2018 Summer Camps in Ireland: guide to the biggest, best and beloved

From camogie to fencing, landing a plane to drawing there’s a vast range of camps

Keeping school-age children happy and occupied during the summer holidays is no simple task. For many parents, choosing a summer camp, or two, or eight, is an annual and often expensive task. Depending on your location, you may have a choice of camps for every week of July and August, or perhaps very little choice at all.

Here are some of the biggest, most popular and the best – but it’s always worth checking out the very small, very local camps that may be close to your home.

After moving from Spike Island to Fota Island last year (in order to expand), Fota Island Adventure are running camps throughout the summer that are entirely outdoors (the woods in the resort provide shelter during the wetter days). Activities include kayaking, canoeing, archery, Battle Royale (Fortnight inspired woodland nerf game) and orienteering.
Location: Fota Island Resort, Fota Island, Co Cork 
Times: 5 days, 10am-3pm
Ages: 7-17 years.
Cost: €130 per week (or €50 for a day camp).
Website: fotaadventure.com

If your child loves experiments, creating potions, and problem-solving then perhaps this is the camp for them. There's a long list of activities promised, with children divided into four age groups: Pico (4-6), Nano (7-9), Micro (10-12) and Teens (13-15). Some of the camps cater for only some of those age groups, so check carefully before booking.
Location: There's a camp in at least one town in 17 counties (Carlow, Cavan, Cork, Dublin, Galway, Kildare, Leitrim, Limerick, Louth, Meath, Monaghan, Roscommon, Sligo, Tipperary, Westmeath, Wexford and Wicklow).
Times: 5 days, 10am-2pm (teens, 9.30am-2.30pm)
Ages: 4-12 years
Cost: €157.50 for first child; €142.50 for second; €100 for third (plus €5 for safety glasses). Teens, €190.
Website: anyone4science.com


Definitely not your ordinary summer camp, the School of Irish Archaeology run The Big Dig camps for the next Indiana Jones in your family (though your child won't know who that is). Apart from the hands-on education for young explorers, there's a trip to a national monument included in the week's activities.
Location: Malahide and Harold's Cross in Dublin
Times: 5 days, 9am/10am-3pm
Ages: 7-12 years
Cost: €125
Website: sia.ie

Art schools are always popular choices for children during the summer months – and most are small camps run by one or two people, often in their local area. Like Artzone, they are often split according to age group, and therefore, roughly, according to ability. So while the younger children may be more interested in general arts and crafts and games, the older ones may be more drawn to something such as comic book design.

Location: 14 locations in Dublin and Kildare
Times: 5 days, 10am-2pm
Ages: 5-13 years
Cost: €125-€150
Website: artzone.class4kids.ie

A chance to throw a javelin, tackle the high-jump, see if you can clear a hurdle and run in a relay. Somewhere at a camp this summer (hopefully), the next Sonia O'Sullivan or John Treacy will find what they love and have a talent for, and go on to have an international career.
Location: 27 locations, with some counties – such as Tipperary – well covered and others, unfortunately, lacking any camp.
Times: 5 days, 10am-2pm
Ages: 6-12 years
Cost: €60 for first child; €50 for second
Website: athleticsireland.ie

For those dreaming of one day becoming a pilot, enrolling in the Atlantic Air Adventures Summer Aviation Camp must be a dream way to spend a few summer days. Classes cover learning how pilots plan, weather factors, the science behind flying, etc, but the highlight of the week is undoubtedly being behind the controls in a full-scale flight simulator for a 15-mile approach and landing (hopefully) at an airport. There are two separate camps – one for ages 8-12 and another for teenagers.
Location: Shannon, Co Clare
Times: 4 days (Mon-Thur), 10am-1pm/3pm
Ages: 8-12 years, and over 13
Cost: €135 (8-12), €245 (over 13)
Website: atlanticairadventures.com

Before you skip on by, it's not just about mathematical formulas – activities include music technology, sound production and 3D mapping. And there are physical challenges too, such as football, rugby, abseiling and swimming. There's also surfing, which we presume depends on which camp you attend. The camps are, apparently, popular with overseas students – with half the attendees coming from abroad – so airport transfers are even offered.
Location: Delphi Resort, Connemara and Rockwell College, Co Tipperary
Times: 1 week (residential)
Ages: 9-17 years
Cost: €850
Website: connemaramathsacademy.com

The UCD Debate Camp is designed to develop public speaking and critical thinking skills "in a fun and supportive environment". Students will receive personalised coaching, training, feedback and guidance from accomplished debaters.
Location: University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4
Times: June 25th-29th, 9am-4pm 
Cost: €145 (20% discount for subsequent children)
Website: societies.ucd.ie/debatecamp/

This is all about Steam (science, technology, engineering, art and maths). It is, according to the organisers, for children “who can’t stop tinkering with technology”. There is a junior camp for 7-9 year-olds and a senior camp (10-13 years). Many of the camps for this summer already have waiting lists, so if you are too late for this summer it might be worth considering joining one their clubs – which run during school term – and will open for booking in July for this autumn.

Location: Nationwide, though the spread is a little uneven, as some counties have many camp locations, while a few counties have none.
Times: 5 days, 10am-2pm
Ages: 7-13 years
Cost: €125
Website: designerminds.ie

The most popular summer camp of them all, with 127,000 children taking part last year. The week is about fun and learning new skills in football, camogie and hurling. The relatively low cost of signing up is obviously a big incentive, especially considering each child takes home a gear bag, jersey and sports top.
Location: In all 32 counties, and even some overseas. Without a doubt, if you are on the island, there is a Cúl Camp near you (for example, there are 35 camp locations in Donegal alone).
Times: 5 days, 10am-2.30pm
Ages: 6-13 years
Cost: €60 (£45) for first child; €50 (£40) for second; €40 (£35) for third
Website: kelloggsculcamps.gaa.ie

So you think you have the next stage or screen star in your household? In many camps, the upper age-limit excludes teenagers however the Gaiety summer camps go from 4 to 19 years. There's a dazzling array of choices, for example, Fairy Adventure Camp for 4-6-year-olds (10am-1pm), Horrible Histories for 7-10 years (10am-2pm), High School Musical: The GSA Days for 11-13 years (10am-4pm) and Acting for Camera for teenagers over 13 years (10am-2pm).
Location: Temple Bar, Dublin
Times: 5 days (times depend on age group, 10am-1pm, 10am-2pm and 10am-4pm)
Ages: 4-19 years.
Cost: €120-€200 (depending on age group).
Website: gaietyschool.com

So you have a budding gymnast in your living room? Olympian Gymnastics Camps might be the place for her or him. The campers get to try the different apparatus - floor, beam, bars and vault, as well as an introduction to trampette, air track and acrobatics.

Location: Several locations in Dublin (Templeogue College, Colmcille's CS, Alexandra College and Old Bawn CS).
Times: 5 days, 9.30am-2.30pm.
Cost: €100 for first child; €90 for second.
Website: olympiangymnastics.com

Not the usual summer camp, but one familiar to many Irish people. CONCOS (Comhchoiste na gColáistí Samhraidh) is made up of many Irish summer colleges – inside and outside Irish-speaking regions – and is a good place to start. It is the course where you get to build a raft in the morning and learn to dance the Walls of Limerick in the afternoon. And, of course, while doing it all you learn a cúpla focal.
Location: Nationwide, though the west coast counties of Donegal, Mayo, Galway, Clare and Kerry are particularly popular.
Times: One-, two- and three-week courses (many residential)
Ages: Usually 12-18 years
Cost: €300-€1,000 (depending on number of weeks)
Website: concos.ie

These Lego-themed camps are among the growing number of groups organising summer classes around the general area of Stem (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). The Lego one looks to be a popular, fun way to engage the kids while they are learning how levers work, how a bridge stays up, etc. The 11-plus group builds a robot and spends much of the week enhancing it, such as making it move.
Location: 11 counties (Clare, Cork, Dublin, Galway, Kerry, Kildare, Kilkenny, Limerick, Tipperary, Waterford and Westmeath)
Times: 5 days, 10am-2pm
Ages: 6-18 years
Cost: €110-€150 for first child; €99-€135 for second
Website: learnit.ie

Bricks 4 Kidz teaches science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) using Lego. They have a number of camp options depending on age; Junior Builders camp (3-5 years); Motorised Lego Technic camp (5-12 years); and Robotics and Coding camp (8-14 years). The camps are very popular amongst both girls and boys. Bricks 4 Kidz is part of global franchise network that operates across 45 countries.
Location: 8 counties (Dublin, Galway, Waterford, Wicklow, Wexford, Louth, Donegal and Kilkenny)
Times: 5 days, 9am-noon, or 2pm-5pm
Ages: 3-16 years
Cost: €99 - €125 (depending on activity)
Website: bricks4kidz.ie

Human Table Football, Disco Dome, bouncy castle, zorbee ball roll: the Let's Go! camps have been running for 35 years and are focused on fun. Children are split into two age groups – 5-6 and 7-12 – as some of the activities may be a little too much for the younger ones.
Location: Nationwide, though there are a few areas around the country, such as in west Mayo, where camps are scarce.
Times: 5 days, 9.30am-3.30pm
Ages: 5-12 years
Cost: €100 for first child; €85 for second; €70 for third
Website: letsgo.ie

The "all-rounders" will love this camp at the National Sports Campus. There's gymnastics, swimming, trampolining, fencing – children get a go at many different sports over the week. There is also a separate Inclusive Multi-Sports camp at the National Sports Campus for children with disabilities.
Location: Blanchardstown, Dublin
Times: 5 days, 9am-3pm
Ages: 5-13 years
Cost: €90
Website: nationalsportscampus.ie

Run through the provinces, the camps are for those who have never held a rugby ball before, as well as those already envisioning themselves facing the All Blacks in a World Cup final. For many of the big sports, such as rugby and the GAA – these summer camps serve as feeders for the clubs, children get an enjoyable introduction to the game and end up joining a local club. There's a T-shirt, rugby ball and bag for everyone and senior provincial players are expected to call in to some of the camps.
Location: Nationwide – almost every rugby club will host a camp this summer, which leaves only a few counties without one.
Times: 5 days, 9am/9.30am-1pm/1.30pm
Ages: 6-12 years
Cost: €85-€90 for first child; €75-€80 for second
Website: The provinces run the camps in their areas - connachtrugby.ie, leinsterrugby.ie, munsterrugby.ie, ulsterrugby.com

Mastering the art of sailing is offered at the Irish National Sailing and Powerboat School. Groups are by age (4-6, 7-10, 11-14 and 15-17) and, this summer, with a second location, they have also brought the adventure and fun closer to the centre of Dublin - at Poolbeg Yacht & Boat Club.

Location: Dun Laoghaire and Poolbeg in Dublin.
Times: 5 days, 9am-5pm (7-17 years), 9am-12.30pm (4-6 years).
Ages: 4-17 years.
Cost: From €209 (discounts for multiple bookings).
Website: inss.ie

These multi-activity summer camps involve doing a mixture of outdoor games and indoor activities, including arts & crafts, baking and science. Programs also include excursions to parks, beaches or museums. Organisers say they are flexible, allowing parents to book the days and hours that suit.
Location: Cork, Dublin and Laois.
Times: Flexible: 7.30am/8am-6pm
Ages: 4-12 years.
Cost: Vary between €20 and €170 (sibling discounts apply).
Website: sherpakids.ie

Junior Songschool is a chance for 8-12 year olds to spend some time at the National Concert Hall, learning about writing, performing and recording songs. The senior camp is for older students who are interested in writing and recording songs, performing them at a concert, making a video, learning about music technology, and meeting people who love music as much as they do.
Location: National Concert Hall, Earlsfort Terrace, Dublin.
Times: 5 days, 10am-2pm (8-12 years), 10am-4pm (12-18 years).
Ages: 8-18.
Cost: €112.50-€150.
Website: nch.ie/Online/Songschool

A camp for those who enjoy singing, dancing and acting. And, to be fair, perhaps for those who are a little quiet and shy and might benefit from a confidence-building, fun environment. There’s a Starcamp T-shirt for the kids, and they put on a little show for the parents at the end of the final day.

Location: Nationwide (including Northern Ireland)
Times: 5 days, 9.30am-2.30pm
Ages: 4-12 years
Cost: €95 (£85) for first child; €75 (£75) for second; €65 for third
Website: starcamp.ie

Whether it is introducing your children to soccer or developing their skills, the FAI Summer Schoolls are running for more than 20 years. For budding goalkeepers, there is a separate coaching programme in some of the camps. Some League of Ireland players (rather than international stars) will visit some of the camps. And then there's the obligatory kit, backpack, football and certificate.
Location: Nationwide. In Northern Ireland, the IFA organises the summer camps. See irishfa.com
Times: 5 days, 10.30am-3pm
Ages: 6-14 years
Cost: €65 for first child; €55 for second
Website: camps.fai.ie

If your children are into technology, chances are they will recognise at least some of the following: minecraft, coding, scratch, web design, HTML, animation and robotics. Techkidz run camps for all levels, from learning the basics to coding, programming and game development. Older children also get to experience 3D Design, as well as coding using a Raspberry Pi. As well as these fun filled activities, children will also be taught about staying safe online.
Location: 36 venues in the six Munster counties.
Times: 5 days (10am-12.30pm or 2.30pm-5pm).
Ages: 7-14 Years.
Cost:  €110.
Website: techkidz.ie

The Independent Theatre Workshop are running performing arts camps, which will incorporate dance, drama, singing, filmmaking, performance and theatre trips. There will be a variety of themes for various age groups - including Creative Kids, Camp Broadway, Senior Dance Intensive, and themes such as Hairspray, Dear Evan Hansen and Wicked.
Location: Ranelagh and Clonskeagh, Dublin.
Times: 5 days, 9am-1pm (3-7 years), 10am-4pm (7-18).
Ages: 3-18 years.
Cost: €130-€160.
Website: itwstudios.ie.

For the tech-focused child in your family, with activities promised including web design, app development, video game programming and animation. There's also one sports activity each day, just to get them away from a screen. And if the full day is too much, there's a dip your toe in the water half-day camp.
Location: In eight counties (Cork, Dublin, Galway, Kerry, Kildare, Limerick, Tipperary and Westmeath).
Times: 5 days, 9.30am-3.30pm (half-day camp, 9.30am-1pm)
Ages: 8-15 years
Cost: €159 for first child; €139 for second; €144 for third (half-day camp, €99 for first child)
Website: whizzkids.ie

For the animal lovers in the family, the camp participants learn about the animals in Dublin Zoo and conservation, as well as the usual camp activities of craft projects, etc. The location is obviously a big attraction, and the camp includes walks through the zoo. But don't think your child will be playing in the mud with baby elephants and cuddling baby pandas – the camp does not include direct contact with animals.
Location: Phoenix Park, Dublin
Times: 5 days, 10am-2.30pm
Ages: 6-12 years
Cost: €140
Website: dublinzoo.ie

- if you would like your summer camp considered for inclusion in this list, please email details to health@irishtimes.com (please put "Summer Camp" in the subject line)

Summer Camps
John Sharry: How can I keep my 14-year-old occupied over the summer?
Sheila Wayman: Help children 'follow their bliss' to summer camp
Damian Cullen: 2018 guide to the biggest, best and beloved camps

Damian Cullen

Damian Cullen

Damian Cullen is Health & Family Editor of The Irish Times