50 things to do with kids this summer
From sailing to spotting scarecrows and everything in between, parents will never hear "I'm bored" again
North Bull Island
Go fly a kite on Bull Island during a full day of free entertainment, courtesy of Dublin City Council, 11am-5pm. Bring your own, buy one there or children can join in one of the kite-making workshops. There’s also a chance to watch “master” kite flyers in action and demonstrations of buggy and land-kiting. A free shuttle will run all day from the junction of Clontarf Road down the causeway.
Carlow Arts Festival
Carlow town Until June 19th
Bring your canoe, bike or just your swimming togs to meet the Barges on the Barrow as they make their way through Graiguenamanagh/Tinnahinch (June 14th, 6.30pm), Goresbridge (June 15th, 6.30pm) Carlow town (June 16th, 6.30pm) with musical and literary performances at each stopping point. Watch Grease on an outdoor screen at the festival HQ in St Patrick’s College (next to Carlow Cathedral, June 17th, 9pm €5) And enjoy Firebirds, a spectacular aerial circus performance by Fidget Feet at the festival HQ followed by a fireworks display (June 18th, 10pm).
Free; 059-9173380; carlowartsfestival.com
Countrywide, Until June 19th
National Bike Week runs from today until June 19th with free cycling events popping up all over the place. Join a mystery history cycle tour of Cork city on June 14th at 7pm, a teenage dirt bike ride in Dungarvan, Co Waterford, on June 15th, a night cycle of Sligo town on June 17th, an introduction to mountain biking in Lough Key Forest Park, Boyle, Co Roscommon on June 18th or a bike fest in St Anne’s Park, Raheny, Dublin, on June 19th.
Chapterhouse Outdoor Productions
Various venues, June-August
Fabulous settings all over the country, such as Castletown House, Co Kildare, Malahide Castle, Co Dublin, Fota House, Co Cork, and the Battle of the Boyne Estate, Co Meath, provide the backdrops for the UK touring company Chapterhouse’s charming open-air programme. This summer’s repertoire includes children’s classics Peter Pan and The Railway Children. Check out their schedule for the venue nearest to you.
Family tickets (two adults, two children) from € 5; chapterhouse.org
Irish National Sailing School
The Irish National Sailing and Powerboat School on the West Pier in Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin, is a veteran of summer sailing courses. Courses are provided for beginners and amateur sailors and cover all ages. All equipment is provided, and wetsuits can be hired if you don’t have one already.
Many sailing clubs around Ireland also run summer courses for new members so check out your local facilities.
From €143 a week; 01-2844185; inss.ie
Hook Lighthouse Experience
Hook Head, Co Wexford, All summer
The appearance of life-sized hologram figures telling tales of the past is part of a new visitor experience at the lighthouse tower on the tip of the Hook peninsula. The final stage of the tour provides access to the previously private watchroom at the 800-year-old lighthouse, which is just one stop in the newly branded “Ireland’s Ancient East”.
Family tickets (two adults, two children) €22; hookheritage.ie
Gaiety School of Acting, Sycamore Street, Temple Bar, Dublin. June-August.
Choose between weekend-long masterclasses in acting to theatre production to film-making to triple threat (sing, dance and act) bootcamp. Sixteen to 19 year olds can also join a team to make their own musical this summer.
€120-€200. 01-679 9277; Gaietyschool.com
The Ark, Temple Bar, Dublin 2, June 11th-August 31st
A free exhibition about the making of Cartoon Saloon’s Oscar-nominated film, Song of the Sea, is on view all summer at Ireland’s only dedicated cultural centre for children. Around it will run a series of five-day camps (for ages eight to 12) and various workshops and events for children as young as two, all on the theme of animation. Irish band Kila play family gigs there too on August 13th and 14th.
From free to €150 for camps; ark.ie
Hooked on Rosslare
Rosslare Strand, Co Wexford, June 13th-August 26th
A new inflatable waterpark will be anchored offshore for the summer season at Rosslare Strand, Co Wexford. Compulsory lifejackets will be provided for children, who must be aged eight-plus, before they are boated out to the sea trampoline, slide and swing. It’s an initiative of Hookedkitesurfing, which runs weekly kids’ camps (ages eight-16) from the shore, and lifeguards will be on standby. (Meanwhile, there’s a larger, more established inflatable waterpark in Co Westmeath’s Hodson Bay; see baysports.ie).
€8 a go (lasting about 25 minutes); hookedonrosslare.ie
Cork Midsummer Festival
Cork City, June 17th-19th, 21st and 24th-26th
Take a backseat in one of four parked cars to see Backseat performed by Activate and Lightbulb youth theatre companies, Emmet Place (outside Cork Opera House) June 24th-26th, 3pm and 5pm, €5. Grab a good picnic spot in Fitzgerald Park to watch circus, dance and music acts, June 19th, noon-5pm admission free. Bare Cheek Theatre transpose Shakespeare’s classic love story, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, to a post-apocalyptic city and an enchanted forest, The Granary Theatre, June 21st-22nd, 5pm and 8pm; June 23rd, 5pm,
€12/€10; 021-4215136; corkmidsummer.com
Explore and Roar After Hours
Tayto Park, Ashbourne, Co Meath, June 18th.
A chance to enjoy the theme park at twilight, at an after-hours event (6.30pm-10pm) for which pre-booking is essential. In addition to rides such as the Cú Chulainn Coaster, Air Race and the new Grand Carousel, there will be animal feeding and talks by park rangers, face-painting and barbecue.
€20 adult/€17 child; taytopark.ie
IFI Family Festival
Irish Film Institute, Dublin 2, June 24th-26th
A real-live golden eagle on display in Temple Bar’s Meeting House Square will mark the start of this children’s cinematic feast, which opens with Brothers of the Wind, about a boy who rescues an eagle chick. Children aged four to 12 can enjoy films from around the world, along with creative workshops and a chance to meet the makers of Zig and Zag. If you can’t make this weekend, much of it will be repeated at the Riverbank Arts Centre, Newbridge, Co Kildare, July 2nd-3rd.
All films €5 , family of four €15; ifi.ie
Public libraries, June-September
Public libraries all over the country have started giving out “Be a Summer Star” reading cards to children, which they can then get stamped for every book they finish. There are fun rewards along the way to keep them reading and an awards event at the end of the programme.
June 24th-September 4th, Waterford
Summer is now one long festival, it seems, for the Déise, with the launch of a new programme of 33 events – of which 17 are free – under the one umbrella, “Summerval”. Live music and theatre in the streets of Waterford, painting workshops, train trips, medieval archery, birds of prey shows and family surfing on the coast are just some of the all-age activities. As well as the glorious Spraoi (July 29th-31st), the region’s 10 multi-day festivals include the more recent Promenade Festival in Tramore (July 1st-3rd).
From free upwards; summerval.ie
Belfast Carnival Village
Ormeau Park, Belfast, June 25th
Be part of the action as the south end of Ormeau Park is transformed into a carnival village for the day. Puppets, mad hatters, crazy golfers, musicians and other walk-about performers will play and dance, while there will also be hands-on arts sessions and a chance to join the parade.
Channel Wimbledon fever into on-court action at what is one of the most ubiquitous, best-value summer programmes for children from the age of five upwards. With at least an hour’s coaching every day, Monday-Friday, it gets everybody out of the house. Operating at more than 160 parks and clubs throughout the country, schedules and costs vary; equipment can be provided. Registration for all venues on June 30th, 2pm-4pm.
From about €15 a week; parkstennis.com
Causey Family Experience
Causey Farm, Fordstown, Navan, Co Meath, Fridays, 2pm, July-August
Get down and dirty on the farm by trying your hand at milking a cow, herding sheep and cutting turf. For those less agriculturally minded, there’s also bodhrán playing, mural painting and blowing of giant bubbles. Bog-jumping is optional – but you are advised to wear your oldest clothes.
€14 per person (under threes free), €50 for family of four; causey.ie
Wild Air Run
Touring venues in Dublin and Cork, July 1st-August 17th
Walk, run or crawl, it’s fun not personal bests that count in the 5k Wild Air Run over an inflatable obstacle course. The novelty circuit will pitch up in Dublin’s Cabinteely and Marlay parks and Malahide Castle, and in Fota, Cork, at various times during the summer. Families and children (aged seven-plus) participate in gentler sessions between 11am and 4.40pm.
From €16.50 child/€28.50 adult, spectators free; wildairrun.com
River to Lough Festival
Antrim Castle Gardens, July 2nd
Join in the celebrations of Lough Neagh and its waterways from noon to 5pm on July 2nd. Try out local food at markets and pop-up restaurants, take a tour of the community gardens, listen to stories from local fishermen and view the heritage boats.
048-794 17941; rivertolough.co.uk
Mallow, Co Cork, July 4th-29th
Ballyhaas Lakes runs adventure summer camps for eight-16 year olds with trainee-instructor foundation courses for those over 14. The wide range of water and land-based activities include raft-building, archery, kayaking, abseiling, wakeboarding and zip-lining. Campers can opt for half-day or full-day week-long summer courses.
€185 per week. 022-27773; Ballyhasslakes.ie
National Sports Campus, Abbotstown, Co Dublin, July 4th-August 26th
With more than 20 sports to choose from in state-of-the-art facilities, these weekly camps (9am-3pm) will be all-go for children aged five to 13. They can try archery, fencing, water polo, trampolining and cricket, to name a few. Parents may be delighted to know too that there’s an “extra time” option, whereby children can stay until 4.30pm for an additional payment.
€90 per child, €85 for siblings; nationalsportscampus.ie
Various venues, July 4th -August 26th
The famous Danish brand of interlocking plastic pieces is the raw material in these hands-on, mind-on camps for ages six to 12. They will get to grips with some basics of engineering and robotics in five-day sessions that are run now in more than 10 counties.
From €105; learnit.ie
TeeNature Summer Camps
Crann Óg Eco Farm, Derrymore, Gort, Co Galway, July 5th-6th and August 8th-11th
Based in Crann Óg Eco Farm, these residential camps teach survival skills to 13-17 year olds. Expect to come away knowing how to build rope ladders and a shelter, light a camp fire, and forage and cook your own food. Orienteering and nature observation and games are also incorporated in the two-day and four-day camps.
€148 and €248. 091-631602; ecostayireland.com
The Gruffalo’s Child
Dublin and Cork, July 6th-10th
Tiptoe out into the deep, dark wood . . . in the Tall Stories’ touring adaptation of the much-loved picture book by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler. Suitable for aged three upwards, you’ll catch it in Dún Laoghaire’s Pavilion Theatre (July 6th-8th) and for the following two days in Cork Opera House. (And did you know there is a permanent Gruffalo trail in Colin Glen Forest Park in west Belfast?)
Dublin and Cork, July 8th-10th, 16th-17th
The biggest family-friendly festival of the summer (to which your pooch is welcome too) pours into Dublin’s Merrion Square and then Cork’s Fitzgerald Park the following weekend. International street performers are at the heart of the action at what’s an entirely free event, sponsored by Laya Healthcare. A diverse range of entertainment includes children’s dance and yoga classes, science workshops and even a “Kids’ Court” where parents may find themselves on trial.
Earagail Arts Festival
Donegal, July 8th-24th
Holidaying in Donegal or a local? Either ways, consider joining walks – for over-12s – through the living landscape of Arranmore Island (July 9th, 10am), along the old light gauge railway from Creeslough to Falcarragh station (July 16th, 10am) or to Ireland’s most northerly tip at Inishowen (July 23rd, 10am). Don’t miss the Fanzini Recording Company’s free street performances in Malin as part of the Inishowen carnival of street art and spectacle on July 23rd and 24th.
€15 per walk. 074-9168800; eaf.ie
Blackrock Castle Observatory, Co Cork, July 11th-29th
Budding astronauts from ages seven to 12 can prepare for blast-off at three, week-long camps, 9.30am-12.30pm. From learning about the latest Mars and Jupiter missions, to using a real telescope and making model rockets, this is one to broaden their horizons. Camps apart, it’s an engaging place to visit at any time over the summer, with daily planetarium shows as well as castle and gunnery tours.
Dundrum, Dublin 14, July 11th- August 26th
Children (aged five to 12) are guaranteed to get their hands dirty and their boots muddy at this 38-acre oasis in the heart of the south Dublin suburbs. Farm and forest experiences, and nature as art inspiration are the main strands of the three types of camps on offer.
From €115 for four days; airfield.ie
West Cork Literary Festival
Bantry, Co Cork, July 17th- 23rd
A free “book clinic” on July 18th, where youngsters can have one-on-one consultations about what to read next, is one feature of the children’s festival within the festival. There are also free workshops and readings by authors such as Darren Shan, Kieran Crowley and Chrissie Gittins.
From free to €5; westcorkmusic.ie
Persian Arts & Crafts Teens Club
Chester Beatty Library, Dublin, July 18th-22nd
A chance to discover traditional Persian art techniques and create original manuscript designs inspired by the Lapis and Gold exhibitions at the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin Castle. Classes run Monday to Friday, 10.30am-1pm for 12-14 year olds and 1.45pm-4.15pm for 15-17 year olds.
Free. 01-4070772; cbl.ie
Children’s Sunrise Festival
Brigit’s Garden, Co Galway, July 23rd-24th
Wake up with the sunrise at a new weekend festival just for children and their families, in the beautiful Celtic gardens in Roscahill, 20km north-west of Galway city. Day-time activities include live music, puppet shows, story-telling, crafts and a fire spectacular. There’s no extra charge for camping overnight.
Family (four people) €160 for weekend, €95 a day; brigitsgarden.ie
Bray Air Display
Co Wicklow, July 23rd-24th
The crowds fill the Victorian promenade of Bray seafront and ribbon along the cliff walk from Bray to Greystones, Co Wicklow, for this annual air display. Aviation enthusiasts will already know that Royal Airforce Red Arrows are among the confirmed planes partaking in the aerobatics performances over the two days. Now in its 11th year, the air show is part of Bray Summerfest funfair and food/craft markets in July/August.
Durrow, Co Laois, July 24th- August 1st
There’s something wacky and wonderful about a community festival that revolves around a bunch of scarecrows. But these are no ordinary scarecrows and they pop up in the most unexpected places . . . go see them for yourself. There’s a week-long camp for children too, 10am-1pm, as well as an on-street buzz of music, games and other entertainment.
Free events and €50 for camp; durrowscarecrowfestival.com
Kippure Estate, Co Wicklow, July 25th-August 5th
A taste of wilderness awaits children aged six to 12 in two separate, week-long camps, running 10am-3pm. They will be climbing trees, building shelters, whittling wood and cooking on an open fire for a thrilling, much-needed dose of child-led, outdoor education.
€175 per child; adventurewicklow.com
Waterford Spraoi International Street Arts Festival
Join the throngs of onlookers catching a glimpse of acrobats, aerial dancers, comic artistes from Mexico to Australia at this massive three-day street party. Choose your location carefully to watch how performers, decorative floats and fireworks transform the streets of Waterford in the grand finale Spraoi Festival parade on Sunday, July 31 at 9.30pm.
Craggaunowen, Quin, Co Clare, August 2nd-3rd
There’s nothing like a “real live” Viking trader or crannog dweller to engage children with tales of bygone ages. To mark the ancient pagan festival of Lughnasa that heralded the harvest season, the Claíomh Living History Group will bring the past alive at the re-constructed island ringfort and 16th-century castle at Craggaunowen. Re-enactments will span the Iron Age right up to the Easter Rising.
Family tickets (2+2) €21.50, (2+6) €24.50; shannonheritage.com
Sand Sculpture Festival
Duncannon, Co Wexford, August 5th-7th
Bring your sand-castle building to a whole new level at this sand-sculpting contest, where professionals and amateurs alike dig in. With fireworks, magic shows, games and street theatre, it’s party time too for the whole family.
Kilkenny Arts Festival
Kilkenny city, August 5-14
The travelling international ensemble, Footsbarn Theatre, pitch their tent in Kilkenny for irreverent and unpredictable performances of The Incomplete Works of Shakespeare and The Cuckoo’s Nest. Famed for its classical music programme, this festival is also the perfect one for young classical performers to hear world-renowned performers play works such as Mozart’s great string quartets or quintets or Bach’s arias and cantatas.
Prices vary. 056-7763663; Kilkennyarts.ie
National Heritage Week
Countrywide, August 20th-28th
If your enthusiasm and finances for day trips are flagging, this comes as a welcome last hurrah of the school holidays. There are always lots of free and intriguing events for children all over the country. A county-by-county guide to all the activities will be available online nearer the time.
Many free; heritageweek.ie
GPO Witness History Exhibition
An Post’s brand new visitor centre at the iconic GPO on O’Connell Street promises to give locals and tourists alike an interactive experience of the 1916 Easter Rising. With its mix of technology and artefacts – many previously unsee – it will give you plenty to digest, discuss and debate. Daily 9am-5.30pm.
€10 adults/€5 children; 01-816 9538; gpowitnesshistory.ie
Phoenix Park by bike
Dublin, All summer
Tired of or outgrown the zoo? How about exploring the outer reaches of Dublin’s largest park by bike? You can hire single bikes or tandems for a couple of hours for €5 or €10 for the whole day from Phoenix Park Bike Hire. To book a bike, contact Paul on 086-2656258 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Dublin Bay Tours
Dublin, All summer
Viewing Dublin bay from Howth Head or Killiney beach will seem so tame once you take a cruise of Dublin Bay. Dublin Bay Cruises takes about 120 passengers every day throughout the summer months. The boats have plenty of seating and a heated indoor cabin if the weather turns nasty. Tickets can be bought for single or return journeys without reductions for return train trips by Dart. Pick a nice day and get as many people to join you as possible as prices go down as numbers go up. Choose between a cruise from Dún Laoghaire to Dublin city at 9.30am, Dublin city to Dún Laoghaire at 11am, Dún Laoghaire to Howth at 12.30pm, Howth to Ireland’s Eye at 2.15pm, Howth to Dún Laoghaire at 3.30pm or Dún Laoghaire to Dalkey Island at 5.30pm.
Prices vary; 01-901 1757; dublinbaycruises.com
Westport, Louisburgh and Clare Island, Co Mayo, All summer
Adventure West offers groups of six or more experiences in zorbing, zipwire, climbing and abseiling, coasteering, gorge walking, snorkelling and hillwalking. Based in Westport, Louisburgh and Clare Island, the instructors have fun at the top of their agenda. Advanced booking required.
Prices vary. 087-362 7828; adventurewest.ie
Dublin, Roscommon and Cork, All summer
Ages over 7s
Zip-it Forest Adventures are four-hour-long obstacle courses with zip lines in the Tibradden Wood in the Dublin Mountains, Lough Key Forest Park in Co Roscommon, and Farran Woods, Co Cork. Only for those exhilarated by being up high, it includes climbs, swings and flying through the tree tops on zip lines up to 20 metres high.
From €15, 051-858008; zipit.ie
Kilruddery Estate, Bray, Co Wicklow, All summer
Squirrel’s Scramble is a gentler zip-line course at Kilruddery Estate. Enclosed in a small section of the informal gardens in the estate, the ropes, treetop walks and zip-lines are suitable for all adventurous young people.
From €14; 085-862 7011; squirrelsscramble.ie
Biking in Ballyhoura
Co Tipperary, All summer
The mountain bike trails in the Ballyhoura region of Tipperary are deemed some of the best on offer with clear maps of various routes. You can rent mountain bikes or road bikes on location and choose your distance on the day.
Bike hire from €35 at trailriders.ie; 087 271 7330; ballyhoura.com
Dublin, All summer
While the annual exodus to the Gaeltacht has already begun, some teenagers prefer to opt for non-residential Irish courses closer to home. The Dún Laoghaire based Moontours is the new kid on the block in experiential language learning. Its two-week-long courses mix yoga, kayaking and paddleboarding with speaking Irish. So what’s not to love about that?
€399 for two weeks. Moontour.ie
Dublin, All summer
The Alliance Française on Kildare Street, Dublin runs French courses for all ages. The biggest advantage for teenagers is the genuine francophone environment with native French teachers. Classes run from June to August from 10am-1pm Monday to Friday and then you can pop downstairs and order your lunch en français in the cafe afterwards.
€300 for two weeks. 01-6761732; alliance-francaise.ie
The Goethe Institute on 62 Fitzwilliam Square, Dublin runs two-week-long German language courses for secondary school students in June and July. Check out the useful German language learning apps on its website too.
€430 for two weeks. Goethe.de/ins/ie
Dublin, All year
The Instituto Cervantes on Lincoln Place, Dublin 2, is the official cultural centre for Spain. There is a vast choice of language learning options, including revision courses for the Junior and Leaving Certificate.
€285/€325. 01-6311500; dublin.cervantes.es