Explore the castles and coastline of the Emerald Isle on this two-week family adventure. Choose your own pace as you wind your way from Dublin to the wild west coast and onto the iconic landscapes of the Ring of Kerry. Along the way, you'll hang 10 in one of Europe's best surf spots, capture the kids' imaginations in historic castles, and hike and bike through scenic national parks before circling back to Dublin for some educational fun at the Epic Museum.


  • Go beach-hopping along Connemara's coastline
  • Take to the seas at sunset for a family kayak
  • Explore castles and play pirates on Ireland's west coast
  • Ride horses along Trá na mBán beach
  • Visit Europe's top tourist attraction; Dublin's EPIC Museum

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Dublin, Explore Dublin
Day 2 Drive to Athlone, Visit Athlone Castle Athlone
Day 3 Drive to Clifden, Discover Coral Beach Clifden
Day 4 Explore Connemara's Beaches, Kayak at Sunset Clifden
Day 5 Horseback Riding on Trá na mBán Beach Clifden
Day 6 Visit Dog's Bay & Gurteen Beach, Drive to Lahinch Lahinch
Day 7 Visit Doolin & the Cliffs of Moher Lahinch
Day 8 Family Surf Lesson at Lahinch Beach Lahinch
Day 9 Explore Killarney National Park, Drive to Killarney Killarney
Day 10 Killarney National Park by Bike, Ross Castle, Muckross Abbey Killarney
Day 11 Castles of the Hidden Heartlands, Drive to Birr Birr
Day 12 Drive to Dublin, EPIC Interactive Museum & Jeanie Johnston Famine Ship Dublin
Day 13 Hike the Glendalough Valley Dublin
Day 14 Depart Dublin  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Dublin, Explore

St Stephen's Green Dublin
Take a stroll through St Stephen's Green, Dublin

Welcome to Ireland! Arrive in Dublin and settle into your city center accommodation before heading out to explore. This flourishing European city has come a long way since its inception as a small Gaelic village and bears many reminders of its Viking and Norman past. Weave through the historic streets as you stroll past the Gresham Hotel and pass highlights such as the James Joyce statue, the Spire of Light, and the O'Connell Monument.

If appetites are flagging, head to one of the city's numerous eateries. You'll find everything from traditional Irish pubs, fine dining, international cuisine, and family-friendly restaurants here. Those curious about Ireland's past and families with older kids and a sense of the macabre should visit historic Kilmainham Gaol. Discover the gripping stories of those imprisoned between 1796 and 1924 and learn about the struggles of ordinary people and revolutionaries through the lens of the country's complex political past. 

Day 2: Drive to Athlone, Visit Athlone Castle

Family-friendly treasure hunt activities await at Athlone Castle 

Pick up your rental car and hit the road today as you begin the first leg of your family adventure with a drive to Athlone, a 90-minute journey west of Dublin. The town is famous for its 12th-century fortress, Athlone Castle, a historical site that guarded the bridge across the River Shannon for centuries. Spend an hour or two discovering the history of the Williamite Wars that culminated with the Great Siege of Athlone in 1691. Let your mini-warriors burn off some energy and run around the grounds as they complete a Viking treasure hunt activity sheet. 

Drop your bags and check in to your accommodation, a luxury hotel sitting on the shores of Lough Derg. Then, hop back in the car for a 30-minute drive to the sixth-century monastic site of Clonmacnoise, near the picturesque Lough Ree—a lake that's an excellent spot for a dip if the weather is fine. Explore the fascinating cathedral and church ruins of what was once a seat of great learning while the kids play on the vast grassy knoll.

Continue to the abandoned plague town of Rindoon, where the Black Death decimated the population in the 1330s. Despite its grizzly history, it's another picturesque spot, hidden in a forest on the shores of Lough Derg, and perfect for a gentle family walk. When you've had your fill of exploring, head back to your hotel, where tired little ones will be rejuvenated at the prospect of the indoor pool, and parents can enjoy the on-site spa before getting ready for dinner. 

Day 3: Drive to Clifden, Discover Coral Beach

Take your time on today's drive as you hop between Connemara's best beaches

Enjoy a leisurely breakfast in your beautiful surroundings before hopping back in the car and continuing your drive west. Your destination for the next few nights is Clifden in County Galway, often referred to as the "capital of Connemara," an area known for its secluded coves and sandy stretches, including the famous Coral Beach. Stop here for a play with the kids, where the sand is made of a finely textured red calcified seaweed called maërl. Rent a paddle board, snorkel, or swim in the family-friendly waters.

If you can drag the kids away, and it might be hard, take in Connemara's stunning coastline with a walk through the Connemara National Park. The Diamond Hill trail is a must for hikers of all abilities, and the coastal path offers beautiful panoramic views as you go. For families that prefer the beach, there are plenty more sandy stretches to explore, all within an easy drive from Clifden. Afterward, stroll the town's streets, browse the local boutiques, and choose a spot for dinner either at one of the nearby restaurants or pubs, where you'll likely find live music too. 

Day 4: Explore Connemara's Beaches, Kayak at Sunset

Family sunset kayak
Enjoy a sunset family kayak to see more of the Connemara coast

Carry on discovering Connemara's beaches today, and if you need a break from the sand and sea, you have a couple of options. The early 19th century Clifden Castle, built in the Gothic Revival style, and Bunowen Castle, once the home of infamous pirate queen Grace O'Malley, are great options for the kids. Alternatively, take the little ones to Errislannan Manor, a working Connemara pony breeding farm. Meet the ponies and then take a guided family riding tour along the beach and into the hills.

Later, as the sun just begins to dip, head back to the waterside and experience the natural beauty of Mannin Bay from a unique perspective. Meet your guide at the Connemara Sands Hotel, where you and the kids will get kitted out and learn the basics for a family kayak tour. Paddle the crystal-clear waters as you glide along the coastline to the backdrop of the setting sun. You may also spot some friendly seals among the waves! 

Day 5: Horseback Riding on Trá na mBán Beach

Saddle up for a horseback ride along Connemara's beaches

It's your last day on the Connemara coast, and this morning, you and your family will get to make the most of the coastal views with a guided horse ride along Trá na mBán beach. After meeting your trusty steed, set off along the coast and admire the mountains and rolling hills as you look out across Galway Bay. More experienced riders can carry on to the ruins of 13th-century Renvyle Castle, another fortress rich in pirating history, with a tower that affords beautiful views over the coast. 

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Day 6: Visit Dog's Bay & Gurteen Beach, Drive to Lahinch

Arrive in Lahinch in time for a spectacular sunset

Rally the kids this morning as you pack your bags, collect a picnic and hop in the car for the next leg of your road trip. You'll continue your exploration of Ireland's west coast as you drive 2.5 hours south to the seaside spot of Lahinch. There are plenty of places along the way to stop and stretch the legs, and first up is Gurteen Beach and Dog's Bay. If the pure white-sand beaches and the sheltered bays (both ideal for swimming) prove too much to resist, then spend a couple of hours picnicking on the sand before continuing to Lahinch, your base for the next few nights. 

Day 7: Visit Doolin & the Cliffs of Moher

Cliffs of Moher Hiking Trail
Bundle up for a windy walk along the famous Cliffs of Moher

Enjoy a leisurely wake-up and hearty Irish breakfast this morning before heading out to explore. A 15-minute drive from Lahinch, you'll reach the lively port village of Doolin and the majestic Cliffs of Moher. Set out on a family hike along the nearby coastal path that takes in the famous 700-foot (214 m) tall cliffs and offers stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean and The Burren region. Task the kids with spotting a variety of seabirds that nestle along the rocky outcrop, including puffins, guillemots, and razorbills. 

Continue along the trail, and you'll eventually reach O'Brien's Tower. Race the kids to the top and see if you can spot the Aran Islands, the Mamuturk mountain range, and even Galway Bay in the distance. The nearby Doolin Cave, home to Europe's largest stalactite, coming in at a mesmerizing 24 feet (7.3 m), is worth a visit, and the kids will have a blast exploring the 350 million-year-old underground world. When you're ready, head back to Doolin for lunch; the rest of the day is yours to spend at leisure. 

Day 8: Family Surf Lesson at Lahinch Beach

Surfs up for the whole family in Lahinch!
Lahinch's position, nestled at the head of Liscannor Bay and beside a long stretch of golden sand, attracts surfers worldwide to ride the Atlantic breakers that form here. This morning, you and the kids will take a family surf lesson as you learn how to read the waves first, then stand up on your board and progress to riding and turning. If you already know the basics, there are classes for each level of skill, and if surfing just isn't your thing, rent a kayak, go paddleboarding, or sit and watch as the kids learn to "hang ten" like a pro!

Day 9: Explore Killarney National Park, Drive to Killarney

Take a family hike through the rugged Killarney National Park

It's time to bid farewell to Lahinch and swap the beaches and sea of the Atlantic coast for the no less stunning waterfalls, lakes, and mountain ranges of the Killarney National Park. The area is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, full of flora and fauna for the kids to spot as you tour the lush landscapes. Don't miss the Torc Waterfall as it gently cascades over rocks at the base of Torc Mountain

If everyone is still full of beans after yesterday's surfing adventure, then opt for one of the hiking trails. Depending on the kids' age and energy levels, you can choose from routes that take you through the Black Valley, Gap of Dunloe, or Mangerton Mountain. For a gentle nature walk, opt for the Old Kenmare footpath in the park's uplands. Lunch in Killarney, check in to your accommodation, and the rest of the evening is yours to spend as you wish. This popular town on the famous Ring of Kerry route has plenty of dining options for appetites of all ages and sizes. 

Day 10: Killarney National Park by Bike, Ross Castle, Muckross Abbey

Break up today's cycling adventures with a visit to Ross Castle

Your family adventure continues this morning as you explore Killarney National Park, although this time on wheels! Pick up your bikes from the rental store in town and cycle through the park at your own pace. Kids will love the freedom to explore under their own steam as you arrive at the charming Ross Castle on the shores of Lough Leane. A restored 15th-century tower house with its own legend, regale the kids with the story of the owner who is said to rise from the lake's depth every seven years on the first morning of May. 

If you have time, cycle on to the ruins of Muckross Abbey. It's another great place to fire up the kids' imaginations as you play with them in the impressive ruins of the 15th-century Franciscan Abbey and the shade of the 700-year-old yew tree. After a day of exploring, take a breather back at your accommodation before finding a cozy pub or restaurant to relax in as you enjoy your final night in Killarney.

Day 11: Castles of the Hidden Heartlands, Drive to Birr

Who's brave enough to explore the "haunted" Leap Castle?

It's back to four wheels today as you and your family leave behind Killarney and venture east toward Birr and the Hidden Heartlands in Country Leitrim. Although quieter and not as well known as some of the more popular spots, the area is enchanting in its own right. Explore the peaceful roads, lakes, and rivers as you drive through sites of ancient Celtic rituals. There are plenty of historic abbeys, monasteries, and castles to explore along the way, including Leap Castle—famed as the most haunted place in Ireland!

Make your way to 19th-century Kinnitty Castle and wander the beautifully restored interiors, after which you can relax in the beautiful grounds or if you're feeling a little more energetic, stroll one of the many nearby walking trails, go horseback riding in the Slieve Bloom mountains, or take to the water with a paddleboard on the River Shannon. Finally, discover the imposing ruins of Glinsk Castle as you explore the beautiful woodland trail before heading to Birr and checking in at your overnight accommodation. 

Day 12: Drive to Dublin, EPIC Interactive Museum & Jeanie Johnston Famine Ship

Jeanie Johnston Dublin Docklands
Travel back to the 19th century on the Jeanie Johnston 

It's back to the city today as you drive east to Dublin, and this time you have a full two days to explore any of the sights you missed the first time around. Dublin's EPIC Museum has consistently been voted Europe's top tourist attraction and is a must-see for kids and adults alike. Follow the inspiring stories of Irish emigrants who traveled across the seas to the US, Canada, South America, and Australia in search of a better life. Follow their journeys through interactive displays as you discover how these everyday men and women became politicians, poets, artists, and presidents.

Continue delving into Ireland's history with a tour of the Jeanie Johnston Ship. Moored on the Liffey Quayside, the vessel is a working replica of the 19th-century ship that carried thousands of Irish emigrants to North America as they fled the Great Irish Famine in search of a better life. Younger ones will love exploring the upper decks and pretending to be sailors, while below deck, you'll hear the remarkable stories of the passengers and discover what life on board was like for those attempting the arduous journey.

Back on the quayside, treat yourselves to a classic takeaway lunch of fish and chips before taking a final stroll around the city's cobbled streets. The rest of the evening is yours to explore or relax as you wish. 

Day 13: Hike the Glendalough Valley

Spend some more time in nature with a woodland walk through the Glendalough Valley

After breakfast, spend a day outside Dublin exploring Glendalough's natural beauty and rich history. An early monastic settlement founded by St. Kevin in the sixth century and once a great seat of learning, the area was chosen for its remoteness, beauty, and serenity. Pack a picnic and hike with older kids through the rugged landscape of Glendasan, take in the splendid views of Glenmacnas, or follow the river on a woodland walk with the little ones through Devil's Glen

Whatever you decide, don't miss a walk to the ruins of the Round Tower; standing 98 feet tall (30 m), it's one of the best-preserved monuments in Ireland. When you and the kids have had your fill of adventure, return to Dublin, where you'll be spoilt for choice with the vast number of traditional Irish pubs or child-friendly restaurants to dine in. Choose somewhere cozy, soak up the atmosphere, and recount your favorite memories of the trip. 

Day 14: Depart Dublin

Depart Ireland
Fare thee well, Ireland 

It's your last day in Ireland. Depending on your flight time, enjoy a free morning in Dublin and one last look across the River Liffey before heading to the airport and dropping off your rental car. Go dté tú slán! (safe travels!)

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Map of Ireland Castles & Coast Family Road Trip - 14 Days
Map of Ireland Castles & Coast Family Road Trip - 14 Days