Where can you see iron-age monuments and tombs that predate the Egyptian pyramids? Where you can sail to a different country in less than 15 minutes? Where you can captain a boat used in the tv show Game of Thrones and where you can fill your belly with an abundance of locally produced food and drink? The answer is The Boyne Valley in Ireland’s Ancient East.
On a trip to the Boyne Valley you’ll uncover stories of high kings and Vikings, explore castles and tombs and discover the history and heritage and lore and legends of Ireland’s Ancient East. The area is also known for its buzzing food scene and what’s produced here.
You can explore the region by foot or by ferry (from Dublin, Dun Laoghaire and Belfast), by bike or by boat but everything is in close proximity to each other meaning you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy the sights and really make the most of your much-deserved getaway.
So come on, what are you waiting for? it’s time to make a break for it and explore more of our magnificent country.
Slane Castle - Rock up and chill out on a guided tour of the concert castle
You can pretend you are rock royalty as you strut around the regal Slane Castle and grounds, just make sure you park your Rolls-Royce in the car park, not the pool.
Take the tour and learn all about the folk and the lore associated with this 18th-century castle and enjoy a trip down memory lane as you pour over the concert memorabilia that adorn the bar and restaurant. There’s also a distillery on site where you can see how the estate’s signature triple casked blend, Slane Irish Whiskey is made before enjoying a dram. Sáinte!
Boyne Boats - Paddle a boat from Game of Thrones through the Boyne Valley
Swap the car for a currach and paddle your way down the Boyne canal and through 5,000 years of history.
A currach is a traditional Irish boat with a wooden frame which is sealed with hide. These boats were used in the tv show Game of Thrones and learning how to paddle one is a great way to immerse yourself in history and feel like you are heading off to Pyke on a raid with Yara and Theon Greyjoy.
This interactive waterway experience with Boyne Boats starts in Oldbridge, near Drogheda (Ireland’s largest town) and during the 90-minute adventure, you’ll learn all about the history of the area while enjoying the beautiful, bucolic views.
Carlingford Adventure Centre - Get the adrenaline going at Carlingford Lough
Time to get the adrenaline pumping whilst having the time of your life being a daredevil at the Carlingford Adventure Centre. Fly through the trees on a zipline, test your mettle at the Aerial Adventure Park (don’t look down) and get wet and wild trying a whole host of water sports. This is a paradise for adventure lovers as well as being an ideal place for a fun family day out as there are plenty of tamer activities for little ones. A day out here can be a mild or wild as you like.
Tayto Park - Enjoy lots of things to do at this theme park and zoo
Tayto Park, in Ashbourne, County Meath, is Ireland’s only theme park and zoo in one. How cool is that? The theme park has attractions for all ages with scream-inducing rides for thrill-seekers and gentle activities for those looking for something a bit more subdued.
When the adrenaline has subsided, you can monkey around in the zoo with the primates, big cats, birds and reptiles. For an even more interactive experience, say hello to the farmyard animals in the petting zoo. After a rollercoaster of a day, treat yourself to and ice cream in the cafe or something more hearty in the restaurants.
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Causey Farm - A delicious day out for all the family
Home to cows, sheep, ponies and pigs as well as hens, a noisy gaggle of giggling geese and a retired turkey and his wife, Causey Farm in Fordstown, County Meath is a wonderful way to experience family life on a working farm.
It’s also an enchanted place for children where they can search for dairy fairies and follow the tasty ice cream trail which has games to play, puzzles to solve and giant bubbles to blow. Of course, there is also ice cream to be devoured along the way as well as enjoying plenty more scoops at the end at the Cow’s Lick Ice Cream Parlour. It’s a yum and fun day out for all the family.
Boyne Greenway - Stroll along the historic River Boyne
Blow off the cobwebs with a walk (or cycle) along the Boyne Greenway, which runs from Drogheda to the Battle of the Boyne Visitor Centre along the mystical River Boyne. This scenic riverside walk is dotted with heritage signs displaying information about Irish mythology relevant to the Boyne Valley. It’s an educational exercise! There are terrific views along the way too and a delicious slice of cake awaits you at the end in the cafe at the Battle of the Boyne Visitor Centre.
Carlingford Lough Ferry - Sail across the Lough of Legends
One of the most enchanting ways to enjoy the Lough is to take the Carlingford Lough ferry which connects the ancient Cooley Peninsula with the majestic Mourne Mountains in Northern Ireland. Climb aboard and sail across The Lough of Legends and feel the wind on your face and breathe in the fresh air. The scenery is mesmerising, the journey inspiring and following in the wake of the Normans (who set up the first ferry service across the Lough) makes it feel like a real adventure.
Slane Food Circle - Meet the food producers of Ireland’s Ancient East
The rich flavours of the Boyne Valley are captured by the food producers of the Slane Food Circle. And lucky for you, you can treat your tastebuds and tummy to some of this flavourful produce with provenance by taking a Slane Food Circle Food Tour. Meet the producers, hear their stories and see how the food is made before tucking in and enjoying the fruits of their labour. The region is notable for its delicious goats’ cheeses, oils, cider, organic vegetables and meats, and a whole lot more. Bring your appetite.
Brú na Bóinne - Marvel at the sites that predate the Pharaohs
Brú na Bóinne is one of the largest and most important prehistoric megalithic sites in Europe. The wondrous circular passage tomb at Newgrange is over 5,000 years old and predates the pyramids of Egypt. But although Newgrange is the big draw here, it is just one of a huge complex of sites in what is known as the ‘Archaeological Ensemble of the Bend of the Boyne’.
You were probably here many moons ago on a school trip - we all were - but it’s time to revisit this UNESCO World Heritage Site especially now that it has had a €5m facelift. The slick facilities include a café, gift shop, tourist information point, picnic area and shuttle buses to the different monuments. The area is also a lot more child-friendly now and more assessable for wheelchair users too.
Loughcrew House and Gardens - Immerse yourself in the compelling history
Steeped in history and full of beauty, Loughcrew House and Gardens, located in the middle of rolling drumlins in north County Meath, is a peaceful place to while away a few hours strolling around the extensive grounds. Relax in the 17th and 19th-century landscape and pleasure gardens, enjoy the tranquility of the water garden, admire the splendour of the herbaceous border and get wrapped up in the fantasy of the Fairy Trail with the children.
Also on the grounds are a medieval motte and St. Oliver Plunkett’s family church among other old buildings. A visit really is a lovely way to spend a few hours unwinding and appreciating the beauty in nature - a much-needed tonic.
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2020 is the year of discovering the magic on our doorstep. Whether you have a few hours, a day, weekend or longer, now is the time to make a break for it!
With its fabulous food scene, adventure activities, historical and heritage sites and plenty of ways to connect with nature, the beautiful Boyne Valley on Ireland's Ancient East is a destination which is sure to keep the whole family happy, whatever type of break you desire.
Limited capacity and procedures may be in place at visitor attractions, sites, and restaurants so you are encouraged to book ahead to avoid disappointment!