The Family Explore Westport, Co. Mayo
I am often asked, “Where is my favourite or the best holiday destinations in Ireland for families?”. Without hesitation, I say it has to be Westport town. Why is that? Well, for many years now it has been voted best place to live and is a regular tidy town winner. But more importantly, it just offers so much for families.
In fact, I am sure that the businesses of Westport must have come together at one time and decided that families were their priority. Then, they worked hard as a business community to become the best holiday destinations in Ireland for families from the point of view of activities, restaurants and most importantly accommodation. They just cater for families so well in Westport.
So, I was really pleased to make a return visit this summer to this picturesque town and experience again all that it has to offer.
On this occasion we choose to leave the car at home and make the journey by bus instead. From Cork to Galway we used Citylink which brought us directly to the main bus and rail station in Galway. This took 2.5 hours . After spending a few hours strolling around Galway city we then took a CIE bus to Westport town and this leg of the journey took us just over an hour and a half. Citylink is ver y convenient as there are toilets and WIFI on board so it was very relaxing for both the kids and me of course! The journey would take you approx. 3.5 hours from Dublin and the same from Cork by car.
Family Accommodation in Westport
There is certainly no shortage of places to stay for families in Westport whatever your budget or holiday needs. Choices range from Glamping in magical hobbit houses (Mayo Glamping- Click Here) to family-friendly hotels in the heart of Westport town.
We stayed with The Castlecourt Hotel in Westport town. Here, the family rooms are not only luxurious and so comfortable, but the rooms are an excellent size for families, this means plenty of space!
Things to Do in The Castlecourt Hotel
The hotel runs a kid’s club called the Buzz Club. Although we didn’t take advantage of the club during this visit, it did look really great. It is available during Mid Term Breaks, July & August excluding Christmas & New Year, (I gather an unsupervised play room is available then). The Club is for boys and girls aged 5-13 years. The club places a big emphasis on sport. But they also facilitate Hip Hop Dance Classes, Bike Trails, Beach Trips, Treasure Hunts and loads more. In addition, they have an unsupervised playroom for children aged 2-4. If you are a resident this is all free of charge.
We did have a splash-around in the hotel swimming pool. The times we went were always nice and quiet giving us free rein over the kiddies’ pool and main pool.
We had the option to dine in The Castlecourt Hotel and its sister hotel in The Westport Plaza across the courtyard. The food was simple Irish cuisine with plenty of your family favourites. They were extremely accommodating in particular for gluten free and even offered us some options outside the menu.
For more information on The Castlecourt Hotel Click Here!
Family Fun Things to do in Westport
The Great Western Greenway is always on top of our list when we holiday in Westport. And, no surprise that it was named the 2011 Irish winner of the European Destinations of Excellence award. The greenway is 42 kilometres (26 miles) long, beginning in Westport and goes all the way to Achill. It passes through the towns of Newport and Mulranny as it runs along the coast of Clew Bay. It is an off-road trail used by cyclists and walkers. It follows the route of the former Achill extension of the Westport railway line which closed in 1937.
One piece of advice for you! Head out early in the morning so you can explore the island a little before you head back towards Westport. We hired bikes from Clew Bay Bike Hire and took their shuttle bus out to Achill. If your children are seasoned cyclists they may make the whole journey to Westport but you can also book a bus pick-up at Mulranny or Newport and cut out some of the 42km journey. We met some families who cycled to Achill and back again in one day! But honestly, that would be waaaaay too much for us.
The cycle is incredibly scenic and takes you through bog fields, magically woodlands as well as open fields with sheep and goats often blocking your path. It is not surprising that the farm animals are completely used to the Greenway visitors as an estimated 300 people cycle and walk the trail each day. From what we experienced, the four-legged users of the Greenway expected us to get out of their way rather than the other way round. This caused much hilarity and enjoyment with our little ones.
For more information on Clew Bay Bike Hire Click Here!
Here’s my second piece of advice! Don’t travel all this way without visiting Clew bay as it is probably the most beautiful bay in Ireland. It’s said locally to have 365 islands; one for each day of the year. The largest island which is Clare Island has a population of 130 residents year-round. Its historical association with the Pirate Queen Gráinne amongst other historical and archaeological sites really makes it a must-see among the islands.
Westport House has to be one of the best adventure destinations in Ireland. I know, I hear you thinking. When you imagine a gorgeous country house you do not immediately think ‘kids’, but tucked in behind the house and situated in the vast parklands is a day-out that will excite every child young and old. A ticket for the house and adventure park for two adults and up to four children, costs €75 (€71.50 online). We agreed it was money well spent as it would be hard to find a day out that offered more. As there is so much else to do for free in Westport this could be your one big spend. Walking up the main entrance feels like entering the set of a Jane Austen novel. While the house itself offers a glimpse of a polite time gone by, the dungeons have been converted with kids in mind offering some spooky fun.
In the pirate adventure park there is a pirates playground and indoor soft play area, a bouncing castle, water attractions, a birds of prey show, bumper cars, a train that runs through the forest, a swinging ship attraction, go-karting, mud kitchen, sand pit and a carousel. The swan pedalo boats are very popular and you have a large lake to explore.
Click here to see more on Westport House!
Wild West Play Centre is Ireland’s only indoor wild west play village and play centre for kids to have some wild west fun. This is something different to all other indoor play centres and the kids love exploring the village and having some good old-fashioned imaginative play. They have a sensory room offering a quite haven with plenty sensory equipment for any children that may struggle with noise or larger groups and this is in the middle of the centre so the whole family can enjoy the wild west.
Click here to see more about The Wild West Village!
The children’s playground in Westport is located beside the Leisure Centre and cinema. This new state-of-the-art skate park and games area is right beside the Great Western Greenway. In addition to the purpose-built skate boarding area this facility has an astro turf pitch.
The Museum of Country Life is another day out, and best of all, admission is free. There is a children’s activity area with puzzles, books and games, dress up station, traditional game box for outdoor fun as well as the grounds and museum to explore. Click here to see more!
There is so much more to do in the area surrounding Westport but one thing is for sure there is plenty to do outdoors and whatever your age.
Places to Eat in Westport
When it comes to eating out in Westport you are spoiled for choice. Cian’s Restaurant, Bridge Street recently won “Best Restaurant in Connaught” with the Restaurant Association of Ireland. So, this was where we choose to eat on our first night. It looks quite small downstairs but there was plenty of room for our brood upstairs with lovely views of the town and clock tower. However, it is not the views that will occupy you, as the food was mind-blowingly amazing. We had beetroot and cumin soup which introduced me to a whole new vegetable. The risotto was amazing and the fish was superb. When it came to dessert it was a challenge to eat more as we were so full from over indulgencing on the first two courses. You know that feeling, of being so full but you have to keep eating because it’s so tasty. A main course here ranges from €16.00 to €25.00 per adult. To check out more about Cian’s Restaurant Click Here!
Westport is also home to another award-winning restaurant, Sol Rio Restaurant, which we tried on our second night. This restaurant won “Best Kiddies Menu” over many years with the Restaurant Association of Ireland. When we walked in the front door we were immediately greeted with wall to celling awards on all sides. We knew we were off to a good start and had high expectations as we received a friendly welcome from Sinead, our warm and colourful hostess for the evening. The atmosphere was contagious and the décor was fun and entertaining and the food was one hundred percent gorgeous from start to finish. I even made room for dessert on this occasion as I knew it would be superb.
The kids were also spoiled for choice with the kiddie’s menu which included dishes that could take a place on the main menu they were so good, from Irish steak, vegetarian risotto to bolognaise and homemade sausages to suit our fussier ones. I was delighted to see the banana split taking centre stage for dessert as it is a sneaky bit of fruit disguised in a bowl of yumminess. It is easy to see why they have won the “Kids Size Me Award” as the kiddies menu offers plenty of choices for every palette including some delicious healthy options! The kiddie’s menu would make it to my top ten also. Each award owned a place on their walls and I am certain there will be many more to come.
Third piece of advice! Book a night out here if possible as this is a family hot spot for locals and visitors alike. For more info click here!
We had a most wonderful evening and had to drag ourselves out of there at the end of the night. A main course would set you back on average €15 with a lot of dishes starting at around €13/€14 while a three course kiddies meal costs €10.
On a previous stay we dined in The Milltimes Restaurant which offers a playroom and supervised kids club next door to the restaurant during peak dinner times to keep the little ones entertained while you enjoy a more relaxed meal.
If you can, don’t let the night end at the restaurant as there are so many quaint and unique pubs in Westport town all offering trad sessions to lift your spirits. The town itself has a very friendly and safe atmosphere.
It is worth your while to book a babysitter whatever night of the week you stay and have a few drinks in one or two of the pubs. We visited Matt Malloy’s on a Monday night and it was clear to see that every night of the week is a weekend night in Westport. There was some great music and singing and it is easy to find a little nook or cranny to while away an evening after a busy family day. Click here for more info!
Unless you are living near county Mayo which many of you are not, Westport is a good spin. However, it is certainly worth it and once you are here you can park up the car and jump on your bike! You could get on the citylink to Galway with its free Wi-Fi to occupy the kids and there are plenty of buses taking you to Westport from there in just over an hour. This is how we travelled and I do feel strongly that as a nation we do not use public transport enough like our European neighbours. If we expect an efficient service we need to start supporting it. The Castlecourt Hotel is in the heart of Westport town so the bus is very convenient.
As I said at the start Westport Town itself offers so much to do for families regardless of your budget or interests, therefore for me it is one of the best holiday destinations in Ireland for Families. You can camp in Westport house or in one of the many campsites nearby and purchase a pass to the adventure park. You can ramble around this gorgeous town and while away many hours on the Great Western Greenway. An entertaining afternoon or morning can be spent at the playground, on the basketball courts and football pitches. You could have a fun-packed holiday for very little expense on activities.
Alternatively, you could add a touch of luxury to you break away with very little extra cost as Westport has an abundance of great family hotels at very good prices with kids’ clubs and swimming pools to boot. Click here for more info on hotels!!
What the Kids Said about Westport
The kids have always been Westport fans as Westport House and the pirate adventure park is a firm favourite of theirs. Thomas said “If we went every weekend I would never get bored of it”.
My three adore cycling with us in tow so we would go up and down that Greenway at a moment’s notice.
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 Christmas Gift Ideas
Is anyone else in the trying to free up more space around the house to accommodate the oncoming avalanche of toys due to hit shortly?
This year why not ask your family and friends to club together for an annual pass to one of your special places that the whole family will enjoy all year long or that you can visit more than one place over a year and go on many family outings…….. Here are some of my favourite family gift ideas!
- Membership Shannon Heritage
Shannon Heritage manages some of the most popular visitor attractions in the country. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to visit these over and over and still save money? The Shannon Heritage Annual Membership Programme gives you this option.
- Free admission & parking at all Shannon Heritage Visitor Attractions for 1 calendar year from the date of purchase. (Attractions are Bunratty Castle & Folk Park, Craggaunowen, King John’s Castle, Dunguaire Castle and Malahide Castle & Gardens).
- 10% discount on all purchases at Shannon Heritage Tearooms, Retail Shops including Shannon Heritage gift shop at the Cliffs of Moher and Gift Voucher sales.
- Family Membership – €125.00 (includes free admission for 2 adults and up to 4 children)
- Family Membership – €140.00 (includes free admission for 2 adults and up to 6 children)
To purchase an annual membership call +353 (0) 61 360788 or email email@example.com or buy a ticket on our Online Booking System 2. Family Heritage Cards
The Heritage Card provides for free admission to all fee-paying State managed OPW Heritage Sites located throughout the country for one year from the date of first use (with the exception of Muckross Traditional Farms, Killarney).
Having the card allows you to visit places like Bru-na-Boinne on separate days so you can explore Newgrange on one day and Knowth on another, ensuring the kids don’t burn out, and enabling everyone to take in more because of the slower pace. As young kids can sometimes hit the point of no-return without much warning, the card enables families to leave when they need to, without parents feeling that they have to stay longer as they’ve already paid for the tickets. Leave the site, do something different, feed the kids, and return later that day or the next for no extra cost.
- Family €60.00 (Max. 2 adults & a reasonable number of children under 18 years)
- At certain locations, parking facilities and ancillary services are provided by other bodies or agencies.
- Other sites include Castletown House, Kilmainham Gaol, Dublin Castle, Kilkenny Castle, Clonmacnoise, Ionad an Bhlascaoid Mhóir (The Blasket Centre) and Muckross House.
The quickest and most convenient way to purchase an OPW Heritage Card is to buy it at the first OPW fee-paying site you visit (click on this link for a list of our fee paying Sites List of Fee Paying Sites .
3. Dublin Zoo
Dublin Zoo in the Phoenix Park is Ireland’s Number 1 Family Attraction s and one of the very best places for a family day out, combining fun with some learning about the world we live in. Kids of all ages will love the huge range of animals on view – from the City Farm to the African Plains. Allows free admission to Dublin Zoo for one year. Dublin Zoo annual pass holders are also admitted free to Fota Wildlife Park (Cork), as well as Chester Zoo, Edinburgh Zoo and Paignton Zoo in the UK!
- Pass holder + 3 Adults or
- Pass holder + 2 Adults + 2 Children or
- Pass holder + 1 Adult + 4 Children or
- Pass holder + 6 Children
- For more information on Annual Pass please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
4. Fota Wildlife Park
Fota Wildlife Park in Cork is a special zoo and Ireland’s premier wildlife attraction. In Fota Wildlife Park wherever possible they have chosen animals, which thrive in a free-range environment are allows to roam free, while mixed with other species and with us human visitors!
- 1 Adult + 2 Children from €120.00
- Consevration Membership – Member + 2 adults + 2 kids from €180.00
- Free Admission to Dublin Zoo
- One visit per year to Edinburgh Zoo, Highlands Wildlife Park and Belfast Zoo (card & receipt must be produced)
- Admission concession to (as of date of print): Paignton Zoo, Newquay Zoo, and Living Coasts (card & receipt must be produced)
- For more information on Annual Pass please contact www.fotawildlife.ie/tickets-membership
5. The Donkey Sanctuary
The Donkey Sanctuary is set in the beautiful rolling countryside of County Cork just outside the village of Liscarroll in Ireland.Over 5,200 donkeys from all parts of Ireland have been taken into our care here in Ireland since The Donkey Sanctuary in Ireland was set up. Many donkeys have been abandoned or put in a field and given little or no attention after having worked for their owners for years, hauling peat or pulling a cart. Great care is given to ensuring that each donkey has individual attention.
- Free admission
- Free Parking
- Adopt a donkey for a year as the perfect Christmas gift and go visit him/her when you can!
- Your adoption of €25 will last 1 year. By adopting one of these nine donkeys, you will be helping us in our work of improving the lives of countless donkeys throughout Ireland.An official certificate
A pencil drawing
A bio sheet
A twice yearly report
- To choose which donkey to adopt just click here!
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!
Eggstronauts at Blackrock Castle Observatory
Blackrock Castle Observatory are running a fabulous one day workshop during the Easter holidays to keep young minds well entertained and we went along this morning to try out Eggstronauts as we are great fans of the observatory and all their activities! It is a great place for an afternoon out but keep an eye out for the camps as while they are very educational, they are also great fun!
Today the workshop included learning all about astronauts landing on different planets and in particular the failed Schiaparelli misson on mars last year. So the kids had to design a parachute that would land an egg (astronaut) that would land safely (without breaking) when they dropped if from the tower of Blackrock Castle to the tower below! Saoirse was delighted that her astronaut (aka egg) survived to be boiled for tea!!
I would recommend that kids would be at least 8 as they had to work completely off their own initiative
and design the concepts. They were aided step by step by the friendly team but they were very much encourage to try out and explore their ideas.
On a scale of one to ten and ten been the best, Saoirse gave it a nine as she deducted one mark because she felt it was to short and would loved a longer day. However, Thomas gave it a resounding 10 out of ten. Blackrock Castle Observatory do some brilliant camps at Easter and Summer and also it would be a novel place for a birthday party. If you have not been make sure you go along some day as it is brilliant facility that Cork should be proud of and offers an a great fun and educational day eye. Ignite their interest in learning!!
The workshops last 1.5 hours and costs €10.00. They still have places but you would want to book in advance to ensure a place and make sure you bring a book as The Castle Cafe is a glorious spot to enjoy brunch, lunch or just a cuppa!!
Fun at Ardmore Open Farm
While Ardmore in Co. Waterford is not only a gorgeous part of the world it is also home to one of the most beautiful beaches in the sunny South East, a fabulous playground just off the beach, a picturesque village with a delicious gourmet fish shop that would give any five star restaurant a run for their money and best of all Ardmore Open Farm with breathtaking views in all directions looking out across not one but three bays! So if you are looking for things to do with the kids in Waterford make sure you include here!
Once we dragged ourselves away from the views and venture inside we were greeted by a very impressive jungle gym and family restaurant with plenty of homemade options for all the family. Here we were welcomed by a very helpful team of staff ready to fill us in on all that was going on that day. Outside we discovered quaint wooden play areas which suited their setting perfectly before embarking on our walk around the park. Now this is no traditional Irish farm as I am certain you would not find half of these animals in the zoo never mind the farm and so it is only fitting that Ardmore Open Farm is now know as Farm and Mini Zoo.
We encountered Racoons, Porcupines, Parrots, Owls, Kookaburra, Emu, Alpaca and much more as well as the usual farm animals of horses, ponies, sheep, cows and more unusually a highland cow! If all that was not enough there were plenty of pit spots for a little play along the way including karting, a maze and my favourite a pitich! Yes you heard me right, a pitch, with picnic benches all around perfectly positioned to take in the views and great zip wire alongside. I imagined that on my return I would be
bringing a picnic and meeting a few friends here on a bright sunny day as I am sure we would have peace and quite to catch up while the kids are well entertained and getting plenty of exercise.
Once you are finished the walk around the farm itself you then enter into an indoor section which is perfect if the weather turns and offers plenty more fun with indoor electric karts, diggers, more animals and best of all a petting area for small animals. There are scheduled petting times and make sure you check these before you start on your journey as it is well worth fitting it into your day. All the children had plenty of time to pet and hold various animals including hens, lizards rabbits and snakes while there were many more small animals to study and enjoy.
Ardmore Open Farm and Mini Zoo is a great day out for all but I would recommend that you wrap up as it can be quite a chilly spot being so high up and so close to the sea! We visited in January and still enjoyed it immensely. Make sure you include enough time to take a spin into the village for a walkabout as it is a beautiful quaint fishing village with lots to do and should certainly be on your list of Things to do with the kids in Waterford!!
Cork Skate Parks
The Regional Park in Ballincollig is a fantastic facility for the the city, county and visitors alike housing one of the best of Cork Skate Parks! This year Santa brought two stunt scooters so we went along to this popular Cork skate parks located in the Ballincollig Regional Park to have some fun with the kids.
This is a very busy Corks skate park with many different types of uses so the car park is very busy so do take car. The park is just about a mile from Ballincollig and the skate park is the first of its amenities to greet you.
Don’t worry you don’t need just a skate board to visit the skate park but scooters, roller blades, roller skates are all welcome and in use in this skate park. There was a mixture of young and old kids but mainly young kids so it was not intimidating for little ones. There was plenty of different ramps for all levels and the park could cater for a large number at any one time.
After standing around watching them trying out their few stunts and learning from others we finally managed to encourage them further into the park to explore what else was on offer. I can’t explain how much of a fantastic facility this is as once you go over the little foot bridge there is so much more to do.
Along with being one of the biggest of Cork Skate Parks, the park itself is home to vast open Grass areas, soccer and rugby pitches, woodland, playground & Multi Use games areas. The variety of attractions within the park means that there is currently a significant degree of usage by a cross section of the community.
The playground was not only extremely large but full of colour, adventure and excitment. There was so much to attract their attention and soft flooring for any mishaps. The basket ball courts were extremely busy along side some very competitive soccer matches.
This would be a great place for a large group outing. If you can manage to drag the kids away from all of this then there are many walking trails to explore including a fairy trail which was set in a magical woodland setting and very well done to make most of the natural enviorment.
There are marked walking trails. The trails consist of four looped walks,
colour-coded according to length, which take place within and around the
Regional Park, Ballincollig which was once home to a major gunpowder works. The
Military Trail begins at the Shopping Centre Square and continues to the
Regional Park by a westerly route. Three other trails of varying lengths begin
and end at the western end of the park at the Inniscarra Bridge. All walks are
multi-access and dogs on leads are permitted on the trails.
The Regional Park itself comprises the now defunct Gunpowder
Mills complex and the networks of sluices and canals installed in the grounds
and used in the manufacturing process still remain today along with most of the
original buildings. There is a rich tapestry of woodland, rivers, canals and open areas creating an exciting natural habitat to explore. It is an ideal place for walkers, scooters, bikes, joggers or just strollers! It is very buggy friendly and make sure you bring a picnic and make a day of it!
Things to do with the kids in Clare – Aillwee Caves
No trip to Co. Clare can be complete without going to see Ireland’s premier show cave, The Aillwee Caves. The caves are renowned as one of the top things to do with the kids in Clare and it is easy to see why. When planning a visit to the caves, be sure to put aside a full day as there is much more than a cave to see here. Your journey starts at the main entrance with the Birds of Prey Centre where you can view a large number of birds and have an in-depth audio guide explaining all about our birds, their conservation and the myths and legends surrounding these magnificent birds in Ireland before enjoying a fantastic birds of prey show. This was a most entertaining show for us as well as the kids and was on for at least a half an hour. The auditorium is a lovely size and the show was quite interactive. After the we went back in to look at the birds armed with the knowledge we had received.
From here we went into the woodlands surrounding the caves to try out some Archery which was only €10.00 for 15 bows and includes a one to one tutorial. The kids loved this part as even though we have tried our hand at archery before, the setting here was magical and it felt like you were really hunting in the woods. The woodlands is also the setting for the popular guided bush craft walks which are only €5 per person but need to be booked in advance. We did not have time for this walk but it sounded fascinating and something I am sure the kids would have enjoyed immensely.
At the entrance to the archery and bush craft walks there is a beautiful stone building housing the farm shop stocking local food and drink produce as well as the world famous Burren Gold Cheese. You cannot walk past here without picking up some tasting delights!!
Now from this point you can drive up the hill to the caves carpark but if it is anyway fine I would suggest walk up the walking trail and enjoy a picnic along the way. You will be up in 15 mins or take your time so you can appreciate your surroundings as there are regular tours of the caves so you wont miss out. If you have not brought a picnic there is a delicious cafe at once you into in the caves centre. Be prepared as you will need to walk through the gift store to get to the tour and there was plenty to spend our money on. We were prepared here and gave them a budget of €5 from their pocket money for here before we went in and you will be glad to know there was plenty for that.
The tour itself was approx 30 mins and was well geared towards the small ones without being too boring for adults, bringing us through the beautiful caverns – over bridged chasms, under weird formations and alongside the thunderous waterfall as well as the frozen waterfall and past the now extinct brown bears bones. It was very safe and not at all steep, we had two kids and a three month old baby in tow in a sling.
We were all tired at this stage but if you have the time and energy you can walk to the top of the mountain which the cave lies under or even try out a Hawk Walk. There really is plenty to do and a must see for families visiting the Clare or Galway area. We got excellent value for our money and if you bring a picnic you will need to spend very little while here. Our car journey back through the Burren brought us past the most stunning vista of this unique and rocky landscape and even a neolithic tomb stone but our crew were almost to exhausted to take this in after their jam packed day!
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.
Luigi Malones…A Cork Favourite
Luigi Malone’s, a family friendly restaurant Cork, has been a found favourite of mine since I was young so I was excited to bring the kids there for a family dinner before we enjoyed the panto in The Opera House. I was even more excited when I arrived to realise that the decor is still the unique style inspired by Les Deux Margot’s in Paris and the Art Deco district of South Beach, Miami. Luigi’s most recognizable feature is the huge original station clock from Kings Cross Station, St Pancras based in the centre of the bar and an old propeller hangs from the ceiling. It proved a novel conversation piece for the evening ahead.
As always with Luigi Malone’s we received the warmest of welcomes. Now many of you always tell me that a family meal in a gorgeous restaurant sounds more hassle than it is worth but I can tell you that Luigi Malone’s are old pros when dealing with families. They have the room to spread out and friendly staff to attend all your needs. There were plenty of families of all shapes and sizes enjoying the evening in the very relaxed atmosphere and this is why it is very often recommended as one of the top family friendly restaurant Cork.
Now for the main event, the food itself! So a great family friendly restaurant does not always excel when it comes to gourmet delights but we all too often sacrifice this for a relaxed atmosphere offering an enjoyable family meal. However, when it comes to Luigi Malone’s, there menu offers some fabulous dishes including Buffalo wings (apparently the best in Cork), Portuguese Espetadas, BBQ Baby Ribs, Rotisserie Chicken, Mexican Fajitas, Irish Steaks, American Hamburgers, Italian Pizzas, and Japanese Yakisoba. As for the desserts, the all-time favourite is the Toblerone and Butterscotch Cheesecake and some customers apparently travel to have just this.
Craig tried the Steak Fajitas while I tried the Rotisserie Chicken and the presentation was amazing never mind the taste. Saoirse and I shared the Nachos for starter and Craig had the sizzling garlic prawns and is still talking about it two weeks later! The waitress at one point nervously approached the table to ask if there was anything wrong with our meal as we were not finishing all our courses and I had to ensure her that there was just too much but it was glorious. The children meal offered an excellent choice for the kids including some delicious healthy options. Again they had plenty and thoroughly enjoyed it. Saoirse could not even finish her dessert!!!
After the meal the children who were very well behaved while there got to add their names to the Nice List for Santa Claus which is updated by Alabaster Snowball, who has developed an elaborate computer system that updates each child’s naughty and nice rating five times a minute all year round! Now that’s a new bribe to match……
For any coeliacs reading this, the seperate gluten menu was extensive and both Saoirse and I was delighted with all our options! There was no much missing from the main menu!
Luigi Malone’s location is excellent, just across from the main door of the Opera House so if you are paying a visit to the Panto or any other performances Luigi’s is a perfect choice beforehand. It is on Emmet’s Place at the bottom of Opera Lane so even if you are shopping over Christmas pop in for some lunch or dinner and enjoy as Luigi Malone’s is not only tops the league as a family friendly restaurant Cork but also I must say one of the top ten places to eat in Cork.
To find out more just check out their website here!