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Family fun

03rd Sep 2022

Things to do with kids: We visited Malahide Castle and Gardens for a day of family fun

Malahide Castle

I don’t know about you, but I am forever on the hunt for fun, family-friendly things to do with the kids over the weekend.

Maybe it is my Scandi roots, but to me, weekends are for spending time outdoors, having time together as a family, discovering, exploring and just getting away from the house for a bit and having fun.

Hikes, parks, playgrounds, farmer’s markets, you name it, we are into it – which is why we were only delighted when Malahide Castle & Gardens asked us out for a visit over the summer – because despite only living a few miles away in Dundrum, we had never actually been before.

A quick Google search before our day trip out made me even more excited. An 800-year-old actual castle? Medieval history? Stunning gardens? A giant playground?  fairy trail? And an Avoca restaurant for when we got peckish? You don’t have to ask us twice.

Castle tour and ghost spotting

Being a lover of all things old and historical, I made sure we did the actual castle tour first when we arrived – I was not missing this!

Vast and impressive even before you step foot inside – Malahide Castle dates back to the 12th century and played an important role in medieval Ireland.

King Henry II actually gifted Richard Talbot the lands and harbour of Malahide for his services to the crown way back in 1185, and while the original stronghold built on the land was a wooden fortress, this was eventually superseded by a stone structure on the site of the current Malahide Castle. Over the centuries, rooms and fortifications were added, modified and strengthened until the castle took on its current form.

Our guide was amazing, and literally knew everything there was to know about the castle, the families that had lived here, their lives and what life and society were like back then. He entertained us all throughout the tour of the castle, and told stories that made us both giggle and gasp.

For instance, did you know that when somebody died back in the 13th and 14th centuries, they just placed them on the dining table for a couple of days – just to make totally sure they were actually funny dead before burying them? Yep, me neither. Nor did I know that serving – or even just displaying – a pineapple was a surefire sign you were super-rich, but that was, in fact, the case, our guide told us.

We marvelled at the paintings and the old nursery with its creepy-looking doll and wooden Noah’s Ark, and – speaking for both myself and my children – loved hearing about the ghosts that apparently haunt the castle – from the mysterious Lady in White to court jester, Puck, who was deeply unlucky in love, and still to this day is said to be nursing his broken heart in the turret where he used to live.

In fact, reports of spooky sightings at Malahide Castle go back as long as the castle’s 800-year history; which is hardly surprising when you consider the tales of battles, bloodshed and broken hearts surrounding this medieval building.

Butterfly House and Fairy Trail

After our tour of the castle, we headed back into the sunshine again and made our way over to the Walled Gardens and what happens to be Ireland’s only Butterfly House.

And trust me, if you are heading to Malahide Castle and Gardens, you don’t want to miss this. Walking into the stunning Butterfly House, set inside the Cambridge Glasshouse, you suddenly find yourself in the domain of the most colourful creatures on earth. It was really special to get to watch all the beautiful butterflies fly among tropical plants and around our heads.

And with over 20 species of butterfly housed here, it’s a paradise for both amateur enthusiasts and experienced lepidopterists (yes, I had to Google this word!).

After the Butterfly House, we picked up our Fairy Trail sheets at the information desk, and made our way over to the woodlands of the private West Lawn for the Fairy Trail.

According to the really nice lady at the information desk, the trail is approximately 1.8km which I reckoned would take us just over an hour to finish, as we would also be solving clues using the interactive booklets along the way.

With lots of fun sculptures, adorable fairy houses – and even a full fairy village complete with a fairy school, fairy supermarket and – obviously – the Tooth Fairy’s dental practice – we loved exploring all the hidden gems along the Fairy Trail – and I am happy to report we did solve all the clues and questions in the end, and found the Golden Key!


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Et innlegg delt av Trine Jensen-Burke ? (@trine_jensen_burke)

Food, glorious food

After the Fairy Trail, my children were begging to go see the playground – which is huge and well worth a visit should you be in Malahide. However, once that was all done, we were all utterly ravenous and made a beeline straight up to Avoca.

If you are anything like me and my children, you already have a bit of an obsession for all things Avoca, from the cookies to the coffee, the kids’ corner, the clothes, the trinkets, the books and last, but not least, the food.

Being a family of vegetarians, we do still some places struggle to find stuff we all want to eat when eating out, but Avoca is never one of those places – as was once more proven this time, as we all not only had choices to pick between, but also realised it all sounded so delicious we struggled to choose what to get.

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Et innlegg delt av Avoca Ireland (@avocaireland)

Our day trip to Malahide Castle and Gardens was so much fun – for all of us – and I can pretty much guarantee our first visit will absolutely not be our last.