The S-Mum Maria Rushe shares her favourite free and low-cost places to take the kids when the sun shines.
It’s finally here and in fairness, apart from the odd dodgy day, it’s already shaping up to be a cracker.
And now that Mammy and Daddy are done with rehearsals and the mayhem that Spring brings each year, our weekly Sunday Fundays must commence! Up in the morning, dress for whatever the weather is doing (layers layers layers so it can change its mind 32 times in 4 hours as usual eh?!), into the car and go!
Adventures and fun cost money, and while there are of course hundreds of things you can do with your minions, here are 10 of my favourite things to do right here at home. They range from absolutely free to the not so free but no matter how often we do these things or go to these places, the girls always enjoy them and feel like they’ve been somewhere special.
In no particular order:
Glenveagh – Now those of you who follow my blog, know that Glenveagh National Park is a firm favourite in our little family.
We go there 2 or 3 times a month and myself and The Him love it just as much as the girls do. It’s only a short drive from Letterkenny, has absolutely NO phone coverage and has THE most stunning landscape in the country. NOWHERE beats Glenveagh for beauty.
The best thing is that entry to the park is absolutely FREE. You can bring a picnic or try some of the insanely good cakes and food in the tearooms there. We walk the 4k to the castle every and usually take the bus back up as Princess’s legs aren’t quite able for 8K just yet!
Bikes are available to hire from Grassroutes in the carpark too and you can get one of the little buggy-trailers for the minions. The castle grounds are beautiful and while ours are too young to do the full bridal path, there is lots to occupy them (and their imaginations) in the gardens.
(Tell your minions that the gates with the stag heads are the Gates to Santa’s summer house. Never gets old!)
The Beach – We are so blessed to have so many beautiful beaches on our doorsteps. Lisfannon Beach in Fahan is possibly my favourite place in the world. It’s not only where I often escape for some sneaky Mam-me time, (seriously, some life changing decisions have been made on this beach), it’s also where I take the girls if we want to have some good old fashioned free fun.
It’s only 15 minutes from my house, but the girls feel like they’ve had such a treat, even if we only stop for a 20 minute run-about. Over the summer, I keep a blanket and buckets in the car, so if we find ourselves nearby, it’s easy to stop here. I also keep a bag with a change of clothes and a towel in the boot, just incase it’s warm enough for a paddle. There’s loads of parking and in the summertime, there’s usually an ice-cream van in the carpark.
We’ve recently found Tank & Skinny’s on the pier in Buncrana too and it’s amazing for a coffee or brunch after wandering on the beach. So worth a visit.
Nature Walks – The girls love these. They spend a lot of time outside in the garden, but the excitement of getting to go beyond the gate is immense! We live in the back-end of beyond, so in fairness, even a play in the garden can be a learning curve, but if I really want to occupy them for an hour, we just go walkies!
Mini-Me can point out some of the tree types (reminding me of things that I used to know!) and there’s a gate at the end of our farm where I once told her the fairy kingdom begins, so she loves to visit there. She stands on the side of the road talking to the gate, but in her head, she’s on a serious adventure! Fun fun fun and FREE FREE FREE!
Parks – Letterkenny has two fab parks. The town park is great but it’s lacking parking, so if it’s too busy, we often opt for Ballymacool Park. Just outside the town, it’s peaceful and quiet, even when busy. It’s easy to park, has lovely trails for walking and beautiful views. The little playpark is wonderful; clean and full of playthings for kids of all ages. The best thing about this little area is that it’s fully fenced off, and so no matter what direction Princess runs in, she’s safe (and enclosed!).
Ards Forest Park – Simply pay €5 to park and go get lost in the woods before strolling back along the most beautiful beach. The play park is gorgeous, there’s a coffee shop and there’s even a stretch of boardwalk. Very beautiful and lots of scope for stories and imagination in the forest. The Fairies live there you know. And the Grufallo comes on holidays sometimes so keep your eyes peeled for footprints. 🙂
Soft Play – Some days, Soft play is the only answer isn’t it? Especially with the summer weather we get here! The most exciting thing about going to soft play, is going to soft play with OTHER minions. It’s win:win; A catch up for the mums, excitement (and a guaranteed successful bedtime) for the kids. Arena 7 has recently had an overhaul and looks amazing! Century Play has everything you need for a fun few hours too. Both are wonderful and have different features that the kids love, AND they all serve good coffee. Keep an eye on their pages for deals and rates.
Oakfield Park – As you all know, we LOVE Oakfield Park and have done for many, many years. (It used to be our roseymantic strolling spot before it got huge and before we had kids!0
It’s only 10 minutes from where we live and great for family Sunday-fundays, but also for random afternoons over the holidays. There is a charge to get in of course, but what I love about this place is that every year when they reopen, something new and wonderful has been added to the park. They add to the facility constantly.
The Buffers Tea rooms/restaurant is lovely, but you can also bring a picnic along with you. We always bought the annual pass as it’s great value if you use the park often. I’m delighted to be a Park Ambassador for Oakfield now. The park truly is stunning, so well kept and beautifully presented. There’s a play park and the Fairy tree is a favourite of Mini-Me’s. The steam train never gets old.
Oakfield Park also hosts events and celebrations throughout the season, so keep an eye on their pages for details.
Lurgy Brack Farm has expanded so much and is really a world of fun! We visited last month for the first time in many years and I couldn’t believe how big it was and how much they have added since our last trip. There’s a charge to get in, and when we go back, we’ll aim to spend the whole day. (We were meeting mates for a coffee and quick play so paying full price for the three of us for two hours seemed pricey, but when I saw exactly what is there, it was worth every penny.) I would definitely pack a picnic and a change of clothes and go for the full day next time! They have put so much thought and energy into creating a lovely escape on the outskirts of Letterkenny and it’s definitely somewhere we’ll be spending more time this summer.
We have a to-do list for summer 2019 started and I’ll add anywhere that we discover to this list as we go through.
So there you go. These are just our top go-to days out and activities in and around Letterkenny, all year round. I’m sure you could all add your own to this list.
Here’s to a fun Sunday Fundays and some sort of Springtime weather!