I sat down to write a post about the fab FREE things to do in Ireland this summer and, in all honesty, we’ll be here until next summer if I start reaming them off.
And I’d still miss out on local gems only personal visits to an area can find.
So, I’ve come at this from a different angle.
Here’s our 13 power tips for planning summer trips!
1. Tech is your friend when planning walks & hikes
Coillte has an excellent site detailing the many walks and activities available at their forests.
Find a link to their interactive map of nationwide locations here.
You can enjoy orienteering at many of these sites, as well as other paid activities, which can make these trips more fun for older kids and teens.
A step up from orienteering is Geocaching, which is basically a treasure hunt outdoors using GPS. This is something to keep in mind for older kids and teens when planning outings. There are many locations across Ireland set up for Geocaching. Find details here.
AllTrails.com is another go-to app when planning walks & hikes in Ireland. Find the link here.
It details a huge number of walks and trails right across the country and you’ll find lots in your own home county too. Give it a try when you’re next stuck for something to do with your family.
For walks & hikes, make sure to check out the parking situation beforehand as this can be tricky in places. Also look at the weather forecast, accessibility for buggies or wheelchairs, the gradient of the walk (how much uphill), pack snacks and drinks, and let someone know where you’re going. Don’t forget you have to get yourselves back to the car too, so take on a manageable distance.
If you plan a hike off the beaten track, start small with a trail you can all manage with ease and that’s not too far off grid. Make sure you know where the walk starts and finishes – this isn’t always clear when you arrive at some trails- and also what markings to follow when on the walk! If you’re unsure, google the walk and you’ll usually find more info about it. Also ask people along the way if you’re unsure where you are or the distance to the end.
2. Hit the National Parks
There are 6 fantastic national parks in Ireland, each worth a visit at some point. There are many activities to enjoy in these parks, as well as scenic drives and walks.
Find details of the parks here.
3. Think heritage, Think Nature
You can plan fun, adventure filled days exploring the 70 heritages sites scattered around Ireland, many of which have FREE entry.
Find something to enjoy, from the national botanic gardens, many public gardens, mansion houses & estates, ruins, castles, abbey’s, archaeological centers like Cèide Fields and ancient sites like Newgrange and Knowth.
Use the interactive map of heritage sites around the country to get some ideas. Just pick a pin near you and go explore. I love a map like this as I can usually pick a destination within a few minutes of browsing, especially when I have time off during the school holidays.
Take advantage of the Free Entry on the First Wednesday of Every Month at many of these heritage Sites – find a listing of the venues here: https://www.heritageireland.ie/assets/uploads/2022/01/Free-Wednesday-Jan2022.pdf
Download the handy brochure and dip in when you have time on your hands.
Irish Heritage Trust has four large properties which can be explored also. Find details of their venues here https://www.irishheritagetrust.ie/our-properties/
Noticenature.ie is a fab site to find inspiration for days outdoors in Nature this summer. Find the link here.
Use the interactive map of Ireland to see what’s in your area or beyond.
The map shows all the Irish national parks, nature reserves, ancient monuments & heritage sites, UNESCO sites, tourist offices and more. You’re bound to find something to explore with this jam-packed map.
Additional places worth noting:
Offaly: Lough Boora Discovery Park, Offaly (Bord Na Mona site)
Kilkenny: Castlecomer Discovery park – some walks, fairy trails and playground are free. Many activities on site are paid activities.
Roscommon: Loughnaneane Sculpture Trail
4. Make use of Free Museums & galleries
We have an abundance of FREE museums in Ireland. Many of these are based in Dublin it must be said, but not in all cases.
Visit www.museum.ie to get details of these great venues with FREE admission.
National Museum of Ireland – Decorative Arts & History
National Museum of Ireland - Natural History (otherwise known as the “Dead Zoo”)
National Museum of Ireland – Archaeology
National Library of Ireland
Dublin - National Gallery
Dublin - Hugh Lane Gallery
Dublin – Irish of Modern Art
Dublin – National Library of Ireland
Dublin – James Joyce Museum & tower
Dublin - Chester Beatty Library
Dublin – Garda Museum
Mayo: National Museum of Ireland – Country Life
Sligo- Sligo County Museum
Kildare - Museum of Style Icons
Galway – Galway City Museum
Cork - Cork Public Museum
West Meath – Luan Gallery
Limerick – The Hunt Museum has free periods at weekends.
Limerick – Limerick City Gallery of Art
Antrim - Ulster Museum
Monaghan- Monaghan County Museum
5. Cycle a greenway
Ireland has a fine network of Greenways at this point, so why not plan a trip around exploring one this summer.
Find Greenways in Ireland here.
6. Keep things simple - visit an unexplored park or playground
There are some gorgeous public parks in and around Dublin and many have great playgrounds too. Why not explore new parks this summer when you have time on your hands? It’s inexpensive and you can amp up the fun factor with a picnic too.
Find new parks to explore in your area of Dublin below:
· Dublin City - Use https://www.dublincity.ie/residential/parks/dublin-city-parks/visit-park
· South Dublin - https://www.sdcc.ie/en/services/sport-and-recreation/parks/
· Dun Laoghaire Rathdown - https://www.dlrcoco.ie/en/parks-and-outdoors/parks
Search “public parks” together with your county name to find details of public parks and amenities through your own county council website. There are many to find and explore.
7. Follow the Dublin Native Tree Trails
Follow some of the 9 Native Tree Trails located across Dublin parks for a FREE, fun, afternoon outdoors. Print the handy activity booklets for each park and get the kids involved in the activities provided as you explore.
Cheap, cheerful and creative too!
Find details here.
8. Sprinkle a little magic on a Fairy Trail
Fairy Trails are a big hit with many kids and a useful nudge when an ordinary “walk” seems like a borefest to them!
Find some great nationwide Fairy Trails listed below:
I can also recommend another one:
Belvedere House & Gardens, West Meath http://www.belvederehouse.ie/Explore/The,Fairy,Garden/
This really is a special little garden and adds extra twinkle to a day trip at this lovely house & gardens.
You can find more Fairy Trails when you search online.
9. Go chasing waterfalls!
Looking to explore a waterfall this summer? Find details of the best waterfalls in Ireland here.
10. Get close to Nature with wild swimming
Sea & lake swimming, or paddling if you’re more like me, is one of the best parts of summer. Find some of the best and safest sea swimming spots in Ireland here.
When seaside bound, dip into the many seaside activities we have collected in the Nature Days Activity Finder - Easy Breezy Nature Days
Always take care when near water, supervise children at all times, watch for currents, tides and try to avoid inflatable toys if they may float away.
11. Hidden Gems & local favourites
When holidaying around Ireland, or out on day trips, ask locals for their recommendations for places to visit. Often, these little gems are well worth a detour and add to the sense of adventure when you find new places.
12. Get Inspo on the Gram
When it comes to the outdoors, there are a few bloggers that I follow for inspo. One that may interest you is @thefamilyedit
You can find lots of inspiration when visiting counties across Ireland on her website here.
13. Nature Days Activity Finder
Finally, Nature Days is all about making the most of the outdoors wherever you are. So, no matter where the destination, dip into the Nature Days Activity Finder to add the fun when out and about.
Many of the 15 minute and 30 minute activities work great as park of longer walks or days out too.
As we always say here on Nature Days –
Bring the fun and the kids will come!
I hope this little guide helps get your summer rocking and rolling.
Have fun along the way!