Family staycations and experiences that pack in the fun are plentiful in Northern Ireland this mid-term, and you can even build your own itinerary.
From beautiful scenery to world-class attractions, there’s a bunch of activities to choose from, with the majority of places just two hours from Dublin.
Enjoy a ramble on the sprawling grounds of Hillsborough Castle and Gardens, take to the water in a private tour of Lough Erne with Erne Water Taxi or pilot your very own hovercraft at Limitless Adventure Centre.
The exhilaration isn’t all physical, though. Northern Ireland is alive with history and the natural world too. Try star-gazing at OM Dark Sky Park and Observatory and embrace nature at Finnebrogue Woods Bushcraft and Wild Cooking.
Meanwhile the many museums and monuments tell the story of Northern Ireland’s extraordinary history with a unique flair, entrancing visitors young and old. Step back in time to 2000 years ago with a visit to an Iron Age dwelling at the Navan Centre and Fort.
Hillsborough Castle and Gardens, Co Down
Hillsborough Castle’s glorious gardens, developed from the 1760s onwards, are a joy to explore and include ornamental grounds, peaceful woodland, meandering waterways and picturesque glens.
From foraging walks to Halloween arts and crafts, you can embrace Autumn on your short break with family and you can even join the Scarecrow Parade as you visit the Walled Garden at Hillsborough Castle during October to see a gathering of scarecrows made by local schools and community groups in partnership with local artists. With so many famous faces from history guarding their crops, they’re expecting a bumper harvest this year.
Erne Water Taxi’s, Co Fermanagh
If you are planning a visit to Co Fermanagh, there’s no better way to get around than by your very own private taxi boat. The entire family can travel in the comfort of the covered 8 seater boat this mid-term. Better still, there is no driving involved as you have a tour guide who will do that for you all while helping you explore the history of Lough Erne.
New for this year, the Island Discovery pontoon boat is the first of its kind in Northern Ireland. Island Discovery is a 4 pod boat offering seating and tables for up to 12 passengers. This unique boat provides breath-taking panoramic views of Lough Erne and its shoreline.
OM Dark Sky Park, Co. Tyrone
OM (or Aum) is the sound of the universe. It is also connected to Ogham pronounced [ˈoːm] or [ˈoːəm] in Modern Irish. Davagh Forest has one of the ‘darkest skies’ on the island of Ireland, which means there is so little light pollution that there are crystal clear views of star constellations and the Milky Way. Perfect for the star-gazers and aspiring astronomers, this fully guided experience of the centre will give visitors a unique, out-of-this-world opportunity to encounter the night sky as it is rarely viewed.
Combining the latest tech, from holographic installations and virtual reality headsets to bespoke evening audio-visual shows, visitors to the centre will be able to explore the solar system, star-gaze using telescopes to view the night sky. Near the ancient Beaghmore Stone Circles, at the foot of the Sperrin mountains, the observatory is at the heart of a rich landscape of substantial archaeological and cultural significance and history which spans millennia. Making it the ultimate experience for a family who loves all things science.
Finnebrogue Woods Bushcraft and Wild Cooking, Co. Down
A privately owned estate in the heart of Co Down, Finnebrogue Woods is a perfect destination to explore the great outdoors under the guidance of their Bushman.
Not only can you learn to cook in the wild, make baskets from the nature surrounding you and learn bushcraft fundamentals, but Finnebrogue Woods is also currently running a ‘Badger Watch’ experience. Enjoy a private viewing experience as you explore Finnebrogue Woods at night with Rob who will guide you through the woods to the Badger Hide. Rob will help identify our local nocturnal animals such as Badgers, Foxes, Owls and Pine Martens and give you insights into their nightly habits! This immersive experience includes a tasty woodland lunch.
The Navan Centre and Fort, Co. Armagh
The Navan Centre and Fort, located just two miles from Armagh City, is a place where myth and reality meet. As the ancient seat of Kings and the earliest capital of Ulster, there is plenty to explore.
Step back in time by 2000 years with a visit to the Iron Age dwelling where you will meet the Celts going about their daily lives and bringing history to life.
After meeting real-life warriors, you can learn more about the stories. The centres multilingual AV show incorporates many of the tales of the Ulster Cycle associated with the great site of Navan Fort. With archaeological evidence of the site dating back to 95BC, experienced tour guides will accompany you to what is undoubtedly one of Northern Ireland’s most famous sites, Emain Macha (Navan Fort).
For younger visitors, the indoor and outdoor Archaeology Discovery space is a must-see, along with an Ecology trail to truly appreciate the diversity of wildlife the grounds have to offer.
Limitless Adventure Centre, Limavady, Derry/Londonderry
Calling all thrill-seekers, if you’re up for a challenge then Limitless Adventure Centre is for you. Adrenalin lovers will enjoy the array of experiences on offer. Set a few miles off the Causeway Coastal Route and close to the River Foyle, Limitless Adventure Centre is the only activity centre in Northern Ireland offering the opportunity to pilot your very own hovercraft while taking in some of the North Coast’s most beautiful scenery.
Can you make it onto their fastest lap leaderboard? The Snapper will provide you with the ultimate outdoor action-adventure experience. Reach speeds of 30mph+ gliding across land and water tracks to beat the clock and make in onto the hovercraft leaderboard. The centre also offers power turn buggies, laser tag, football golf and much more. So, if adventure is what you are after this mid-term, this is your ultimate destination.