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Hiring and Driving a Car in Europe

[vc_row css=”.vc_custom_1433753900038{padding-top: 20px !important;padding-bottom: 20px !important;}” row_type=”row” use_row_as_full_screen_section=”no” type=”full_width” parallax_content_width=”in_grid” angled_section=”no” angled_section_position=”both” angled_section_direction=”from_left_to_right” text_align=”left” background_image_as_pattern=”without_pattern”][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]Hiring a car anywhere abroad should be a relatively easy and transparent process, but very often it is not and is something that can cost you dear when you get home.

The array of insurances and confusing conditions can make it virtually impossible to make an informed judgement – there’s a chance that you may either take out unnecessary insurance or face additional and often considerable costs later.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row css=”.vc_custom_1433754037283{padding-top: 20px !important;padding-bottom: 20px !important;}” row_type=”row” use_row_as_full_screen_section=”no” type=”full_width” parallax_content_width=”in_grid” angled_section=”no” angled_section_position=”both” angled_section_direction=”from_left_to_right” text_align=”left” background_image_as_pattern=”without_pattern”][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]

Plan Ahead

[/vc_column_text][vc_separator type=”normal” position=”center”][vc_column_text]If you leave it to the last minute and simply pick a car hire desk at random when you arrive at your destination airport you’ll have no idea if you’re getting a good deal or not.

The best advice is to plan ahead and book before you travel. This will give you plenty of time to read and understand the conditions of hire and consider the cost and value of any additional charges.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row css=”.vc_custom_1433755003295{padding-top: 20px !important;padding-bottom: 20px !important;}” row_type=”row” use_row_as_full_screen_section=”no” type=”full_width” parallax_content_width=”in_grid” angled_section=”no” angled_section_position=”both” angled_section_direction=”from_left_to_right” text_align=”left” background_image_as_pattern=”without_pattern”][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]

When you’re there

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To help you plan accordingly, we’ve listed advice below for hiring and driving a car in countries such as Spain, Portugal, France and Italy.

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Spain

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Source: “Llançà coastline” by Dennis van Zuijlekom on Flickr used under

Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic Licence

[/image_with_text][vc_column_text]Who can I rent from? Many well-known car-hire brands have offices throughout Spain such as Hertz, Avis, Europcar, and Alamo. If you’re an AA Member you can save up to 10% on global car hire.

What about tolls? Spain has a large number of tolls dotted throughout the country – inconvenient at times, but these roads enable easier access than their alternatives. You can view a list of toll prices in Spain here.

Is there anything else I should know? Hire cars are often targeted in service areas or tricked in to stopping on the hard shoulder by the occupant of a passing vehicle. They will gesture that something is wrong with the vehicle, so lock all doors and keep bags out of sight. The number of thefts by bogus policemen has increased in Madrid and Catalonia. It’s also worth remembering to bring the same credit card to the rental check-in desk that you initially booked with.

Fuel Prices
Unleaded: €1.25 – Diesel: €1.17

Advice from AA spokesman Conor Faughnan: “More Irish people drive abroad in Spain than anywhere else so lots of people have had the experience. The Spanish have spent hugely on their roads and the motorway network is excellent but it can be scary.

We are spoilt in Ireland because our motorways are new and feel comfortable in terms of lane widths and hard shoulders, compared to Spain especially. I saw a truck driver trying to change a wheel near Barcelona a year or so ago on a hard shoulder that was only half the width of his vehicle.

What you do find though, are plentiful good quality service areas (National Roads Authority please take note).

Spanish motorways are a good deal cheaper than France but they too are sprinkled with toll booths. Often the toll itself is set according to by-laws or converted from old peseta or franc denominations. Hence, you get utterly stupid charges like €2.56 that have tourists wrestling for small coins.

The Spanish have got their act together more recently in terms of enforcement. If you haven’t been in a while, you might be tempted to treat their speed-camera signs as just roadside decoration. A mistake – Spanish, French and Italian authorities can and do pursue you, and you will get an unpleasant demand in the post weeks later for anywhere between €45 and €80.

Especially in tourist areas, park carefully. It’s not just bag-snatchers – many parts of Spain are notorious for cars with dents and scratches.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row row_type=”row” use_row_as_full_screen_section=”no” type=”full_width” parallax_content_width=”in_grid” angled_section=”no” angled_section_position=”both” angled_section_direction=”from_left_to_right” text_align=”left” background_image_as_pattern=”without_pattern” padding_top=”20″ padding_bottom=”50″ css_animation=”element_from_fade”][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]

Portugal

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Source: “Lisbon, Portugal” by Arden on Flickr used under

Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic Licence

[/image_with_text][vc_column_text]Who can I rent from? Many well-known car-hire brands have offices throughout Portugal such as Hertz, Budget and Thrifty.

What about tolls? Tolls are charged at several motorways throughout Portugal. It is compulsory to either carry a Temporary Electronic Toll Device (DEM) or pre-pay tolls. This is required for many motorways throughout Portugal. The official guide to paying tolls can be viewed here but we understand the toll motorways to be the A4, A17, A22, A23, A24, A25, A28, A29, A41 and A42.

Is there anything else I should know? It’s not unusual to spot police cars at the side of the road with speed guns as speed limits are strictly imposed. In built-up areas, drive at 31 mph (50 km/h), outside built-up areas at 55 mph (90 km/h) or 62 mph (100 km/h) and on motorways at 74 mph (120 km/h).The minimum speed on motorways is 31 mph (50 km/h). Motorists who have held a driving licence for less than one year must not exceed 55 mph (90 km/h). In some town centres the speed is reduced to 12 mph (20 km/h).

Fuel Prices
Unleaded: €1.41 – Diesel: €1.23

Advice from AA spokesman Conor Faughnan:There wasn’t just a Celtic Tiger in Ireland – Portugal had one as well. They invested very heavily in infrastructure so like Ireland, Portugese motorways are good quality modern ones.

In years gone by the Portugese road safety record was appalling, one of the worst in Europe and far worse than Ireland’s even when ours was a disgrace. However times have changed all around Europe and in Portugal standards have improved to the point where you will hardly recognise them if you are remembering a trip from a decade ago.

Even so, these roads are relatively more dangerous than Irish ones. In tourist areas especially you do need to concentrate at all times.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row row_type=”row” use_row_as_full_screen_section=”no” type=”full_width” parallax_content_width=”in_grid” angled_section=”no” angled_section_position=”both” angled_section_direction=”from_left_to_right” text_align=”left” background_image_as_pattern=”without_pattern” padding_top=”20″ padding_bottom=”50″ css_animation=”element_from_fade”][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]

Italy

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Source: “Rome” by Moyan Brenn on Flickr used under

Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Licence

[/image_with_text][vc_column_text]Who can I rent from? Car-hire is available from Hertz, Avis and Thrifty alongside plenty of smaller independent car-hire firms.

What about tolls? Tolls are levied on the majority of motorways in Italy. You can calculate tolls here.

Is there anything else I should know? AREA C (A pollution charge, formerly Eco-pass) is levied in the centre of Milan. Charges apply Mon-Fri and generally from 7.30am until 7.30pm. Drivers must purchase an eco-pass before entering the restricted zone. Tariffs vary according to the emissions of the vehicle. Mopeds and motorcycles are exempt.

Traffic is also restricted in many historical centres/major towns known as ‘Zone a Traffico Limitato’ or ZTL’s, where circulation is only permitted for residents.

Fuel Prices
Unleaded: €1.65 – Diesel: €1.52

Advice from AA spokesman Conor Faughnan: “The Italians have a reputation for being warm, friendly, chaotic, stylish and disorganised. It is a wonderful country to visit but in keeping with the clichés their roads can be difficult for visitors. I drove in northern Italy a number of years ago and it is a Mecca for car nuts. At one stage, as we sat in traffic in our diesel Ford Fiesta hire car, I noted that the car in front and the two cars behind me were all Ferraris. We also took a spin up into the Italian Alps. I gather the scenery was lovely; I didn’t get to see it. Along twisted mountain roads that looked like they were straight out of The Italian Job, my abiding memory was of dodging the bikers flinging themselves into hairpin bends. I half-expected to see piles of smashed bikes at the base of the cliffs.

Don’t let it put you off. Italy has a good quality modern network, and while town and city centres probably do require an experienced and calm visiting driver the general driving environment feels safe and secure. Motorways are extensively tolled but are far cheaper than France and more comparable to Spanish rates.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row row_type=”row” use_row_as_full_screen_section=”no” type=”full_width” parallax_content_width=”in_grid” angled_section=”no” angled_section_position=”both” angled_section_direction=”from_left_to_right” text_align=”left” background_image_as_pattern=”without_pattern” padding_top=”20″ padding_bottom=”50″ css_animation=”element_from_fade”][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]

France

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Source: “Paris Skyline, France” by Luke Ma on Flickr used under

Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Licence

[/image_with_text][vc_column_text]Who can I rent from? You can rent from companies like Hertz, Sixt and Argus Car Hire. Rental vehicles in France come with unlimited third party liability insurance included in the initial price.

What about tolls? Pay-as-you-go tolls are charged on most motorways in France. You can pay toll fees by credit card or cash.

Is there anything else I should know? “French authorities are quite stringent on all motorists carrying the correct documents and compulsory equipment when driving. These include a warning triangle and a reflective jacket. The jacket must be kept within the passenger compartment of the vehicle and be put on before exiting the vehicle in an emergency/breakdown situation. It is absolutely prohibited to carry, transport or use radar detectors. Failure to comply with this regulation involves a fine of up to €1,500 and the vehicle and/or device may be confiscated.

Fuel Prices
Unleaded: €1.39 – Diesel: €1.39

Advice from AA spokesman Conor Faughnan: “France is a beautiful part of the world and the roads make it easy. On the motorways especially, you quickly forget that you are abroad. The locals are reasonably friendly provided you don’t bring bad Irish motorway habits with you. Our tendencies to hog the outer lane or to switch lanes without indicating do not go down well.

The Autoroutes are peppered with tolls and they really add up. As a rule of thumb it is usually between 0.07-0.10 cent per kilometre travelled, add about half that again if you are towing a caravan. I did a 375km trip in the south of France last year and it cost nearly as much in tolls as it did in fuel: €31.00

French traffic police are notorious and their law is tough. Treat them as formally as you would airport security or you may regret it just as much. They are much more laid back off the roads but be warned. Don’t dream of taking an alcohol-risk.

Don’t ignore speed cameras either – they work and you’ll find a charge either applied to your card or sent to you back home in Ireland.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row css=”.vc_custom_1433771293246{padding-top: 20px !important;padding-bottom: 20px !important;}” row_type=”row” use_row_as_full_screen_section=”no” type=”full_width” parallax_content_width=”in_grid” angled_section=”no” angled_section_position=”both” angled_section_direction=”from_left_to_right” text_align=”left” background_image_as_pattern=”without_pattern”][vc_column][vc_column_text]

For peace of mind

[/vc_column_text][vc_separator type=”normal” position=”center”][vc_column_text]• Damage – check the car for damage with an employee from the car rental company before signing a rental agreement, and again when the vehicle is returned. Have the damage-free condition confirmed in writing, or note any damage. Disputes can sometimes arise after you arrive home so it’s a good idea taking the time to take some phone pictures of the car both when you pick it up and when you return it.

Controls – Check all the switches, indicators and other controls carefully and if any are unfamiliar or don’t work, ask the rental firm for guidance
Refuelling – check the refuelling requirements in advance and keep fuel bills as proof of a full tank when the vehicle is returned. Consider taking a photo of the fuel gauge, particularly if dropping the car off without a hire company employee present.
Insurance cover – third-party insurance is a must but in some countries the minimum statutory cover may be higher and if cover is insufficient, the hirer is personally liable for the excess. There may be a charge to increase cover.
Additional insurance – if you can, choose comprehensive damage cover without an excess, but check what is actually covered as some may exclude damage to tyres, rims, the underbody or stone chips.
Theft insurance – recommended if this is not included in the comprehensive insurance.

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Categories
Europe Ireland Sport and leisure

Family fun when the sun doesn’t shine: the AA Roadwatch guide

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The August bank holiday may be behind us but there are still a couple of weeks left before the kids go back to school, and you can’t always rely on the sun to shine to keep them entertained. Fortunately, there’s a whole host of fun, exciting and educational activities on offer around the country so you and your family can enjoy a day out when the weather isn’t playing ball.

[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”GET ACTIVE” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_single_image image=”22245″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” img_size=”full”][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]If it’s pouring down outside and your little ones are starting to climb the walls, there’s no better remedy than taking them somewhere they can let off steam. For younger children, indoor play centres can be perfect – they can spend an hour or two running, jumping and sliding until their hearts’ content while you observe with a coffee. Try these centres in Cork, Limerick, Galway and Dublin’s Long Mile Rd.

For older kids, there are even more options. Ten-pin bowling is an evergreen activity for all the family – there’s an alley in all the cities and in many large towns where you can unleash your competitive side. And for a retro spin, why not try out roller skating? There are rinks in Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Newbridge.

If you’re going to get soaked if you go outside, you may as well get wet inside! With hair-raising slides, wave machines, lazy rivers and paddling pools, splashing around at a water park is a great way to spend a wet afternoon. Aqua Zone in Blanchardstown, Dublin, has thrilling slides for older kids (and grown-ups!) and the safe and fun Pirate Ship area for the under-8s. If you’re in the north-west, there’s Waterworld Bundoran, while Funtasia in Drogheda is another popular spot.

And if there’s a budding petrolhead in the family, indoor karting could get the green light. There are tracks all over the country where kids from around 8 years and older (depending on the centre) can have a go at becoming the next Lewis Hamilton:

[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”GET EDUCATIONAL” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_single_image image=”21823″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” img_size=”full”][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]School may be out but there’s no reason that learning has to stop for the whole summer. There are lots of attractions and activities that are both educational and fun, no matter what gets your kids’ brain cells whirring.

Imaginosity in Sandyford, Dublin, is a great all-in-one choice for under-nines. There is a wide range of hands-on exhibits and play areas across three floors, and kids are encouraged to navigate it at their own pace. There are workshops too, focusing on science, theatre, art, engineering and more. W5 in Belfast is similar, but with more of a scientific focus – its name stands for “Who, What, Where, When, Why”, the questions posed by science. With over 250 interactive exhibits and a full programme of events, there’s plenty to keep everyone happy – including the grown-ups.

For older children with the space bug, observatories and planetariums are a great choice. Blackrock Castle in Cork is home to Cosmos at the Castle, an interactive astronomy exhibition, and daily planetarium shows that should get the kids dreaming of space. Birr Telescope and Science Museum in Offaly is a great option in the midlands, with a more personal perspective on space discovery told through the eyes of the pioneering Parson family.

Finally in Northern Ireland, Armagh Planetarium has been delighting children and adults since the late 1960s, with interactive exhibits, workshops and spectacular star shows in the domed theatre. Perfect for rainy days.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”BE ENTERTAINED” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_single_image image=”22249″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” img_size=”full”][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]What better way to put in a rainy afternoon than by watching a movie? While you can always go to a regular screening, many cinemas offer special kids’ screenings, often in the morning or early afternoon, at a discounted price. No need to worry about your little ones getting shushed from across the cinema, as everyone is in the same boat!

While a cinema trip is always an exciting event for kids, you can ramp up the excitement by taking them to an IMAX show. With a huge screen (generally 22m wide by 16m tall, but they can be bigger), IMAX used to be the preserve of educational and nature films. Now though, you can catch many blockbusters in IMAX, and the sensory overload is something the kids aren’t likely to forget in a hurry.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”BRAVE THE OUTDOORS” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_single_image image=”22242″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” img_size=”full”][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]Sometimes when the weather is bad, there’s nothing for it but to wrap up warm, get the wellies on and brave the elements! It’s unlikely that the kids will mind too much – who didn’t love splashing in puddles as a youngster, after all? Whether you live in a city and have a choice of parks to visit, or you’re in the countryside and can get to a forest or dedicated walking trail, you should have plenty of choice. Here are a few ideas:

Alternatively, head underground for an awe-inspiring visit to one of the magical caves that are dotted around the country. In many cases, these subterranean worlds lay hidden for millions of years, only to be discovered by chance in recent times. Many of them offer guided tours, often on a boat, while you can learn more about the geological processes responsible for creating the caves at their visitor centres. Some even offer kids’ parties! Here are a few of the best:

[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_single_image border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” image=”22247″ img_size=”full”][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]Kids can unleash their inner Picassos at Giddy Studios in Dundrum. They offer little ones the opportunity to paint their own pottery masterpieces – from egg cups and tiles to dinosaur ornaments and money boxes. Once painted, the pottery is glazed and fired in a kiln, and then you pick up the finished article a week later.

If you fancy combining creativity with a little bit of history, the Toy Soldier Factory in Macroom, Co. Cork lets you cast and paint your own miniature, and in this case you get to take it home on the same day. While you’re there, don’t miss their dioramas showing battle scenes from history, including the huge Battle of Waterloo showpiece that features over 15,000 figures.

Or how about rubbing shoulders with the celebs at Dublin’s National Wax Museum Plus? Recently relocated to Westmoreland St from its previous site at College Green, the museum hosts waxworks of everyone from movie stars to politicians, cartoon characters to sporting icons – not to mention the spooky Chambers of Horrors! There’s an educational aspect too, with rooms dedicated to periods of Irish history, great writers and science and discovery. It’s a well-rounded family day out.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”DON’T FORGET!” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]

Take out or renew your AA Membership before you start packing the car. For just €8.25 a month, you get 24-hour breakdown cover in Ireland and the UK (meaning you can take the car to Northern Ireland in confidence), personal cover (which covers you in any car) and Home Start, which means you’re covered at your home or very near your home address.

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Categories
Europe Featured Ireland Sport and leisure

Family fun when the sun shines: the AA Roadwatch guide

[vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]Main pic: public domain

The weather doesn’t always play ball in Ireland, but we’re bound to get at least a few sunny days in the coming weeks. When it happens, you’ll want to make the most of it. The country is full of interesting and exciting day-trip destinations to make family memories over the school holidays – here are a few ideas to get you started.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”CYCLE THE GREENWAYS” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_single_image image=”22084″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” img_size=”full”][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]Photo: public domain

Cycling with the family can be stressful – but not on the greenways. These are old railway lines that have been converted into off-road walking and cycling trails. No cars, no junctions and mostly flat terrain: a perfect summer’s day out for young or novice cyclists. You can bring your own bikes or rent them along the way, bring a picnic and enjoy the scenery of a landscape without traffic (a rare sight for us at Roadwatch!).  Each trail snakes under viaducts and through old tunnels, which the kids will love. The Great Western Greenway in Mayo passes a number of beaches and the Waterford one has two rail-themed playgrounds (one at Durrow and one at Ballinroad). Each trail is divided into one-to-two hour sections, but for younger children, your best option is to pick a short stretch of the trail starting and ending at towns that the railway used to serve.

ESSENTIAL INFO

The Great Western Greenway (42km) stretches from Newport to Achill along the Mayo coastline, off the N59, while the Great Southern Trail (40km) snakes from Rathkeale to Abbeyfeale in Limerick, just off the N21.

The Waterford Greenway (46km) travels from Waterford City to Dungarvan, and the Athlone to Mullingar Greenway (40km) does exactly what it says on the tin.

If you don’t have your own bikes, they can be rented along the way – check each trail’s website for their local providers. You can find info on all Irish greenways here.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”IMMERSE YOURSELF IN IRELAND’S HERITAGE” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_single_image image=”22123″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” img_size=”full”][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]Photo of Kilkenny Castle by Aldebaran, used under CC-BY-SA-3.0 licence

The Office of Public Works recently made all its heritage sites free for children under 12, so why not get their imaginations going with a trip to a castle or fortress? Ireland’s history is full of rich stories that really come to life in children’s minds at heritage sites across the country. OPW sites include castles such as Donegal Castle, Kilkenny Castle and Ross Castle (Kerry), fortresses like Dún Aonghasa (Galway) and Charles Fort (Cork) and other famous historical sites including the Rock of Cashel (Tipperary), Newgrange/Brú na Bóinne (Meath) and the Glendalough Visitor Centre (Wicklow). Many sites have age-specific tours, or let you wander at your own pace. Bring a picnic on a sunny day (make sure to eat in the designated areas!) and let the little ones immerse themselves in the past.

ESSENTIAL INFO                                                                         

The OPW is in charge of a total of 780 sites, 70 of which have guided tour services. Children under 12 go free to all sites, while adult prices vary for each one.  As well as that, all sites are free for all visitors on the first Wednesday of each month.

You can learn more about all OPW heritage sites here.

Check our Routeplanner for directions to your chosen site, as well as details of any delays or traffic incidents along the way.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”GO TO EXTREMES AT AN ADVENTURE PARK” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_single_image image=”22214″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” img_size=”full”][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]Photo: public domain

Want to have a memorable day out, pick up a new skill or two… and maybe even tire the kids out? Try one of the adventure centres around the country, where you can learn to kayak, rock-climb or shoot arrows, among other outdoor pursuits. In Lough Key Forest Park (Roscommon), check out a Segway tour through the forest or try your hand at Boda Borg – a Swedish Crystal Maze where the whole family will have to work together to solve the puzzles and overcome obstacles. Galway’s Delphi Adventure Centre and Louth’s Carlingford Adventure Centre both have a big focus on watersports, but you can also take mountain biking and bushcraft survival lessons in Delphi and climbing and ziplining in Carlingford. Meanwhile in Castlecomer Discover Park (Kilkenny), there’s a new high ropes course and boating lake.

ESSENTIAL INFO

All centres have a wide variety of activities for all age groups, from the little ones right up to the grown-ups, but it’s wise to book in advance where possible.

[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”SEEK THRILLS AT TAYTO PARK” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_single_image border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” image=”22216″ img_size=”full”][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]Photo by KillianfromTaytoPark, used under CC-BY-SA-4.0 licence

Crisp-based theme parks aren’t exactly ten-a-penny, so you’re guaranteed a unique day out at Tayto Park. Ireland’s only permanent theme park is famous for its wooden rollercoaster, but there are plenty of attractions to keep the whole family entertained. Older children and adrenaline seekers will love the four themed zones with a skywalk, zipline and water rides (make sure to bring a change of clothes!). For those who are too small for rollercoasters, there are plenty of age-specific playgrounds, a dinosaur walk, mazes and live shows. There’s also a petting zoo – where pygmy goats and Highland cows wander about freely – and a larger wildlife section where you can see big cats and exotic birds. And if you’ve ever wondered how crisps are made, you can take a factory tour (weekdays only) to learn all you ever needed to know.

ESSENTIAL INFO

Tayto Park is located north of Ashbourne, just off the N2 Dublin/Monaghan Rd: turn off at the signs for Dunshaughlin and Ratoath. You can use our Routeplanner to check for any delays or incidents on your journey. Bus Éireann also run direct routes from Dublin and Drogheda (103 and 105).

Entry is from €15 per person, with all-inclusive wristbands from €28. Book in advance when you can, especially at weekends. See here for full details.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”EXPLORE THE PHOENIX PARK” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_single_image border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” image=”22215″ img_size=”full”][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]Photo by Superchilum, used under CC-BY-SA-3.0 licence

For many children, the Phoenix Park is synonymous with Dublin Zoo, which has been delighting visitors young and old for almost two centuries. One of the world’s oldest zoos, it’s home to 400 animals from all over the world, as well playgrounds and exhibitions for all age groups. Outside the zoo, however, the Phoenix Park has enough attractions for a full week’s worth of day trips, with no two days the same. The Phoenix Park Visitor Centre has exhibits on the park’s history and runs free weekly conservation workshops for children ages 6 to 12 on Sunday mornings. At the far end of the park, Farmleigh House has a whole summer programme of free family events, ranging from puppet shows to farmers’ markets. Or for a less structured visit, just take a picnic to one of the green spaces, visit one of the many children’s playgrounds and/or get close to the park’s herd of wild deer, who normally graze near the Papal monument.

ESSENTIAL INFO

The Phoenix Park is located just north-west of Dublin city centre, with the main gates at Parkgate St (near Heuston Station) and Castleknock Rd. There are also a number of side gates. It’s worth planning your route before you head out, as it can be a very long walk from one end of the park to another.  Car parking is available at the Papal Cross, the Lord’s Walk and the Phoenix Park Visitor Centre. Dublin Bus operate a number of routes near the various gates (37, 38, 39, 46a, and 70) and the Luas Red Line stops at Heuston Station, near the Parkgate St entrance.

The Visitor Centre workshops take place each Sunday from 11am – 12pm.  Farmleigh House’s summer programme can be found here. Family tickets for Dublin Zoo start at €49 and can be pre-booked – see here.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”MEET DOMESTIC AND EXOTIC ANIMALS” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_single_image border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” image=”22220″ img_size=”full”][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]Photo: courtesy of Fota Wildlife Park

If you have animal lovers at home but you’re too far from Tayto Park or the Phoenix Park to visit their zoos, don’t fret. There are plenty of places around the country where you can meet animals of all kinds, learn about their habitats and maybe even feed them – education and fun at the same time. Fota Wildlife Park in Cork is one of Ireland’s largest visitor attractions, with animals and plants from around the world. It also runs Arts and Crafts workshops and Family Fun Days throughout the summer. In Kerry, Coolwood Wildlife Park outside Killarney is home to animals including lemurs, macaques and alpacas on a 50 acre site. Stone Hall Visitor Farm in Limerick has all of the usual farm animals, but also a few you mightn’t expect like llamas, peacocks and emus. In Galway, Turoe Pet Farm allows children to get close to rabbits, donkeys and goats, and explore a 14km nature trail. And in the east of the country, Secret Valley Wildlife in Wexford is a growing conservation park, where children can have a go at being a zookeeper for a day.

ESSENTIAL INFO

  • Fota Wildlife Park is just outside Cork City: turn off the N25 Cork/Waterford Rd at J3 Tullagreen. Family tickets start from €48.
  • Coolwood Wildlife Park is off the N72 Killarney Bypass at Coolcaslagh. Family tickets are from €30.
  • Stone Hall Visitor Farm is located in Curraghchase, approx. 20km from Limerick City off the N69 Foynes Rd. Family prices are from €35.
  • Turoe Pet Farm in Galway is not far from the M6 Dublin/Galway Rd at J16 Loughrea, with prices from €24.
  • Secret Valley Wildlife is in Clonroche, Wexford, off the N30 Enniscorthy/New Ross Rd. Family tickets start at €32.

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Check out the AA Roadwatch team’s recommendations for longer breaks within Ireland.

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Categories
Featured Ireland

AA Roadwatch’s favourite Irish staycations

[vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]Main photo – public domain

While travelling abroad is wonderful, it’s all too easy to overlook the holiday gems that we have right here on our doorstep. There are countless good reasons why almost nine million people visited Ireland in 2016, and they are all available for Irish holidaymakers to enjoy at a fraction of the cost, hassle and travelling time of those glamorous foreign destinations.

From spectacular coastlines to picturesque villages, bucket-and-spade fun to vibrant nightlife, Ireland has it all. We asked the AA Roadwatch team to recommend some of their favourite ‘staycations’, most of which bring back fond memories of those hazy childhood holidays. So leave the passport in the bottom drawer, hop in the car or on the train and get exploring![/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][image_with_text image=”22123″ title=”KILKENNY CITY” title_tag=”h2″]

Photo by Aldebaran, used under CC-BY-SA-3.0 licence

[/image_with_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]IN A FEW WORDS:

Whether you’re in the mood for a raucous weekend or want something a little more sedate, Kilkenny is a city that has something for everyone.

HIGHLIGHTS:

If you’re staying in the city, a walk along the River Nore by Kilkenny Castle and a detour into the castle grounds is worth a few hours of your time. I’ve never done a tour of the castle itself but it’s on my list for the next time I visit.

Just over the road on The Parade, Ristorante Rinuccini serves delicious, authentic Italian cuisine. The Grapevine Wine and Tapas Bar on Rose Inn Street is another great spot but in each case I would ring ahead and book in.

Not too far away from Kilkenny City is beautiful Inistioge which looks like a movie set. In fact, a number of films have been shot there, including Jim Sheridan’s The Secret Scripture in 2015. The village is a perfect place to have lunch, ideally before or after visiting nearby Woodstock Gardens which overlooks the River Nore Valley.

If you want to bring home a souvenir, then spending an afternoon in the Nicholas Mosse Pottery Factory should be added to your list. Located in an old stone mill in Bennettsbridge, just south of Kilkenny City and only two minutes from J9 on the M9 motorway, the views from the cafe are worth a visit alone.

GETTING THERE:

There are lots of public transport options available for Kilkenny City such as Bus Eireann, JJ Kavanagh & Sons, Dublin Coach and Irish Rail, all of which offer regular services. If travelling by car, exit at J8 Kilkenny or J9 Kilkenny South (if staying at Mount Juliet) on the M9, or J4 Urlingford on the M8.

WHERE TO STAY:

There are plenty of options for all budgets in Kilkenny, but if you are treating yourself, there are number of AA approved hotels to consider. A short drive from the city, the four-star Lyrath Hotel Estate is set on 170 acres of mature parkland and boasts two AA Rosettes. Alternatively, you may prefer Butler House on Patrick St, a stone’s throw from Kilkenny Castle. For the keen golfer, the triple AA Rosette-awarded Mount Juliet Hotel is an attractive option. Set in 1,500 acres of parkland, it boasts a Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course. This means nothing to me, which is why I would probably spend my time in the hotel’s excellent spa. Esther O’Moore-Donohoe[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][image_with_text image=”22170″ title=”DUNMORE EAST, WATERFORD” title_tag=”h2″]

Photo by Flickr user karenandkerry used under CC BY 2.0 licence

[/image_with_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]IN A FEW WORDS:

Explore the picturesque fishing village where BBC drama Kat & Alfie: Redwater was filmed.

HIGHLIGHTS:

As well as half a dozen beaches and coves (my favourites are Lawlor’s Strand and Ladies Cove), sailing, fishing, kayaking and diving are all on offer in the village – check out the Adventure Centre in the harbour for activities for both children and adults. There’s also a cliff walk from Dunmore East to Portally Cove which takes about half an hour.

The biggest event in the village calendar is the Dunmore East Bluegrass Festival in August. Over the weekend, groups from all over the world perform in pubs and bars across Dunmore and turn the whole village into a toe-tappin’, roots and country music party.

If you’re looking for a pint any other time of the year, you’ll be well looked after in Powers Pub (“The Butcher’s”) and for a bite to eat, try The Lemon Tree and The Spinnaker (especially for seafood lovers).

As well as what Dunmore has to offer, the county’s newest attraction is the Waterford Greenway, a 45km walking and cycling trail which runs along the old railway line between Waterford and Dungarvan.

You could also check out The Viking Triangle, the cultural and heritage quarter in Waterford City – about 20 minutes’ drive from Dunmore.

HOW TO GET THERE:

Waterford City is connected to the rest of the country by the M9, the N24 and the N25. From there take the Dunmore Rd (R683/R684) – or if you’re using public transport, Suirway runs buses out to the village throughout the day.

If you’re coming from Wexford, there’s also a ferry to Passage East (15 mins from Dunmore).

WHERE TO STAY:

The Strand Inn sits right next to Lawlor’s Beach and is one of the most featured locations in Redwater. There are plenty of B&Bs and hotels in the village too, but if they’re all booked up, Faithlegg House Hotel is about 15 mins away and would be an AA-recommended alternative. Ruth Jephson[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][image_with_text image=”22126″ title=”NORTH COAST OF ANTRIM” title_tag=”h2″]

Photo by Chmee2, used under CC-BY-3.0 licence

[/image_with_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]IN A FEW WORDS:

A host of world-famous tourist destinations set in spectacular scenery.

HIGHLIGHTS:

There’s only one place to start here – the legendary Giant’s Causeway. The bizarre rock formation is made up of hexagonal columns of basalt which sweep down from the cliffs to the wild Atlantic. It’s a must-see, and I recommend making a day of it as there are some fantastic coastal walks in the area too.

A couple of miles from the causeway, you can pay a visit to the historic Old Bushmills Distillery to find out about how their world-famous whiskey is made – and to sample the goods. The tour is great but a weekday visit is best as the bottling plant falls silent at weekends. If you’re a golfer, you’ll be spoilt for choice – Darren Clarke’s home course Royal Portrush will host the The Open in 2019, while Graeme McDowell’s home links Rathmore is just next door.

Game Of Thrones fans shouldn’t miss the chance to see the eerie Kingsroad for themselves. Also known as The Dark Hedges, the beautiful avenue of beech trees is a key filming location for the show, and it’s situated at the entrance to Gracehill House near Stranocum – about half-an-hour’s drive from Portrush. Then there’s the ruined Dunluce Castle, glorious sandy beaches, Carrick-a-Rede’s hair-raising rope bridge… Lots to do.

HOW TO GET THERE:

From the south and east, take the M1/A1/M1 to Belfast, then follow signs for Derry to join the M2. Exit at J6 Antrim and take the A26 to Coleraine. From there, it’s a short drive to the coast.

From the west, take the N17 Galway/Sligo Rd and then the N15/N13 to Derry. From there, take the A2 to Coleraine and onward to your destination. Use AA Routeplanner for exact directions, travel times, fuel costs and traffic information from AA Roadwatch.

WHERE TO STAY:

Bushmills Inn is a perfect base for a north coast holiday – situated right in the centre of Bushmills and walking distance from the distillery, it’s also just three miles from the Giant’s Causeway. The hotel is described as “spotless and welcoming” by AA inspectors, and I can vouch for the excellent food and cosy bar.

If you’re on a budget, there’s a Premier Inn in the nearby town of Coleraine. Chris Jones[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][image_with_text image=”22127″ title=”LAHINCH, CLARE” title_tag=”h2″]

Photo – public domain

[/image_with_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]IN A FEW WORDS:

Lahinch is a seaside town with all the essentials: a 2km beach, fun activities and plenty of pubs!

HIGHLIGHTS:

One of the first things people think of when they hear ‘Lahinch’ is surfing. Lahinch Surf School and Ben’s Surf Clinic are based on the prom and offer lessons whether you’re a pro or just starting off. The latter also offers rock climbing, kayaking and archery in his adventure centre.

Lahinch is a great spot for a night out. Kenny’s usually has some great live music and The Nineteenth or The Shamrock are welcoming pubs. If you’re in the mood for some dancing, The Claremont is certainly an experience… O’Looney’s also boasts a late bar, with live music or a DJ. Finally, no night out in Lahinch is complete without a visit to the Chinese where Billy will look after you.

From Lahinch, it’s less than a 15-minute drive to the Cliffs of Moher (pictured). It’s a beautiful spot for an Instagram and the fresh breeze will sort out any hangovers. There’s also a visitor centre there if you’d like to discover more about the geology and wildlife of the area. I’d definitely recommend doing (at least some of!) the cliff walk down to Doolin to really experience the rugged beauty of the cliffs.

HOW TO GET THERE:

You can get to Lahinch from Dublin using the M7 southbound and then the N18 northbound until you turn off at J12 Killow. You’ll bypass Ennis on the N85 and continue along the road to Ennistymon, where you’ll turn left at Blake’s Corner and head out the N67 Lahinch Road to your destination.

WHERE TO STAY:

If you’re looking for a treat, Moy House is a five-star AA lodge overlooking the bay. You can also dine in the restaurant, which has two AA Rosettes.

For a budget option, Lahinch Hostel is located at the top of Main St. At weekends, it’s €18 per person per night with a light breakfast included. Róisín Nestor[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][image_with_text image=”22128″ title=”SALTHILL, GALWAY” title_tag=”h2″]

Photo by Terence wiki, used under CC-BY-SA-3.0 licence

[/image_with_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]IN A FEW WORDS:

Head west to one of Ireland’s best seaside destinations.

HIGHLIGHTS:

With sandy beaches, beautiful scenery and great craic, there’s plenty to do in Salthill. A dip in the world famous Galway Bay, a stroll along the promenade or a flutter in the iconic casinos are just a few of the activities on offer in this charming old seaside resort.

If you fancy something different, though, there are also some less conventional options. Salthill is the home of the Galway Atlantaquaria – Ireland’s largest native species aquarium. With tours and talks throughout the day that include big fish feeding, touch pool tours and freshwater fish feeding, this is the perfect spot to combine education and fun. There are plenty of knowledgeable and friendly staff on hand and it’s affordable, with tickets priced from €7.50 to €12.

One of my favourite ways to spend a day in Salthill is to catch a match in Pearse Stadium. Galway is one of Ireland’s most successful GAA counties and on a sunny day it’s hard to beat the colour, noise and atmosphere of the Tribesmen’s home ground in the heart of Salthill. Whether it’s football or hurling you’re into, with the Championship running from May to September there are lots of opportunities to catch a game.

HOW TO GET THERE:

Located at the western edge of Galway City, Salthill is easy to get to by road and well served by public transport. Iarnród Éireann, Bus Éireann and a number of private companies run numerous train and bus services from various locations around the country to Galway City every day. From Eyre Square in the city centre, the 401 Bus Eireann City Service will bring you right to the heart of Salthill in 15 minutes.

WHERE TO STAY:

The smart, country-house style Ardilaun Hotel in the nearby area of Taylor’s Hill is one of west Galway’s best hotels. With friendly staff, exquisite food and landscaped gardens, it’s a great spot to relax and unwind. Ann-Marie Donelan[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]

DON’T FORGET!

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Take out or renew your AA Membership before you start packing the car. For just €8.25 a month, you get 24-hour breakdown cover in Ireland and the UK (meaning you can take the car to Northern Ireland in confidence), personal cover (which covers you in any car) and Home Start, which means you’re covered at your home or very near your home address.

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Categories
Europe Ireland

Keeping the Kids Entertained on Long Car Trips

[vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]With summer right around the corner many of you are probably busy searching for and planning the perfect holiday for you and your family. While staying in Ireland may be the most convenient option, particularly if you have a young family, the thoughts of a long road trip with the kids can bring dread to any parent.

Road trips and children bring about the age-old conundrum – how can I keep the kids occupied on a long car ride? Nothing dampens the holiday spirit more than bored kids in the back seat and the “Are we there yet” phrase from the rear of the car.

In May 2012, the AA revealed that, of a sample of 4,911 parents, the most popular method of keeping the kids occupied was to bribe good behaviour with a few choice snacks. The second most popular technique was to play some good old-fashioned car games such as I-spy.

In third and fourth place came the less-traditional methods of hand held games consoles and portable DVD players, while the use of audio books or children’s music rounded out the top five.

Now that you know the more popular methods, why not try something different? Any parent knows that variety is the spice of life, especially when it comes to entertaining young passengers, so an out-of-the-ordinary activity might be just what your family needs for your next car journey.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_text_separator title=”WHITE BOARDS AND MARKERS” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_column_text]

You can pick up a small whiteboard and marker at almost any arts and crafts shop and the possibilities are endless. Whether the children are in the mood for a game of Hangman or prefer X’s and O’s, this will be sure to keep them entertained for a good while. It also doubles up as a good way of keeping score for the more traditional games such as I-spy.

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Yes, disposable cameras still exist and the novelty of an old-fashioned camera without the modern zoom and filter features can be a big hit with the young ones. They’re relatively cheap too and can be found at some pharmacies and newsagents. If you’re looking to make a bigger investment, there are some instant cameras on the market that spit out small polaroid photos in a matter of seconds. Let the kids take silly photos of themselves or capture images for a holiday scrapbook.

[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”SPOT THE COUNTY/COUNTRY” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_column_text]

This game works whether you’re going on a short stay-cation or driving further afield through Europe. Before you go, print out a map of Ireland and/or Europe with the names of the counties/countries and tell the kids to keep an eye out for the borders. The person who gets them all correct at the end wins a prize!

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Other Important Tips:

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Car Seats

Did you know that according to a survey done by the AA in November, 76pc of parents have had a child escape their car seat? Before embarking on a long road trip with the family, make sure your child’s car seat is properly fitted and secured. Not sure how to go about that? Luckily we have a helpful guide with more information:[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]

Snack Attack

To keep the munchies at bay, an exhaustive supply of snacks is essential. Keep in mind what snacks will work well on a long journey – think boxes of raisins, bananas, apple slices and string cheese. Remember that not all your children’s favourite snacks are suitable for road trips – so stay away from the yogurts! It might be a good idea to try and keep fluids in spill-proof sippy cups or bottles as juice boxes often result in sticky spillages.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]

To an even smoother road trip through Europe, it is worth investing in European Breakdown Cover. Take out cover online today and get a €15 discount or a €25 discount if you’re an AA member.

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Categories
Europe Ireland

Family fun at Christmas – the AA Roadwatch guide

[vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]It’s the most wonderful time of the year – Christmas is coming and the kids are getting excited about Santa’s visit. But it also presents a challenge – how do you occupy the little ones when they have more than two weeks off school in the depths of winter?

Fortunately, here in Ireland we’re used to amusing ourselves when the weather isn’t playing ball and so there are lots of great places to take the children at this time of year. From the oceans to the stars, science to nature and maybe even the chance to meet the big man himself, here are a few of our favourites…[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_text_separator title=”FARMLEIGH HOUSE & ESTATE” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_single_image image=”21800″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” img_size=”full”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]Set in 78 acres of land just northwest of the Phoenix Park, the beautiful Farmleigh House is used by the government to entertain foreign dignitaries and host high-level meetings, as well as being open to the public. Each Saturday and Sunday leading up to Christmas, there’s festive fun for all the family, with horse and carriage rides, storytelling, puppet shows and lots more. Best of all, everything is free!

ESSENTIAL INFO:

The Christmas programme runs every Saturday and Sunday until December 18th from 10am to 4pm. Entry to all events is free but puppet and storytelling sessions are on a first come, first served basis. The ground floor of Farmleigh House (where all Christmas events take place) is fully accessible to wheelchair users. The house is closed on December 24th-27th and December 31st to January 3rd. The estate is closed on December 25th-26th and January 1st. More info here.

HOW TO GET THERE:

Access by car is via the Phoenix Park. The closest entry point for Farmleigh is the Castleknock gate. You can also get there on the number 37 Dublin Bus and get off at the Castleknock gate. Farmleigh is a 15-minute walk from the gate. Detailed directions for drivers and bus passengers are posted on the Farmleigh website. Photo © Farmleigh House & Estate.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_text_separator title=”SEA LIFE, BRAY” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_single_image image=”21801″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” img_size=”full”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]If your little ones are captivated by the deep blue sea, a visit to Sea Life in Bray could be just the ticket. The aquarium houses a huge collection of marine life, and you can sit in on feeding time with rays and tropical sharks among other fascinating creatures. Some are friendlier than others – the ‘Toxic Terrors’ feature lets you get up close and personal with some of the most venomous sea animals and is likely to delight older children.

ESSENTIAL INFO:

€10 for adults, €7.50 for children – group discounts are available. Sea Life is open from 11am-5pm (Mon-Fri) and 10am-6pm (Sat-Sun) every day except Christmas Day and St Stephen’s Day. Christmas Eve opening times are – 11am-4pm; New Year’s Day – 12pm-6pm. Advance booking is recommended. More info at the Sea Life website.

HOW TO GET THERE:

Sea Life is situated on Strand Rd in Bray. Enter the town and follow signs for the seafront/Sea Life. Paid parking is available in front of Sea Life and along the seafront. If you prefer to use the train, it’s a three-minute walk from Bray DART station, which is half an hour from Dublin city centre. Dublin Bus’s 45, 84 and 145 routes serve Bray Main St, from where it’s a short walk to the centre. Photo © Sea Life, Bray.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_text_separator title=”WINTER WONDERLAND AT WESTPORT HOUSE” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_video link=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hd0sdUuxoEM”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]Westport House in Co. Mayo is a stunning 18th century stately home in beautiful grounds, and this December it has been transformed into a winter wonderland. Kids and adults can enjoy a fun-filled few hours with Santa, Mrs Claus and the elves – including story time, face-painting, and the chance to paint your own gingerbread men. The highlight is a very special visit to Santa in his magical grotto in the Dining Room, where each child will receive a gift and a chat.

ESSENTIAL INFO:

Admission: adults (16+) €14, children (2-15) €28, infants (1-2) €15, babies free. Open Friday to Sunday every weekend until Sunday 11th December, then every day from December 16th-23rd. The house is not accessible for wheelchairs and buggies but according to the website, 90% of the estate is. More info at the Westport House website.

HOW TO GET THERE:

Westport House is located on Quay Rd, just west of Westport town centre. The town is situated at the end of the N5 Longford Rd and is also accessible from the Clifden or Ballina directions via the N59.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_text_separator title=”ARMAGH PLANETARIUM” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_single_image image=”21802″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” img_size=”full”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]Armagh Planetarium is the ultimate destination for families fascinated with the cosmos. The main attraction is the spectacular shows that are projected onto the planetarium’s dome. Until December 22nd, an astronomical version of the Christmas story is told in ‘Mystery Of The Christmas Star’. Aside from the shows, there’s a real meteorite (4.5 billion years old!), interactive exhibits, an outdoor landscaped Astropark and a huge amount of fascinating facts about the solar system and beyond.

ESSENTIAL INFO:

Entry is £2 for the exhibition area (or free Mon-Fri during term time). For the shows, ticket prices are £6 for adults, £5 for under-16s and seniors. A family ticket (up to two adults and three children) is £20 per show. Discounts are available for large groups. All shows must be pre-booked. Standard opening times are 10am-5pm but there are some extra evening shows. Closed on Sundays, December 24th-28th and Jan 1st-2nd. More info at the Planetarium’s website.

HOW TO GET THERE:

Armagh Planetarium is located on College Hill in Armagh City, approximately 30km from Monaghan Town via the N12/A3 and 50km from Dundalk via the N52, N1, A1 and A28. Photo © Armagh Planetarium[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_text_separator title=”AQUAZONE, DUBLIN” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_video link=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3j8ErQYcnWQ”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]If the sprogs need to let off steam, they can get wet and wild at Aquazone, which claims to have Europe’s biggest and best water rides and attractions. There are some hair-raising, high-speed slides, plus flumes, a pirate ship, wave pool and lazy river.

ESSENTIAL INFO:

Admission during the school holidays is €15 for adults and €13 for children and students. A family ticket (two adults and two child or one adult and three children) costs €47. The centre is closed for maintenance from Dec 19th-26th, but it’s open again between 10am and 5pm from Dec 27th – Jan 8th (except Jan 1st), so it’s perfect for a post-Christmas dip. Aquazone is wheelchair accessible. More info at the Aquazone website.

HOW TO GET THERE:

Aquazone is part of the National Aquatic Centre on Snugborough Rd, Dublin – close to where the N3 Navan Rd meets the M50 at J6 Blanchardstown. The centre is also served by Dublin Bus routes 17a, 236, 38 and 38a.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_text_separator title=”SANTA’S WORKSHOP AT AILLWEE CAVE, CO. CLARE” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_video link=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JQiCx2S0SS8#t=47″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]Located in the heart of The Burren in Co. Clare, Aillwee Cave is a spectacular network of underground caverns, otherworldly stone formations and a thunderous waterfall. It’s a fantastic family day out all year round, but never more than when Santa is in residence. Along with Mrs Claus and his team of elves, Santa will greet each child with a gift, while there is face painting, a puppet show and lots of carnival entertainment too. This year, for the first time, there is also a special Sensory Day for children with autism and other sensory challenges, with softer lighting and music and a slower pace to the festivities.

ESSENTIAL INFO:

Admission: adults €16, children €34, babies €7. Open Friday to Sunday every weekend until Sunday December 18th, plus Wednesday 21st and Thursday 22nd. Sensory Day is on Tuesday 20th. Not suitable for wheelchairs or buggies. The caves are open throughout the holidays except for Dec 24th-26th and Jan 1st. More info at the Caves’ website.

HOW TO GET THERE:

Aillwee Cave is located just off the Ballyvaughan/Ennis Rd (R480) in the north of Co. Clare. From the Galway direction, take the N18 Claregalway/Limerick Rd and then the N67 Kilcolgan/Lahinch Rd. Turn left onto the Ennis Rd (R480) around 2km south of Ballyvaughan. From the Ennis direction, take the R480 the whole way to the caves.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_text_separator title=”BIRR CASTLE & SCIENCE CENTRE” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_single_image image=”21818″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” img_size=”full”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]If you’re looking for an educational day out for your little stargazers, then try the Science Centre at the 11th century Birr Castle in Co. Offaly. The museum tells the story of early photography, engineering and astronomy in Ireland, particularly through the eyes of the pioneering Parsons family, who own and still live in the castle. The prize exhibit is a reflecting telescope which was the largest in the world for over 70 years after it was completed in 1845. The stunning grounds are open to the public too, though tours of the fairytale castle are only available from May to August.

ESSENTIAL INFO:

€9 for adults, €7.50 for seniors and students, €5 for children aged 5-12 (under 5s go free). A family ticket (2 adults and 2 children) is €25. Open 10am-4pm until March 15th. Closed Christmas Day, St Stephen’s Day and New Year’s Day. The museum and grounds are wheelchair and buggy-accessible, though some paths are gravel so can be rough. More info at The Birr Castle website.

HOW TO GET THERE:

Birr Castle is located in Birr, Co. Offaly on the N52 Tullamore/Nenagh Rd and the N62 Athlone/ Roscrea Rd. If you’re travelling from the east, you can take either the M4/M6 Dublin/ Galway Rd (exit at J5 Tullamore on the M6) or the N7/M7 Dublin/ Limerick Rd (exit at J21 Borris-in-Ossory on the M7). Photo © Flickr user bea & txema & alan.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_text_separator title=”WINTERVAL, WATERFORD” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_video link=”https://vimeo.com/112793188″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]This is more of a pre-Christmas option, but Waterford’s Winterval is Ireland’s biggest Christmas festival so it definitely warrants a mention. 2016 is its fifth year, and every weeks until December 23rd there are over 30 events and attractions to choose from, including Santa’s Grotto, the Christmas Market, a carol concert, horse drawn sleigh, ice skating, the Elves’ Workshop and more. Something for everyone!

ESSENTIAL INFO:

Many events are free, but full listings and ticket sales are available at the Winterval website.

HOW TO GET THERE:

Winterval takes place at a variety of venues around Waterford city centre.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_text_separator title=”THE PLANET, CORK” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_single_image image=”21804″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” img_size=”full”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]If it’s action you’re after, The Planet has it in spades. Cork’s largest family entertainment centre has plenty to keep the whole family entertained on a drizzly afternoon – bowling, laser tag, pool and Cosmo’s Funworld – a soft play area with slippery slides, rope bridges, a huge ball pool and bouncy castles, with a separate area for under-5s. There’s a diner too.

ESSENTIAL INFO:

Admission is free and activities are priced individually. A full list is available here. Closed December 25th-26th and January 1st. Closes early on December 24th (4pm) and 31st (7pm).

HOW TO GET THERE:

The Planet is located on the Old Mallow Rd, in the north of Cork City. It’s just off the main N20 Cork/Limerick Rd.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_text_separator title=”IMAGINOSITY, DUBLIN” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_single_image image=”21823″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” img_size=”full”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]Kids can let their imaginations run wild at Imaginosity – “Ireland’s only interactive children’s museum for the under 9s”. The ethos is all about learning through play, and there’s a dazzling array of interactive attractions where kids can be a shopkeeper, a mechanic, a doctor or a newsreader, and even learn to drive on a simulator in a real car. There’s a wide range of Christmas-themed events throughout December.

ESSENTIAL INFO:

Adults €8, children (3+) €8, concession €7, toddlers (1-2) €6, babies (6-12 mths) €2. Annual Family Membership is available. Closed December 24th-26th. The building is wheelchair accessible. Full opening hours, event calendar, accessibility info and a comprehensive FAQ are available at the Imaginosity website.

HOW TO GET THERE:

Imaginosity is located in Sandyford Business District, a short distance from J13 Sandyford on the M50, just off the Drummartin Link Rd. Sandyford Luas stop is approximately 10 minutes’ walk from the museum. Detailed directions are available here. Photo © Imaginosity.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]

The AA Routeplanner and AA app can help you find your way to each of these attractions quickly, safely and easily – with live traffic information provided by the AA Roadwatch team.

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Categories
Ireland

AA Roadwatch go to Electric Picnic

[vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]Electric Picnic takes place in Stradbally, County Laois this September from Friday the 2nd to Sunday the 4th. Headline acts this year include LCD Soundsystem, Lana del Ray, The Chemical Brothers, New Order and Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds. If you’re thinking to yourself ‘but I want more Esther’ , there are also food demonstrations, a dedicated children’s area and an excellent comedy tent where Dylan Moran, Aisling Bea and Rubberbandits will perform.

I’ve been to EP a few times but the closest I’ve gotten to camping was sleeping in the back of a HiAce van. Last year was my favourite by far as I was broadcasting and interviewing bands. More importantly, I had access to the fancy loos which is the dream at a festival.

Electric Picnic has been sold out for months but if you’re lucky enough to have gotten a ticket, here’s what you need to know about getting to Stradbally.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”Getting There” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]It’s not rock and roll but it is important to plan your journey in advance and allow yourself plenty of time to get to the festival site. If heavy rain is forecast on the day you’re heading down, this usually means more people will take the car and in turn, could mean longer delays. If you are travelling down after work on the Friday, keep in mind you’ll be coming into rush hour traffic so be prepared for this.

Our new and improved AA Routeplanner is fed live traffic information from AA Roadwatch so you can see what the traffic is like on your route plus any incidents that may add to your journey time.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_accordion style=”accordion”][vc_accordion_tab title=”By Car”][vc_column_text]On the M7, both northbound and southbound traffic can exit at Junction 16 Portlaoise East towards Broomfield Roundabout and onto the Stradbally Road before following signage. Northbound exit at Junction 17 Portlaoise Centre and follow signage.

From the M8 northbound motorists can exit at Junction 3 Rathdowney (Abbeyleix) and follow signage through Ballacolla, Abbeyleix, Ballyroan and onto the site.

On the N80 via Carlow, travel straight to Stradbally. Motorists can also travel to the event via the Stradbally/ Athy Rd (R428). All routes leading to designated parking areas for the event are clearly sign-posted and patrons are urged to follow these routes to avoid unnecessary delay and traffic disruption.  Gardaí will be on point duty.[/vc_column_text][/vc_accordion_tab][vc_accordion_tab title=”Car Parking”][vc_column_text]

There are multiple car parks on site for ticket holders and parking is free of charge.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_accordion_tab][vc_accordion_tab title=”Disabled Access Car Parking “][vc_column_text]According to the EP website, there will be two different car parks for those camping and for day attendees. Day ticket holders should park in Car Park Z and those camping should park adjacent to the disabled campsite. Pre-registered customers will be sent route information in advance.  Spaces will be available to attendees who have pre-registered to use the facility. Please note car parking passes will not be issued until approximately 1 week before the event. The disabled day car park is the closest public car park to the site but keep in mind that it is still some distance from the event entrance.

There will be a designated disabled access campsite which will have accessible toilets, fridges (should medication need to be stored) and electrical hook ups for wheelchair charging. Each disabled customer may have up to three people camping with them, and one car. There will be dedicated stewards in the disabled campsite providing 24 hour cover.[/vc_column_text][/vc_accordion_tab][/vc_accordion][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”Bus-ing it to The Picnic” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_accordion style=”accordion”][vc_accordion_tab title=”Marathon Coaches”][vc_column_text]The bus service will start from 8am on Friday 2nd with buses departing George’s Quay every 30 minutes until 6pm that day. On Saturday 3rd and Sunday 4th, buses will depart at 10am, 11am and midday.

The full return bus fare costs €25 but you can avail of a reduced fare online of €22.50 until 5pm on Wednesday 31st Aug.

You’re strongly recommended to book online in advance to ensure you get the correct bus departure time

Return Buses will start departing the festival site from 8pm on Sunday 4th and will run until 1pm on Monday 5th September.

You can choose your own departure and return time during the booking process.[/vc_column_text][/vc_accordion_tab][vc_accordion_tab title=”Bus Eireann”][vc_column_text]Bus Éireann will be operating a number of return services from Custom House Quay in Dublin throughout the weekend.

From Custom House Quay to Stradbally

The Friday service departs from ​7.30am to 18.00pm with services running every 30 minutes​. The Saturday and Sunday services leaves Custom House Quay at 10am, 11am, midday and 1pm.

From Dublin Airport to Stradbally

A Friday bus departs at 2pm.

From Stradbally to Custom House Quay, Dublin

On Saturday, buses departs from 11pm, midnight and 1am while on Sunday, they leave at midday and every 30mins from 8:30pm until 2am. On Monday then, they depart every 30mins from 5am to 1:30pm.

Buy tickets now

From Parnell Place, Cork serving Fermoy, Mitchelstown and Cahir to Stradbally

On Friday, the bus departs Parnell Place in Cork City at 8am, Fermoy (McCuratin Street) at 8:35am, Mitchelstown (The Square) at 8:50am and Cahir (Castle Street) 9.:20am

The return service on Monday departs Stradbally at midday. Tickets cost €40 return and can be bought from online or from the Travel Centre at Parnell Place Bus Station in Cork City. Call (021) 4508188

From Galway to Stradbally

The Friday service departs Galway Bus Station at midday.

 

On Monday, the Galway bus leaves Stradbally at 10am. Tickets cost €35 return and can be bought from Bus Éireann Travel Centre in Eyre Square, Galway City. Call (091) 562000[/vc_column_text][/vc_accordion_tab][vc_accordion_tab title=”Kelly Travel”][vc_column_text]

Kelly Travel will be offering a range of services from Cork, Limerick and Tipperary to Stradbally for both weekend attendees and Sunday attendees. You can view the locations, service times and book tickets here.

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JJ Kavanaghs will operate a direct bus service from Ulster Bank, Georges Quay to Stradbally on Friday 2nd September. There will also be returns bus on Sunday 4th and Monday 5th September. Tickets cost €25 return and can be bought here.

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AA Patrols will be on standby in the Stradbally area over the weekend to deal with festival breakdowns. AA Membership is available for as little as €8.25 per month and offers 24/7 emergency cover so you’ll never get stuck in the mud. See here for more.

[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][image_with_text_over icon_size=”fa-lg” image=”21497″ title=”Pro-Tips from the Roadwatchers” title_size=”60″]

When I polled my Roadwatch colleagues for festival tips, one emailed straight back telling me I had a typo in my email so we were off to a great start

[/image_with_text_over][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]You should download The AA Routeplanner app of course, to help plan your trip to Stradbally. On the map app, you can see what route is heaviest on the way to the festival, approximately how long your journey will take and estimated fuel costs which is bound to get you in the mood to party.

Esther ‘Best Roadwatcher’ O’Moore Donohoe.

My advice is to bring lots of socks. They stop your wellies from rubbing up against your leg and if it rains having a few spares means you can keep your feet dry and toasty. You can also use them as gloves* if you get cold whilst camping and if you need to wipe your hands (say if you spill your bottle of sparkling water** all over yourself). Socks are your friends in emergencies.

Arwen Foley, Roadwatch Editor

*Arwen has called these HocksⓇ (hand socks).

**Arwen’s eye twitched here

If it’s your first time going to Electric Picnic, you do not need to bring a massive tent and large suitcase. We made this mistake going to our first outdoor festival and it was a real pain. We also packed way too many cereal bars, crackers and snacks. No matter how many cereal bars you bring to ‘save money’, you’re inevitably going to pay €10 for a greasy hot dog at 2am

Sharron Lynskey, Broadcaster, researcher, typo corrector.

I have never been to Electric Picnic or any similar festival. I’ve only ever been to Summer Madness, a Christian festival in King’s Hall, Belfast which I attended in ’06 and ’07.

Ruth Jephson

Who needs a carryall or a suitcase? A bin bag is your best friend at a festival. You can even use it to fill it up with more bin bags. Bin bags for everyone! I should also mention that a black bin bag can be used as a black bin bag. Genius.

Rachel Murray

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Categories
Ireland

What’s on this August Bank Holiday?

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For those of us who haven’t managed to book a getaway this August Bank Holiday weekend, you may be on the lookout for something fun to pass the time this long weekend.

[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][image_with_text_over icon_size=”fa-lg” image=”21428″ title=”What will the weather be like?” title_color=”#ffffff” title_size=”50″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]Friday is expected to be a bright day with good sunny spells and some scattered showers and Saturday will be much the same, with some light to moderate breezes also.

Sunday is supposed to be a generally dry day too with just a few showers but on Bank Holiday Monday, rain will affect much of the country. Heavier rain is forecasted for the south but there should be some drier periods further north.

For a comprehensive weather forecast, check out Met Éireann before you travel.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][image_with_text_over icon_size=”fa-lg” image=”21443″ title=”What’s On in Dublin and Leinster?” title_size=”60″]

There’s plenty of activity going on across the province over the Bank Holiday. Whether you’re up for a decent comedy gig, looking for quality sporting action or prefer a good family day out, there’s plenty happening around the place that will appeal to all sorts.

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If you plan on travelling around Dublin City over the Bank Holiday, there are major Luas Cross City works taking place in the city centre over the few days. For full details on these closures and diversions see here.

[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_accordion collapsible=”yes” style=”accordion”][vc_accordion_tab title=”Any good shows or gigs on over the weekend?” title_color=”#000000″ background_color=”#ffffff”][vc_column_text]If you fancy good quality entertainment, then the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre is your go-to spot this weekend. One of the most beloved shows on stage comes to Ireland for the first time and takes place each night over the bank holiday from 7:30pm. If you want to bring the kids along, they’re showing matinee performances on Thursday 28th and Saturday 30th, but remember that the musical contains some strong language. Traffic delays are likely on Macken St, particularly as people head home after the show. Dublin Bus and Luas operate services within walking distance of the theatre and for more on that, head over to our website.

Feel like having a good laugh this weekend? Then look no further than the Iveagh Gardens. This weekend sees the annual Vodafone Comedy Festival descend on the beautiful surroundings of the gardens and this year’s line-up is one not to be missed. From Al Porter to PJ Gallagher and Jason Byrne to Eleanor Tiernan, there are an array of good quality stand-up comedians taking to the stage over the weekend and you’re guaranteed a lively atmosphere and a bit of a chuckle. If you’re bringing the car, the handiest carparks are Q-Park at St. Stephen’s Green, Q-Park at Setanta, Park Rite Drury St or the Brown Thomas Carpark. There are two LUAS Green Line stops close to the Iveagh Gardens and Dublin Bus and DART services run within walking distance of the venue.[/vc_column_text][/vc_accordion_tab][vc_accordion_tab title=”Any festivals going on?” title_color=”#000000″][vc_column_text]Of course there are! For a bit of variety, fun and colour The Beatyard Festival in Dun Laoghaire Harbour is a good shout. It takes place on Saturday and Sunday with gates opening at midday and the event ending at around 10:30pm both days. This festival really has everything – from food and drink to tech and the arts, you won’t be short of activities. It’s a great place to bring the kinds too if they’re getting restless with face-painting and games set to run through the two days. Thinking of heading along? Your best bet is to get the DART to Dun Laoghaire as the station is right opposite the venue.

Moving to the sunny south east and if your taste buds need a tickling this weekend, The Enniscorthy Rockin Food Festival might be what you’re looking for. It runs from Friday to Sunday. It promises to be a dynamic mix of rock ‘n’ roll and dancing with tasty tapas and delicious food thrown in for good measure.[/vc_column_text][/vc_accordion_tab][vc_accordion_tab title=”Any sporting events taking place this weekend?”][vc_column_text]It wouldn’t be a Bank Holiday weekend without a number of exciting sporting fixtures. Dedicated GAA fans will flock to Croker this weekend, where there’s a triple header at Croke Park on Saturday. An All-Ireland MFC Quarter-Final and two SFC Round 4B Qualifiers take place. The 2pm kick-off sees Donegal take on Cork in the minor match. That’s followed by Cork and Donegal in the first senior match at 4pm. Then at 6pm, Mayo take on Westmeath. There are ample ways to get to GAA Headquarters and full details of those can be found on the AA Roadwatch website.

If you’re more into the soccer, then you may be making your way to see two great international sides go head-to-head in the International Champions Cup. It’s your chance to see the likes of Lionel Messi do his magic on our very own home turf. There are five entry routes to the stadium; at Shelbourne Rd, Lansdowne Lane, Lansdowne Rd, Herbert Rd and Bath Ave. Each ticket will be colour coded to correspond with an entry point to the stadium. Patrons must follow the route shown on their ticket.[/vc_column_text][/vc_accordion_tab][/vc_accordion][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][image_with_text_over icon_size=”fa-lg” title=”What’s On in Munster?” title_size=”60″ image=”21454″]

A handful of fun, entertaining festivals come to the Munster region this bank holiday. Whether you’re a die-hard foodie, an indie fan or just looking for a decent family-orientated event, there are plenty going on. Here are just a few of the highlights.

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A fun weekend for all the family, the Waterford Spraoi Festival takes place from Friday until Sunday. Crowds of about 25,000 people are expected to come to the city for the event each day so you can expect lots of colour, vibrancy and activity throughout the few days. Street entertainment and theatre is on the menu this weekend in Waterford, with the highlight being the parade which takes place on Sunday with about 50,000 people expected to attend.

[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”Cork” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]Die-hard music fans will be flocking in their thousands to the beautiful surroundings of Deer Farm in Mitchelstown, County Cork for Indiependence from Friday until Sunday. All car parks are located just off site within very short walking distance and open from 10am on Friday. This year’s festival has a stellar line-up with the likes of Editors, Bell X1, Hudson Taylor, The Blizzards and Walking on Cars all taking to the stage over the three days and if you’re heading to see any of these, the main area opens at 5pm on Friday then at 2pm on Saturday and Sunday.

Staying in County Cork and what better way to spend the Bank Holiday than with a massive BBQ? That’s exactly what’s happening in Bantry this weekend as the Bantry BBQ Festival takes place from Saturday right through until Monday. If you’re unsure what your best route is, check out our website.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][image_with_text_over icon_size=”fa-lg” image=”21342″ title=”What’s On in Connacht and Ulster?” title_size=”60″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]The wild west has a number of breath-taking attractions on any given day but there are extra sprinklings of fun over the August Bank Holiday weekend. Of course, the major event taking place this week has been the Galway Races. With Friday’s Fair Lady competition and family days at the racecourse on Saturday and Sunday, this weekend in Ballybrit is set to be even more enjoyable. Friday’s race card starts at 5:10pm in the evening and finishes at 8:30pm.

If you’re looking for a family day out, then Saturday or Sunday at the races are your best option. They’re the dedicated family days and children even get free entry. There will be an abundance of entertainment for the young racegoer including bouncing castles, slides and face painting. The stiles open two hours before the first race each day and you’ll find Galway Racecourse roughly 5km from the city centre, in Ballybrit on Bothar na dTreabh. For more details on what to expect from the Galway Races, check out our guide.

There are a few smaller events taking place over the bank holiday elsewhere too. In Mayo, the Annual Pilgrimage to Croagh Patrick takes place on Sunday, starting at Murrisk Abbey. East of the county then, Síamsa Sráide takes place in Swinford until Wednesday. The festival is free to attend and with both live music at night and entertainment for the family during the day it is well worth a visit.

In the northwest close to the beautiful surroundings of Malin Head in Donegal lies the beautiful village of Clonmany, where the Clonmany Festival takes place. This festival runs from Sunday until Sunday 7th. It’s a real family-orientated event with everything from raft races and cycling events to treasure hunts and talent competitions. It also has lively county music acts playing every night with even the likes of Nathan Carter, Mike Denver and Gerry Guthrie making an appearance over the eight nights.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Categories
Ireland

Galloping to the Galway Races

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Crowds of race-lovers will descend on the west of Ireland again this year, as the Galway Races get underway from Monday 25th July. Whether you’re a fully-fledged race enthusiast or it’s your first-time joining in on the fun, the Galway Races has something for everyone. As it’s one of the biggest racing festivals of the summer, you can expect it to draw massive crowds both to the racecourse and to the city itself and traffic delays are unfortunately inevitable.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][image_with_text_over icon_size=”fa-lg” image=”21342″ title=”When’s the Best Day to go to the Races?” title_size=”60″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]The festival runs from Monday 25th right up until Sunday 31st July, which is the weekend of the August Bank Holiday. You’re always going to get a great day out at the races no matter what day you pick. If you want to avoid the worst of the crowds and opt for a more relaxing racing experience though, Monday or Tuesday are your best days as they tend to be quieter.

On Wednesday, the infamous Galway Plate race takes place and this one usually garners the most media attention and in turn, massive crowds of people. It’s a great day out and the atmosphere is second to none.

Thursday is an equally monumental day as the fashionistas and finery come to the fore. The ever-popular Ladies Day descends on the racecourse in Ballybrit and it’s usually the most colourful and vibrant day on the Galway racing calendar.  If you’d like to chance your arm and put your own style to the test, the good news is that you don’t have to go through a formal entry procedure. The judges simply wander through the crowds and select a number of eye-catching finalists. Be sure to be in a prominent part of the racecourse before 11:30am though, as that’s when the judges start their rounds! The Annual Best Hat competition and Most Stylish Man event also take place on the day so if you can’t claim the big prize, those awards might make for a suitable consolation.

It’s another style-filled spectacle on Friday as Friday’s Fair Lady competition gets underway. This is likely to be another very busy day for the racecourse, so be prepared for traffic delays and long queues to both the bookies and the bar. Again, if you’re looking to enter the Fair Lady competition, there is no formal entry – just sit pretty in a prominent position for the judges and you’re sure to be spotted. Don’t dilly-dally though as finalists are usually picked out before 6pm.

If you’re looking for a family day out, then Saturday or Sunday at the races are your best option. They’re the dedicated family days and children even get free entry. Think the kids will find race day a bit dull? Think again. There will be an abundance of entertainment for the young racegoer including bouncing castles, slides and face painting. The Mad Hatters Day takes place on the Sunday and is a real fun way to get the kids involved in race day. There are prizes available for adults and children sporting wacky hat designs but make sure you head to the Mad Hatters Tent, found behind the Tote if you want your entry to be recognised.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_text_separator title=”What Do I Wear?” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]

There isn’t an overly strict dress policy at the Galway Races but if you want to keep in tune with the crowds, it’s best to stick to your smart/casual attire. You’ll get away with dressing more informally on Monday or Tuesday but from Wednesday onwards, it’s a good idea to get your finest glad rags out. Thursday and Friday are the big ‘dressed up’ days, when the Ladies Day and Fair Lady competitions take place so you’re encouraged to dress as smartly as you possibly can.

[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”Where is the Racecourse in Galway?” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]You’ll find the racecourse about 5km from the city centre, in an area called Ballybrit. It’s easily accessed off the N17 Tuam Road or the N6 Bothar na Dtreabh and delays are likely on both of those approaches to the racecourse. There will be ample car parking facilities available in the vicinity of the racecourse and parks will be located on both approaches to the racecourse.

Remember!

If you’re using the N17 from Sligo to get to Galway for the races, the road will be closed between Collooney and Tobercurry near Ballinacarrow North from Tuesday 26th until Thursday 28th July between 4am and 5pm each day. You will be diverted but do expect that to add to your journey time.

Top Tip

If you’re using the N17 to get to the races and want to avoid the heavier traffic. You can take a left at Claregalway onto the N18 (signposted Limerick). At the traffic lights, take a right and drive past the airport. After about 3 and a half kilometres, you’ll take a right onto Ballybrit Crescent and head into the racecourse that way. You won’t avoid the inevitable delays around the vicinity of the racecourse, but you should bypass the heaviest traffic on the N17.

Still unsure of your route? Check out AA Routeplanner or use our new AA Roadwatch/ Routeplanner app for live traffic information.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”What’re My Public Transport Options to the Racecourse?” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]There will be a shuttle bus service operating every day of the races between Eyre Square and the racecourse. It will pick up people outside The Skeff Restaurant on Eyre Square and buses will start running from approximately 2 hours before the first race. Return services will start bringing people back into the city from after the second-last race each day and you’ll find the service at Entrance B and C of the arena.

The demand for buses will be high so expect some queues. An adult single fare is €6 and you’ll pay €9 for the return service while for children, a single ticket will cost €3 and €5 for the return. The pick-up stop at The Skeff is just a short five minute walk from Ceannt Train Station and the adjoining Galway Bus Station, so this may be a good option for you if you’re using public transport to get to Galway.

There will be numerous taxis travelling between the city centre and the racecourse. If you want to get a taxi out of the venue, the taxi rank will be located at Entrance B.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”What Else Do I Need to Know?” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]

  • You’re advised to arrive at least one hour before the time of the first race and turnstiles will open about two hours before the first race each day.
  • No need to worry about pre-booking tickets. Admission can be paid on the day through the turnstiles.
  • OAP’s and students can get a discounted admission rate on the day, provided you have proof of a current ID. Discounted rates are as follows: Monday €10, Tuesday €15, Wednesday €15, Thursday €20, Friday €15, Saturday €10 and Sunday €10.
  • Children under 12 will be admitted free of charge to the Summer Festival and if the kids are over 12, they will be offered the discounted student rate.

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Categories
Ireland

What to Expect at the Dublin Horse Show

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As you may have heard, the Dublin Horse Show is jumping ahead this year and will now take place from Wednesday 20th to Sunday 24th July. The change of date this year is to accommodate the lucky riders who will also be participating in the Rio Olympics. It also means that you could see potential Olympic champions in action just weeks before Rio.

[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][image_with_text_over icon_size=”fa-lg” image=”21214″ title=”Why go to the Dublin Horse Show?” title_size=”60″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]The Dublin Horse Show has something for everyone. The main attractions are obviously the equestrian events but even if you can’t tell a horse from a donkey, it’s still a great day out as there are plenty of other things to keep you entertained.

If you’re looking to splash the cash, there is an enormous Shopping Village selling the very best in Irish arts, crafts and fashion, as well as top international outdoor brands. There are an array of stands selling home and garden wares and of course the obligatory tack shops and horse related goods. You’ll also find a huge food village with a range of cuisines catering to every pallet. Make sure you check out the fudge stand – definitely one of my favourites.

The kids are well catered for, with entertainment every day, apart from Thursday, including magic shows, story time, a mini-circus and puppet shows. A host of musical acts will also perform on the band lawn over the course of the show.

Santi Serra will bring his acclaimed horsemanship show to the RDS each day. Watch him entice horses to perform and do his bidding without any equipment. Meanwhile, Pat Parelli will also give natural horsemanship demonstrations and work with horses and riders to overcome problems. Both these men are spectacular to watch.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_text_separator title=”HORSEY HIGHLIGHTS” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]

If you don’t know anything about horses but think you might like to see what all the fuss is about, here are some of the highlights:

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The first big competition of the Show is on Wednesday the 20th. This is great fun – fast and furious. Participants jump a course of fences against the clock and to beat each other- you’re bound to see a few thrills and spills.

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Thursday the 21st is when the fashionistas are out in force. There are great prizes for women and men and all that’s needed to win is a general admission ticket and a sense of style!

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This is what Friday 22nd is all about – the President even puts in an appearance. The competition involves eight national teams, consisting of four riders per team, who each ride the course twice. The three best scores per team, per round are counted. The prize on offer is the much coveted Aga Khan trophy. This is also the Dublin stage of the Nations Cup competition – held in a number of cities around the world.

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The big wall dominates on Saturday 23rd. Marvel as horses and riders push themselves to the limit to jump as high as they can over a giant wall without knocking it. The wall increases in height after each round until there is only one horse and rider left or until the remaining riders decide it can’t be jumped and split the pot.

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This is the main attraction on Sunday 24th. The fences on this course are all enormous and there’s a time limit within which to complete it. The competition attracts top riders from all over the world as it’s extremely lucrative.

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  • Understanding everything that’s going on can be tricky for the uninitiated but these pointers will help you enjoy the show.
  • The basic aim for all jumping competitions is to jump a clear round in the fastest time possible. Each time a horse knocks a jump – that counts as four faults or penalties. Faults are only incurred when a rider knocks the top pole of the jump. If it’s a water jump – a horse’s foot in the water or on the plasticine strip before the water will count as four faults.
  • A refusal also counts as four faults and a second refusal will result in elimination. If there is a time in which to complete the course, every second over that time will incur time faults.
  • If a rider falls off their horse that counts as an elimination and they must leave the arena on foot.
  • There are red and white flags on the tops of the fences and horses must jump inside the flags with the red flag always on the right.
  • If a horse has incurred a number of faults the rider may decide to retire by signalling to the judges.

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This is not the races! Of course feel free to get dressed up if you want to and you’ll find lots of people decked out in their finery especially on ladies day, but it’s not necessary. There’ll be plenty of people there in riding boots and jodhpurs – it’s very relaxed.

[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_text_separator title=”GETTING THERE” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]All the main action is in the Main Hall and Main Arena, the entrance for which is on the Merrion Road.

There is a park and ride facility at Muckross Park and UCD. Alternatively, there is pay parking on a number of roads around the RDS but make sure you do pay, as clampers will be out in force.

You’ll find the RDS in the middle of Ballsbridge, Dublin 4, between The InterContinental Dublin and Herbert Park on the Merrion Road. The heaviest delays are likely on the Merrion Road, Anglesea Road and Simmonscourt Road. Remember to watch out for horses and pedestrians crossing.

Bear in mind that Simmonscourt Road will be close from 7am until about 8pm each evening between the Merrion Road and Anglesea Road junctions to facilitate the show.

The RDS Showground is serviced by Dublin Bus routes 4, 7 and 8 which stop outside the RDS on the Merrion Road. These bus services can be availed of on Nassau Street outside Trinity College. The RDS is also very close to both Sandymount and Lansdowne Road DART stations.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_text_separator title=”AFTER THE SHOW” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]

There are a number of great pubs in Ballsbridge including Paddy Cullen’s, the Horse Show House and the Bridge 1859, while Searsons is just a little further down the road on Baggot Street. If you’re feeling peckish, these pubs all do brilliant food but there are plenty of fantastic restaurants to choose from. Roly’s Café and Restaurant is always a great shout with two different dining options, Belluccis will satisfy Italian lovers while Kites in Ballsbridge have quite possibly the best Chinese food in Dublin.

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