Leprechaun lore, cheerful locals, delicious cheeses, beautiful scenery and delightful music … Ireland pretty much has it all when it comes to family travel. Besides the quick hop across the pond, it’s easy when most everyone speaks English and there are plenty of different ways to see the best of city and country (no matter if it’s in honor of Saint Patrick or not!).
Who says you have to skimp on luxury because you’re with kids? At the 5-star Merrion Hotel in Dublin, you can have it all, with a variety of kid-friendly accommodation types (there’s also an in-house bar should you want to bring the teens or college kids for a pint of Guinness). Then your itinerary can include a jaunt to Ashford Castle, formerly owned by the Guinness family. The 13th-century property turned 5-star luxury hotel wakes guests up on St. Patrick’s Day with a bagpiper playing tunes on the lawn. Kid-friendly activities include falconry lessons, an indoor pool, tennis, bicycling, billiards and meetings with the hotel’s iconic Irish Wolfhounds. There’s even horseback riding, archery, tree-climbing and a zipline. One child under 12 years old can even stay in a deluxe room with parents for free, including breakfast. Like in years past, the castle may even be lit up all in green for the holiday.
Step back in time at Ballyfin Demesne in central Ireland in the Slieve Bloom Mountains, where there’s a costume night for grand dinners — the costume closet includes myriad glittery options for the little ones should they opt for a tiara or even velvet cape. There’s plenty of outdoor fun, too, at the lavish Regency mansion, with hiking, horseback riding, canoeing and even target shooting lessons, or just chill at the indoor heated pool. The on-site farm offers hands-on tours and lessons with botanists for the produce and fruits used in the Ballyfin kitchen.
Fota Island Resort, on a private island in Cork, features two-, three- and four-bedroom Fushia lodges with their own kitchens. There’s a large garden for kids to play, an outdoor playground, indoor pool and kids playroom. Want to have some couple time? Sign up the little ones for the kids camps for ages 4–12, an adrenaline center for ages 8 and older featuring kayaking, crafts and more. There’s even a kids buffet and supervised movie nights so Mom and Dad can have date night.
Northern Ireland’s hotel of the year in 2017, Lough Erne Resort overlooks two golf courses and lower Lough Erne lake. The conical lodges are a particular delight, and there’s both upscale and tasty pub grub. The indoor pool is great for families, and there’s also a play room (unsupervised), with table football, air hockey and more. Lough Navar Forest Park and Marble Arch Caves are nearby, as well as Corralea activity center, with fun water trampolines.
Family run for five generations, it takes one to know one at Kelly’s Resort Hotel & Spa. Kids clubs (dress up, arts and crafts, sports, etc.), a five-mile stretch of sandy beach and free babysitting in evenings all add up to a great value, along with a buffet offering child-friendly favorites. Babysitting for a nominal fee is available all day.
The Cliffs of Moher, castles and stunning coasts all beckon in Western Ireland, where the magic of Dromoland Castle also lures in families. Not far from Shannon Airport and close to all the action, Dromoland has a kids club during school breaks and peak travel times, with cookies and milk at night. Babysitting is available at night if Mom and Dad want an upscale dining experience, and there’s archery, boating, jaunting car tours, falconry and more historic fun at Bunratty Castle and Folk Park.