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Family Fun & Adventure on the Wild Atlantic Way

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Cast off the shackles of the dreary commute, say ‘adios’ to sitting on the wrong side of that office window. It’s time to gather your little tribe and head for the coast. 

Jam-packed with activities suitable for all kinds of weather at any time of year, the Wild Atlantic Way has more than 2,500km of family fun to discover, from windswept County Donegal right down to breathtaking County Cork. 

Try horse riding at the likes of Dunfanaghy Stables

County Donegal: 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 offers family surf lessons, while Rathmullan Sailing School and Donegal Sea Kayaking are great options for a family watersports adventure. You could even head for the hills on an electric bike; environmentally friendly and perfect for helping tired legs last a little longer, hire your gang some bikes from one of Grassroutes’ three bases. Tropical World, meanwhile, is a fantastic rainy day option, home to butterflies, reptiles and tortoises from all around the world.

  • Family surfing on the Wild Atlantic Way

Counties Donegal, Sligo & Mayo: The Surf Coast

A wetsuit’s your family’s best bet for maritime fun on the Surf Coast, home to some of the route’s best waves. Surfworld Bundoran cater to kids under eight as long as there’s a parent or guardian present. The team at Strandhill Surf School gives lessons to all ages and will even take you out to Culleenamore Bay, a stunning tidal reserve and seal sanctuary. 

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 the littles as you ascend together; the stone mound at its peak is the burial place of the mighty Queen Maeve, according to legend. The region is also known for its seaweed, which can be foraged for, bathed in and of course, eaten! Enjoy a deluxe bath and steam at Voya Seaweed Baths before sampling it at Irish Seaweed Kitchen. Here, recipes include delicious chocolate truffles and tasty cheese scones.

Zorbing at Adventure West

Counties Mayo & Galway: The Bay Coast

The high-octane adventure parks of the Bay Coast let the kids really run wild. At Eile Mental and Killary Adventure Company, the whole family can try a 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. Go head over heels with zorbing - it's tumbling down hillsides taken to the next level. Adventure West strap two to three of you into a transparent inflatable ball and spin you to your hearts’ content, as the Westport sky and shores of Clew Bay whizz past. 

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

Counties Galway, Clare & Kerry: 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 shows 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. Rain shower? No problem; take shelter from the elements and learn the difference between stalactites and stalagmites at the Aillwee and Doolin caves.

A different kind of school’s in session under the waves off County Clare’s coast: all aboard the ‘Dolphin Discovery’ in Kilrush Marina for a marine cruise along the north shore of the Shannon Estuary, the home of Ireland's only known resident group of bottlenose dolphins! Little skippers will delight in the cruise’s 98% dolphin-sighting success rate, too.

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 your thing, ignite curiosities with a visit to one of the area’s fascinating museums, including Foynes Maritime Museum and the North Kerry Museum

Star spotting at the Dark Sky Reserve

Counties Kerry & Cork: The Southern Peninsulas

The diverse and winding coastline of Kerry and Cork’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. Learn about the region’s impressive ocean life at Dingle Oceanworld and while you’re there, be sure to try and spot Fungi, Ireland’s most famous dolphin, 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. 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 sweet teeth at a chocolate making course in Ballinskelligs. 

Particularly prescient if you’re road-tripping with technology-loving teens, discover a different era (and pace!) of communication on Valentia Island. Hop the ferry over to the idyllic island and visit Valentia Heritage Centre, housed in a 19th-century schoolhouse, to learn all about island life and discover tales of the world’s first transatlantic telegraph. Then take a family hike up Valentia Island’s highest peak, Geokaun Mountain; it’s suitable for all ages and can be accessed by car. 

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