When we first considered a family trip to Ireland, I was wary. 5 young kids and 2 sets of grandparents... I love to plan travel adventures with my family but this seemed a little much. However, after being connected with this Ireland travel company, I realized we had nothing to worry about.
In no time at all, my travel agent had sent over a tentative itinerary and asked us for feedback. Because we have family in Ireland, we replied with a few places that we would like to include and she modified our plan without hesitation. From the moment we allowed our travel agent to manage our travel plans, we never had another moment of concern.
Our two weeks in Ireland were amazing beyond our wildest dreams. Every detail was looked after, all of our hotels were fantastic, and our itineraries were perfectly suited to satisfy both little and big people. The highlight of our trip was most definitely our driver and tour guide. Our tour guide was the consummate professional and could answer any question or concern with ease. As he drove us around the countryside, not only did we not have to worry about navigating the roads, we got our fill of information about sites, people, and history. We also got music sing-alongs, Gaelic lessons, and a daily recipe. Our guide was such a treasure.
As we wrapped up our trip, we were sad to leave beautiful Ireland, but we might have been more sad to leave our guide! We are all already planning our next trip to Ireland - planned by this agent and led by this guide, of course.
When we started planning our trip to Ireland, we knew we wanted to start and end our adventure in Dublin. We had an easy, direct flight from Charlotte to Dublin and I wanted the chance to spend time with my aunt while we were there. As soon as my family knew we were going over, I had a long list of suggestions to pick from and we decided to have three main stops as we traveled from Dublin, south to Kinsale, west to Dingle, and up the coast to Galway. Staying in each place a couple of nights gave us the opportunity to relax just enough in our hotel and get to know the area we were staying.
When you are visiting a country with over 30,000 castles and castle ruins, you must spend at least one night in a castle and we actually spent two nights in castles. One night in a castle just outside of Dublin and Waterford Castle in Waterford – an absolutely stunning castle that is part of a resort I would return to with my kids and spend a few days!
Every time we were in a new city, the children would shuffle around to a new sleeping arrangement. 5 kids, 4 grandparents … this is the way to take an international trip. Having the kids getting ready spread out amongst three rooms was a dream come true. All of us getting tables for breakfast for 3 or 4? This might never happen in my life again. Well rested and well fed children made for good little travelers as we toured around on our sprinter and explored the sites.
Our guide made every effort to never keep us on the road for very long. Short, quick trips from place to place. Lots of castles and parks. Outdoor picnics were the rule. The scenery was stunning, our little sprinter was so comfortable (and it had wi-fi!), and each day just flew by. We had the good fortune to hit Ireland right as it hit a streak of hot, sunny days in early June. Record setting temps and no rain! We packed so wrong but I was willing to wear the same outfit three (or more!) times in exchange for our beautiful weather.
Every time we visited a new spot, we all exclaimed that it was our new favorite. We began our trip to Ireland with a day in Dublin and then off to Kilkenny and Waterford. The sun set so late – the kids were always excited to be out so much past their bedtime! The jet lag was not nearly as bad as I thought it might be. We arrived in Dublin early in the morning and were lucky enough to be able to get into our rooms by 10am. We all agreed to take a 2 hour nap and meet up at 12:30 to explore the city. It was just what we needed!
After starting out with two nights in castles, I was worried we wouldn’t be able to top that! But as we headed south to Ardmore, Blarney Castle, and Kinsale, I had nothing to be worried about. Ardmore was such a low-key town – perfect place to grab lunch and enjoy some time on the beach. Blarney Castle had the most amazing gardens. We only planned to stay a couple of hours but we could have spent an entire day there – and there’s ice cream. Always a good thing. By the time we got to Kinsale and took one look at the gorgeous harbor, I was speechless. In Kinsale, we stayed at a hotel with stunning views of the harbor and a quick walk to a fun, fenced-in park just a few blocks away. Fun fact – Kinsale is the sister city to Newport, Rhode Island! This city did remind me of the harbors back home in Massachusetts – Kinsale and Newport are a perfect match.
After Kinsale, we headed to Ross Castle in Killarney and then on to Dingle. More castles, ruins, surfers on Inch beach, and beehive huts. Seals, a dolphin, and a baby lamb. Incredibly, the views kept getting better and better. I will confess that Dingle did become my favorite spot in Ireland. All future trips must include time in Dingle. The views, the food, the people. All of it. The best. In Dingle – much to the chagrin of my children – and my husband – the cast and crew of Star Wars checked out of our hotel right before we checked in! We were so close! Another fun part of traveling around this part of the coast was seeing all the spots where the filming for Star Wars The Force Awakens was happening. Now you know.
In Dingle, one of our favorite evenings was spent at a Siopa Cieol for live music. Noelle even got up to dance – that girl is fearless and the audience, packed together in our little music shop on our folding chairs, just loved it!
Most of you have probably heard of the Ring of Kerry – stunning views along the coast of Ireland. Brian and I drove that ourselves 20 years ago. It was beautiful! However, might I suggest that the Slea Head drive around the Dingle Peninsula might top the Ring of Kerry? We loved it. It doesn’t hurt that we were run off the road by a bunch of sheep. The cuteness! I loved the Blasket Islands Heritage Center, my kids loved stopping at the Beehive Huts to check out some newly born lambs – it’s like the Irish version of agri-tourism – a few Euros per person and they will show you around. Dingle Harbor has so much to explore – lots of food, a farmers market, fun shops, Dingle Crystal (wow!), and lots of other artisans.
We also opted to avoid the Cliffs of Moher from above and instead drive down to Doolin and catch a ferry. The ferry we were on was a little crowded and I was a tiny bit panicky with five small kids out on the water but the views were INCREDIBLE! Absolutely stunning to be looking UP at the Cliffs. Stunning.
Driving through the Burren was amazing – Our guide even took us on a successful hunt to find wild Connemara ponies and meet up with a sheepdog trainer and his sheepdog puppies. So cute. We stayed two nights in Galway. Galway felt more like an “adult” city – Brian and I left the kids behind with the grandparents while we went to explore although one night we did do a fun family night at Trad on the Prom – traditional Irish dance and music. Very fun.
We wrapped up our trip to Ireland with two nights in Dublin. I wish we had stayed three nights. I needed one. more. night. The kids (and I) never tired of St. Stephen’s Green – a quick walk over from our hotel. If you ever can’t find me, check this hotel.
If you are considering a European vacation, Ireland is a very accessible trip for kids of all ages. The friendly people, the beautiful countryside, and delicious food. You can’t go wrong.
If we took this trip again, I would have stayed one more night in Dublin at the end of our trip. We stayed two nights in Dublin before flying out but I really would have liked just one more! I wasn't ready to leave. Other than needing more time on this fabulous vacation, I wouldn't change a thing.
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