Freedom beckons in the beautiful fields, pastures, boglands and riverbanks around Athy. It’s the perfect place for kids to kick back and enjoy the great outdoors, whether they’re bouncing around beautiful forests or hopping on a nature-filled boat trip down the River Barrow. There are short walks in scenic forests, beautiful strolls around the sheep-dotted Curragh and even a maze! And if the sun isn’t on your side, don’t panic – plenty of indoor activities await from museums to swimming pools.
Museum Athy/Athy Heritage Centre
Kids who have grown up hearing stories about Tom Crean will delight in this
museum, which, as well as telling the story of Athy, focusses on Antarctic explorer
Ernest Shackleton. An old-school hero, Shackleton was born close to the village
of Kilkea and went to sea as a teenager before joining Captain Scott’s
Discovery expedition in 1901, and leading three expeditions of his own. You can
follow his adventures with artefacts including a 15ft model of the ship
Endurance, film footage from the trip and an original sledge and harness.
Farm Foods Open Farm and Shop
Open all year around and perfect for curious younger kids, the Kildare Farm
Foods Open farm has a variety of animals including ostriches, chickens, horses,
camel, alpaca and deer. A walking trail winds through the enclosures and
children get a chance to feed the animals along the way. There’s also a traditional cottage, indoor crazy golf and an
Adventure Railroad. Afterwards, head into the Tractor Café for chicken wings,
burgers, steak sandwiches and lots of kids favourites.
K Leisure Athy
Rainy days are well covered at the K Leisure centre in Athy, with a 25 metre
pool that offers leisure swims at various times throughout the day. There are
kids swimming lessons available, which might work if you’re on a longer stay,
but for it’s a great option, too, for those inevitable rainy days. Family swim
times are available on their website.
Lullymore Heritage Park is the perfect way to take history out of the textbooks
and into the real world. As well as a reconstructed Neolithic farmstead, it
also helps kids get in touch with the heritage of the peatlands and the lives
that have depended on them through the years. There’s a huge outdoor adventure
area, 18-hole mini golf, a pet farm, education area and toy train trips.
Younger children will enjoy following the treasure hunt, with clues to find
letters hidden throughout the park.
within the north Kildare countryside, the Kildare Maze Activity Park is a very
fun way to get lost! Designed in the shape of St Brigid’s Cross, the maze
covers 1.5 acres and has a viewing tower that reveals the secrets of how to get
out! There’s also an adventure trail and zip wire, a wooden maze for younger
kids, crazy golf and a picnic area… Perfect for a family day out.
of Allen Nature Centre
Run by the Irish Peatland Conservation Council, the Bog of Allen Nature Centre
is a great place for finding out about this unique and fascinating ecosystem.
The Bog of Allen is a hugely important part of the Irish landscape and while it
is now a fraction of the size it once was, it’s still an enormously valuable
wetland. Step into the Nature Centre here and you’ll experience the interior of
a traditional Irish cottage, where a turf fire was the main source of heating
and cooking. There are also ancient treasures including bog butter, coins and
an ancient dugout canoe, and an exhibition on the future of Irish bogs. Outside
the wildlife conservation gardens include flytrap plants, lake and bog habitat
reconstructions and a potager garden. A 10-minute walk away, you’ll find the
Lodge Bog, a raised bog that comprises water, peat and vegetation, and where
you’ll find frogs, bog cotton, curlews and damselflies.
Departing from a jetty in
the centre of Athy just in front of the historic courthouse, Athy Boat Tours
will be a sure-fire hit with kids, thanks to the engaging commentary and lush
scenery. There are two tours available: the Lock Gate Experience, a one hour
tour that brings you through Ardreigh Lock; and Immersed in Nature – a two-hour
trip that takes you into the heart of the Barrow Navigation’s wildlife. It’s an
exceptionally tranquil and fascinating way to explore what were once busy
commercial waterways and are now havens for nature.