Family Travel Question:
Q | What are some "must do's" in Ireland and Scotland?
My son and I are travelling to Ireland and Scotland from Sept. 6-15 (mostly Ireland). What should we do while we are there? -Eric, CAN
A | Scotland and Ireland for kids and their parents
Great question Eric and one I can answer easily as I sit in a cabin in Scotland to write this. My family and I have just finished touring the northern half of Ireland over eight days and are now in Scotland for 12 days. In fact, you can view our travels on our site as I’ve just finished updating our Ireland adventure. You haven’t mentioned how old your son is? I’m assuming big enough to enjoy international travel and be a good travel companion. Are you hiring a car? This is by far the best way to get around Ireland and Scotland given that you have limited time. My accommodation recommendation would be the Hostelling International youth hostels for the Republic of Ireland; Northern Ireland and Scotland have their own websites too. There are many dotted around Ireland and Scotland for budget conscious self-caterers. They supply all bed linen these days but take your own towels with you. My husband would say to bring your own coffee thermos for picnic stops along the way! My advice is to get online right now and book the YHA in Whitepark Bay in Northern Ireland so you don’t miss out on the most amazing accommodation near the Giant’s Causeway. Stop reading this and google it right now! This is a great place to base yourself whilst you tour around the Causeway Coast; don’t choose Bushmills YHA even though it is closer to Giant’s Causeway as it is in the middle of a busy tourist town. Whitepark Bay is the best.
The Causeway Coast is spectacular and full of cool free things to do. Check out the Carrick-Rede Rope Bridge and Kinbane Castle along the way to Ballycastle, which is a really lovely town to stop in. There was a small fish and chip shop in Ballycastle just down from the marina that had a line out the street! Must be good. Brush up on your Irish Fairy Tales before you go because there are many references to the stories throughout the country; they are actually very much part of the culture and history of Ireland. If your son is old enough to read, check out the ‘Horrible Histories’ series of books; there are special editions just on Ireland and on Scotland.
The majority of tourists head to the south of Ireland. We choose the northern half of Ireland because we were getting the ferry into Dublin and out of Larne near Belfast. We didn’t want to spend all our time driving madly around the whole island. I would recommend picking a small part of the country and really enjoying it (e.g. the Causeway Coast, which we all loved). Scotland is bigger than it looks and you can spend 10 days in one area enjoying the breathtaking scenery and serenity. If you want action then go to Edinburgh or Glasgow, both big cities with loads to do and see. Glasgow has a great science center for kids which would fill an entire day. Don’t forget to see a castle or two; Stirling Castle in Stirling and Edinburgh Castle are the top picks. Try to get to a national park area if you can. The Trossachs and Loch Lomond National Park are only ½ hour drive out of Glasgow. If you stick to the west coast of Scotland then try to get north to Fort William to get the Jacobite train. This is the famous train you see going over the viaduct in the Harry Potter movies. Something for the adults and kids will enjoy (if old enough) is a tour of a whiskey/whisky distillery.
Bushmills in Ireland has the oldest whiskey distillery in the world. We did a brewery tour at Carlsberg in Sweden so we didn’t do one here but they are fun even if you are not a whisky fan and kids enjoy the bottling room. There are so many amazing places to go to in Ireland and Scotland so I hope this has given you some hints for your travels. Feel free to ask more questions and have a peek at our site for some more ideas as we still have another wonderful week in Scotland ahead.
P.S. Prepare for cold and wet weather. Do not leave home without raincoats, umbrellas and warm clothing!