From the city sights of Dublin and Belfast to natural wonders such as the Giant's Causeway and the Cliffs of Moher, Ireland offers a diverse and memorable Easter holiday experience that neither parents nor children will forget for many years to come.
One of the most popular ways of exploring Ireland is by taking a driving tour, with themed itineraries offering the chance to experience the country's history, culture, literature or music. Road trips also provide the opportunity to take in some of Ireland's most stunning scenery and landscapes at your own pace, something that can be particularly useful for family groups with young children.
With an extensive range of ferries to Ireland available from the British Isles and Europe, experiencing the country's renowned hospitality and seeing its iconic sights has never been easier.
Getting thereFerries from Holyhead to Dublin
, one of Ireland's main ports, are provided by both Stena Line and Irish Ferries. Stena Line also offers ferries from Holyhead to Dun Laoghaire
just south of Dublin.
P&O Ferries and Norfolkline both provide a Liverpool to Dublin ferry service, while the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company links the Irish capital to the port of Douglas.
Rosslare in south-east Ireland can be reached by catching ferries from Fishguard with Stena Line or sailing from Pembroke with Irish Ferries. This port is also connected to Cherbourg and Roscoff in France via ferry crossings provided by Irish Ferries and Celtic Link, while LD Lines provides ferries from Rosslare to Le Havre
Travellers planning to start their Easter break in Northern Ireland can catch ferries from Liverpool to Belfast
with Norfolkline or alternatively use the Stranraer to Belfast ferry service provided by Stena Line.Ferries to Ireland timetable information
Things to do
One of the big advantages of an Easter break in Ireland for families is the number of activities and experiences on offer throughout the country, which ensure that visitors of all ages can enjoy the trip. Most towns and villages in Ireland offer cycling routes that are often based on local folklore or cultural heritage. Popular two-wheeled tours include the easy-going Craigavon trail in Armagh and the Cycle West Ireland route in Cork. Children will enjoy the excitement and freedom of taking to the open road on a bike ride, while parents will get to take in the stunning landscapes of the Burren region and other parts of Ireland.
Younger visitors could well be interested in opportunities to try horse-riding during their break in Ireland, while dads will welcome the chance of spending some time on the fairway at the many golf courses dotted around the country. Sporting activities that will appeal to all age groups include fishing, sailing and even surfing.
There will be plenty of events taking place in Dublin and surrounding areas during the forthcoming Easter holiday period that will ensure families have plenty of entertainment to choose from. On April 12th, Deerpark in Mount Merrion, just south of Dublin, will host the Mad Hatter's Tea Party, which invites visitors young and old to don the most bizarre hat they can find and mix with the White Rabbit, the Mad Hatter and other famous Alice in Wonderland characters.
Another event that many children will be desperate not to miss is the Disney on Ice production of Finding Nemo, which will come to Dublin's RDS centre from April 9th to 13th. This show features all of the popular characters from the animated film in a retelling of the tale, with the added bonus of some impressive ice dancing.
Things to see
If there is one tourist attraction in Ireland that will make children and adults alike feel that they have truly been transported to another world, it is the Giant's Causeway, the country's first Unesco World Heritage site. Formed by a volcanic eruption 60 million years ago, this collection of interlocking basalt columns is at the heart of a popular tourist area in Northern Ireland's County Antrim. After exploring the Causeway itself, families can head off on an adventure along a coastal path that leads to the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge.
Another natural spectacle that always proves popular with families visiting Ireland is County Clare's Cliffs of Moher, which extend along an 8km stretch of the Atlantic coast and provide some of the most stunning views the country has to offer.
There are plenty of monuments and historic sites across the Emerald Isle that provide an insight into its rich heritage, including the castles of Trim in County Meath, which for centuries was a strategically important military fortress, and Leap in the village of Clareen, reportedly the most haunted castle in Ireland. County Tyrone's Beaghmore Stones date back to approximately 1,500 BC, while the Great Mound at Knowth was built some 5,000 years ago.
Places to stay
Ireland's big cities offer the most extensive variety of accommodation, such as the two-star Mercer Court hotel and the four-star Citywest in Dublin. In Belfast, choices range from the three-star Travelodge in the city centre right up to luxury five-star establishments such as the Hilton Belfast and the Fitzwilliam.
Travellers planning to head further south to explore more of Ireland can stay in hotels such as the three-star Woodfield House in Limerick or the four-star Belvedere Lodge in Cork.
Londonderry, a popular location for people wanting to explore County Donegal and the coastline of Northern Ireland, provides accommodation in the two-star Iona Inn, the three-star Travelodge and the four-star Tower Hotel.
Written by Andrew Smith