Exploring Ireland’s Ballyhoura with kids

Today, travel blogger and Ireland enthusiast Jody Halsted of irelandwithkids.com shares her experiences on travelling with children in Ballyhoura. After reading this, my youngest has already decided zorbing, zip lining, donkeys and horse riding in this Irish region is a must for the summer holidays.

Ballyhoura with kids

You’ll not find the Ballyhoura Region of Ireland on a map, though if you look you will find the mountains that lend their name to the area. The Ballyhoura region lies in Ireland’s south-west, covering much of County Limerick and the northern part of County Cork.

Active Ballyhoura

Though relatively unknown to casual visitors to Ireland, this area is incredibly popular with hill walkers and mountain cyclists. Many of the Ballyhoura Loop Walks are an easy to moderate intensity and distance, while bikes can be hired in Kilmallock or Ardpatrick for a few hours’ ride. Feeling more adventurous? The Outdoor Activity Center at the Blackwater Castle Estate offers kayaking, archery, zorbing, zip line and laser clay pigeon shooting.

Historic Ballyhoura

Entry to Faerie Land

Lough Gur, entry to Faerie Land


One of Ireland’s greatest – and most unknown – treasures lies just south of Limerick. Lough Gur was once the home of some of Ireland’s first people and the lake itself has yielded many treasures, like the Sun Shield of Lough Gur, a stunning Bronze Age shield that can now be seen at the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin.

The Sun Shield of Lough Gur

The area around Lough Gur almost shimmers with Celtic magic. From the Wishing Seat near the lake to Cárraig Crothera (Hangman’s Rock) high above where the Desmonds would hang their enemies, every step around Lough Gur seems steeped in Irish history.

Inside the Giant's Grave

Inside Giant’s Grave


Not far away you’ll find the ‘Giant’s Grave’, a Megalithic tomb used by some the region’s earliest people, and just over the hill lies the Grange Stone Circle; the largest in Ireland.

The Largest Stone in Ireland's Largest Stone Circle

Largest stone in Ireland’s largest stone circle


You could easily spend a day exploring the castles, standing stones and ring forts that are scattered throughout this area. To get a greater understanding of what you can experience, begin at the Lough Gur Visitor’s Center. It’s very inexpensive to enter (cash only) and invaluable to understanding what you will see. Don’t forget an iTrails map to guide you!

Visiting Animals in Ballyhoura

At the Donkey Sanctuary in Ireland

In the far south-west of the Ballyhoura region lies the happiest place on Earth. Especially if you’re a donkey. The Donkey Sanctuary in Liscarroll is home to over 600 neglected and abandoned donkeys. Now healthy and happy, they wander the sanctuary’s extensive acreage which will be their home for the rest of their days.

The Donkey Sanctuary is free to visit and a friendly group of donkeys wait to welcome you. Make a stop in the gift shop to pick up a stuffed donkey or adopt a donkey for only €20 before you leave.

At the base of the Ballyhoura Mountains near Kilfane is Molanna View Farm. A working dairy, you’ll find beautiful Friesian cows (and their calves), ponies and donkeys. Enjoy a guided tour or a walk by the river.

If it’s horses you seek, travel to the Glen of Aherlow for a trail ride with the Hillcrest Riding Centre. A one-hour ride is only €22 for adults and €17 for children.

Traditional Irish Ballyhoura

You’ll find traditional Rambling Houses and Irish Dancing across the region. Learn some steps at the Ballinvreena Community Hall (September-April) or Ballinvreena Crossroads Dancing (May- September) on Sunday nights or a the Greenwood Inn in Ardpatrick on Mondays, year round.

More than a dozen Rambling Houses can be found if you only ask about. Filled with music, dancing and storytelling, they celebrate Ireland and her people.

Ballyhoura with kids: where to stay

A Warm Welcome at The Old Bank B&B
When visiting Ireland I opt for a bed and breakfast and the loveliest in the area is the Old Bank B&B in Bruff. While termed a luxury B&B, you’ll find that it is warm and inviting for families – even having a few rooms connected by interior doors! Terrifically spacious rooms and bathrooms, an incredible breakfast and inviting sitting room make this my first choice in Ballyhoura.

There is so much more in the Ballyhoura region than I could even touch on in a single post. It’s an amazing part of Ireland that I can’t wait to return to and explore further!

Have you been in Ballyhoura?

at Clonmacnoise (338x640) 

 Jody Halsted is a freelance writer and family travel authority. Jody’s love of Ireland led her to publish Ireland With Kids, sharing the joys of family travel to the Emerald Isle, where she and her family vacation annually (if not more often!) Living the dream in Iowa; dreaming of living in Ireland.

All photos courtesy of Jody Halsted.

Hop over to this week’s Travel Photo Thursday for more fun photos.


24 Responses to “Exploring Ireland’s Ballyhoura with kids”

  1. Leigh 21 February 2013 0015 #

    I hadn’t heard about this part of Ireland but I can see why your youngest daughter wants to visit. I think I’d opt for a luxury B&B if it offered a roaring fire and a piece of cake too.
    Leigh recently posted..Hiking in the Sierra Nevada del Cocuy Range, Colombia

  2. Jody 21 February 2013 0127 #

    Leigh- Ballyhoura is hidden in plain sight, between the far more well known areas of Killarney and the Cliffs of Moher. So many people drive past or through it and don’t realize it. If you are in Ireland and enjoy outdoor activities, this is the place to visit. And definitely stay at The Old Bank. I promise you an amazing stay!
    Jody recently posted..Itinerary for Your First Ireland Family Vacation

  3. jan 21 February 2013 0444 #

    I have not been but love all things Irish. Those donkeys are gorgeous.
    jan recently posted..Budget Experience – Madrid’s Retiro Park

  4. Jackie Smith 21 February 2013 0629 #

    Love that first photo in particular!
    Jackie Smith recently posted..On the Road in Tuscany. . .

  5. Muza-chan 21 February 2013 0751 #

    I love donkey too…
    Muza-chan recently posted..The Moss-Covered God

  6. Andrew Graeme Gould 21 February 2013 1424 #

    What a good idea to feature Jody’s blog, Sophie. Ballyhoura has plenty to offer, then. That Bronze shield is stunning.
    Andrew Graeme Gould recently posted..Happy birthday in La Serena… and some changes to the blog

  7. I’m learning alot about Ireland from Jody’s posts! Great insider tips. I think it would be fun to try my hand at a little Irish dancing :)
    Debbie Beardsley @ European Travelista recently posted..Keeping An Eye To The Ground In Freiburg

  8. InsideJourneys 21 February 2013 2214 #

    Never heard of this part of Ireland but I’m with your daughter, I want to go!
    InsideJourneys recently posted..Reach Falls Jamaica

    • Jody 22 February 2013 1347 #

      Most people drive through the Ballyhoura region on their way to the Rock of Cashel, Killarney or Cliffs of Moher and don’t realize it. :) Once you know it’s there, you can’t overlook the incredible activities!
      Jody recently posted..Hore Abbey near the Rock of Cashel in Ireland

  9. Michael Figueiredo 21 February 2013 2245 #

    Very interesting, Sophie. I’d never heard of this area either but it seems really beautiful.
    Michael Figueiredo recently posted..The Los Angeles Times Travel Show 2013

  10. Mette - Italian Notes 22 February 2013 1017 #

    Ballyhoura looks like a place you just have to visit just to hear how they pronounce the name.
    Mette – Italian Notes recently posted..Panoramic bed and breakfast Genova

  11. Michele @ Malaysian Meanders 22 February 2013 1027 #

    The Old Bank B&B looks very inviting. I really like your photo of the Giant’s Grave, and the Grange Stone Circle sounds intriguing, too.
    Michele @ Malaysian Meanders recently posted..Tokyo Tower Day and Night

  12. Lisa from Gone With The Family 24 February 2013 1704 #

    I hadn’t heard of Ballyhoura either – it looks like a lovely area for families to visit! I’m adding it now to my list of places to visit when I get back to Ireland with my kids – my younger daughter would absolutely love the donkey sanctuary!
    Lisa from Gone With The Family recently posted..One Day in Geneva

  13. ashree 24 February 2013 1814 #

    Kids really like animal, right? It’s nice to see how they enjoy spending time in the zoo. That’s why I like to take them to the zoo. I’ve never been to this side of Ireland, but it seems nice. Worth to visit. Nice post!


  14. Anne-Sophie Redisch 4 March 2013 0431 #

    Thanks again for this post, Jody. Really enjoyed learning about an ‘unknown’ part of Ireland :)

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