BY ANDREW MCDONALD
School’s over for the summer. Kids will be at home for three months and, if you’re a parent, your anxiety levels are probably soaring over how to keep them occupied for 12 weeks or so.
Kids get it good in this country! Take a short trip over the Irish Sea, and summer holidays are halved. Given a lot of families take a fortnight’s vacation at this time of year, that means only four weeks, not ten, requiring creative invention to find child-friendly activities.
It needn’t really be all that difficult, though. Just think about what you most enjoyed as a child and, chances are, your kids will too. An added bonus is those fun days out needn’t cost much, or perhaps anything at all.
Kilkenny Castle has long been a favourite spot for young and old alike. Yes, if you want to visit the castle itself, it’s going to set you back a few Euro. However, the grounds are filled with fun waiting to be found at zero cost. The playground is an obvious choice. Less clear, though just as appealing, are walks along the river, down to the lake with its abundant wildlife, and through wooded areas. In many parts of the gardens surrounding the castle, the trees create shade which dims the light making them perfect for adventures and exploring.
It might not offer the same secluded spaces, but fun days out can be had at the Rock of Dunamase in County Laois. The ruins offer endless possibilities for children’s games and explorations. Whilst they’re busy playing, parents can take in the stunning views.
Wexford and Waterford are blessed with something Kilkenny and Laois can’t offer. Dazzling coastlines. Any trip to Tramore is likely to leave parents’ pockets feeling lighter, though great days out there are almost guaranteed, especially for children. There are, however, also brilliant beaches where fun can be had for free. Bonmahon in the Deise County and Baginbun in the Model one are perfect places to build sandcastles and play in the sea.
Days out in the Tipperary mountains are sure to please young and old. Watch kids, and adults, marvel at the gravity hill phenomenon on Slievenamon overlooking Carrick-on-Suir where your car will miraculously roll uphill. You can play a game to see who in your family works out what’s happening first!
Like the grounds of Kilkenny Castle, Oak Park in Carlow is a wonderful place for childhood adventures. Try out the exercise machines in the open area, too. Children will get a great kick out of them. It’s also educational as there are plenty of information boards telling you about what lives and grows in the forests.
Whilst getting to any of these places is going to cost you in fuel, they are easy on your pocket and huge on fun when you get there!