Staycations 2020: Leinster, where Eastern promises are delivered in full

From days by the seaside to adrenaline-filled days riding rollercoasters, Leinster offers staycationers major bang for their buck.
Staycations 2020: Leinster, where Eastern promises are delivered in full
Immerse yourself in the story of our changing climate in Ireland’s first interactive climate change experience at Cool Planet in Powerscourt House, County Wicklow.

From days by the seaside to adrenaline-filled days riding rollercoasters, Leinster offers staycationers major bang for their buck.

Easily covered by day trips, base yourself centrally and plan to sprawl over the province for an action-packed holiday.

SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE

Birr Castle and Science Centre boasts one of the most fantastic playgrounds in the country.
Birr Castle and Science Centre boasts one of the most fantastic playgrounds in the country.

We may all be extremely pleased that we can venture further afield again, but that does not mean we no longer want maximum bang for our buck.

When it comes to families – young families in particular – there are certain requirements that are non-negotiable.

Luckily, Leinster is positively over-flowing with family-friendly experiences, often even serving good coffee.

In Offaly, Birr Castle and Science Centre boasts not only one of the most fantastic playgrounds in the country, but also a museum centred around a telescope which has been installed in the castle since 1845, when it was the largest telescope on earth.

There are lots of open farms to visit across the province, where city kids have a chance to embrace their rural urges.

Mare and Foal at Airfield Trust. The grounds of the Airfield Estate contain a delightful day out for families young and old.
Mare and Foal at Airfield Trust. The grounds of the Airfield Estate contain a delightful day out for families young and old.

Top experiences include Newgrange Farm which has lots of up close and personal action with a range of animals as well as lots of great play areas.

With onsite go-karts, diggers and a maze, Kia Ora farm in Wexford is as full service as they get.

It’s also fully buggy and wheelchair accessible.

The grounds of Airfield Estate in the Dublin suburb of Dundrum contain a delightful day out for families young and old.

You can feed the hens and watch the cows be milked before heading off to check out the outdoor story corner, barn full of toys for imaginative play for children or outdoor adventure playground with climbing frames, scramble nets, slides and the now-essential, zip wire.

Lucy the Chimpanzee at Dublin Zoo
Lucy the Chimpanzee at Dublin Zoo

Dublin Zoo has re-opened, but will be initially limiting its daily allowance of visitors to two daily slots with 500 hundred people maximum in each session, less than 10% of usual capacity at any one time.

The new outdoor one-way walking route allows ample time and space to see the plethora of animals who call the zoo home, as well as handy stop offs at the many playgrounds along the way.

At Greenan Maze in County Wicklow, you’ll be able to explore 10 acres of outdoor grounds, two large outdoor mazes, nature walks including a treasure hunt and fairy tree trail, with lots of friendly farm animals in between.

There’s an onsite coffee shop selling takeaway drinks, sandwiches and cakes, and all the facilities young families need on a day out.

In the shade of Ireland’s tallest Norman Motte, Longford’s Knights and Conquests offers an opportunity for families to dress up like Normans of yore, receive their very own Norman name before digging for ancient treasure at the Norman CSI room.

Travel around the city centre with the Viking Splash Tour learning about its history and scaring unassuming walkers with sporadic Viking roars.
Travel around the city centre with the Viking Splash Tour learning about its history and scaring unassuming walkers with sporadic Viking roars.

Explore Dublin the most thrilling way possible aboard the Viking Splash Tour.

You’ll spend an hour and a half travelling around the city centre, learning about its history and scaring unassuming walkers with sporadic Viking roars.

When your land-lubbing is done, you’ll take to the water with a splash and check out the city from the river Liffey.

Immerse yourself in the story of our changing climate in Ireland’s first interactive climate change experience at Cool Planet in Powerscourt House, County Wicklow.

Through immersion, gaming, competition and more, discover what is making our climate change, the science behind it and how you can help create a healthy future for you and the planet.

LOOK INTO THE PAST

The three well-known large passage tombs, Knowth, Newgrange and Dowth were built over 5,000 years ago in the Neolithic Age
The three well-known large passage tombs, Knowth, Newgrange and Dowth were built over 5,000 years ago in the Neolithic Age

From ancient tombs to tales of Ireland’s civil war, you could spend your entire staycation immersing yourself in the colourful history of this sprawling province.

Let Brú na Bóinne Visitor Centre be your first port of all on your historical tour of Leinster.

Named after the area of land which is home to the three well-known large passage tombs, Knowth, Newgrange and Dowth, built over 5,000 years ago in the Neolithic Age, the centre is the only access point to Newgrange and Knowth, which lie north of the river

Housed in the vaults of Dublin’s CHQ building, EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum tells the tale of those who left Ireland and how they influenced and shaped the world as we know it today.

The digital-only museum takes in interactive galleries, complete with touch screens, motion sensor quizzes and a feast of powerful audio and video that bring Irish history to life.

Take a tour of Dublin Castle where extremely well-versed guides take visitors on a fascinating journey from the excavation site of Viking and medieval Dublin to the Gothic Chapel Royal and finally to the splendour of the former vice-regal State Apartments.

If tours are not your scene, you can download a self-guiding app directly from the website.

Kilmainham Gaol incarcerated some of the most famous political and military leaders in Irish history, including Robert Emmet, Charles Stewart Parnell, the 1916 Rising leaders and Éamon de Valera.
Kilmainham Gaol incarcerated some of the most famous political and military leaders in Irish history, including Robert Emmet, Charles Stewart Parnell, the 1916 Rising leaders and Éamon de Valera.

Opened in 1796, Kilmainham Gaol incarcerated some of the most famous political and military leaders in Irish history, including Robert Emmet, Charles Stewart Parnell, the 1916 Rising leaders and Eamon de Valera.

Guided tours through the gaol offers a realistic insight into what is was like to have been confined in one of these tiny cells.

One of Ireland’s most popular visitor attractions, Guinness Storehouse, and for good reason.

It tells the story of Guinness over seven floors shaped around a giant pint, which, if filled would contain 14.3 million pints of Guinness.

By the time you reach the Gravity Bar, which enjoys panoramic views of Dublin city, you’ll be gasping for a drink, and lucky you, because you’ll get one here.

In Wexford, the Irish National Heritage Park offers an outdoor experience of our nation’s historic roots.

Here, visitors have the opportunity to explore historic and archaeological Ireland through reconstructions of historic sites and over 40 acres of natural woodland and trails.

Hook Lighthouse is the oldest intact operational Lighthouse in the world.
Hook Lighthouse is the oldest intact operational Lighthouse in the world.

Wexford is also home to Hook Lighthouse, the oldest operational lighthouse in the world.

As well as spectacular views out as far as the eye can see, the team here offer wonderful guided tours and activities on the lawn year round.

As the homeplace of The Butler family since 1391, Kilkenny Castle has a chequered and fascinating history.

As well as tours through the castle proper, the grounds spread over 50 acres and features stunning gardens and a great children’s playground.

After your royal tour, check out, The Smithwick’s Experience.

With fully guided tours and a complimentary pint of Smithwicks at the end, this is a highly enjoyable introduction to the story behind the area’s most famous ale.

Clonmacnoise in Offaly is a sixth century monastic site, located on the banks of the River Shannon is home to three high crosses, a cathedral, seven churches and two round towers.

There is a wonderful visitor centre, whose centrepiece is a huge Cross of the Scriptures, but the sense of peace around the site is what draws people from around the world each year.

CULTURE VULTURES

The Natural History Museum is on Merrion Street, where you’ll get to see exhibitions exploring living creatures, past and present.
The Natural History Museum is on Merrion Street, where you’ll get to see exhibitions exploring living creatures, past and present.

Across Leinster, museums and galleries offer a treasure trove of insight into Ireland’s living culture and heritage.

The National Museum of Ireland is spread over four campuses; three of which are in Dublin.

At Collins Barracks, you’ll get to experience Decorative Arts, including weaponry, silver, ceramics and glassware.

Over on Kildare Street, you’ll find archaeological treasures like prehistoric gold and Viking relics.

The Natural History Museum is over the road on Merrion Street, where you’ll get to see exhibitions exploring living creatures, past and present.

Spend a few hours exploring the hallowed hallways of the Irish Museum of Modern Art, featuring work from some of Ireland’s most boundary-pushing creatives.
Spend a few hours exploring the hallowed hallways of the Irish Museum of Modern Art, featuring work from some of Ireland’s most boundary-pushing creatives.

The Irish Museum of Modern Art is housed in the 17th Century Royal Hospital in Kilmainham – the building alone is worth a visit.

Spend a few hours exploring these hallowed hallways, featuring work from some of Ireland’s most boundary-pushing creatives.

The Museum of Literature Ireland (MoLI) celebrates Ireland’s world renowned literary culture from the past to the present, inspiring visitors of all ages to create, read and write.

The museum draws its core inspiration from the work of writer James Joyce and is named after his best known female character, Molly Bloom.

The Irish Agricultural Museum in County Wexford houses one of the most comprehensive displays of farming and rural life in the country.

The Museum which has been open for over forty years, now consists of 19 different exhibitions for you to discover.

THE GREAT OUTDOORS

Glendalough features plenty of walking trails suited to both families with buggies and more adventurous hikers. Picture: iStock
Glendalough features plenty of walking trails suited to both families with buggies and more adventurous hikers. Picture: iStock

If it’s fresh air and walking trails you crave, then Leinster has something for everyone. From punishing hikes to family friendly rambles, look no further.

Glendalough in Wicklow is a wonderful starting point for families and those who are still feeling out their fitness levels post-lockdown.

Home to one of the most important monastic settlements in Ireland, it features plenty of walking trails suited to both families with buggies and more adventurous hikers.

Bring a picnic, and spend the day.

Film buffs can follow the trail of Excalibur through Wicklow.

The 42km trail starts and ends in the village of Roundwood and takes in all of the sites where blockbuster Excalibur was filmed.

You’ll pass The Sally Gap and Glencree as well as the splendour of The Powerscourt Waterfall before checking out the gorgeous Powerscourt Estate.

Be sure to stop into Avoca to stock up on treats for the journey.

Delta Sensory Gardens are set on a 2.5 acre site with 16 interconnecting gardens.
Delta Sensory Gardens are set on a 2.5 acre site with 16 interconnecting gardens.

As you drive from Dublin to Wicklow, the Sugarloaf mountain rises in the background.

A baby mountain, the trail is easily navigable, and takes about an hour to reach its summit.

Not advised for very small children and babies and wobblers, as buggies are a no-go here, but for those with energy-filled young ones – this is a fabulous first mountain to conquer.

Voted the number one thing to do in Carlow by Tripadvisor, Delta Sensory Gardens are set on a 2.5 acre site with 16 interconnecting gardens.

Situated on the outskirts of Carlow town, expect to see a riot of colour amidst numerous water features.

The gardens have an excellent garden centre and café, serving fantastic cakes and sandwiches.

The National Stud and Japanese Gardens in Kildare is set on 800 acres of immaculately kept countryside.

Touring with a guide you’ll hear the behind-the-scenes story of producing champion thoroughbreds, or visit the stallions in their stables.

The National Stud and Japanese Gardens in Kildare is set on 800 acres of immaculately kept countryside.
The National Stud and Japanese Gardens in Kildare is set on 800 acres of immaculately kept countryside.

Created by Japanese craftsman Tassa Eida and his son Minoru, the Japanese Gardens offer peaceful respite for anyone who is struggling after the last few months.

Boasting an outdoor play area with crazy golf, a pet farm and train trips, it’s no surprise that Lullymore Heritage Park in Kildare is a hugely popular spot for families during the summer months.

Set on 60 acres of bogland, there are lots of walking trails and family-friendly facilities here for everyone to enjoy.

If it’s thrill-seeking you’re after, then Tayto Park is the ticket for you.

With an ever-changing programme of activities, the theme park has something for all ages and abilities, making it the perfect destination for families with a range of age groups.

Allow time for queueing and pack a change of clothing for the children – splashing is mandatory here!

Previously a commercial bog where peat was harvested to heat homes around the country, today Lough Boora Discovery Park is home to countless species of birds and wildlife, fish-filled lakes and a permanent exhibition of huge outdoor sculptures.

Cyclists will be in heaven here – it has 22km of cycle trails with a 9km car-free path ideal for younger bikers to explore.

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