IT'S BEEN a long wait, but one of Ireland's best-loved days out will return this month.
From 26 April, families and friends will be able to make the long-awaited trips to outdoor zoos, wildlife parks and sanctuaries as Ireland slowly begins reopening following a long four months in lockdown.
Some of the parks are opening on the day, while others are taking some extra time to prepare the area and their staff, but all are eager to welcome back the public.
With the weather set to get warmer and sunnier as Ireland enters late spring, and the public itching to spend time somewhere other than the four walls of their homes, the zoos and wildlife parks are set to be very popular indeed-- but which should you visit?
Ireland's most famous and popular zoo, drawing over a million visitors each year in normal times, Dublin Zoo will be among the parks allowed to reopen at the end of this month.
Visit the wolves, watch the penguins being fed, visit the new arrivals to the zoo and learn all about the zoo's essential conservation work-- you can find Dublin Zoo inside the Phoenix Park in Dublin city centre.
Reopening on 26 April-- make your booking online here!
Fota Widlife Park, Cork
This fantastic wildlife park and resort gives the animals wide open spaces, and some-- like certain cheeky monkeys-- have no issue roaming all around the park, taking no notice of the humans-- unless it's to ask for food.
A bonus feature of Fota Wildlife Park is the train journey from the city to the island, which brings you across the water and into the park station.
Reopening on 26 April- make a booking online here!
Wild Ireland, Burnfoot, County Donegal
Donegal is known for its wild and rugged countryside-- and its wildlife park is no different.
This unique sanctuary is home to animals once native to Ireland before they were hunted to extinction by humans, and many who call Wild Ireland home were once captive creatures rescued by the park's owner. Bears, wolves, lynxes and wild boar makes this sanctuary a sight to behold.
Keep an eye on the Facebook page for information about reopening!
The Donkey Sanctuary, Liscarroll, County Cork
Not all sanctuaries have to involve exotic or wild animals for it to be a great day out, and the Donkey Sanctuary in Liscarroll, County Cork, is the proof of this.
Home to once-neglected or abandoned donkeys, the calm and gentle creatures are clearly content and happy, and are extremely friendly towards visitors-- you can even adopt or sponsor a donkey and be kept updated with their progress!
The Donkey Sanctuary is not opening at the end of this month, but keep an eye on their Facebook page for announcements!
Burren Birds of Prey Centre, Clare
The Burren Birds of Prey centre is a unique conservation and educational centre set to the backdrop of the breathtaking Burren National Park, County Clare.
Watch birds of prey take flight in daily flying displays, keep a birds-eye view on the hawks on daily scheduled walks in the national park, and see the birds up close and personal with the spacious outdoor aviaries-- a fantastic day out in one of the most beautiful places in Ireland.
Keep an eye on their Facebook page to see announcements about reopening.
Tayto Park, Ashbourne, County Meath
Tayto Park is better known for its amusement rides-- including the biggest wooden rollercoaster in Europe, the Cú Chulainn-- but it's also home to a very impressive zoo.
While wildlife parks and zoos can open from 26 April, amusement parks have not yet received a date to reopen, which puts Tayto Park in an odd position-- keep an eye on their Facebook page to see when they announce a reopening date.
Secret Valley Wildlife Park and Zoo, Wexford
Set over an impressive 14 acres, the Secret Valley Wildlife Park in Enniscorthy, County Wexford, is home to everything from exotic favourites like monkeys, to farmyard familiars like sweet baby lambs.
The park has confirmed they are reopening from 26 April-- be sure to book your tickets in advance here!
Stonehall Visitor Farm & Wildlife Park, Limerick
Set along the picturesque rural setting of Curraghchase in County Limerick, Stonehall Visitor Farm & Wildlife Park is a guaranteed hit for the whole family.
The well-cared for animals are always willing to say hello, and the experienced, knowledgeable staff are on hand to answer any questions, making it educational as well as a fun day out.
And its setting in the tranquil walking spot of Curraghchase Forest Park is an added bonus-- stretch your legs with a stroll in the gorgeous scenery to help walk off the big picnic.
Reopening 1 May-- find out more here!