss a flight back home).

Unique hotels in Ireland

During the research for our Ireland family vacation, I have discovered lots of cool places to stay and have marked them for the future trips to the Emerald Isle. Unfortunately, for this road trip, none of these srentals was a match for us (some were far away, others were fully booked). But I am sure it´s not my last time in Ireland anyway, so saved it all: Lough Mardal Lodge, Cosy stone built Thatch Cottage, Rural Tipperary bordering Kilkenny, Beautifully Restored Cottage, Roundwood House, Country lodge rental with wood burning stove. A few cute glamping places: Castledarcy Glamping, Ceide Glamping and Gateway Glamping.

Bucket-list tours&experiences in Ireland:

During this Ireland family vacation, we enjoyed the Northern Ireland Tour and The Celtic Boyne Valley Tour. Both were a great match in our case: we were able to see lots of new places without walking non-stop or staying inside the bus for too long.

Nevertheless, there are still a few more unique experiences left on my Ireland Bucket List:

If I get a chance to visit the Emerald Isle without kids (or perhaps, when they grow up a bit) – I would not miss the Game of Thrones Studio Tour, Irish Music and Dance Show with Dance Lesson, and Dublin Mythology and Folklore Walking Tour (even though my girls adore myths&legends, I felt like walking non-stop across Dublin might feel a bit exhausting for them).

Also, I would not miss the Skellig Coast and the Aran Islands Cruise, if we were to spend more than one week in Ireland.

Ireland for kids: Is Ireland good for a family vacation?

My biggest conclusion after this Ireland family vacation is the fact that this country is way more child-friendly than I have ever expected. Usually, as parents, we go for obvious child-friendly holidays – like a Mediterranean cruise or a family beach getaway to Spain. The Emerald Isle is known for its scenic cliffs, endless greenery, and mysterious castles. But since it is a rainy destination, I was honestly hesitating. To me, it was not clear whether my kids would enjoy it.

But they absolutely did. Here is why.

Friendly locals

I have come across a few travel opinions stating that the most friendly Europeans were in Iceland. Well, in my experience, they were in Ireland.

Especially when it came to the kids – my girls were given lollipops at train stations and hotel reception desks. My youngest daughter came up to me after a few days in Ireland with words: “Mom, for some reason everyone loves us over here..” lol

Let´s agree – it´s wonderful when locals make children feel this way.

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Trying fish and chips for the first time

Budget-friendly with kids

Overall, Ireland is not the most budget-friendly destination: the hotels are overpriced and have average quality. But when it comes to traveling with kids, Ireland actually wins over many other family travel destinations in Europe.

Large families are common across the country, so you can go with kids almost anywhere. The little ones under 6 years old always get in for free, whether it´s at landmarks or on public transport. The hotel breakfasts for the kids were free as well. In Jurry Inn Cork we were even given little handcraft gifts for the little ones.

Culture&legends in Ireland

Irish local myths and legends are infused with magical creatures. No wonder this Ireland family vacation was so culturally enriching and exciting for my little ones.

Even if you’re not a history geek yourself, I highly recommend you fuel your kids´ wanderlust before the trip with some Irish books and animated movies. I plan to make a separate post on Inspiring reads about Ireland, but in the meantime, you can check what we saw and read via my IG Highlight Ireland.

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Check the full list of our books about Ireland

7-day Itinerary for Ireland with Kids

Day 1 – Dublin

I bet that almost every 7-day Itinerary for Ireland starts in Dublin since it´s the largest city in Ireland with the biggest international airport. (However, I honestly enjoyed flying to Belfast, since the airport was way smaller and we went through the controls fast).

Dublin is one of the most unique cities in Europe, famous for its pubs and commemorated in World Literature by James Joyce (although for many the U2 band might be the most famous thing from Ireland).

Dublin is an easy city to explore on foot since the 6 sq km around River Liffey contains most of the city´s museums and landmarks. We were staying at Clayton Hotel Cardiff Lane. So, the first day of our Ireland family vacation started with a relaxing walk along River Liffey towards the city center of Dublin. However, a popular alternative to walking is River Liffey Sightseeing Cruise.

Note, that if you plan to stay in Dublin for a few days and want to see it all, you could get Go City All-Inclusive Pass with 40+ Attractions.

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Exploring Dublin with kids

The Arc

The first place we visited in Dublin was The Arc – a cultural center for children aged from 4 to 14. During our Ireland family vacation, there was a free temporary exposition dedicated to the animated movie Wolfwalkers. It was such a cool step into a world of hand-drawn animation. I loved getting a glimpse of the vast work involved in creating Wolfwalkers: my girls were given paper and pencils to try to draw the main characters.

Hairy Lemon

Since this 7-day Itinerary for Ireland was initially planned as a child-friendly one, we knew that the Irish pub culture would need to wait for the next trips (kids are not allowed after 9 p.m. inside the pubs).

But we still wanted to have at least a nice lunch in a trendy local pub, so we picked Hairy Lemon. Both the food and service were great. I really enjoyed their Irish stew, and the kids tried Fish&Chips for the first time in their lives.

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Delicious Irish Stew (I would pick it up any time I had no idea what to order during our 7-day Itinerary for Ireland)

St.Patrick´s Cathedral

St.Patrick´s Cathedral is one of the most emblematic landmarks of Dublin, known for its association with writer and satirist Jonathan Swift, who was a dean there.

The works on St.Patrick´s Cathedral began in 1190, but it is said that St. Patrick himself preached on this spot centuries earlier. Inside the cathedral there were lots of activities for the kids, so all of our family enjoyed the visit. Except for my husband, perhaps, whose attention was brought to the giant souvenir shop – so, he said that the place reminded him more of a giant fair, than of a religious cult.

We got in without a prior booking, but depending on the season, it might be helpful to get your entrance in advance.

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Inside St.Patrick´s Cathedral

The Library of Trinity College Dublin

The Library of Trinity College Dublin is one of the most visited places in Dublin (you need to book a tour in advance).

It contains one of the biggest Irish treasures – The Book of Kells, made by monks around 800. Kids were really excited to see it, especially after we watched together The Secret of Kells (2009).

However, I have to admit that as a bookworm and Harry Potter fan, I was even more excited to see the College Library with its magnificent barrel-roofed Long Hall.

So, you can imagine how disappointed I was to discover the library was empty due to their Old Library Redevelopment Project. I wish I had known this before buying tickets (especially since the entrance fee was 18.50 per adult).

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The Library of Trinity College Dublin with its empty shelves

The Bank

For dinner, we headed to another popular food&drinks spot in Dublin – The Bank on College Green. Here, the name speaks for itself. Back in 1892, the building was acquired by Belfast Bank. Nowadays, the central banking hall with its Franco-Scottish interiors is a trendy bar and restaurant. While the menu was very brief, I really enjoyed their Irish Seafood Chowder (a traditional creamy seafood soup).

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The Bank on College Green in Dublin
Irish Seafood Chowder

Unique Dublin Tours

If you want to make the most of your day in Dublin, booking a tour with the local guide might be an amazing idea. Check Dublin Walking Street Food Tour, Highlights and Hidden Gems Walking Tour, Dublin Afternoon Tea Vintage Bus Trip, Hop-on Hop-off Bus Tour, River Liffey Sightseeing Cruise, Jameson Whiskey Distillery Tour with Tastings. If I were traveling to Ireland without kids, I would love to experience Generation Pub Crawl and Music and Dance Show at The Irish House Party.

Experiences that I regret missing out and will definitely try on my next Ireland family vacation – Traditional Irish Dance Class, Mythology and Folklore Walking Tour, Ghostbus Kids Tour, and Irish Literature Walking Tour.

Popular foodie experiences in Dublin include Irish Craic & Cuisine: Cooking Class & Dinner with local host in Dublin home, Irish Whiskey Tasting with Local Whiskey Specialist in Irish Pub, Afternoon Tea the Irish Way, and Bread, Beer & Bia: Irish Cooking Class & Dinner.

Of course, beer lovers can not miss Guinness Storehouse.

Top Dublin Day Trips

Those of you who plan to spend in Dublin more than one day might enjoy a few unique day trips – Wicklow Mountains, Glendalough & Kilkenny, Coastal Tour to Howth Village, Blarney Castle Full-Day Tour from Dublin or Cliffs of Moher, Burren & Galway City Day Tour.

Day 2 – Ireland Road Trip

While one can easily spend a few days in the city of Dublin, we had a busy schedule for these 7 days in Ireland. So, on the second day of our Ireland family vacation, after breakfast at cute cafe Nutbutter Grand Canal Docks (where I got to embrace my inner porridge lover), we rented a car to set on a 3-day road trip across the island.

We were initially hesitating about renting a car in Ireland since the only time we have ever had to drive on the left-hand side of the road was in Cyprus years ago. However, it turned out to be easier than I expected (especially since we did not get to cross big cities with lots of traffic).

Nevertheless, the biggest challenge of driving in Ireland for me turned out to be its narrow countryside roads. Somehow we even scratched a car and got to use travel insurance for the first time in our lives. On this Ireland family vacation, we did not feel the need for a 4×4 at any time: I honestly felt like the smaller the car, the easier moving around was.

Athlone Castle

Our first stop on the road was Athlone Castle, which we initially picked only because it was on the road to the Cliffs of Moher. But all of our family enjoyed this landmark so much.

By the way, here, we had our first encounters with friendly Irish people. While desperately searching for the parking spots (there was some kind of event in Athlone when we visited), we almost gave up, but then one of the locals waved us out of nowhere to indicate the spot (since he had just parked nearby himself). Then he approached my husband explaining that there was some kind of event going on and it was usually not that busy ( since my husband was having a hard time with the Irish accent that´s all he could explain to us lol).

Surprisingly, the 13th-century Athlone Castle has turned into one of the highlights of this Ireland family vacation for the kids since they had lots of interactive panels, folk artifacts, and even medieval costumes to dress up.

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Athlone Castle

Cliffs of Moher

One of my personal highlights of this 7-day itinerary in Ireland was visiting the Cliffs of Moher. As much as I love talking about the stunning cliffs in Spain, those in Ireland were the one and only for me.

These dramatic 214m-high cliffs, confronting the might of the Atlantic Ocean, are the horizontal layers of flagstones that extend for 8 km from Hag´s Head to beyond O’Brien´s Tower.

The Cliffs of Moher are open all year round, but winds are usually high during the winter months. We arrived around 4 p.m. and it was honestly not too crowded. While The Cliffs of Moher is a natural wonder available for anyone, the only place you can park nearby costs 12 euros per person (not per car). But I honestly felt it was worth it.

In case, you don’t want to drive in Ireland, there are lots of organized tours to the Cliffs of Moher from Dublin.

After a few hours at the cliffs we headed to our next road trip stop – Longcourt House Hotel in the small town of Newcastle West. This was probably the nicest hotel of our Ireland family vacation. Although I did not like that they accepted card payments only (like most of the hotels across Ireland, by the way) – a client should always have several payment options.

Especially since a few remote restaurants we visited on the road across Ireland, had problems with payment terminals. So, you can never fully rely on the card. Generally, I would suggest you always have a card for hotels and landmarks and some extra cash with you ( euro for the Republic of Ireland / pounds for Northern Ireland).

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Cliffs of Moher

Day 3 – Ireland Road Trip

Ross Castle

Our morning started with a traditional Irish Breakfast at the restaurant of Longcourt House Hotel. Afterward, we drove all the way to the Killarney National Park. I definitely plan to return one day to drive the famous Ring of Kerry. But even getting a quick sneak peek of several local landmarks was worth making a stop.

A few popular experiences to book here are Private horse carriage tour of Killarney National Park and Ring of Kerry Full-Day Tour from Killarney.

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Traditional Irish Breakfast

First thing in the morning we headed to Ross Castle, a grand example of a medieval Irish stronghold. It was probably built in the 15th century by one of the O´Donogue Ross tribal chieftains. Boats from here will take you to Innisfallen Isle in the middle of Lough Leane (you should book ahead in the high season).

Since we have only planned to make a quick stop at Ross Castle, we got there before its opening around 9 a.m. The views were so serene – suddenly, were approached by a group of local deers. This was one of the most magical moments of our 7-day itinerary in Ireland.

Deers near Ross Castle

Torc Waterfall

Only 9km away from Ross Castle, we enjoyed another must-stop of Killarney National ParkTorc Waterfall.

Here, I was initially a bit concerned about the parking (since I read on Google it was hard to find a spot). But I guess, since it was still relatively early (around 10 a.m) we found a place to leave our car easily and then walked a few minutes through the magical forests towards the Torc Waterfall.

I have honestly enjoyed this natural setting – there were a few hiking trails around the waterfall area (would be great to test those if having more time at Killarney National Park).

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Torc Waterfall

Muckross House

The last stop before lunch was Muckross House – a splendid estate and the 19th-century Victorian Museum.

Since it was different from all the other places we planned for this Ireland family vacation, I was excited to get inside for the interiors. The tour cost 9 euros per person and even the kids really loved all the furniture and decor. There was a small child-friendly table with pencils and activity sheets (which included quizzes about the history of the Muckross House).

The Muckross House is currently owned by the state But it used to belong to the Herbert family, then was purchased by Lord Ardilaun. In 1910 it was purchased again by a wealthy American William Bowers Bourn as a wedding present for his only daughter Maud. After her death in 1932, the family sold the property to the state (since sustaining it had become too big an undertaking for any private individual).

It´s curious that back in 1861 Queen Victoria and Prince Albert stayed in The Muckross House during their trip to Ireland.

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Muckross House

After visiting the Muckross House we drove to the restaurant The Kerry Way for lunch and then headed to our last stop of the day – Blarney Castle & Gardens.

Blarney Castle & Gardens

If I were to pick only one place to visit during this Ireland Family Vacation – I´d go with Blarney Castle & Gardens. You can easily spend here the whole day. In our case, we only had an afternoon to enjoy this place. If you plan to visit Blarney Castle & Gardens in the morning – you should book in advance, since it is one of the most popular places on the Emerald Isle.

Before planning this Ireland family vacation, I had honestly never heard of Blarney and had no idea that it was one of the most iconic places in the country. According to tradition, one can get a gift of blarney by kissing the Blarney Stone. Here, you’ll need to watch your kids, as they’ll be clambering to the top of the castle. Usually, the lines to kiss the stone are huge. But since we got inside only 1h30 min before the closing time, our family almost had the place to ourselves.

We did not kiss the stone, even though I usually enjoy following local legends and superstitions. Many believe that kissing Blarney gives you the ability to talk your way out of any difficult situation and give anyone the runaround. The phrase was coined by Queen Elizabeth I as she told the castle´s owner that he was speaking nothing but blarney, while he tried to avoid doing what she demanded.

Can’t stress enough how much I loved the surrounding 1000 acres of woodland and gardens. My kids could not stop playing fairies. Although, here, at Blarney Castle & Gardens I have followed another local legend of the Wishing Steps. According to it, one is supposed to walk down back up with eyes closed and ask for a wish that would be granted in a year by the Blarney Witch.

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My favorite place of our Ireland Family Vacation – Blarney Gardens
Blarney Castle & Gardens
My favorite place of our Ireland Family Vacation – Blarney Gardens

After this magical afternoon at Blarney Castle & Gardens, we headed to our hotel Jury Inn in Cork. After the check-in, we went for dinner and walked around the city center of Cork. Popular activities in Cork include Guided Historical Walking Tour, Harbour Scenic Cruise, and Midleton Distillery Tour with Whiskey Tasting.

We honestly didn’t click with the city of Cork. It was Thursday around 8 p.m. and the main street was full of drunk people (to the extent that some could barely walk). I don’t know whether it was our luck, or that was what a regular evening in Cork looked like. One of our Irish guides had once made a joke that there was a nasty rumor about the Irish drinking a lot – so not true, since the Irish always spill most of it

Anyway, if I will get a chance to visit Cork again, I plan to use it to make a Full-Day Guided Tour to Dingle Peninsula.

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Cork, Ireland

Day 4 – Ireland Road Trip

On the last day of our Ireland Road trip, we were supposed to return to Dublin and leave a car at the airport. But we still had a whole day for sightseeing.

Cahir Castle

First thing in the morning we headed to Cahir Castle, one of Ireland´s largest and best-preserved castles.

It was founded by Conor O´Brien in 1142 and passed on to the Butler family in 1375. The Cahir Castle has survived nearly intact through centuries, largely because it surrender to Cromwell in 1650 without a fight. Kids really enjoyed the Cahir Castle Siege 1599 in miniature, where certain areas were lightened up after pressing the button.

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Inside Cahir Castle with kids
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You will need to keep an eye on your kids with the stairs inside all of the Irish castles (although it is not any different with Spanish castles or any other castles in Europe)

Rock of Cashel

If I were to pick my second favorite place for this Ireland family vacation, that would be the Rock of Cashel.

This landmark possesses the most impressive cluster of all the medieval buildings in Ireland. According to the legend St.Patrick himself came here to convert a local king to Christianity.

Since the 9th century, Cashel even rivaled Tara as Ireland´s center of power. It all lasted till the 10th century when the local clan lost to O´Brians, and in 1101 the King gave this place to the Church. It was a great ecclesiastical center until Cromwell´s army killed here 3000 Catholic devotees back in 1647.

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My second favorite place of our Ireland Family Vacation – Rock of Cashel

Kilkenny

Our last stop on the road to Dublin was the picturesque town of Kilkenny, considered one of the most attractive medieval towns in Ireland. Here, we enjoyed lunch at Kyteler´s Inn, a local medieval tavern trading back to 1324. However, I was a bit disappointed that during the day everyone was seated at their Courtyard Bar, which I did not like. But to access the toilets you´d walk through their medieval-tavern room and it all looked really cool.

Kilkenny turned out way more touristy than we expected. While walking around the center we made a stop at a local bookshop Khans Books Limited, where I got a coloring book Book of Kells for the kids, as well as a few new reads for the road.

One of the top local landmarks is Kilkenny Castle. But as it was really busy with the visitors, we decided to hit the road back to Dublin earlier in order to have some rest before the next few days.

In Kilkenny, you have a few interesting guided tour options – Historical and Hysterical Guided City Walking Tour and Historical Highlights Walking Tour.

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Kilkenny

After arriving at the Dublin Airport we left the rented car and headed to Maldon Dublin Airport Hotel. The initial plan was to take the bus from Dublin Airport to Belfast the next evening (after the Boyne Valley Tour). But things got a bit complicated…

Day 5 – Boyne Valley Organized Tour

While I usually prefer traveling independently, for this Ireland family vacation we thought of reducing the days of driving and booking a few organized tours instead.

I initially thought of Newgrange Tour, but it was sold out (even though I was booking 2 weeks before the actual trip: so maybe, should have done it earlier). But another exciting alternative we found was The Celtic Boyne Valley Tour.

Visiting Trim Castle during the Boyne Valley Tour

For this Boyne Valley Tour was a bit concerned about the kids since they don’t always have the patience to listen to the guides on the subject of history.

Plus, the last time I recall us doing a guided tour was at the Mommies Museum of Quinto during the Aragon road trip – we did not make it to the end (even though it was in Spanish and the whole subject of mommies tends to grab kids’ interest way better).

But the whole tour experience turned out surprisingly good. Our local guide David was extremely knowledgeable, and we were able to learn more about the culture and history of Ireland. Plus, lots of comments were made on the bus while the kids were busy painting, so it was easy to attend. At times, I was even translating a few stories and legends for the little ones (since they are only learning English).

During this Celtic Tour along Ireland’s Ancient East, we explored the Boyne Valley situated in County Meath (from where the high kings of Ireland ruled). We made stops at the Neolithic tombs of Loughcrew, Hill of Tara, Trim Castle, and Fore Abbey.

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Neolithic tombs of Loughcrew
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Delicious scone at Fore Abbey Coffee Shop ( the owner was really friendly and the handmade bakery was delicious)

The only drawback of the day was the weather.

For the first time on this Ireland family vacation, I realized how lucky we were with the weather before. The heavy Irish rain caught us at the Hill of Tara. All of us were wearing waterproof boots, pants, and jackets. Additionally, I had an umbrella. But since it was also windy, the raindrops were coming from everywhere and everyone got wet. However, our guide comforted everyone that he had done the same tour under worse conditions.

While I was still preparing our 7-day itinerary for Ireland, I obviously read lots of other travel stories, most of which were full of statements like: “We planned to do this, but it started to rain”. At first, I could not get it: I mean, you have waterproof everything, what´s the problem? – But now, based on this personal experience, I understand how the Irish rains perform.

For what it´s worth, the day did not end with the bad weather. After the tour, which ended around 5 p.m., we were supposed to pick up the suitcase and take a bus back to Belfast. But to our huge surprise, there were no tickets online (due to a local football game everything was sold out and the city´s public transport collapsed).

This was the most stressful moment of our Ireland family vacation.

Since there were no bus or train tickets to Belfast available online, we took a taxi to the train station and bought tickets there. At the info desk, they warned us that the train would be extremely full ( everyone was returning home after the game in Dublin). I was already imagining sitting on the suitcases with the kids during the ride, but it had turned out surprisingly well.

I could even say that we enjoyed traveling from Dublin to Belfast by train more than we did by bus (as it was way more spacious).

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The second train to Belfast (we switched the original one from Dublin, once reaching Northern Ireland – not sure whether it was a normal thing, or there was some kind of an accident on the rail)
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Belfast City Center

After arriving in Belfast, we took a taxi to the Leonardo Hotel. At Belfast train station they had a curious taxi-call system: there was a public phone – you would pick it up and it would automatically call the operation center, so you´d get a taxi sent under your name.

My first impression of the night in Belfast was honestly a bit alarming. At our hotel, there was a double security check at the entrance (which I do not recall anywhere else in Europe). So, I immediately started to research online whether Belfast was actually safe.

Day 6 – Northern Ireland Organized Tour

The following day we woke up very relaxed since we had booked a Northern Ireland tour that started around 10 a.m.

Being early birds we had plenty of time for an excellent breakfast in Belfast before the tour. This was when I started to notice the beautiful architecture of Belfast. If Dublin city center was more about pubs and small colorful buildings, the facades of Belfast were tall and sophisticated.

The tour bus picked us up near the hotel and we headed to our first stop in Northern Ireland – The Dark Hedges, one of the emblematic Game of Thrones filming locations.

The Dark Hedges is an avenue of beech trees along Bregagh Road. My kids really loved the mysterious legend about this place: it states that the hedges are often visited by a local ghost Grey Lady, who travels across the road while flitting across it from tree to tree.

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The Dark Hedges in Northern Ireland

Our next stop of the day was Giant´s Causeway – one of the most-visited landmarks in Northern Ireland and a World Heritage Site (as well as a GOT filming location).

Once there, you could clearly notice that Giant´s Causeway is the number one local tourist attraction. We spent 1.30 hours exploring the polygonal columns of layered basalt rocks and caves, formed by a volcanic eruption 60 man-years ago. There was a bus taking travelers to the Giant´s Causeway from the visitors center, but we opted for a 15-minute walk (since there was a long line to get on the bus and none of us wanted to wait).

Giant´s Causeway is known for an ancient local legend of Finn McCool. My kids enjoyed it so much that I later bought them the book in Belfast.

By and large, both The Dark Hedges and Giant´s Causeway were way more touristy than anything else we have previously visited during these 7 days in Ireland. It was a surprise to me – I would have honestly placed all of my bets on The Cliffs of Moher being the top-visited site of the Emerald Isle.

The last stop of our Northern Ireland tour was Dunluce Castle: the dramatic ruins on a rocky chalk headland, dating from the 15th and 17th centuries.

dunluce castle ireland
Dunluce Castle in Northern Ireland

Since the tour ended up around 4 p.m. we still had plenty of time to walk around Belfast’s city center. Here, I shopped for souvenirs at Carrolls Irish Gifts. It was not any more budget-friendly than the usual airport souvenirs. But I loved the wide variety. Also, we made a stop at a local bookshop Waterstones (which I loved so much) for new Irish children’s books.

Day 7 – Belfast

On the last day of our Ireland family vacation, we left the suitcases at the reception desk to enjoy the last moments in Belfast.

Thanks to our late flight back to Spain, we had the whole morning to take the kids to W5 – one of the coolest interactive museums I have seen in my entire life.

While the top sight of Belfast is definitely the Titanic Museum, we were not sure whether the little ones would enjoy it. But with W5 I was honestly impressed even myself: we could barely drag the kids out, they were having a blast and did not want to leave. It was definitely one of the highlights of the whole Ireland trip for them. You can check more details via my IG Highlight Ireland.

belfast w5 with kids
W5 – The coolest places to visit in Northern Ireland with kids

Souvenirs from Ireland

I do not recall bringing that many souvenirs from any of my recent trips.

Our family enjoyed this Ireland family vacation so much that we wanted to bring a piece of the Emerald Isle back home to Spain. Aside from local souvenir shops and Irish books, I have discovered a few unique local businesses and craftspeople.

Magee offers a beautiful collection of Irish clothing and accessories while being present on the market since 1866. I especially loved their cozy throws and tweed caps.

Irish socks looked so comfy that I could not resist and bought a few pairs for me, Carlos, and my parents. IrishTweedStore and KinsaleCrafts both offer cute collections of warm socks from Ireland.

Inside the St. Patrick’s Cathedral, I got a pair of Silver Emerald Shamrock earrings for each of my girls (I secretly wear these myself cause they are so beautiful) – SilverRainSilver and CelticJewelryDesign offer similar designs. You can find the most unique Irish Jewelry at IrishJewelleryGifts. If you like ceramics, check Celticclaysireland to shop for traditional Irish pottery. GiftsofIrelandCrafts and CeltGift offer a wide selection of different gifts from Ireland.

Here are a few more cool shops to find handmade Irish gifts and support local craftspeople: KateIrishTweedStore, GAELDesignStoreIre, MiniInish, TheDribblyYak, DonegalNaturalSoap, QuillsWoollenMarket, and EIREMusic. I so regret discovering TheCrochetDollGifts late – these could have been the most memorable gifts from Ireland for my girls.

To sum up

By and large, I loved how this 7-day itinerary for Ireland has turned out.

It was definitely a fast-paced trip, but except for the Dublin-Belfast return trip, it all went on really smoothly. We were able to test both driving and organized tours in Ireland, try local foods, and explore the most iconic landmarks.

For me, Ireland felt like a very child-friendly destination, a perfect one to bring along the family. We definitely plan to return one day to see more of the Emerald Isle.

The most crowded landmarks were the ones of Northen Ireland. At the same time, in my opinion, it was Belfast, having the most interesting places for kids (rather than Dublin).

While we have only visited W5 in Belfast, I am currently considering planning another 4-day getaway to Belfast with kids in order to visit all we had no time for:

For more travel tips check my Pinterest boards Europe Travel and Ireland.

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