By Elaine Whelan
Wicklow has long been known as The Garden of Ireland and after a visit here you will be left wishing this stunning county was, in fact, in your back garden. Stretching from mountains to sea with everything in between, Wicklow is a county with a wealth of activities to offer its visitors. Wicklow has the largest national park in Ireland, the biggest forest land, the largest mountain area, the highest waterfall and the biggest man-made lake and is soon to be the best holiday destination for you and your family.
The National Sea Life Centre
The National Sea Life Centre is one of Ireland’s largest marine and freshwater zoos with over 1100 underwater animals. The sea life centre in Bray is the only aquarium on the East Coast of Ireland. The aquarium has everything from jellyfish, octopuses and clownfish to sharks and seahorses. With 30 displays, a kid quiz trail, a colouring table, an indoor play area for younger children, and hourly public feeds of the animals, you won’t get bored! Adult tickets cost €11.25 and child prices are €9.45. When you book online you get an extra 10% off.
Set at the foot of the Wicklow Mountains, Powerscourt Waterfall is Ireland’s highest at 121 metres. The waterfall itself is situated just five kilometres from the Powerscourt Estate and Gardens. Visitors are welcome to have a summer picnic or barbecue at Powerscourt Waterfall and there is a brilliant playground for children. Along the walking trails you will be surrounded by stunning beech, oak, larch and pine trees, as well as Californian native’, the giant redwoods, which have all been growing here for over 200 years. You can even bring your dog along provided they remain on their leash. The trees are alive with all kinds of wildlife where you can spot everything from a cuckoo, a sika deer or a red squirrel if you keep your eyes peeled. You can visit the waterfall between 9:30 A.M. and 7:00 P.M. each day. Tickets for entry cost €6.50 for an adult and €3.50 for a child. A family ticket for two adults and three children for €16.00 can save you up to €7.50.
Russborough House and Parklands
While the Russborough house itself is gorgeous, the gardens are something else. There is so much more to do here than you could even imagine. Firstly, the gardens are jam-packed with different walking trails. Choose from the 2km wildlife trail, which passes through the wildlife habitat, the 2km woodland and rhododendron trail, or combine them for a longer, more satisfying walk. Get lost in the stunning Russborough House & Parklands maze. The playground here is no ordinary playground as is has been voted one of the top playgrounds in the country by the Irish Times. Lady’s Island at Russborough is an enchanted land that is home to a growing number of magical fairy folk. Fairy houses line the trees here and you can learn all about them and their habitats in the special brochures. Another walking trail brings you right around the expanse of the parklands with a children’s section with quiz questions along the way. There is also a tree trail where you can learn about all the different types and a walled garden which is a hive of activity during the summer months. Just when you thought that there couldn’t possibly be anything else to do here you will see the breath-taking displays of the National Bird of Prey Centre, the fun sheep dog demonstrations and the brilliant creations conjured up by award winning artists in the artisan section. It will cost a family of two adults and up to four children just €10.00 to enjoy all of this. Or if you just want to visit the playground and fairy garden, admission is free. Sounds like a bargain to me!
Clara Lara Fun Park
Clara Lara Fun Park promises your family fun and fitness at the same time! Clara Lara is a unique outdoor adventure park dedicated to providing healthy and creative fun for families and groups of children. The park is set within 60 acres of beautiful countryside in the Avonmore River valley. With so many activities to do here you’ll be delighted to notice that you’re getting your daily steps in. There are countless obstacles courses, canoes, paddle boats and rope swings to keep the little ones entertained for the day. Try out the water slide and zip wire before chilling out with a game of mini golf or sitting back and watching the kids clamber on the climbing walls or the treehouse playground. There are picnic and barbeque areas as well as a restaurant onsite for when you work up an appetite. Admission costs €16.00 for adults and €22.00 for children with a family season ticket also being available.
The Glendalough Valley is located in the Wicklow Mountains National Park and has many attractions to entice visitors, from its world famous monastic site with a round tower to its scenic lakes and valleys, as well as a selection of walks and trails in the area including The Wicklow Way. The visitor centre allows families to learn all about the heritage of the area. The scenes at Glendalough are like nowhere else. Dogs are welcome here as long as they are on a leash and toilets and baby changing facilities are available at the visitor centre.