5 days out in Carlow and Kilkenny
In August 2015, the DayOut team hit the road for another annual days out adventure, this time visiting venues in the Carlow and Kilkenny area. 5 days out in Carlow and Kilkenny is our guide to the best day out attractions and things to do in the area.
Accompanied by our good friends and trusty ‘2nd family’, we made our way out of Dublin where our base this year was the family lodges at the 4 star Mount Wolseley Hotel, Spa & Golf Resort, located in Tullow County Carlow.
Now, in the past, we’ve stayed in Kerry and also Cork so this journey was going to be shorter. I was concerned that we would be on Dublin’s doorstep and it wouldn’t feel like we were away. My concerns however soon evaporated, as we made our way out of Dublin via the Naas Road, past Naas and took the M9 Waterford exit. We were soon driving through sprawling countryside and as the motorway stretched away in the distance, we were truly out of the city and in holiday mode. Wonderful scenery greeted the eye and the landscape was a canvas of hedgerows, hay bales and livestock.
In the interests of thoroughness and in the event that you fine people out there might be following in our footsteps, to reach Mount Wolseley, you are traveling until you reach junction 4 on the M9, signposted for Castledermot. It’s about a 20minute drive when you come off the motorway, heading through Castledermot, into Tullow and then out to Mount Wolseley. You’ll come in to Tullow on a T junction, go left over the bridge and then it’s an immediate right to head out in the direction of the hotel.
The approach to the hotel is lovely, a tree lined avenue which is surrounded by greenery and the beautiful parkland golf course on your right hand side. Our holiday ran Saturday to Saturday which we know is 7 days. We titled this article ‘5 days out in Carlow and Kilkenny’ as we took the Tuesday out to take a run to Waterford to visit some friends, so we spent 5 days in total visiting day out venues.
Our articles are written with families in mind, as parents ourselves, we traveled with kids 9, 6 and 3 years old. Family No.2 had 4 children age 11, 9, 6 and 3, hence our group in total had 4 adults and 7 children.
What did we think of the family lodges at Mount Wolseley Hotel, Spa and Golf Resort? Read out review here
Day 1 – Sunday – Days Out in Carlow
Rancho Reilly, Carlow
What is it: A large, mostly outdoor play area and pet zoo located on gravel, tarmac and green field. There are some shed type buildings housing small animals and reptiles and the site is also a tent and camper van site for regular annual visitors.
In our business with DayOut.ie, which is dedicated of course to promoting day out activities and things to do across Ireland, we would be aware of many of the popular attractions available to families. Rancho Reilly has popped up on our radar several times, both as a play activity location and also for their Seasonal events at Halloween and Christmas. We wanted therefore, to take this one in while we were visiting the area.
From Mount Wolseley Hotel, Rancho Reilly is about a 25 minute drive. You are heading out of Tullow for Carlow town and specifically Springhill Road. Google maps will get you within 10 minutes of Rancho Reilly, after this keep your eyes peeled for local directional signs.
Inside the main entrance area, it’s a cosy little tea room in a converted barn type building, along with a little tuck shop, serving hot drinks and snacks. There’s a small indoor play area and small toddler area too. These are small. Next door to this room are 2 other rooms which serve as extended seating areas during the Summer months and then become part of the Seasonal experience, particularly at Christmas.
There was a lovely warm welcome from the folks at Rancho Reilly and a great big tray of tea and coffee for the adults in our group which just hit the spot and set us up nicely for a bumper few hours of play and activities with the kids.
What’s on offer at Rancho Reilly?
- Meet the Animals
- Fun outdoor areas
- Donkey rides
- Frog hunting
- Barrell train ride
- ‘In the ground’ trampolines
- Hay Bales (obviously seasonal & weather permitting)
- Small indoor play area
- Outdoor obstacles (planks, steps etc.)
Just outside the tea area then you have some slides and little obstacles. Located outdoors and subject to all types of weather, these items can’t help appearing worn and well used. All functional however and the kids don’t mind.
Some nearby outhouses caught our eye and our friendly guide Eoin was beckoning us in that direction, what’s going on in here we wondered?
Next thing I know, I have a snake around my neck and a small dragon reptile on my head. Up close and personal for sure but highly enjoyable and a great way to break the ice and dive straight in. My little daughter looked at her daddy with the ‘OMG’ expression, slowly blurting out “eh, daddy you know there’s a ‘real’ snake around your neck”, “eh, it’s moving daddy”.
Here I was, her daddy, now elevated to status of ‘super daddy’ with something they would only usually see behind glass or in a book and it was around my neck and moving up the side of my face. She looked at me with a mixture of excitement and concern but I winked back and let her know it was all okay. She still took a step back however, I imagined she was probably just giving herself room to take it all in!!
When it comes to the kids, we’re all big softies and it was really beautiful to see them sitting with rabbits and hamsters on their laps, petting and feeding stalks of lettuce. This experience is something deeply personal for each child and helped to make it a such a memorable day out and experience for our gang.
We spent the next couple of hours just strolling about and playing outdoors, without a tablet, Xbox or DS in sight! Our friendly guide Eoin was on hand and gave each of the kids a donkey ride, followed then by a ride on a small pony. Lots of laughter here as he swung them right over the other side of the animal the first time they were trying to sit up on top. All of the kids had a ride on a donkey and a pony – “best day ever”!!
A hugely enjoyable day out for the kids. Lots to do and see, exploring, meeting animals, frog hunting and going for a splosh in the barrel train. Play items, go karts and barrel train etc. are all a bit rough and ready and well used but run with it and let the kids have a go. Our bunch still talk about this day on our holidays. We visited many venues and this was definitely one of their favorites!
It’s really nice to get a surprise now and then. Rancho Reilly has activities that are truly unique, outdoors and hands on. I don’t know of an other venue where you can go ‘frog hunting’ in long grass on the same site as all the other activities. This consisted of shuffling thru some shins high grass, then standing back to watch tiny frogs leaping about. It was beautifully simple and just perfect on a Summer’s day out. Similarly, having a guide with you who gathers the kids around to help flip over log stumps so you can collect bugs to feed the reptiles is also truly unique. Great outdoor experiences!
Just quick note I wanted to include about hay bales!. Now, I know hay bales are a common feature for many but on the day of our visit, Rancho Reilly had about 8 or 10 big round hay bales in the centre of a green area. For us city folks, the fun we had with the kids jumping from one to the other and rolling about thru piles of straw! The smell of newly cut straw honestly transported me some 20 years back to a childhood where we would play like this every season in the fields behind our house. It was just a super day out and if the online reviews for Rancho Reilly are anything to go by, visitors to this venue feel exactly the same way!
Admission: €6 per child, €3 per child. Rancho Reilly provide hot food and drinks but they have no problem with families bringing picnics to have on the grounds. Also with admission, there is no time limit to your visit. Stay all day if you wish! Check them out here
After a hectic day out at Rancho Reilly, there was just enough energy left with our gang to manage a small dip in the pool at Mount Wolseley Hotel when we got back.
Day 2 – Monday – Days Out in Kilkenny
Castlecomer Discovery Park
We got up on the Monday, start of our week to a beautiful sunny morning. That’s the thing about Ireland – as the saying goes “if you got the weather, you wouldn’t go anywhere else”. It was the middle of August and the weather was balmy, we were honestly blessed with the weather while we were away.
On Monday, we were breaking for the border and heading for Castlecomer Discovery Park in Kilkenny. Took a different direction out of Tullow on this day, basically when you go over the bridge, don’t go right for Carlow direction, instead head straight thru the town and out past Tesco and Lidl. Take the right turn onto the Rathoe road and follow this road for about 15 minutes or so until you reach the N81. The N81 is actually the main Enniscorthy road and when you meet it, you are going to turn right, heading back towards the M9 motorway. Join the motorway heading for Kilkenny direction and basically keep driving until you see brown sign posts announcing Castlecomer Discovery Park.
What is it?
Castlecomer Discovery Park is a large woodland estate set over about 80 acres in Kilkenny. You arrive into a large car park area and from here, you’ll walk to the main reception area. Reception is located in a building which was previously the old farm yard and kitchen gardens of the estate. Today, this is a refurbished courtyard enclosed by a beautiful low roof stone building, separated into individual small craft units and education facilities.
It has an old style charm to it and images of coachmen with lanterns come to mind, which probably isn’t too far from reality given that this estate originally hails from around the 1630s, when it first belonged to a well to do English family called Wandesforde, who hailed from Yorkshire. The lands forming the estate were granted to Christopher Wandesforde, along with several titles of status from England’s monarch. (Isn’t history fascinating all the same when you do a bit of digging!)
The Castlecomer of today is a large sprawling woodland. This location is an absolute dream for outdoor lovers, with lakes, nature trails and forested areas. This writer was reared on Wicklow it comes to outdoors. (Probably why I started a web site about super days out in ireland too!)
For families and groups the main attractions at Castlecomer are:-
- Tree Top Walk
- Climbing Wall & Leap of Faith
- Woodland Play Area (3-8yrs, €5 gets you 2 laps of a small woodland obstacle course about 2 feet off the ground.)
- Lake – with peddle boats & kayaking
- Trout fishing
- Science & History exhibition
- Craft Studios (Castlecomer Craft Yard)
Situated close to the car park and entrance, you’ll find the Tree Top Walk. We met the guys at their welcome hut and got kitted out in our harnesses and hard hats. To describe this to you simply, it’s an obstacle course about 20ft off the ground. It’s really great fun and tests your mettle as you negotiate various wobbly rope bridges, wooden planks and platforms. The important thing to remember here is that you are always connected to the sturdy wire walkway system, so even if you let go all hands, you are connected and you can simply dangle there until you either get back on or the helpful guides come and get you. If you’re there, make sure you give the ‘Leap of Faith’ a go too!!!
Next we walked on thru the park and came across various little fairly villages in the trees. We heard that “this is where the fairies live” and you can even spot then around Christmas time when they come out to help Santa! Kids bubbling with excitement now and seeing minature houses and little windows carved into tree trunks caused some gasps and stunned silence. The little ones collected some nearby daisies and leaves and left them at the little houses as a gift. (Kids are just magic!)
Continuing on our walk about, we made our way to the largest lake in the park where the peddle boats are available. On our day the weather was fab and hence the lake area was busy with a short wait to get in our peddle boat. Life jackets are provided and the helpful staff will ensure you board the boats easily and help you get going. There’s a small charge here circa €5 for a family to use the boats but this was a great experience – you’ll basically do a few laps of the lake but the kids loved it. As mentioend they are peddle boats and usually only the adults can reach the peddles from the seat so the kids will make you work hard. We had some great laughter here as the ridder steering device, which is basically a handle, turns one way but makes you go the other way. The kids were at the helm on this and it actually took us about 5 minutes to back away from the dock! Lovely experience though just cruising around the lake – a flock of swans (flock of swans??) landed near us and it was a lovely sight. They stayed a few paces ahead of us and it was a lovely addition to our paddle about.
Leaving the lake we made our way back to the main reception and car park area. This walk provided an opportunity to explore the park further and we followed many trails which provided even more adventure and fun for the kids. We came across more little fairly houses in the woods on the way back, this time they were elevated off the ground which meant that they were obviously for the “fairies who were betterer at flying”.
Castlecomer Dicovery Park was another super day out. It ticks all the boxes for getting outdoors – walking, adventure, fun and plenty of picnic spaces to enjoy your day. The staff at the High Ropes and the main reception were really helpful and greet visitors with smiles and a warm welcome which is a great start to your day. Also to mention that there’s some lovely gift shops in the main reception and courtyard areas that promote local crafts and local produce.
Day 3 – Tuesday – Days Out in Waterford
As mentioned at the start of our article, Tuesday was a private day – we headed for Waterford to visit some friends. A lovely drive along superb motorway all the way to Waterford. Fabulous scenery showing patchworks of fields and bales and the weather was cracking! Incidentally, if you fancy the drive, you’ll actually get to Waterdford city inside 2 hours. Once you head out of Tullow, as per the Castlecomer article above, it’s a straight motorway run all the way to Waterford city.
Day 4 – Wednesday – Days Out in Kilkenny
Kilkenny Activity Centre
Daddies and mammies were excited on day 4 because we were heading to the beautiful Kilkenny Castle, full of amazing historical artefacts and bubbling with history. History had to wait however, as first were were making our way to Kilkenny Activity Centre.
Having done the Waterford trip on the day before, we spotted the signs for this venue on our way. Google maps got us right in the door after about a 40 minute drive form Mount Wolseley
Kilkenny Activity Centre is located at the back of a gravel car park. It’s a 1 minute walk around to the activity centre at the back. Now to give you some advance notice – you’ll probably want to pack a change of clothes for this one. We had these as we had done our research so we extend this valuable information to you, our readers 🙂
Kilkenny activity centre is a large outdoor venue that offers kids paintball (called splatball), an outdoor adventure/commando course for kids and also some other activities like bubble soccer. There’s also grown up paintball and this is the only venue in Kilkenny that actually does paintball.
During our visit, there was also a large indoor bouncy castle land off the main reception building which had lots of inflatables. Please check on this aspect of the venue however, as we heard that this may be discontinued.
We went for a briefing on the use of the splatball guns and to get kitted out with helmets. The daddies were told that we could also take park and straight away, I got the tip on the leg and looking over at my 9yr old son, was greeted with the ‘closed fist into open palm’ gesture which meant he was either trying out some new shadow creatures, or I was in for some trouble!!
We made our way outdoors, again the weather was on our side and we loaded up our shotgun type splat ball guns ready for the fun to start. There’s some pallet obstacles, tractor tyres and wooden sheets to shelter (hide!) behind. We played a game of ‘first one to the flag’ meaning the flag is in the centre, the two teams are at opposite ends of the course and when it starts, everyone makes their way to the centre to get the flag first. It was an ‘everyone for themselves’ day out, with bubble pellets whizzing all around and plenty of shouts, laughs and panting!. This activity went on for almost 30 minutes and it was really great fun – the kids absolutely loved this.
Our second game was ‘Hunger Games’ and as we’re all aware, it’s an elimination game, pitting skills, wits and speed against your opponents. I’ll write here that it was actually myself and my son who won this game and I mention that only for the thoroughness of my report! (ahem!). We still hi-five about it today as we reminisce about how, when we were running dreadfully low on ammo – I mean down to our last 4 shots, how we just jumped up and ran straight for our opponents. They fired off shots going wide of us, above us and as we got within range (out of breath with the sheer adrelin) we shot, scored and eliminated them from the game, becoming the winners ourselves. It was of course not about the competition and was just about the fun (ahem!).
We must have spent about 1 hour on splatball and honestly, this is ample time. The amount of energy you expend doing this is really something. For anyone out there, looking to lose weight, get fit and generally get in shape, playing paintball / splatball for an hour is all you’re gonna need!
Calling all Commandos!
So with very little left in the tank after an exhaustive but thrilling splatball session, we went into the next outdoor space to get ready for the commando course. To us parents, it all looked a bit rough and ready but to the kids, all they saw was fun! Pits in the ground full of muck and water that they were actually allows jump into?? They paused when they came to them, looked for daddy as if to ask….really? can I?? I had to tell them a few times….”it’s okay, go ahead” and this just made their day.
These items, obstacles, planks and gates have been outdoor in all weathers so there’s no frills here. You are basically climbing up, down, over and under a series of obstacles like logs, planks and tyres etc. For our group it was just a meander thru but many groups do this as a timed event. The last obstacle was a wooden hut / castle type of structure which looked fairly weather beaten. The kids climbed up thru the centre and emerged at the start of a long kids slide. One of the guys from Kilkenny Activity Centre chucked a bucket of water down the slide with each child which meant they went a little bit faster that normal. They loved it. I wasn’t very keen on the pool of murky water at the bottom but they were up and out of it and back up the top again for another go.
At the end of our commondo session, we all got together, filthy clothes, exhausted but beaming with smiles and got this snap below. You’ll see lots more snaps like this from Kilkenny Activity Centre.
DayOut Verdict: While appearing a bit rough and ready, there may be some who might like the obstacles to be fresher, cleaner and more modern etc. For entertainment value however, Kilkenny Activity Centre was right up there! You have to take these things as they come – holes in the ground will fill with water and the water won’t be clear. You’re going to get wet running around and there’s going to be mud involved. That’s part of the experience. A few hundred people climbing over obstacles every month means they are going to be worn etc. Remember to bring a change of clothes. We hand great fun on our day out. The staff were absolutely superb and the kids still talk about the splatball. That equals a great day out to us!
Kilkenny Castle is probably the most renowned and well known attractions in Kilkenny county. On the day we visited, it had a wonderful market going on outside and it was lovely to browse among the stalls and take in the athmosphere. It was a portal to times past, when markets would no doubt have been common place in the shadow of this magnificent building. Today, the Kilkenny Castle is in the care of the Office of Public Works (OPW), who carried out some of the most magnificent restoration work you are ever like to see on any historic building in Ireland. Tours are available from February to October and are both self-guided and guided.
For bookings: Tel: +353 56 770 4106, Fax: +353 56 770 4116 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Groups of 10 people and more must be pre-booked.
Kilkeny is a medieval town and has many historical buildings including St Canices Cathedral and the Black Abbey Dominican priory, both from the 13th century. The city also has 2 Michelin star restaurants, superb pubs and plenty of shopping. It is well known as a tourist destination and hence during peak Summer months, it can be a bustling place. It is however, well worth the visit when you’re in the area and has beautiful streets and laneways, many adorned with flower baskets and selling everything from jewellery, arts, crafts, home wares, clothing and lots more.
The Castle itself is the ost dominant feature in the town and attracts large crowds in the Summer months. This magnificent building is over 800 years old. Writing that and just thinking about it is simply mind boggling. The sheer history, legacy and lives of the site is stunning. In visiting places like this and as a history buff at heart, I am always captivated. How did they live and survive. How did they stay warm, what did they eat? I imagine the inhabitants walking the ‘garden’ or outdoor areas 400 years, 100 years ago, 600 years ago?
Built by the 1st Earl of Pembroke in the year 1195, it sat on an elevated position overlooking all approaches to a ford on the River Nore. The castle has remained through several centuries of turmoil, politics and changed ownership. Its walls and great halls bear witness to events, people and secrets the most of which we shall never know. It was just fascinating to browse through rooms where people once lived, leading privileged but sometimes troubling lives. It’s a place of amazing history, paneling, stonework and lots more. These places were built to be fortresses with solid granite block walls that were simply not for moving.
It was also fascinating to learn how the royal families all across Europe were connected and the peek into the lives, marriages and connections of these historical figures. I stood for a long time in that great hall and visions of all of the medieval movies I had seen came flooding back, from the real old days of Errol Flynn in Robin Hood, to Charlton Heston in El Cid, Braveheart, more Knights & Maidens and even Game of Thrones!
Further reading and investigation we leave to you, suffice to say that when you walk the same corridors and stand in that great hall, the history of who we are and how we got here becomes all the more fascinating. It’s somewhere you simply must visit.
DayOut.ie extend our thanks and gratitude to Mr John Burke, a true gentleman who was gracious of his time and not only welcomed us but accompanied us on a personal tour of Kilkenny Castle. It was the highlight in a week of highlights!
Visit Kilkenny castle for more
Day 5 Thursday – days out in Carlow
The Dome Play Centre
Another great venue for the kids, the Dome in Carlow has oodles of fun and activities to help them burn off that energy. The energy that will all know is usually diverted to cleaning their rooms and helping mam and dad around the house (you have a raised eyebrow now don’t you??!!)
The Dome is a large complex, situated beside the lovely 4 Star Talbot Hotel in Carlow. It’s easy to get to and is situated at a retail park that has some bigger stores like Dunnes Stores, Lifestyle Sports and others. There’s so much to do and you need to dedicate a half of you day out here because once the youngsters get in here, they are absolutely spoilt for choice and it’s unlikely you’ll get them out any time soon!
The venue is bright and spacious and by spacious we mean it has lots of room!. This is great as even if it gets busy you don’t actually feel under pressure to make room and move on etc. There’s a great variety of activities, from the actual large padded play center, an elevated fun soft soccer play area, slides, rope obstacles and go karts. Little tots have their own dedicated small play area, brightly coloured with soft ball pit and crawling areas.
There’s a large seating area for the grown ups and a lovely cosy little cafe with some very tastly coffees, drinks and snacks available.
One of the first things that struck us about the Dome was the cleanliness, it was absolutely spotless!We looked in on some brightly coloured party rooms with some cool wall murals that are sure to keep the kids happy.
The play area was large enough to keep our group of 5 kids entertained for a couple of hours. They absolutely loved it. Highly recommend this venue 🙂
COMING SOON: Comments on the ‘Chocolate Garden’ Carlow / Wicklow ( we visted on the Thursday afternoon)
COMING SOON: Comments on our Friday day out – at Mount Juliet Equestrian Centre and Kilkenny Reptile Zoo.
Accommodation in the Carlow Kilkenny area. Read our review here…
Mount Wolseley Lodges – Read our review here