Ireland w/ small kids trip report

Old Sep 17th, 2003, 09:07 AM
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Ireland w/ small kids trip report

Got back last week and still dreaming about it every night. I know this is going to turn into something really long winded but it's hard not to with so many wonderful experiences! And not many post trip reports on traveling with small children.

Our group consisted of me, my husband, our 4 year old son, our 2 1/2 year old daughter, and my mother (only 54 years old - not elderly). We flew into Shannon, picked up our car from Murrays Europcar. Off we went to do the Lough Derg drive to Portumna for the castle and the park before heading to Birr. Even after stopping for breakfast by the time we got to Portumna the kids were begging to go to bed (and that NEVER happens at home!) so we skipped the activities and went straight to Birr to check in at Spinner's Townhouse.

We loved Birr and would definitely stay there again (we like the Georgian style architecture). Great pubs too (check out Kelly's and The Swan). I would not stay at Spinner's again though. The locals told us it has changed hands 3 times in the past 6 months. It would be fine for couples, but not fine for families (large sign prohibiting food in the rooms, stuff like that). Next time I'd stay at Dooley's (I think that was the name of it).

Birr Castle was beautiful. I know people were complaining about the large price to enter (they let the 5 of us in at the family rate of 28 euro) but coming from Orlando where you spend that much just for lunch at one of the attractions it wasn't that much to us. My mom hired the horse and wagon to take us around the grounds and it was well worth the price. The kids loved it (the rocking of the wagon, the warm sun, and the cool breeze - my daughter was asleep within 10 minutes). Mike (the driver) said that most people don't even see half the property because it takes 2 or 3 hours to explore it all on foot and they usually turn back after 1 hour. So we got to see more than we would have on foot.

We also did the Bog Train tour. Great fun for the kids and extremely informative for everyone.

Stayed in Birr 2 nights then headed north for our night at Markree Castle. The worst town for driving was Athlone. There is tons of construction and the signs aren't displayed well for route markers. Drove around for 45 minutes asking directions from everybody and finally asked a delivery man and got the best directions.

Stopped off at Lough Key Forest Park. Judging by the buildings this must have been a hopping place 20 years ago. The sandwich shop was very dirty and icky but the grounds and views were so impressive. There is a tower you can climb to get a birds eye view and it was worth every step to the top! Our 5 yr old son (this was his birthday) climbed it with no problem. They also had a nice playground and lots of open spaces for the kids to run free.

Markree Castle was wonderful! I had prearranged for them to bake a birthday cake for my son and it was ready when we got there. They waited until we were ready and told us they would bring it to wherever we wanted. There are several sitting and reading rooms so we chose one on the main floor. They made a presentation of bringing the cake out with all the candles lit and sang happy birthday to him. It was a 5 year old's dream come true. I was so impressed that they gave as much attention to his little birthday as they did for the wedding rehearsal dinner going on at the same time. The castle doesn't feel like a hotel. The registration desk was just a little nook (I think it's a converted closet) off to the side. So we really felt like we were staying with friends at an authentic castle. We didn't want a polished, impersonal hotel feel. Beautiful grounds to walk through, very child friendly. We promised my son we'd go back there for his 10th birthday. The rooms were very large (we had a tower room and a deluxe room) and very clean. We definitely plan on going back some day. Our son cried the next day as we drove away.

The next day we did the Lough Gill drive and saw Dooney Rock - talk about a beautiful forest on the lake -- Holy Cow! Stopped at Parke's Castle but didn't really enjoy it too much as we had a heavy rain beating us. At the Rock it was raining but the tree canopy was so dense that the rain doesn't even reach you. We looked for the Sculpture Trail but with the rain we must have missed the signs.

On to Galway. We stayed 3 nights at Cartroon Farmhouse in Oranmore. Definitely recommend it for families. Mary, the owner, receives help from one of her daughters and she brings her young children in. It was the only time on the trip when our kids had other kids to interact with and they had a great time. Mary would close the gates to the road and just let the kids run wild (she has 8 children and I have no idea how many grandchildren so kids don't even phase her!). They have dairy cows, a henhouse, and secret little garden paths for the kids to explore.

Oranmore is a nice little town. We wheeled our suitcase full of dirty laundry into the laundromat and the woman there said she'd sort it for us and have it ready that afternoon. She even repacked the suitcase for us (everything wasn't folded, but I didn't care!). Lots of pubs and restaurants. There is also the Renville (Rinville) Park. There is some sort of old fort type building and a great playground tucked back into a clearing in the woods. Again, another place to let the kids run free.

In Galway we did the hop-on and off bus tour. There's only one place to hop off so it wasn't like the tours in Dublin. It's a double decker bus so that's all the kids cared about. It was informative for the adults so we all walked away satisfied.

I had heard about the farmers market and antiques market on Saturday mornings around St. Stephen's but it wasn't what I was expecting. The farmers market was the same as anywhere, but the "antiques" market was more of handicrafts by hippie type people. Very eco oriented. Which was fine (my husband loved it) but it wasn't the antiques I was hoping for.

We shopped and ate lunch at McDonagh's. I didn't care for it but everyone else loved it. That night my husband and I (grandma stayed with the kids at the farmhouse) went in search of food that wasn't fried. In Galway we ended up at a little restaurant I think it was called Buono Cafe and it was just off the Quays pedestrian walk. They had fantastic pizza! AND they gave you huge glasses of Coke. Every other place we ate at gave you tiny little glasses of soda.

The tourist info center in Galway is very helpful.

The next day we went up to Connemara after stopping off at Aughnanure Castle (great place for kids - just hold on to their hands going up and down the staircases!). Then we stopped at the Glengowla Mines just north of Oughterard. I don't know if it was worth the admission price but it was very informative and my son really enjoyed wearing the miners hat and going down in the mines. We all had fun panning for gold (we got gold, rubies, marble, etc.).

We took the N59 to R336 to Leenane and caught the top side of N59 to Kylemore Abbey. The drive was so gorgeous. The only problem was that it was a very winding road with lots of ups and downs and it was raining so the back windows were all fogged up so my son wasn't able to get his bearings and got carsick. Luckily we had a large container of wet wipes in the back and a spare outfit for each of the kids and we were able to clean everything up. Shortly after that we arrived at Kylemore Abbey and the Victorian Walled Gardens so his stomach had lots of time to calm down.

Kylemore was gorgeous and we all loved the gardens. Lots of pictures there!

Next we stopped at the Connemara National Park. Probably our favorite outing of the trip. I can't even describe how stunning the scenery is there. There are two main walks - one going up and one going down into a forest. If you're only doing one, take the one going up. Both kids easily made this hike (okay, the 2 year old kept wanting up on her daddy's shoulders but that's because it was fun, not because she was tired of walking).

I wanted to do the Sky Road but apparently didn't see the signs for it and went on by.

The next day we drove down to the Cliffs of Moher (we knew the tour buses leave Galway at 10:00 for the Cliffs so we raced to get out of Oranmore before them). Boy, talk about shock and awe! The skies were clear and bright so we got to see it in all its glory. It's a long hike up to O'Brien's Tower but the kids handled it okay except for the wind trying to knock them over.

My stupid mother decided that this was her biggest opportunity to face down her extreme fear of heights by bellying up to the edge. She did it. I have pictures of her doing it and she said she'd have killed me if I had even suggested doing it.

Next we headed to Loop Head Peninsula. We had lunch in Lahinch. Cute town. Good lunch at Mama (somebody's - can't remember right now).

Loop Head is another shock and awe spot. We made the mistake of walking the path around the edge of the cliff. The winds were fierce and we got scared for the kids so we cut back up through the thick grass to the the cow path towards the lighthouse and back to the car. The path didn't seem bad at all when we set out but it just kept getting closer and closer to the edge and the wind was so bad.

Spent our final night above Crotty's Pub in Kilrush. Another nice town. Very friendly people at Crotty's.
Next day we were off to Shannon airport.

Kid specifics:
- take your own carseats (check them as baggage); you know them and the kids know them so you know they are safe and properly installed. Our 2 year old should have been in a car seat on the plane but it was too much of a pain so on the flights back we just checked it and she did fine in the regular seat
- flying - take surprises as well as the familiar to occupy them and call the airline to prearrange for children's meals
- cheese on sandwiches is grated so if your kids like cheese sandwiches, have it toasted so it's easier to eat
- all of the straws are the bendable kind (less spillage at the tables)
- you may not want McDonald's while you're there but the kids will welcome some familiar food and their Happy Meals are great! - they include a big toy, cheeseburger (or nuggets), drink, fries, drinkable yogurt, and a cereal bar for under 4 euros
- SuperMac's is the Irish version of McDonald's and they too have great food for kids and interesting selections for adults
- Galway just opened their first childrens playground about 6 or 8 weeks ago and they are planning more - it looked great, we saw it on the bus tour but didn't make it back over to it

As a general note - if you order coffee with cream, they put whipped cream on the coffee. They only have milk for their drinks, no cream.

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Old Sep 17th, 2003, 10:54 AM
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maryintwin
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Sounds like you had a wonderful trip!! Do you think your activites would be suitable to older children ages, 9, 10, 11?
 
Old Sep 17th, 2003, 11:23 AM
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Sejwoods,

Thanks so much for the great trip report! Sounds like you all had a great time and will be back again - the place is addicting, no? Any chance you'll be posting some photos, too?

Mary,

Ireland is chock full of kids and there's puh-lenty for them to do! In a word: CASTLES!

But for a variety you can always take them to zoos, on Viking adventures, horse back riding... the list goes on and on. You can search here for past postings or go to www.GoIreland.com and look under their Thing to See and Do section.

Wendy
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Old Sep 17th, 2003, 11:26 AM
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Thanks, sejwoods, for your report. Its a nice thank you for thew responders to pre trip questions
maryintwin:
these activities, plus many more, will entertain your 9, -11 year old!
Bunratty Castle
Cahir Castle
rock climbing Seven Sisters, Dingle
Donkey Sanctuary, Mallow cork
and on and on!
My grandchildren and I spend time in Ireland each year (since they were toddlers) we never run out of age appropriate activities....some repeats some new!
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Old Sep 17th, 2003, 11:33 AM
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If we had older kids we'd have done everything the same but added more to the schedule. We took our time, didn't rush anything, allowed for nap times, etc. The only things that older kids might not like are the playgrounds (you know how some kids are too cool at certain ages to do that stuff), but we adults had fun on the playgrounds too -- there weren't any other kids there so we all played.

I would have added the Portumna Castle and Portumna Forest, Clonmacnoise, and there are tons of other castles around the Birr area to explore.

Lough Key Forest Park has some cool underground tunnels by the lookout tower to explore that kind of scared my little ones (but they were brave and went through one of them). Dooney Rock was so cool it would be perfect for older kids to explore -- lots of climbing areas. My mom and I wished we were younger so we could go explore all of it.

I also would have added Athenry Castle and Turoe Stone (just to see what the deal is with the 3' high rock!) and we would have explored the Burren more.

In Kilrush they have dolphin watching excursions that would have been nice if the kids were older (and if we didn't already have annual passes to Sea World).
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Old Mar 22nd, 2004, 06:47 AM
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ttt for kathy99
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Old Feb 9th, 2007, 03:06 PM
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I am planning to stay at Crotty's Pub over night. How did you like it? How would you rate it?
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