How to See the Best of Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way
A road trip with the kids – it can be fun. It can be adventurous. It can be a complete nightmare if you don’t plan ahead of time.
Not sure where to go? Try Ireland, where the people are friendly, the scenery is beautiful and there are plenty of pubs to calm your frazzled nerves after a whole day in the car with kids.
Our family decided to explore Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way. We not only survived but also had the time of our lives. Here are 5 tips that helped us along the way.
Tip #1: Travel Right!
Ryanair flew our whole family from Brussels to Dublin for the cost of one regular ticket on another airline. Considering we are FIVE, that was a spectacular deal. Great prices are always to be found. Search early and save!
Renting the right car should also be top on your list. Do you need a navigator, extra insurance, car seats? Luckily Ryanair car hire made the process easy and seamless. We were booked with Europcar and we were on our way!
Tip #2: Plan Stops Along the Way
No child or adult should be sitting in the car for too long. Fend off the are-we there-yets with plenty of rest stops. Luckily Ireland has loads of sites and towns along the way to take a breather. We suggest the following points:
Midway Food Court: Conveniently located just outside Portlaoise, Co. Laois has a good selection of cafes and restaurants. Yeah coffee!
Cashel and the Rock of Cashel: This spectacular group of Medieval buildings includes a 12th century round tower, Romanesque chapel, 13th century Gothic cathedral and a 15th century castle.
Green Spaces: Let the kids stretch their legs by running up and down in the large fields that line the path leading up to the castle. For the record, those must have been someone else’s three little boys chasing and terrorising the sheep near by. Mine would never misbehave like that. Nope. NEVER.
Tip #3: Slice Out a Piece of Heaven
Both my husband and I have been international journalists. Between the two of us we’ve travelled to over one hundred countries and stayed in countless hotels. But I must say, the views from the Killarney Lake Hotel (Lake Shore) were by far one of the best. We woke up each day to purple mountains framing a picturesque lake, which seemed to be made of glass. Green fields dotted by purple flowers surrounded a small gothic tower sitting at the lake’s shore. We both sat on our terrace and were overwhelmed by the peacefulness of the scenery. BUT THEN, as if Mother Nature was really trying to knock our socks off, a family of red deer danced across the shallow waters to drink amongst the willows. INCREDIBLE.
The hotel is also very cosy, boasting several outstanding restaurants and live entertainment at night. You won’t want to leave. We didn’t.
Tip #4: Enjoy the Best of the South West
We could have easily spent a month in Western Ireland and still had plenty to do. Here are just a couple of suggestions for fun family activities that are on the top of our list:
Horse-drawn ride in Killarney: Hop on a jaunting car through Killarney National Park (Ireland’s oldest national park).
Muckross Traditional Farms: Step back in time and experience the Ireland of the 1930s and 1940s. Visit three separate working farms (small, medium and large), each complete with animals, poultry and machinery. Yes kids, there were no Smartphones or Tablets back then!
Ring of Kerry: Drive the 179-km-long tourist trail from Killarney to Kenmare. This mini road trip takes in some of Ireland’s most spectacular sights along the Iveragh Peninsula and has several stops that will keep the kiddos entertained for a week. We did it in a day but wished we had longer. For an easy adventure itinerary, see our Mission to Ireland: Ring of Kerry.
Dingle Peninsula: Travel to the town of Dingle, which is at the tip of Dingle Peninsula. On your way, stop off at Inch Beach. The road perches high above this sandy beach, and offers fabulous views. The Oscar winning film ‘Ryan’s Daughter’ was filmed here. Once you arrive to Dingle Town, take in the charm of this harbour village with its quaint shops, pubs and cafes.
Fungie the Dolphin: Take a boat ride to see Fungie, Dingle’s resident dolphin in his natural habitat. The boats leave from Dingle Pier at regular intervals during the day, every day, all year round. There are many boat charter companies to choose from and nearly all of them claim: you don’t see, there’s no fee. Don’t worry; Fungie always makes an appearance.
Dingle Aquarium: Hop off the boat and head to the Dingle Aquarium, next to the Pier. The Aquarium boast Ireland’s largest collection of sharks and penguin display. The staff is very knowledgeable and the exhibits are top notch.
Tip #5: Give Yourself a Break
No matter how long your road trip might be, there is always the need for a little parent time. Stay in the Dingle Skelligs Hotel, a fantastic family hotel on the edge of town. The hotel has an indoor pool and an in-house nursery. Drop the kids off for some fun kid activities ranging from arts and crafts to sports. Believe me, they’ll love getting away from you too for a few hours.
What to do with your newfound freedom? Leave the car and head back to town and have dinner or enjoy a wide range of whiskies at local pub: Dick Mack’s. This bar is off the main drag and is where all the Dingle locals flock to. The staff will help you pick the right drink so you can sit back and enjoy the local flavour….that is until they call you, asking you to come back and pick up your little monsters …