‘We would go back in a heartbeat’: Readers share their best family holidays

From birds and bears in Co Clare, to safari and history on a tour of South Africa

 

We asked readers to tell us about their favourite family holidays ever. Here's a selection of the stories we received, from driving around Morocco, to meeting the birds and bears in Co Clare.

Birds and bears in Co Clare

On a visit to the Aillwee caves last summer, we got so much more than just “the caves”. First we went to the Bird of Prey centre where both my children were lucky enough to get to hold a bird each. On the short walk from the centre to the caves we passed by a tent where archery enthusiast Robert lets anyone try their hand at archery. Most archery clubs have a lower age limit of eight years, but both my children (ages four and five) got to shoot some arrows with size-appropriate bows under careful guidance. My daughter, who has long harboured dreams of becoming a knight when she grows up, was in heaven. We finally did the tour of the caves, and heard about the bear bones discovered there. Back at the holiday home that evening, I asked the children where they were going with the coal tongs and shovel that they had taken from the fireplace. My son replied “to look for bears in caves of course”. That’s when you know you’ve made a special holiday memory. Claire McDonnell

Claire McDonnell’s daughter trying her hand at archery in Co Clare.
Claire McDonnell’s daughter trying her hand at archery in Co Clare.

Ferry to France for wine and camping

For the past two years we have gone to France on the Cork-Roscoff ferry route, and stayed with Eurocamps at the Domaine les Ormes campsite in Brittany, about half an hour from Mont St Michel and St Malo. We are a family of a three, with a very active four-year-old. I was a total cynic, saying “this is for the child”, not looking forward to staying in a mobile home or campsite, but thinking at least there would be some good cheap wine. I could not have been more wrong (apart from the wine, thankfully excellent and cheap). We have had two superb holidays and are going again this year. The campsites are brilliant, there is so much to do and the people working there are so nice. The ferry trips have been great, with good entertainment for our little one on board. Taking the car means you don’t have to worry about the weight of your bags, or putting your moisturisers in plastic bags. We went to the beach, ate local galettes (crepes), visited local markets, sampled more gateaux in local cafes than could ever be considered healthy, and as for the wine. . . We are looking forward to going again in a few months. If you want to experience indoor swimming pools and slides, crazy golf, zipwire, adventure courses for kids and adults, archery and golf, all at reasonable prices, this is the holiday for you. Siobhan Brosnan

Driving through Morocco with the kids and gran

Two years ago my husband and I, plus our three children aged 14, 11 and nine and my mum, spent two and a half weeks driving through Morocco. We stayed in towns and villages; camped in the desert; walked with camels; climbed sand dunes; got lost in Marrakech; drove the long way (eight hours) over the Atlas mountains; ate delicious food; met friendly people; enjoyed listening to the call to prayer; saw amazing sights, including star gazing lying outside our tent in the Sahara, the sunset from the highest sand dunes, the craziness of Jemaa El Fna and the Medina in Marrakech. It was a memorable trip that we all still talk about. It’s a great country, easy to navigate (for the most part), the people are very welcoming, and it’s only a short flight away. Nessa Walsh

Bike rides and beach days on a camping holiday in Holland

Last year we took our two sons, Lucas (7) and Finn, 4) to Duinrell campsite in Holland. I was instantly transported back to my own family holidays where we would load up the car (duvets and all) and drive to one of many campsites in France. Our Holland holiday consisted of bike rides and beach days and BBQs. What more could you want? Anne Marie Orr

Relaxing but fun spa break in Austria

We went to the Zillertal Valley in Austria last summer with our two kids, who were aged seven and three at the time. We live in an apartment, so the last thing we want to do on holidays is go to another apartment. So we booked a beautiful spa hotel called Das Kaltenbach with zip line, swings, slides for the kids and an amazing pool and spa. There were goats on site, as well as bike hire and a games room. We spent our time in cable cars and playing at the tops of mountains. The place is so clean and safe, and the kids had a blast. The municipal playgrounds in Austria are head and shoulders above anything we have here in Ireland, and it was all just so easy. Conor Plunkett

‘Went to the Zillertal Valley in Austria last summer with our two kids who were 7 and 3 at the time.’ Photograph: Conor Plunkett
‘Went to the Zillertal Valley in Austria last summer with our two kids who were 7 and 3 at the time.’ Photograph: Conor Plunkett

Safari and history on a tour of South Africa

We took our 12- and 14-year-olds to South Africa a few years ago. It was a most extraordinary experience, and the best family holiday we have ever had. It was important to us at the start of the holiday that the children understood the history of this amazing country and so we visited Soweto, Robben Island and a township in Cape Town. We spent four remarkable and memorable days on safari near Kruger Park. From leopards to elephants, buffalos to rhinos, we saw and relished it all. Our other highlights were visiting Table Mountain and the Cape of Good Hope, and wine tasting in Franschoek. We enjoyed long days on the beautiful beaches and cheered on South Africa in a cricket match. We climbed Lion’s Head, a mountain between Table Mountain and Signal Hill. It was a hot and reasonably tough climb, but the views over Cape Town when we reached the top are something we still remember. We had a perfect holiday in a beautiful and diverse country. We felt safe everywhere we went, and would go back in a heartbeat. Sinead Kelly

‘We took our 12 and 14 years olds to South Africa a few years ago. It was a most extraordinary experience and our best family holiday we have ever had.’ Photograph: Sinead Kelly
‘We took our 12 and 14 years olds to South Africa a few years ago. It was a most extraordinary experience and our best family holiday we have ever had.’ Photograph: Sinead Kelly

Romance and relaxation in Italy

In 2018 we took a trip around Italy with the kids. We had been married near Florence back in 2008, and 10 years later headed back with our two additional family members. We started in Bergamo, a beautiful walled city, before nipping into Milan for a look and an ice-cream or two. From there we travelled to Lake Garda, where we camped at Bella Italia for nearly a week, and got our amusement park fix in Gardaland. We then headed to Florence (all travel by super fast, super cheap trains) for a another few nights, where we enjoyed yet more ice-cream, pizza and art galleries, before heading off to the country side to our wedding venue to unplug, swim and revive. We rounded off the holiday enjoying all the glories of Rome for a few nights. All in all it was an amazing, memorable trip that we all loved. Cian O’Connor

Reliving childhood memories in Co Wexford

My best summer memories are from when my mother, since passed away, would take myself and my twin brothers out of school early every summer to go to Duncannon in Co Wexford for the holidays. We had a mobile home by the sea. My father worked Monday to Friday and we used to wait with huge excitement for him to arrive down each weekend. We would go out in the morning and not arrive back unless we were hungry or it was time for bed. The summers felt warmer and times felt simpler then. I miss those days and my mother especially, but I feel her presence when I go there. We still have the mobile home, and I bring my own children now, more than 40 years later. Julie Cusack

Alternative to Disneyland in Paris

We went to Disneyland Paris but instead of staying in the traditional hotels we stayed in Villages Nature. This is part of the Center Parcs group, but on the grounds of Disney, and they have an arrangement so you still get the Magic Hours early access in the morning. Disney is well covered but Villages Nature is a great accommodation option. We rented a car but there is a shuttle bus from the airport to Villages Nature, and from Villages Nature to Disney. Our daughter enjoyed Villages Nature more than Disney. There is an amazing pool for both kids and adults, a farm with a great indoor play area, massive outdoor play area, and nature walks. There are extras to pay for such as bowling, build a bear etc but we paid in advance and it was not too expensive. Accommodation was clean, warm and comfortable with smart TVs. We never usually go on holidays to the same place twice, but I would go there in the morning. Alan Burke

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