County Clare with Kids – Ireland Family Vacation Guide

by Jody Halsted

IRELAND, County Clare with Kids – Thatch-roofed cottages rest amid a maze of stone walls. Fluffy sheep sprinkle the rocky hills. Towering cliffs march in formation to meet the crash of the ocean. And in the air lingers the promise of unrivaled craic and entertainment. County Clare, in the heart of Ireland’s western shores, awaits visitors with the stuff Irish travel dreams are made of: castles, megalithic tombs, majestic abbeys weathered by time, and then some.

The 411 on County Clare with kids, Ireland

As home to Ireland’s second international gateway, Shannon Airport, it’s easy to plan your Ireland itinerary to start or end with a stay in County Clare. Either way, these are my top recommendations for what to do, where to eat, and where to stay in County Clare with kids.

Activity 1: Step Back in Time at Bunratty Castle & Folk Park

The towering entrance to Bunratty Castle in County Clare.

The towering entrance to Bunratty Castle in County Clare.

Built around 1425, restored in the mid-1940s, and opened to the public as a National Monument in 1962, Bunratty Castle is the most complete and authentically restored and furnished castle in Ireland. Visitors can explore the castle from down in the dungeon up to its battlements, where an excellent view of the folk village stretches below. Traditional cottages from across Ireland present how most of the country lived a century ago.

After your castle tour, a walk through the village takes you through education, trading, and even a pub from days gone by (take time for tea or a pint!). Interactions with costumed characters bring the cottages and village to life, while a new playground, enchanting fairy forest, and a multitude of animals guarantee the kids will enjoy their visit.

 

Activity 2: Discover the Beauty of the Burren

Burren colt at County Clare

A Burren beauty by the sea.

Far from being a place of barren desolation, the Burren is a wonderfully diverse area bursting with life and liveliness! Adventurous families love the myriad of outdoor activities. Choose from cycling and hiking through the stone-fenced landscape to surfing and kayaking along the rocky shores.

Younger children will enjoy nature walks with friendly goats at the Burren Nature Sanctuary, sheepdog demonstrations at Caherconnell Fort, or falconry shows at Aillwee Caves.

Be sure to search out farms and restaurants along the Burren Food Trail and see the path food takes from farm to plate. With over two dozen members, you can follow the food story as you see fit–from hands-on activities to just enjoying the delicious end result.

Traditional Irish music fills Burren-area pubs most nights so be sure to inquire at your lodging. Most pubs allow well behaved children to stay into the evening, so you may want to plan an afternoon nap into your day!

 

Activity 3: Explore the Cliffs of Moher By Land and By Sea

The Cliffs of Moher at sunset.

The Cliffs of Moher at sunset.

The Cliffs of Moher have been Ireland’s #1 natural attraction for at least two hundred years, and for good reason. The views along the towering cliffs are simply stunning.

Begin your Cliffs experience in the visitors center. There you can explore the defining elements of the Cliffs of Moher before “The Ledge” takes you on a bird’s eye virtual reality tour just off the cliffs.

Be prepared for walking as you exit the visitors center as it’s quite a climb to O’Brien’s Tower, the viewing center built in 1835. Stone pathways are stroller friendly and a variety of viewing platforms offer different views of the majestic cliffs.

Beyond the pathways at the Cliffs of Moher Visitors Center there is a 20km walk, from Liscannor to Doolin, along the top of the cliffs. (Please use discretion if you plan to do this with children- it is not recommended for those under 8 years old; there are no trails for strollers.)

Once you’ve visited the Cliffs of Moher from the top, why not see them from below–by boat? Doolin2Aran Ferries in nearby Doolin offers a one-hour Cliffs Cruise. And if you think the cliffs were massive from the top, wait ‘til you view them from below!

 

Activity 4: Experience a Medieval Banquet

Medieval banquet County Clare

Enjoy a medieval banquet during your visit to County Clare with kids. Shown above: The banquet hall at Knappogue Castle.

Treat your lords and ladies to dinner at the castle! Shannon Heritage offers Medieval Banquets in both Bunratty and nearby Knappogue Castle.

You’ll be welcomed by the Earl’s butler and one of the ladies of the house. They’ll offer a bit of wine (or juice) and entertainment in the gathering room. Appetites whet and ears indulged, they’ll lead you to the dining hall where tables are set for your arrival.

During the four course dinner, guests are serenaded by the ladies of the castle. And after dinner, the entertainments become a bit livelier with storytelling, song, and dance.

Not sure your kids would enjoy the Medieval Banquet? Not to worry: Bunratty also offers a Traditional Irish Night in the corn barn! It’s a lively evening of laughter, foot stomping, and dancing.

1 Great Place for Families to Stay in Clare: Choose a Castle!

View from the garden of Knappogue Castle in County Clare

View from the garden of Knappogue Castle in County Clare

A castle stay is the most requested of Irish lodgings! County Clare offers two incredible options:

For families looking for 5-star treatment, Dromoland Castle offers an unforgettable stay. Rooms designed for families include kid-sized bathrobes, a selection of board games, and milk & cookies at bedtime.

But you really won’t spend much time in the room as Dromoland has dozens of estate activities to keep your family busy! Be sure to schedule time with the falconry and test your aim with archery. Babysitting can even be arranged, allowing mom and dad a luxurious evening in the Earl of Thomond Restaurant.

If you’ve ever wished to be Lord or Lady of the Castle, then book at least two nights at Knappogue Castle. Above the dining hall are the Private Quarters–luxurious rooms available for private rental. You’ve space enough to sleep 10. Enjoy two sitting rooms, 4 bathrooms, and a large, modern kitchen. Better still? Two ‘fairy godmothers’ arrive each morning to prepare a large breakfast, setting you right for your day of exploring.

The large walled garden to the rear of the castle and the small, gated garden at the front are both yours to enjoy. Knappogue Castle is no longer open to tours so few visitors arrive during the day, making it truly feel like this is ‘your’ castle.

 

1 Great Place to Eat in County Clare with Kids: Kilshanny House

Kilshanny House in County Clare.

Small bites with big flavor at Kilshanny House in County Clare.

County Clare has more than its share of incredible eateries. One place we return again and again is Kilshanny House. Located in the heart of Kilshanny village this small, two-person establishment is ‘the local’. Here you’re as likely to find nearby farmers enjoying an afternoon pint as you are to find a tourist in for a meal.

Mary uses hyper-local ingredients in the house fare. And what’s more, she serves them with a presentation you would expect to find in a Michelin-starred restaurant, not a small country pub. Each bite explodes with natural flavors and very nearly melts in your mouth.

Aidan, her partner, mans the bar quietly, a perfect Irish publican. He’s a wonderful listener (and a great baker of bread!). But if you ask him about the history of the bar and the changes he has made? His eyes begin to really sparkle and the storyteller comes out.

Though the food is memorable and the craic is high, what will truly entrance you about Kilshanny House is the feeling of community. You may enter a stranger but when you leave you’re a friend–and isn’t that what everyone hopes for when they visit Ireland?

More features to help with your Ireland travels:

Ten things you should know before traveling to Ireland with kids

Six amazing Ireland family vacation destinations

Dublin with kids Family Vacation Guide

How to live like a local family during travel

Ten things you should always pack for travel

County Cork with Kids Family Vacation Guide

Ten things you should do before booking family vacation rentals

County Galway with Kids Family Vacation Guide

Northern Ireland with Kids Family Vacation Guide

Travel with Teens: Tips for Getting and Renewing U.S. passports for kids 15 to 17 years

Baby gear rental and equipment hire in Ireland and Europe

Nine Amazing Family Vacations Abroad + Tips

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5 comments

Amanda Keeley-Thurman April 4, 2017 - 12:04 pm

So excited. I have been told this is where my family is from. I would love to visit someday. I love the idea of the medieval banquet and Irish night! So fun!

Shelly Rivoli July 19, 2016 - 11:20 am

I would be tempted to go for any one of these activities, but I’m not sure I’d even imagined a medieval banquet — would be such a special treat with the kids!

Jody Halsted (@IrelandFamTrvl) July 27, 2016 - 7:04 am

It’s definitely a memorable event!

Wandering Educators July 19, 2016 - 9:29 am

What great recommendations! I love the castle!!

Jody Halsted (@IrelandFamTrvl) July 27, 2016 - 7:03 am

The Folk Park just received some great new updates this year! Time for another visit!

Comments are closed.

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