Family Days out in Northern Ireland
Summer holidays with the family can be a challenge. How to juggle work and childcare, weather and holiday schemes and all while staying on a budget. When you do have a day or two to carve out to spend together, it’s worth looking locally for your great family day out. Some options are perfect for the sunny days, others will work even if it’s less tropical outside. Have a read of our favourite family days out in Northern Ireland and see what you could plan in these last few weeks of the holidays.
Newly opened to the public at the end of 2018 after significant investment, Montalto Estate is a breathtaking location, perfect for families. Soak up the abounding nature through Lake Walks and Nature Trails and wow the children at the Low Wood Tree House which we’d guess they’ll never want to leave. Bespoke and hand built, the kids can enjoy a jungle bridge, climbing tower, and forest floor slide in this nature play area. Once you’ve worn them out, you can refuel at the elegant cafe. Offering a simple menu with locally sourced ingredients, it’s a wholesome day out on all fronts.
Let’s Go Hydro Belfast
At Let’s Go Hydro, you can be assured of a very wet and very hilarious day. Leave all ego at home, pack your wetsuit and book ahead as it can get very busy especially during the holidays. This giant outdoors adventure playground will certainly work off the summer holiday energy rush so bring your big kids (9+) and get ready to water trampoline, challenge yourself on the assault course, and shame yourself on the water climbing wall. Or try a spot of cable and wake wakeboarding – it’s far easier than it looks, honestly! And it’s fine, everyone is falling in. Really.
As one of the most historic properties in Northern Ireland, Hillsborough Castle was always a grand and fascinating place, but after recent investment, there are many more reasons to make this a destination for you and the family. You can plan a house tour of this Royal residence or as we did, simply soak up the 100 acres of stunning ornamental gardens, woodlands, and lawns. And don’t miss the newly planted Walled Garden which is like taking a step back in time. With plenty of space for the kids to hide and seek, and brilliant activities offered over weekends and holidays (think Ice Cream Workshops, Horrible Histories and Kite Making), it makes for a day out to suit everyone.
Marble Arch Caves
One of the most famous attractions on our list, the Marble Arch Caves are well known for good reason. Made from 330million-year-old limestone and one of the key sites of UNESCO’s Global Geopark, they offer a fascinating day out. The constant darkness and years of water corrosion on the caves has created beautiful underground networks of passages, stalactites (hanging down) and stalagmites (rising up from the ground), waterfalls and chambers. It’s worth noting that your visit necessitates a good bit of walking, and many stairs so if you have very young ones, it’s possibly worth waiting a year or two until they can keep up. Also if there’s been a very heavy period of rainfall, due to the underground nature of the caves, access can be limited so do check their website before you go.
Giant’s Causeway and Visitors Centre
Typically visited by tourists throughout the year and less so by locals, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is truly worth a visit. Rich with stories of myths and legends to keep the children on the edge of their seats, the 40,000 interlocking basalt columns are fascinating. As for the recently developed Visitors’ Centre, this might actually be the children’s favourite. Chock full of interactive space, stories of Finn McCool and the secrets of the Causeway, it’s worth a visit of its own. If you’re peckish as you leave, swing into the little car park down the road and treat yourself to the best cheese toast you can imagine from retro food van Mini Maegden [http://www.cheesemaegden.com/]. The perfect end to your day out.
Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust Castle Espie
An ideal spot, in particular for families with younger children, the WTT Castle Espies is a beautiful wetland reserve on the banks of Strangford Lough. Continually being improved, Castle Espie offers super fun activities through the school holidays (Lego trails, Den Building, and Wetland Exploring) in addition to the main attractions of endless native and exotic waterbirds. Your little ones will love feeding the birds and following the sweet nature trails and there is a great adventure playground around the trail for the older ones. A drive on out the Strangford coast road after your wildfowl adventure will reward the grown-ups with a lunch or afternoon drink at Daft Eddie’s pub on Skettrick Island.
Ulster Folk and Transport Museum
A firm favourite for a wholesome day stepping back in time, the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum is a remarkable glimpse into what life was like a hundred years ago. You can explore whole dwellings of shops, homes, farmsteads and public buildings, with staff of the museum dressed up in traditional clothing, undertaking jobs and skills of the time (weaving, cooking, farrier etc.) and even indulge in some freshly fire baked wheaten bread or soda farls. It’s a fascinating place and coupled with the beautiful nature walks, plentiful animals to spot, and space to run, it’s well worth a visit.
The ultimate indoor kids experience in Northern Ireland, this science and discovery centre has something for youngsters of every age. Based on science, engineering and technology, this is a hands-on heaven of interactive exhibits with sneaky education thrown in. Plan to spend a whole morning or afternoon here as you’ll probably need to drag them out (and that’s just the dads!). Offers of the temptations in the super new W5 shop are your only hope for an exit strategy and again, allow plenty of time for browsing and negotiating how pocket money is to be spent. This one’s our absolute favourite way to spend a rainy day out with the whole family.