It's that time of the year again - what to do with the kids? We are here to bring you some Northern Ireland Days Out inspiration. Interesting, educational and not too expensive are the main criteria we look for here on the Field Day Ireland team. Northern Ireland is the focus this time and we will go south of the border next time.
1 . Seafood Gardens & Tropical Butterfly Farm
A Northern Ireland Days Out hidden gem, this is a must-visit every summer. Push open the sliding door to the tropical house and prepare to be amazed. It's not very big but it's FULL of exotic butterflies that will happily perch on you and calmly flutter about from tree to flower. You can see the chrysalis forming also - the whole butterfly cycle is on show in this space. Move on through to the second area where you'll find tortoises and exotic birds - all in a very safe space for children. Outside, there are beautiful gardens and spaces to have a picnic, as well as a maze to get lost in. Kids will be amazed by the noisy peacocks that come right over to say hello in the car park and entrance area. All told, a beautiful place to bring the children and a picnic....and there's a cafe if you'd prefer to take a day off food preparation! Family tickets for both the gardens and the butterfly house are £27.60 for 2 adults & 2 children.
2. Antrim Castle Gardens & Clotworthy House
These gardens are right in the centre of Antrim town and entry is completely free. You will find nothing like these 400 year old gardens anywhere else in Northern Ireland and they have been beautifully preserved thanks to a recent £6m restoration project. There's so much to see walking around the gardens with formal water features and the refurbished Clotworthy House. There's also ruins of the original castle which the kids will enjoy. With a gift shop and a coffee shop (which is always mobbed - bring a picnic!), it's right beside the river walk and the Antrim Forum so you can include a longer walk or a trip to the swimming pool if you've got a longer day to fill.
3. Ulster Americal Folk Park - Omagh
I've not yet visited this one but a friend recently came back with a glowing report and her kids enjoyed it so much too. The Folk Park allows you to immerse yourself in the story of the brave emigrants who made the journey across the Atlantic to America hundreds of years ago. With 30 buildings and exhibits to explore, the Ulster American Folk Park is a wonderfully unique experience - you can even board a full-scale immigrant ship to see what it was like to set sale for a new life in America. Throughout July and August the Ulster American Folk Park is open Monday to Sunday 10:00 to 17:00 and family tickets start at £19. As a bonus, Field Day products are stocked in the museum gift shop.
4. Flame Gasworks, Carrickfergus
There's already the amazing Castle in Carrickfergus but now the Flame Gasworks are another reason to make the trip. This is Ireland's sole surviving coal gasworks and is one of only three left in the British Isles.It opened in 1855 and supplied the town with gas for over 100 years. It is now fully restored and open to the public. Opening hours are May to Aug inc: Daily except Saturdays 2-5pm and all the volunteer team at the gasworks ask for is a donation to help them keep the tours running. While you're there, pop up to the Marshalltown Road to visit Nook Living, stockists of Field Day products where there's free parking and a cafe. If your kids are still looking for excitement, the Whitehead Steam Museum is just a few miles up the coast.
5. Riverwatch Aquarium, Londonderry
Moving to the North West for this next Northern Ireland Days Out option. This is a small free of charge aquarium in Derry and is a great way to spend an hour or two in the maiden city - it's especially good to visit on a rainy day. With plenty of parking, the aquarium features eight different habitats that children can get to know through activity sheets that encourage them to ask questions and learn. Try to arrive or stay for feeding time as the kids will find that even more interesting. While you're in the city, the Tower Museum and St Columb's Cathedral are worth a look and my kids especially love running along the length of the walls looking over the edge and climbing on the cannons!
Lots of suggestions for Northern Ireland Days Out there - rain or shine! Back next week with some options for south of the border...