Bring your children out in nature and you’ll not just expand their horizons – you’ll help them connect with the natural world around them, making it much more likely they’ll want to care for and protect it.
Time spent in nature with your kids is a real investment in sustainability, and with longer, brighter days now here – and holiday season on the horizon – why not bring your brood on some eco day trips.
Elaine Butler of sustainable living blog Living Lightly in Ireland has these suggestions:
Birdwatch Ireland manages 16 wild-bird nature reserves throughout Ireland. They feature a variety of habitats, from rocky islands to saltmarshes and lakes, through to woods and semi-improved grasslands. Examples are Cuskinny Marsh, Co Cork and Puffin Island, Co Kerry. Wonderful for getting close to nature – you’ll see flowers, butterflies and other wildlife too. See birdwatchireland.ie.
Bull Island wildlife reserve near Clontarf in Dublin Bay is well known for wild bird sightings. Another wildlife sanctuary is Booterstown Marsh Reserve, an essential resting spot for migrating birds.
Fancy a day of child’s play? Check out this list of playgrounds. They include Tipperary’s Templemore Playground, located in the 90-acre Templemore Town Park (with a manmade lake, woodland walkway and magical fairy trail) and the playground at Doneraile Wildlife Park, Co Cork.
With a recent headline announcing ‘New life for goat and donkey abandoned in the rain’, the Donkey Sanctuary in Liscarroll, Co Cork, is all about sustainability. View the donkeys, historical sites and surrounding countryside from the Sanctuary Walkway. See thedonkeysanctuary.ie.
Lough Hyne, Co Cork, Ireland’s only marine nature reserve, has 72 kinds of fish. Popular for swimming, kayaking and diving, the lanes beside the lough and the trails up Knockomagh are favourites for walking. See baltimore.ie.
Connemara’s 2,000-hectare National Park is a conservation centre incorporating mountains, bogs and grasslands. Four of the mountains belong to the Twelve Bens range. Climb Diamond Hill mountain trail and be rewarded with spectacular views – recommended “for all walkers from active children as young as eight years old”. Traces of ancient settlements are visible in the park, including 4,000-year-old megalithic tombs; also picnic facilities and nature trails. See galwaytourism.ie
Glenveagh National Park, Co Donegal has rugged mountains, lakes, waterfalls and native oak woodland in the heart of the Derryveagh Mountains. On the edge of Lough Veagh is the 19th-century Glenveagh Castle – its gardens are open year round with free admission. There are tea rooms too. Visit glenveaghnationalpark.ie.
Wexford Lavender Farm in the North Wexford countryside has four acres of lavender, café located in converted stables, gift shop, children’s playground, quad barrel train ride, distillery equipment, and woodland walks. Visit wexfordlavenderfarm.com.
Ireland’s largest provider of outdoor recreation, has 260 recreation sites, 12 forest parks, six mountain bike centres and more than 3,000km of marked walking trails. See coillte.ie.
Why not go orienteering with Coillte's 13 permanent orienteering courses around Ireland? Designed to suit all levels from short beginner loops to longer more difficult ones. Find the routes here.
Whether you want a gentle forest ramble or a challenging mountain hike, Coillte has 3,000km of walking trails.
Or how about a leisurely spin with the kids? An adrenaline-pumping challenge in the hills? Coillte’s 300km-long, off-road cycle trail network will have something that suits all.