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50 of the best playgrounds in Ireland

Swings, roundabouts, slides, ziplines, tunnels, climbing frames, forest trails and scenery: we find the best free play areas to entertain the kids this summer

Three-year-old Rocco Ulrich in Fitzgerald’s Park, Cork city. Photograph: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision

Compiled by Jennifer O’Connell, Damian Cullen, Sylvia Thompson, Leonie Corcoran, Lorna Siggins, Noel O’Reilly and Malachy Clerkin

ANTRIM

Carnfunnock Country Park
Coast Rd, Ballygalley, Larne, Co Antrim

Carnfunnock County Park. Photograph: carnfunnock.co.uk

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Good for: A day at an outdoor amusement park.
Carnfunnock Country Park is located on the coast road at Ballygally and it offers spectacular views, ample green spaces for children of all ages to run around and play as well as a range of activities for all age groups. The playground will entertain younger children but add in to the mix a miniature railway (£2 per person), mini-golf (£1-£3.50), wow balls (£3), remote control boats (£1/five minutes), bouncy castle (£1), bungee runs (£1-£2) and a maze and you have all the ingredients for a fun day out for all the family. LC

CARLOW

Oak Park Forest Park
Ballaghmoon, Carlow Town, Co Carlow
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Good for: Forest walks for all levels of ability.
Oak Park Forest Park – a favourite spot for walkers since it opened to the public in 2006 – now has an accessible playground with slides, swings and a wheelchair swing. There’s a green gym for adult fitness. The 120-acre park has colour-coded circular walkways of varying lengths with wheelchair-accessible surfaces – including a looped boardwalk. The lakes are a habitat for ducks and swans, and the park is also a recognised bat habitat. There are picnic tables too, so bring lunch.
Top tip: bring insect repellent. JO’C

CAVAN

Con Smith Memorial Park playground
Cathedral Road, Cavan, Co Cavan
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Good for: All the family to get involved.
Con P Smith donated the land for Cavan’s Con Smith Memorial Park to commemorate his son who died, aged 43, in the Staines air crash on June 18th, 1972. The land has been developed as a multi-generational park, with walks and an extensive adult outdoor gym based just outside the fence of the children’s playground. The playground is modern, with a range of swings, slides, bridges, tunnels and climbing units. There is level access and manoeuvring space for wheelchairs between equipment. Street parking is available nearby. LC

CLARE

Spraoi sa Choill
Cratloe Woods, Cratloe, Co Clare

Spraoi sa Choill playground in Cratloe Woods, Co Clare, which extends to over an acre and blends with its surroundings. Photograph: Cratloe Community Playground

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Good for: Woodland fun.
This playground is integrated into the Cratloe woods in which it is based. It extends to over an acre, used timber from the wood and has eco-friendly slides, swings and climbing frames. It is mainly covered with bark mulch, with some gravel paths, and the natural slope in the playground is in keeping with what is there already. There is plenty of space to play outside the playground too – build in time to explore the woods.
Additional: Children from Cratloe National School gave their suggestions for the new name, which translates into fun in the woods. LC

CORK

Glenbower Woods playground
Glenbower, Killeagh, Co Cork
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Good for: A day in the woods.
Located at the entrance of Glenbower Woods, it is the location of this playground that makes is worth a drive - these woods are the perfect place to follow signed walks and search for fairies or just touch nature. The playground is most suited to younger children (under 7), with small slides, climbing frames, swings, seesaw and bouncers on a mulch surface. The woodland location makes it suitable for all ages.
Additional: Don’t miss the walks in the area. Find out more. LC

Schull Town Park
Schull, West Cork

The playground was revamped last year to create a nautical theme

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Good for: A spectacular view over a bustling Schull harbour and the islands beyond.
This playground sits on the edge of the village of Schull, opposite the church and overlooking the harbour. The fenced playground was revamped last year to create a nautical theme with a whale and windsurfer springer and helicopter, as well as a trampoline inset into the ground. There are also swings and a medium-sized slide on wet pour safety surfacing. Most suitable for younger children (up to 8). There is parking and plenty of coffee and ice cream shops nearby to keep the older members of the family entertained. LC

Fitzgerald’s Park Playground
Mardyke, Cork

Fitzgerald’s Park Playground in Cork City, a €600,000 disability-friendly ammenity that has wheelchair access to most of the sensory-rich equipment

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Good for: All levels of ability.
Cork’s new €600,000 disability-friendly playground is not just beautifully designed anf enormous fun – it’s also entirely accessible, with wheelchair access to most of the sensory-rich equipment. The playground features a castle and sunken pirate ship structures, a climbing pyramid, several slides, swings and basket swings, animal springers, horizontal bars, a 2.6m high climbing wall, seesaws, balance poles and a wheelchair roundabout. JO’C

DERRY

The Playtrail
15 Racecourse Road, Derry
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Good for: Big ’uns, little ’uns, inbetweeners.
Not simply one playground, The Playtrail comprises three main separate play areas with a host of bonuses dotted along – as the name suggests – a play trail. It’s situated within the grounds of a special needs school (the facilities are closed to the public during school hours). Start out gently in the junior play area, challenge the more daring on the zip wire and tougher climbing frames in the adventure zone, or fascinate curious minds in the sensory garden. Oh, and the charming Fairy Wood is perfect for hide-and-seek.
Additional: Did I mention the 200-seat covered amphitheatre/outdoor cinema? The Playtrail also hosts summer camps, children’s birthday parties and eco days throughout the year. There is plenty of parking, staff on site (who’ll happily make you a cup of tea if you ask nicely) and access to toilet facilities. NO’R

DUBLIN

Ardgillen Castle Playground
Strifeland, Balbriggan, Co. Dublin
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Good for: Tiring them out.
Not that it’s the first thing to spring to the mind of any little one, but there can’t be a playground in the country with a better view than the one at Ardgillen Castle near Balbriggan. Crafted into the side of the hill overlooking the Irish Sea, it has a huge variety of climbs and swings and slides and all the rest. Also, plenty of seating on the perimeter, toilets and a baby-changing station. And if the playground doesn’t knacker them, the walk back up the hill to the car park certainly will. MC

Cabinteely Park
Old Bray Road, Cabinteely, Dublin 18
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Good for: Families with dogs.The surrounding parklands give this playground a great feeling of spaciousness. Popular among young and older children, it has swings to accommodate all ages and abilities. It also has a large climbing frame with ropes, wobbly log and plank bridges and a climbing wall. There are interactive panels with noughts and crosses (Xs and Os, if you prefer), chimes, bells and drums and a super cool sandpit with mini diggers and an engineering contraption which water flows through.
Additional: The large spider web climbing net in the centre of the playground. There’s a fenced-off enclosure where you can let your dog off the leash. ST

The Giant’s Garden
Merrion Square, Dublin 2

Tucked in the corner of Merrion Square, The Giant’s Garden has a great climbing frame. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

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Good for: Tourists and locals in the city centre with young children.
Tucked discreetly into the corner of this popular Georgian square garden, this playground has a climbing frame with a scarecrow-like wooden figure as its centerpiece. It can be entered via rope bridges and exited via a long metal slide. There are plenty of swings and criss-crossed logs for playing or sitting on.
Additional: Is that Oscar Wilde’s selfish giant I see peeking up from underground? The author of the classic children’s tale must have buried him there when he was living on Merrion Square. ST

Herbert Park
Ballsbridge, Dublin 4

Herbert Park in Ballsbridge, Dublin has two playgrounds – it’s the one near Ballsbridge that makes the list

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Good for: Fun in the city.
The 13-hectare Herbert Park is a gem close to the heart of the city. It has two playgrounds – it’s the one near Ballsbridge that makes the list. A long-standing favourite with South Dublin families, it can get very crowded after school and on weekends. It has several multi-play units, both for toddlers and older children, springers, slides and an elaborate climbing structure. Herbert Park opened for the International Exhibition in 1907, when it featured a giant water slide – and it’s still one of the best. JO’C

Malahide Castle playground
Malahide, Co Dublin
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Good for: Children of all ages, with cool adventure rides.Surrounded by deciduous trees, the well-maintained playground at this North Dublin demesne is in a peaceful setting, away from dog walkers, cyclists and runners.
The playground, which is a 10-minute walk from the car park closest to Malahide village, is gently landscaped into separate areas for younger and older children, with wood chipping and spongy materials under every piece of equipment. For the younger children, the highlights are spring-loaded seesaws, a sandpit with mini-diggers and a cool roundabout. There’s also a zip line with button seats, basket and tyre swings, a spider’s web climbing net and a rotating circular disc.
Additional: A rotating cylindrical rope climbing frame and a fantastic tower with long metal slides and bridges. ST

Marlay Park playground
College Road, Rathfarnham, Dublin 14
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Good for: Children of all ages and abilities.
The playground in this large suburban South Dublin park is situated in the western corner (best accessed via College Road car park if you’re not up for the long walk from the main entrance on Grange Road). The play equipment is varied and exciting and each area is zoned for different age groups, ranging from the toddler zone with baby swings, spring-loaded sitting rides and a sandpit right up to an adventure zone on higher ground with swings and steep slides. The only disadvantage is that it’s so expansive, it is difficult for adults to keep their eyes on several children at once.
Additional: Play equipment for spinning on, including a lovely roundabout called the Ability Whirl with seats adults can sit on with babies in arms, alongside standing areas. ST

People’s Park playground
Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin
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Good for: Sunday picnics.
Dún Laoghaire’s compact Victorian People’s Park has been keeping kids and parents happy since 1890. It comes to life on Sunday mornings with the organic market, when the recently refurbished playground is overrun with toddlers and bleary-eyed parents. For its compact size, the playground is well equipped with three multi-play units, swings and slides – but be warned: it can get busy. Bring a picnic blanket and sample the food from market vendors, or treat yourself to breakfast in the Victorian tea rooms, now run by Fallon & Byrne. JO’C

Phoenix Park playground
Near Visitor’s Centre, Phoenix Park, Dublin 8

The Phoenix Park Playground is an easy stroll from Dublin Zoo

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Good for: Family days out.
The universal access playground is located to the west of the Victorian Walled Garden at the Phoenix Park Visitor Centre. It is vast and relatively modern, with every kind of play equipment imaginable, including springers, large multi-play units, playhouses, tunnels, bucket swings and a climbing structure. With the zoo, roaming deer, walking trails, bike and Segway hire, the acclaimed Phoenix café and Victorian Tea Rooms at your disposal, there are plenty of excuses to linger. JO’C

Rathfarnham Castle playground
Rathfarnham, Dublin
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Good for: younger children and children with extra sensory needs.
Smack bang in the middle of this bustling South Dublin suburb, this playground is very popular. No wonder, because it has an unrivalled range of play equipment – suitable for children with varying levels of ability. There’s a large climbing frame with towers, slides and walkways for younger children. Fantastic swings with comfy-backed seats, a large basket swing for sharing and a rotating bowl.
Additional: An extraordinary piece with hoops to climb through, rotating buttons to stand on and echo pods. The adventure playground, with a climbing frame, wooden bars to do pull-ups on and other bits, is hidden in the trees with grey squirrels for company. ST

St Anne’s Park playground
Raheny/Clontarf, Dublin

St Anne’s Park playground in Raheny/Clontarf, Co Dublin has a quirky feel. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

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Good for: Children of all ages.
Sited a few minutes walk from the beautifully restored Red Stables (which now houses a cafe with outdoor seating for sunny days), this playground has a quirky feel, with cow sculptures and a Viking ship and a brightly coloured train, horse and cart and aeroplane for imaginative games. There are plenty of swings and climbing frames for young children, with seats and picnic benches just outside the playground.
Additional: An adventure playground with a spider’s web climbing net, a horizontal rope swing and a zipline just outside the main playground. ST

GALWAY

Clós Spraoi playground
Inis Oírr (Inisheer), Aran Islands
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Good for: An island family day trip.
The island location of this sandy playground, beneath O’Brien’s Castle, is what makes it special. It is the perfect place to picnic after exploring the island or before taking the ferry back to the mainland. It is very spacious with great views, has picnic facilities and is close to the beach. Equipment includes swings, slides and play diggers to play in the sand.
Additional: Inis Oírr’s long, sandy beach is considered a safe swimming area. In the summer, there are lifeguards on duty. LC

Claude Toft Park
Seapoint, opposite lower Salthill promenade, Galway

Salthill Playground, Galway. Photograph: Joe Shaughnessy

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Good for: children of all ages and abilities.
There was consternation when Salthill’s Toft park playground was closed for some months over the winter for “upgrading works”, with Fianna Fáil councillor Ollie Crowe describing it as an “unmitigated disaster”. Close to the Galway Atlantaquaria and with off-prom parking, it commands stunning views across the bay to the Burren. The climbing units, including a mini-climbing wall, are particularly popular, and the rubber wet pour surface makes for gentler trips and falls for more excited visitors. Accompanying adults should dress for prevailing westerly winds. Hot chocolates and coffee close to hand at the aquarium’s Arabica coffee house. LS

Rinville Park
Rinville west, Oranmore, Co Galway
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Good for: children and their adults and animals, of all ages and abilities.
Rinville Park playground’s strength is not so much its equipment as its location, nestled within woodlands close to the ruins of Rinville House overlooking southern Galway Bay. A Norman tower house, woodland trails, a small lake and big meadows have been maintained by the local authorities since 1986. Some recent clearfelling within the 18 hectares of mixed broadleaf and conifer woodland has not spoiled the magic and, if you are lucky, you might spot an otter, heron or raven. There’s an adult gym close to the children’s playground, where the big slide, basket swing and crawl-through-tube use up lots of energy – with plenty of scope beyond for dogs. LS

KERRY

Fenit playground
Fenit, Tralee, Co Kerry
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Good for: Spectacular views of Tralee Bay.
The spacious playground, located at the entrance to Fenit pier, is adjacent to the beach and was at one time the Fenit Railway Station. Local schoolchildren from St Brendan’s National School and Spa National School were involved in the design of the playground before it was opened in 2006. The playground, with swings, hopscotch and slides, is fenced but do be careful when close to the open pier if visiting with young children. The playground is suitable for children up to 12. LC

KILDARE

Monasterevin Community Playground
Monasterevin, Co Kildare
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Good for: Younger and older children happy to play in close proximity.
Sited where the Grand Canal crosses the river Barrow, this playground is hidden away under the street in this quiet midlands town. Access is via a ramp, it has swings, a roundabout, a seesaw and a gazebo style hut – for hanging out in. The large sandpit is the highlight, with a climbing net, tables and spring loaded seats.
Additional: For older children, there’s a super rubber horizontal swing and a climbing frame for bodybuilding. ST

Kill Community Playground
Kill GAA Club, Kill, Co Kildare
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Good for: Enjoying the slide/being inspired by weekend GAA action.
One of the newest playgrounds on the list, the Kill Community Playground opened in August 2016. It is on land provided by the Kill GAA club and serves six local villages. The central point of the fenced playground is a large earth mound that has a tower, wobble bridges, a climbing wall and a long slide. The slide was custom-built after consultation with local primary school children on a winning design. There is also a 30m zip wire for older children and a large spinning disc. Younger children are catered for with rockers, a seesaw and a sandpit area. Adults are catered for with the Playground Cafe. LC

KILKENNY

Castlecomer Discovery Park
Drumgoole, Castlecomer, Co Kilkenny

The elf-village, part of the free-of-charge Timber Tumbles playground at the Discovery Park in Castlecomer, Co Kilkenny

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Good for: Family days out.
The coal mining-themed Timber Tumbles playground, set at the entrance to the discovery park, is free to access and suitable for kids aged 2 to about 12. It includes a mini zip line, climbing wall, wooden mining cart and swings and slides. Make a family day out of it, and visit the elf and fairy village or explore the woodland trails, or pay extra to try boating, treetop walking or take a ride on Ireland’s longest over-water zipline. Finish up in the cafe, or visit the artists’ studios in the courtyard. Parking is free for one hour or €4 for the whole day. JO’C

Kilkenny Castle Playground
Kilkenny Castle, The Parade, Kilkenny city
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Good for: Family days out.
Located in the grounds of the castle, this relatively new and brightly coloured playground is for ages 2 to 14. It includes a space net, supernova roundabout, a selection of swings and slides, spinner bowls, springers and play panels. The opening hours coincide with the castle’s opening hours, and the playground is free to visit. JO’C

LAOIS

Solas na Gréine
People’s Park, Timahoe Road, Portlaoise, Co Laois
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Good for: Wildlife-watching on the river.
This modern playground is situated in the People’s Park which developed as an ecological area with emphasis on creating an area diverse in wildlife. The “Sunshine playground” is suitable for children up to age 12, with a whippee springer, junior and senior swings, slide and climber unit, cable runway, springers and seesaws, roundabout and sand play area. There is a picnic area. Look out for fish jumping in the river Triogue, which runs alongside, as well as numerous birds on the banks.
Additional: Adult outdoor gym equipment will get parents or carers in on the action and add in a woodland and fairy trail walk. LC

Playground at the Old Boys School
Kilkenny Road, Durrow, Co Laois
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Good For: Children of all ages, with some adventure rides.
A trip to the Durrow Scarecrow Festival last summer resulted in the discovery of this super playground in the heart of the midlands. The swings go high up into the air which is particularly appealing to older children. And, the basket swing and large swing with a back, padded arm rails and a strap across the middle are suitable for children with disabilities.
Additional: The standing rope swing and standing seesaws appeal to the more adventurous, as does the maypole with its demanding rope ladder, knotted rope and climb-into or sit-on-top basket. ST

LEITRIM

Glencar Park
Largandoon, Glencar, Leitrim

This playground is in a scenic glaciated valley 

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Good for: Spectacular scenery.
If you want to add poetry to your playground pilgrimage, make your way to Glencar in Leitrim (not Sligo as often believed). The playground is in the scenic glaciated valley where the enchanting Glencar Waterfall can be found. The waterfall was mentioned by WB Yeats in The Stolen Child, and a wooded walk towards it allows for magical storytelling on the way. For the older children and adults, who may not see the joy of a simple but modern playground, the glaciated valley serves as the perfect backdrop for a geography lesson. The Teashed, located right beside the playground, beats most playground snack areas with its range of fresh food, desserts and locally produced arts and crafts.
Additional: Nearby you can take a walk to Ireland’s highest waterfall, the Devil's Chimney. LC

LIMERICK

The Manor FieldsAdare recreation & community complex
Rathkeale Rd, Graigue, Adare, Co Limerick
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The Manor Fields is a community-owned, multifunctional recreational facility spread over 25 acres. The all-abilities playground is sure to impress all the family with a range of equipment for younger and older children: a junior and senior climbing frame; fairy house; totem pole; trampoline; zip wire; balance beams; junior and senior swings; tunnels; digger; play tables; hill slide; seesaw; and – whew – a hammock. Sports pitches make up the rest of the complex, and parking is available.
Additional: Adare touts itself as one of Ireland’s prettiest towns, so take time to explore and enjoy lunch there after all the exercise. LC

Dreamland
Park Point, Unit 6, Dublin Road, Rheboge, Limerick

Dreamland in Limerick, Ireland's first all-inclusive play center for children to play together regardless of their ability or disability. Photograph: Brian Gavan/Press22

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Good for: inclusive play.
Dreamland is Ireland’s first all-inclusive play centre for children to play together regardless of their ability or disability. Set up by the Share A Dream Foundation (a registered charity founded by Shay Kinsella in 1989), it is designed to reflect a child’s idea of a magical place, the kind they find in their imagination or in books. It includes a number of themed areas, a supermarket to learn shopping basics and an aeroplane room to act a pilot or a flight attendant. There is also a sensory room for children needing peace, and a play room surrounded by glass for terminally ill children who cannot mix with others, but wish to see them.
There is no admission cost for children with special need who are registered with the charity (forms are available on dreamland.ie) but other children and adults are charged €8 for a 1½-hour time slot. Book online.
Additional: Music and dance therapy are held in the Dream Factory. LC

Mungret Inclusion Park, Limerick

The park at Mungret Inclusion Park, Limerick, was deigned with children with special needs in mind, but it's a great day out for everyone

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Good for: All levels of ability.
The park at Mungret was designed with children with special needs in mind, but it’s a great day out for everyone, says Orla Murphy, mum of Oisín (1) and Cian (5), who has special needs. “This playground allows Cian to mix with his peers and have fun,” she says. Equipment includes a dipped seat, a wheelchair-accessible swing and sensory activities. “The ethos in the playground is wonderful. I was in a position where I needed help in an emergency with my child and the other people there were unbelievably helpful,” Murphy adds. JO’C

LONGFORD

The Mall
88 College Park, Longford
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Good for: A break from the town.
One of Longford’s hidden gems is the Mall landscaped park. A 2km loop walk along the river incorporates a playground for younger children, adult exercise equipment and numerous seating areas. The playground has the usual equipment and the location is a relaxing place to escape from town for an hour. The duck pond means there is plenty to watch also. Its location around the swimming pool means easy access for refreshments and rest rooms. LC

Aughnacliffe Playground
Leebeen Park, Aughnacliffe, Co Longford
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Good for: Ziplining and enjoying spectacular views.
The park is a voluntary community initiative and, over the course of the last decade, has been developed with nature trails, a green gym, walking loops and a boardwalk along the lake. “The timber frame playground overlooks the lake in one of the most picturesque settings possible, with what my hard-to-impress urban boypack describe as the best zip wires ever,” says Liam Reid. People travel from all over to visit. The playground is designed for children aged 6 and older. JO’C

MAYO

Tom Ruane Park
Sligo Road, Ballina, Co Mayo

Tom Ruane Park was recently upgraded to include more inclusive play equipment

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Good for: Tiring the kids out.
Recently upgraded to include more inclusive play equipment, this playground is a huge hit with families in Ballina. Constructed in sustainable wood, it has every conceivable type of play equipment, including a huge double slide, swings and bucket swings, toddler swings, wooden beam, monkey bars, maze, roundabout, zip line, seesaw and a climbing structure. There are also tennis courts, basketball courts and all-weather football pitch, making it an ideal spot to bring a picnic and do some duck-spotting. JO’C

MEATH

Balrath Woods
Burtonstown, Co Meath

Balrath has play equipment dotted along the trail and a book swap library. Photograph: Facebook

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Good for: Getting back to nature.
Think “Meath” and “playgrounds” and you’ll probably think of the theme park dedicated to the iconic potato-based snack food. Meath also boasts Loughcrew Gardens Adventure Centre and Rathbeggan Lakes, which is a cheap-as-crisps €3 per person. But for an outing that’s even easier on your pocket, try the forest walk at Balrath Wood – also known locally as Knockcomra. It’s located just off the N2 from Ashbourne, and has play equipment dotted along the trail and a book swap library. Download a guide to the nature walk from meath.ie before you go. JO’C

Trim playground
Jonathan Swith Road, Trim, Co Meath
Good for: toddlers to pre-teens
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This attractive wooden playground has lots of castle- and drawbridge-style climbing equipment, slides. Grass rubber matting throughout replaced an earlier stone surface during a major upgrade in 2015.  A rope-lattice roundabout lets the older kids go as high as they dare, while smallies can hang out of the lower rungs. There’s also a sensory wall, spring rockets, a zipline, seesaw, slides – one of which is built into a hill – and an enormous king’s (or queen’s) chair that makes for good photographs. Loads of parking nearby for more than 80 cars.

MONAGHAN

Lough Muckno
Castleblayney, Co Monaghan

Lough Muckno's equipment is designed to “allow children to use their imagination

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Good for: Finding your balance.
Adventure and imagination are the focus of the Lough Muckno playground, also known as Wilbert’s Enchanted Garden, in Castleblayney. The equipment is designed to “allow children to use their imagination”. There is a separate toddlers’ area with a playhouse with slide, springing horses, shipwreck with ropes, sandpit, a climbing and balancing pole and swings – both cradle and standard. In the adventure playpark for older children, the focus is on climbing, with climbing poles, pyramid towers with climbing nets, suspension bridge, rope bridge and spiral tunnel slide, parallel zip wires for racing, a giant swing and a disc roundabout.
Additional: Lough Muckno is Monaghan’s largest lake and the park is set on 900 acres of woodland. Outdoor activities – such as orienteering and nature walks – take place on the two islands. LC

OFFALY

Daingean playground
Daingean, Co Offaly
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Good for: A morning on the canal.
This fenced playground on the banks of the canal has a mixture of brightly coloured play panels, bouncers and rustic swings, slides, climbing units and a rope bridge. Swings are a mix of bucket swings, cradle swings and mirage swings which have full back and side supports and a seat-belt, suitable for many children with mobility difficulties.
Additional: Nearby outdoor adventure company Grand Canal Adventures offers kayaking, paddle-boarding and zorbing, which will keep the older kids – and adults – entertained. LC

ROSCOMMON

Lough Key Forest Park
Rockingham Demesne, Boyle, Co Roscommon

Lough Key Forest Park in Boyle, Co Roscommon is good for adventurous play

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Good for: Adventurous play.
Lough Key Forest Park, on the southern shore of Lough Key, offers 800 hectares to explore, including woodland biking and walking trails, a spectacular lake, castles, islands, picnic spots, and segway, zipline adventures and boat hire. The Adventure Play Kingdom playground has towers, slides, climbing frames, roundabouts, swings and puzzles. The park is a joint venture between Coillte and Roscommon County Council run as a private entity; unfortunately, it’s €5 to enter the playground, but as there’s so much on offer, we are making an exception to our “free fun” rule. JO’C

SLIGO

Doorly Park Playground
Cleaveragh Demesne, Co Sligo
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Good for: Spectacular sunsets over the river.
Situated on the banks of the Garavogue, Doorly Park offers woodlands and wetlands for walks and boating, a green gym and copious opportunities for duck-spotting. The playground can be found opposite the Cleaveragh retail centre and has a diverse range of play equipment, including an interactive technology zone, a climbing web and swings. JO’C

TIPPERARY

Thurles playground
Cathedral Street, Thurles, Co Tipperary
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Good for: Families, including the dog.
Over the past decade, Thurles has slowly put together an impressive family space near the centre of town. The new playground is more than enough to keep those in single digits (and a little older) happy. However, it is what surrounds the playground which makes the area so attractive for young and old – including a leisure centre (gym and pool), basketball/football pitch, library, visual art gallery, 250-seat theatre, skateboard park, outdoor gym and dog walking path beside the river Suir. And, fortunately when you’re finished all that, a delicious cafe, Stef Hans. DC

Clerihan Community Play Park
Knockeevan, Clonmel, Co Tipperary

A clever use of space maximises every inch of this award-winning community playground

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Good for: Adventurous play. A clever use of space maximises every inch of this award-winning community playground, which stands out among the other urban, boxy playgrounds in the area. Constructed in sustainable crooked robina wood, with tiger mulch surfaces, it features a large and smaller hill slide, climbing web, balance beam, seesaw, tunnel, bucket swing, a sand play area, and a gently moulded landscape to encourage scrambling and exploring. JO’C

Fethard playground
Fethard village, Co Tipperary
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Good for: children of all ages and abilities.
This is a playground in a small village that a large town would be proud of. There are two separate areas. On one side is a large, bright, well-maintained playground, which boasts fun equipment above and beyond an average outdoor play area. Next door is a “Sensory Musical Garden”, a project funded by the South Tipperary Autism Support Group. The garden is aimed at children (and adults) with intellectual and physical disabilities, though all are welcome. Along with families looking for a nice day out, any group currently planning to build a playground in their area should take a trip to this south Tipperary village. DC

WATERFORD
Fenor Play Park
Fenor, Co Waterford

The playground in the small village of Fenor was built as a result of a community fundraising effort. It is made of local wood and stone and is landscaped to reflect the surrounding countryside.  Photograph: Patrick Browne

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Good for: Adventurous play.
Fenor, a tiny village near Tramore in Co Waterford, is home to a church, pub and, thanks to a community fundraising effort, one of the best playgrounds in the country. Built using local wood and stone and landscaped to reflect the surrounding countryside, it has a zipline, climbing frame, sand play area, tyre swings, and a slide set on top of rock boulders. Combine a visit with a break for refreshments in Mother McHugh’s pub or the Copperhen restaurant, and a stroll on the boardwalked bogland opposite. JO’C

Tramore Inclusion Park
Tramore, Co Waterford

Tramore Inclusion Park needs to be ambitious to compete with all the other attractions of this busy seaside town - and it does

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Good for: All levels of ability.
This two-year-old, €243,000 playground needed to be ambitious to compete with all the other attractions of this busy seaside town – and it does, offering more than 20 pieces of equipment, including a wheelchair-accessible swing, set around the central attraction of a spectacular wooden shipwreck. Equipment is built in sustainable timber and includes a rope ladder and crow’s nest, two ziplines, and a network of tunnels, slides, swings and basket swings. A word of caution: keeping track of your kids can be a challenge on busy days. JO’C

WESTMEATH

Dún na Sí playground
Dún na Sí Amenity & Heritage Park, Mount Temple Road, Moate, Co Westmeath
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Good for: A family day out.
The Dún na Sí Amenity Park, where the playground is located, was once a commons area known locally as Cow’s Park. It has small separate junior and senior playgrounds and features wooden playground staples. Adult exercise machines in the park mean adults have no excuse not to stay on their feet, until a visit to the Cratloe Cafe is needed. The park location of this playground is its main attraction – explore the “Art in the Park” project, which sees imaginative creations emerge from the parkland, with fairy doors adding magic for all ages.
Additional: The Heritage Park (entrance fee applies) will take you on a journey through Ireland’s past from magical stones to ancient farms. See video LC

WEXFORD

Gorey Town Park
Creagh Demesne, Gorey, Co Wexford
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Good for: Skating enthusiasts.
Gorey Town Park has an expansive, enclosed and well-equipped children’s play area, with slides, springers, swings, multi-play structures, a picnic area, and a pathway for walkers and jogging enthusiasts. And there’s a nicely maintained skateboarding park. The park is about to get even better: it’s due for a revamp along with the adjoining Showgrounds, starting in August. JO’C

WICKLOW

Seafront Playground
Bray, Co Wicklow
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Good For: Younger children.
With Dublin city centre only a 40-minute train journey away, Bray is a popular place to visit for a daytrip. The playground is aimed at younger children, with two slides and two sets of traditional swings – one of which has a circular cushioned basket swing for sharing. There’s also a rope climbing frame, a seesaw and a few seats for adults.
Additional: The recent upgrading of off-road cycle tracks and stylish street lighting add a contemporary feel to this Victorian seaside resort. ST

Russborough House and Gardens
Blessington, Co Wicklow

Access to the playground at Russborough is free

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Good for: Irish and International families visiting this country house estate.
Surprising as it may seem, access to the playground at Russborough is free. Yes, you’ve got to pay to park (€2 per day) and to enter the beech hedge maze and the fairy trail, but the playground offers plenty of fun for 3-12 year olds with its wooden framed swings, sandpit, slides and spider web climbing frame.
Additional: A picnic area, large logs and stones strewn throughout the area for adults to sit on and a train carriage for small people to take shelter in. ST

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