Outdoor Adventure in Ireland with Teens: Everything You Need to Know Before You Go!

Castles, sheep, golf, and Guinness, that's basically what my impression of Ireland has been, but after getting the chance to experience it myself recently as a guest of Tourism Ireland, I know that it's so much more than that! Ireland has been on my radar for a few years now. Especially after I learned that Aer Lingus had launched a direct flight from Seattle to Dublin. In under 9 hours, I could be on the Emerald Isle! After exploring the island and barely scratching the surface, I feel like Ireland has been flying under the radar as an outdoor enthusiast destination. The great thing about Ireland is that there are a lot of outdoor adventure activities packed into that small island just waiting to be discovered by travelers and you could be one of the lucky ones to experience it!


Outdoor Adventure in Ireland with Teens: 
Everything You Need to Know Before You Go!

outdoor adventure with teens ireland

From surfing to hiking, kayaking to biking, there are so many different ways to discover Ireland. Ireland would make an incredible destination to explore as a family. Here are some things to know before you go.  


When to Visit Ireland

Ireland is known for its wind and rain, but don't let that stop you from visiting or being disappointed when you see the weather report! Without the rain, you wouldn't be experiencing the many different variations of greens that make up the Emerald Isle. Before my trip, I watched the weather app for the area and was disappointed that it said rain daily. It barely sprinkled once in my week there! As I quickly learned, even the locals don't trust weather apps!

Like many locations surrounded by water, the weather is often very mild. The winters can be cold and dreary, but they are also less crowded with tourists and you'll get a more authentic feel of the area. Take note: many popular tourist hotels close down during the winter months to catch up on repairs and restoration projects, so lodging options might be more limited. Summer is the high season from June to August but May and September will often surprise you with beautiful weather and fewer crowds in the shoulder season. 


How to Get to Ireland

Ireland is actually closer than you think! From the west coast of the United States, I was in Dublin in nine hours! Flying from the east coast, and it will only take about six hours! There are many locations in the states that offer direct flights, including New York, Boston, New Jersey, San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, and Cleveland to name a few! 

Dublin Airport is the largest airport in the country. It's the easiest airport for international and domestic flights and the city center is easily accessible. There are other options as well that are worth checking on to see if they are available. Shannon is an international airport that will give you more options in the west and south. If you want to access Northern Ireland, Belfast International is your best bet. Nothing can beat a direct flight though, so if one is available, book it!

discover ireland with teens

Renting a Car in Ireland

I'm not one to shy away from renting a car when I travel internationally. Don't miss these tips for renting a car in France and these tips for renting a car in Italy

However, cars in Ireland drive on the left-hand side of the road and the driver's seat is on the right side of the vehicle. If you are VERY American like me, automatic rental cars are hard to come by, so that might mean that you will be driving a stick shift with your left hand, which may not feel like the most natural thing as cars drive quickly by you on narrow roads.

All that to say, just know what you are getting into. The signs are often written in Gaelic and English, but in Irish-speaking areas, the signs are only in Gaelic. If your road trip finds you in Northern Ireland, the speed is posted in miles per hour, while the Republic of Ireland uses kilometers. There are strict driving laws against using your phone while driving and laws against driving under the influence, so brushing up on basic driving skills is important!

I have heard from others, that it takes about a day or two to get used to driving on the "wrong" side of the road, but after that, it's not too difficult. And having your own car gives you the opportunity to explore lesser-known areas at your own pace.

If driving isn't your thing, you can hire a driver. They can help put together a personalized tour experience for you and you can leave the driving to them! Or you can try your hand at public transportation! There are bus, train, and ferry options you can use that will help you explore Ireland!


What to Pack

If I just said waterproof layers, would that cover it? The weather is never a guarantee, and you want to be ready for anything, so here are a few must-pack items. I also love renting items for trips from Armoire. Want to learn more? 

Here's my link if you are ready to give it a try!

Don't miss this post: How to Pack Everything You Need in a Carry On!

Good shoes

There's a lot of ground to cover and it's important to have comfortable shoes. I debated on bringing my hiking boots and despite going on several hill walks {the Irish version of going on a hike}, I didn't feel like I needed them. I just had a good pair of sneakers {with a good pair of socks} that I wore daily. 


Layers are important because of how quickly the weather can change. Make sure you have a light sweater or sweatshirt as well as waterproof outer layers like a rain jacket or coat depending on the weather. This waterproofing spray is good for treating older gear that may not be as water-resistant as it once was. 

Don't Forget!

The UK, Ireland, and Scotland use this plug adapter. I almost made the rookie mistake of packing the one I used in other parts of Europe, so make sure you have the right adapter. I have found that hotel staff often has spares if you forget one, but it's always nice to have your own.

Stop Packing This!

I'm going to sit you down for one second so buckle up. The question gets asked in travel groups all around if you should pack a hair dryer. For the love of all things holy, it is the year 2022. Stop packing a hair dryer! Literally, every single place you stop at will have a hair dryer and it will have the appropriate converted plug and you will not have to worry your pretty little head for one second. Save the room in your suitcase for other more important things!

Who Knew?

I have traveled quite extensively internationally. I have never, not once, not seen an outlet in a bathroom. It is against the law in Ireland to install a standard voltage socket in a bathroom. There are sockets for razors {again, who packs an electric razor? Should I lump this into my PSA for hair dryers?}, but not outlets for hairdryers or curling irons. I had heard this and brought a long extension cord from home in an effort to get close to a mirror so that I could style my hair. This may or may not work depending on how your room is set up. If it's important to you, pack it. Just a little "the more you know" knowledge.

teens and pubs in ireland

Teens and Pubs

Pubs are more than just bars, they are gathering places. Think of them as an extended living room. You'd be missing out on a quintessential Irish experience if you didn't step foot into a pub on your visit. All ages are welcome with a parent or guardian. Staying after 9 pm brings some restrictions, but well-behaved older teens with their family members are generally welcome, especially if you are ordering food and enjoying live music or an event. 



There are lots of different options for accommodations in Ireland. You can reserve rooms in old castles, rent cottages in the countryside through VRBO or stay in traditional hotels. I found that hotel rooms in Ireland were generally larger than other hotel rooms I've encountered in Europe {minus the one we stayed in downtown Dublin}. There are a lot of larger family room configurations that would allow everyone to share one room.

Tip: I love saving money, but when you are traveling with tweens and teens, decompressing in your own space at the end of the day or at various times during the day is important. Sometimes squeezing into a single room is more economical, but it may not be conducive to maximum amounts of family time. I took a second to peek at some VRBO options, and if you are traveling with your family, especially with older teens, take a second to consider those options. They are often cheaper per night than renting two rooms at a regular hotel and your family will be happier being able to spread out.


Best Places to Visit in Ireland for Outdoor Adventure

The Emerald Isle has no shortage of rolling hills, majestic castles, and charming villages so it can be difficult to know how to narrow it all down. Ireland has a long list of impressive attractions for visitors. I could start listing out the top Irish destinations, but my guess is, those are already on your radar. There's a good mix of outdoor adventure, culture, and history to keep tweens and teens engaged in all of your activities. 

Every region seems unique, but here are a few of my personal favorites.

How to Decide Where to Go on Your Next Family Vacation


County Galway

Connemara, in County Galway, has some of the most beautiful landscapes! I'd love to spend more time exploring the Killary Fjord that can be found on the scenic jaw-dropping Connemara Loop. You'll also find Kylemore Abbey, a beautiful castle that was constructed in the 1800s as a wedding gift to his new bride. It's now part of a working community of Benedictine Nuns. Take a few hours to explore the castle and don't miss the walled Victorian Gardens. There are lots of trails to walk and get lost in around the Abbey and you'll also find that there is hiking around Connemara National Park. I hear the top of Diamond Hill has quite the view!


County Moyo

Westport, in County Moyo, was a charming little village town I'd love to get back to explore. It's about an hour and a half from Galway. The best way to see the area is by renting a bike from Clew Bay Bike Hire and riding the Great Western Greenway. 

Want to see some of the highlights from my ride?

The Great Western Greenway is a 42km paved path that stretches from Achill Sound to Westport {and vice versa!}. There are plenty of places to stop along the way to explore. Pick up your bike in Achill Sound and enjoy the beautiful ride about 13km to Mulranny. There is a bike rack just behind the Mulranny Park Hotel, making it the perfect spot to stop for lunch or a snack. Continue your ride to Westport stopping as often as you'd like to admire the views!


County Donegal

Cruit Island in County Donegal is rustic and remote. It's connected by a narrow bridge and it has some of the most excellent hillsides and beaches to walk. It's also known as the only place in Ireland where granite meets the sea, making it the perfect place to rock climb and explore the natural beauty of the island. Unique Ascent offers a unique and extensive guide experience so that you can explore beautiful cliffs and sea stacks. Don't miss out on trying Tyrolean Traverse, a method of crossing through free air between two high points. You'll be glad you gave it a try! 

Want to see a quick video of my rock climbing experience? Check this out!

You can also spend time at Glenveagh National Park. I suggest renting bikes from Grass Routes and riding from the Visitor's Center to the Castle and exploring the gardens and grounds before heading further out on the trail to see the rest of the park. You can learn more about renting a bike and exploring Glenveagh National Park here.

Bundoran is a lovely seaside town that's popular with surfers. There are lots of short walks to discover including the Rougey Walk, a circular walk taking in amazing views of the Atlantic Ocean. You can also access the Fairy Bridge and Wishing Chair from this location. To find out more, check out this post. It may be news to you {because it was to me!} that Ireland has some world-class surfing! In high school I learned how to surf on vacation in Hawaii and I thought that was pretty cool, but learning how to surf in Ireland? That's epic! Check out Rossnowlagh Surf School for surfing lessons for all ages.


County Down

Newcastle in County Down is another location you don't want to miss. Located in Northern Ireland, it's a part of the United Kingdom giving you a different experience to compare. Tyrella Beach is an award-winning beach nearby and gives visitors the opportunity to try Blokarting. Unfortunately for us, in a situation that rarely happens, our tour was canceled due to a lack of wind. Since Blokarting is a hand-steered 3-wheeled kart with a sail, powered by the wind, this had us changing our plans to kayaking in the Strangford Lough, a great alternative. Strangford Lough Activity Centre offers informative outdoor adventure and activity tours. There are more than 100 islands to explore around the Lough and kayaking provides a unique way to explore them. 

photo by Alec Sills-Trausch

As you can see, Ireland has a range of outdoor experiences and adventure activities that would pique the interest of all ages. There's quite literally something for everyone. Ireland is just waiting for you to explore!

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