How To Plan a Magical Trip to Ireland

One thing I have been looking forward to since BattleKid came along is taking him to discover Ireland, the country of his heritage. BattleKid was born in Wales but holds an Irish passport. And despite having been to Ireland several times to visit family, we’ve never really shown him much of Ireland. But that’s about to change, and I’m going to share with you how I’ve planned a magical trip to Ireland with him over Easter.How To Plan A Magical Trip To Ireland

Much of my plan has been to discover parts of Ireland even I haven’t been to. Do you find that, no matter how long you live in a certain country or area, there are parts of it you have never visited because you take for granted that it’s always there to visit? That’s us! We never really travelled around Ireland and visited all the places it has to offer before we left in 2003. Heck, I haven’t even visited The Guinness Brewery, despite living in Dublin for 17 years.

It took BattleDad getting a motorbike for us visit and discover parts of the West of Ireland. And then we finally visited the Cliffs of Moher during our bike honeymoon to Ireland.

There is so much of my home country I haven’t visited, but I am making it my mission to try and visit all the great parts of Ireland with BattleKid. Now, we won’t cover everywhere as, although Ireland is a small island, there is just so much to see and do that it can’t all be covered in a week or 10 days. So, this will be the first of many trips home to Ireland to act like tourists and discover more of the beauty of Ireland.

So, what’s first on the agenda? Well, we’re going to concentrate on the southern half of Ireland, taking in Tipperary, Cork and Limerick, and possibly a little bit of Clare. Why have I chosen these areas you might ask? Because they house some of the best castles to visit in Ireland, all of which I’ve never visited apart from one, and even that was a fleeting visit.

I have nine castles on my list for this trip, and I do hope we manage to visit them all. But if not, it’s always a good excuse to come back. So, how have I planned our magical trip to Ireland over Easter, and what does our Ireland road trip itinerary look like? Let me share those details with you now.

How To Plan A Magical Trip To Ireland
The beautiful Duckett’s Grove in County Carlow.

Planning our magical trip to Ireland

How to get to Ireland?

As we are now living in Portugal, getting back to Ireland involves a plane journey. And we had two options, Aer Lingus or Ryanair, who both fly from Faro to Dublin. Now, after some strikes involving Ryanair happened last year, there was no way I was going to take a chance and book Ryanair simply to have myself €60. So, I booked return flights with Aer Lingus.

And it seems my choice was the correct one, with more strikes involving Ryanair threatened for this Easter. I’ve booked two bags and pre-booked our seats. I always do this to reduce any possible stress when flying with children, something I discussed in a recent post about flying with babies and toddlers.

If you are travelling to Ireland from another destination, I’d recommend checking your flight options with Skyscanner. Not only will you get an idea of flight times and prices, but it should give you an idea of which airlines fly direct from your departure airport to either Dublin, Cork or Shannon, and which will involve a stop-over.

Your arrival airport will be your choice, depending on whether you want to visit Dublin or not. Many visitors fly to Dublin and start their exploring elsewhere before returning to discover Dublin itself, as we are doing.

For those of you based in Europe, you also have the option of driving to Ireland and using a ferry from either Spain, France or the United Kingdom. We’ve often travelled from Wales to Ireland using either Stena Line or Irish Ferries. This will mean you have your own car for getting around in, something you won’t have worry about in the next point.

How to get around Ireland once you are there?

I am hiring a car from Dublin Airport as I will be driving straight to Tipperary to start our castle visits the next day. We will be covering a lot of Tipperary, Cork and Limerick. And we might pop into County Clare as well. Once we’ve finished in the southern half of the country, we are returning to Dublin to act as tourists in my home town and to also visit family. For this reason, a car is essential.

As you for own visit, firstly, you need to decide if you are concentrating on city exploring, or if you plan to explore the countryside like we are. For city exploring, all major cities have good public transport links within the city. They also have good public transport links between cities. So, if you plan to make the most of Dublin, Galway or Cork, public transport will probably work out cheaper for you.

However, if you plan to move from area to area, and explore towns and sites outside of the major cities, then a car is a must. There are a whole host of car hire companies to choose from within Ireland, and may operate from Dublin, Cork and Shannon airports. At the moment, I cannot recommend one as I haven’t booked a car (at the time of writing this post). I can report back after our trip.

Where to stay in Ireland?

At the time of booking our trip, BattleDad was going to be accompanying us. So, as a family, we always chose AirBnB accommodations. These are the best choice for us as we can usually get two bedrooms, have a kitchen for cooking in and an area to relax after a busy day exploring. We’ve been using AirBnB for a few years now and have only once not stayed in the one we’ve booked (see Day 11 of our USA Holiday Diaries to find out why).

Hotels do not work out well for us and we try to avoid them if we can. Firstly, we find them restricting once our son is in bed and asleep, and secondly, I have nowhere to escape if my husband starts snoring. We also don’t choose B&B’s as we like to save some money by cooking for ourselves in the evenings. And this is often not an option if staying in either a hotel or a B&B.

I have booked two separate AirBnB’s in Tipperary and Cork. BattleKid and I are staying in Tipperary for four nights. The AirBnB I have booked is conveniently located halfway between the castles in Tipperary and those in Limerick/Clare that we plan to visit. We then move onto Cork for two nights where my sister and niece will be joining us now that BattleDad isn’t coming with us, due to work commitments. Then we will be staying with family in Dublin for three nights before we return to Portugal.

For your own trip, your choice of accommodation will very much depend on how many of you are in your party, your budget and also whether you plan to have one based or are moving around. There is an abundance of hotels to choose from, self-catering family cottages, B&B’s, AirBnB’s and even hostels in Ireland. Other things to consider before booking your accommodation include on-site parking for your car or hire car, availability of public transport if you don’t have a car, cooking facilities if you want to save some money, how easy it is to get to and from the airport and even laundry facilities if going for more than a week.

**Get £31 travel credit when you sign up to AirBnB using this link and make your first booking.

How To Plan A Magical Trip To Ireland
The stunning Cliffs of Moher in County Clare.

Where to eat in Ireland?

We will be having breakfast in our AirBnB and most days, during our time in Tipperary, we will pack a picnic or packed-lunch in case we don’t find anywhere to eat. This will leave us free to explore the castles on our agenda at our own pace and won’t find ourselves with hungry bellies. As for dinners, I plan to cook most evenings in Tipperary. Once my sister joins us in Cork, we will probably venture out to a pub to enjoy some of the lovely Irish dishes I’ve been missing, and of course I will be having at least one fish and chips dinner when we visit family, something I am so looking forward to.

With my sister and niece, we will probably be having lunch out with them, either in a restaurant or more likely a pub, where I’m sure I’ll find at least a Baby Bowl on the menu for BattleKid to enjoy. My mouth is salivating just thinking of some of the dishes I might find on a pub lunch menu!

As for your own trip to Ireland, you will find a huge choice of restaurants, cafes and pubs to choose from in all the major cities if you want to eat out. Each smaller town will have several pubs serving food to choose from and there are also lots of supermarkets and smaller shops to buy groceries and supplies in. For the bigger supermarkets you have the budget options of Lidl and Aldi, next up would be Tesco or Dunnes Stores, and the higher end of the scale would be Marks and Spencer. I’ll use whichever I find closest to the first AirBnB.

What to pack for Ireland?

Having spent nearly half my life in Ireland, I know how unpredictable the weather can be, especially in late March and early April. And given Ireland has just had its biggest snowfall for 36 years, I won’t be taking any chances. So, I’ll be packing warm clothes and waterproofs for both myself and BattleKid. There are a pair of wellington boots for us both in my parent’s house in Dublin which I’ll be picking up on our way to Tipperary.

So, what should you pack? Well, whether you are going in the summer or another time of year, I suggest making sure you have warm clothes with you as well as a good waterproof jacket or coat at the very least. Within the cities there are plenty of pubs, cafes and restaurants to take cover in if you get caught in the rain. And you can always buy an umbrella too. However, if you plan to visit historical sites and the countryside, you’ll need good waterproof walking shoes or boots and that all-important raincoat. You don’t necessarily need wellies but as we are planning on exploring the grounds of castles, I want them with us just in case.

I certainly don’t plan to let the rain dampen our plans, if you’ll pardon the pun. The only thing it might do is make our day in Dublin as a tourist a little different as we probably wouldn’t be able to enjoy the open top bus. But with the right clothes and a little planning when packing for our trip, we should be prepared for all weather. Apart from a foot of snow, but I’m hoping that won’t happen during our trip!

How To Plan A Magical Trip To Ireland
The amazing Powerscourt Waterfall in County Wicklow.

What to do in Ireland?

The question should really be “how long is a piece of string”. Ireland is full of so many options, it is hard to choose. You could simply enjoy the beauty of Ireland by driving the Wild Atlantic Way, which I think is our next port of call in summer 2019, or the Ring of Kerry which BattleDad and I have done. You might prefer to explore what the cities have to offer including Dublin, Galway and Cork. Your family might want to visit heritage sites, of which there are hundreds to choose from. There is so much choice and there is bound to be something everyone will enjoy.

As for our trip, we are concentrating on castles and animals mostly, with some Dublin tourist attractions as well. The plan is to take BattleKid dragon hunting in several castles in the southern half of the country. We will dragon hunt with my sister and niece in Blarney Castle in Cork as well as visit Fota Wildlife Park. In Dublin we’ll continue seeking out animals at Dublin Zoo and the Airfield Farm, before BattleKid and I will spend a day in Dublin doing all things touristy via the help of a Dublin Pass*. And finally, of course, the obligatory shopping before we fly back home.

A 10-day Magical Trip to Ireland Itinerary

Monday – Arrive Dublin Airport. Drive to Tipperary AirBnB

Tuesday – Visit one or more of Cahir Castle, Lismore Castle and/or the Rock of Cashel

Wednesday – Visit King John’s Castle and/or Adare Castle

Thursday – Visit Bunratty Castle and Folk Park. If time allows we might visit the Cliffs of Moher

Friday – Vacate AirBnB and drive to Cork to visit Blackrock Castle. Pick up my sister and niece and check in to the Cork AirBnB

Saturday – Fota Wildlife Park*

Sunday – Visit Blarney Castle* to kiss the Blarney stone before driving to Dublin

Monday – Visit Dublin Zoo and the Airfield Farm

Tuesday – Spend the day in Dublin as a tourist with the Dublin Pass*

Wednesday – Shopping before flying back to Portugal

Although our time in each destination is set, and our trips to both Fota Wildlife Park* and Blarney Castle* are already arranged, the rest of the itinerary is flexible, depending on how BattleKid and I feel. We do need to fit in some time to see family in Dublin as well, so our Dublin Zoo/Airfield visits might be short, or we’ll do one or the other.

By all means you don’t have to follow my itinerary at all. I’ve included it as a guide to show you want we plan to get up to during our 10 days in Ireland. That said you could always do a shorter road trip in Ireland over a week and still see many of the beautiful sights Ireland has to offer. Or if you only have a long weekend in Ireland why not do a coast-to-coast trip taking in Dublin and Galway.How To Plan A Magical Trip To Ireland

So, there you have it, how I’ve planned what I hope will be a magical trip to Ireland for BattleKid and me. We’re going to hunt some dragons, see some animals, enjoy Dublin from a kid’s perspective and have a long overdue catch up with family. And I have to say a big thank you to Blarney Castle, Fota Wildlife Park and the Dublin Pass for the opportunity to collaborate with them on our forthcoming trip. I cannot wait to report back to you, my readers, about our trip and each aspect of our time in Ireland.

Have you ever visited Ireland or is it on your bucket list?

Cath x

*We are working with Blarney Castle, Fota Wildlife Park and Dublin Pass during our time in Ireland.

**To remain fully transparent, please be aware that this post contains affiliate links. That means that I receive a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking the link – this doesn’t cost you anything extra. Thank you.

How To Plan A Magical Trip To Ireland - In this post I tell you how I've planned a magical trip to Ireland for my son and I. With helpful ideas about how to plan your own trip, you're sure to find this post helpful.

How To Plan A Magical Trip To Ireland - In this post I tell you how I've planned a magical trip to Ireland for my son and I.
How To Plan A Magical Trip To Ireland - Where do you even start to plan a magical trip to Ireland. Why, here of course!

Portugal Diaries January 2018

So, what do you do on New Year’s Day in Portugal when the sun is shining, albeit a little bit cooler. You head to the beach of course, and that’s just what we did. After breakfast, we loaded up the car with BattleKid’s bike and headed to Manta Rota. We had a stroll along the beach, dodging the waves and searching for nice shells. Once we were done, we got BattleKid’s bike out of the car and let him ride around the huge square that sits at the start of the boardwalk to the beach.

Portugal Diaries January 2018
A New Year’s Day walk on the beach.

On January 2nd we started off with a motorbike ride, before popping to our local shopping centre where we had a mini birthday celebration for BattleKid with ice cream, as you do. After the weekend, normal service was resuming. We dropped BattleDad to the airport as he headed to Zurich for his first week in his new job. Then BattleKid was back to school after two weeks off and surprisingly went in without so much as a hint of reluctance.

Portugal Diaries January 2018
A birthday treat of ice-cream

I am hoping that he starts speaking more Portuguese from this term, which runs until Easter. By the summer holidays at the end of the July, he should be switching back and forth if what we’ve been told holds true. Time will tell.

During the second week of January there was a meeting in school about the progress of kids in BattleKid’s kindergarten class. As my Portuguese isn’t advanced enough, I asked if I could bring my Dad, as his is better than mine, just to catch the jist of what the teacher was saying. Armed with him, we attended to learn that BattleKid understands a lot more than he lets on, and that his teacher thinks he is quite intelligent, and that he has settled in very well and made friends.

This was all good news and put any worries I had about him to rest. He is never alone when we arrive to pick him up, and he has been nodding away to the lady who cuts his hair in understanding. So, this just backed up our own perspective of how he is getting on.

We had BattleDad home for a week before he was off again, this time to London. The Friday before he left we picked up BattleKid from school and headed to the square at Manta Rota for BattleKid to practice some more on his motorbike. We had a lovely hour together and even had time to visit the playground as the sun started dipping behind buildings.

Portugal Diaries January 2018
Enjoying some playtime after practising on his motorbike

On that Saturday following this, we had a quiet day before going into Tavira for a guitar concert. There is an Arts and Music Festival going on during the months of January to March and my Dad wanted to catch this particular guitar player. So, we attended it in a church in the centre of town. While the concert was good, the church was freezing and BattleKid started getting bored. The cure for this: let him play with my hair to keep him entertained, followed by an app on silent on my phone.

Portugal Diaries January 2018
Overlooking the Gilão River on our way to a guitar concert

We all decided we need to do more things like this as we quite like discovering more about the Portuguese culture. So, my folks are on look-out duty for something else for us to attend soon.

The next day BattleDad was off on a plane again, and while BattleKid and I were driving home from the airport, I had my Spotify playlist on in the car. The Scatman song came on (anyone remember that?) and ever since BattleKid has loved it. So much so I’ve had to add it to his own playlist! You should hear the giggles and laughs from him in the car when it’s on!

As the end of the month got closer, we finally received a parcel from the UK I had been waiting on. At the start of the month I had tried to order items from GoOutdoors during their sale. Because their system didn’t recognise our Portuguese address, they cancelled my order. I had had a similar issue with another UK company, but they got in touch to clarify and I received my order from them with no problems. To say I wasn’t happy was an understatement. I ended up having to reorder the items, missing out on two items as they were now out of stock, and had to send it to BattleDad’s Forward2Me address. But they arrived and our gear for Lapland has started accumulating. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that we finally booked our flights and AirBnB accommodation both in Lapland and Helsinki for our trip this December. I’m so excited.

No sooner had BattleDad arrived back from London, he was off again on another trip to Zurich. After BattleKid and I dropped him off, we got home and relaxed with a bit of ‘workings’ as BattleKid likes to call it. I work on my laptop, he works on his magnetic easel. We had a pretty uneventful few days before my sister and niece arrived for a long weekend (but that’s a tale for next month).

Portugal Diaries January 2018
Copying the picture on his magnetic eisle

And following on from our meeting with BattleKid’s teacher at the start of the month, he has been coming out with more and more Portuguese words, correcting hubby and I, and also saying things that we can’t decipher whether it’s Portuguese or not. But he keeps surprising us and it’s brilliant. I think we’ll have a bilingual child on our hands very soon.

We’ve also been getting our garden cleaned up a bit. I did a huge amount of weeding around our decking as it was looking disgraceful. I also potted some plants which I was hoping would root. One of our neighbours was pruning in November and gave us some geranium slips. I also potted some succulents which had fallen off two plants I have hanging on the deck. This was a complete punt and to my surprise they rooted, along with three slips of geraniums. So, I planted these around the deck and also in part of our rockery. And in there I got a huge surprise. Last year I had cleared it as it was a mess with dead lavender and a cactus that was swamped. The cactus has flowered and there are brand new shoots of lavender coming through. I’m chuffed. Hopefully the geranium and succulents will grow there too.

Our neighbour had said things grow really easily here and she wasn’t wrong. I’ve now potted more slips of geraniums she said I could take, along with a bougainvillea, another slip from a cactus and some more succulent slips. If they root, I’ll be laughing. But note, I am not a gardener, nor will I ever be, and I am only interested in plants that will essentially look after themselves with our irrigation system watering them for me. Watch this space to see if I’m successful again.

I’ve also started something I’ve been meaning to do since November; start photographing the street art (graffiti to you and I) that dons the walls of many of the uninhabited buildings here in Portugal. One of my favourites is less than 2 minutes from our place. Isn’t it fab.

Portugal Diaries January 2018
Street Art of Portugal

Cath x

Visiting Sea Life London with Kids: How to Have an Awesome Visit

As some of you will know, we spent a day in London prior to our USA Road Trip. We acted like tourists and visited the London Eye, did a spot of dragon hunting in the Tower of London and we also went to Sea Life. It was a day dedicated to BattleKid as we knew he was facing some long days of flying and driving ahead. In this post I tell you all about our visit and give you some tips about visiting Sea Life, London with kids to ensure you have an awesome visit.

Visiting Sea Life London With Kids and How To Have an Awesome Visit

Sea Life was our second attraction of the day, after our trip on the London Eye. It is conveniently located right beside the London Eye, meaning you can easily combine the two. As with our tickets for the London Eye, I booked Flexi Anytime Priority tickets. Given that it was the end of the summer holidays, I thought it was best to book these tickets as it meant we could arrive at anytime on our chosen day and by-pass any queues. As it was there wasn’t a huge queue when we arrived, but this isn’t always guaranteed.

Sea Life was opened in 1997 as the London Aquarium and is located on the ground floor of County Hall in Southbank. It plays host to one million visitors a year. Within Sea Life there are around 500 species of fish and various marine areas including a Shark Walk, Ray Lagoon, Nemo’s Coral and Penguin Point. There are various feeding times during which staff give family-friendly talks. Sea Life is also heavily involved in conservation and has programmes including ray breeding, coral propagation and a big fish campaign.

When we arrived, we had to pick up a Ranger Pack for BattleKid which I had ordered when I booked our tickets online, and then we were in. I had been apprehensive about what visiting Sea Life with a toddler would be like, whether it would be any good. And we weren’t disappointed. Sea Life London is huge!

We started out by walking over the shark tank, and to be honest, it gave me the heebie jeebies. I’m not a huge fan of sharks but walking over them on glass was a bit disconcerting. Things like “the glass is going to crack and break” were running through my mind. BattleKid, however, found it fascinating. From the Shark Walk, we entered the Atlantic Coasts area, we saw sand eels and an octopus.

We soon found ourselves at the Ray Lagoon and saw rays and sharks of various sizes before moving onto Rockpools. In Rockpools we saw anemones, starfish and crabs too. In this area there are open tanks, allowing you to get your hands wet, although we stopped BattleKid from doing so.

Visiting Sea Life London With Kids and How To Have an Awesome Visit
Amazed at each and every tank of fish and sea creatures.

From Rockpools we passed under the Ocean tunnel, giving us another chance to see more shark and ray swimming over our heads. It was a cool tunnel and reminded me of the one in the Blue Planet Aquarium. We also saw some Green Sea Turtles in this area. They were so beautiful, so majestic. They were one of my personal highlights of our visit to the aquarium in London.

The tunnel led us to the Pacific Wreck area where I discovered the skeleton of a whale inside one tank (see our vlog video for a glimpse of this). And then came the main attraction for kids of all ages, Nemo’s Coral Reef. There was a tank huge of both white and orange, and white and black, clown fish (Nemo to you and I), and a certain little boy did not want to leave this tank I can tell you. It was hugely popular with kids and was the busiest place in the aquarium during our visit. Be prepared to spend quite a bit of time there!

Visiting Sea Life London With Kids and How To Have an Awesome Visit
Nemo was a hit, someone didn’t want to leave this tank!

We visited the Seahorse Kingdom and saw a few different varieties. BattleKid wasn’t that interested in them and we swiftly moved on to the creatures of the Rainforests of the World. Here we saw fish, including piranha with vicious looking teeth and catfish, as well as a crocodile. From the Rainforests area, you pass by the Thames Walk where you can learn about the creatures of this great river, as well as the efforts it takes to clean the river and its banks.

Then it was time to meet the penguins. You pass through an ice tunnel to reach their enclosure and it’s a bit chilly in there. The penguin enclosure is not the biggest I’ve seen but it more than caught the attention of BattleKid. He loves seeing the penguins swimming past him at the window. They are one of his favourite creatures thanks to the Oliver Jeffers book, Lost and Found.

By this stage someone was starting to get hungry, so we quickly passed through the Conservation Cover before entering a new area for Sea Life in London, Ocean Invaders. In this area there were tanks of jellyfish of various shapes and sizes, and jellyfish projected onto the floor, which BattleKid loved jumping on. It was a really impressive display and one BattleKid enjoyed a lot.

Visiting Sea Life London With Kids and How To Have an Awesome Visit
Seeing ALL the jellyfish at the Sea Life London Aquarium
Visiting Sea Life London With Kids and How To Have an Awesome Visit
Trying to keep up with the jellyfish on the ground.

While all the areas and tanks of Sea Life London Aquarium are impressive, none are more so than the main and biggest tank around which the London aquarium in centred. It forms most of the Pacific Ocean display and spans the three floors of the aquarium. You pass this tank on several occasions during your visit and it is by far my favourite part of the aquarium at Sea Life. It houses fish, ray, sharks and turtles and plays host to some Easter Island Head statues. It is the most impressive aquarium tank I’ve ever seen. Each time we came upon it during our visit I was awed by it.

Visiting Sea Life London With Kids and How To Have an Awesome Visit
My favourite part of our visit? The Easter Island Heads in the main tank.

After visiting the gift shop for a magnet for our fridge (we collect them everywhere we go), and buying a little treat for BattleKid, it was time to say goodbye to Sea Life Aquarium in London and move on to our next stop on our 36 hours in London.

Tips for visiting Sea Life in London with Kids

  • Sea Life London is open 7 days a week from 10am to 7pm, with last entry at 6pm.
  • It will take you a few hours to get around so plan your visit accordingly.
  • Sea Life London ticket prices are as follows*: Standard adult tickets cost £26 and children are £21 (ages 3 to 15), under 3’s are free. There are savings to be made online if you book in advance, and Sea Life tickets can be combined with certain other London attractions. We booked Anytime Priority tickets at a cost of £25 per adult and £17.55 per child. These allowed us to arrive at anytime on our chosen date and enter with no queuing.
  • Sea Life is also part of the Merlin Annual Pass, making it easy to visit regularly if you are pass holders. If we were still in the UK I’d seriously consider getting Merlin Passes.
  • A Sea Life Ranger Pack is available for £4 from the ticket office and includes an activity trail, magnifying glass, dress-up accessories, trading cards and a lanyard for tickets. This will make the visit a truly interesting one for kids a bit older than BattleKid (three and a half at the time of visiting).
  • There are toilets available on every floor, along with baby changing facilities.
  • Sea Life is fully wheelchair accessible with lifts going to all floors.
  • Note that there is no café or restaurant in the aquarium and you are not allowed to bring food in with you. There are plenty of cafes and restaurants nearby for refreshments though.
  • There is no parking at the Sea Life London Aquarium. For details on how to get to the London Aquarium, nearest parking to Sea Life and the nearest tube station to Sea Life London Aquarium, visit the information section of their website.
  • There is an area for official Sea Life photos, although I am afraid I cannot remember how much we paid for our 3 photos.

Visiting Sea Life London With Kids and How To Have an Awesome Visit

We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Sea Life in London. Although it was the end of the summer holidays it wasn’t too busy. We kept bumping into the same group of mums with their buggies, but apart from that it wasn’t crowded. We also liked the fact the aquarium was right beside the London Eye, meaning we could easily combine the two. And there are additional attractions nearby for kids of various ages too.

Sea Life in London is definitely worth a visit with kids and wasn’t as busy as I expected at the end of the summer holidays. If you are planning to go during the peak of the summer holidays, I’d suggest getting there early or booking the Fast Track tickets. Be prepared to take your time and go at your children’s pace. And expect a lengthy stop when you come across Nemo. By keeping these points in mind you are bound to have smiling children, although they might be reluctant to leave.

If you are visiting London with kids and are looking for an interesting and enjoyable place to visit with them, then we highly recommend a visit to Sea Life. They won’t be disappointed.

Cath x

*Prices correct at the time of writing this post. We were not asked to write this review of Sea Life London

Visiting Sea Life London With Kids and How To Have an Awesome Visit. With hints and tips to make your visit an awesome one.

Visiting Sea Life London With Kids and How To Have an Awesome Visit. With hints and tips to make your visit an awesome one.

The Portugal Diaries #18

Christmas arrived to Portugal at the beginning of December with our local shopping centre installing a big Christmas tree in the centre. There was also an area for Pai Natal (Father Christmas in Portuguese), although he wasn’t arriving until later in the month.

On the first Sunday of December, we visited our local park again to stretch our legs and let BattleKid play in the playground. We visited the lake first and as we made our way back to the playground at the park entrance, we came upon some reindeer. There was a gentleman there with some feed and he allowed us to feed the reindeers. At one point we had five deer around us. It was a brilliant surprise and is a memory we will treasure as a family.

Portugal Diaries 18
Feeding the reindeer at our local park

The next day was D-Day, Disneyland Day. We had packed BattleDog off to his grandparents the day before, so after picking up our car from the garage in Faro, we headed straight for the airport, ready to get our plane to Paris. We had an amazing few days in Disneyland Paris and I’ve written all about it in my Holiday Diaries. That said, it was very cold in Paris and we were quite happy to get back to the sunshine by the end of the week.

Portugal Diaries 18
Enjoying the Illuminations show during our visit to Disneyland Paris

The weekend we got back we caught up with my parents and also enjoyed the sunshine by visiting our playground and having a cuppa in the sun together. It was so good to feel the warm sunshine again.

Portugal Diaries 18
Enjoying a drink in the sun

Much of the rest of December was about preparing for Christmas. We were kindly given a tree by BattleDad’s aunt as our huge 7.5-foot tree is in storage and simply wouldn’t fit in the mobile. We also had to buy decorations as all of ours were in storage and we couldn’t plan a visit to fish some out. But we made the living room as cosy as possible, before helping my parents do the same the day after.

Portugal Diaries 18
Writing his letter to Santa

On December 22nd my nephew arrived for Christmas and I picked him up at the airport with my Dad. Christmas Eve was spent painting again and getting things ready for the next day.

Portugal Diaries 18
Ready for Father Christmas

We didn’t wake too early on Christmas Day and first up was presents from Santa, who only went and brought BattleKid his first ever real motorbike. He was thrilled and couldn’t wait to get out on it. After breakfast we got ready and headed down to my parents’ house as we were having Christmas dinner in their local restaurant. I opted for traditional Portuguese bacalhau (fish dish) which was very nice. My Dad had kindly cooked a turkey crown, so we didn’t miss out on turkey sandwiches later that evening. We had a lovely first Christmas Day in Portugal.

On St Stephen’s Day (Boxing Day) we visited BattleDad’s aunt before going to see my parents and nephew again for a Beef Wellington dinner. The next few days were a mixture of relaxing and motorbike practise with the boy before I turned the big 40 on the 28th. It is also my parents’ anniversary that day, so we went for a lovely meal in Cabanas de Tavira where we enjoyed tapas-style starters, huge main meals, and of course some desserts.

Portugal Diaries 18
Getting to grips with his motorbike

On the 30th we all went to Mar for a shopping trip before having a 4th birthday party at my parents’ house for BattleKid. Although this was a few days before his actual birthday, I wanted to do it early, so he’d have his cousin there to join in the celebrations (he was returning to Ireland the following day).

Portugal Diaries 18
A birthday party in the sun

New Years Eve was spent building BattleKid’s new storage shelves while the boys went out on the bike. Other than that, we had a very quiet day and were in bed before the New Year even rolled in.

Cath x

A Dragon Hunting Adventure at the Tower of London

BattleDad and I had visited the Tower of London a few times in our pre-BattleKid days. It gained our interest after we watched the Tudors television series, and we always enjoyed our visits to the Tower. When I realised we had 36 hours to kill in London, I started looking into fun things to do with kids in London. And a dragon hunting adventure at the Tower of London was a must with our little dragon hunter, BattleKid.DRAGON HUNTING ADVENTURE AT THE TOWER OF LONDON

As you will already know, we started dragon hunting with BattleKid in an effort to make visiting castles interesting for him. Living in Wales until our move to Portugal, we were surrounded by castles, but they’re not always interesting places for toddlers and young children. So, to make our visits more appealing to BattleKid, the dragon hunting adventures were born. We’ve hunted dragons at Chepstow Castle, Carreg Cennen and Powis Castle, to name but a few. But we’d never ventured further than Wales. Our family day in London was a chance to hunt dragons further afield and our destination was going to be the Tower of London.

The Tower of London is a historic castle located on the north bank of the River Thames. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it dates to around 1078. It is a complex of several buildings set within 2 rings of defensive walls and a moat. The Tower of London has been used for a variety of things including as an armoury, treasury and menagerie. It was once the home of the Royal Mint and was used as a public records office. It was even used as a prison between 1100 until 1952, when it housed the Kray Twins. It is still the home of the Crown Jewels of England and is one of London’s most popular attractions.DRAGON HUNTING ADVENTURE AT THE TOWER OF LONDON

And it was the scene for one of our dragon hunting adventures. We made our way to the Tower after visiting Sea Life at Southbank and had precooked tickets, so we could make our way through security and through the main entrance gate of the Tower of London. The Tower of London can be both an educational place to visit as well as something being part of a fun kids day out in London.

The first part of the castle we visited was St. Thomas’ Tower, the building which sits over Traitor’s Gate, and which forms part of the Medieval Palace. We searched the rooms in here but there was no sign of a dragon. From the Tower, we checked nooks and crannies around Traitor’s Gate but still no dragon.

Checking the water under Traitor’s Gate for signs of dragons


We moved on past Henry III’s Watergate and into the area where the ravens are housed. I can remember thinking how big the ravens were the previous times we visited, and I was reminded again. But alas, no dragons were lurking around these huge birds.

At this stage we were all a bit pooped, having been on both the London Eye and visiting Sea Life, so we decided to stop at the Raven’s Café for a cuppa and some cake. We also visited the Raven’s Shop for a souvenir before carrying on our dragon hunt. I got us a keyring (to turn into a Christmas tree decoration) and BattleKid picked out a set of knights and horses.

Our port of call was the White Tower. This is by far one of my favourite parts of the Tower of London. Although there is a lot of steps and parts to it, it is filled with history. You can even view the armour worn by previous kings, including Henry VIII.DRAGON HUNTING ADVENTURE AT THE TOWER OF LONDON

We checked each room on each floor that is accessible to the public and we finally found our dragon on the top floor. He was hiding in an alcove on the same floor as the magnificent treasure dragon which lies within the White Tower. (We hid BattleKid’s dragon just beside a wall in an alcove, and thankfully the security guard in the room was very accommodating of a little boy on his dragon hunt. I’ll admit it looked slightly suspicious as one of us distracted the boy while the other placed said dragon to be found. But she was very understanding when we explained what we were doing. We certainly didn’t want to get locked away in the Tower!)

This wasn’t the dragon we were hunting!
BattleKid keeping an eye on the Tower Dragon after finding his own hidden in the same room

Happy that we’d found the dragon, we made our way downstairs and as a certain little person was starting to get tired, we decided to start making our way to the exit. We didn’t get a chance to visit the Crown Jewels, although BattleDad and I have seen them on our previous visits and to say they are stunning would be an understatement. Nor did we take one of the Yeoman Warder’s tours, another thing BattleDad and I have done on our previous visits. We exited the Tower of London onto the banks of the Thames beside Tower Bridge, satisfied we’d achieved what we’d come to do.DRAGON HUNTING ADVENTURE AT THE TOWER OF LONDON

Things to note if you’re planning a dragon hunting adventure at the Tower of London

  • Tickets for the Tower of London cost £21.50 per adult (16+), while children cost £9.70 (5-15 years of age). Under 5’s are free and members have free entrance to the Tower.
  • Opening times for the Tower of London are as follows: Tues-Sat 9am to 4.30pm, Sun-Mon 10am to 4.30pm. Last admission is 4pm.
  • There are toilets in various locations within the Tower of London as well as baby changing facilities and wheelchair accessible toilets.
  • There is free WiFi at the Tower of London, although we didn’t use it.
  • Four eateries are located within the Tower of London. We had drinks and cake at the Raven Café. There is also the Wharf Kiosk, New Armouries Café and the Perkin Reveller.
  • Five gift shops are located at the Tower of London.
  • The Tower of London is not completely buggy or wheelchair friendly due to the cobbled ground in certain parts of the site. There are also stairs in many of the buildings. There is a buggy park for buggies located next to the Salt Tower, the Middle Drawbridge and at the entrance to the White Tower. There are virtual tours of areas not accessible by wheelchair.


There is plenty to see and do at the Tower of London and it is just one of many fun things to do in London with kids. I wondered whether the Tower of London would be suitable for young kids, but by having a dragon hunting adventure there, we had no tantrums or tears from BattleKid, and we all enjoyed ourselves.

Some of the other things I’d like to try in the future with BattleKid are the Yeoman Warder tours. As mentioned we’ve been on two of these pre-BattleKid, and they were brilliant. One Beefeater (their other name) was full of funny stories and facts about the Tower, while the other Beefeater whose tour we joined gave us interesting facts about the Tower that we hadn’t learned in the previous tour. Each Yeoman has his own style and stories and they really do make visiting the Tower of London really interesting.

I’d like to also see the Crown Jewels again and to visit the Chapel Royal. But the one part of this London attraction that would be amazing to witness would be the Ceremony of the Keys. This is a 700-year-old ceremony conducted every night to lock the Tower of London. While it is no longer a residence of the Royal Family it does house the Crown Jewels. However, I recently learned that tickets to this event are booked up a year in advance!

Either way, there is no doubting that this is top of the list of things to do in London with kids. It can even be made interesting for younger kids and toddler with a little imagination as we’ve demonstrated. And if you have only one day in London with kids, you can easily squeeze in a visit to the Tower as we did.

I hadn’t been too sure if the Tower of London was a London attraction for young kids, but BattleKid enjoyed his visit, albeit a dragon hunting adventure, and we adults enjoyed it again. I can wholeheartedly recommend it as part of a family day out in London.

Have you visited the Tower of London yet?

Cath x

If you’d like to read of our dragon hunting adventures, just check out our Dragon Hunting Series section.

*We were not asked to write this post. All prices are correct at the time of writing this post (February 2018)