15 C
New York
Saturday, October 1, 2022

Buy now

spot_img

Family Travel in Ireland, Part 4: Doolin, Dublin, and Belfast


For the tail part of our family trip to Ireland, we spent time in Doolin, Dublin, and Belfast. In addition to my family of five, my parents and sister joined us on this leg of the trip.

Doolin is a nice, laidback village with much to explore and enjoy in the area for families. We also visited the Cliffs of Moher during our time in Doolin.

Dublin and Belfast are more urban, and are more amenable for adults to enjoy. My kids also enjoyed spending time in the cities.

Let’s have a look at the last part of our family trip to Ireland.

Doolin

Doolin is located on the west coast of Ireland, in the area of Burren National Park. It’s a tiny village full of bed and breakfast inns, and a few dining venues.

Burren National Park

Many tourists stop here for the sole purpose of visiting the Cliffs of Moher. These towering sea cliffs run about 14 km along the coast, and are widely considered to be Ireland’s biggest natural attraction. 

Although the cliffs can be seen as a day trip, I decided to make a two-night stay out of it. 

Two days allows you to see surrounding area, too, and you can experience the cliffs at your leisure in the late afternoon or early evening when less tourists are around. If you’re up for a walk, you can take your time enjoying the 13 km coastal walk along the top of the cliffs.

You can also do a boat tour and see the cliffs from the ocean. We made the mistake of booking an early morning tour, and the visibility wasn’t the greatest with a lot of fog. I’d recommend booking later in the day when the fog has lifted. 

Doolin Ferry Company ferry
Poor visibility on a morning boat tour to see the Cliffs of Moher

There are also boat tours and ferries out to the nearby Aran Islands, known for having a natural, rugged landscape with sea cliffs, beaches, and limestone walls. We didn’t have time to visit on this trip, but if you do, be sure to check out the seal colony and shipwreck with the kids.

If you have older ones, there are great trails for biking around the islands. The area is also known for having great scuba diving. 

Just north of the Cliffs of Moher, there are stunning views as you drive along the coast. In fact, it looked even better in the late afternoon sunlight when we drove back from a day of sightseeing. 

There are great views of the Irish coastline near the Cliffs of Moher

Midway along the coastal drive is Fanore Beach, which makes a great stop of the kids to stretch their legs, play in the sand, and swim in the ocean. Surf lessons are offered here as well for any older kids.

Fanore Beach

Continuing north, you reach Ballyvaughan, which is home to the Birds of Prey Centre.

The attraction showcases a number of predatory birds, and features shows of them in action throughout the day. Additional experiences, like hawk walks, can be reserved for an additional fee.

While there, you can also learn how cheese is made by the local Burren Gold cheesemakers, and or take a 30-minute tour of the underground cavernous Aillwee Cave that used to be the home of an ancient bear. If your kids are into caves, there’s also the Doolin Cave.

There are some ruins in Burren National Park, but I didn’t find them to be overly impressive. This is especially so, considering the amount of driving needed to go and see them with the kids.

The one exception would be Caherconnell Fort, which happens to have a sheep farm onsite, and offers sheepdog performances daily.

Sheepdog herding demonstration at Caherconnell Fort

The kids really enjoyed learning about and watching how sheep dogs are raised, trained, and work. This day trip also allows you to experience the unique rocky landscape of the national park. 

Sheep at Caherconnell Fort

Doolin Accommodations: Doolin Inn

I actually had accommodations booked at the Doolin Inn from two years ago, and had emailed the inn each year to push our reservations.

Doolin Inn

I booked directly through the hotel’s website for €220 ($289 CAD) per night, which isn’t something I normally do. During Christmas one year, they were selling hotel vouchers for 20% off, so I had purchased just enough to cover my stay.

Sign up for their emails if you’re interested in staying here, as it seems like they offer such promotions twice a year.

Our stay here was, to be honest, a bit cramped, but not by any fault of theirs. Our room was meant for up to four people, but they were able to squeeze in an extra bed to accommodate our family of five, which I appreciated.

Doolin Inn – Bedroom
Doolin Inn – Bedroom

We didn’t spend much time in our room at all during our stay, as there was so much to do in the area, so the tight space wasn’t too much of an issue. 

The amenities were pretty standard, like those of a traditional bed and breakfast inn or three star hotel. Towels and soaps were provided in the bathroom.

Doolin Inn – Bathroom

There was a mini beverage station in the room, complete with tea and instant coffee.

Doolin Inn – Beverage station

Breakfast was included in our stay, and consisted of a platter of yogurts, smoothies, and scones, plus a choice of a main dish off their menu. They have their own small greenhouse in the back, and grow much of the produce used for their dishes.

Doolin Inn – Breakfast seating
Doolin Inn – Breakfast
Doolin Inn – Breakfast

One thing I didn’t like was that our room only had a tiny window, so it was quite dark even during the day. Along with the cramped space, it didn’t make for the most memorable stay.

Doolin Accommodations: Sheedy’s Doolin Boutique Bed & Breakfast

The Doolin Inn ended being fully booked for our dates, so I had to look elsewhere for my parents and sister when they confirmed their plans to join us. In the end, they lucked out.

Sheedy’s Doolin Boutique B&B – Exterior

I booked them at Sheedy’s Doolin Boutique B&B, which was just down the road from us. They had an incredible stay at the small property, which only has five rooms that can accommodate up to a family of four.

Sheedy’s Doolin Boutique B&B – Check-in desk
Sheedy’s Doolin Boutique B&B – Lobby

I booked a Family Room for 3 for €170 ($223 CAD) per night. It was located on the first floor, and came with a double and single bed.

The room was clean and bright, and had its own ensuite bathroom. Although the decor was simple, it felt cozy.

Sheedy’s Doolin Boutique B&B – Family Room for 3 bedroom
Sheedy’s Doolin Boutique B&B – Family Room for 3 bathroom

There is a small common area on the ground floor which has a small TV and a couple of couches. There is a self-serve honesty bar with wine and other drinks.

Outside, you’ll find a small courtyard.

Sheedy’s Doolin Boutique B&B – Common area
Sheedy’s Doolin Boutique B&B – Honesty bar

By far the most outstanding features of the property were the hosts, Marian and Frank Sheedy, and the outrageous breakfast they served. Marian was the most hospitable host I’ve ever met, and she was very warm, welcoming, and helpful in her suggestions of what to see and when.

She happily mapped out a whole itinerary for us. She was also readily available by text, which was helpful with our late arrival the first night.

Her husband is an excellent chef. Breakfast was a combination of a self-serve continental buffet and hot dishes off a menu.

Not only was the food delectable, the presentation was like that of a Michelin-starred restaurant.  

Sheedy’s Doolin Boutique B&B – Dining room
Sheedy’s Doolin Boutique B&B – Breakfast spread
Sheedy’s Doolin Boutique B&B – Breakfast

Both properties are very conveniently located within walking distance of many pubs and restaurants, and only a few minutes by car to the pier. If I had a choice, though, I’d go with Sheedy’s. 

Dublin

Finally, we got to Dublin, the capital of the Republic of Ireland.

The great thing about Dublin is that most of the main sights and attractions are within walking distance if you are staying in the downtown proper. We were able to ditch our car rental here to save some money. 

We spent two nights in Dublin, and were able to see most of what we wanted to. We joined a free walking tour with a local company, Unearthed Tours, to get acquainted with the city on the first day.

The tour took about 2.5 hours, but went at a leisurely pace and with frequent stops, so even the kids could keep up. 

Our guide was fabulous. Not only did she introduce us to Dublin, pointing out which attractions were worthwhile visiting and which restaurants and pubs were popular amongst the locals, but she also went into Ireland’s history and some of the trials and tribulations they’ve faced over the years.

She also taught us how to properly drink a pint of Guinness.

If you don’t think your kids can manage a walking tour, then perhaps consider booking a Viking Splash Tour. We didn’t find out about this tour until we saw the tour boat, so unfortunately I can’t review it.

Our walking tour guide highly recommended it for families with children aged three and up. On the tour, kids get to wear a viking helmet as they see Dublin from the water as well as land, all in just over an hour.  

Viking Splash Tour in Dublin

We also visited the Dublin Castle. If you’re picturing something like the Buckingham Palace, you’ll probably be disappointed.

The castle is a small one, but it has an important place in Irish history. It was once a Gaelic ringfort, a Viking fortress, and eventually the seat of English and British rule.

On this site is also where the city gets its name “Dubh Linn,” in reference to a black pool that existed where the castle’s garden now stands. 

Dublin Castle

The castle offers an activity sheet for kids to complete while they walk through the castle grounds. It consists of questions, puzzles, and drawings that kept my kids preoccupied during our visit, and drew their attention to things they would have otherwise just passed by. 

Dublin Castle

Down the road from the Dublin Castle is Trinity College, Dublin’s most renowned college. College students run daily tours if you’re interested, but we were here to see the Book of Kells, an ancient manuscript of the four gospels of the Bible’s New Testament.

It was created around 800 AD, and is a renowned for its elaborate and detailed images. Book a ticket beforehand to avoid disappointment.

Although kids may not appreciate the book for what it is, the information displays depict how the book was created, including how many calfskins it took and how inks for the book were made, which made it interesting.

Walking into the Long Room where the book is located also brought out some “oohs and ahhs”, as my kids likened it to the library from Hogwarts from the Harry Potter series. Rows upon rows of books  were stacked high on shelves.  

The Long Room at Trinity College

Actually, if you have any Harry Potter fans in the family, make a stop at Russborough House in Wicklow on the way from Doolin to Dublin. The maze from the Triwizard Tournament from the fourth Harry Potter book was filmed here.

It’s a fun stop after a couple hours of driving, just don’t get lost in there.

At the end of the day, we enjoyed a Guinness at Darkey Kelly’s pub, as recommended by our guide, which seemed like a befitting way to finish off the day.

A famous pub amongst tourists is the Temple Bar, which is lively place, but be prepared to pay more for your pint because of its popularity.

The Temple Bar in Dublin

Some of you may be wondering about the Guiness Storehouse. We didn’t go, as there is no beer production there, but you’ll find an interactive exhibit about the ingredients, brewing, transport, advertising, and sponsorship of beer.

The top floor houses a bar where you can enjoy a Guinness while taking in some great views of Dublin. 

If you need some space for kids to run around and burn off some energy, visit St. Stephen’s Green. It is Dublin’s “Central Park”, and has well manicured paths, a duck pond, gardens, and a huge play park for kids.

St. Stephen’s Green

While they play, you can download the audioguide about the park, and learn about its important place in history. If you prefer a guided tour, book the The Green Mile tour that begins from the Little Museum across the park at 11:30am daily. 

After the park, you can stroll along Grafton Street to shop or grab a bite to eat. You’ll find a number of buskers performing on the street hoping to one day rise to fame, similar to the likes of Ed Sheeran.

There are also Disney and Lego stores along here if the kids need a distraction.

Buskers on Grafton Street in Dublin

One attraction we missed but would have liked to visit, was Kilmainham Gaol, a famous prison in Irish history. If you plan to go, book tickets a few weeks out.

If you haven’t already caught a Celtic dance show prior to Dublin, then book one at the Gaiety Theatre, which has regular performances. 

Dublin Accommodations: Hyatt Centric Liberties

Accommodation options for families of five weren’t easy to come by in Dublin. There are a couple of Marriott and Hilton options that could accommodate families of four, but all of them are quite pricey in terms of cash rates and points redemptions. 

In the end, we chose to stay at the Hyatt Centric Liberties. It’s about a 1520 minute walk from most attractions.

We booked a Family Deluxe room at this newer property for €247 ($324 CAD) per night. Points bookings could be made, starting at 12,000 World of Hyatt points per night for a standard room that can accommodate only two guests.

Hyatt Centric Liberties – Lobby

With my Hyatt Globalist status, they threw in breakfast for all guests staying in the room. In fact, I booked two rooms, with an extra one for my parents and sister, and they were also given free breakfast as well.

The complimentary breakfast consisted of a drink, a main dish, and a side dish from their menu.

Hyatt Centric Liberties – Breakfast
Hyatt Centric Liberties – Dining room

The room was clean and modern in decor. Even though we had booked a Family Deluxe Room that could accommodate four people, it only had one king bed.

There was a sofa in the room that could only accommodate one individual. When I called down to enquire, they sent up a rollaway bed free of charge. 

Hyatt Centric Liberties – Family Deluxe Room bedroom
Hyatt Centric Liberties – Family Deluxe Room bedroom

The bathroom was spacious and modern, with a shower, toilet, and single sink.

Hyatt Centric Liberties – Family Deluxe Room bathroom

Aside from the restaurant, there is also a nice bar beside the lobby.

Hyatt Centric Liberties – Lobby bar

There isn’t a pool, but if the kids need some space, you can walk a few minutes to St. Patrick’s Cathedral which has a park outside with a small playground.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral
Playground at St. Patrick’s Cathedral

For adults, there is a 24-hour gym. They used to host sessions on Irish history and Irish whiskey at the hotel, but these have been on hold since the pandemic. 

If you’re looking for a place that can accommodate five guests to a room and that has a pool, then consider Camden Court Hotel. We almost ended up staying here.

It appears to be quite a family-friendly property, it’s close to St. Stephen’s Green, and about a 1520 minute walk to other attractions. 

Belfast

From Dublin, we went to Belfast, which is about a two-hour journey by bus. The trip is a little shorter if you decide to drive.

We went with Aircoach, a bus operator, which cost €14 ($18 CAD) per adult and €9 ($12 CAD) per child. The ride was comfortable, as the bus had air conditioning and padded seats. 

Our main reason for going to Belfast was visiting the Giant’s Causeway and some sites where Game of Thrones was filmed. We hired a private day tour with a company off Viator.com, that took our party of eight around to all the sites in one day for $800 (CAD). 

Private tour bus in Belfast

Northern Ireland is beautiful, with rolling green hills and where sharp cliffs meet the ocean.

Seaside views in Northern Ireland
Seaside trail in Northern Ireland

We visited the filming locations including Dark Hedges, Dunluce Castle, Ballintoy Harbour, and a couple of quarries. 

Dark Hedges
Dunluce Castle

In the area is the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, which connects a small island to the mainland and was used in the past by salmon fisherman. It is located 30 meters above the rocks below, so it’s not for the faint of heart, but my kids enjoyed the thrill of it. 

Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge
Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge

Giants Causeway is an UNESCO World Heritage site that consists of about 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, which formed as a result of a volcanic fissure eruption from millions of years ago.

The kids had a lot of fun climbing from column to column, but keep a watchful eye, as they can be slippery if we. There’s one location at the edge of the site where there is steep drop off the side of the columns.

Giant’s Causeway
Giant’s Causeway

There is a visitor’s centre here and should you wish to visit it, you will have pay an entrance fee. If you’re ok to skip the educational displays, then you can actually walk to Giant’s Causeway for free.

The path to the site is stroller-friendly, but if you prefer, there is a shuttle that will take guests to and from the entrance for £1 each way.  

Within Belfast, we did a bit of bargain shopping at Dunnes, an Irish department store, and also visited the Titanic Belfast, an exhibition dedicated to the Titanic. If you visit, pick up an activity sheet for the kids to keep them busy while you go enjoy the exhibit. 

Titanic Belfast

Belfast Accommodations: AC Hotel by Marriott Belfast

The AC Hotel is slightly removed from downtown Belfast, but still within a 1015 minute walking distance. I booked a Standard Queen Room for 24,000 Bonvoy points per night, rather than paying £200 ($304 CAD) per night. 

It’s a bright and modern property that comes with complimentary breakfast for two guests for Platinum Elite status and above. There is an additional charge for breakfast for any additional guests in the room, even if they are children.

The breakfast was served at the restaurant on the first floor, which also hosts lunch and dinner. It was a standard breakfast buffet, with the usual breakfast items of eggs, pancakes, French toast, bacon, sausages, etc.

There was also a continental food station as well. 

AC Hotel Belfast – Breakfast seating
AC Hotel Belfast – Breakfast buffet

The room was spacious, and had two queen beds and a small table with two chairs, with dark wooden accents. 

AC Hotel Belfast – Standard Queen Room bedroom

The bathroom was clean and simple, with a toilet, single sink, and shower.

AC Hotel Belfast – Standard Queen Room bathroom
AC Hotel Belfast – Standard Queen Room bathroom

There is also a 24-hour gym, but unfortunately no pool for the kids.

Conclusion

Ireland is a wonderful place to visit in the summer, where you have the best chance at having good weather.

It’s a family-friendly destination with a mixed bag of activities, with everything from visiting castles and farms to seeing natural wonders like the Cliffs of Moher and Giant’s Causeway. There’s certainly no shortage of things to see and do.

The good news is that from Canada, flights are easy to come by on award redemptions. Using points for hotels are a little harder once outside the major cities; however, outside the major hubs is where you will find Irish hospitality and culture at its best.

I hope you’ll get a chance to visit Ireland with your family. If you have any additional suggestions for places to visit in Ireland, share it in the comments below. 





Source link

Related Articles

Stay Connected

0FansLike
3,508FollowersFollow
0SubscribersSubscribe
- Advertisement -spot_img

Latest Articles