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'Zipline over the water': 6 adventure destinations around Ireland where the whole family can run wild

Grab the waterproofs, pack a picnic, and head for one of these activity-packed places.
May 30th 2019, 2:21 PM 16,815 5

THE OUTDOOR PLAYGROUNDS of Ireland are filled with more than just swings, roundabouts and bouncy castles these days.

They are family-friendly places with looped walks and cycle trails, wildlife on their doorstep, points of historic interest, as well as offering a vast range of well-run activities and ideal for a picnic stop.

Lough Boora Discovery Park, Boora, Co Offaly

This former commercial bog has been repurposed with leisure activities and is a magical place for children to potter and run around. Six flat and easy looped colour-coded walks weave their way through the park while bikes are available for hire for an hour or half-day.

Families can complete as much, or as little as they wish, of an off-road bike trail that runs up to 22km.

The permanent tactile sculpture walk consists of more than 20 pieces created by artists. This includes a toy-like turf train with six carriages arching over a mound which fires children’s imagination. The grounds are perfect for a snack at picnic tables from where you can look out for hares, or see golden plovers, lapwings or starlings.

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Lough Key Forest & Activity Park, near Boyle, Co Roscommon

Signposted walking trails range from easy to more strenuous routes, or you can take a boat trip out on the serene lake or hire a rowing boat in the summer. The exhilarating 300m-long tree canopy walk rises steadily to a 9m-high view of the park from the treetops. Bring a basket of goodies as the grounds are ideal for a picnic.

The Adventure Play Kingdom is a gem where kids love to spend time at Boda Borg, a brightly coloured Swedish-designed two storey-puzzle house filled with exciting activities for children and parents. Top attractions include towers, slides, zipwire, climbing frames, swings, electric bike routes and woodland segways.

Castlecomer Discovery Park, Castlecomer, Co Kilkenny

A little bit of history with plenty of adventure and imagination come together at this discovery park suitable for children from 2-12. Highlights include the Timber Tumbles playground, a well-maintained climbing wall, traditional swings and slides. A fun day out involves a stimulating visit to the elf and fairy village or an exploration of the natural woodland.

You can also choose from boating and treetop walking to a thrilling ride on Ireland’s longest over-water zipline. If you want to find about the history of coalmining in the area there’s a fascinating display in the museum beside the park. End your visit with sweet treats, ice-cream and light lunches at the wonderfully atmospheric Canopy café.

Carnfunnock Country Park, Ballygally, near Larne, Antrim Coast Road

Living up to its name, Carnfunnock Country Park, along the scenic Antrim Coast Road, puts the fun into a day out. All ages are catered for in this attractive playground where every conceivable type of equipment from slides and swings to bouncy castles and bungee runs is on offer. There’s a field for ball games and tug-o-war, as well as a superb maze for treasure hunters.

Adventures continue at the family zone with mini golf, remote control boats, a miniature railway and the much-loved wow balls. Smaller children love the face-painting and glitter tattoos by Facetastic operated beside the adventure playpark. The grounds are suitable for a picnic or you can enjoy snacks at the delicious Parklands café on site.

Fenor Play Park, near Tramore, Co Waterford

A small village with a big play area, Fenor can point to one of the most impressive adventurous multi-activity playgrounds in the country oozing enjoyment and a place for kids to forget about their screens. Built from stone and wood, the park reflects the surroundings of the Waterford countryside.

Try the zipline, jump on the tyre swings or climbing frame, or spend a while in the sandy play area or slide on top of boulders. Grab a coffee or sandwich at the Copperhen restaurant.

If you have the energy, the Copper Coast Open Pet Farm is five minutes’ drive by car, and as well as an indoor play area, it has sandpits, diggers, buckets, spades and toy tractors to drive.

The Manor Fields, Graigue, near Adare, Co Limerick

The tyranny of endless choice is the only problem with the Manor Fields play area since there are enough activities here to keep children of all ages occupied for the best part of a morning or afternoon. Senior and junior swings and climbing frames, as well as totem climbing poles are a big draw, while a trampoline, tunnels and an extra-wide hill slide are all popular.

Others love the Dutch disk, seesaw, zipwire or the balance beams and steps. Walking paths and grass pitches surround the play area; when you run out of steam, there’s even a hammock, or if you need a caffeine sit-down, picnic tables complete the picture. This is a cool park for young children but teenagers enjoy it too as there’s a special place for them to hang out.

On the way: 7 unmissable stops for an ice cream around Ireland – and what else to check out when you park up>

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Paul Clements

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