In early summer our family set off on an Irish/Scottish Road Trip with the main aim of visiting lots of relatives. As such it was primarily a family holiday but, after sharing some images on Instagram, one reader encouragingly commented, ‘Please tell me you’re going to blog this in detail’ so these are the highlights and recommendations I can remember! As we have tots we broke up the journey into (reasonably) sensible stops. Except Day 10, Day 10 wasn’t sensible at all.
Day 1 – Set off from Aberdeen driving down to Ayr. We stopped at Bridge of Allan for dinner which has a mix of independent eateries and it’s easy to drive in and out of, easy to park too. We arrived at a small guest house called Craggallan in Ayr where we’d booked the family room. Perfectly respectable, clean B&B.
Day 2 – Rose early and drove from Ayr to Cairnyran to catch the 10.30am P&O ferry to Larne in Northern Ireland. StenaLine ferries also leave from this neck of the woods. On the 2.5 hour crossing we had lunch, the boys received an Activity Pack which kept them amused (they loved the stickers), we went on deck and ventured into the kids play area where a DVD was playing and my tots were delighted. Yay, cartoons!
We arrived in Larne and drove directly to our relatives in Dublin. When I looked at accommodation in Dublin it did seem notably expensive, so sadly I can’t recommend a particular stop in the capital.
Day 3 – Visited Dublin Zoo – wonderful, massive, engaging, kids loved it and you can spend hours there. Downside – it’s expensive. A relative gave us some Tesco Vouchers for the Zoo that got us in almost free and it made a huge difference. Tip – whilst you can eat within the Zoo there’s a delightful cafe a stone’s throw from the entrance which serves delicious lunches, coffees and cakes. Indoor and outdoor seating so it’s a lovely option for dining al fresco.
Day 4 – Next we visited Dublin’s Natural History Museum, or the ‘Dead Zoo’ as it’s known locally. Such a great nickname. It’s free, it’s a delight and offers two floors of fascinating creatures. We dipped into the National Gallery to have lunch in the cafe and we then attempted to peruse the art. The staff were so welcoming and helpful but my kids ran riot so we lasted about 8 minutes! One vast room contains a single sculpture which people were silently contemplating. When we entered the room what was the one thing my kids wanted to run towards and touch? And did they do it silently? You can guess the answers.
Close to the gallery is a large, green public park where the kids ran off the suppressed energy from the art gallery. There’s a little playground too, and an ice-cream van turned up so it was Mr Whippies all round. Click here for other Dublin destinations and our hotel choice from an earlier visit when our eldest was merely seven months old.
Day 5 – We headed south from Dublin to Killaloe. It’s a picturesque wee town, set on a river, with a lovely play park, an open air pool (open in the summer only) and a gorgeous marina to take in the private boats and summer cruisers. Oh how the other half live. We stopped in Killaloe specifically to visit relatives, so it’s not on the tourist trail, but for a quiet stopover it’s a dainty spot. For more info on Killaoe (and also Kilkee and Loophead) click here.
Day 6 – Drove to Killarney. If you like Ireland you’ll probably love Kerry and
Killarney. This town is a real tourist hotspot. We found an Air BnB that we adored – the garden, complete with slide for the boys, is so beautiful it looks like I’ve photoshopped on the background. The house is set in the countryside, less than ten minutes drive from the buzzing town centre, and it felt like home. The owner was lovely which always helps too. On a previous visit to Killarney we hired a self catering villa which we were also very happy with – click here for more info.
Day 7 – The great thing about Killarney is its National Park. It’s beautiful. Walking (and scooting) past the elegant Muckross House, the famous ‘Jaunting Cars’ trundled past us. These horse and carriages are iconic. A bit like taking a gondola in Venice, it’s not cheap but you kinda have to do it. You can catch jaunting cars at several locations around Killarney, Mr Husband has a favourite so he announced that today was not a jaunting car day. Instead we headed for a discreet beach that leads directly onto the lake. Up a dirt track, it isn’t signposted so there was an element of local knowledge involved in finding it, so I hope you can find it too.
Day 8 – It was Jaunting Car Day! Mr Husband drove us to the Jaunting Car pick up point for the Gap of Dunloe which he classes as the best route. We stopped in a coffee
shop next to the car park, it was the cutest little duck egg blue venue, but the coffee was so bad. Maybe I was unlucky. But forget that, soon we were jaunting along. Our driver was chatty and personable. The kids were in heaven and loved every minute. When we reached the Gap, which is a jawdroppingly attractive mountain pass, we were given ten minutes or so to wander around, take photographs and allow Mr Toddler to go pee pee. We weren’t alone, a lot of other tourists were doing exactly the same as us (apart from the peeing bit) but that didn’t detract from the experience. On the return leg the gentle movement of the carriage and the hot sun lulled our tots to sleep, and folk in other carriages smiled at us as we bounced along with our drowsy bundles.
After waking up the boys we headed into central Killarney for an ice-cream at the celebrated Murphy’s Ice-cream. From there we walked into a totally different section of Killarney National Park, entering near Deenagh Lodge and scooting to Killarney House. Here we found possibly the best scooter territory on the planet, and with a mountainous backdrop it was quite unbeatable. Finally it was time for home.
Day 9 – Returned to Dublin in one long drive. Overnighted with relatives.
Day 10 – Crazy day. Drove to Larne, sailed to Scotland. Drove to McInroy’s Point and caught the ferry over to Dunoon on the Cowal Peninsula. Then headed for the sumptuous 5* Knockdow House. In hindsight this was a LOT of travel time in one day but amazingly it didn’t faze the kids – I’m not sure how we got away with it.
Arriving at Knockdow was worth it – read our review of this luscious property here. It’s 5* but you get what you pay for (taking bookings till September). If you do one thing in the locality then visit the Benmore Botanic Gardens. We didn’t know what to expect but ended up trekking about for hours. The views were staggering and we did it all with Mr Toddler’s buggy in tow.
Day 11 – Started the drive back to Aberdeen. We stopped roughly halfway for lunch at a fantastic play park called Active Kids, Perth. With a pirate ship, fort, inflatable pillows, Tractor Ted zone, soft play and farm animals to interact with it was a great pit stop – read the review here.
Then, finally, we were home. Home, sweet home.
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