School’s Out! – 6 Family Activity Ideas in Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands

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No more homework, no more early morning alarms, just freedom and endless possibilities.

But with summer comes a new challenge for parents: how to make the most of the exciting and sometimes daunting world of summer break.

The Royal Canal Greenway and Old Rail Trail in County Westmeath offer breathtakingly scenic cycle routes that run alongside the Royal Canal and an old railway line through the Hidden Heartlands. Cycle from the heart of Athlone town with its award-winning restaurants and cultural attractions, to Mullingar and on to Maynooth or Longford, without ever leaving these safe, off-road scenic routes and discover many treasures and family fun activities along the way

Go and see Dún na Sí: Dún na Sí Amenity and Heritage Park is a popular option as it includes a pet farm, parklands, trails, heritage tours and outdoor art displays.  Directly accessible from the Old Rail Trail Greenway, this park also includes a great children’s playground and adult exercise equipment. The playground is open to all and is fully equipped with slides, swings, climbing frames and a fantastic zip-line. The locally-run Lillymays Café has outdoor seating overlooking the playground allowing parents to relax with great lunch options, coffee and cakes.  Enjoy a walk through planted parklands and observe the many species of wild birds on the disappearing lake or ‘turlough’ without disturbing their habitat at the specially constructed bird hide. 

Family activities to do in Ireland

Cycle the Greenways: The Royal Canal Greenway is a 130km off-road level cycling and walking trail that meanders along the banks of the picturesque 225-year-old canal through Kildare, Meath, Westmeath and Longford.  The greenway is a former towpath for barges featuring 90 bridges, 33 locks, 17 harbours and four aqueducts. Not only Ireland’s longest greenway, it’s also known for its scenic beauty, rich heritage and abundance of wildlife.  The 165km self-guided National Famine Way also travels largely along the Greenway, following the footsteps of 1,490 emigrants who walked from Roscommon to Dublin at the peak of the famine in 1847.   

Family activities to do in Ireland

The Old Rail Trail is 43kms in total, it traces the historic Midlands Great Western Railway track, past restored station houses and under pretty stone arched bridges. From the River Shannon in Athlone to the Royal Canal in Mullingar, it passes through areas of unique biodiversity and heritage.  For rest and refreshments, there are great options at Tuar Ard, a coffee shop that’s part of a theatre and Egan’s Traditional Irish Bar in Moate, along with Jack’s Stop in Streamstown, the original railway station that has now been beautifully restored into a greenway café.


Family activities to do in Ireland

Make a splash! Hidden Heartlands Boat Tours, Water Taxi and Viking boat tours: Explore the mighty River Shannon and the scenic Lough Ree with a boat tour to remember. Qualified National Tour Guide Pearse Connell offers an on-water taxi and guided tours by boat from Athlone. The River Shannon Viking Boat tours from Athlone are also a signature experience of the midlands region and a ‘must do’ on your visit to Athlone, in Westmeath. See www.visitwestmeath.ie for more

Family activities to do in Ireland

Hill of Uisneach: Walk in the footsteps of High Kings, Gods & Goddesses across the ancient landscape that is the Hill of Uisneach. Although it stands just 596ft above sea level, the summit of the Hill of Uisneach commands extensive panoramic views over Ireland’s central plain. On a clear day, no less than twenty counties are visible on the horizon. In all directions, hills and mountains animate a vista where green melts into blue, hinting at seas and complete encirclement.

Family activities to do in Ireland

Andean Alpaca trekking: Participants are paired with an Alpaca and get a quick talk on Alpacas with tips on how to get the most out of your experience. Plenty of photo opportunities throughout! ‘Meet and Greet’: for younger children unable to participate in our full trek. Participants are introduced to all the curious and friendly Alpacas including the Cria (babies). You will have the opportunity to feed them and learn a little bit about them!

Family activities to do in Ireland
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