Five FREE Family Friendly Activities Within An Hour Of Dublin

Discover Five Free Family-Friendly Summer Activities in Co. Laois, Ireland

If you’re looking for a great value family break this summer, Laois is a great place to find free, family friendly activities.  And it’s just an hour from Dublin! Pack a picnic & head to one of our 5 favourite local attractions. You won’t have to put your hand in your pocket all day. Except to reach for your camera of course!

Young girl in a wetsuit wades through the freshwater pool at The Catholes in the Slieve Bloom Mountains. The waterfall feeding the pool is visible at the rear of the image.
  1. SLIEVE BLOOM MOUNTAINS: Nature’s Playground

There are literally hundreds of family-friendly walks, hikes, & bike routes in the scenic Slieve Bloom Mountains. Explore captivating spots such as Glenbarrow Falls, Monicknew, and the Ridge of Capard. Or, if you’re up for more adventure, try the Kid’s Trail at Kinnitty Castle for some mountain biking fun.

For a memorable & refreshing experience, bring your cozzie, and go ‘wild swimming’ in the Catholes pools.

Pack a picnic. Or visit The Falls Café at Glenbarrow (open Sat & Sun), or Peavoys Café in Kinnitty village for a homemade treats.

(Open Daily, Free Entry, Free Parking)

Turtle fountain squirting water into ornamental pool at Lutyens Gardens in Ballinakill, Co. Laois, Ireland
  1. HEYWOOD GARDENS: Turtle Power!

Follow the lovely looped Lake Walk in Ballinakill, to discover a castle-like folly, and fake ruins of an ancient abbey that never existed! The route includes free entry to the formal, walled gardens designed by world renowned garden designer, Sir Edwin Lutyens. 

A treelined walkway leads you to stunning circular terraces and a sunken pool, (complete with a shoal of goldfish!). The pool is surrounded by turtle sculptures that enthusiastically squirt water into the fountain.

There’s also a new (free) kid’s playground in Ballinakill village, (within walking distance of Heywood Gardens), as well as an open air swimming pool. The pool opens seasonally, from June – Sept. Whilst there is a charge to use the pool, it’s a community project & offers good value for a family swim.

(Open Daily, Free Entry, Free Parking, Public Toilets Available)

Two children climbing on the ruins of the ancient hill fort at the Rock of Dunamaise, Co. Laois, Ireland
  1. ROCK OF DUNAMAISE: Ancient Adventures

Explore the spectacular ruins of the Rock of Dunamaise, perched on a hill just outside Stradbally. This historical gem allows you to walk through its ancient walls or climb up for a breathtaking view. The best part? It’s completely free.  A short walk from the car park, the Rock of Dunamaise is sure to captivate the imaginations of children and adults alike.

Munch your sandwiches at the top of the Rock, or try Stradbally Fayre Cafe for good value, family friendly lunch options.

(Open Daily, Free Entry, Free Parking)

Swan in foreground curled up as if asleep. Emo Court house just visible in background with grass meadow stalks in between. Emo Court, Co. Laois.
  1. EMO COURT LAKE & PARKLANDS: Nature’s Beauty

Immerse yourself in the stunning surroundings of Emo Court’s lake and parklands. Take a leisurely looped walk around the lake, where you’ll encounter climbable wooden sculptures along the way. While there is a fee to explore the historic house, the grounds are free to enter. Don’t forget to bring some breadcrumbs, (or better still, some oats, peas, or lettuce leaves), to feed the ducks and swans.

Enjoy lunch in the picnic area, or treat yourself to coffee & cake in the charming tearooms.

(Open Daily, Free Entry, Free Parking, Public Toilets, Picnic Area, Café Onsite)

Father and child run along the boardwalk over the bog towards the camera. A yellow flower is in the foreground
  1. ABBEYLEIX BOARDWALK: Bogland Adventure

Put on your boots and grab your butterfly net for an exciting adventure along the Abbeyleix Boardwalk. Follow the cinder path and wooden boardwalk, and explore the wonders of the open bog land. You’ll encounter unusual plant and insect life, and maybe even spot a frog or wild deer. Afterwards, treat yourself to fairly priced coffee, cake, or toasties at Polly’s Café. They also offer fresh wood-fired pizza (Sat & Sun evenings only). Or pop into town for fab coffee & pastries from Mueller & O’Connell artisan bakery.

(Open Daily, Free Entry, Free Parking, Toilets at Abbeyleix Manor, Polly’s Café At Entrance)

    So, if you’re looking for a fun & affordable family friendly break this summer, Co. Laois, is definitely worth a visit. With so many brilliant free things to do, you might want to stay for a few days. So pack your picnic, rally the kids, grab your camera phone, and take a family break – without breaking the bank.

    For even more things to see & do on your trip to Co. Laois, click here

    For affordable family friendly glamping in Laois, click here.

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