This summer we have a brilliant plan.
We have decided to take our children off the beaten track to discover something new about the country we live in.
This year we have decided to go East. We are embracing some of our country's richest heritage hotspots for a family adventure and a little history lesson along the way.
Here are some of the hidden gems you can find dotted around this beautiful area of Ireland's Ancient East, with over 5,000 years of history waiting to be explored
1. Telescopes and treehouses at Birr Castle
This impressive castle is found in one of the country's most beautiful heritage towns in the magical Midlands. The highlight of this trip is marvelling over the awesome telescope, known as the Leviathan.
It was built by the 3rd Earl of Rosse, and held the record for being the largest in the world for 70 years. The gardens make for a beautiful stroll with even a wildflower meadow for some super family snaps. At the foot of the castle, you will find the oldest suspension bridge in Ireland - an inspirational engineering feat.
The real showstopper here is the country's largest treehouse. Your little ones will adore exploring this gorgeous setting which includes sandpits and climbing frames.
The children will enjoy the guided tours, not least because the tour guides include the story of the O'Connor oak (which is more than 500 years old) and sits proudly in the centre of the grounds. The Demense of Birr Castle is best seen in these summer months as the Magnolia collection is simply breathtaking.
2. Explore a Gaol
This is a trip that you won't forget in a hurry.
Between 1702 and 1924, Wicklow Gaol
housed inmates who lived in some pretty brutal conditions, despite many of them being locked up for some minor offences. Hear the story of Thomas Pitt, an eight-year-old child who was flogged for stealing just a few coins. Other spine-tingling tales that will enthral you include the stories of prisoners who found themselves behind the foreboding walls simply for trying to feed themselves during the famine.
Although hidden away, these prisoners have not been forgotten. The children will love the interactive guide which gives a flavour of the history of the Gaol that is just spooky enough to give you the chills but is also fascinating to hear. You can see the desperate graffiti of prisoners on the old walls and even read the thoughts they left in a notebook that was only rediscovered in 1923.
You can plan your visit here
3. Explore ancient castles
If secret passageways and hidden corridors are your thing, then you need to visit Athlone Castle
Sitting pretty on the banks of the Shannon - you can take your kids on a journey and discover the story of Athlone Castle through a series of modern exhibitions, authentic museum artefacts, interactive games and an intense 360º cinematic experience of the Great Siege of Athlone. You will be fascinated by all the turrets and winding paths. The children can dress up in costume in the castle, or play the giant chess outside. It has courtyard picnic facilities and picturesque town views.
Another castle that should be on your must-do list is Blackrock Castle Observatory
on the outskirts of Cork City harbour. Although this impressive attraction is further afield, it is well worth adding to your next holiday agenda.
Tours of the castle are available alongside a range of cosmos activities for your little space hoppers. The best part of this is that you can send a message into space at the Pan Galactic Station which will travel via your own command to the castle's radio telescope and be beamed out towards the stars and planets.
An adventure that is simply out of this world!
4. Horse around at the National Stud in Kildare
This is a beautiful experience that will leave you and your family with very happy memories.
You will love the magnificent Japanese Gardens carefully crafted by Japan's most talented horticulturist, Tassa Eida. A guided tour of the adjoining stud
is also highly recommended. There are beautiful horses as far as the eye can see at this thoroughbred breeding centre which is one of the most successful in the world.
Other family-friendly activities include a fairy door, a fabulous playground, a restaurant and picnic areas. Best of all? There is plenty of space for the children to run around pretending to be horses.
5. Uncover the secrets of the Stone Age at Loughcrew Cairns
This is one of Ireland's most wonderful archaeological treasures - the site in Co. Meath comprises a group of 5,000-year-old Neolithic passage tombs. It is also seriously accessible. No booking, no queuing. The beauty about this passage tomb is that you can simply walk up the hill (in summer) and you are there!
The Irish name for the site is Sliabh na Caillí, which means "mountain of the witch". The story goes that the monuments came about when a giant witch dropped the huge stones from her apron as she walked across the land. This tomb is also said to be the resting place of Ollamh Fodhla, a legendary King of Ireland.
For those who are up for a little bit of adventure as well as history, you need to get yourselves to the nearby adventure centre. Loughcrew
is located in a stunning forest setting - it boasts a climbing wall as well as the longest zip line in Ireland.
Post-adventure you can enjoy a coffee and stroll around the stunning gardens. The kids will also love the tree climbing opportunities.
As someone who is a big fan of Irish mythology and our country's magical rituals, I love the idea of introducing my children to the same traditions and experiences, helping to nurture their spirit of adventure.
Not only can I recount stories from my own childhood to my little ones, we can create brand new memories together that hopefully, they will pass onto their children too.