I was born and raised in the tiny village of Duncannon on the Hook Peninsula in South West County Wexford. The village is on the beach, has a small fishing harbour and is dominated by a Fort that originally dates from the late 16th century (I worked there as a tour guide one summer).
It’s no secret that I am very proud of my homeplace, and I think I grow more fond of it every year now. It wasn’t always this way, when I was a teenager I thought it was boring and too remote. Back then it took twenty minutes’ drive to reach the nearest ATM, a fact that visiting friends could never comprehend, but these days I love to get down to Duncannon for a walk on the beach and a catch up with family. (And there’s an ATM in the next village now). It feels like I’m on holidays, especially when the sun shines, and it looks like this: Last year, the combination of great weather and small baby meant that we spent a lot of time in my parents’ house, traipsing up and down to the beach and across to the playground, usually with a helpful auntie or uncle to assist too.
I realised then what a fantastic holiday location it is for anyone taking their summer break in Ireland, especially those with young children. We had such a great time that I thought I’d share the holiday destination and all there is to do for families with young children in the area. Feel free to add more, I’m sure I’ve missed a lot.
The village really comes alive in the summer and hosts three festivals, including the nationally acclaimed Sandsculpting Festival, the Military Reenactment Festival and the Kitesurfing Festival.
There are enough beaches on the Hook Peninsula to go to a different one every day for two weeks. You could even try a beach scavenger hunt. Duncannon Strand itself is one of those rare beaches where you can bring the car, brilliant if you have a small baby. The water is also very shallow and there’s a lifeguard patrol.
Attractions in the area include:
Hook Lighthouse There’s the lighthouse (the oldest in Europe), a wooden ship play thing, rocks to climb and an art room where kids can make their own slate artwork and bring it home as a holiday souvenir.
Tintern Abbey An abbey might not sound like somewhere fun to bring the smallies but we love it. Located just off the road from Wexford to Arthurstown, Tintern is a great place to wander and breathe in the fresh Wexford air. There’s a walled garden (admission charged) and the abbey is open to the public, but for us we avail of the walk in the woods and the exploring. For this, admission is free. There’s a tearoom on site and the abbey is open to the public for a fee.
John F Kennedy Park and Arboretum This was one of the places we used to go on a Sunday drive when I was a child (The Hook was the other). We always took the Lake walk and brought bread to feed the ducks. These days we spend the day wandering along the walks and botanical examples where you can walk for hours, feed the ducks, play in the playground and ride the model train (extra charge, only open during the summer months). Make sure to take the drive to the top of Sliabh Coillte too (entrance across the road from the Arboretum) for panoramic views of the area.
Loftus Hall – Ireland’s most haunted house, so possibly more for the adults but my sources tell me that kids will love the new zipwire.
Close by (30 minutes drive or less)
Choose one of my Things to do in Wexford as a short day trip
Take a trip to Dunmore East via the Passage East Car Ferry– the ferry trip itself is exciting for the kids, but very short.
Check out Waterford and Suir Valley Railway
There are cinemas in Waterford and Wexford.
The nearest indoor playcentre is Playbarn in New Ross.
If you’re feeling active check out Hooked Kitesurfing in Duncannon, “supping” is suitable for older kids and adults. There’s kayaking and surfing at Monkey Rocks Surf Shop in Fethard.
Places to eat and drink with kids
Both The Strand Tavern and Roches Bar serve food til 9pm in summer and offer excellent children’s menus and a friendly atmosphere.
The village has two traditional chippers- Off the Hook and Juff’s. There’s a coffee shop located in the grounds of the Fort, and an arts centre too.
For fancier dining (as in without the kids) Aldridge Lodge and Dunbrody House are a stone’s throw (or walking distance, depending on your shoes)
Hal’s Ceili Band play every Thursday night all year long in The Strand Tavern (my Dad is in the band!)
Roches Bar and The Strand Tavern have live music every weekend all summer.
For the kids, there’s a magic and puppet show with Noel Lynch’s Kids’
Party Club in the Strand Tavern each Monday during the school holidays at 6pm. Admission, €2 per child is well worth it, this was the highlight of the boys’ Duncannon visits last year.
Duncannon’s playground recently doubled in size thanks to the amazing efforts of a local community group. The boys could spend hours here.
There’s a smaller playground in Fethard on Sea.
Attractions I have yet to visit
See, there’s so much to do, there’s a great reason why they call it #Funcannon
I recognise that lighthouse 🙂 we had a fantastic family trip there a few years ago, kids still talk about it. As their grandad and great grandad were lighthouse keepers the children were particularly interested and we found it a great family attraction! Need to go back to check out the rest of your suggestions! Great post!
The kids love going down there, during the winter we went the whole way to the top. It really is a lovely corner of the world to visit
Thanks. Really enjoyed your local knowledge. I’m very familiar with the attractions of Kerry but will think about visiting here now! Regards from Thom at the immortal jukebox (plugged in now).
Do Thom, there’s always a great welcome 🙂
Ok, I’m sold. Can you recommend any self catering places nearby. Our pre end of maternity leave foreign holiday seems like such a long time ago that we have been talking about a week away in Ireland at the end of the summer
Yay! There’s no “holiday village managed places”, it’s all owner let and a lot of the stock in the village is less than 10 years old. I’d recommend getting something in the village as then you’re just out the door onto the beach etc. South Beach or Beach View are both holiday estates in the village that are nice and have outdoor space for kids to kick a ball. I’ve stayed in Beach View and friends have stayed in Plunkett Court, but there are so many nice places check them on daft.ie (currently 47 properties in Duncannon on it!) and if you want to check anything with me email me.
I would def add Secret valley farm and the heritage park to the list.
Thanks Trish. We love the Heritage Park too. Haven’t been to Secret Valley for a few years, must go again
I love Duncannon – winter or summer indeed!! No matter the weather, it is a scenic and refreshing place to spend time out….indoors or on the beach or going for a spin to historic locations, or shopping in Waterford. I always rent a house in Beach View, it’s very convenient to the village – safe walkways, a tiny trot to the beach, and secure parking. The house I take is perfect – 3 double rooms so friends and family can easily join me – it’s really a home from home! SHHHHHHHHHHHH don’t tell too many people!! It’s the quiet that adds to the enjoyment!!! lol
Even when it’s busy it’s quiet. Beach View is a perfect location alright, although to my mind it’ll always be “Butler’s Field” 🙂
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Went on me holidays to Duncannon twice as a child. It was what made me friends with your brother P back in the day.
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Hi I love your blog and have followed a while now. It’s the reason I booked a hol home in Duncannon for one week in June 🙂 Can’t wait to go to all these places you have suggested. The only thing is I saw on the news about the beach being not fit for swimming? Is this true? Dunno how I’ll keep my little fella out of the water !!
Thanks Olivia. The water quality figures are historic and there are definitely improvements- I’ll let Niall from Hookedkitesurfing explain – http://hookedkitesurfing.ie/2016/04/07/duncannon-beach/
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Hi.I’m going down to Duncannon this Sat for a week so coming across your blog with all your helpful local knowledge has been ideal.Staying at caravan park there with family(our 4 kids are from 8yrs down to 2yrs)so on a practical level, where is the nearest shop for supplies & is there a chemist in the village?
Also previously read that sea water on strand is quite shallow.How far out before depth becomes swimmable?
There’s a small shop in the village, a huge Centra with butcher counter in Ramsgrange which is 3 minutes drive, an d SuperValu in Wellingtonbridge. I’ve a few updates for this post too so watch the blog towards the weekend. There’s a sea festival on the Hook peninsula this weekend. The closest chemist is Campile, about 7 mins drive and there’s one in Wellingtonbridge too. The water is shallow, for serious swimmingI’d recommend going to Dollar or Booley Bay.