2019 summer camps in Ireland: guide to the biggest, best and beloved

From Art to Zoo and everything in between, there’s a camp to suit all ages and interests

 

For many parents, choosing a summer camp, or two – or perhaps as many as eight – is an annual and often expensive task.

All summer long, The Irish Times will offer tips, advice and information for parents on how to help their children thrive during the holiday months. Read all about it on irishtimes.com/summeroffamily

You may have a choice of camps for every week the children are off school – though there are still parts of Ireland where there is very little on offer.

Here are some of the most popular, biggest and the best, from all parts of the island – but it’s always worth checking out the very small, very local camps that may be close to your home.

Anyone4Science

The activities in the camps are around the themes of botany, food science, pulleys and levers, acid and base chemistry and plastics. Children are divided into age groups: Pico (4-6), Nano (7-10) and Micro (10-12). Some of the camps cater for only some of those age groups, so check before booking.
Location: There’s a camp in at least one town in 18 counties (Carlow, Cavan, Cork, Donegal, Dublin, Galway, Kildare, Kilkenny, Leitrim, Limerick, Louth, Meath, Monaghan, Sligo, Tipperary, Westmeath, Wexford and Wicklow).
Times: 5 days, 10am-2pm (teens: 9.30am-2.30pm).
Ages: 4-12 years.
Cost: €157.50 for first child; €142.50 for second; €100 for third (plus €5 for safety glasses).
Website: anyone4science.com

There are several arts and crafts camps around the country. Photograph: iStock
There are several arts and crafts camps around the country.

Artzone

The Artzone summer camps have different themes – depending on location and age – including Fashion Academy (learning about fabrics, seasons, mood boards, drawing and design), Comic Book Illustration (drawing, design, illustration and production) and Film Making (writing, directing and editing a short film). Art schools are always popular choices for children during the summer months, with camps run by art teachers in single locations.
Location: More than a dozen locations in Dublin and Kildare.
Times: 5 days, 10am-2pm.
Ages: 5-16 years.
Cost: €125-€150.
Website: artzone.class4kids.ie

Astro Park

Astro Park is back this summer with its multi-activity camps in Dublin. The emphasis is on ensuring the children are free from boredom by keeping everyone active and energised. So it is not simply football-based activities – the children will also get to try new games, such as Bubble Football and Nerf Astro Wars.
Location: Tallaght and Coolock, Dublin.
Times: 5 days, 10am-3pm.
Ages: 4-13.
Cost: €80.
Website: astropark.ie/kids

Athletics Ireland

This is not just a running camp. Children get the chance to take on sports they might not have tried before – such as the shot put, javelin, hurdles and high jump. And, just maybe, it’ll be the start of something that leads years later to national and international success.
Location: While the camps are spread throughout the country, unfortunately most counties have no camp – which is a great pity.
Times: 5 days, 10am-2pm.
Ages: 6-12 years.
Cost: €60 for first child; €50 for second.
Website: athleticsireland.ie

Atlantic Air

A dream for children who want to become a pilot or work in some way in the sector, there are probably more than a few adults who would love to attend Atlantic Air Adventures Aviation camp. Classes include learning how pilots plan, weather factors and the science behind flying. But the highlight is being behind the controls in a full-scale flight simulator for a 15-mile approach and landing (hopefully) at an airport.
Location: Shannon, Co Clare.
Times: 4 days (Monday-Thursday), 10am-1pm/3pm.
Ages: 8-12 years, and over 13.
Cost: €135 (8-12), €245 (over 13).
Website: atlanticairadventures.com

Birr Castle

Birr Castle Gardens and Science Centre are hosting several summer camps this year. Among them is a Nature Detectives Summer Camp, for children who would like to learn more about bugs, birds, mammals, amphibians and plants. The beautiful location of the camp is, of course, perfect for young explorers.

Speaking of perfect locations, there will also be a science and space camps on the grounds this summer. Birr Castle boosts an interactive science centre, and, of course, the “Great Telescope” which was the biggest telescope in the world when it was built in the mid 19th century.

Location: Birr Castle Gardens and Science Centre, Co Offaly
Times: 4 days (nature); 5 days (science), 10am-2pm
Ages: 8-12 years (nature); 5-12 (science).
Cost: €80 (nature); €115 (science).
Website: birrcastle.com

Bricks4Kidz

Using Lego bricks, children build models, play games and explore the world of engineering, architecture and move-making. There are a number of camp options depending on age; Junior Builders camp (3-5 years); Motorised Lego Technic camp (5-12 years); and Robotics and Coding camp (8-14 years). And, it’s Lego, so, you know, everything is awesome.
Location: Belfast, Donegal, Dublin, Galway, Louth and Wexford.
Times: 5 days.
Ages: 3-16 years.
Cost: €95-€125 (depending on activity).
Website: bricks4kidz.ie

Connemara Maths Academy

The academy is not about Pythagoras’ Theorem. It is, apparently, more about robotics, VR, coding, film production, 3D modelling and printing, raft building, sound production, drones, rockets . . . everything to get the heart pumping in those into these subjects. There are also physical challenges, such as swimming and football. The camps are popular with overseas students, so airport transfers are offered.
Locations: Achill Island and Rockwell College, Co Tipperary.
Times: One week (residential).
Ages: 8-17 years.
Cost: €700-€850.
Website: connemaramathsacademy.com

Debate Camp

The UCD Debate Camp is designed to develop public-speaking and critical-thinking skills “in a fun and supportive environment”. Students will receive personalised coaching, training, feedback and guidance from accomplished debaters. There are two camps – one for those going into 1st, 2nd or 3rd year next September, and the other for those going into 4th, 5th or 6th year.
Location: University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4.
Times: 5 days, 9am-4pm.
Ages: 11-18.
Cost: €145 (20 per cent discount for second sibling).
Website: societies.ucd.ie/debatecamp

Summer Camps

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Designer Minds

This is all about STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and maths). The activities advertised include learning to code using interactive robots, making an animated movie, and engineering challenges. There’s also “a little Minecraft”, which probably makes the camp even more attractive for would-be participants. There is a junior camp (7-9 years) and a senior camp (10-13 years), though both groups are in the same room at the same time doing same activities and using the same equipment.
Location: There’s a strong countrywide spread.
Times: 5 days, 10am-2pm.
Ages: 7-13 years.
Cost: €125.
Website: designerminds.ie

Fota Island Adventure Camp

A 500-metre obstacle course is either a child's idea of heaven or hell. If it's the former, Fota Island Adventure Camp might just be the ticket. There's also archery, field games, survival skills, orienteering and lots more. 
Location: Fota Island Resort, Tullagreen, Cork.
Times: 5 days, 9am-2pm (also Day Camps available).
Ages: 7-17 years.
Cost: €150.00 (€60 for Day Camp).
Website: fotaadventure.com

French and Spanish Camp

Fun, with the added value of learning a foreign language.  What's not to like? The Little Lingua school promises that the children at their camps will "absorb" the language through indoor and outdoor games, role playing, art and songs. Merveilleux.
Location: Bray and Greystones, Co Wicklow.
Times: 5 days, 10am-2pm (earlier drop-off available).
Ages: 6-12 years.
Cost: €88 (10% discount for siblings).
Website: littlelingua.com

Gaelic Games

The biggest of them all, the week is about learning new skills in football, camogie and hurling. And having fun. Compared with other camps, the relatively low cost of signing up is obviously a big incentive – especially as each child takes home a gear bag, jersey and sports top.
Location: In all 32 counties, and even some overseas. Without a doubt, if you are on the island, there is a Cúl Camp near you. Some camps may be lucky enough to be visited by a county star.
Times: 5 days, 10am-2.30pm.
Ages: 6-13 years.
Cost: €60 (£50) for first child; €50 (£45) for second; €45 (£40) for third.
Website: kelloggsculcamps.gaa.ie

Gaiety School of Acting

For the next stage or screen star in your house. It can often be a struggle to find summer camps for teenagers (often camps have an upper age limit of about 12-13). However, the camps in Temple Bar are for 4-19 (depending on what’s offered). For example, Frozen is for 4-6 years, while Matilda is for 7-10 years. Teens Acting Up! is aimed at 11-15 years and Acting for Young Adults is for 16-19 years. Basically, there’s variety, both in camps and ages, for all.
Location: Temple Bar, Dublin.
Times: 5 days (times depend on age group, 10am-1pm, 10am-2pm and 10am-4pm).
Ages: 4-19 years.
Cost: €120-€200 (depending on age group).
Website: gaietyschool.com

Green Teen Summer Camp

Run by ECO-UNESCO, Ireland’s environmental education and youth organisation, the summer camp is focused on developing knowledge, skills, attitudes and values in young people related to sustainable development and sustainable development goals. The week will include day trips to places such as Bull Island, Barnaslingan Woods and Bray’s coastline, focusing on the natural environment and discovering green areas around Dublin city, along with classroom workshops and creative activities on biodiversity.
Location: ECO-UNESCO, 9 Burgh Quay, Dublin 1.
Times: 5 days, 10am-3pm.
Ages: 12-16 years.
Cost: €90.
Website: ecounesco.ie

Gymnastics

So you have a budding gymnast in your house? Olympian Gymnastics Camps might be the place for her or him. The campers get to try the different apparatus – floor, beam, bars, vault, etc. There are also several “Intensive Camps”, which focuses on higher-level gymnastics skills.
Location: Several locations in Dublin (including Templeogue, Knocklyon, Milltown and Greenhills).
Times: 5 days, 9.30am-2.30pm.
Ages: 6-7+ years (there is also a Gym Tots camps to introduce gymnastics skills in a playful way).
Cost: €100 for first child; €90 for second.
Website: olympiangymnastics.com

Independent Theatre Workshop

Running performing arts camps, the programmes incorporate dance, drama, singing, filmmaking, performance and theatre trips. There will be a variety of themes for various age groups.
Location: Clonskeagh, Drumcondra and Ranelagh, Dublin.
Times: 5 days, 9am-1pm (3-7 years), 10am-4pm (7-18 years).
Ages: 3-18 years.
Cost: €130-€160.
Website: itwstudios.ie

Inspireland Creative Arts

A creative summer camp with a difference, with activities such as street art, graffiti, animation, wire sculpture, mask-making and comic art on the list. The camps are split into different age groups by week – 9-12 years has a more structured approach to the older group, but both are designed to allow creative young minds to express themselves.
Location: Institute of Art, Design & Technology, Dún Laoghaire, Dublin, and Limerick School of Art & Design.
Times: 5 days, 10/10.30am-2.30/3pm.
Ages: 9-18 years.
Cost: €145-€165.
Website: inspireland.ie

Irish Language

Not the usual summer camp, but one familiar to many in Ireland. CONCOS (Comhchoiste na gColáistí Samhraidh) is made up of many Irish summer colleges – inside and outside Irish-speaking regions – and is a good place to start. It is the course where you get to build a raft in the morning and learn to dance the Walls of Limerick in the afternoon. And, of course, while doing it all you learn a cúpla focal.
Location: Countrywide, though the west-coast counties of Donegal, Mayo, Galway, Clare and Kerry are particularly popular.
Times: One-, two- and three-week courses (many residential).
Ages: Usually 12-18 years.
Cost: €300-€1,000 (depending on number of weeks).
Website: concos.ie

Learnit

Camps which encourage children to explore the STEAM subjects in fun ways are always high on the summer lists for parents and children. This is a Lego-themed camp, which engages the kids while they are learning how levers work, how a bridge stays up, etc. The 11-plus group builds a robot and spends much of the week enhancing it, such as making it move. There are junior (6-8 years) and senior (9-12) engineers camps, and junior (8-11) and senior (11+) robotics camps.
Location: 12 counties (Clare, Cork, Dublin, Galway, Kildare, Kilkenny, Limerick, Louth, Tipperary, Waterford, Westmeath and Wicklow).
Times: 5 days, 10am-2pm.
Ages: 6-16 years.
Cost: €110-€150 for first child; €99-€135 for second.
Website: learnit.ie

Let’s Go!

Human Table Football, Disco Dome, bouncy castle, zorbee ball roll: the Let’s Go! camps have been running for decades and are focused on fun. Children are split into two age groups – 5-6 and 7-12 – as some of the activities may be a little too much for the younger ones – such as the “Mobile Jumping Wall” and KMX Karts.
Location: Countrywide.
Times: 5 days, 9.30am-3.30pm.
Ages: 5-12 years.
Cost: €105 for first child; €90 for second; €75 for third.
Website: letsgo.ie

Multi-Sport

The “all-rounders” will love this camp at the National Sports Campus. There’s gymnastics, swimming, trampolining, fencing – children get a go at many different sports over the week. There is also a separate Inclusive Multi-Sports camp at the National Sports Campus for children with disabilities.
Location: Blanchardstown, Dublin.
Times: 5 days, 9am-3pm.
Ages: 5-13 years.
Cost: €90.
Website: nationalsportscampus.ie

Réalta School of Speech and Drama

Réalta’s drama summer camp in July is run by Michelle O’Grady, who runs speech and drama classes throughout the year. In addition, the camp promises singing, with Keara Sheeran Music, and Drumming with Funky Drums.
Location: Scoil Bhríde, Shantalla, Galway city.
Times: 5 days, 10am-1pm.
Ages: 5-12 years.
Cost: €100 per student (sibling discount available).
Website: realtadrama.com/workshops

Performing Arts

Your children can discover the magic of musical theatre at dlr Mill Theatre and Steptacular Performing Arts summer camp. The weeks are split into themes – The Greatest Show, Potter Returns, Poppins Returns and Camp Disney. And, on the final day, the children show off their acting, singing and dancing talents with a show for family and friends.
Location: dlr Mill Theatre, Dundrum Town Centre, Dublin 16.
Times: 5 days, 10am-3pm.
Ages: 4-15 years.
Cost: €110 (10 per cent sibling discount).
Website: milltheatre.ie

PSA Academies

Established three years ago by Philippe Saint-André, Ian Lewis and Graham Ross, PSA Academies run rugby camps in France, England and Ireland. The areas covered include core skills assessment and development; positional play; game management development; speed, agility and flexibility; tech analysis; injury prevention; nutrition analysis; and mental preparation. So this is not an introduction to rugby for a child that needs to go outside more - this is high-performance youth rugby development.
Locations: There are four camps in Ireland - at the Cistercian College, Roscrea; Villiers School in Limerick City; Kilkenny College; and Wilson’s Hospital School in Co Westmeath. They also run a camp for three weeks in the French Alps.
Times: From 3-day non-residential to 12-night residential.
Ages: 10-17 years.
Cost: €205 to €1,995.
Website: psaacademies.com

Rugby

These camps are for those who have never held a rugby ball before, as well as those already envisioning themselves playing in a Rugby World Cup final. For many of the big sports, such as rugby and the GAA, these summer camps serve as feeders for the clubs, children get an enjoyable introduction to the game and end up playing in school and joining a local team. There’s a tee-shirt, rugby ball and bag for everyone and senior provincial players are expected to call in to some of the camps.
Location: Countrywide – most rugby clubs will host a camp this summer, which leaves only a few counties without one. For example, there will be 19 camps in Connacht.
Times: 5 days, 9am/9.30am-1pm/1.30pm.
Ages: 6-12 years.
Cost: €85-€90 for first child; €75-€80 for second.
Website: The provinces run the camps in their areas – connachtrugby.ie, leinsterrugby.ie, munsterrugby.ie, ulsterrugby.com

Sailing

Mastering the art of sailing is offered at the Irish National Sailing and Powerboat School. Groups are by age (4-6, 7-10, 11-14 and 15-17), with two locations in Dublin – Dún Laoghaire and Poolbeg. The children learn to master a sailing dinghy afloat. Boats are provided, obviously, as are lifejackets and buoyancy aids. Wetsuits can be hired for €20 for the week.
Location: Dún Laoghaire and Poolbeg in Dublin.
Times: 5 days, 9am-5pm (7-17 years), 9am-12.30pm (4-6 years).
Ages: 4-17 years.
Cost: From €209 (discounts for multiple bookings).
Website: inss.ie

School of Irish Archaeology

An unique opportunity for young explorers to carry out archaeological tasks and solve puzzles. The aim at the School of Irish Archaeology is to introduce children to the “mysteries and adventures of our past in a fun, practical and hands-on way”. Apart from archaeology digging, the week’s activities include clay pot making, archery and a trip to a national monument.
Location: Malahide and Harold’s Cross, Dublin.
Times: 5 days, 9am-3pm.
Ages: 7-12 years.
Cost: €135.
Website: sia.ie

Searsol

If your child loves computers, perhaps this is the camp for them. The course covers a range of topics, including touch typing, word processing, presentation slides, image editing, creating cards, avatars, comic books, collages and 3D animation with children divided into two age groups: 8-12 (Level 1) and Level 2 (13-18). The camp is suitable for children with learning differences such as Dyspraxia or Dyslexia.
Location: Dundrum, Artane, Lucan, Dublin and Cork City.
Times: 5 days, 10am-1pm (Level 1) and 2pm- 5pm (Level 2)
Ages: 8-12 years (Level 1) and 13-18 (Level 2)
Cost: €100 for first child; €90 for second.
Website: searsolcomputercamps.com

Sherpa Kids

These multi-activity summer camps involve doing a mixture of outdoor games and indoor activities, including arts and crafts, baking and science. Programmes also include excursions to parks, beaches or museums. Organisers say they are flexible, allowing parents to book the days and hours that suit, and that it is not just about having fun, but also allowing children to relax.
Location: Cork, Dublin and Laois.
Times: Flexible: 8am-6pm.
Ages: 4-12 years.
Cost: Vary between €25 and €170 (sibling discounts apply).
Website: sherpakids.ie

Soccer

Summer camps have proven a useful way for clubs to attract new members, and parents to allow their children to try a new activity before deciding whether to commit. The FAI Summer Schools are running for more than two decades. For budding goalkeepers, there is a separate coaching programme in some of the camps. Last year, 36,000 children took part in about 400 camps.
Location: Countrywide. In Northern Ireland, the IFA organises the summer camps. See irishfa.com
Times: 5 days, 10.30am-3pm.
Ages: 6-14 years.
Cost: €70 for first child; €60 for second.
Website: camps.fai.ie

Starcamp

A camp for the little person in your life who enjoys singing, dancing and acting. On the final day, the children put on a show for the parents. Apart from the obvious, the activities listed also include comedy, arts and crafts, and games.
Location: Countrywide (including Northern Ireland).
Times: 5 days, 9.30am-2.30pm.
Ages: 4-12 years.
Cost: €95 (£85) for first child; €75 (£75) for second; €65 for third.
Website: starcamp.ie

TechKidz

Coding, Minecraft, animation, web design, robotics – this for children who love technology. The classes are divided by age, with smaller children having fun with animation, coding and paint, while older children get experience with 3D design, game making and Raspberry Pi. Children will also be taught about staying safe online.
Location: 21 venues in the six Munster counties.
Times: 5 days (10am-12.30pm or 2.30pm-5pm).
Ages: 7-13 years.
Cost: €110.
Website: techkidz.ie

Trinity Sport

A camp right in the middle of Dublin city centre, at Trinity Sport Brave Heart Camp the children are split into the Bumblebees (4-5 years), Grasshoppers (6-7), Sharks (8-9), Red Hawks (10-12), and Teen Camp (13-15). There’s a wide range of activities, depending on age, including swimming, dance, climbing, tennis and basketball.
Location: Trinity Sport, Trinity College, Dublin 2.
Times: 5 days, 9.30am to 4.15pm (also extended times available).
Ages: 4-15 years.
Cost: €135-€155.
Website: tcd.ie/Sport/children

Whizzkids

For the tech-focused child in your family (though open to all abilities), the camp covers web design, app development, game making, 3D design, graphic design and animation. Everyone is supplied with a PC and the other equipment required for a hands-on experience that is educational and entertaining. There’s also one sports activity each day, just to get them away from a screen.
Location: In eight counties (Cork, Dublin, Galway, Kerry, Kildare, Limerick, Tipperary and Westmeath).
Times: 5 days, 9.30am-3.30pm (half-day camp, 9.30am-1pm).
Ages: 8-15 years.
Cost: €165 for first child; €145 for second (half-day camp, €99 for first child).
Website: whizzkids.ie

Zoo

For the animal lovers in the family, the Dublin Zoo camp participants get an introduction to conservation and an appreciation for wildlife, as well as the usual camp activities of craft projects etc. The location is obviously a big attraction, and the camp includes walks through the zoo. But don’t think your child will be playing in the mud with baby elephants and cuddling baby pandas – the camp does not include direct contact with animals.
Location: Phoenix Park, Dublin.
Times: 5 days, 10am-2.30pm.
Ages: 6-12 years.
Cost: €135/€145.
Website: dublinzoo.ie

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