I made a list. I had to. Otherwise the summer would slip by in a blur of rain and groceries and the occasional overcast barbecue, and suddenly it would be September 1st. If we were going to do some day trips, I’d need a list. So I wrote down some of last year’s most successful outings, and some new ones to try this year, and stuck it on the calendar. And like last year, it worked – the list made us get out there and do it. Here’s how we got on:
(to see how we got on last year in Clara Lara, Kilruddery House and Gardens, Tayto Park, Glendalough, and Rathbeggan Lakes, click here: Five day trips near Dublin)
1. Wells House and Gardens
Wells House and Gardens is in Wexford, so not necessarily somewhere to go on a last minute whim, but it only took an hour and twenty minutes. What stood out first and foremost was the price – you pay by car and it’s just €8. So the pressure was off immediately – even if it rained (as it had done during the drive down) we’d get ourselves coffee and cake in the tea room and not feel too hard done by. As it turned out, the sun shone for the whole afternoon, and we got to do a lot more than cake. First up was the fairy-door dotted Lady Frances Walk – a wander through the forest, with stop-offs to check out wood carved animals, a wishing well and a Gruffalo. We saw real fairies too – we’re sure of it.
We had lunch on the terrace – the food was very good and very reasonable – then some time at the playground, then we tried archery. We didn’t leave ourselves enough time to check out the animals, but it’s an excuse to go back another time. We finished the day by picking up some strawberries on the road home. When in Wexford…
First reaction from the kids: What do you mean Wexford is not in Dublin?
Final verdict from the kids: This is the best place ever – when can we come back? And can I do archery lessons?
Cost: €8 per car
What we loved: Everything! The Lady Frances Walk, the fairy doors, the Gruffalo, the wishing well, the playground, the archery, the food, the price, and the real fairies*.
(*may have been midges)
The bad bits: Nothing. It was a perfect day trip and we’ll definitely do it again.
2. Powerscourt Waterfall
We put Powerscourt Waterfall on the list because it’s not too far away and we hadn’t been in years, but it’s safe to say the kids were bemused when we said where we were going. “So, like, it’s a waterfall? And what else is there?” they asked. Undeterred, we packed a picnic and bundled them into the car on a warm but overcast Sunday afternoon in June.
The waterfall is breathtaking to look at, and wonderful for climbing – the kids clambered over the rocks, exploring and jumping and being brave. There’s loads of space for picnics, and lots of people bring their own barbecues. Once the kids had eaten the treats and I’d had all I could take of the mosquitoes, we decamped to the very good playground for part two.
First reaction from the kids: So, is there anything except a waterfall there?
Final verdict from the kids: The waterfall was good but the playground was great!
Cost: We paid €16 for five of us
What we loved: Climbing on rocks, having adventures, being brave.
The bad bits: The mosquitos.
3. Djouce Woods
We attempted to go to Glendalough one sunny day in early summertime, as did so many hundreds of other people, that the police were turning cars back on the last leg of the journey. We didn’t want to go home, so put Djouce Woods into Sat Nav, and made our way there.
We found a clearing for our picnic, then went exploring. It struck me that the kids are unused to being anywhere that’s completely natural – no ice cream vans, no playgrounds, no sweet shops. They climbed over logs, took in the views, and complained about mud. We may need to work on their outdoorsieness. The kids liked it, the grown-ups loved it.
First reaction from the kids: But what can you actually do here?
Final verdict from the kids: I liked it but it just has too many flies and too much mud.
What we loved: Peace and quiet, that forest feeling.
The bad bits: The kids moaning…
4. Killiney Hill
I’m not sure travelling 5km earns the name “day trip” but this is one of our favourite spots, and it has everything, starting with a relatively easy walk that nevertheless makes the kids feel like they’re doing a proper trek:
a stop to look at the sea as you near the top
and fantastic views of Dublin once you get there
There’s also loads of parking, a playground, a coffee-shop, and loads of space for running and climbing. And an obelisk, perfect for kids who want to run around and around and around.
First reaction from the kids: Yay! Can we go to the playground after?
Final verdict from the kids: That was great, now can we go to the playground?
What we loved: The exploring, the rock clambering, the undergrowth roaming, the running, and most of all, the view.
The bad bits: Nothing. This is truly one of my favourite spots in the world.
We’ve been promising the kids for a long time that we’d take them all the way over to the land that they can see from Dun Laoghaire – to them it’s like another country in the hazy distance, and the fact that it’s still Dublin was completely irrelevant when we set off on our journey one warm Sunday afternoon. When we got there, weren’t sure where we were going, so we wandered down the West Pier and let the kids explore on the rocks, looking out to sea. It was picture postcard pretty despite the hazy sky, and there was a sense of having landed in a fishing village in the middle of nowhere, as we gazed back at faraway Dun Laoghaire.
We walked back down from the sea, peeking in at each of the many seafood restaurants to see which might suit. All the outdoor seats were taken, so we decided to get Burdock’s Fish and Chips and eat sitting on a blanket. As we sat on the green, staring off the seagulls (seriously, there’s a Hitchcock movie in the current Seagull situation in Dublin) a train pulled up, and in true holiday spirit, we jumped on. It took us up to nearby Howth Castle, then back down to the town. It was a relatively short journey and it was difficult to hear the driver over the crackly speaker system but hey, kids and trains – it was worth it. We checked out a second-hand book-sale in the old court-house, then walked down to the market for a browse around stalls of jewellery, wood carvings, pastries and cup cakes. Fully in holiday mode now, we got ice-creams for the kids, coffees for ourselves, and finished the afternoon in the playground.
First reaction from the kids: So, how far is this place – is it in a different country?
Final verdict from the kids: We love Howth and it has the best fish and chips ever!
Cost: Free, and then we opted to take the train which was €14 for five of us
What we loved: The views, the seaside fishing village feel, the fish and chip picnic.
The bad bits: The seagulls, but that’s not Howth’s fault – they are EVERYWHERE…
6. Kia Ora Mini-Farm
It was our last day-trip of the summer, so it needed to be good. And I’d heard Kia Ora Farm in Gorey was great. The sun was shining in Dublin, so we packed a picnic, and headed south. The rain started before we hit the Wexford border, and by the time we reached the farm, it was pelting down. My husband and I looked at each other – how could we salvage this disastrous trip? We looked at the kids, but they were gone – they had seen tractors and trikes, rabbits and parrots, go-karts and diggers, sand pits and hula hoops. The only thing they couldn’t see was the rain.
There’s so much to do in Kia Ora, the weather didn’t matter at all – there’s an indoor play area, a barn full of rabbits to pet, and a sand pit that’s covered over too. There’s a fire engine that brings you on a tour of the farm – the kids sang along to the songs that were playing and seemed oblivious to the fact that we weren’t able to see anything because of the rain. And that was the theme of the day really – oblivion. All the stuff that makes grown-ups feel that the day is a washout doesn’t matter at all to the kids. They loved Kia Ora Farm.
First reaction from the kids: What do you mean we’re going to a farm? To do farm work like?
Final verdict from the kids: What do you mean the day trip is over? We want to stay!
Cost: €35 for the five of us
What we loved: The trikes, tractors, go-karts, animals, sand-pit, fire engine.
The bad bits: Well, the rain – but that wasn’t Kia Ora Farm’s fault. I suspect we’ll have to go back in the sun.
A few extra mentions:
One for Airfield – we visited on a recent Sunday and had one of the best day trips of the summer – you can read about it here: Airfield Escape.
Clara Lara was the place the kids were most keen to revisit after last summer, and though it was a lot busier this year and queues were longer, it didn’t disappoint.
And finally, Dun Laoghaire gets a mention again this year, because on a sunny evening, there’s nothing in the world like fish and chips on the pier.
Some of this year’s trips were inspired by comments on last year’s post, so if you’ve got a suggestion, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below or on Facebook or Twitter. Then we’re all set for next year – all we need is a little less rain.