Family Travel

You are currently browsing the archive for the Family Travel category.

Some say Irish dogs are different from other dogs: more soulful, wiser, friendlier even. Hmmm, maybe… maybe not… However, let me tell you about one fabulous Irish dog!

Years ago, I was traveling around Ireland with several American friends, one of whom had lived in Dublin as a child for several years. She observed that Irish dogs were quite different to dogs in other countries, they were “purposeful.” Rather than wandering or straying, Irish dogs appeared to do things deliberately, purposefully, with their tails high and a definite goal in mind.

official neighborhood greeterAs we explored small towns and villages, we began to see the local dogs through her eyes. They did indeed seem very busy, and appeared to have goals and direction. They’d trot down the street, stopping to greet people and other dogs, tails wagging, a glint in their eyes, and after a moments’ connection, would resume their course with every appearance of purpose.

Every year, I’m reminded of purposeful dogs because, as my family prepares to spend the summer in Ireland, one of our children will comment, “I wonder if Prince is still there?Read the rest of this entry »

One of the biggest tourist attractions in Ireland is Tayto Park, but it’s one that many overseas visitors skip because they haven’t the faintest idea what it is.

Tayto Park Bus

Tayto Park is Ireland’s answer to Six Flags or Disneyworld. It’s primarily a theme park, but it also involves a small zoo, and was conceived as a marketing stunt for a potato crisp company. (In America, they’re called potato chips, but in Ireland they’re crisps.) Consequently, nobody but Irish residents know what the heck Tayto Park is… After bringing my two kids there this summer, we can all vouch for the fact that Tayto Park is tremendous fun! Read the rest of this entry »

Wicklow is a great corner of Ireland if what you love is rugged scenery and outdoor pursuits. The mountains are picturesque, windswept, and just crying out to be the backdrop for your own romantic adventure. Helen Fairbairn’s Dublin & Wicklow: A Walking Guide will ensure you don’t get lost on your trek, nor (if you follow her advice) will you find yourself hopelessly out of your depth.

Dublin & Wicklow: A Walking Guide by Helen Fairbairn

Dublin & Wicklow: A Walking Guide by Helen Fairbairn

Beginning in Dublin, the routes Fairbairn details take you more-or-less gradually further and further into Wicklow, which is useful if you intend to follow the Wicklow Way for several days, or string a couple of paths together for a longer hiking experience. (Note on jargon: Americans go hiking, the Irish go walking. I use them interchangeably.) Each walk is graded for difficulty, so you can quickly find hikes appropriate for your party’s fitness level. Read the rest of this entry »

If you want to go off the beaten path in Ireland and wow your friends with spectacular photographs, you need to find the Dark Hedges.

dark hedges lighterOne of the most-photographed, yet least-visited, places in Ireland is an avenue of beech trees along the Bregagh Road near Ballymoney in Co. Antrim, known fancifully as the Dark Hedges. Planted over 200 years ago, the trees were originally intended to enhance the avenue leading to the Georgian splendor of Gracehill House, owned by the Stuart family. Whoever had the original idea was a true visionary, as the full glory of a beech avenue would not be visible in their lifetime because the trees take so long to grow. Read the rest of this entry »

The most quintessentially Irish experience you can have is not posing with an over-priced pint in Temple Bar, nor wearing an aran jumper in a futile attempt to block out an Atlantic gale, it’s one you can run into any evening of the year just a few miles outside any Irish town or city: getting stuck behind a herd of cows coming in from the fields.

Rush hour, Irish style.

Rush hour, Irish style.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Giro d’Italia came to Ireland this summer, and you can still trace its path through various parts of the country by the way everything was painted pink.

McCollam's Restaurant and Pub went completely pink for the Giro d'Italia, and hung a lot of bicycle wheels on the building for good measure.

McCollam’s Restaurant and Pub went completely pink for the Giro d’Italia, and hung a lot of bicycle wheels on the building for good measure.

The village of Cushendall in Co. Antrim, was every excited about the Giro, and appears to have gone out of their way to get in the appropriate spirit. While other communities made do with a few posters and the odd splash of pink, Cushendall went all out, painting buildings, cars, and bicycles, and hanging pink bunting everywhere. Read the rest of this entry »

Dublin has many famous landmarks, but one that should be more famous is the “Hungry Tree,” which is slowly digesting a park bench.

Hungry Tree 1In the grounds of the King’s Inns, the training ground of centuries of Irish lawyers and barristers, stands a vast London Plane tree of unknown age. Although listed as one of Ireland’s Heritage Trees by the Tree Council of Ireland, but its real claim to fame is the park bench it’s been slowly swallowing up over time.  Read the rest of this entry »

Fore Abbey is one of the lesser-known monastic ruins in Ireland, which is a shame, as it’s a great place for a family day out, offering places to climb, a stream to play in, a rag tree to decorate, and hills to explore. 

Fore Abbey Rag Tree

The Rag Tree with Fore Abbey in the background.

Founded about 630 by St. Fechin, Fore Abbey lies near Lough Lene in Co. Westmeath. The original monastic community was largely rebuilt by the Benedictines in the 13th and 15th centuries, and these comprise most of the ruins you can visit today.

In its heyday, there were seven “Wonders of Fore,” but not all are verifiable anymore. These were:

  1. The monastery in a bog
  2. The mill without a stream
  3. Water that flows uphill
  4. The tree that won’t burn
  5. Water that won’t boil
  6. The anchorite in a cell
  7. The lintel-stone raised by St. Fechin’s prayers

Read the rest of this entry »

Some people say that Cadbury’s Dairy Milk Chocolate tastes different on opposite sides of the border between Northern Ireland and The Republic of Ireland. So, we happily put that claim to the test.

Cadbury's Dairy Milk as purchased in the Republic of Ireland (L) and Northern Ireland (R)

Cadbury’s Dairy Milk as purchased in the Republic of Ireland (L) and Northern Ireland (R)

My family are big chocolate fans. When we return from a trip to Ireland, we bring quite a lot of chocolate back with us (Roses and various Cadbury bars are the favorites). So, when a friend mentioned stocking up on Dairy Milk in Northern Ireland because it tasted better, I had to test it out. On a trip to the Giant’s Causeway we purchased a “Northern” Dairy Milk, and later bought a “Southern” one at a Dunnes Stores in Co. Meath. Then, we attempted a quasi-scientific (aka, totally unscientific) test to establish if they taste the same or not. Read the rest of this entry »

By far the most cost-effective way to enjoy Ireland’s heritage sites is by purchasing an OPW Heritage Card.

OPW Heritage Card (credit: Photographic Unit, Department of Arts Heritage & the Gaeltacht)

OPW Heritage Card
(credit: Photographic Unit, Department of Arts Heritage & the Gaeltacht)

The Office of Public Works (OPW) manage and maintain the monuments and historic properties that are in state ownership (which are the bulk of the significant and famous sites). Many of the smaller sites and ruins are freely accessible, as there are no guides or facilities on-site, you just open the gate and explore at your own pace. However, all of the major attractions (Newgrange, Trim Castle, The Hill of Tara, The Cliffs of Moher, etc.) do require a ticket to enter, and in return provide excellent interpretation, tours, and facilities.

Read the rest of this entry »

« Older entries