This fun-filled family tour of Ireland starts in Dublin, where you'll visit some of the city's most iconic parks and say hello to the animals at the Dublin Zoo. Then, you'll pick up your rental car and head to Connemara for hikes in Connemara National Park, a beach day on the peaceful shores of Coral Strand, and a deep dive into the history of castles such as Athlone, Aughnanure, and Clifden. The trip ends back in Dublin, with more castles, museums, and an ocean walk on the city's Great South Wall.


  • Take a walk on the wild side with the amazing animals of the Dublin Zoo
  • Hike the majestic coastal views of Connemara National Park
  • Swim, snorkel, and sunbathe on the beaches of Connemara's Coral Strand
  • Walk the halls of ancient royalty in Dublin's medieval castles 

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Dublin, Dublin Parks Dublin
Day 2 Drive to Athlone, Discover Athlone Castle Athlone
Day 3 Connemara Region, Galway, Ballyconneely Ballyconneely
Day 4 Hiking in Connemara National Park Ballyconneely
Day 5 Coral Strand Beach, Clifden  Ballyconneely
Day 6 Drive to Dublin, Hiking, Castles & Museums Dublin
Day 7 Depart Dublin  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Dublin, Dublin Parks

Wild deer at Phoenix Park 

Welcome to Ireland! Upon your arrival in Dublin, you'll head to your hotel and get settled before exploring some of the city. Dublin has a fascinating history, dating back to the Norman invasion of Ireland in the 12th century and perhaps even earlier. Modern Dublin is a vibrant metropolis with plenty of family-friendly sights and activities. The city is also full of amazing parks and green spaces, and taking the time to check them out is a great way to get your bearings, not to mention giving the kids a chance to run and play after the long flight!

Start with a visit to the Medieval Quarter, where you'll find  St Audeon's Park, which sits next to an ancient church and the old medieval walls of Dublin, and St Patricks Park, which is right next door to St Patricks Cathedral, founded in 1191 and the national cathedral of the Church of Ireland. Visit the old graveyard at St Kevin's Park, part of the Church of St Kevins, then stroll through St Stephen's Green, a Victorian park with beautiful flower beds, a lake, and resident swans that the kids will love. 

Make your final stop at Phoenix Park, one of the largest enclosed public parks in Europe. The park encompasses more than 1,700 acres (700 ha) and is home to more than 500 wild deer. You're likely to see them grazing around the grounds, and there is a children's playground, lakes, and beautiful Victorian gardens. The park is also where you'll find Dublin Zoo. Founded in 1830, the zoo provides education on conservation and animal awareness, with residents that include elephants, big cats, primates, and marine animals. Relax at your hotel tonight before continuing your journey tomorrow.

Day 2: Drive to Athlone, Discover Athlone Castle

Lough Derg, near Athlone

Today, you'll collect your rental car and make the 1.5-hour drive to Athlone. The town straddles the River Shannon, with the beautiful Athlone Castle at its heart, a 12th-century fortress that has guarded the bridge across the river for centuries. Check in at your accommodations, a luxurious hotel on the shores of Lough Derg, and let the kids check out the indoor pool before seeing some of the local sights. 

Make the castle your first stop, and learn about the historic battles and wars that took place here. The visitor's center offers fun activity sheets for the kids that include a "Viking Treasure Hunt" and the "Siege of Anthione." Not far from the castle, you'll find Lough Ree, a lake that is great for swimming, and the monastic site of Clonmacnoise. You can also visit the abandoned town of Rindoon, deserted by residents in the 1300s after an outbreak of the plague. The town sits on the shores of Lough Derg, hidden in a forest that makes for a peaceful afternoon walk. 

If the kids want to get closer to nature, head a few miles out of town to Glendeer Pet Farm. The animals here range from familiar farm animals to more exotic species and include deer, pigs, sheep, alpacas, emus, and ostriches. The park does allow the children to handle some of the smaller, gentler animals, and there's a play area and café for tea and homemade treats. This evening, enjoy more family time at the pool, or take advantage of the hotel babysitting services and visit the local pubs.  

Day 3: Connemara Region, Galway, Ballyconneely

A stroll along Galway Bay

It's off to the beautiful Connemara region, where you'll experience breathtaking scenery and a rugged, unpolluted coastline, as well as the wonders of Connemara National Park, home to mountains, rivers, and quaint villages. Your final destination is the town of Ballyconneely, which will serve as your home base over the next few days. The drive takes just over two hours, and there are several noteworthy stops to be made along the way.

Visit the city of Galway, considered Ireland's bohemian capital and known for its art scene, street performances, live music, and buildings painted in primary colors. Have lunch here, then the kids can stretch their legs with a walk on Salt Hill Promenade, which leads to Galway Bay and offers incredible views of the surrounding areas. Afterward, head to the Lough Inagh Valley and see Kylemore Abbey and its Victorian-walled garden, then drive to Aughnanure Castle, a magnificent castle that was the seat of the fierce, warlike clan, the O'Flaherty's. 

Your day ends in the seaside town of Ballyconneely, just 6 miles (10 km) from the larger city of Clifden, this quaint village has some of the coast's most stunning beaches, perfect for keeping the kids entertained for hours with swimming, tidepools, and beachcombing. Ballyconneely also has an equestrian center nearby, with guided pony trekking tours for those interested in seeing more of the beaches and countryside. 

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Day 4: Hiking in Connemara National Park

Family hike in Connemara National Park

Spend today exploring Connemara National Park, which covers almost 7,413 acres (3,000 ha) and features a mix of mountains, lakes, beaches, lagoons, and endless coastal views. Enter via the visitor's center and choose your hiking route. There are four main hiking trails—the Ellis Wood Trail, an easy 0.30-mile (0.5 km) path perfect for younger kids, the 1-mile (1.5 km) Sruffaunboy Trail, and the lower and upper Diamond Hill trails. While the upper Diamond Hill Trail is the most strenuous and often windy walk, it's also one of the most popular, in part because of the rewarding views at the end! 

Those interested in the region's flora and fauna will enjoy the Tree Trail, which starts at a kiosk in the parking lot and takes you on a route that showcases some of the diverse trees and foliage here. And older kids and teens might like the inspirational poetry trail, accessed via the nearby village of Letterfrack and consisting of strategically placed plaques with words from some of Ireland's most esteemed poets. Head back to Ballyconneely to overnight, or indulge the family with a stay in a real castle at nearby Abbeyglen Castle Hotel, Ballynahich Castle, or Ashford Castle!

Day 5: Coral Strand Beach, Clifden 

Take a beach day in Ireland! 

Take a beach day on the Coral Strand, otherwise known as the White Strand, a lovely stretch of shoreline located at the edge of Ballyconneely's Mannin Bay. The sand here is made up of a red calcified seaweed called maërl, which feels like fine gravel. The beach is a popular spot for swimming, paddle boarding, and snorkeling, and there are public restroom facilities, as well as lifeguard patrols on a seasonal basis. 

Later, head over to Clifden, the largest town in the region and often referred to as the "Capital of Connemara." Stroll the city streets and see the many galleries, cafés, and restaurants, or visit Errislannan Manor, a working Connemara pony breeding farm that offers guided riding tours along the beach and up into the hills. You should also make a point to take the kids to see the impressive Clifden Castle, with its magnificent turrets built in the Roman Gothic style. Enjoy your last night in Ballyconneely this evening before heading back to Dublin in the morning. 

Day 6: Drive to Dublin, Hiking, Castles & Museums

Step into the past at Malahide Castle

Enjoy your final full day in Ireland with visits to some sights in and around Dublin. Start with some hiking at Howth Castle and Cliff Walk, which is located about 12 miles (19 km) north of the city—an easy drive, or you can take the train if you've already returned your rental car. The castle dates back to medieval times and is surrounded by gorgeous rhododendron gardens. You can take a guided tour of the castle, then take a gentle hike along the Howth Cliff Walk. The trails here vary in difficulty, with easier options for the younger kids or more challenging ones for families with older children or teens.

Next, visit Malahide Castle, originally held as the seat of the Talbot-Norman family. The castle sits on a lovely expanse of parkland, with wooded walking paths and views of the city. Nearby, you'll also find Swords Castle and Park. This magnificently restored castle, church, and walls are wonderful examples of medieval architecture, and the surrounding grounds are immaculately maintained. The castle was also where the BBC series, "The Tudors," was filmed, which the older kids might find interesting. Later, head to the Great South Wall, which stretches for 2.5 miles (4 km) out into Dublin Bay.

If you still have your car, you can also drive out to the Wicklow region for the Bray to Greystones Walk, a 2.5-hour coastal hike that offers spectacular panoramas of County Wicklow and the coast. Or, if the kids have had enough of hiking and castles, you can explore more activities in the city, such as the Natural History Museum, where they can see a giant whale skeleton, or the Leprechaun Museum, where you can learn all about leprechaun life. You can also take the family on a journey back into Viking times at Dublinia, where you'll learn about the Viking and medieval eras and even try on traditional Viking attire! 

Day 7: Depart Dublin

Farewell to Ireland! 

It's time to say goodbye to Ireland. This morning, you'll check out of your hotel and catch a taxi or bus to the airport for your flight home. Safe travels!

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Map of Family Fun in Ireland: Parks, Castles, Lakes & Beaches - 7 Days
Map of Family Fun in Ireland: Parks, Castles, Lakes & Beaches - 7 Days