Visiting Ireland

Parent Reviews

Second the Stockholm recommendation.  Your 7 year old will love it!  We took our kids when they were 1.5 and 2.5 so a little too young but we loved Junibaken, the Vasa Museum, Skansen (animals here), the Nobel Prize museum and the ABBA Museum.  There's a playground around every corner with lots of cool things like in-ground trampolines, ziplines and large slides.  We had a blast and it's an amazing city!

Ireland is also amazing and you could do the Dublin Zoo, Natural History Museum and drive to Fota Wildlife Park where they have lemurs and wallabies roaming the grounds.  Then you could drive cross country to the west (about 3 hours) to see some beautiful landscapes - I would recommend the Cliffs of Moher, the Aran Islands (take a ferry for a day trip) and Ailwee Caves and Birds of Prey Center. They have lots of fun department stores - I would recommend Dundrum Shopping Center where there are several department stores, a great bookstore and a bunch of stores that carry children's clothing (Next, Zara, Monsoon, etc.) and I would also highly recommend the Avoca Handweavers store - they sell beautiful handmade items.  And the food there is delicious.  

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Driving in Ireland 

May 2016

We will be driving in Ireland this summer and I am nervous about it. What is it like driving there and on the other side? anon

It's been a few years since I was in Ireland, but it was ok. Most roads are well paved. Take it slow. Almost everyone was very nice and helpful. But, driving out of the airport in a rental car, the car behind me got impatient with my slow driving. I finally pulled into a gas station to let the car get ahead of me. It went on but another car pulled into the gas station behind me. When I stopped the fellow in the car behind me came up and apologized for the rude driver! So nice! Look for a reference on the car. I found that if I kept the edge of the windshield wiper in-line with the white line on the road, I was safely in my lane. Try to find a reference like that. When we stopped by the side of the road to look at a map (before GPS), the person in the house by the road saw us and came out to help. I found myself driving up Connor's Pass in western Ireland and that was a treat! My sister got out of the car and checked to see if we could pass when the road got really narrow. she ended up helping several other cars behind us, too. What an adventure! missing Ireland

I've never been to Ireland, but I've logged hundreds [probably thousands] of miles in England and Scotland. Two tips. One: take it slow at first, but motorways can be less confusing than local streets, and all you need to do is stay in the slow (left-most lane). Two: just remember that the driver should always be closer to the middle of the road than the passenger -- just like here but the mirror image. I love driving over there. People are polite; they don't hog the road; and they move over if you come up from behind and flash your driving lights (and you should do so too once you get out of the slow lane). Have fun! About The Same

First off, you're going to have such fun! Ireland is fabulous. Green as in the movies, and the folks are grand. Now, for the driving. I used to drive for a living, but I was concerned not only about the right hand side, but the steep cliffs on the west coast (Ring of Kerry) I used Trip Advisor to ask questions, and watched posted Youtube films.

Alot of this depends on where you drive. I flat out refused to drive in Dublin but was fine with the country and smaller towns.

There were 3 of us and none of us wanted to really drive, BUT, we all took turns. Since your instinct will be to drift towards the left have the person in the passenger seat say, GENTLY, you're drifting, so you can correct. Set this up in advance. The person in the back seat did the map. The round-a-bouts are your friend. if you miss a turn, just go round again. The roads in the west can be narrow. When a large truck passes you it will be an adventure. You may wish to drive slow (speed limit) I did, and the person behind you, especially on county back roads, will be on your tail, let them be. Also, watch when going over a hill, they drive the sheep down the middle of the road. Everyone stops, and the sheep just walk around the car.

We spent 10 days and felt much more secure about our driving capabilities by the end. I was very glad we did it. You will see much you wouldn't ordinarily see, and it affords you an independence. It will appear daunting at first, but you'll get the hang of it. It's an adventure, enjoy the ride. dana

Don't want to be a downer, but it is a bit scary. We (and by we, I mean, my much braver husband) found that driving on the other side is harder than you'd think -- my job ended up being to yell 'stay to the left! the left!' at every turn. If you will be in the countryside at all, you'll also find very narrow roads with very fast speed limits, which I found nerve-wracking. That being said, without driving you'd probably have to skip visiting some incredibly beautiful places. I would say it is definitely worth the angst to drive. Have a great time! anon

You are correct to be nervous about driving in Ireland. I did it, and it was very difficult. I'm an excellent driver and I still found it tough. If you are not a practiced, skilled and confident driver, it could be very tough.

When I first started driving the rental car, I was super confused, because the transmission was like nothing I've encountered before: you could switch back and forth between being a manual transmission and an automatic transmission. That took me a while to figure out. Actually I never totally understood it, but I figured out how to make it work.

Then the first thing I did while driving was to go the wrong way around a round-about. Fortunately it was 5am so nobody else was on the road to crash into me. But it did take a while to get used to driving on the wrong side of the road. Going straight is fine, but at complicated intersections, your habits will betray you.

But the main problem is that the roads in Ireland are super-narrow. The full width of a main road is enough for about 1.5 cars. So when you're driving one way, and an oncoming car is going the other way, one of you has to swerve half off the road in order to avoid a collision. I don't understand how the Irish survive, but they all seem to be used to it.

There are a few modern highways, with roads that are actually wide enough for the cars. But these are only going between the major cities. So if you're just going between cities, you could probably find another transportation method, such as train or bus.

At least you can be satisfied that you're not trying to ride a bicycle. I've seen books about taking a bike tour through Ireland. DON'T DO IT!!! The roads are not wide enough for the cars on them, and they're DEFINITELY not wide enough for bikes too.

As stressful as it was driving, it was still the best way to get around Ireland. We had freedom to go and explore different places, and we ended up having lots of fun. Summers H

Moving to Dublin - school and neighborhood recommendations?

Dec 2015

We will spend a year in Dublin, Ireland for the 2016-17 school year. I have a boy heading into grade 9 next year, and another boy heading into grade 6. Does anyone have school and neighborhood recommendations? We are not religious, but would consider a low-key religious school, and we are open to a boys' only school, which appears quite common in Ireland. The kids are both strong students. Thanks. Emerald Isle

I cannot speak to particular neighborhoods in Dublin but wanted to clarify the religious part for you. There is no separation of church and state in Ireland so almost all schools (public or private) are religious (Catholic). I believe that nowadays there are opt out options of the religious instruction part. Your 6th grader might be in with the age making their Confirmation (typically in the 8th year of schooling) and they will spend a decent amount of class time preparing for it.

My point is a 'religious' private school would not necessarily be any more religious that then local public school. Also note that private schools aren't nearly as expensive as they are here because the government still picks up the tab for the teachers salaries.

Catholics also get priority into their neighborhood schools if they are oversubscribed (again despite the fact that the tax payer picks up the tab for running the school- don't get me started!). So if you are not Catholic and find a neighborhood with good schools make sure that you can actually get in.

Hope this isn't too scary and hopefully it all works out fine for you, but just a few things to be mindful of. Good luck

I asked a friend who spent 2.5 years in Dublin (from SF) recently. Her son completed 5th and 6th grades there ( and the end of 4th). Here's her response: 'We lived in South Dublin, Rathgar and Ranelagh and our son attended Kildare Place School. We would highly recommend KPS for 6th grade. It is a 'protestant school', but fairly low key on the religious side. It is a small school, mixed gender, very nice community of families The other areas I would live are Ballsbridge, Dalkey or Dun Laoghaire. Other school ideas are St. Andrews, St. Conleths College, 'The High School'- public protestant high school, Blackrock College A lot of expats send their kids to St. Andrews.'

They got involved in the local soccer teams and the school and had an overall great experience. They didn't isolate themselves with ex-pats as some of her husband's american colleagues tended to do, though she found the other international women more open (they also were 'older' moms with fewer kids so had more time for hikes, lunch, etc). berkeley mom

Dublin, Ireland During Christmas Break with teens

Aug 2014

My husband will need to take a work trip to Dublin in December. I'm considering whether it would work out to meet him there with our 11 and 13yr olds and stay over Christmas. I would love to hear some recommendations for accommodations and sights to visit over the holidays. Thank you BPN!

Yes! When I was there I did the Ghost Bus tour and it was a blast. Genuinely spooky. I bet the kids would love it. Also if you're a big cheese lover like I am you have to check out this wonderful spot: Sheridan's Cheesemongers.
Lisa in El Cerrito

We just returned from Dublin. I can't tell you anything about accommodations as we always stay with family, but I can recommend a couple of things to do. One is to visit Newgrange-a stone age passage tomb older than Stonehenge. It's about 1/2 north of Dublin. My teens loved it. It's constructed so that at dawn on the winter solstice sunlight shines through the passage and illuminates the inner chamber. There's a lottery every year for those who would like a coveted spot in the chamber at dawn on the solstice. Otherwise, the regular tours start at 9 am and are entertaining and informative. The Newgrange visitor center is closed from 12/24 to 12/27 I believe. You can also tour Knowth (quite close by), another passage tomb site. This website has information about both:

The Dublin Zoo is supposed to be very good--it's located in Phoenix Park. There are also cruise boats that travel around Dublin Bay--not sure if they would be operating in the winter. We went to Dublinia during our last visit. It's a museum about Dublin's past. It was okay--lots of manikins dressed as Vikings--my kids found it a bit cheesy, but they're older. The Shelbourne hotel has a posh afternoon tea your kids might enjoy.

I would be open to doing things outside of Dublin--your kids will never forget visiting a real castle, and there are quite a few in Ireland. We went to Trim castle (about 1/2 hour from Newgrange) and had a wonderful guided tour. If you don't want to drive, I think there are tour bus companies that run excursions to Newgrange, Knowth, Trim Castle.

Hope this helps! Sue

Ideas on where to stay in Scotland and Ireland?

 Nov 2014

We're planning a family trip to Scotland and Ireland next summer and need lodging recommendations. We'll have our 6 and 9 year old daughters with us, and are planning on staying a couple nights in Edinburgh and Dublin, with the rest of the time spent exploring the countryside. We aren't looking for extravagant lodging, just something cozy with character (i.e., not generic chain hotels,..etc). Any recommendations would be greatly appreciated!! Thanks!

We did the same trip a few years ago with our then 9 month old. I would recommend getting an apartment in Edinburgh and Dublin. We stayed with a company called Stay Edinburgh, rented a one bedroom in the middle of the old town. We had a great time. They have different sizes apartments so you can get a bigger one as well. If you are going during the fringe festival in August, get a place as soon as possible, it really books up quickly.

In Dublin we rented a small apartment from a private person, he only had the one and it would be too small for you, but I would recommend trying to find one. You can cook yourself and try getting one with a washer/ dryer. It was great to be able to wash your clothes midway through.

I used tripadvisor to find the places, air b&b is another option. Once we traveled around we found accommodations once we got to the new place. Lastly I would not recommend renting a car unless you are used to driving on the left side. Too stressful, and busses and trains are great over there. loved it

Ireland in October

Sept 2009

We're planning on a vacation to Ireland/Scotland in Oct 2010. Best sites to see? We prefer old with history over contemporary. Places to stay that are mid-range, there will be four of us, especially apartments or homes for a week at a time. And last, can anyone speak to the weather in Oct? We are hoping for cool over warm. turned 60 and got to go

Ireland charms any time of year; October can be foggy, cold, sunny,
crisp or wet. ''Oh well, if you don't like the weather, stick around 5
minutes.''  I went in 10/2000 and stayed until the 25th or so; a few
days later a freak storm caused massive flooding with a lot of property
loss. Stay in B&B's - very reasonable! Don't expect to travel too far
in one day. Roads are narrow, and sometimes blocked by tractors,
livestock... and then there's the fallen rock, embedded right into the
asphalt, that flattened our tire. I think the local mechanic made a
pretty penny off that rock.   

Wicklow mountains - St. Kevin's Tower - iconic Ireland's Heritage Park:

Newgrange tomb

• Kilkenny - medieval town in the midlands - a castle full of great
art, and a fascinating place called ''Rothe House'' 

WEST: Ailwee Cave, the Burren, Cliffs of Moher, Doolin (poetry and
music festivals) and the inimitable Aran Islands. Inisheer, the
smallest, is least travelled and most charming to me.
•Galway - college town - art, books, nightlife... is it the Berkeley
of Ireland? 

If you can, bring a teeny bottle of Tabasco. There's precious little
Mexican food and - if you can't bring your own coffee, stick with tea.
Their coffee's abominable. 


Never been to Scotland but I hear Edinburgh is wonderful. 

South of Hadrian's Wall, we LOVED the Yorkshire Dales and the city of

Seek hotel or B&B in Dublin, Ireland

Jan 2008

 My partner and I will be going to Ireland in June, spending the first two nights in Dublin. We are looking for a recommendation for a quiet hotel or B&B. Thanks!

Lucky you! My husband and I are yearning to go back to Ireland! We had a wonderful stay there, albeit 7 years ago. We stayed at a lovely hotel called the Harcourt Hotel. I don't remember much of the hotel, other than a beautiful room (I don't think we ate there) and great location. It is right on St. Stephen's Green and very close to Grafton St. It sounds like it may have changed some since our visit. Enjoy! irish girl

Ireland with Young Teens

July 2002

We are going to Ireland with our 12 and 14 year-old kids. We would appreciate any suggestions for fun and interesting things to do. Denise

Our family spent 3 weeks in Ireland last summer with two teens. Instead of Dublin stay in the nearby town of Dun Loaghaire - its calmer, you can take a quick train into Dublin each day, interesting beach walks and swimming (brr). Go to Dingle and see Fungi the dolphin - yes, full of tourists, but a good kid friendly village. We rented a self catering apartment for a week in Westport. It was good to settle in for a week with a home base and the weekly rates are reasonable. The town had a nice community center with a pool. Lots of kid friendly eateries but it was also good to cook our own meals and rent a video and relax after a day of exploring. Spend a night on an Island. We stayed on Claire Island. Very quiet - but the boat ride out was an adventure and the kids enjoyed gentle hikes surrounded by sheep. - Nancy