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Ireland with Kids – Road Trip Itinerary

The land of leprechauns, four leaf clovers and rainbows, you’ll never forget a family trip to Ireland. Unfortunately, we didn’t find any leprechauns or four leaf clovers and by the end of our 3 week road trip around Ireland with kids, we had only seen one rainbow. While we expected the first two, the third one was a bit of a surprise, but regardless, we still found visiting Ireland with kids to be a phenomenal experience.

image of father and two kids walking along the ocean near the wormhole on Inishmore, which is one of the top things to see on Inis More Aran Island

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There was never a shortage of things to do with kids in Ireland and they had plenty of space to run free. We were also able to tick off an item on our bucket list by cycling with kids in Ireland.

Planning a Holiday in Ireland with Kids

When to Visit Ireland with Kids

image of wild flowers along Lighthouse Loop Walk on Sheep's Head Peninsula Ireland

The peak tourist season for Ireland is July and August. While we knew it wouldn’t be ideal from a crowds perspective, summer was the ideal time for us to visit Ireland with kids.

Summer allowed us piece together the most amount of time to do both a 3 week Scotland road trip with kids and also 3 weeks in Ireland with kids (thanks to school holidays). 

If it wasn’t for depending on our daughter to be out of school for the summer, we would have preferred to visit Ireland in the spring or the fall. April and May in Ireland would be stunning with all the spring flowers. Plus, there would be less tourists at that time.

Regardless, we made the best of it and found that with this Ireland itinerary and how we planned our time that we were rarely bothered by the crowds (or even around the crowds). We were often out early in the morning and by doing a lot of hiking and cycling, we easily got away from the tour buses.

How Long to Travel in Ireland

We traveled around Ireland with our kids for 3.5 weeks. We started in Northern Ireland after a bus and ferry ride from Edinburgh. Since we had already been in the UK for almost a month, we didn’t have any jet lag to worry about.

Since we were on our cycling trip for almost a third of our time in Ireland, we were glad we had the extra two weeks to explore other areas.

Getting Around Ireland with Kids

As mentioned, since we had planned to use a large portion of our time in Ireland on a self-guided cycling tour, we didn’t rent a car until about 10 days into our Ireland itinerary. Prior to getting a rental car, we took buses from Belfast to Galway, then to Oughterard to begin our tour.

One other complicating factor in our planning was that the day we ended our bike tour it was a bank holiday in the UK, so we couldn’t rent a car in Galway like we had planned. Instead we took a bus from Clifden to Galway then on to Limerick where we were able to rent a car at the Shannon Airport that day.

Further to that, we found that the car rental price from Limerick to Dublin was about the same as returning the car to Limerick and then taking the bus to Dublin, so we opted for a convenient one-way car rental.

If you are arriving by plane to Ireland, you’ll likely start your trip in Dublin. In this case you could rent a car at the Dublin airport and return it before your flight home.

Be aware that most car rental companies in Ireland will hold a large sum (up to €5,000) as a damage deposit on your credit card – read your fine print!

Driving in Ireland for the First Time

Coming from Canada, we knew the roads would be much narrower than what we were used to. Pair this with driving on the opposite side and this can be a little scary.

To help with driving on the left, we recommend packing light and trying to get the smallest car possible that will still fit all your stuff.

image of bus driving along narrow Slea Head Drive on Dingle Peninsula

We had already spent 3.5 weeks in Scotland, most of it with a car, so by the time we got to Ireland we weren’t as nervous about driving on the left.

At the start of our UK trip, to get more comfortable with the driving on the other side, we’d make sure we were out early in the morning when there would be less traffic. We also tried to avoid city driving as much as possible.

What about car seats for Ireland travel with kids?

We didn’t want to lug our heavy convertible carseats from home. With a little bit of research we discovered we could buy high back booster seats, that would be appropriate for both our kids, from Argos while in Glasgow with kids (at the very start of our UK trip).

We always have a discussion about bringing our own car seats versus renting. Renting was out of the question since we weren’t returning to the same city and we prefer to not rent child seats from car rental agencies, if we can avoid it. They do not guarantee supply and we are leery of the quality.

image of two kids in rental car in Scotland

This post about travel with car seats on our Baby Can Travel blog gives you a full run down of what to think about when it comes to travel with kids and car seats.

Where to Stay in Ireland with Kids

While we typically try to stay in vacation rentals through Airbnb or VRBO as much as possible when we travel with kids (we enjoy the extra space and less eating out), we stayed in kid-friendly Ireland hotels much more on this leg of our trip.

image of one of dingle hotels

Our Ireland cycle tour was mainly in bed and breakfasts or hotels with family rooms.

We happened to be in Galway during the Galway Races (an Irish horse-racing festival) without knowing, so the options were limited within our budget. To save money, we ended up staying in a Galway hostel with kids. The kids loved that we were all in the same room with matching bunk beds.

image of family room in hostel in galway ireland with bunk beds

We did manage to stay in rented apartments near the Cliffs of Moher, in Kenmare when we were visiting Killarney National Park, in Dublin, and for a couple of nights in Belfast.

Visit each post in our Ireland itinerary with kids for the specifics on our choices of kid-friendly accommodation.

Ireland Family Road Trip Itinerary

3 Weeks in Ireland with Kids Itinerary

  • Days 1-3 Belfast, Northern Ireland
  • Day 4 Galway
  • Days 5-10 Connemara Cycle Tour
  • Day 11 Cliffs of Moher
  • Days 12-13 Dingle Peninsula
  • Days 14-18 Killarney National Park
  • Days 19-21 Cork
  • Days 22-24 Dublin

Three Week Ireland Family Vacation Itinerary

Days 1-3 Belfast, Northern Ireland

We had two full days in Belfast with our kids. We spent our first day getting the lay of the land with a walk around Belfast to see some of the sights. We were staying near the town centre so getting around Belfast was easy by walking along the river.

Image of kids kissing the salmon of knowledge in Belfast walking tour

Speaking of walking along the river, Belfast’s riverside walk is quite beautiful. We walked the pathway known as Lagan Towpath and again on our second day, we walked along the river to the Titanic Museum.

Image of girl walking towards Titanic Belfast

We found the two best things to do with kids in Belfast were the Titanic museum and W5. The Titanic museum is really well done and is interactive enough that it keeps kids engaged throughout. It was so good that we included it in our list of top 10 things to do in Ireland with kids.

W5 is home to over 250 fun, interactive exhibits over six exhibition areas. It’s basically a giant play area for kids and they loved it!

Read more on our time in Belfast with kids in this post.

Day 4 Galway

walking Quay Street in Galway Ireland with kids

Galway was just a short bus ride from the starting point for our self-guided cycling tour, so we used it as a stop over from Belfast.

By the time we arrived in Galway by bus from Belfast, it was late afternoon. We were left with enough time to walk Quay Street and have dinner. The next morning we were off to Oughterard by bus to meet with our tour company, Green Marble Tours.

image of Galway Ireland

Days 5-10 Connemara Cycle Tour

We had always dreamed of cycling in Ireland and to be perfectly honest, traveling to Ireland with young kids didn’t leave us feeling all that optimistic about getting to do it on this trip.

We thought it would have to wait until they were cycling on their own. How wrong we were. With a little research, we were able to find Green Marble Tours who offers family-friendly cycling tours in Ireland.

image of two parents on bikes pulling a trailer and one with a kid on a tag-a-long

We were impressed with the quality of equipment Green Marble Tours provided, which is very important.

For kids that were 6 and 4 years old, we went with a bike trailer and a tag-a-long. It turned out to be a great choice. The bike trailer worked for either kid and so did the tag-a-long, allowing the kids to switch off depending on their energy level.

image of woman on bike pulling child trailer with Ireland landscape in the distance

As for the scenery and cycling around Ireland? It was spectacular! Imagine beautiful coastal scenery, charming small villages and tranquil hills and valleys.

We lucked out with some fantastic weather while on Inis Mor and played on the beaches. We stopped at playgrounds in small towns along the way. And we all got drenched in the pouring rain. It’s what family travel memories are made of!

image of man cycling with child on back of bike on Aran Island Inis Mor with view of ocean

This was our favorite part of our family trip to Ireland itinerary. If you have the chance, we highly recommend a self-guided cycling tour like the one we did while in Ireland with kids.

Get even more details on our self-guided family cycling tour in Connemara and visiting the Aran Islands with kids in these posts.

Day 11 Cliffs of Moher

No trip to Ireland is complete without a visit to the Cliffs of Moher. Trust me when I tell you that the famous Irish cliffs are just as dramatic in person! The viewing area near the visitor center is well set up for visiting with kids, while keeping them safe.

cliffs of moher viewing area with views of the cliffs in the distance

We took a bus back from Clifden through Galway and onto Limerick to pick up our rental car. Our first afternoon at the Cliffs of Moher left us completely drenched while walking in very heavy winds and rain. It was so bad we turned back.

The next day, we had slightly better weather and hiked from the visitor center along part of the Cliffs of Moher Coastal trail. This area is not recommended for dogs or children, however we only went as far as the trail was safely away from the edge with a wall to keep the kids in.

image of family walking along path with views of cliffs of moher in distance

Since our visit, it is no longer recommended to walk along the Cliffs of Moher Coastal trail due to the instability of the cliffs. You can read more about hiking beyond the Cliffs of Moher visitor centre here.

Get all the details on visiting the Cliffs of Moher with kids in this post.

Days 12-13 Dingle Peninsula

The drive from the Cliffs of Moher to the Dingle Peninsula is approximately 3 hours. That left us with an afternoon, one full day then the morning before driving on to Kenmare.

image of boy and girl walking on grassy path with beach and cliffs in the distance

Dingle, with it’s rugged coastlines, stunning scenery and charming fishing village was one of the best places to visit in Ireland with kids (or without!).

We spent our full day there hiking the Chlogher Beach Loop, the Dun Chaoin Coastal Loop and the Dunmore Head Loop. These three kid-friendly Dingle hikes weren’t overly difficult, and they were short enough that we were able to do them all in one day.

We even had enough time left over to visit the Dingle OceanWorld Aquarium – a fun thing to do with kids in Dingle.

Image of kids at Dingle OceanWorld Aquarium looking at sharks in a tank

The sun was shining on our final morning on the Dingle Peninsula, so we did one of our favorite things to with kids while traveling – we drove to Inch Beach and spent few hours playing and beachcombing in the sand.

image of girl standing looking at the water on Inch Beach on the Dingle Peninsula Ireland

Read more on our time on the Dingle Peninsula with kids here.

Days 14-18 Killarney National Park

Given how much we love to hike with our kids when we travel, we knew Killarney National Park was a perfect fit for our Ireland driving itinerary. We stayed in nearby Kenmare and explored the area around and including Killarney National Park over 5 days.

image of boy walking down path with the path and mountain in the distance in Killarney NP

On our first day, driving the hour and a half from the Dingle Peninsula to Kenmare, we stopped for a fun little hike in the Rossacroo Forest while we were waiting to check into our Airbnb.

image of boy standing in Rossacroo Forest

Within Killarney National Park, we hiked to the summit of Torc Mountain with kids and cycled the Gap of Dunloe.

Cycling the Gap of Dunloe with kids is high up there as one of our favorite things to do in Ireland with kids. Just make sure you and your kids are up for it, check your bike and brakes before you go and take it slow!

image of cyclist and road on the Gap of Dunloe mountain pass in Killarney National Park

There’s plenty to do around Killarney National Park with kids too. We spent a day hiking around Glengarriff Woods Nature Reserve, which is full of kid friendly trails.

image of kids looking at a bug on a trail in Glengarriff Woods Nature Reserve

Read all about hiking Torc Mountain with kids and even more about Killarney National Park with kids in these posts.

Days 19-21 Cork

Upon leaving Killarney National Park, we weren’t quite ready to return to a big city, so we found one more kid-friendly hike on Sheep’s Head Peninsula. This might have been one of the most beautiful kid-friendly hikes in Ireland and you can read more about it at the end of our Killarney National Park with kids post (linked above).

image of lighthouse on Lighthouse Loop

Now more prepared to do some city exploring, we spent a couple of days in Cork. Our first day we visited the Cork City Gaol, the English Market and Fitzgerald Park Playground (one of the best playgrounds we’ve seen).

Our second day in Cork with kids, we spent much of the day exploring the Blarney Castle Gardens.

image of Blarney Castle and Gardens in Cork Ireland

We were originally hesitant to visit the Blarney Castle, given that we’d heard it was over-hyped and touristy. We were there for 5 hours and had a great time. We do recommend a visit to Blarney Castle with kids, but get there early.

For more on the Blarney Castle and Cork City in our post on Cork with Kids.

Days 22-24 Dublin

Our last stop on our family trip to Ireland was Dublin. We drove from Cork and dropped our car off at the airport, then took a bus into the city centre. After all the time we’d spent in nature, we were in shock at how busy Dublin was.

We expected Dublin to be crowded, and maybe it was because we had spent so much time biking and hiking in Ireland, but we just weren’t ready for it.

image of Poolbeg Lighthouse in Dublin Ireland

We opted to find quieter places to explore around Dublin like Phoenix Park, Sean Moore Park, the Poolbeg Lighthouse and even the Irish Museum of Modern Art.

On our final day in Dublin before flying home, we did what we do best… we found a way to get out of the city and into nature. The walk from Bray to Greystones is one we would highly recommend.

image of dramatic coastline in Ireland
image of two children on pathway from Bray to Greystones in Ireland

While it was busy on a Sunday, it was nothing like what we had seen in Dublin. The entire kid-friendly walk offers stunning ocean vistas and we timed it just right with a beautiful sunny day!

Read more about our time in Dublin with kids here.

2 weeks in Ireland with Kids

To reduce our family trip to Ireland to a 2 week itinerary, the easiest way is remove the cycle tour. While the family cycle tour was the best part of our entire trip to Ireland with kids, it would be hard to fit in much more with a 6 day bike tour.

Instead we offer these suggestions while also doing it in reverse and assuming you are arriving into Dublin. One is with the bike tour and one is without.

2 weeks in Ireland with Kids – No Cycle Tour

To come up with a two week road trip around Ireland with kids, we would make the following changes to our Ireland itinerary above:

  • Remove the time in Belfast, if you are flying into Dublin.
  • Remove the cycle tour for this 2-week Ireland itinerary.
  • Reduce the time in Killarney National Park to 3 days and skip the day to hike Sheep’s Head Lighthouse Loop.
  • Remove 1 day from the time in Cork, without a morning to hike the Lighthouse Loop you can fit in everything in Cork in a two days.
  • Use the time in Dublin at the beginning of your Ireland itinerary to help with jet lag

Your 14 Day Itinerary for Ireland with Kids might look something like this:

  • Day 1 Dublin – Arrival
  • Day 2 Dublin – City Walking
  • Day 3 Dublin – Hike Bray to Greystones
  • Day 4 Cork – Arrival (3 hr drive) City walking & Fitzgerald Park
  • Day 5 Cork – Blarney Castle & Gardens
  • Day 6 Killarney NP – Arrival (1.5 hr drive) Muckross House and Torc waterfall
  • Day 7 Killarney NP – Cycle Gap of Dunloe
  • Day 8 Killarney NP – Summit Torc Mountain or explore area surrounding Killarney NP
  • Day 9 Dingle – Arrival (1+hr drive) Explore Dingle
  • Day 10 Dingle – Hike the Dun Chaoin Coastal Loop and the Dunmore Head Loop
  • Day 11 Cliffs of Moher – Visit a Dingle beach then drive 3 hrs to Cliffs of Moher Accommodations
  • Day 12 Cliffs of Moher – Visit Cliffs of Moher        
  • Day 13 Galway – Explore Galway
  • Day 14 Dublin – Drive to Dublin to fly home

2 weeks in Ireland with Kids – With Cycle Tour

To keep the Ireland cycle tour, here’s a sample itinerary:

  • Day 1 Dublin – Arrival
  • Day 2 Dublin – City walking or hike Bray to Greystones
  • Day 3 Galway – Explore Galway
  • Day 4 Oughterard – Arrive in preparation for Cycle Tour
  • Day 5-10 Cycle Tour 6 days – Inishmore, Carna, Clifden & departure day where you get to Cliffs of Moher
  • Day 11 Cliffs of Moher – Visit Cliffs of Moher        
  • Day 12 Killarney NP – Arrival (3 hr drive) Muckross House and Torc waterfall
  • Day 13 Killarney NP – Cycle Gap of Dunloe
  • Day 14 Dublin – In preparation for flying home

An 10 Day Family Trip to Ireland Itinerary

To Reduce it to an Ireland 10 Day Itinerary while keeping the Cycle Tour

To reduce our Ireland family trip itinerary even further, this is how we would spend 10 days in Ireland with kids:

  • Days 1-3 Fly into Dublin and get over jet lag
  • Day 4 Galway
  • Days 5-10 Connemara Cycle Tour
  • Day 11 Dublin to fly home

Without the cycle tour a sample 10 day itinerary for Ireland with kids might look like this:

  • Day 1 Dublin – Arrival
  • Day 2 Dublin – City Walking or Hike Bray to Greystones
  • Day 3 Cork – Arrival (3 hr drive) City walking & Fitzgerald Park
  • Day 4 Cork – Blarney Castle & Gardens
  • Day 5 Killarney NP – Arrival (1.5 hr drive) Muckross House and Torc waterfall
  • Day 6 Killarney NP – Cycle Gap of Dunloe
  • Day 7 Dingle – Arrival (1+hr drive) Explore Dingle + hike Dunmore Head Loop
  • Day 8 Cliffs of Moher – Visit a Dingle beach then drive 3 hrs to Cliffs of Moher  
  • Day 9 Galway – Explore Galway
  • Day 10 Dublin – Early drive to Dublin to fly home

What to Pack for Ireland with Kids

If you’ve visited our blog before, you know our family trips are usually pretty active. We always try to be as prepared for the weather as possible and plan to be outside exploring nature, rain or shine.

For traveling our family trip to Ireland, we knew this would mean rain gear for everyone. The items in our full packing list for Ireland, we consider “must haves” for anyone planning to travel to Ireland with kids.

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