Belfast Telegraph

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50 fun-filled ideas for the whole family to enjoy in Northern Ireland this summer

By Christine Carrigan

Sunny days, rainy days, studious kids or adrenaline-charged teens, we’ve got everything covered in this extensive guide.

1. Gruffalo Grotto

Colin Glen Forest Park in Dunmurry is home to Northern Ireland's only official Gruffalo trail. Children can come face to face with the Gruffalo and friends once they venture through the Gruffalo Archway to begin their journey.

The sculptures are set against the backdrop of the natural beauty of the park, making it a treat for kids and adults alike, and it is free! For more information, visit www.colinglen.org

2. Wardrobe Wonder

Dash through the wardrobe at Kilbroney Forest Park in Newry and find you and your family lost in the magical world of Narnia. The trail will lead visitors to interpretive stations at the The Beavers’ House, the citadels and many more locations from the novels, immersing all visitors in the enchanting story created by one of Northern Ireland’s most famous writers, C.S. Lewis.

For more information, visit www.discovernorthernireland.com

3. Magical Mystery

Slieve Gullion Forest Park in Armagh is home to the Giant’s Lair children’s story trail, a magical living story book designed to take visitors on an unforgettable wjourney. Children can follow Flynn the fairy, who has one important job — not to wake the giant!

For more information, visit www.discovernorthernireland.com

For Adventurous Antics

4. Jungle Hi-jinx

Situated in Magherafelt, Jungle NI boasts a variety of activities for whatever the family might fancy. Archery? Body zorbing? Llama trekking? There is something for the young and those still young at heart. Only a 45 minute drive from Belfast, The Jungle, nestled in the enchanting woodland of the Sperrin mountains, is open on various dates throughout the summer, with activities priced at £3 each or 6 for £15.

For more information, visit www.thejungleni.com

5. Voyaging Visits

Treat the family to a sea safari trip and afternoon tea at the Castle Ward Estate. Courtesy of Clearsky Adventure Centre, you can voyage along Strangford Lough, taking in the magnificent views of Salt Island, or maybe spot seals playing at Angus Rocks Lighthouse, before parking at the ancient quay to explore the wildlife and tuck into afternoon tea.

For more information, visit www.outdoorni.com

6. Horse Play

Want to learn how to ride like your favourite adventurer? Give horseback lessons a try at Lessans Riding Stables in Carryduff. The Kids’ Summer Camp will run for three days, on July 24, 25 & 26. The camp provides practical and theory lessons, including flatwork, jumping, cross-country, games and, of course, loads of fun with new friends!

For more information, visit www.lessanridingstables.com

7. Hey-Ho P&O

Sail from Larne to M&D’s Theme Park in Scotland for the day, with Stena Line. M&D’s is Scotland’s largest collection of rollercoasters, water rides, gentle rides for small children and has soft play areas. The trip includes return superfast ferry travel, return coach transfers, an unlimited ride wristband and a free game of golf at Devil’s Island.

For more information, visit www.stenaline.co.uk

Heritage Hunters

8. Mansion Madness

Take a step back in time, and explore the 18th Century Mount Stewart House and Gardens, filled with treasures that are perfect for those with a keen thirst for history.

For more information, visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk

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Mount Stewart House and Gardens

9. Sea Sensation

Take a trip to the Titanic centre, situated in the heart of Belfast. Learn about the thriving industries and innovations of Belfast’s past and how the doomed liner was created. Experience interactive galleries, rides and full-scale reconstructions.

For more information, visit www.titanicbelfast.com

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Titanic Belfast both offer a wealth of entertainment

10. Giants Galore

If you’re wanting to make the most of the good weather, why not take the family to the legendary Giant’s Causeway? Set against the backdrop of the stunning north coast, relax as the kids relive the myth that is Finn MacCool, or was it simply formed due to a volcanic eruption?

For more information, visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk

11. Royal Rambles

Explore the grounds of Hillsborough Castle, before touring the 18th century Georgian mansion, which today plays the role of the official residence of the Royal Family when they visit here.

For more information, visit www.hrp.org.uk

12. Folk Revival

Step back in time and discover what life was like for ordinary people in Northern Ireland, at the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum in Cultra. Discover cottages, farms and much more as you explore the folk museum and chat to costumed guides. Hop on and off old-fashioned locomotives or experience the sensation of flight in the transport museum.

For more information, visit www.nmni.com

13. Conquering Carrick

Take a trip to one of the best preserved medieval structures in Northern Ireland. Carrickfergus Castle was built more than 800 years ago by the Normans, and played an important military role in the country until 1928. The castle is steeped in military history, housing historical displays as well as cannons from the 17th to the 19th centuries.

For more information, visit www.discovernorthernireland.com

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Carrickfergus Castle

14. Tour the North

Fall in love with Northern Ireland’s most beautiful and famous coastline, all over again. Take a trip to the north coast and explore the ruins of Dunluce Castle, before braving the treacherous Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, strolling under the Dark Hedges and taking in the stunning views at Ballintoy harbour — all for free!

For more information, visit www.discovernorthernireland.com

Rainy Days

15. Sweetie Solitude

Aunt Sandra’s candy factory in East Belfast is available for family tours, when you can sample the homemade candy being made right in front of your eyes.

For more information, visit www.auntsandras.com

16. Water Wonders

Spot and learn all about marine life, at Exploris Aquarium in Portaferry. Recently remodelled, the aquarium now boasts a reptile section, featuring an African crocodile, Madagascan Geckos, pythons and much more. Head along this Saturday and Sunday (July 15-16), to celebrate Shark Awareness Day and World Snake Day.

For more information, visit www.explorisni.com

17. Planet Playtime

Have an intergalactic experience at Armagh Planetarium! Travel through space, exploring galaxies and planets in the digital theatre show. This summer will see the return of the Force Academy, for any young Jedis you have at home.

For more information, visit www.armaghplanet.com

18. Treasure Galore

Do you want to see real treasure, an ancient civilisation or a modern masterpiece? Ulster Museum in Botanic has it all! With the added bonus of a souvenir edition explorer map and stickers available for free from the welcome area, who could resist?

For more information, visit www.nmni.com

19. Jumping Joys

Can’t bear the thought of being cooped up inside all day? Pop into We Are Vertigo. The trampoline park and ski centre in Belfast is the perfect place to let children of all ages blow off steam. Conquer the wall,challenge friends to a gladiator duel, or master the high ropes course.

For more information, visit www.wearevertigo.com

20. N-ice ice

Fancy something a little different? Put your skates on and get down to Dundonald ice rink for hours of entertainment, as you learn to conquer the ice. Under 12? Let them adventure through Indiana Land, the jungle-inspired indoor adventure playground, or put everyone’s skills to the test with a game of 10 pin bowling.

For more information, visit www.theicebowl.com

21. Odyssey Oasis

Escape to the SSE Arena in Belfast, the former Odyssey Arena, for those rainy days. Explore W5, learn about science through interactive exhibition stations, or relive the Big Bang at the live demonstration show. Science not your thing? Kick back and relax with a bucket of popcorn at the Odyssey cinema.

For more information, visit www.ssearenabelfast.com

22. Taytotastic

Take a tour at the Tayto factory in Tandragee, and discover how one of Northern Ireland’s best loved snacks is made. The fully guided tour will take you through each stage of production, meeting Mr Tayto himself and receiving free crisps along the way.

For more information, visit www.tayto.com

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The Tayto factory

23. Tag, you’re It

Looking for something different to do with the kids? Why not try lazer tag at Space Quest in Newry? Play solo, or as a team. The outer space themed arena can host 20 people at a time, perfect for battling it out with all the friends and family.

For more information, visit www.spacequestnewry.uknic.biz

24. Can you Escape?

At Escape Rooms Belfast, get trapped inside an ex-Soviet spy’s office, putting your skills to the test, as you solve puzzles to unlock the door and escape before he returns! Escape Rooms is located in Belfast city centre, and offers a mind stimulating and exciting game for the whole family.

For more information, visit www.escaperoomsbelfast.com

25. Getting along swimmingly?

Work off steam at Lisburn swimming complex. Jump, swim and slide away for hours of entertainment that will leave everyone too tired to bicker afterwards!

For more information, visit www.lisburncastlereagh.gov.uk

26. Disco Days

Get your boogie on at the Wigwam roller rink in Bangor. Skate away to dance anthems at the indoor roller disco, a fun activity for the whole family.

For more information, visit www.dayoutwiththekids.co.uk

27. Coolest Game in Town

You can’t beat the atmosphere of a Belfast Giants ice hockey match to cheer the kids up on a rainy day. A night out at the Belfast Giants gives you non-stop, hard-hitting, goal-scoring action, making it a fantastic night out for all ages.

For more information, visit www.belfastgiants.com

Sunny Days

28. Murder Mystery

Follow a self-guided treasure trail around Belfast, scanning the outside of buildings, plaques or anything that a clue can be hidden on, to eliminate suspects and capture the guilty party. The two mile trail is suitable for six plus, and might even bring out the inner child in you too.

For more information, visit www.dayoutwiththekids.co.uk

29. Crazy golf

Manoeuvre your way around pirate ships and ‘poisonous’ spitting tiki poles for a hole in one at Pirates Adventure Golf at Dundonald Icebowl. You even have a chance to win a free game at the 18th hole, if you can conquer the Tiki House.

For more information, visit www.theicebowl.com

30. Melody Magic

Relax in one of Belfast’s beautiful parks this summer, as live music plays in the background. Let the little ones boogie along to whatever might be playing as you take a well deserved rest on a near-by bench, patch of grass, or whatever you choose.

For more information, visit www.belfastcity.gov.uk

31. Walled Walkways

Do you pride yourself on your sense of direction? Well, those skills will be put to the test at the maze in Richardson’s Walled Garden in Co Antrim! The 19th Century garden has recently undergone refurbishment and now boasts a grand conservatory, a maze and much more. Surrounding the walled gardens, visitors can stroll through woodland, rose and wildlife gardens, providing plenty to do on a summer’s day.

For more information, visit www.discovernorthernireland.com

32. Escape to Paradise

Seaforde Tropical Gardens in Co Down offer a perfect day out for the family. Enjoy the extensive grounds and beauty of the free-flying tropical butterflies as you walk through the steamy jungle of the butterfly house.

For more information, visit www.seafordegardens.com

33. Farm Fun

Streamvale Open Dairy Farm is the first agricultural themed play village in Northern Ireland. Costumes are provided for children to dress up and encourage learning about food and farming, and to take part in demonstrations. Attractions include feeding and petting the animals, tractor rides, quad bikes and much more.

For more information, visit www.streamvale.com

34. Cavehill Climb

Cavehill Country Park is home to Cave Hill Adventurous Playground, archaeological sites, ecotrails, walking and orienteering routes and Belfast Castle. Enjoy the beautiful sights that the walking trails have to offer before exploring the Castle, which plays host to the Cave Hill Visitor Centre, featuring exciting displays on the history, folklore, wildlife and geology of the area and the story of Belfast Castle.

For more information, visit www.belfastcity.gov.uk

For Teens

35. Cool Coasting

Teenagers who think they are too cool for parents? Change their minds with coasteering! Using our beautiful coastline as an adventure playground, coasteering is an adrenaline fuelled activity, involving cliff jumping, bouldering and climbing, that is sure to put a smile on any teenager’s face. Two hour packages start from just £35.

For more information, visit www.causewaycoasteering.com

36. Game of Phones

Can you win the battle of getting your teen to ditch their phone this summer? Have a go at archery at Castle Ward in Co Down, one of the locations where the BAFTA award winning Game of Thrones was filmed. Book a trip to Winterfell and take aim where young Bran was taught archery by Jon Snow.

For more information, visit www.clearsky-adventure.com

37. Cavern climbing

Why not treat your teen to caving at the magnificent Marble Arch caves in Fermanagh? Cavers can explore the fascinating natural underworld of rivers, waterfalls, winding passages and lofty chambers, for an alternative way to view the ancient caverns, if a guided tour isn’t their thing!

For more information, visit www.marblearchcavesgeopark.com

38. Can you canoe?

Have a go at canoeing at Shaws Bridge, just 10 minutes from Belfast. The River Lagan is a top place for a good time on the water with Mobile Team Adventure. No experience is necessary and all equipment is provided. The sessions run every Saturday until September, and family bookings can be made.

For more information, visit www.discovernorternireland.com

39. Sky’s The Limit

Have a thrill-seeking teen, who needs an adrenaline hit? Test their nerve with the high ropes course at Sky Trek, based in the Colin Glen Forest Park. Just a 10 minute drive from Belfast city centre, there is a range of activities to choose from, including 90m zipwires and a freefall!

For more information, visit www.skytrek.tv

40. Fast lanes

Have a need for speed? Or a car obsessed teen? Take the family go-karting at the two kilometre Nutts Corner circuit. The carts reach a max of 55mph, giving that racing thrill, in a controlled environment. There are a variety of courses and options to choose from, perfect for beginners or returning speedsters.

For more information, visit www.nutscornercircuit.com

41. Survival of the fittest

Could your teens handle a survival night in the woods? Test their tactics with Northern Ireland Survival school, which teaches everything from shelter construction and wild food to fire making, tracking, and much more, equipping your teens for whatever unexpected turns life might have for them.

For more information, visit www.nisurvival.co.uk

For longer breaks

42. Zoo-tacular

Keep your little explorers busy this summer, with an adventure of a lifetime at Belfast Zoo. The Explorers Club will run until August 18. Each five-day programme for 7-11 year olds costs £150 and gives them the opportunity to be a zoo keeper while exploring and learning about the wonderful life of endangered species.

For more information, visit www.belfastzoo.co.uk

43. Sporty Summer

Queen’s University will be running sports themed summer schemes for six to 14-year-olds, who can learn new skills that promote a healthy lifestyle, in a fun environment. The scheme is one week long, and multiple blocks will run until August 18.

For more information, visit www.queenssummerscheme.com

44. Surf’s Up

Learn how to surf at Alive Surf School in Portrush. The programme runs every week (Monday-Thursday) and is open to parents and children, if you’re feeling left out of all the fun!

For more information, visit www.outdoorni.com

45. Country Getaway

Why not take a camping trip at Carnfunnock Country Park in Larne? With an endless list of activities, including crazy golf, orienteering and cycling, to keep children entertained, it makes for a great stay-cation. Or head along to one of the many event days being held this summer. Do you want to embark on a teddy bears’ picnic, listen to live music on Sunday, or get creative with Art In The Park?

For more information, visit www.carnfunnock.co.uk

46. Forest Fun

Tollymore Forest Park is located at the foot of the Mourne mountains, offering stunning views of the sea at nearby Newcastle.

The park has lots of character and facilities for families, which includes a sports centre. It is a fantastic area for many outdoor activities, including walking, caravanning/camping, horse riding and orienteering and has a fantastic Nature Play Space for the kids.

For more information, visit www.outdoorni,com

Wildlife seekers

47. I Spy Espie

Get up close to Northern Ireland’s largest collection of native and exotic water birds, bats and migrant birds, while taking in the stunning views of Castle Espie.

For more information, visit www.wwt.org.uk

48. Eco Friendly

Want your children to learn about the dangers of climate change in a fun environment? Look no further than the Ecos Centre in Ballymena. There is a range of activities available, from animal spotting to pond dipping, to teach childen the importance of protecting the environment for the species that live in it.

For more information, visit www.culturenorthernireland.org

49. Rocking Rathlin

Start your wildlife adventure with a ferry ride from Ballycastle over to Rathlin Island, where you can spot dolphins and seals basking on the rocks, before conquering one of the six trails the island has to offer. Finish at the RSPB seabird centre, which is educational and enjoyable for all ages.

For more information, visit www.rathlincommunity.org

50. What a Hoot

Treat the family to a wildlife trip that strays from Northern Ireland’s native species. Visit World of Owls in Randalstown, a conservation centre for owls, birds of prey, reptiles, mini-beasts and much more. Bring a picnic or treat yourself at the cafe, before playing in the adventure park or touring the visitor centre. There are plenty of activities to keep the family entertained all day.

For more information, visit www.worldofowls.com

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