Family fun in Galway City
Galway City Museum
Start exploring Galway City by discovering its past at Galway City Museum. Find it just behind the famous Spanish Arch and delve into the city’s intriguing history and folklore, as well as the local connection to the sea. Admission is free and the museum is interactive with plenty of hands-on activities to keep little ones entertained.
Galway Tourist Train
A hop-on, hop-off tour with a difference, kids love discovering Galway City on this vintage Galway Tourist Train. The tour starts a minute away from the museum and takes you around the heart of Galway’s medieval city and through its vibrant Latin Quarter, before heading out along the beautiful coast through Salthill. Catch Blakes Castle, St Nicholas’ Church, Eyre Square, Nora Barnacle’s House, Hall of the Red Earl, Lynch’s Castle and Window, the Famine Memorial and much more along the way. There’s also a hop-off spot at the playground in Salthill, which is sure to be a hit.
Galway islands and beyond
Jump off at Salthill to visit Ireland’s National Aquarium, Atlantaquaria, and discover the country’s largest display of sea life. Kids are amazed by the enormous 120 tonne Ocean Tank that showcases over 200 species – see if they can find Nemo and Dory in the mix. They can get hands-on holding starfish, crabs and sea scorpions at the Touch Pools, see freshly hatched baby fish in the Aquaculture Rearing Centre, and of course, they won’t want to miss feeding time at the (fish) zoo, with a regular schedule throughout the day.
A 35-minute spin along the beautiful Galway coastline from Salthill brings you to Rossaveal where you can hop on the ferry to the Aran Islands. Have the kids keep an eye out for the enormous basking sharks on the water’s surface – they are friendly and are known to swim alongside boats. With forts to explore and otherworldly cliff hikes to take on, there’s plenty to keep you busy.
Or keep things simple and let the kids imaginations run wild on Kilmurvey Beach as they discover fossilised corals and sea urchins along the rocks. It’s a Gaeltacht island so the kids can practice their cúpla focail – don’t be shy.
You’re not short of beautiful beaches to explore back on the mainland either, and Carraroe Beach is one of the best. This is the spot to head in for a dip – with changing rooms and clear waters, the area is popular with swimmers and snorkelers, and it’s lifeguarded in bathing season. Not feeling brave enough to dive in? There’s lots to explore with rock pools and climbing spots near the cliffs.
Park up at Ballynahinch Estate and hop on your bikes (or rent them locally) to cycle the first open section of the Connemara Greenway. The 6km stretch is an easy route away from main roads, along the old railway line. Fill your lungs with fresh Connemara air as you drink in the stunning scenery – you won’t be short of impressive views the whole way to Clifden.
Connemara National Park
While you can also walk the Greenway, you may want to save lacing up your hiking boots for Connemara National Park, where you’ll be spoiled by the area’s natural beauty. If you’ve got young kiddies, there are two short, gentle trails and you can meet the Park’s pure-bred prized Connemara Ponies along the way.
A tougher climb, but still suitable for all ages and stages, is the famous Diamond Hill loop walk, which takes around three hours to complete, and rewards you with incredible views of the gothic turrets in Kylemore Valley, the sensational Twelve Bens mountains, and on a clear day, you might be lucky and catch a glimpse of Inisturk and Inishbofin Islands and the Atlantic in the distance.
Looking for an adventure? A quick 15-minute drive away you’ll find Killary Fjord which straddles the border between Galway and Mayo. Surrounded by mountains, it’s one of just three glacial fjords in Ireland, and you’ll feel like you entered another world. Hop in a kayak at Killary Adventure Centre and explore the fjord – you’ll pass the Famine trail at Leenane and possibly even see some of the famous mussel farms that local seafood restaurants use to find the freshest catches. If you’d rather a more leisurely day, spend 90 minutes on a Killary Fjord Cruise on the calm waters enjoying uninterrupted views of the spectacular scenery.
Finish your Killary trip with a visit to the Sheep Farm, a traditional working farm with over 200 ewes and lambs roaming freely in the mountains. Kids are fascinated by the sheepdog demonstrations and the farmers shearing the sheep and can sometimes get the chance to bottle feed the orphan lambs. The farm provides rainwear so there’s no need to pack any extra clothes.
The reflection of the gothic turrets of Kylemore Abbey in Pollacapall Lough sets the scene for a special day spent exploring a beautiful abbey and Victorian walled garden. Enjoy the perfect family day out at the former monastery, delving into its history of tragedy and romance, before exploring Kylemore’s tree-lined avenues. No child’s visit is complete without a trip to the Ironing Stone, a magic wishing stone dropped there, as legend has it, by mischievous baby giants. Stop in for a homemade scone at Mitchell’s Café or the Garden Tea House.
While you’re in the Galway area…
Gurteen Bay and Dog's Bay
Lying back to back, Dog's Bay and Gurteen Bay are two of the most beautiful beaches in County Galway. Join swimmers, windsurfers and kitesurfers in the crystal clear waters of Gurteen Beach – the protective headland makes it a joy to take a dip here. Pop over to the white sandy stretches of Dog's Bay, where the sand is made entirely of seashells as opposed to the traditional limestone at most Irish beaches. It’s the perfect spot for the little ones to collect shells, and there are gorgeous walking trails if you want to tire them out before dinner.
If you have time in Galway…
For something a little different, stop into Glengowla Mines, a show mine dedicated to the historic lead and silver mining in the area. Duck underground, beneath the Connemara Mountains, on a guided tour of the mines which were abandoned in 1865. A moment of darkness sets the scene, as the constant dripping water, and ‘miners breath’ bring the mine alive. Kids (and adults) can pan for gold and gems at the panning station – you get to keep any gems you find.
With stunning scenery at every turn and plenty of fun to be had along the way, all you need to do now is decide when to plan your family trip to Galway.
Visit our Galway destination page where you’ll find plenty of inspiration for family trips in the City of the Tribes and the charming towns and villages nearby.