London & Ireland: Fun for the Whole Family

Arri’s daughters pointing to Big Ben across the Thames.

Arri recently took a family trip to London and Ireland! From London’s bustling streets to the rolling hills of the Emerald Isle, they were able to experience the history and beauty that surround these two island nations.

In London, Arri and her family visited the popular sites of Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, and Piccadilly Circus.  At Kensington Palace, the exhibit Diana: Her Fashion Story displays Princess Diana’s iconic looks, including the velvet gown worn during her dance with John Travolta at the White House. Hyde Park’s wide open spaces provide a quiet refuge from the vivacious city streets.  A highlight of the trip was afternoon tea at the Covent Garden Hotel, where tea, sandwiches, and scones are served in a casual and family friendly space.

Delectable desserts and sandwiches at the Covent Garden Hotel’s afternoon tea.

After a quick flight over the Irish Sea, Arri and her family began their visit to Ireland.  In historic Dublin, the National Museum of Ireland exhibits ancient Celtic art, Irish nationalist propaganda, and contemporary masterpieces.  On display at Trinity College, the Book of Kells is a must-see attraction.  Believed to have been written in 800 AD, the intricately decorated manuscript contains the four Gospels, written in Latin by monks highly trained in calligraphy and the decorative arts.  A ticket to this exhibit also takes visitors through the towering wood shelves of the famous Trinity College Library where Harry Potter was filmed. St. Stephen’s Green is not just a lovely park to stroll through; it is also home to a number of sculptures created in remembrance of the Irish struggle for independence and the Potato Famine.  Here, Arri and her family embarked on the Viking Splash Tour, where an amphibious vehicle takes participants through Dublin’s Viking landmarks by land and water.

The arched ceiling of Trinity College Library.

Galway City’s cobblestoned pedestrian streets are lined with multilevel pubs and boutique shops that the whole family can enjoy.  Travelers can buy pure wool sweaters from the Aran Islands, enjoy a creamy pint of Guinness, and listen to singing buskers all on the same street.  Arri was lucky enough to be in the city during the Galway International Arts Festival, an annual two week event that displays a variety of art forms, including film, visual arts, and music.  

Galway City over the River Corrib.

Outside of the city, County Galway’s sprawling sheep sprinkled hills lead to the seaside town of Clifden, “The Capital of Connemara”.  Travelers can enter one of the town’s pubs for fresh fish and chips and later admire the mossy facade of Clifden Castle.  The village of Ballybrit is home to the Galway Races Summer Festival, which attracts spectators from all over Ireland and abroad to enjoy exciting horse racing and live music. Arri and her family attended the world famous midsummer races that occur for one week every year.

Bunratty in County Clare is a great place to end a trip to Ireland due to its proximity to Shannon Airport.  The town has more to offer than location, however.  Bunratty Castle and Folk Park provides a glimpse into daily life of Irish aristocrats and commoners.  The castle’s exterior reflects its former purpose as a defensive stronghold, while the interior boasts intricate ceilings and expensive wooden furniture used by Irish earls.  Bunratty Folk Park presents an image of Irish life in the nineteenth century, with a model village made up of houses, shops, a school, a post office, and other facilities. MacNamara and Sons is a working pub and a great place to rest your feet and enjoy a pint.  For Arri’s family, the highlight of the entire attraction was the Fairy Village, a whimsical wooded area dedicated to the mythical aspect of Celtic history.  Children love to peer inside the tiny homes and tunnels in the willow trees in hope of catching a glimpse of a fairy.

Arri’s daughters in front of Bunratty Castle.

London and Ireland are perfect destinations for the entire family.  With vibrant landscapes, stunning architecture, and fascinating history, there is something to be enjoyed by adults and children alike.