Thank you to Amy Mapes for sharing this account of their Ireland family vacation. To read more about the Mapes family's Ireland trip, visit Mapes Family Adventures.
I don’t have a bucket list and neither do my children. I try to make any kind of trip…whether it is a day trip or a long vacation…an adventure for our family. We are just lucky enough to have had some marvelous experiences!
A couple of years ago my husband and I were talking about how few summers that we had left with our children under our roof. Family is very important to us. Most of our trips revolve around visiting grandparents, aunts & uncles and cousins. We also wanted them to learn about where their family came from.
I knew that my great-grandparents had come from Ireland as a young family in 1915. I never had the privilege of meeting them but I am in awe of the courage that it must have taken to leave everything that they had every known to cross the ocean to America. We gave our children good Irish names in honor of that heritage. Ian, Clare, Sean and Ryan.
When we decided it was time for us to go to Ireland as a family I dove head first into research. Traveling is not cheap and when you are a family of five (Ian passed away at age 7 due to heart defects); the cost of everything is multiplied exponentially! I started planning about 9 or 10 months in advance. I knew that with our children’s personalities and energy (ages 13, 11 and 9) we didn't want to do a bus tour. I googled “visiting Ireland with children” and found Ireland with Kids. There was a lot of information on the website but the best resource was Jody herself. I emailed her a couple of questions. What kind of prices should I expect for airline tickets? (The single biggest expense for our family) Suggestions for rental cars. Questions about B&B vs. self-catering. Armed with information, I started with the plane reservations. Next up, car rental. Warning…vehicles in Ireland tend to be small! We needed to find one that could hold all 5 of us and our luggage. My husband knows how to drive a stick shift so that saved us a ton of money not having to pay a premium for automatic.
Read more about renting a car in Ireland.
We decided that a stay at a self-catering cottage would be the best option for our family. I decided to choose 2 different central locations. A week at each. We sat down as a family and asked what would you like to see or do in Ireland. Using that list we looked at maps, internet sites and tour books. Our first week was in Clifden, Co. Galway. We had a 2 bedroom townhouse in a restored Coast Guard Station on Lower Sky Road. It couldn’t have been a better base. There were cows and sheep in the pasture next door. The owner made us feel like part of his family. It was a short walk to a ruined castle and a little farther to a beach on the North Atlantic. We were perfectly located for visiting tourist sites such as Kylemore Abbey, Foxford Woolen Mills, Museum of Country Life, Westport and then to discover some the best villages that Connemara has to offer! I think we all enjoyed the places off the beaten path the best.
See what other Ireland travelers have to say about The Coastguard Station in Clifden.
Our second week was on the other side of Ireland in County Kilkenny. We took advantage of the drive to stop and see a few other places that Jody recommended that were on the way. The southwestern part of Ireland has so many things to see and discover. My favorite day was spent seeing a couple of abbeys (one slightly preserved and the other not at all), a glass maker, cheese maker and a high cross in the middle of a field.
Ireland had an impact on my children that I believe it has and will continue to change how they look at the world.
A note from Jody:
Amy did something with her kids that I think is incredibly cool. She created an Ireland Sized Scavenger Hunt for their trip. In it she included questions that pertained to family history, Irish culture, sights they would see, and experiences they would have. What an amazing way to remember – and relive – your Ireland family vacation!
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