I was renewing my car insurance with Chill Insurance the other day and while I was on hold I got to thinking about family road trips in Ireland. All I see online at the moment is people talking about their summer holidays in the likes of France, Spain and Italy but what about mini staycations?
I’m not taking about the obvious places in Ireland such as Galway, Kerry, West Cork etc, we all know what they have to offer. But what about the so called lesser counties, the ones you wouldn’t normally seek out as a destination for a holiday.
With that in mind and with the May Bank Holiday weekend coming up I picked Offaly as my county of choice for a family mini break. It’s not the first time I’ve waxed lyrical about the small midlands treasure but it genuinely is a fab spot to take the kids. You can read about our last family trip here if you want to.
Back in my early 20s I lived in Offaly for five years. Family activities weren’t even on my radar. Indeed all that was on said radar was pubs, clubs and gigs but times have certainly changed a lot since then.
So why Offaly? Well as road trips go, it a short one not matter what part of the country you live in. It’s two main towns, Tullamore and Birr, are so easily accessible and are only around a half an hour apart too so you can comfortably explore one while staying in the other.
Last year we done a family weekend in Birr and we had the best time. If you’re not familiar with Birr then you’ll be quite surprised when you get there. The town’s Georgian architecture makes it so pretty and on a sunny day it’s really picturesque.
The town isn’t found wanting for accommodation and here are just a few of my top picks. Top of the pile is Spinners. Ok, so if you click on that link off there to the left you will probably think that the place couldn’t be more less suited to children! I know where you are coming from but you are wrong! When we were there we found the courtyard great for the kids to play and run around in, in fact they spent hours playing in it. Spinners may be suited to families with babies more but my two were two and four when we were there and it was great.
If it’s the family friendly hotel you’re looking for then check out the County Arms Hotel, who have a pool, a kids club and special movie nights for the kids too. They always have special family offers on so it is defintely worth checking out.
Moving on to Tullamore the two obvious options for accomodation are the Bridge House Hotel and the Tullamore Court Hotel, both of which have pools and always have special family offers on. The food in both these establisments is top notch too.
If you would like to do something a bit different then I would highly recommend Giltraps Glamping in the stunning village of Kinnitty, just a short drive from Birr.
So with accomodation covered lets more on to what there is to actaully do on a family break in Offaly. My first pick is Birr Castle. You could easily go in the morning and spend the day there if you get decent weather. My kids adored it when they were there last year, so much so that we went two days on the trot.
Birr Castle has gardens aplenty with walks and trails but from a kids’ perspective it’s selling point in the mammoth tree house and playground. It’s deadly. It’s packed full of picnic areas and sand pits, while the big bouncy pillow will ensure hours of fun.
For kids who are a wee bit older than mine the castle has a cool interactive science centre which focuses on the interactive centre reveals the wonders of early photography , engineering and astronomy with a special emphasis on the brilliant design and assembly of the world famous Great Telescope. It’s full of astronomical instruments, cameras, photographs and photographic equipment. Also on display is electrical and engineering equipment originally belonging to Charles Parsons and used in his experiments as well as a large area devoted to the botanical work carried out in Birr Castle Demesne.
Another great day out in Offaly is a trip to Lough Boora Discovery Park. It’s a really breathtaking spot that you can lose yourself in for hours on end. The kids will adore Fairy Avenue, which is home to 14 fairies would you believe! There’s also bike hire available, which is a great way to explore Lough Boora, while the sculpture park and endless walking trails will keep the family entertained for the day.
Another great option in Offaly is exploring the Slieve Bloom Mountains where you can do some amazing walks, go horse riding and or even take a scenic drive if you are feeling lazy. It’s so scenic up there I promise you!
In Tullamore, we have visited the town park, which is really impressive as parks go, while I once had to drag Aidan and Sarah, kicking and screaming, out of Playtown in Tullamore. It’s an imagination based miniature town and fantastic for the kids.
So there’s my mini guide on Offaly. I genuinely think it’s a fab spot for a family break and given it’s location it’s so handy get to. So no moaning in the car for the kids! You’ll find plenty more information on the Visit Offaly site but if you have any questions for me then just fire them my way.