Cork City is a fantastic starting point for your journey. This old viking town is set upon one of the largest harbours in the world. Its major draws for tourists include St. Fin Barre’s Cathedral and the English Market, filled with food stalls. The city is small and walkable and has plenty for kids such as the magnificent Fitzgerald’s Park with its modern playground, Blackrock Castle and Observatory and Fota Wildlife Park (although this is technically not on the wild atlantic way). Fota House and Gardens are next to the Wildlife Park and have a fantastic café with outdoor seating and plenty of space for kids to run around. The city has an airport although international flights are limited.
15 minutes from Cork you will find Blarney Castle and Gardens. Legend has it if you kiss the Blarney Stone, you will get the gift of the gab. The gardens are ideal for kids with plenty of room to play and run around. The Woolen Mills are a 5 minute walk away where you can enjoy a family lunch in a spacious and comfortable environment.
From Cork City you can travel to the charming and picturesque village of Kinsale. This town is known for its seafood and is worth a visit, even if just for a few hours. For kids, there is a playground in the centre of the town and the pretty Dock Beach is just a 5 minute drive from the centre of the town. Charles Fort is a large fortress located about 10 minutes from the town by car and this offers some wonderful views of Kinsale Harbour and town. Travel a bit further and you will find the Old Head of Kinsale and Garretstown Beach, both known for their incredible views.
West Cork is comprised of peninsula after peninsula offering views, seafood and fantastic beaches. Clonakilty offers some wonderful beaches for families such as Inchydoney with its golden sands and fantastic hotel overlooking where you can enjoy a seafood lunch, Long Strand and Owenahincha. The town itself has the Model Railway Village and a gorgeous farmers market once a week with some delicious organic fare and live music. Further along the coast you will find the picturesque towns of Baltimore, Schull, Castletownbere, Durras, Courtmacsherry, Rosscarbery, Bantry and more. You can take whale watching tours from Baltimore.
Mizen Head is the Southernmost point of the Ireland and it has some very dramatic views. You can take the bridge walk to the Mizen lighthouse where there is a small museum and take in the raw, exposed cliff geology. The islands of West Cork are worth visiting. Sherkin Island has some terrific beaches, Beara Island is fantastic for those interested in military history and Garinish Island is famous for its gardens. Kids will love the boat trips to the islands or for something new, you could take the cable car to Dursey island.
Continuing West from County Cork you will reach County Kerry which offers some of the world’s most dramatic and beautiful coastal scenery. Possibly the most stunning view is of the Skellig Islands recently used in Star Wars episode VII as Luke Skywalker’s hideout. The Coastline is dotted with fantastic villages and towns, well worth visiting such as Sneem, Waterville and Cahersiveen. From Portmagee, you can drive to Valentia Island which is well worth a trip too. The gardens here are spectacular and you can visit the Tetrapods dinosaur footprints or the playground in Knightsbridge town. There are also ice cream making tours in Valentia Dairy. Kids will love the ‘Seafari’ in Kenmare, a boat trip where you can spot seals and other sea life. The town also has some great restaurants and runs a Food Carnival in July.
Dingle is one of the top spots in County Kerry for kids. Here, you can take a boat trip to see Funghi the Dolphin, Dingles famous local resident. Boat trips leave the pier at regular intervals and take approximately 1 hour. You can also visit the Dingle Oceanworld Aquarium to learn about sea life. Further inland you will find the Aquadome in Tralee, an indoor water park which kids will love and Killarney National Park which has boat trips, horse and cart rides and a petting zoo. The stunning Torc Waterfall is here also; it’s quite a hike to the top but the views are worth the climb. Muckross House and Gardens are well worth a visit, especially on a sunny day. There is a small farm here that little ones will enjoy.
County Kerry also has its fair share of family friendly beaches.Some of the best known and loved include Ballybunion with its traditional ladies’ and men’s’ beaches and Banna Strand with its child friendly resort offering a playground and indoor soft play area. Inch Strand, Rossbeigh and Derrynane are also terrific for families and Derrynane House even has a fairy garden, perfect for keeping younger kids entertained.
Family Friendly Hotels in Cork & Kerry
Actons is located in the centre of Kinsale and has everything you need for a family holiday. The bar serves fantastic food and is spacious for kids. There is also a swimming pool and a playground right next door. During the summer months there is a fun fair around 100 metres from the hotel with rides for younger kids as well as bumper cars.
The Dingle Skellig is a family hotel located on the edge of the town of Dingle, a favorite of visitors to county Kerry. The hotel has a pool and kids club and there’s even a creche for babies and toddlers. There is also a special seating for kids dining earlier in the evening.
The Dunloe is located around 15 minutes drive from Killarney and offers fantastic views of the Gap of Dunloe. It’s not on the coast but many visitors to the Wild Atlantic Way venture inland to explore Killarney National Park. The hotel has woodland walks, sheep and horses in the fields outside, an indoor pool and a fantastic, modern playground which kids will love.
Parknasilla Resort is set on acres of stunning woodland and overlooks the Atlantic Ocean. The hotel combines old world atmosphere with all the modern amenities you would expect from a luxury hotel. There’s an indoor pool and outdoor hot tub. There are also a number of walking routes around the hotel and kids will love the fairy trail.
Family Friendly Restaurants in Cork & Kerry
Counties Cork and Kerry are known for gourmet food and artisan fare. In the past few years farmers markets have become popular. Most towns will have a weekly market where you can buy freshly cooked food and warm drinks. Some of these will also have entertainment in the form of music. There are loads of restaurants and cafes along this section of the Wild Atlantic Way and although we suggest a few below, don’t be afraid to explore. Most restaurants, cafes and bars in Ireland will welcome children and will offer kids menus, high chairs and changing facilities.
Fishy Fishy, as you might have guessed, is a seafood restaurant. Located in the heart of Kinsale, this bright airy restaurant is a mecca for locals and tourists alike, particularly during the summer months. There is a fantastic selection of fresh seafood in a variety of dishes and there are some great kids options also.
This award winning cafe and restaurant located in West Cork grows much of its produce. Glebe Gardens provides innovative and delicious menus that include informal cafe dining and evening fine dining. Kids will love the gardens where fruit and vegetables are grown.
For ice cream, you can’t get much better than Murphy’s. The artisan producer makes ice cream from fresh, local produce without artificial flavourings and preservatives.
Global Village is located in the heart of Dingle Town. The restaurant serves fresh fish and seafood caught by local fisherman, fresh meat from farmers who operate a sustainable farming policy and seasonal vegetables grown in the Global Village chemical free vegetable garden. All in all its healthy food in a family friendly environment.
QC’s is known for its seafood and will not disappoint. The seafood is supplied by a local company and is fresh and delicious. QCs also provides boutique accommodation above the restaurant.
Family Campsites in Cork and Kerry
At Barleycove, campers will find breathtaking scenery and delightful walks. The holiday park has excellent, four-star facilities to provide visitors with a pleasant stay. The on-site leisure facilities include tennis courts, pitch and putt, and indoor/outdoor games.
Mannix Point Camping Park lies within walking distance of the charming town of Cahirciveen and is set on a stunning coastline and surrounded by the mountains of the Iveragh Peninsula. The site has some stellar views and there are loads of shops and restaurants nearby if you need supplies. The campers’ kitchen is renowned for its impromptu music sessions, and it’s also the nearest camping park to the departure points for the Skelligs. Pitches cost around €27 for a unit with two adults and two children.
Wave Crest is located on the coast. Facilities here include a play area and a deli selling everything from homemade cakes to barbecue-friendly burgers and steaks, but the big draw is the direct access to water. Views stretch over Kenmare Bay, dolphins and basking shark have been seen offshore, and a rib boat — Iolar na Mara — offers trips up the coastline and Sneem estuary from €25pp. Pitches cost €27 for a unit with two adults and two children.