“ Address: Tayto Park / Kilbrew / Ashbourne / Co.Meath „
Tayto are best known for their crisps, which are the nicest around in my opinion, There is also, weirdly, a difference between the Tayto crisps manufactured in Tandragee, Co Armagh, Northern Ireland and Kilbrew,, Ashbourne, Co Meath, Ireland. Being big fans of the Irish Tayto, when my friend spotted a flyer advertising Tayto Park, we had to investigate. We were staying in Dublin for the weekend, and we spotted this advertised as a local attraction. Realising that it wasn't really out of our way to visit there, we decided to take a look on our way home.
Tayto Park is located within the grounds of the Tayto factory in Co Meath It was about a 20 minute drive from where we were staying in Swords, Co Dublin. We found the park very easy to find, even though we had never been in the area before. The roads leading up to the attraction aren't the best, and we were worried that we had taken a wrong turn. Though it was last summer that we visited, so the roads may have been upgraded since then.
Tayto Park has an unusual mix of attractions. It is part safari park, part native American camp. It is designed for children, but since my friend and I are still children at heart, we had a great day. The park is divided into sections, and you are given a map showing what is where in the complex.
It is advisable to visit the park on a weekday, as there is an audio visual walking tour around the factory and you can see production happening as you walk around. We visited on a Sunday and while we were able to walk through and see the factory and watch the videos about the history of the brand, there was only the occasional fork lift truck that we seen on the factory floor. The tour takes you into a viewing gallery above the factory floor, so you can look down into the production lines below.
As you enter, you meet My Tayto and you can have your picture taken with him although this does cost you money (from memory around Euro3). We then bumped into a (very good looking) young man who invited us to the Native American village (imaginatively named Potatohontas, and who were we to argue with him? This area has tepees and totem poles and there are staff dressed up who help you decipher the messages that are inscribed on the totem poles.
Quite a large area of the part is home to animals. There are some rare animals, some of which I had never heard of before that day!
The animal enclosures are divided up as follows;
Mr Tayto's Critter Country which is home to Corsac Foxes, skunks and albino wallabies. This area also contains fishing cats, which I had never heard of before that day. Fishing cats are very similar to domestic cats, although they are slightly bigger and they enjoy swimming and catching fish, very unlike domesticated cats!
The Meercat Lookout - the name itself is pretty much self explanatory! Similarly, the Wild Cat plains house Amur Leopards and Tigers, which are endangered, and Tayto are part of ALTA which s an organisation which is dedicated to funding agencies and projects for the conservation of Amur Leopards. You can also buy t-shirts and other items in the gift shop to help this cause.
Farm Yard Friends is home to some well known farmyard animals such as ducks and rabbits. There is also some rarer farmyard animals in the Pet-Tayto has Vietnamese Pot Bellied Pigs, Pygmy Goats and Highland Cows.
The Buffalo Ridge is home to the first herd of American Bison in Ireland. You can't get up close to these animals, you have to climb onto a viewing platform and look through a telescope. There is also audio available at the platform which goes into detail about the animals, and also points out the Buffalo flavoured Tayto crisps that are available to purchase in the shop.
There are also a children's playpark with towers, slides and rope bridges, as well as a maze for those who want a bit of a challenge. For thrillseeking children, there is the Eagle Sky Adventure Zone, which includes one of the fastest and longest zip lines in Ireland, a 'skywalk' which is a multi level assault course, a 21m high climbing wall and a 21m helter-skelter (though these do cost extra and there are minimum height restrictions).
There is also the area called the Geronimo Thrill Zone, which includes air jumping, a bucking bronco and super soakers. You can also go mining for gold in this area.
There is a small café called the Teahouse in the Treehouse, which is built into an old tree stump on the site and serves ice cream and drinks. It's nice to just climb up and have a drink in the shade of the large trees. There is also a restaurant in the complex, although we didn't eat there. There is also a gift shop with a wide range of Tayto merchandise available including t-shirts, keyrings and of course crisps.
Tayto Park was definitely one of the weirdest places that I have visited in terms of what's on offer. I'm still not sure what the common denominator is between safari parks, Native Americans and crisps, but it was a very enjoyable day out. It is aimed at children, but there was enough there to keep adults entertained as well. As I said earlier, it's best to visit during the week when crisp production is happening, but I found the tour very interesting nonetheless and it was educational for us as well as we seen animals that we were unaware even existed.
Prices are fairly reasonable as well, it was Euro12 each for me and my friend, and a family ticket (2 adults and 2 children is Euro40. For a family, there is a lot to see and do, and it's not that large an area that walking around it all tires younger children out. We spent about 3 hours wandering around, so the £10 or so price tag was worth it for us, and I'd imagine the same would be said for families. There is an additional charge for some of the attractions, but these are around Euro2 or so, so pocket money prices really. Parking is free, and you can part in either the Salt and Vinegar (blue) car park or the Cheese and Onion car park (green). The park is open all year, although the outdoor nature of the park means a sunny day is best to visit. I would definitely recommend a trip if you are in Co Meath, as it was a very interesting day out, and we saw some amazing animals.
see http://www.taytocrisps.ie/park/ for more information.