Co Wicklow - Family Break
Mount Usher Gardens
For the family part of our Wicklow adventure we decided to explain in pictures rather than words why this country was called the Garden of Ireland by bringing our kids to Mount Usher Gardens.
Voted the #1 garden in Ireland. Regardless of your kid's age (even the difficult teenage years) the settings and natural beauty of these gardens will appeal to all.
Our 15 year old James even said he felt ‘zen’ walking along the river and down the green avenues lined with multitudes of colorful plants and flowers.
Lunch was at the famous Avoca cafe and in the original hand-weavers in the town of Avoca itself.
Again we were marveling at the setting with the original white washed cottages set along the Avoca river.
The quality of the food served requires little fanfare. Almost every person in Ireland knows about Avoca Cafes that have sprung up in other picturesque settings across the country and generated several cookbooks. We even took the girls into the still functioning hand-weavers where the legendary cloth is weaved on original weaver machines.
Next up was a little more history when we went to the quaint little village that invented the not so quaint shillelagh stick.
The famous blackthorn walking stick was also used as a weapon and was weighted with lead so that one hit from it could kill you. The monument in the village park next to the lovely kids playground was a photo op we couldn't pass up.
Madeline’s Accommodation was perfect for our stay in nearby Tinahely.
A really cozy and spotless guesthouse that is very popular with hikers and hill walkers is situated right in the middle of the village.
From there it is a stones throw to the locally owned O’Connors Bar where there is a lively atmosphere and great food and a great pint of Guinness.
The next day we decided to introduce the kids to forest bathing with a peaceful walk through the popular Tomnafinogue Woods.
The kids skipped stones in the river and we all worked up a great appetite for breakfast at the Tinahely Farm Shop.
The Farm Shop
This was a stop that really blew our mind. Like a lot of farms the Tinahely Farm Shop was a working farm that transitioned into a pet farm and restaurant.
But, there is also the really surprising and fantastic activity barn, which is, well, a barn of activities for kids of course.
There is a HUGE sandpit that resembles a full on beach with stalls, picnic benches and play houses as well as a real life boat in the middle of a gigantic kids play centre that also has a full sized pedal go kart track.
The family run business also has a wonderful quirky gift shop and magical little cafe with local food from both the farm and surrounding area. They also make their own award winning lemonade!
It's a quick drive to the ancient Rathgall stone fort for a photo op and wander and then onto the main event (for the kids) the Chocolate Garden!
Yes there is a chocolate factory in Wicklow that is open to families to come in and make their own chocolate, Willy Wonka eat your heart out!
As you can imagine the kids had been asking about this at every stop we made on our trip and finally we were able to say “Yes, this is the chocolate factory”…
We met the owners who showed us how to make our own chocolate animals to take home in their lovely studio filled with the aroma of melting chocolate… (not recommended if you're on a diet).
But we had to wait for our chocolate to set with their artisan ice cream in their lovely playground right next to the factory. Yes this was every kid's dream!
The Rathwood Maze is also located directly next door to this Irish Willy Wonka and we spent a fun afternoon running around the map of Ireland Hedge Maze.
There are many other activities here to help burn off all the energy that the chocolate injected into the kids including a huge indoor playzone with massive slides and ball pits as well as spinning fairground rides that threaten to eject said chocolate… Thankfully that didn't happen!!
There is also a lovely coffee shop and restaurant that the exhausted parents can sit in and watch the soon to be exhausted kids go wild.
This entire itinerary was completed in 48 hours and it never felt rushed or forced. A fantastic way to spend a couple of days this summer with the family or just with your other half to reconnect.