I’m living in Kildare almost eight years now. Having moved from Tullamore I initially lived in Newbridge, then moved to Naas, followed by a move to Johnstown. Three years ago we finally put roots down and bought a house in Newbridge. But it wasn’t until Aidan and Sarah came along that we fully embraced local life.
With a busy four-year-old finding good places for day trips was very important and in fairness Kildare is not lacking in that department. So, for what it’s worth, today’s post is all about our favourite (and affordable) family haunts.
1. Caragh Open Pet Farm
Top of the pile is Caragh Open Pet Farm. It’s just a fab little place made all the more fabulous by it’s owners Siobhan and Ferghal. The welcome you get from them is unreal. There’s chickens, rabbits, birds, cows, pigs, sheep, horses, goats and loads more. Ferghal will supply you with a bit of grub for the animals too and will even let the kiddies have a cuddle with a rabbit or a chick. There’s also a little shop, a cafe, three play areas, picnic benches and plenty of room for busy toddlers to roam safely.
We actually had Aidan’s second and third birthday parties here and we’ll definitely be back for more. Parents have to bring their own food and drinks, which is served in the barn and you just pay for the kiddies and adults and believe me it’s very reasonable.
2. Donadea Forest Park
Last winter was the first time we ever visited Donadea Forest Park and it’s ideal for our wild one. We slapped on his wellies and a puddle suit and he was in his element, while it’s also perfect for walking Sarah in the buggy. There’s plenty of ducks to feed and acres of space to run around. There’s even a quirky little coffee shop, selling drinks and cakes, to cater for the adults. There’s castle remains, a walled garden and a church too but with a toddler in tow there’s never any time to investigate these. The best of all about Donadea is the entry free. It’s only €5 in you can stay all day if you want.
3. Irish National Stud and Gardens
If you shop in Dunnes Stores keep an eye on the back of receipts because they nearly always have two for one adult entry into the Irish National Stud and Gardens. Children under 5s are free so in our case (with the Dunnes offer) it only costs us €12.50 to get in and again there’s no time limit on your visit.
The grounds of the stud are just amazing and Aidan loves looking at all the ‘horsies’, while St Fiachra’s Garden will take your breath away. It’s so pretty and much bigger than the Japanese Gardens, so more suitable for roaming.
This summer alone we’ve visited the stud about four times and we are seriously considering an annual pass for next year. The kids will still be free and a two adult season ticket is only €72.
This is only a recent discovery and a great one at that. The playgound is Newbridge (beside the Sports Centre on Station Road) is poor, to put it midly, considering the size of the town. So on a recommendation from my friend, we recently took a trip to the Kilcullen playgound.
It’s light years ahead of it’s Newbridge counterpart and has ample free parking right in front of the entrance. It caters for toddlers and for older kids, has a wee sandpit, climbing frames and Sarah particularly loves the baby swings.
If you are in Kilcullen a trip to the nature walk in the Camphill Community (just before the bridge) is worth a visit too. There’s a lovely river walk and animals on show, plus the coffee shop, An Tearmon, is a lovely spot for a cuppa. For any parents with giddy goats like Aidan, be warned that the walkway is right beside the river and there’s most definitely scope for falling in so keep your eyes peeled.
5. Kildare Farm Foods
Considering there’s no entry fee into the farm this place in great. Watch out for Duster the Ostrich around the little ones though. He has, on more than one occasion, taken a little nibble of Aidan.
There’s plenty of animals to entertain, there’s birds and ducks and goats, while a stop off in the coffee shop is a must. They serve great fare. There’s a train on site (The Adventure Railroad) that does incur an extra charge of €2.50, while a bottle of feed for the animals is €1.
I’ve yet to experience it but apparently their Christmas event is great too so having forked out a fortune for a very disappointing event in Palmerstown House last year, we might try this instead.
So there’s my top five. Before I sign off I’d love to give a short mention to some other spots we love. On rainy days Joey’s Play Centre is Naas is the business. It’s nice and small (best for under 3s really) and you can see your child at all times. Plus Sarah loves the activity centres dotted around. She’ll happily sit in one of them when I enjoy a coffee.
The other play centre worth a mention is the Fun Factory in the N7 Business Park in Naas. It’s spotless, which cannot be said for some other local ones, and now that Sarah is getting a bit bigger I almost think she prefers this one.
If any of you a brave enough to attempt an early evening meal out, we love Harte’s in Kildare Town. The kids are always made welcome (which is not the case in many establishments), plus children eat free before 6pm.
We’re always looking for new stuff to do so if any other parents have some local tips I’d love to hear them.
See my review of Kildare Farm Foods here.