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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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
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
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?
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.
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- 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!
I have not been but love all things Irish. Those donkeys are gorgeous.
There are some really great travel deals right now. I have a few listed at IrelandFamilyVacations.com
Love that first photo in particular!
Thank you! The Donkey Sanctuary was really such a wonderful experience. How can you not love those faces?
I love donkey too…
What a good idea to feature Jody’s blog, Sophie. Ballyhoura has plenty to offer, then. That Bronze shield is stunning.
Thank you, Andrew! The Sun Shield is certainly the largest of the archaeological finds pulled from Lough Gur- but not the only one. It is truly amazing to see the history there.
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 🙂
I’m so glad you enjoyed this, Debbie! Irish dancing is fun- and great exercise! I still trip over my own feet, but my girls do wonderfully!
Never heard of this part of Ireland but I’m with your daughter, I want to go!
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!
Very interesting, Sophie. I’d never heard of this area either but it seems really beautiful.
This is a great year to visit and see Ireland! Check it out yourself- I promise you won’t be disappointed!
Ballyhoura looks like a place you just have to visit just to hear how they pronounce the name.
It is actually pronounced as it looks! 🙂 Bally-hoora. But worth a visit now that you do know!
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.
The Old Bank is incredibly inviting. It is termed a “luxury” B&B but was incredible for my family. Very friendly and such large rooms!
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!
My youngest fell in love with the donkeys! I even broke a self-imposed rule of no stuffed animals… we left with 2 stuffed donkeys and adopted Ritchie.
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!
Thanks again for this post, Jody. Really enjoyed learning about an ‘unknown’ part of Ireland 🙂
I really loved writing it! Thank you for letting me share!
I am trying to book with Hillcrest riding Centre, but can not reach them by email and don’t want to call as it is international. Do you have any advice on booking with them. You are the second person I have heard mention them! We are planning to do the donkey sanctuary too!
Hi Brooke! This post was written by Jody of irelandfamilyvacations.com – not sure she sees this, so I suggest you contact her through her website. Have a great trip 🙂