I’m always on the look out for local trips, interesting new walks, new adventures to be had. It can often get a bit repetitive, I find we go to the same haunts. Safe places, where the kids are familiar, there’s nice coffee for mama . But while chatting to a friend recently who is new to the area I realised the amount of great day trips around the North East. So here are our top 5… (I just found out that our #5 Sonairte is closing abruptly this friday, I hoping its temporary, so I'm leaving it in, we love Sonairte!)
20 minutes drive from Laytown. Or hop on the train via Irish rail, remember understand 5s are free.
We adore Skerries, the promenade is fab for scooters or bikes. It runs along the beautiful South beach, you can make Sandcastles, throw stones or just enjoy the view.
We usually head to the library. If you’re a member of a library (any dublin library) you can pop into the library in Skerries and borrow books. They have a nice kids section.
Next we check out the toy shop “the bubble room”, it’s a great one for birthday presents and pocket money spends. Then on to Olive cafe and deli for yummy cappuccino for Mama. And across to Gerry’s supermarket for treat for kids- if sunny, ice cream and over to the Seal statues and gardens between library and toy shop.
If you want a longer walk, continuing along the promenade you can explore rock pools along the coast up to the playground.
Two sections along the promenade have free parking, at the start and the end. Middle section is pay machines.
2. Malahide Castle
35 minutes drive from Laytown. On the dart and Irish rail train lines. Free parking in 3 out of 4 car parks (the one nearest the train station is pay machines but one hour is free). We usually park at the car park up near the castle and Avoca.
We often bring our bikes or scooters. The whole park is pretty flat, so great options, particularly for beginners. There is a big playground, but unless it’s very quiet I tend to avoid it and concentrate on bikes, woods, climbing trees, searching for the best sticks. We’ve gone on “Toots” the little train. It runs from outside Avoca by the castle, through the grounds, into Malahide village, by the marina, up to the beach and back. €15 for a hop on hop off family ticket which covered me, 3 kids and baby. We hopped off in the village and went to Mario’s for pizza and then the biggest 99s ever from mace before hopping back on Toots in the train station and went around again. I’d just ring before heading up to make sure it’s running.
You can also rent family bikes in the castle (2 seats in back with peddles) and space for 3 kids up front. Nice way to spend an hour, €14.
Then for yummy take away coffee and scones, cakes, ice cream Avoca is great! Pricey for sit in full lunch with a few kids, but great to add to a picnic.
Balrath is about a 15 minute drive from Laytown. Lovely walk through the woods. Buggy, scooter, bike friendly. It has a really cute leave and take book shelf, so you can bring along a book you’re finished with and take a different one.
Spotted through the woods are 3 play areas, one with rocking wooden horses, one with a large bucket swing and one with a large rope climbing structure. Perfect to spend a few minutes and then keeping going on the walk. There’s also a fab huge tree with protruding roots the kids love to explore around.
There are a mix of long and short walks and a few picnic areas dotted around. Lovely way to spend a morning.
4. Clogherhead Beach and rock pools
Clogherhead is about 20mins drive north of Drogheda. The beach is a beautiful soft sandy one, with lifeguard hut, Celtic Adventures- who rent kayaks and canoes and sell the all important ice creams. Definitely bring your own picnic. Great for Sandcastles and paddling.
Then just to the left there’s a great walk along the coast, loads of little rock pools and lots of jagged rocks to climb. Not buggy friendly but perfect with a sling. And if you’ve any avid paleontologists at home, there are great fossils to be found. “Clogherhead is where two vast continents collided millions of years ago and the jagged rocks around by the head were created by the two land masses coming together, the crumple zones so to speak.”
So you could potentially be finding fossils from 420 million years ago! We’ve found some great fossils, my two dinosaur enthusicts love it.
Sonairte is located between Julianstown and Laytown.
We usually head into the gardens first. There are so many varieties of flowers, herbs, vegatables to see. My kids love walking through the polytunnels touching the leaves of the herbs to smell the different flavours. You can purchase flowers, herbs, fruit and vegetables from the garender.
Next we head down to the raised bird hide at the end of the garden beside the little pond. Depending on the time of year you may see frog spawn or frogs hopping in and out of the pond water. From the raised bird hide you can see beautiful views of the river Inch. We’ve seen lots of different birds here- cormorant, heron, little egret, ducks, swans, and many others we need to identify!
You can then head down to the River walk, there’s a lovely knocked over tree decorated in fairy doors. A space for picnics, maybe cows or sheep in the fields, then down to the 2nd bird hide on the banks of the river where you have fab views of Ballygarth castle. And back up the path and further up to the higher fields if you want a longer walk, lots of trees and brambles to explore. More fairy doors dotted along the path too.
We finish our walk in the garden outside the Sunflower Cafe. The chef Bridget uses gorgeous fresh ingredients from the gardens, great value, and kids can play with the outdoor toys and slides in the garden. The brownies are yum!!