31 ideas for Halloween family outings this weekend in Ireland

Ireland is taking the scary season seriously with events at 31 venues around the country

Hold on to your heads for Halloween, celebrating the 3,000-year-old Celtic festival of Samhain

Hold on to your heads for Halloween, celebrating the 3,000-year-old Celtic festival of Samhain

 

Spirits of Meath

As befits the birth place of Halloween, the roots of which lie in the 3,000-year-old Celtic festival of Samhain, no county takes the scary season more seriously than Meath, with a four-week festival that runs until November 5th.

In addition to some of the big attractions (see two entries below), other activities include Spooky Fun Nights at the Irish Military War Museum in Collon, until October 31st, 4pm-8pm, child €15, accompanying adults free; Point-to-Point and Country Fair at Dowth, October 29th, 12.30pm-5.30pm, where children go free, adults €10; free games and treasure hunt in a haunted garden at the Battle of the Boyne Visitor Centre in Oldbridge, October 29th, 2pm. 2017.spiritsofmeath.com

Bláthnaid Ní Chofaigh, Spirits of Meath Ambassador for 2017, lights the first torch fire of Samhain in Athboy signalling the start of Halloween and the Spirits of Meath Halloween Festival 2017.
Bláthnaid Ní Chofaigh, Spirits of Meath Ambassador for 2017, lights the first torch fire of Samhain in Athboy signalling the start of Halloween and the Spirits of Meath Halloween Festival 2017.

Ghost Hunters

The two new Halloween attractions at Tayto Park in Ashbourne, Co Meath are: “Ghost Hunters” for children aged six-plus, October 28th-November 5th, 11am-4pm (€6), and the night-time Morbid Manor for teens (14-plus) and adults, October 25th-30th, 7.30pm-11pm, which includes night rides on seven attractions; €30pp. taytopark.ie

Tayto Park has a new Halloween event, Morbid Manor.
Tayto Park has a new Halloween event, Morbid Manor.

Pooka Spooka and Farmaphobia

All ages are catered for at seasonal experiences on Causey Farm, near Fordstown, Co Meath. Families with children aged three to 12 should opt for Pooka Spooka, October 28th-31st, noon-4pm; €13 per head (under threes free). Those with teenagers (under 16s must be with an adult) can head for the after-dark haunts of Farmaphobia, until October 31st,  6.30pm-10pm; from €18 (three haunts) and €27 (five haunts). Pre-book on causey.ie and farmaphobia.ie

Pumpkin Patches

The Virginia Pumpkin Festival in Co Cavan isn’t on this year (it promises to be back for 2018) and tickets for some of the more popular pumpkin patches sold out weeks ago. However, places to try include: Ballycross Apple Farm, Bridgetown, Co Wexford, October 28th-November 5th (ballycross.com); Scalp Wood Nurseries, Kilternan, Co Dublin, until October 30th (scalpwood.com); Tinahely Farm, Co Wicklow, October 28th-29th (tinahelyfarm.ie) and The Farm Grenagh in Ballymorisheen, Co Cork, October 28th-31st (visitthefarm.ie). There’s also pumpkin carving at the Powerscourt Estate, Co Wicklow, October 28th-29th, €10 per child (powerscourt.com) and as part of a Pirate Adventure at Rathwood, Co Carlow, until October 31st; €10 per child, €7 adult. rathwood.com

Tours and Tales at Croke Park

Croke Park’s GAA Museum is staging a new Samhain family event that includes a stadium treasure hunt and a performance from one of Ireland’s leading storytellers, Eddie Lenihan. Visitors are advised to allow at least two hours. Ticket prices include a Halloween drink for adults and small gift for children. October 28th-November 1st, with performances starting at 5pm, 6pm and 7pm; family €50, adults €16; u-16s €12. Booking required. crokepark.ie/halloween

Macnas Parade

The signature giant creations of Macnas and all manner of otherworldly creatures, along with pyrotechnics and live music, will combine for the annual, spectacular Samhain parade through the streets of Galway on October 29th.  This year taking the theme of the Irish wake, Port na bPúcaí (Song of the Spirits) kicks off in the Latin Quarter at 5.30pm. Dubliners get the chance to see it the following night (see below). macnas.com

Bram Stoker Festival

Street theatre and a food village will be among the attractions at Stokerland, a Victorian pop-up fun park in the shadow of St Patrick’s Cathedral in the heart of Dublin (October 28th-29th, 11am-4.30pm). Other child-friendly events include Dracula’s Disco in Meeting House Square, Temple Bar (October 30th, 2pm-4pm), a Spooky Family Open Day at Marsh’s Library, which Bram Stoker frequented (October 28th, 10am-5pm) and the mesmerising Macnas parade, which starts from Moore Street at 6pm on October 30th.  All events mentioned here are free. bramstokerfestival.com

The Sleep No More Macnas Halloween Parade.
The Sleep No More Macnas Halloween Parade.

Mid-Term Tour

A brand new Cemetery Tour for all the Family” has been devised at Glasnevin Cemetery in north Dublin, featuring tales of torpedoed ships, assassinated parrots and grave-robbing galore. October 28th to November 5th, 3.30pm-4.30pm; €7 per head. glasnevinmuseum.ie

Grymm Manor

An immersive, walk-through, theatrical Halloween experience at Ghoulsley’s Manor house near Cuskinny Court in east Cork that caters for two age groups: Grymm Tales for those nine years and over, while Bippity Bobbity Boo is a gentler show for children aged five to 10. Runs until October 31st; from €13 per head, booking essential. ghoulsleysmanor.com

Halloween Tales at Dublinia

History comes alive for children at Dublinia, Christchurch, where, from October 28th-November 4th, in addition to the usual attractions, there’s a chance to meet the medieval characters who have the gruesome job of hauling victims of the Black Death to a mass grave outside the city walls. Running every 15 minutes, 12pm-1pm and 2pm-4pm; family €25. dublinia.ie

Samhain Festival

Families are invited to gather around the blazing fire baskets beneath the revolving beam of the 800-year-old Hook Lighthouse, Co Wexford, to hear stories of druids and ancient Irish Samhain customs and heritage. These evenings of free entertainment run from October 29th-31st, 6pm-9pm, with the added paid options of spooky, lantern-led tours up the 115 steps of the tower (€22 per family) and art workshops on pumpkin carving (€5pp). Booking of tours advised. hookheritage.ie

Jackula

Determined to step out of big brother Dracula’s shadow, Jackula travels the country with his magic and juggling show for children aged four to 12 in venues that include: Moat Theatre, Co Westmeath (October 29th, noon); Mill Theatre, Dundrum, Co Dublin (October 29th, 4pm); the Pavilion Theatre, Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin (October 31st, noon); Axis Ballymun, Dublin (November 1st, noon); Dunamaise Arts Centre, Portlaoise, Co Laois (November 1st, 7pm); from €7pp. Book on venue website.

Imagine Arts Festival

For the first time, Waterford City has combined The John Dwyer Trad Weekend, The Waterford Writers’ Weekend and Imagine Arts into one festival that continues until October 29th. Remaining family events include Horribly Historical Trails, October 25th-28th, at 7.30pm from outside The Medieval Museum (suitable for age six-plus; adults €5); puppet-making workshop, October 26th, 11am at the Gallery of Modern Art (€6) and the fun magic and juggling show Jackula (see above), Theatre Royal, October 26th, 7.30pm; family €40.  imagineartsfestival.com

Haunted Forest

Special lighting, sound effects and smoke will ramp up the thrill of this 1.7km, spook-filled, buggy-friendly Samhain trail through the woods in Marlay Park, Rathfarnham, Dublin, on October 29th, 3.30pm-8.30pm.  Entry is free but by wristbands only, which need to be collected at the dlr Co Co Markets in Marlay Park the day before, October 28th, from 8am. events.dlrcoco.ie

Nightmare Realm

A big, walk-through scare attraction that runs in both the RDS in Dublin and Kennedy Quay, Ballintemple in Cork until November 5th. Having doubled in size at both venues this year, it includes a zombie shooting gallery. Visitors must be aged 13-plus; from €19 adult, €16 student (online) in Dublin and from €17/€15 (online) in Cork. thenightmarerealm.ie

Face your Fears this Halloween at The Nightmare Realm at The RDS, Dublin and Kennedy Quay, Cork.
Face your Fears this Halloween at The Nightmare Realm at The RDS, Dublin and Kennedy Quay, Cork.

Youghaloween Spooktacular

An Bhean Uisce emerges from her watery underworld to spend a weekend in the Co Cork town of Youghal, October 27th-29th. There will be much witchcraft and “magick” as well as a banshee parade at 6pm on  Saturday. See Youghaloween Spooktacular’s Facebook page for details.

Halloween Howl

The Co Kerry town of Kenmare embraces the unexpected for a spirited week of activities, October 27th-November 4th. These range from an all-age Monster Disco (October 27th) and daily Pirate Cruises on Kenmare Bay (family €40) to meeting Hedwig the Owl and his family at Sheen Falls Lodge (family €10) and the highlight – the traditional Halloween parade on October 31st, that assembles at 6pm and is followed by Games in the Square from 7pm. kenmare.ie

Dragon of Shandon

Walk with the dragon, an 11-metre-long creation animated by 12 puppeteers, in this community Samhain parade through the streets of Shandon in Cork, October 31st, from 7pm. dragonofshandon.com

Gaol Time

Night tours at Wicklow Gaol are usually for adults only but on October 29th there will be a family fancy dress night tour, 6.30pm-7.30pm (family 2&3, €20), while there will also be “spooky kids’ games” there on October 28th, 29th and 31st, 1pm and 3pm; family 2&3, €20. wicklowshistoricjail.com

 Meanwhile, Cork City Gaol in Sunday’s Well lays on Halloween mid-term entertainment daily, October 30th to November 3rd, 10am-4pm; adult €8, child €5. corkcitygaol.com

Puca of Birr Castle

Tickets are selling out rapidly for the feature event marking the death, on Halloween night 150 years ago, of the Co Offaly castle’s own Third Earl of Rosse, October 29th-30th, 5.30pm-7.30pm; child €12.50, adult €8. But there are plenty of other reasons to visit, from the permanent, interactive Science Centre and treehouse adventure area to the seasonal pumpkin trail and cupcake decorating workshops. birrcastle.com

Fright Night

Craggaunowen, the prehistoric park in Co Clare, is hosting a new Fright Night, where there will be spooky tales and exploration of the creepy woodlands, October 28th, 4pm-9pm; family €25. Also in the region, there will be a day of Halloween horror at Bunratty Folk Park on October 30th, noon-5pm; family 2&4 €38 (online). shannonheritage.com

Zombiegeddon

Try to navigate the Screamfields unarmed or pick up a weapon to take out the zombies in the Farm of Terror at Redhills Adventure, Co Kildare. Aimed at 16-plus but those aged 11-plus will be admitted with an adult, October 27th, from 7pm, and October 28th-29th, from 5.30pm; family pass (one attraction) from €60. zombiegeddonredhills.com

A Walk in the Park

Plenty of surprises, along with pumpkin carving and a haunted house, are promised at the Halloween event in Sligo Folk Park, Riverstown, Co Sligo on October 27th-29th, 6pm-8pm; child €5, adult free. sligofolkpark.com

Haunted Castle Tours

You are advised to leave children under eight at home if venturing to Tullynally, Co Westmeath, for a night-time tour of the 350-year-old castle, October 27th-30th, starting on the hour from 6pm-9pm; family €40, booking recommended. tullynallycastle.com

Dare to Scare

Descend into the darkness of the basement in Wells House, Gorey, Co Wexford, where a werewolf is known to roam the woods. October 26th-31st, tours for all ages, 4pm, 5.30pm, 7pm and 8.30pm; €11pp including entry. wellshouse.ie

Wailing Walls

The walls of Derry are an atmospheric backdrop in what’s regarded as one of the best Halloween destinations in the world. The city’s four-day festival, October 28th-31st, finishes on Halloween night with a Carnival Parade at 7pm followed by a Firework Finale on the banks of the River Foyle. derryhalloween.com

Mayo Dark Sky Festival

An appropriate time of year to escape light pollution and celebrate the darkness of our Western skies with three days of talks, workshops, walks and stargazing, in Newport, Mulranny and Ballycroy, October 27th-29th. mayodarkskyfestival.ie

Awesome Autumn

As part of its month-long children’s festival, the half-term programme at the dlr Mill Theatre in Dundrum, Dublin, includes Donal Vaughan’s show of science magic comedy (October 29th, 1pm and 3pm, €9pp) and Ofegus Theatre’s production of Trouble in the Kingdom of Enchantasia, October 30th-November 4th, 2.30pm; family 2&3 €55. milltheatre.ie

Hullabaloo!

There’s plenty of post-Halloween entertainment at Co Offaly’s Children’s Arts Festival, Hullabaloo!, November 1st-4th. Birr, Clara and Edenderry are the venues for a wide-ranging programme of drama, dance, craft and film. hullabaloofestival.ie

Hill-walking with Altitude

If you want to escape all talk of ghouls and ghosts – or just work off some of that Halloween sugar rush – take to the hills for the newly devised, outdoors pursuit of “highpointeering”, visiting locations published on high point lists. Kieron Gribbon, a father of two young children who is promoting it as a new sport, includes on its website 30 Irish highpoint locations that have suitable approach routes for those aged under 18, and 10 of which are deemed doable for under 12s, along with younger siblings in buggies. highpointireland.com

Wild Lights 

It will be bedtime for Dublin Zoo’s residents when visitors come calling after dark for a festive event that will open on November 3rd, 5pm-9pm and run until January. Wild Lights is a trail around illuminated animal sculptures and giant silk lanterns, with Chinese performers, crafts and food on hand; adult €20, child €15, booking essential. dublinzoo.iehttp://dublinzoo.ie

*Family prices are for two adults and two children unless otherwise stated.

Although every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of these listings at the time of writing, please check details before travelling.

swayman@irishtimes.com

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