If you’re searching for the perfect family adventure, a journey along the Wild Atlantic Way might just do the trick. This 2,500km stretch of sweeping coastline offers up a huge and varied array of family-orientated activities that are sure to put a smile on kids of all ages’ faces!
Whether you and your family are keen on the outdoors, wildlife, arts and crafts or culture, the Wild Atlantic Way is jam-packed with activities suitable for all kinds of weather at any time of year. Here’s our pick of the bunch, from wild County Donegal right down to breath-taking County Cork.
Get Back to Nature on the Northern Headlands
Wild and expansive Donegal, known as the Northern Headlands, simply begs to be explored and has a whole host of fun outdoor activities on offer. Ards Forest Park boasts several pretty nature trails, and is perfect for relaxed walks and family picnics in gorgeous surrounds. Kids will love the animals at Lurgybrack Open Farm, and can even help bottle-feed the lambs. Or for more adventurous little ones, why not try a spot of horse-riding at the likes of Dunfanaghy Stables? If they fancy a dip in the ocean, Narosa Life offer family surf lessons, while Rathmullan Sailing School and Donegal Sea Kayaking are great options for a family watersports adventure. Tropical World meanwhile is a fantastic rainy day option, and is home to butterflies, reptiles and tortoises from all around the world.
Family surfing on the Wild Atlantic Way
Surf’s up on the Surf Coast
Maritime thrills continue as you move into the Surf Coast of Sligo and Mayo, home to some of the coast’s best waves. Surfworld Bundoran cater to kids under eight as long as there’s a parent or guardian present. Riding the waves will certainly work up an appetite, so Mammy Johnston’s ‘best in the world’ ice-cream will be sure to tickle kids’ tastebuds, come rain or shine. Getting to grips with some birds of prey at Eagles Flying is a great adventure for all the family, as is climbing majestic Knocknarea Mountain. Share dramatic tales of Irish folklore with them as you ascend together; the stone mound at its peak is the final burial place of the mighty Queen Maeve, according to legend. The region is also known for its seaweed, which can be foraged, bathed in and of course, eaten! The whole family can enjoy a deluxe bath and steam at Voya Seaweed Baths, before sampling it at Irish Seaweed Kitchen - where recipes include delicious chocolate truffles and tasty cheese scones.
Have a Blast on the Bay Coast
Continuing south to parts of Mayo and unspoilt Connemara, the high-octane adventure parks of the Bay Coast let the kids run about to their hearts’ content. At Eile Mental and Killary Adventure Company, the whole family can try their hand at outdoor pursuits like archery, paintball, bungee and kayaking, while Westport House Pirate Adventure Park sits on the site of one of Pirate Queen Grace O’Malley’s original castles. You can also explore the lush countryside by bike; the Great Western Greenway route is the longest off-road cycling and walking trail in the country, and is traffic-free. For those fascinated by underwater creatures, Galway Atlantaquaria is another fantastic indoor option. Kids will be enchanted by the marine life on display; from seahorses and fish to the giant fin whale skeleton!
Foyne’s Maritime Museum
Conquer the Cliff Coast
The rugged region from Clare to north Kerry is known as the Cliff Coast, and one glimpse at its weather-carved coastline explains why. The magnificent Cliffs of Moher are an absolute must-see for kids and parents alike, and the adjacent visitor experience museum is well worth popping into too. Just beside the cliffs, children can meet some adorable animals at Moher Hill Open Farm. Rain shower? No problem; take shelter from the elements and learn about stalactites and stalagmites at the Aillwee and Doolin Caves. Tralee Bay Wetlands meanwhile has watersports, nature boat tours and a wildlife exhibition. For more water-based activities, there are a host of great surfing spots along the Cliff Coast, from Fanore to Lahinch and Ballybunion. If water’s not their thing though, ignite curiosities with a visit to one of the area’s fascinating museums; Foynes Maritime Museum and the North Kerry Museum. Little ones are sure to be fans of Blennerville Windmill and visitor centre, Ireland’s largest working windmill, with visitors able to scale to the top of the impressive structure.
Sky, Sea and Stars on the Southern Peninsulas
The diverse and winding coastline of Kerry’s five jutting Southern Peninsulas offers families the perfect setting for exciting watersports, like wakeboarding at Derrynane Sea Sports, motor-kayaking at Sunfish Explorer or relaxing on a Seafari Cruise. Back on dry land, you can spend quality family time at beautiful parks like Derreen Garden, Derrynane House and Gleninchaquin. Kids can sail, kayak, pedal boat and water ski at Star Outdoors Adventure Centre, or learn about the region’s impressive ocean life at Dingle Oceanworld. While you’re there, be sure to try and spot Fungi, Ireland’s most famous dolphin, and his friends on a dolphin-watching trip off Dingle Peninsula. South Kerry is also incredibly unique in that it’s home to a Dark-Sky Reserve. The whole family will be amazed at how clear the Milky Way looks from here, thanks to a lack of artificial light in the area. Kids (of all ages!) can channel The Force and all things Star Wars at the Skelligs Experience Visitor Centre, see where the magical pixie-folk live at the Fairy Trails and satisfy their sweet tooth at a chocolate making course in Ballinskelligs. There’s nothing like a family hike to spark some great laughs and conversation; Valentia Island’s highest peak, Geokaun Mountain, is suitable for all ages and can be accessed by car.
Hidden fairy houses in the forest, via Irish Fairy Trails
Have a Whale of a Time on the Haven Coast
You can’t beat the impressive array of whale watching tours and boat trips on the Haven Coast; the pretty South East region made up of lush Cork countryside. Ocean Addicts, Kinsale Boat Hire and Cork Whale Watch all provide exciting adventures on some of the most abundant waters in Europe. There are lots of fun arts and crafts activities in this region too, like Kinsale Pottery & Arts Centre and Working Artists’ Studio, where families can create precious memorabilia to take home. More adventurous types will love learning about the charming town of Baltimore’s daring pirate history, while the storytelling festival in Cape Clear includes children’s workshops, boat trips and heritage walks. Finally, what child could resist the allure of Clonakilty’s model railway village? Here, the models and figurines depict Cork life in the 1940s, and parents can settle down with a well-earned cuppa while kids explore this unique and charming space!
These are just some of the family-friendly activities to be found along the Wild Atlantic Way. For more family inspiration check out these top 10 things to do with kids. For more, visit our Trip Planner or Itinerary pages.