County Wicklow – ‘the garden of Ireland’ – lies on the Leinster coastline to the south of Dublin. For a county which is just 33 miles by 20 miles, there are lots of great things to do in Wicklow with kids.
Historical sites, expansive sandy beaches or rugged mountain scenery – Co. Wicklow has it all!
So what are the best thing to do with kids in Wicklow?
Things to do in Co. Wicklow with kids
Learn about Irish history
Explore Wicklow Town with its pretty harbour and walk to the eastern edge of Wicklow Town to view the Black Castle, a set of 14th Century cliff top ruins.
If you are visiting Wicklow Town with older children, a visit to the interesting but sombre Wicklow Town Gaol is a must.
The stories you encounter about some of the jails unfortunate inhabitants reflect the turbulent and often tragic history of Ireland. Don’t miss the eerie, atmospheric cells in the basement of the historic gaol.
The sobering tales of these men, women and children are brought to life by an immersive audio visual tour including lifelike holograms. There is also the option to upgrade your tour to a state of the art Virtual Reality Tour.
TIP – Discounted tickets for Wicklow Town Gaol are frequently offered on Groupon.ie with savings of over 50%. Check the latest deals for County Wicklow here.
Wicklow Town Gaol – family ticket €26, Virtual Reality Family Ticket €50.
Scenic Glendalough in the Wicklow Mountains National Park is one of the most popular tourist sites in Ireland.
St Kevin founded a monastery here in the 6th century and visitors today can explore the well preserved monastic ruins.
After visiting the helpful Visitors Centre, explore the ruined churches, graveyard and priest’s house. Kids will love the 30 metre high round tower which features on many Irish souvenirs. Challenge your children to find the door (there isn’t one!) and then to work out how the monks accessed the tower.
Don’t miss the ornately carved Celtic stone crosses in the graveyard however the ground is uneven here with many trip hazards so keep running around to a minimum!
To exercise little legs, complete the circular walk leading from the Upper Lake to the Lower Lake. The flat path and wooden boardwalks are pushchair friendly. The walk provides lovely views of the valley and the two lakes.
TIP – If you are self driving to Glendalough, choose one of the scenic drives across the Wicklow Mountains. Try to incorporate the stunning Sally Gap into your route.
Also, make a stop to look down at Lough Tay which is affectionately nicknamed ‘The Guinness Lake’ due to the lake’s shape and colour resembling a pint of the black stuff.
Entry to Glendalough is free but there is a 4 Euro fee for parking. Arrive early as the carpark and site gets very busy on weekends and in peak season.
Savour the sun and hit the beach!
Ireland is not known for its hot sunny weather (!) but when the sun does shine, there is no better place to be than a Wicklow beach!
Brittas Bay is a beautiful, unspoiled, five kilometre long, sandy beach backed by low sand dunes.
With no rocky headlands or outcrops, the sea is relatively calm and ideal for swimming or paddling children. In the summer months the beach is patrolled by a lifeguard.
The soft sandy beach is clean and has been awarded Blue Flag status for the last five years.
If building sandcastles and sunbathing is too sedate for you, try one of the several activities available such as stand up paddle boarding, surfing or kite surfing.
TIP – There are few facilities on the beach so bring your own shade and plenty of snacks and drinks.
Parking is 4 Euro at the beachfront car park. Public toilets available at the car park.
Bray’s pebbly beach is lined by a pretty, one kilometre long promenade with large grass spaces for a good runaround and ball games.
There is a fully enclosed playground for younger children and outdoor gym equipment for older children. There are cafes and toilets available along the promenade.
There is a small sandy section of beach at the end of Bray promenade near the harbour and you can walk the unenclosed, elevated harbour wall.
In the long summer season, Bray promenade and beach hosts an outdoor festival. There is a large funfair plus an activity section for younger children, regular live music in the bandstand and free screenings at the outdoor movie theatre.
TIP – Take the train to Bray. The rail station is a one minute walk from the seafront.
There is an hourly fee for parking in Bray.
Check out our guide for things to do in Bray here.
Go for a walk!
Co. Wicklow is ideal for walking and there are easily accessible, scenic walks to suit all ages and abilities.
Make sure you check the weather forecast before setting out on a family walk – Co. Wicklow has notoriously changeable weather.
Wear appropriate, sturdy footwear and bring plenty of snacks and water. Consider packing waterproofs even on a sunny day – an exposed viewpoint is going to be windy!
Bray to Greystones walk
One family friendly walk is the 7 kilometre scenic, coastal walk from Bray to Greystones. Kids will love it because you can catch the train back to Bray rather than having to walk back!
From Bray seafront, walk to end of the promenade towards Bray Head and just keep on walking. The uneven, elevated coastal path is flat and is accessible to all with a head for heights.
The scenic walk provides fantastic views of the Wicklow coastline and the Irish sea. There is some fencing on exposed sections but the fence is flimsy in places so keep children close!
The path follows the Isambard Kingdom Brunel designed Dublin to Wicklow rail line and kids will love waving at the passing trains below.
The coastal path is doable with a pushchair though it may be a bumpy ride for your child.
Enjoy a picnic on the beach at Greystones before catching the train back to your starting point in Bray.
Climb Bray Head
A more challenging family hike is the climb to the summit of Bray Head.
Bray Head is a hilly promontory dominating the seaside town and is easily recognisable by the enormous concrete cross on the summit.
A signposted path exits the Bray to Greystones coastal path shortly after the end of Bray promenade. The path is rocky and uneven and is suitable for little legs but not for pushchairs.
The path climbs upward through forest and across patches of spiky yellow gorse to eventually reach the summit of Bray Head, 218 metres above sea level. The walk takes around one hour with children.
The windy, exposed summit has fantastic 360 degree views encompassing Bray, the Wicklow mountains, Irish sea coastline and, on a clear day, as far as Dublin.
Bray Head summit is a rocky, flat area but it is not enclosed – there are some steep drops so keep children close.
Bray Head was one of the first walks I did in Co. Wicklow with kids and it remains one of my favourite things to do.
The Sugar Loaf Mountains
Great Sugar Loaf (501 metres) and Little Sugar Loaf (342 metres) are more hill height than mountain height but climbing them is not simple jaunt up a hill!
Both mountains have instantly recognisable conical shapes and are two of the most accessible peaks in Ireland. But don’t let the low elevations fool you! Both hikes are challenging for children due to the terrain.
Little Sugar Loaf is the easier of the two peaks. A signposted hiking path off the main road between Bray and Kilmacanogue is the start of the 1 hour walk to the summit.
The path cuts through grass and spiky gorse before heading steeply upwards over large boulders. The way markers on the path change from wooden signposts to simple arrows painted onto the rocks.
Good gripping shoes or boots are a must for clambering over the large quartzite rocks in order to reach the summit. The summit has expansive 360 degree views but like most Co. Wicklow peaks, it is very windy!
Great Sugar Loaf mountain can be summited in around two hours thanks to a handily located, free car park halfway up the mountain!
The path is a steep climb and you have to scramble over scree, loose rocks and cross rocky gullies to reach the summit. Coming down the mountain is equally hard in this terrain.
The views from the top of Great Sugar Loaf are worth the slog but it is not a hike for the faint hearted or for younger children.
Visit Ireland’s highest waterfall
Powerscourt Waterfall lies in landscaped parkland near the Powerscourt Estate in Enniskerry. The 121 metre high, single drop cascade is Ireland’s highest waterfall.
The park surrounding Powerscourt Waterfall contains a forest of Beech, Larch and Oak trees dwarfed by several enormous Giant Redwoods.
There are woodland trails, a lovely playground and cafe on site and plenty of open green spaces for a good runaround.
Powerscourt Waterfall is €16 for a family ticket.
Alternatively, visit Glenmacnass Waterfall on the way to nearby Glendalough.
This 80 metre high, 3 drop cascading waterfall lies at the head of the Glenmacnass Valley in the Wicklow Mountains. It is best viewed after heavy rainfall.
There is a car park at the top of the falls and it is a short walk from there to a great viewpoint.
Look for ‘the fair folk’ on a fairy trail
Irish mythology is full of stories about leprechauns and fairies. Several parks and country estates in Co.Wicklow capitalize on this by offering fairy trails for younger visitors.
Fairy trails vary from free to fee paying, from self guided to a printed fairy hunt with clues.
These trails are a great way of getting reluctant legs walking and running around Irish woodlands in search of fairy footprints, miniature doors, tunnels and homes.
Kilruddery House near Bray is the charming, unassuming country house estate of the Earl of Meath.
Old and young legs will get lots of exercise on the 800 acre estate exploring the walled garden, long ponds and woodland walks.
Children can search for fairy folk in the Faerie Woodland Village or get dirty in the Giant Sandpit in the Apple Orchard.
Older children will enjoy the challenging heights of the fee paying tree adventure park, Squirrels Scramble, which includes 12 exhilarating zip lines.
TIP – time your visit for Kilruddery’s Farmers Market which take place very Saturday in the summer season.
Entrance to Kilruddery Gardens – Adults €8.50, children €3. Fee paying tours of Kilruddery House are also available.
Russborough House and Parklands
Russborough Park in Blessington offers a great day out for all the family. If the kids groan at ‘yet another old house’ there is plenty in the delightful parklands to keep them occupied.
There are lovely woodland walks, a Fairy Trail to hunt for fairy homes (or to look for Faylinn, the resident fairy chief) and a challenging beech hedge maze. For an additional charge, families can visit the Birds Of Prey centre on site.
Family ticket to Russborough grounds and fairy trail – €15.
TIP – the adventure playground is free to access though there is a small fee for parking.
Meet some animals
Sealife Centre Bray
The National Sealife Centre on Bray seafront is a popular attraction for families – especially on a rainy day. The centre is one of my favourite things to do in Wicklow with kids.
The centre hosts a wide variety of marine animals from Irish and foreign waters ranging from sharks to sea horses and, my favourite, the ethereal jellyfish in colour changing tanks.
Zoned areas will keep inquisitive kids engaged such as the fascinating Great Barrier Reef section, the Bay of Rays and Toxic Terrors (my daughters favourite)!
Children and adults alike will love the Touch Pool and the chance to touch and hold some of the aquatic animals. There are keeper talks and feeding demonstrations daily.
TIP – Tickets are cheaper online in advance of your visit.
Online tickets are €11.25 for adults and €8.75 for children.
At Greenan Maze, children can meet a variety of farm animals and learn about farming history in Ireland at Greenan’s three small museums.
Make sure you allocate plenty of time to attempt the hedge maze in a Celtic design spanning half an acre, or the much easier, open Solstice maze.
Family ticket €29.
Take an Alpaca for a walk.
At K2Alpacas, based in Newtownmountkennedy, families can lead a friendly, furry alpaca on a one hour guided walk.
Children under 6 are not allowed on the trek and children under 10 cannot lead their own alpaca but can accompany an adult free of charge which makes an Alpaca trek an affordable option!
A one hour Alpaca trek costs €35 per person.
Clara Lara Fun Park
The Clara Lara Fun Park in Rathdrum provides fun, outdoor activities for all the family.
There are rope bridges, assault courses, zip lines and rafts. For an additional ticket, you can receive unlimited access to rowing boats, canoes, mini golf, go carts and Ireland’s longest water slide.
General entry ticket €12.50 per person. Additional ‘Gold’ ticket €10.
Try a new outdoor activity!
Hire a mountain bike or join a guided tour at Biking.ie based in Ballinstoe. The company run family friendly trips ranging from novice to experienced cyclists.
Or hire a Canadian canoe or kayak to explore Varty River (in Wicklow Town) or Broad Lough from Wicklow Kayaking.
Alternatively, try rock climbing, surfing or coasteering with Bray Adventures.
TIP – don’t forget to check the latest discounted offers on activities at Groupon.ie. The site regularly has offers for outdoor activities such as kayaking and horse riding.
Co. Wicklow is a great location for a family holiday.
There are so many fun and interesting things to do with kids in Wicklow that you will be spoiled for choice and have a difficult time fitting it all in!
Are you going to Co. Wicklow? What will you choose to see and do?