Who in the world would take an Ireland vacation in the winter?
We would! We had the opportunity to house and pet-sit in Dublin, over the holiday school break, so it was a no-brainer for us. We were going to be spending a full week in the suburbs of Dublin, but we decided to add on an extra week of fun vacation time in Southern Ireland. Yes the land of County Cork and County Kerry!
Oh so long ago, my ancestors lived on these lands and I was very excited to go and check it out. I had only visited Dublin in the past, so a portion of our vacation in Ireland was going to be new territory for me. For Alan and the kids, it was going to be their first time visiting Ireland. We were all very excited and on a mission to explore as much as possible. So keep on reading to see our 5 day itinerary and our family friendly way to enjoy our Ireland vaction.
Where to stay in County Cork Ireland
First let’s talk about where to stay. We like to use self catering accommodation whenever we can. It tends to save money by eating in 1-2 meals a day and we like to have a nice comfortable place to return to. We wanted to explore southwest Ireland as well as southeast Ireland and were trying to figure out the best location to stay. We wanted to avoid more than a 60-90 minute drive each way, for each day out. So, we decided to base ourselves smack in the middle of southern Ireland, right in the countryside!
Yes, we decided it would be ideal to stay in a converted farmhouse with a thatched roof, in the country. Oh, let me tell you this was the best decision ever. It was tough trying to choose between something near either Cork City or Killarney, but in the end the country farmhouse closer to Cork won out. Can you see why?
It was a 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom, large living room and a huge farmhouse kitchen. We were all very impressed with the quality of linens and all of the extra touches around the house. The kitchen was equipped with everything we could ever want, so it all worked out perfectly for us. Oh and the big wood burning stove kept us warm and cozy every night. They even put up Christmas decorations for our stay!
It was located just a few miles from the town of Mallow and it was only about 12 miles from Cork City. We stayed at Ivy Bridge Cottage and it was absolutely perfect for us. They have 2 rentals, both great for families. If you would like to stay at the same place, just click here to check pricing and availability. The landlord’s daughter owns the nearby Ivy Bridge Equestrian Center, if you are interested in riding horses.
If you are looking for other rentals in Ireland, you can see what is available on Flipkey/Tripadvisor by checking for availability and pricing.
Ireland Vacation – 5 Day Itinerary (County Cork, County Kerry and more)
I will share with you our Ireland vacation, which was a 5 day itinerary for southern Ireland (province of Munster), but make note we didn’t get to do it all. The area had record-breaking rains for weeks prior to our visit, so some of the activities were not possible. It looks like we will need to return. Also, keep in mind the amount of daylight you will have, based on the time of year you visit Ireland. In the winter it will start to get dark about 4pm and in the summer, it will be closer to 10pm. That said, you will be able to enjoy more outdoors activities with more daylight.
We will provide you with a map, assuming you will be staying at Ivy Bridge Cottage.
|Day of Itinerary||Activity||Activity||Activity|
|Day 1 - |
|Quad Bike Safari||Lunch at Skinny's||Ballycotton Cliff Walk|
|Day 2 - |
|Cork City - Old English Market||Cork Butter Museum||CIT Blackrock Castle & Observatory|
|Day 3 - |
|Day 4 - |
|Killarney City||Kissane Sheep Farm||Kenmare|
|Day 5 - |
|The Donkey Sanctuary||Limerick|
When selecting activities, I tried to group things near to each other for the same day.
Day 1 – NW County Cork Day Out
- Quad Bike Safari – This would be a great way to start off your day and burn some energy. We were really looking forward to this one because the kids could each ride their own quad bike, but because of so much rain it just wasn’t possible. As you know, we like our off-road time (dirt bikes in Cambodia, Side by side in Utah and many more). If you want to give it a try, contact Bridgefield Buggies and tell them Wagoners Abroad sent you.
- Lunch at Skinny’s Diner – A friend of ours suggested we check out the Ballycotton Cliff Walk as well as a bite to eat at Skinny’s Diner. Oh what a treat! We stopped for a bit of lunch before going for our cliff walk. This was the cutest place ever and the food was absolutely wonderful. You can check out their TripAdvisor reviews here.
- Ballycotton Cliff Walk – It was wet and muddy, but the rain stopped long enough for our walk and we absolutely loved it. We didn’t do the full length, as the mud was a bit thick in places. We did however have a blast and the views from the cliffs were amazing. I am sure this is a big hot spot in the summer season. There is a map of the path at the beginning, to help guide you. So just go and enjoy nature! We found this site to be very informative
Day 2 – Cork City Day Out
- The English Market – Alan had this place on his list of things to do in Cork, as he has some friends from the area and has always heard so much about it. We were advised to get there early to avoid the crowds and we were glad we did. This market has been trading since 1788, is that amazing or what? We enjoyed walking around the market as well as meandering the holiday decorated streets of Cork. It was just what we imagined and you can read more about it here.
- Cork Butter Museum – Because of the holiday schedules, we weren’t able to visit the butter museum. We were a little bummed, as we thought this would be an awesome educational experience and we heard great things about it. We will just need to go back and visit again. Here is more info on the Cork Butter Museum. If you go, feel free to tell us all about it in the comments below.
- CIT Blackrock Castle & Observatory – This was a special treat. We figured we would check it out, as we love observatories and it was fairly close to Cork city. There are regularly scheduled times for a tour of the castle as well as the planetarium show. The tour was great and the stories were wonderful. They really did a great job of captivating all of us and giving us a feel of what life used to be like there. It was just us at the time so we had the place to ourselves. The planetarium show was in a blow up tent! Yep, that was a surprise, but it worked out so well. We were sitting in the tent and the sky was all around us. It was like we were in space, rather than just looking up at it. I want to go again!
Day 3 – County Cork Day Out
- Blarney Castle – This was our favorite place of all and we could have spent the entire day here. The castle takes about 1 hour to tour, but the grounds are so expansive and far more to see than we realized. Alan wrote all about Kissing the Blarney Stone and Anya is working on a video too.
- Bandon – Now I know this isn’t on the normal tourist track, but for me it was a must. This is where my great grandmother’s family was from. They were the Deasy family and I was so excited to see the name around town, there was even a Deasy pharmacy. Nope, I didn’t pop in to see if we were long-lost relatives. It was well over 100 years ago that our family migrated to America. I am sure there are very distant relatives around, but it was just fun walking the town. We had a great meal at the local pub, named The Old Market.
- Kinsale – In Kinsale you can check out Charles Fort, it is located on the ocean and has beautiful views. If you are up for a cool walk, visit James Fort. It is across the harbor from Charles Fort and is about a 30-40 min walk from town. Again breath-taking views are awaiting you.
Day 4 – County Kerry Day Out
- Killarney – For us it was just a visit to the city for the morning. You could actually spend an entire week with this as your base as well. It is in close proximity to the Dingle Peninsula and it is also located on the Ring of Kerry. The Ring of Kerry is a circular loop along the coast and a bit inland, which would be a full day trip on its own. There is great scenery and wonderful parks as well.
- Ladies View – Ladies View is a scenic point along the N71 portion of the Ring of Kerry, in Killarney National Park, Ireland. The name apparently stems from the admiration of the view given by Queen Victoria‘s ladies-in-waiting during their 1861 visit. Of course we had to stop and soak up the view too!
- Kissane Sheep Farm – Just on the road between Killarney and Kenmare is the Kissane sheep farm! We heard from fellow travelers that the sheep farm was worth checking out. Unfortunately, they were closed to the public over the Christmas break. They provide demonstrations of their border collies in action rounding up the sheep, so we may need to return.
- Kenmare – This is originally where we were going to base ourselves. We found an awesome cottage on the cliffs overlooking the sea, but it was just too remote for us to venture out daily. We stopped in a local pub for a bite to eat and walked around town. We also made it to the stone circle, which was supposed to be like a mini Stonehenge. We found it and it was very mini, but we had fun and the rain stopped for us long enough to see some blue skies.
Day 5 – County Limerick Day Out
Well when something has to give in the travel plans, something has to give! For us this was Christmas Eve day and we had been on the go every day. The signals the family was silently throwing off were very clear, it needed to be a stay at home day. At this point the family wasn’t up for another day in the car exploring. It was cold and raining well beyond a drizzle. It was time to stay in our cottage with the awesome fire Alan built and have a cozy Christmas Eve day. We made hot chocolate, wrapped presents and watched holiday movies. So that is what we did, but if you want to know what we originally planned to do, read on.
- Donkey Sanctuary – This is out in the beautiful green countryside of County Cork near the village of Liscarroll in Ireland. Over 4,000 donkeys from all parts of Ireland have been taken into our care here in Ireland since The Donkey Sanctuary in Ireland was set up.
- Limerick – There are so many things to do in Limerick Ireland. We were told it would be great to see the Christmas decorations and hear the carols as we stroll along the streets. This was going to be our fun Christmas eve activity.
Well there you have it! This is what we would recommend for your Ireland vacation, if you are in County Cork or the province of Munster. Even though we had some rain and crazy winds, we had an awesome time visiting Ireland for our Christmas break.
Oh I forgot to mention, we also did take a morning to have a tour of CIT – Cork Institute of Technology. Lars got a big kick out of it and the wheels are spinning on University options in a few years. I added here at the end, because I am sure it won’t be on the plans for most families visiting Ireland.
On Christmas day, we drove up to Dublin to our housesit for the next week. If you are interested in learning more about housesitting, click here and we will tell you all about it. Just look at the awesome pets, we took care of for 8 days. If you are interested in signing up as a house owner or house sitter, just contact us and we can email you 20% off the fee with Trusted Housesitters (US).
There are also many organized tours for you to enjoy from being active on walking or biking tour, to enjoying a food or wine tour. There is so much to do and Viator has so many great offers for you. Click here to see their latest Ireland Deals!
Places to stay in Ireland
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Tell us what you think and feel free to add more activities from your Ireland vacation to this list in the comments below.