Family Travel Question:

Q | Uncategorized

A | Surfing in Ireland and Scotland

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I am so excited for your upcoming journey! Ireland and Scotland are my two favorite countries in Europe, and both are very friendly for families.


There are plenty of resources on surfing in Ireland, including:

and the Irish Surfing Association

By the way, in the movie Step into Liquid, the Malloy brothers surf in County Donegal.

I would recommend flying into Shannon Airport, as most of the surfable spots are on the West Coast. It’s also a much friendlier airport for families – very easy to get around, and the car rental lines aren’t very long. As well, leaving Shannon Airport is extremely easy – not much traffic! As well, flights arrive mid-day and you can get to where you’re going quite easily.

For the ease of your family, I’d suggest staying in a B&B the first night, and then heading to a rental home for your time in Ireland. It’s much easier with a child to have your own space, kitchen, and yard! As well, since you won’t know which breaks will be good when, choosing a central location (Dingle Peninsula?) would be smart – it is central, and easy to get around the West coast. The Dingle Peninsula is perhaps the most child-friendly location on the west coast, with plenty of things to do – seeing Fungi the Dolphin, an aquarium, plenty of ice cream stores, and more.

I also suggest renting a home so that your family can get a true sense of place – visiting the library, local music events, festivals, and more. My daughter loved having a yard when we rented a seaside cottage in Ireland.  She learned the rhythm of the tides, all about huge slugs in the yard each morning, different beaches, markets, and the many off-the-beaten path places to see.


Surfing on the Skellig Ring, Ireland


We saw many surfers while on the Skellig Ring Drive (right off the Ring of Kerry), which was conveniently located near the Skellig Chocolate Company! Speaking of food, there are plenty of potato treats in Ireland – be sure to check the snack section of the local grocery store or Tesco for all kinds of flavored chips!

A note on car rentals in Ireland. This seems to be the worst place in Europe for car rentals. Irish Fireside has a great guide for tips on car rental in Ireland.  Note that most car rental places don’t include super CDW insurance in their initial quotes – and be SURE to get it. You will bust at least one hubcap during your time there. Most travelers seem to have the best experience with Dan Dooley car rental. Expect to pay almost double for an automatic.

I’d recommend reading with your child several books before your journey:
Tales of Old Ireland by Malachy Doyle
The Irish Alphabet by Rickey Pittman
This Is Ireland by Miroslav Sasek
Market Day (Trophy Picture Books) by Eve Bunting and Holly Berry

Your child might love the Celtic Animals Coloring Book by Mallory Pearce – perfect for long plane and car rides, and downtime on the beach!




Scotland also has great surfing resources, including:

and the Scottish Surfing Federation

There’s a video about surfing in Scotland, entitled Through the Whisky Barrel: A Film About Surfing in Scotland.

Most of the surfable breaks are on the East coast, so it would be handy to fly into Edinburgh, rent a car, and explore there. You can also head up to the Islands of Lewis and Harris – desolate, but excellent beaches. As well, Thurso has one of the best locations for surfing in the whole UK, with large tubes.

Again with family travel, I’d recommend renting a home/apartment (or several) and driving to the beaches with good breaks. That way, you have a home base for exploring the neighborhood and learning about Scotland. Edinburgh has a great deal of cultural events, many for families and young children. There will also be a wide range of family-friendly restaurants. I’d recommend Spotted By Locals: Edinburgh for more information.

Once you leave the big city, most of your activities will be outdoor-based – which is wonderful, since Scotland is so very beautiful. Make sure to bring several pairs of shoes, since at least one will be wet all the time (same for Ireland). Also, if your family is into adventure sports, there is plenty to do: whitewater rafting, kayaking, climbing, sphereing, and more. If your family is interested in more quiet activities, you can follow along in the footsteps of Harry Potter.


Beach in Mallaig, Scotland



I love the food in Scotland, especially the fresh seafood and amazing choices in yogurt and jam flavors. Head to a Tesco and explore – it’s so much fun!

You can fly IcelandAir and have a stopover in Reykjavik, and swim in the Blue Lagoon before flying into Scotland.  If you’re going to be based in northern Europe, I’d definitely extend my trip that way. Alternatively, head back to Shannon Airport and then fly back to the US. Aer Lingus has some great deals at times, especially if you are flying from a major US city. I would not recommend the car ferry from Scotland to Ireland – it is very expensive, and flying is cheaper – and, most car rental places will not allow you to take your car out to Ireland (or Scotland). Car rental is easy, and much cheaper than in Ireland. Expect to pay almost double for an automatic.


Fun kids books about Scotland:

This Is Edinburgh by Miroslav Sasek
B is for Bagpipes: A Scotland Alphabet (Discover the World) by Eve Begley Kiehm and Alexa Rutherford
The Story of Scotland by Richard Brassey and Stewart Ross
Fairy Tales from Scotland (Oxford Story Collections) by Barbara Ker Wilson and Joan Kiddell-Monroe


I am sure your family will have a fantastic time on this surfing adventure!  Take your time, slow down, and live like locals and you will have the journey of a lifetime.




Photos courtesy of Jessie Voigts

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