Belfast Telegraph

Moments to make memories this spring

W5, Belfast
W5, Belfast

Family time together is what happy memories are made of.

This Easter, wherever you live in Northern Ireland, there’s much to discover and enjoy, from energetic action to animal adventures, from children’s baking classes to magical fairy trails and tales! And many of them are free.

Share the fun and make some family memories to cherish with a short break this Easter!

Derry~Londonderry: the wonders of the Walled City

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Climbing wall, Carrowmena Activity Centre, Limavady

Everyone is invited to the party as Derry~Londonderry’s famous walls celebrate their 400th birthday with music, craft fairs, Walled City Markets and kids’ creative workshops. Check-out WalledCity400.com for details.

Love the great outdoors? How about going glamping at Carrowmena Activity Centre in Limavady. There’s zip-lining, archery and wall climbing to surfing and kayaking. Afterwards, gather around the campfire for a story and a singsong.

Ready to saddle up? Hill Farm Riding Centre in Castlerock offers supervised pony trekking, hacking and beach rides. Or how about climbing aboard Damhead Miniature Railway near Coleraine for a steam ride on the custom-built track.

For water-based fun and a unique perspective on the natural world, Far And Wild specialises in tours of the Foyle waterways by paddleboard and kayak.

Or, explore the mysteries of marine life without leaving dry land at the Riverwatch Aquarium in Derry~Londonderry – admission is free.

For high-octane adventure, head to Foylehov Activity Centre in Limavady and take a spin in a hovercraft or whizz around in a Powerturn Buggy. There’s also laser tag, archery, clay pigeon shooting and the new sensation, footgolf.

Armagh & Down: indoors and outdoors fun

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Animal Wood, Castlewellan

Castlewellan Forest Park is perfect for a day out with its famous lake, stunning Victorian Castle, mountain bike trails, Animal Wood play area and famous Peace Maze among other things. Or how about Funny Farm Adventures in Castlewellan with its 8 ft tall Maize Maze, pedal karts, bouncy castle, mini assault course, giant slide, archery and laser clay shooting and more...

For indoor fun, Snakes ’N’ Ladders in Bangor has a huge frame made for climbing, sliding and swinging. There’s also mini go-karts, 5-a-side football pitch and more for everyone from babies up to around age 11. 

The 200-acre Delamont Country Park, outside Downpatrick, has a 5-star camping and caravanning site, adventure playground, miniature railway, barbecue areas, outdoor gym plus a range of walking and biking trails with stunning views of Strangford Lough.

Out on the Lough itself, a Clearsky Sea Safari from Castleward, follows the Viking path past ancient castles and lighthouses, a shipwreck and whirlpools. Look out for the Lough’s seal colonies, migratory birds and even dolphins and porpoises.

Hillsborough Castle and Gardens is reopening on April 18 after a major refurbishment with a packed programme of activities. Costumed characters, including America's founding father Benjamin Franklin, will regale you with stories from the castle’s history and join in a host of family activities include kite-making and a mass sing-a-along.

A visit to the Armagh Observatory and Planetarium in Armagh city is not to be missed. The 3D StarDome show will lead you on a breathtaking tour of the night sky. Back on earth, take a stroll through the Astropark gardens and explore the scale model of the solar system.

Fermanagh & Tyrone: biking, baking and beyond...

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Wee Buns Cookery School, Moy

Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark at Florencecourt, County Fermanagh, is an underground world of twisting passages, strange rock formations, rivers and waterfalls. Above ground, the Geopark is a beautiful landscape of forests, mountain trails and waterways.

Share Discovery Village in Lisnaskea, Ireland’s largest activity centre, offers archery, climbing walls, canoeing and kayaking, stand-up paddleboards and windsurfing while arts activities include circus skills to balloon model-making.

Davagh Forest outside Cookstown has a range of mountain-biking and walking trails ranging from gentle to adrenalin-pumping. Everything from tuition to bikes is available.

Budding Masterchefs love a visit to Wee Buns Cookery School outside Moy. Children can bake and decorate their own cakes before taking them home to share.

Little ones with a love of the little people should head to the woods to follow the Lusty Beg Fairy Trail in Lough Erne and find the fairies’ houses.

At Drumbaragh Stables in Ballinamallard, there’s trekking, pony camps and training for everyone from beginners to more advanced riders.

For a touch of luxury, Finn Lough, Enniskillen, offers a full spa and a range of accommodation as well as boating, kayaking, pedal crafts, fishing and walking.

Don’t forget a visit to The Barn by Tickety Moo in Enniskillen for their famous ice-cream, made with milk from the cafe’s own dairy herd!

Belfast: adventure, dinosaurs and a trip to Narnia

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Belfast Zoo, Belfast

Last year Lonely Planet named Belfast the #1 region to visit in the world – and it’s only got better since then!

We Are Vertigo – Europe’s largest indoor activity centre – brings you indoor skydiving, Ninja Master course, dodgeball, stunt pits, an indoor ski centre, the huge Inflata-Park and more across two sites – at Titanic Park and Cedarhurst, Newtownbreda.

Animal magic happens at Streamvale Open Farm in Dundonald, with Ireland’s first agriculture-themed play village. Children can cuddle puppies and chicks, help feed the lambs, groom ponies, go for a tractor ride and more.

At Belfast Zoo there are over 1,000 animals and 140 species to be discovered – plus a kids’ adventure playground.

Want to come face-to-face with a dinosaur or a genuine Egyptian mummy? Don’t miss a trip to The Ulster Museum in Stranmillis – admission free. There are discovery zones and supervised art activities too.

W5 in the Odyssey complex is a brilliant hands-on science and discovery centre for all ages with over 250 interactive exhibits, plus amazing daily shows. While you’re there, explore Titanic Quarter, where the famous ship was built, with a hop-on, hop-off tour on The Wee Tram.

Generations have grown up loving The Chronicles of Narnia, by Belfast man CS Lewis. Take a free, self-guided tour through CS Lewis Square on the Newtownards Road and see the places that inspired him.

Let’s Go Hydro at Carryduff is Ireland’s newest aqua park, offering everything from kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding and wakeboarding to the fantastic water obstacle course. Stay in the glampsite, on a house boat or safari lodge.

Causeway Coastal Route: beautiful beaches and a wobbly bridge!

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Whiterocks Beach, Portrush

The Causeway Coastal Route shared the Lonely Planet’s #1 visitor region honours with Belfast in 2018 and it’s easy to see why. Some of Northern Ireland’s best beaches are here including five with Blue Flag status: Portstewart Strand, Portrush West Strand, Whiterocks, Downhill and Benone Strand.

If you’re looking for somewhere suited to action sports like surfing, kite surfing and paddleboarding, jet skiing and kayaking, try Runkerry or Portballintrae, or Whiterocks in Portrush.

For a free family day of swimming, paddling, building sandcastles or relaxing try Portstewart Strand, Castlerock, Portrush, Benone (Limavady) and Downhill (Coleraine).

At Downhill Demesne and Hezlett House in Castlerock, spring and Easter-themed activities include woodland trails, den building and bird watching. Why not make a day of it and bring a picnic?

For the daredevils in the family, Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge in Ballintoy spans a 20-metre chasm, 23 metres up in the air for an exciting, unforgettable and slightly wobbly experience.

Barry’s in Portrush has been entertaining kids of all ages for generations, with rides such the Big Dipper, the Cyclone, Ghost Train, Carousel and of course the dodgems.

In Carnfunnock Country Park just outside Larne you’ll have a chance to explore a maze, ride a miniature railway, play mini golf, climb into a Walk on Water (WOW) ball, have a bounce on a bungee run, and set sail for fun in the maritime-themed outdoor adventure playground. There’s also acres of forest, nature trails and a mysterious walled garden to explore.

Legend says the great Finn McCool created the Giant’s Causeway. And with its thousands of hexagonal basalt columns, it has to be seen to be believed. After all, who doesn’t want to follow in the footsteps of giants!

Top 10 family fun events, March - May 2019

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Easter Egg hunt, Co. Down

1. Tim Peake Spacecraft & VR Experience, Ulster Transport Museum, Holywood

  • February 26 - May 12

2. The Giant LEGO Brick Trail, Castle Espie, Comber

  • March 2 – 31

3. Belfast Zoo’s 85th Birthday celebrations

  • March 30, 10am-4pm

4. Mini Moon Sensory Disco, The Black Box, Belfast

  • 1-3pm: March 23, April 27, May 25, June 22
  • For kids aged 0-7 with any kind of disability FREE

5. Carnegie Family Fun Day, Larne Museum

  • April 6, FREE

6. The Lord Mayor’s Family Fun Day, Belfast City Hall

  • from 12 noon, April 13, FREE

7. Easter Surf Camp at Alive Surf School, West Strand, Portrush

  • April 15 - 25

7. Easter Extravaganza, The Ark Open Farm, Newtownards

  • April 19 - 23

8. Easter Monday Family Fun Day at Florence Court, Enniskillen

  • April 22

10.The International North West 200

  • May 12 – 18, FREE

And of course, not forgetting Easter egg events and activities...

  • Easter events / reopening programme, Hillsborough Castle & Gardens, starts April 18
  • Easter Monster Egg Roll, Watertop Farm, Ballycastle, April 20 - 28
  • Cadbury Easter Egg Hunt, Castle Coole, Fermanagh, April 20 - 23
  • Easter Egg Hunt, Jungle NI, Magherafelt, April 20 - 23

You’ll find more details about all the family events listed – and many others throughout Northern Ireland – at discovernorthernireland.com/explore/easter-events

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