Explore the Birthplace of Ancient Ireland – Co. Meath – Family Holiday in Ireland
For our Easter Family Holiday in Ireland this year we decided to explore County Meath as Saoirse has been learning all about Newgrange this year and was eager to make a visit. We had planned a five days break but ended up spending six days in Meath as we were trying to fit in so much.
Tourism Ireland describes Meath as the “Birthplace of Ancient Ireland”. I was anticipating plenty of heritage sites to explore on our family break, from the Hill of Tara, Newgrange, The Battle of the Boyne and Slane Castle, and I wasn’t disappointed. What’s more, as a family holiday destination, county Meath has also so much more to enjoy.
Family Accommodation in Co. Meath
On this trip we choose self-catering Family Accommodation in Co. Meath. We stayed in Decoy Country Cottages, a short 10 minutes from Navan town. The cottages themselves are situated around a courtyard within the old stable and farm buildings of the country house nearby.
When we arrived, I was really pleased to see how luxurious and spacious our cottage was inside, and picturesque and quaint from outside.
The cottage provided all the usual mod cons and so much more. In fact, it was almost better equipped than my own kitchen at home, which made family breakfast and dinner time so easy. The holiday got off to a great start when I saw our beautiful welcome pack of locally sourced eggs, bread, chocolates and more. Most of the normal kitchen condiments were provided as well; olive oil, herbs, salt, pepper etc. This just takes the hassle out of holidays, making more time for spending quality time with my family.
The cottages were extremely spacious with a large kitchen and sitting room downstairs as well as two large ensuite rooms upstairs but most importantly the interior was fresh and elegant throughout.
What I loved the most was the eco-friendly policy, which is evident from the solar panels to the eco-friendly detergents provided. I particularly loved the Voya spa products in the bathrooms which I was determined to enjoy (and I did!). They also added a touch of pampering to the already luxurious feel of the cottages.
Things to Do at Decoy Country Cottages
The area outside was very secure, as there is a ‘no car’ policy in the courtyard and the front gate required a code for access. I felt comfortable letting Lonan, my two-year-old daughter, ramble around herself. One of the cottages is a dedicated children’s’ den which was equipped for all ages, from small babies, tweens to teens, with a play station, toy kitchen, blackboard, board games, air hockey, snooker table and much more. There is a gym next door to the children’s’ den, open to over 16s.
Every morning, the children would excitedly open the cottage door to greet their new four-legged friends, Milo the dog and three friendly cats. Instead of trying to get the kids to put their tablets away, we had to convince them that their new pets had enough petting so we could go and explore the area.
There was so much to do outside and it felt so safe and secure, I often had to search for the kids and encourage them in when it rained. The playground was modern and clean and had a brilliant sand pit with toys, for major excavation work. Ducks, geese and hens proved to be an enormous source of entertainment for Lonάn, but the kids were most excited about the tree house which was straight from a movie set, built in the amongst the trees in the garden of the main house. Let’s just say when we ventured out for day trips and it was time to go home, they were always happy to oblige so that they could play some more back at base.
Family Things to Do in Meath and Surrounds
The most amazing aspect of this place was the location. On the Bank Holiday Monday, we drove into Heuston train station in Dublin city and it only took us 37 minutes door to door. There is also a train in the nearby town of Dunboyne that will take you into the city. Imaginosity was another day trip, only a 40-minute drive along the M50. Newgrange was ten minutes away, while The Hill of Tara was ten minutes in the other direction. The Battle of the Boyne was about a 15 minute drive. You do need to book in advance for Newgrange and if you are making a trip to the Hill of Tara, Maguire’s café is a must.
There is so much more to do in this region, such as Tayto Park, Waterpark Funtasia, Rathbeggan Lakes and Slane Castle. To be honest, if you had a week you would not cover it all, and there really is something for everyone. Belfast would also make for a fun day trip, approx. 1 hour away.
Navan town has plenty in the way of retail therapy and gorgeous options for eating out so if you don’t want to travel too much, then you don’t have far to go to find everything you need!
Places to Eat in Meath and Surrounds
There are many restaurants to choose from in the nearby village of Johnstown or even the town of Navan but our top picks for the area are Room 8 Cafe and Restaurant which is located on the high street. The food here is exceptional, decor is only divine and most of all the service was superb. They had lovely kids options and overall it was reasonably priced. So if you want a five star meal in a family friendly hotel this is for you.
Another favourite for an evening meal would have to be Crave Restaurant just minutes from the main street. The food here was divine and we had excellent choice. What I loved the most was they brought carrot, cucumber and celery sticks with a dip for the kids, while we waited for the food. I never saw them eat so much veggies! The presentation was so attractive the kids gobbled all this healthy food up. Extremely family friendly and the fact that they were busy on a Tuesday night at 7pm shows the locals are major fans too!
For lunch we took a recommendation from the locals and were not disappointed. Maguires Cafe is located at the entrance to The Hill of Tara and locals travel far and wide to this spot – so be prepared for a small queue. However, it is truly worth the wait. The kids got a toastie, chips and hot chocolate all for €5 and we were amazed with our main courses of a goats cheese salad and burger. It was more like an evening meal than lunch. I could see why the locals love this place and why the car park was full on a Wednesday at 2pm. Best of all, you can take in the Hill of Tara from here.
It is hard to come up with a negative. The only thing I could think of was the Wi-Fi – not the strongest during our stay but there was work underway while we were there to rectify that.
County Meath gets our thumbs up. I would recommend to visit it now before it gets discovered! It is certainly a hidden gem right now. Since I have come home, I am recommending this location for families wanting to visit Dublin city, as you have all the convenience of brilliant travel links without the cost or inconvenience of staying in the city with kids. All in all, if you wanted a holiday taking in the attractions of the City, exploring Ireland’s Ancient East and stay in a relaxing and luxurious accommodation, then you would look no further.
What the Kids Said about Decoy Country Cottages
Saoirse, “I loved it because it was really fun and you never got bored.”
To Find out more about Decoy Country Cottages click here!
Family Breaks Clare
Clare is a county that has been ingrained in my brain as a place of fun, sea, sand and holidays as we were brought to this beautiful county time and time again as a child. I still love to make a trip here when I can as I always feel the minute you go over the border cars slow down and the relaxed way of life embraces you.
When we think “Family Breaks Clare“, the first thing that usually comes to mind is surfing in Lahinch, Aillwee Caves and The Cliffs of Mohar but if that was not enough there is so much more in this county such as:
- Irish Seaweed Safari – The Irish Seaweed Safari is an experience not to be missed! Join the 4th generation Seaweed Foragers and enjoy the spectacular shore walk from the rugged coastline of Caherush meandering along the shoreline enjoying nostalgic views looking out on Spanish Point Bay along with the spectacular Cliffs of Moher and the Aran Islands.
- Trip to Aran Islands -Sail to the Aran Islands or Cruise under the Cliffs of Moher ! Daily sailings to the Aran Islands from Doolin. Visit the spectacular Dún Aengus fort on Inis Mor, get away from it all on Inis Meain or take a quick trip to the smallest one – the beautiful island of Inis Oirr. Or take a Cruise under the Cliffs of Moher. Admire the scale and majestic beauty of the Cliffs of Moher on a 1 hour voyage of discovery.
- Bunratty Castle – Bunratty Castle & Folk Park is a must on your itinerary to Ireland. This is your chance to experience a window on Ireland’s past and explore the acclaimed 15th century Bunratty Castle and the 19th century Bunratty Folk Park.
- Explore the Burren – The Burren National Park is located in the southeastern corner of the Burren and is approximately 1500 hectares in size. The Park land was bought by the Government for nature conservation and public access. It contains examples of all the major habitats within the Burren: Limestone Pavement, Calcareous grassland, Hazel scrub, Ash/hazel woodland, Turloughs, Lakes, Petrifying springs, cliffs and Fen
- Cliff Coastal Walk – Beyond the grounds of the Cliffs of Moher Visitor Experience you can now explore a new 20km coastal walking trail in Clare which will bring you along one of the most outstanding landscapes of Ireland. From LIscannor and Hags Head in the south, along by the majestic Cliffs of Moher and to Doolin in the North, with views over Aill Na Searrach, the Aran Islands and Galway Bay. The trail follows the line of the cliffs and passes through the grounds of the visitor centre. The trail starts on road from Liscannor where you will witness theamazing views of the Cliffs, the famous Aran Islands, Kerry mountains, Galway Bay, O’Briens Tower and the thousands of seabirds make the Cliffs a magical place. Talking telescopes are dotted along the paths as you go.
- Caving – Doolin Cave is home to the Great Stalactite. At 7.3 metres (23feet) it is the longest free-hanging stalactite in the Northern Hemisphere. The Great Stalactite, suspended from the ceiling like a chandelier, is truly astounding. Visitors can hardly believe that it was formed from a single drop of water over thousands of years. Extend the adventure from underground to over ground following a charming Farmland Nature Trail that takes a looped walk around the cave setting.
- Dolphin Watching – On the western seaboard of Ireland there are places where the distinction between land and sea is blurred. The west Clare peninsula in County Clare, guarding the northern shore of the Shannon estuary is one such place. The Shannon estuary is home to Ireland’s only resident group of bottlenose dolphins. Over 100 dolphins have been identified using the estuary at different times; calves are born each year and are usually encountered.
- Rock Climbing – The Burren climbing area is beautiful, with amazing cliffs and spectacular views and climbing instruction for all levels. With a large number of indoor climbing walls developing around the country, there is an increasing interest in trying it out on the real thing.
I think we all know Clare can boost of her nature credentials and stunning beauty but it is also a place rich in culture as around every corner there is a trad festival or trad music nights to enjoy. It is a place where you can bring children to enjoy these fabulous sounds and events often with live music during the day. While my children don’t normally see the inside of a pub from one end of the year to the next I love to bring them in to see a session and Clare is the perfect spot to do so. Some of the great pubs renowned for their sessions would be:
- Gus O’Connors Pub, Doolin
- The Roadside Tavern, Lisdoonvarna
- Brogan’s Bar, Ennis
- Vaaughan’s Pub, Kilfernora
The most famous Trad festival in Clare has to be Scoil Samhraidh Willie Clancy taking place every year on the first year of July. It is a week-long summer school of Irish traditional music, song and dance, incorporating tuition, lectures, recitals, concerts and céilithe. Thousands decend on the small town of Milltown Malbay every year and it is a mecca of traditional players from across the globe.
The long, mild afternoons at Scoil Samhraidh Willie Clancy are devoted to lectures on the various aspects of Irish traditional music heritage and its connections with mainland Europe and North America. There are recitals each evening showcasing the instruments taught at the school, performances in traditional song and dance, and céilithe nightly. The serious work of tuition is complemented by the festival atmosphere in hotels, pubs and on the streets, as students, locals and visitors celebrate Irish traditional music. It’s simply perfect for lovers of music, history, and the craic agus ceol. If you enjoy trad music and are looking for something different look not further than this as one of the top family breaks Clare.
When looking for places to stay you will have plenty of choice for the family in the following hotels never mind all the camp sites available:
So when you are thinking about your next break away there is something for everyone in Clare and that’s I would consider family breaks Clare to one of the best.
Top Ten Hotels with Large Family Rooms in Ireland
Top Ten Hotels with Large Family Rooms in Ireland
Time and time again parents are asking us what hotels can cater for large families and when I say cater they don’t mean how many can be squeezed into a family room but rather have the space for a large family to enjoy their family break comfortably. Here are my top ten hotels with large family rooms in Ireland:
- Breaffy House Resort – Castlebar, Co. Mayo – At the Woods there’s a pool, an outdoor playground, astro pitch for footie, an indoor games room and a breakfast train which picks kids up from your room to meet up with other buddies in the kids’ clubs, so Mum and Dad can lie on. If you fancy going off-campus, pack up your giant minivan and decamp to the Museum of Country Life just up the road. It’s perfect for larger families, not just because of the contents but because it’s free – admission tickets add up fast when there’s half a dozen of you. While their family rooms consist of 1 double bed & 4 single beds, accommodating up to 2 adults and 4 children they also offer family suites consisting of 2 bedrooms, with 2 bathrooms. Room 1 consist of 1 double bed & 1 single bed, Room 2 consists of 1 double bed & 1 single bed. Internal door connecting both rooms, accommodating up to 2 adults and 4 children. Click here for their family offers!
- Maritime Hotel – Bantry, Co. Cork – One and Two Bedroom Family Suites offer all the comforts of home, but with the luxury of a hotel stay in West Cork. Most importantly, the suites are spacious, making them ideal hotel accommodation for all families – and perfect for extended stays. One bedroom suites sleep up to 2 adults and 2 children and consist of one double bedroom and a separate living area with the option to pull-out the double sofa bed for up to 2 children under 12. Two bedroom suites sleep up to 2 adults and 4 children and consist of one double bedroom, one double or twin bedroom and a separate living area with the option to pull-out the double sofa bed for up to 2 children under 12. As you would expect of a luxury West Cork hotel 24-hour room service compliments the many in-room features which include Kitchenette with Refrigerator, Microwave, Sink and Toaster. For family offers click here!
- Castle Durrow Hotel – Durrow, Co. Laois – Stately old houses are often synonymous with pokey rooms. Not so Castle Durrow in Co Laois. This elegant hotel has a variety of family options, including family suites with a king-sized and a single bed in one room and a set of bunks with a single, plus space for a cot, in another. One of Ireland’s most luxurious Country House Hotels located one hour from Dublin, adjoining the quaint village of Durrow,Co Laois. Click here for more info!
- Osprey Hotel– Naas, Co. Kildare – A family duplex room (split level) consists of a king size double bed downstairs with a single bed in a large spacious room with plenty space for a cot. Upstairs (entry level) there is a large fold out sofa bed with a balcony that overs downstairs.
- Amber Springs Hotel – Co. Wexford – With 30 Specially designed family rooms and and 2 Executive family Suites (which benefit from having 1 double and 2 single beds), the Amber Springs Hotel & Health Spa is minutes away from miles of sandy beaches and within walking distance from the bustling traditional trading town of Gorey. Family Suites consist of a double bed & 2 single beds with an option to include an extra cot or camp bed for the larger family. Executive Family Rooms offer a double bed & 2 single beds with again the option to include a camp bed or cot, spacious seating area, Jacuzzi bath and walk in shower. They also have coolers and bed rails available on request. For more info click here!
Killashee House Hotel – Naas, Co. Kildare – Killashee has many children’s activities for families with a kids camp, movie nights, children’s high tea, fairy forest walks, family swim in the Killashee Leisure centre from 3pm-4pm, children’s pool & outdoor playground with zipline. The family rooms are extra spacious to give everyone plenty of room to relax. Each room boasts two generous double beds and a cosy single bed.
- Galway Bay Hotel– Salthill, Galway – With spacious and comfortable family rooms, 2 bedroom family suites large enough for 5 people and interconnecting rooms large enough for 8 people, at Galway Bay Hotel you’ll find space to really relax and enjoy yourselves. At the Galway Bay Hotel, you’re set for a fab family holiday with a fun-filled kids club to entertain whatever the weather, a pool for a splashing time inside, and Salthill beach for the same outside. Everything from the Galway Aquarium to Leisureland to watersports is right on your doorstep.To find out more click here!
- Westport Woods Hotel – Westport, Co. Mayo – Situated on part of the Westport House demesne, Westport Woods Hotel is proud to be Ireland’s greenest hotel. For families with two children or more they have a limited number of larger rooms which provide a more spacious environment. These rooms have a double & single bed with a pull out sofa bed or an extra single bed. Their triple rooms consist of either three single beds or a double and two single beds. For their family offers click here!
- The Clayton Hotel Sligo– For roominess, the Clayton Hotel in Sligo is hard to beat, with enough space in its family rooms to sleep a family of sic in comfort (if not more) – plus the additional luxury of a sitting area and kitchenette with microwave and fridge, so you can save a little money and eat in. Their Large Two Bedroom Family Suites consist of a king size bed & single bed in one room with open plan second rooms containing 2 single beds and kitchenette facilities including tea/coffee making facilities and a refrigerator. Check out their family offers here!
Delphi Resort– Connemara, Co. Galway – Enjoy short family breaks in Connemara County Galway at Ireland’s Leading Adventure & Spa Resort in a standard family room. Perfect for 2 adults and 2 children, the family rooms have 1 full-size double bed, and a set of bunk beds for the children (up to 1 more bed can be added for families with up to 4 children). They also have exceptionally large 2-bedroom suite with 2 king-size beds (or twins), this stunning space is great for families (2 adults and up to 4 children). This split level suite has 2 large en suite bedrooms, one upstairs and one downstairs.
So what are you waiting for? Take some time out from the usual hustle and bustle of school, homework, activities, matches on the weekend and escape away to one our top ten hotels with large family rooms in Ireland. It is only when you are away and all staying in one space that you truly spend quality down time together.
Camping in Waterford
Clonea in Co. Waterford is home to one of the many fantastic blue flag beaches of the sunny south East with brilliant watersport activities available all summer and if that’s not enough it recently became a gateway to the Deise Greenway. Casey’s Caravan & Camping Park has always been know as a very well run family park overlooking the beach so we made it our mission to check it out this Summer and see why Camping in Waterford is so popular!
There was plenty to do onsite for the kids with a games room, toddler play area (spotlessly clean), outdoor toddler play area, crazy golf, daily kids club, large and well equipped playground and plenty of other children to have fun with. However, our kids only visited the games room and kids club once as they were having too much fun selling their homemade crafts, baking and anything else they could get their hands on at the Marrakech style market stalls outside the playground. This seems to be a yearly phenomenon synonymous with Casey’s Caravan & Camping Park and a cause for great excitement among the younger folk. Many children arrive with their crafts ready to set up their stall before the tent is even unpacked and I loved the spirit of entrepreneurship as well as the maths lesson it gave them!
Camping in Waterford
Now the one thing I noticed since I last visited Dungarvan and Clonea was that every second person seems to be walking with a bike or cycling one and that is a result of the completion of The Deise Greenway. There is a 4 Km route that will take you into the bustling town of Dungarvan and a brilliant playground or why not head the other way towards Waterford. The Greenway offers fantastic little distractions as you enjoy the picturesque countryside namely a little playground, bridges, tunnels and road crossings!! Most days we went for a cycle if we could drag everyone away from the park. Bikes are allowed onsite also so from early morning the kids were outdoors and cycling which seems to be the second favourite thing to do on site, second only to the wheeling and dealing!!!
The facilities were just as fantastic as the atmosphere on site and were spotlessly clean. I even commented to a friend one day that I walked in on the toilets been cleaned three times in one day! There were more than enough showers, toilets, wash basins and best of all a room with a baby bath and changing facilities. There were no dark corners hiding creepy crawlies or wet muddy cold floors in the showers and you could see your reflection in the tiles!!!
The camper’s kitchen was not to be scoffed at either with its washing facilities and two large chest freezers to avail of and all in immaculate condition. Next door was the laundry room with irons, washing machines and dryers. All in all you will find it hard to beat these facilities and we were informed that next year they are adding two family shower rooms to make it easier for families to wash together. It is easy to see that this park is run by a family who are very conscious of parents’ needs and with a passion for camping themselves!
My favourite part of the park was the toddlers play area as it was the perfect place to go with a book as Lonan (15 months) pottered around the play kitchen and all its paraphernalia and I was not a bit bothered about germs. You could clearly see the area was cleaned daily and there was not even a spec of scum never mind dust! This was a perfect indoor activity with little ones when there were rain showers about.
So there is all this fun to be had and we have not even mentioned the gorgeous beach on the doorstep! The beaches in this part of the country are gorgeous and one of the reasons why Camping in Waterford is so popular. The sandy beach of Clonea was the best playground of all and seemed also to be popular with some of our fellow campers for fishing but best of all it’s a watersport haven and you can hire equipment and wetsuits on the beach. Waveworld not only provide many water activities but they also run a kids camp for the month of July and August and you can sign the kids up for as little or many days as you like with offers for a full week. This is a must as children of all skills and abilities are brought together to have fun in the water with the enthusiastic team and believe me all fears and insecurities will quickly disappear while they burn their energy in a most positive way! This activity can be enjoyed in all weathers and there was an excellent variety of beach games, and water activities including kayaking and banana boats. I even noticed some adults hiring kayaks for a relaxing break while the kids were busy at kids camp!!! For more information on Waveworld click here!
We had friends also on site and the common theme amongst us all was the safety of the site. Not only were fellow campers very aware of the children cycling and playing around but the owners have a strict policy of absolute quietness after 11pm and before 8am as well as respecting your neighbours. You have to swipe to get in or out and with security on site we felt very safe and looked after. We were comfortable giving the children scope to roam more freely and this in a way was a great opportunity to teach them responsibilities. Speaking of responsibilities the kids also enjoyed completing the task of collecting water, taking rubbish to the bins and next year they will be promoted to wash up I think!!
Camping is not only great fun for all the family but on a site like this when the kids are having too much fun to do anything else, mums and dads have nothing else to do but sit down, relax, have a chat and most of all chill!!
I could go on about all the activities around the area but really there is no need as you won’t want to venture to far with the beach, Greenway and park itself. To find out more about Casey’s Caravan and Camping Park in Clonea click here!
Best Family Break Ideas in Ireland
Family vacations are something everyone looks forward to, whether its summer vacations, spring break, or winter holidays. Everyone needs some time off and family breaks are just what they need in order to relax and bond with each other. But sometimes one feels confused about what to do when the holidays start. Here are some great family break ideas that you and your family can enjoy:
- Connecting with nature
When it comes to great family break ideas, this one is in the top category. It’s like hitting two birds with one stone. You get to be in touch with nature, and spend time with family. Back in the city, you are busy working in the concrete jungle; here you can finally come and unwind in the deep forests and countryside. Hearing the birds and other animals, the tiny ripples of the rivers and lakes will soothe and clear your mind from the clutter piled up from other work related stress. You can go to places like Ardmore farms, Allwee cave, Ards Forest Park
Ballygannon Wood, and so many more to choose from.
One of the best family break ideas is fun in the sun, sand, and surf. Nobody can say no to a beach vacation. You can do all sorts of fun things at the beach, like playing volley ball, building sand castles with the kids, picnics, sunbathing, reading a good book or listening to waves crash, and much more. It is fun for both adults and the young ones.
What better way to know about the heritage sites than by visiting them in person. These places have unique stories to them so it is always interesting to know more about them. Family visits are always fun because everyone has their own perspective and this can encourage discussions. Children in particular have a curious and imaginative mind and will be eager to know more about the castles or caves you visit. You can never go wrong with family break ideas that are both fun and educational.
Stimulate yourself and your family with a sense of adventure by having a camping trip. There are many places for you and your family to go for camping in Ireland where you can rent a caravan and live like a true adventurer. You can have bonfire nights, go fishing, have picnics and much more. There are special parks set up especially for campers and caravans that you can go and stay at. Camping is a unique experience and a great way for you to teach your kids some life skills as well. That is why it’s one of the best family break ideas that you can have.
5 Reasons Why Family Breaks Ireland Should Be a Must
Living in this fast paced world and busy in our professional lives, we tend to forget that we have to spend quality time with our families, whether it’s our parents, spouse, or children.
Research shows that families that take vacations tend to be healthier and happier. Well it’s no rocket science but we had to mention that so that you know that’s it’s a proven fact. Here are 5 reasons why you need to take a vacation and plan your family breaks Ireland.
- Quality time with the family
Quality family time includes actually engaging with your family and not sitting in the TV lounge with the news on while your kids and spouse are on their phones and tablets or eating dinner quietly at the table.
A family vacation means that you will be away from the daily grind of life, limited use of TV and since you are going to be on the move, less time on wifi that your kids can use. This is the time a family gets to know more about each other and bond with one another.
- Create unforgettable memories
When we grow up, all we have are the memories we had while growing up with our parents. We remember every smell, every feeling and moment we spent on our family vacations. Watching old family photos of trips to the countryside or the amusement park would just create an intense nostalgic feeling. Family breaks in Ireland are always an interesting thing because of so many options available such as the countryside, different festivals, camping and caravanning.
A vacation is the perfect opportunity for you and your family to relax and unwind. It gives you and your spouse to take a break from your work and have no pressure about having any deadlines to meet. The kids also enjoy their time because they have no homework, tests or assignments to worry over. So once when you are done with your holiday break, you come back all fresh, energized, and ready to take on anything life throws at you. Family breaks in Ireland should be a regular thing because according to the Irish Examiner, a survey conducted showed that over 60% of Irish people were stressed due to work.
- A source of inspiration
Travelling is something that can broaden one’s horizon’s and acts a source of inspiration for many. Many people not only relax on their vacations, but have new experiences that reshape their thinking for the better. They get to meet different and new people, eat new and different food, connect with nature and even get smarter as many scientific studies have proved. Ireland has many picturesque places that are perfect for family breaks like Kerry, Cork and Antrim etc
- Food for your mental and physical health
Travelling is really good for a person’s mental and physical health in the sense that not only is it de-stressing but people also tend to walk more and go about in the sun. Exploring different places by walking, rowing boats, climbing hills, and going for a jog in the evening in fresh air just does wonders for the body as well. These are just some of the reasons why family breaks can be beneficial for people in Ireland.
The Giant’s Causeway and the Causeway Coast
Inspired by the enchanting folklore and tales of natural beauty, The Giant’s Causeway was one of the reasons why we decided to visit Northern Ireland. Saoirse had learnt about it in school this year and had relayed all to Thomas so when we mentioned The Giant’s causeway their imaginations went into overdrive!
Just about 10 minutes from Carrick-On – Rede Rope Bridge is The Giant’s Causeway, renowned for its polygonal columns of layered basalt, it is the only World Heritage Site in N Ireland. We took a guided tour which to approx 30 minutes from the centre to the stones while we listened to a very friendly and most interesting guide.
Unfortunately it began to rain when we were out on the stones but luckily they have a bus service constantly running from the centre to the stones and back again so we hoped on this. This is a great service also it you have young kids who after the walk and exploring the various paths of interest may be too tired for the walk back to the centre. The Giant’s Causeway is made up of 3 promontories – the Little Causeway (1st feature the walker meets), the Middle Causeway (better known as the ‘Honeycomb’) – which has spectacularly precise hexagonal features, followed by the The Grand Causeway. In this immediate area, evocative place names & features abound – Wishing Chair, Wishing Well & Giant’s Gate (all connected with Finn MacCool folklore).
The visitor centre is an attraction in itself with exhibits of the various times of history associated with the site that was mentioned on our guided tour and you would want to give your self a good 45 minutes to explore around here. I was very impressed with the café as the children’s options were delicious and very very reasonable. Our lot had Irish stew with brown bread. There were microwave facilities for heating up baby dinners and bottle warmers. It is a very busy attraction and I would recommend that you give yourself plenty of time to explore even allowing yourself three to four hours so you are not rushed. A family pass will set you back £22.00.
From here we took the Causeway Route to Belfast and this is definitely one of the most scenic routes in Europe. Many people had recommended this route even though it is longer than the main road to Belfast (1.5 hours). The journey took us approx 2.5 hours through pretty villages, along amazing coastlines and over rugged countryside and if I was doing it again I would take the same route as it was most enjoyable and perfect for a game of eye spy!
It does not feel that long and we were surprised when we got to our destination. There are plenty of places on route that you can stop if you want to play in the local playground or for a brief walk along the beach or just to get back onto the main Belfast road.
If you are travelling this way why not tie in a visit to The Ulster Folk & Transport Museum and eexplore thatched cottages, farms, schools and shops as you experience life from over 100 years ago. Chat to costumed visitor guides as they demonstrate traditional crafts and meet farm animals in the beautiful parkland of the Folk Museum. Then step aboard majestic steam locomotives and explore horse drawn carriages, electric trams, boats, motorbikes, fire-engines and vintage cars in the Transport Museum. A museum of international renown, The Ulster Folk & Transport Museum is regarded as being amongst the best of its kind in the world.
As you travel into Belfast from this side you will also see signs for Belfast Zoo which is home to more than 140 species of animal, many of which are in danger in their natural habitat. Belfast Zoo is now one of the leading visitor attractions in Northern Ireland attracting around 250,000 visitors a year. Popular attractions include the Asian elephants, giraffes, sea lions and apes.
Nagles Camping & Caravan Park
Doolin has the be one of the most picturesque, friendly and relaxed places in Ireland so we took a short trip for a weekend break and where better to stay than Nagles Camping & Caravan Park looking out across the Atlantic Ocean and the Aran Islands beyond. Nagles, one of the top family friendly camping sites in Clare is located down by the pier and it was lovely to take a walk out every morning to see the hustle and bustle at the pier while the ferries set sail or arrived for The Aran Islands and glimpse across at the Cliffs of Moher in all their splendor.
Once we arrived at the campsite we immediately felt it was a safe and welcoming place for families as you had to go through a barrier each time you went in or out and could only drive very slowly around the site due to plenty of playing children. The site itself is very open and from nearly all directions you can keep an eye on the children playing around on bikes, scooters etc. There is even a superb playground with the soft flooring and excellent play equipment.
The toilet block was top class as were the kitchen and dining facilities. I must say not only were they very clean and fresh but in quite a new state. There was a playroom for older children to keep them well entertained but really you could not go indoors in a place like this as the magnificient surroundings would draw you out. While there is free wifi all around the site they recommend you go into the playroom to get it but even we found it hard here. However we will give them that as with the cliffs as their backdrop and the great ocean view to the front you cannot have it all.
There is a very busy pitch and putt course across the road which is open to locals and tourist alike. You can also rent the clubs so no need to take up space in the car. The shop on site was well stocked and you are only a short walk from local pubs, shops and of course the boats to take in the local trips. We found the owner and staff to be very welcoming and the overall site was very well maintained which is why it is one of our favourite family friendly camping sites in Clare!
The Radissson Blu Spa & Hotel, Limerick
When we think of family breaks Limerick City is not often the first to come to mind but I can tell you this city is a hidden gem and only waiting for you to explore! Limerick is also a very accessible county from many parts of the country which makes it even better for any parents travelling with a brood.
On our visit we stayed at The Radisson Blu Spa & Hotel on the Ennis Road and I must say it boasts the best location for a hotel in these parts as it sits right on the border of Limerick and Clare offering its guests the best from each county. Limerick city is only about a 10 to 15 min drive away while Co. Clare is only a couple of steps. There is sooo much to do in every direction that you just will not have time to sample it all unless you check in for two weeks at least.
Bunratty castle sits almost on it’s doorstep while if you would like to make a trip to the seaside the beautiful beach of Lahinch is only a mere 35 minute drive away. While there is an excellent playground on the hotel grounds (very conveniently located in front of the outside seating of the hotel bar) you would have to pay a visit to the very famous Cratloe Woods with it’s beautiful natural playground as this is only minutes from the hotel and you would certainly knock of a day here for free with its many walking trails.
As you walk though the trails, you will discover more play adventures along the track which keep the children interested throughout the walk. But if you don’t want to roam to far as I said there is an excellent playground in the hotel grounds, in fact one of the best I have come across as far as hotel playgrounds go! The hotel also sits on 20 acres of verdant parkland and there are walking or running trails to enjoy depending on how much of a break you really want…..
Limerick City itself offers an abundance of family activities to enjoy so give yourself plenty of time to fit it all in. We started our day in The Milk Market which opens Friday to Sundays. There is an electric atmosphere here and the perfect place for a snack or spot of lunch as there is an open mezzanine floor where you can savour the delights of your purchases while people spotting below.
This is a must for children of all ages as it exposes them to the sounds, smells and delights of the traditional markets.
Next we took a carriage tour with Limerick Carriage Tours through the streets of Limerick which was very enlightening bringing us to our next destination, King John’s Castle. I was only sorry I did not know about the the night tours before we arrived as viewing the city by night is meant to be amazing. The Medieval and Georgian tour interests me also. Limerick City is due to receive The Purple Flag award in the near future which is the international accreditation for town centres in the evening and at night from 5pm to 5am. Like a Blue Flag, centres that achieve the required standards of 30 criteria can fly the flag. Purple Flag destinations distinguish themselves by being Vibrant, safe and Well-Managed.
King’s John Castle is located in the heart of the city and a family would want to give themselves a few hours here. This is a must for any enjoying family breaks Limerick. There is a visitor centre bringing to life over 800 years of dramatic local history with state of the art interpretive activities, exhibitions, 21st century touch screen technology, 3 D models and discovery drawers which are many of the exciting techniques used to connect children to the tales of siege and warfare. Children will love the dazzling array of computer generated animations and ghostly projections as they travel back through time. The Education and Activity Room is bustling with tasks to stimulate curious minds.
Once you have finished this section you will arrive in the busy castle courtyard, to discover a medieval campaign tent, a blacksmiths forge and scenes from a seventeenth century siege. The sights, scenes and sounds of King John’s Castle and its environs all combine to recreate the atmosphere of the era. You can then climb the windy castle stairs to the highest turrets of the castle and enjoy the views across Limerick city and the sacred Thomand Park! While there are many picnic tables dotted around the castle courtyard, the cafe offers some refreshing and tasting options in the glass atrium overlooking this space.
For the more adventurous of you Get West do kayaking on the river Shannon through this amazing city and brings you along the front of the imposing King John’s Castle. You would need to book this activity in advance. No trip to Limerick would be complete without a visit to Thomand Park to enjoy a guided tour, experience the history of Munster Rugby through visual aids & images and test your skills in the interactive game zone. My husband treated this like a pilgrimage to pay homage to the mightly one!!!! I don’t know would I command as much respect as this sacred ground! It is a very easy city to get around and good for shopping if you get a free moment or two.
Now after all that fun in Limerick we were delighted to retreat back to the hotel. The Radisson Blu Spa & Hotel have made it their business to become a haven for families in search of a fun and relaxed family break. Not only do they have the large open spaces and playground outdoors there are also kids activities laid on for the kids in doors. During the peak holiday season a marquee is even erected to accommodate the families that come in their droves time and time again. Now don’t worry it is no Butlins but they have the room to accommodate families alongside other residents with great ease retaining the four star atmosphere.
On the Saturday night when we returned The Global Explorers was running from 5-9 and the children made their own pizzas for their dinner and after dinner had great fun water zorbing in the hotel pool. To be honest I could have been swayed to give up a quite romantic meal for this myself as it looked like enormous fun. The kids club is available both day and evening while the demand requires and not just in peak season. Now not many hotels can offer this so you don’t have to wait till the holidays to enjoy all this hotel has to offer us families. 5-9 is a perfect time for the kids evening activities as once you have dropped off the kids there is plenty of time to get dressed at your leisure, fit in a pre-dinner drink or as we did a cocktail at the cocktail bar before relaxing in the restaurant to enjoy the gourmet delights of the locally sourced cuisine.
We enjoyed the steak which was purchased in O’Connell’s Butchers in Limerick City which is an attraction in itself as we have popped in while walking around the city earlier that day and it is truly a traditional butchers offering a traditional service. It was one of the best steaks we have had to date. The previous night we dined in the bar and not only was it very relaxed but the staff were extremely helpful. There was a wide choice on the menu and plenty to suit all requirements.
There is a small but perfectly formed pool however there are scheduled children’s times so check these out before you head down. There is great availability in these times so don’t worry. Make sure you take advantage of the kids club hours and book into The Rain Spa, it is well worth a visit. The outdoor hot tub, fabulous thermal suite and warm relaxation rooms will refresh you alone. We brought a book and totally rejuvenated both our bodies and mind. I enjoyed the Soothing Hot Toddy Body’ which included a full body buff with lime and lemongrass body salt scrub and a warming cedarwood and frankincense back, neck and shoulder massage followed by a hot toddy drink while unwinding in the relaxation area. Now I am all for spending time and catching up as a family when we are away with the kids but I truly believe in taking a few hours out to yourself to read a book and indulge in the spa making for a relaxed mommy and daddy and thus more quality family time when you catch up afterwards!
The Radisson Blu Spa & Hotel in Limerick can cater for families of all shapes and sizes as it offers an excellent standard in family accommodation and the reception team are very welcoming and accommodating to all your needs. Dining is not a battle either as the standard and choices for the children were excellent. At certain times of the year, kids came make their own smoothies for breakfast which I am sure would be a cause for great excitement! We enjoyed dining at the hotel throughout as it was exceptionally delicious from breakfast through to dinner.
What I loved the most about the Radisson Blu Spa & Hotel in Limerick is that it allowed us to indulge in four star luxury in at relaxed atmosphere with the kids in tow. You are in the centre of so many different types of activities so the daily car trips are short and if you just want to chill the hotel is the perfect spot to do this. While they make a tremendous effort to provide the ultimate family experience they still can combine this with four star luxury, what more can you ask for!
Family Breaks Limerick
The Radisson Blu Spa & Hotel in Limerick are currently running a special offer for the midterm and if you have not booked anywhere yet make sure you check this out, as I love that kids eat dinner for free while dining with parents:
FEBRUARY MIDTERM GETAWAYS
Enjoy a family break at the Radisson Blu Hotel & Spa, Limerick. Reconnect, relax and have fun with a 2-night stay in our Deluxe Family Rooms.
THIS OFFER INCLUDES:
- Accommodation for 2 nights in a Deluxe Family Room (2 adults and 2 children)
- Super Breakfast Buffet each morning
- Complimentary access to Global Explorers Kids Club
- 3-course dinner in Porters Restaurant on 1 evening of choice
- Children 12 and under eat dinner free from the children’s menu when accompanied by at least 1 parent paying full price for at least 1 main course
- Complimentary access to Rain Spa & Leisure Club
- Wild Atlantic Way Discounted Card – 20% off nearby local attractions
- Late Check-out (14:00)
- Booking start date: 1 Jan 2017
- Booking end date: 22 Feb 2017
- Offer is available for stays from 17-26 Feb 2017.
- Package includes VAT and is valid for 2 adults and 2 children sharing a family room for 2 nights’ accommodation.
- This package is available both midweek and weekends, subject to availability.
- Additional nights can be reserved on request, subject to availability.
Titanic Quarter & W5 Discovery Centre
On our second day in Belfast we made our way to the Titanic Quarter, which is home to The Titanic Museum and W5. Now over the last few years it was impossible to miss all the hype around the Titanic Museum and it will not disappoint so if you are looking for things to do with the kids in Belfast this should be top of the list.
The exhibition runs over four floors and includes many interactive sections to keep your attention as well as the children. It covers not just the Titanic’s maiden tour and tragic sinking but also Belfast of the time, the building of the Titanic (Ship Yard), the people on board, the aftermath, myths and the wreck today. While parts of it was ere it was a fascinating and the scale was almost over whelming.
For the most part the tour was self guided but at certain sections you were greeted by the team whom gave further insights. The detail was superb and they go to great lengths to convey the sheer size of the Titanic and the work that went into building it. Other interesting parts included a change to try morse code, the ship yard ride and discovering artifacts of the wreckage on the sea bed. We receive family activity sheets when we entered and this amused our two young ones as we wandered along.
You would want to allow at least 3 to four hours in the Titanic Museum alone. We were slightly rushed at the end as Saoirse and Thomas were tiring of it but we could certainly have spent another hour there as Craig and I were enjoying it immensely.
While our two at 5 and 7 may have been a bit young they did pick up parts of it quite well however, I would recommend it is more suited for children from eight years upwards. The best of all is that the café and restaurant continued the Titanic Theme in their offerings and service. A family pass here will set you back £39.00.
Next door we visited W5, which is Ireland’s award winning science and discovery centre at Odyssey. With over 250 interactive exhibits and a changing programme of events, shows and exhibitions, W5 was a great day out.
Ok so it is hard to explain this place but it spans across five floors and it is basically a place for children to discover, learn, explore and most importantly play. Best of all is you will probably need to join in also to explain and help them so you will have great fun together.
Discovery is the under 8s area, supported and contains 16 themed areas which house over 50 interactive exhibits including painting on a digital canvas in the Art Studio, play animal sounds in the Farmyard, paddle in a virtual rock pool in the the Beach and flick through digital storybooks in the castle, play shop in the Spar Store or visit the new Donnelly Group Garage where you’ can build a soft play Formula One Car or check out the brand new Fiat 500!
We had great fun here building a house and playing shop, Saoirse was the shop keeper, Thomas the assistant and I the customer. It was amazing what they were coming up with and great fun.
Go features exhibits exploring health, hygiene, genetics, geology, electric circuits, flight and forces. While Thomas and Craig built their first car Saoirse and I launched a rocket. We did not cover See as we could not fit it all in but SEE is an interactive area featuring nature and biodiversity, sustainable development and now includes Think Creative a themed area where you can be an animator and create cartoons, add sound affects to animation, try your hand at theatrical lighting, be the photo editor of a newspaper and explore the work of the professionals. Do is where you can design and build structures, bring robots to life, make patterns and play virtual sports.
We, the adults, took a break at Climit, huge multi-storey climbing structure, which is a cross between a maze and a jungle gym. The first of its kind in the UK and Ireland, Climbit is a unique, visually elegant, three dimensional sculpture specially designed for climbing. Oval platforms suspended from steel pipes and cables let visitors traverse over, under and through the amazing structure. We enjoyed a welcome cup of coffee here while the children continued to burn off their endless flow of energy.
On entry we received information of various shows talking place so we checked out one on how sound is made and it was extremely good. The children are still talking about vibrations and trying new sounds since. We also received a pass to play a game of tag laser and we all had great fun playing this.
Al in all there is so much to do you won’t get it all in. I would recommend a full day for W5 and the Odyssey is home to many food outlets and much more. We were all so exhausted at the end of the day there was no need to drag the kids out but they willing agreed it was time to go. Family tickets start from £23.80. W5 is a great place for children of all ages up as far as 13/14 and there is plenty for all ages.