What’s on your summer bucket list?

A selective guide to places to go and things to do with the family

Tom and Aisling Brennan in the Amococo, a luminarium, at Spraoi, in Waterford

Tom and Aisling Brennan in the Amococo, a luminarium, at Spraoi, in Waterford

Tue, Jul 1, 2014, 01:00

We’re into week one of school holidays for all. Anybody bored yet? Overscheduling is a curse of modern childhood, so, when the whirl stops, it takes a while to adjust. And, of course, when both parents are working outside the home, a different sort of schedule has to kick in.

Work commitments apart, summer should be about spontaneity. However it’s worth planning some days out, not only to punctuate down-time at home but also to capitalise on all the family entertainment on offer around the country.

So, with the weeks stretching ahead, what’s on your summer bucket list? Apart from the “must-dos” of picnics, swims, walks in the woods and a bag of chips by the seaside, here are a few suggestions, with a focus on the free, as well as the new.


Free Wednesdays

It would be a good idea to tick off one of the heritage sites run by the Office of Public Works tomorrow or on August 6th because, on the first Wednesday of the month, there is free admission to many of them. These include: Charles Fort, Kinsale, Co Cork; Kilmainham Gaol, Dublin; Trim Castle, Co Meath, Dunmore Cave, Co Kilkenny and the John F Kennedy Aboretum, Co Wexford. See heritageireland.ie

National Play Day

There will be free fun and games in Dublin’s Merrion Square park this Sunday, July 6th, from 2-5pm, to celebrate National Play Day. Skipping, marbles, penalty shoot-outs, obstacle courses, dress up and den-building will be among the activities available. sugradh.org

For the day that’s in it, check what might be going on in your local area. For instance, in south Dublin, the annual, free teddy bears’ picnic, incorporating games for National Play Day, is on in Blackrock park, 1pm-5pm: bring a bear and a blanket. And, if there’s an ailing bear in your family, treatment will be available at a “field” hospital. dlrevents.ie

Tipp hurler Ronan Maher with Rachelle (16) and Patrick (14) Bowden at the launch of Festival of Gaelic Sport 

Festive fun

No matter where you are in Ireland this summer, there will be a festival, big or small, near you, with children’s events, many of them free. From the headline international festivals such as Galway Arts (July 14th-27th, giaf.ie) and Kilkenny Arts (August 8th-17th, kilkennyarts.ie) to more local affairs, such as the Clonmel Junction Festival, Co Tipperary (July 4th-13th, junctionfestival.com) and Sneem Family Festival in the Ring of Kerry (July 16th-20th, sneemfamilyfestival.com), you’ll be surprised how much is going on out there.

New this year is the Festival of Gaelic Sport in Thurles, Co Tipperary, from July 4th-12th,with more than 100 teams due to travel for the “Fleadh agus Failte” in the home of hurling.

What used to be the Street Performance World Championship has evolved into Laya Healthcare’s City Spectacular, which runs in Dublin’s Merrion Square July 11th-13th and in Cork’s Fitzgerald Park, July 19th-20th. All events free. cityspectacular.com

The street spectacle Spraoi (above) in Co Waterford (August 1st-3rd, spraoi.com) is definitely one to catch. Bedtime must wait for the big parade, which kicks off at 9.30pm on the final day and culminates in fireworks.

Passion for purple

There’s free entry to the Wexford Lavender Farm at Inch, near Gorey, which opened last April. Facilities include a visitor centre, outdoor playground and indoor playroom, and a cafe. There are woodland walks, ranging in length from two to six kilometres (not suitable for buggies/wheelchairs), but children are sure to want to cadge a ride (€2.50 per child) on the “Billy the Bull” barrel train. wexfordlavenderfarm.com

Go for a laugh

Billed as “Ireland’s first dedicated comedy festival for children”, FunnyFest at the Ark in Dublin’s Temple Bar kicks off this Saturday (July 5th) and runs until August 24th. In addition to stand-up comedy gigs for families (aged six-plus) with comedians such as Kevin Gildea, Bec Hill, Paul Tylak and Reuben, there will be workshops on different themes, including slapstick and comedy animation, for varying age groups. Prices from €8 a head. ark.ie

King of the castles

A brand new visitor centre with plenty of interactive, interpretative exhibits opened last summer in the medieval King John’s Castle in the heart of Limerick. Touch-screen technology, 3D models and ghostly projections make the visit great fun for children – in a Horrible Histories kind of way. Online rates: adults €8, children 5-16 €4.50, 0-5 free. shannonheritage.com

James Archbold from Tallaght with Ronan and Neala O Morain from Dalkey in one of the Overend vintage
James Archbold from Tallaght with Ronan and Neala O Morain from Dalkey in one of the Overend vintage cars at Airfield

Down on the farm

The urban farm of Airfield, near Dundrum in south Co Dublin, has been redeveloped and there’s plenty to charm children on this 38-acre, working farm, including a new farmyard, milking parlour, redesigned gardens, woodland walks and indoor and outdoor play areas. Family admission rates range from €14 for one adult and one child to €32 for two adults and three children (under-threes go free). airfield.ie.

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