Top Holiday Destinations in Ireland – Kenmare, Co. Kerry
Top Holiday Destinations in Ireland
“Escape the Living” is the tagline used by Kenmare town to describe itself and I cannot think of words more apt to describe it as there is a holiday atmosphere in Kenmare 24/7, 365 days a year. There is a buzz whatever the weather and you will find art, culture, a unique charm and our true Irish heritage around every corner. It was the first town to be awarded Heritage Town of Ireland and its natural beauty is inherent in that the north of Kenmare is home to Killarney’s National Park while the town itself is nestled into the beautiful Kenmare Bay.
Kenmare is one of my Top Holiday Destinations in Ireland for many years now so I was thrilled when The Kenmare Bay Hotel invited me to write a review on their holiday lodges that are very popular with families. We stayed here a few years ago in the hotel so we knew we would not be disappointed.
Family Friendly Accommodation
The Kenmare Bay Hotel is located at the edge of Kenmare town. There is a path that will take you directly to town and it is very safe for the kids. I would suggest leaving your car at the hotel as this is only a short walk (approx. 5 mins) and it can be hard to find parking in Kenmare town itself.
The Kenmare Bay Hotel have family rooms in the hotel but on this occasion we stayed in The Lodges and went self-catering. The lodges themselves are gorgeous and had all the comfort and luxury of a hotel room but with the added space and convenience of self-catering. I was really impressed with the kitchen as we had everything from coffee machine to American style freezer and even kiddie cutlery and plates etc. The picnic table in the patio area was perfect for dining outdoors and the beck garden was enclosed and very secure.
We were in a two bedroom lodge, so the three kids were in one bedroom. The two older ones were in a large double split into twins, and Lonán was on a pull out couch. They were thrilled to find they had a TV in their room as we don’t have this at home and it was a real novelty as well as the ensuite bathroom. Our own bedrooms was also very spacious and the décor was fabulous. The living and kitchen area is huge and the sitting area was lovely and cosy to relax in, in the evenings with a glass of wine.
Family Friendly Activities
Our favourite feature of The Kenmare Bay Hotel was the swimming pool as this is where you will really notice the family welcome. We must of went here four or five times during our visit and each time the pool staff were supervising and would bring out toys (watering cans, ducks, balls) noodles, dive sticks and even inflatables. There was a small slide and goal posts so it is a great pool to play in. The baby pool was very big and the main pool was extra-large with plenty of room for everyone. When the pool did get very busy I noticed the life guards would take their seat on their perch so it was clear to see safety was paramount. The box of arm bands for those who forgot their own was a thoughtful facility as it can very easily happen and be quite frustrating to have to buy a new pair when you have a perfectly good pair at home. If there was an award for the best family friendly hotel swimming pool The Kenmare Bay Hotel would win it hands down for me.
Other family friendly facilities onsite include an excellent outdoor playground that is enclosed and very secure. The playground equipment was very modern and there was something to suit all ages with plenty of seating. Guests can also make use of the playroom on the second floor but this would be more for younger children and toddlers.
The kids club is located in a purpose built room with cooking facilities, perfect for their regular baking classes. My two signed up for this and Saoirse was delighted as they offer gluten free flour for coeliac as standard so she got to make brownies too. What impressed me here the most was how knowledgeable they were about gluten free which put Saoirse and I at great ease. They also had a craft to make in this session. The crafts were fun and interesting with the team members guiding the children through every stage. It was almost like an art class. In the evening they tend to do a messy craft alongside the activity assigned. It is easy to see that this kids club is well planned out with full time staff offering a real quality kids club experience rather than just a standard babysitting service.
Family Friendly Activities Nearby in the Top Holiday Destinations in Ireland
With plenty to do onsite and the town to explore you won’t have time for much else but if you do get an opportunity to head out I would recommend taking a drive to enjoy some of the amazing scenery in and around Kenmare.
The drive to Killarney is gorgeous and along this road you will find Kissane Sheep Farm, a Large Mountain Sheep Farm. The Farm is situated in The Killarney National Park. The famous panorama of Moll’s Gap is in the middle of the land, overlooking the farm and its animals. You can visit the Farm, see Sheep Dog Demonstrations & during the summer to also see the Sheep Shearing Demonstration. In the spring time there is an opportunity to see the many baby lambs that will be born on the Farm. Since they are a busy working farm they only open to the public for demonstration purposes so just check times and dates before you strike off.
Kenmare is home to a true hidden gem, Gleninchaquin Park. Gleninchaquin Park is a park like no other in that it provides breath-taking landscapes and scenery. There are streams with log bridges, mountain paths with carved steps, through rock passages, along glens and lakes to higher altitude. Not to mention the spectacular rock face waterfall. While it is a magnificent day out for a walking enthusiast it is also a magical place for families as there is plenty for the kids to see and if you are lucky like we were the last time we visited we bottle fed some baby lambs. This is a perfect picnic spot and there is even a BBQ area. The kids will love the freedom as well as the interaction with livestock every now and again. I discovered this place many years ago and I am raving about it ever since. The views are so amazing they will even silence the children.
On this visit I discovered another hidden gem on the road from Kenmare to Kilgarvan, The Kilgarvan Motor Museum. We saw a sign post and followed it not expecting to discover a large shed that housed the most impressive private collection of vintage cars.
Craig and Thomas are passionate about cars and were blown away at the sheer quality as well as quantity of vintage cars. There must have been 60 or more cars on show from Model TT’s to Porsche and everything in between including American Cars.
While the collection was impressive enough, the owner, John really made the visit for us. He was extremely knowledgeable and engaged in an in depth discussion for over an hour about the cars and their history. Thomas was enthralled, Craig was in his element and even I learned a thing or two.
The photographs and memorabilia of including that of the last Cork Grand Prix in 1938 is what caught my eye and again John offered great insights into this. Many of the cars had a story to tell including a Rolls Royce that was used in world war two and the body work had to be replaced due to bullet holes as a result of a skirmish.
Craig promised Thomas that he will take them back on a day trip over the winter and I don’t know if it is more for himself than Thomas. Follow the signpost from Kilgarvan, it is about 2 miles outside the town. For more information Click Here!
Dining at The Kenmare Bay Hotel
On our first evening we dined in the hotel itself in their restaurant not only because it is easy after the journey down and unpacking but also it is very family friendly. I was delighted to see the kids play corner that had been there on a previous visit, a facility I have yet to see repeated. It is a neat little corner tucked away in the restaurant with plenty of toys, games and books to suit every child. I loved that families are placed around the immediate area of the play area and couples and other guests without children and further away so you do not feel you are disrupting anyone.
The children menu was very well thought out with Buzz Light-year and Frozen themed food options to name just a few. Lonán’s Olaf the Snowman dessert went down a treat so much so that she looks for it in every restaurant since.
It was easy to see that the waiting staff were very family friendly and patient with children not only from our own service but I noticed when they brought menus to a table they also brought age appropriate toys for babies and toddlers that would not make their own way to the play area without even being asked.
The following morning, we went up to the hotel for breakfast and we were delighted to be able to have a relaxed breakfast in peace. Lonán ate a big breakfast quickly and without complaining on the promise that she could run off and play. Now we could enjoy a nice long coffee. I must say if you have babies or toddlers this is the perfect restaurant to reintroduce you to the world of dining out. However, my older two picked up books and other bits to play with at the table also.
Kenmare really is a foodie town with plenty of eateries of every style to choose from. On our second evening we decided to walk into town with the kids to wander around the shops, go for dinner and walk back to the hotel after a little glass of wine or two. We came across the The Lime Tree Restaurant on a previous visit as the building is gorgeous and it sits in such a picturesque setting in the town itself so we were excited to try it out. We must have spent 10 minutes pottering and watching the chef picking herbs in the garden before we went in.
The kids were in such a relaxed form after the walk and wander around the shops so we could enjoy the gorgeous décor and sumptuous surroundings. There was something to look at in every nook and cranny and the restoration of this building was something to behold. We knew at this stage that the food would not disappoint. That and the fact the restaurant filled up very fast.
A lot of the ingredients are locally sourced and very well presented. The choices for the children were excellent and as coeliac, Saoirse and I were spoiled for choice. The food was superb and probably one of the best dinners out for some time. I enjoyed the house wine so much that I took the name down to try again.
We were too full for dessert but had to try it as we knew it would be excellent and they had Gluten Free Apple Crumble which is a rarity. It was worth the pain even if I could not finish it.
We were slow to leave as we were enjoying the relaxed surroundings and atmosphere and could have easily sat here for the night. The Lime Tree Restaurant certainly makes it to my top ten family friendly restaurants in Ireland. When you are self-catering it is nice to splash out on one really nice dinner and this restaurant is a special treat.
The only downside I would have is that the playroom was a bit small and could do with a little seating area for parents to enjoy a coffee and paper while the kids potter and may be toys for older children.
The lodges of The Kenmare Bay Hotel offer all the luxury and comfort you would desire in a hotel break with the convenience of space, privacy and self-catering. Kenmare town, a world class destination coupled with the family orientated swimming pool, kids club and playground of The Kenmare Bay Hotel makes the perfect partnership for a fantastic family break and worthy of the accolade of Top Holiday Destinations in Ireland.
An Eco-Friendly Family Retreat in the Slieve Aughty Mountains of Co. Galway
Eco Friendly Holidays Ireland
In recent years we have seen a noticeable shift in thinking, not only from accommodation providers, but from tourists seeking Eco Friendly Holidays in Ireland, looking to lower their carbon footprint and this sustainable travel movement has piqued my interest as well as the growing desire amongst many families to seek a restful retreat whereby we can connect with nature and enjoy all the benefits of healthy living.
With this in mind and the fact that I always love to find something unique that suits our sense of adventure, I was thrilled when we were offered to stay in The Slieve Aughty Centre for a few nights in order to write this review. It is a welcome respite from the daily activities, school runs, matches, schedules, appointments, homework, internet, tablets never mind their busy social lives!
Nestled in 2,000 acres of state owned forestry in County Galway, minutes from the main Portumna to Loughrea Road, The Slieve Aughty Centre is the perfect place for those looking to combine eco-friendly with luxury leading the way in Eco Friendly Holidays Ireland.
Family Friendly Accommodation
The purpose built sustainable boutique-style hotel is beautifully decorated and offers elegant comfort in their 9 large rooms, 7 of which have access to the shared balcony with stunning views of the forest, gardens and fields as well as eco lodges, glamping and camping options.
The family room we stayed in was the largest family room I have stayed in to date and had a large double and three more single beds spaced out across the room with plenty of storage and even room for a cot and a seating area. In keeping with their Eco ethos and policies, there are no televisions in the rooms and Wi-Fi access is only available in public areas. This did not bother us in the slightest as we were rarely in the room but always drawn outdoors even into the late evenings. They have a coffee/tea station in the bar which all guests are welcome to use throughout the day as they do not have this facility in the room.
The eco lodges themselves have a real enchanted fairy tale feel as a result of the quaint cosy décor, ladders, stoves and loft spaces. Each have their own outside eating area as well as kitchen and seating area indoors. The Chalet De Florence can accommodate a family of six as it has a double cosy room in the loft, and two sets of bunk beds in the room downstairs with room for a cot also.
The huts offer a cosy glamping experience and are suitable for families of three and four and again they have a Hansel and Gretel feel. The playground hut is just off the playground and could be magical if you have a little toddler that likes to play all day. Each of the huts have a small kitchenette area and again outside seating.
If you have your own tent they have an area for campers and also while we were there, they were very open to campers pitching up in other areas like the organic kitchen garden and the formal garden area.
For campers, while they do not offer electrical sites their toilet and shower facilities were superb as I often used them while we chilled for hours outdoors.
Family Friendly Activities
You can get a real sense that this is a family run centre and that a lot of thought and effort has been put into welcoming families. Everything from the playground, games room to the arts and craft room offer a rustic, natural and traditional feel. The arts rooms is exquisitely equipped with a huge array of materials and crafts to inspire. It is housed in an old farm building and the décor has maintained this feel. There have an open garage with outdoor kiddie tractors, carts, trailers and buggies where Thomas spent most of his days moving from one item to the next. All the play areas are housed around the main stables where all day long the daily duties of this working farm took place so I found myself sitting, reading my book on the wooden veranda, pausing to watch the world go by as the children moved through these activities at their ease. Now that’s what I call a retreat.
The Slieve Aughty Centre is also an award winning equestrian centre and horses are an integral part of daily life. On our first morning the children enjoyed a pony ride down to the enchanted forest. As if the pony ride was not excitement enough, they stopped at the enchanted forest along the way. All levels of riders are catered for and because our children were beginners they were guided so it is very safe.
The Enchanted Forest is the reason I first discovered the Slieve Aughty Centre as many of our followers spoke of this magical woodlands with the most detailed and beautiful fairy trail in such natural landscape. This is no man made fairy village but definitely an original habitats with historic origins. It was truly magical. Lonán was so in awe she barely came down from our arms. Even Thomas was quite taken and loved the discovery and playful element of it all. Alongside the fairies live witches, trolls and gnomes as well streams, wishing trees and much much more. Before we departed that day each of the kids received an Enchanted Forest Pack including a forest map, wishing tree hanger and fairy dust so we could make our wishes and blow our fairy dust along the way. You can visit the centre and enjoy this activity as a daily guest on its own for €5 per person and €10 for a pony ride to the gate.
For lunch we enjoyed a picnic, but again, this was no ordinary picnic. The Three Towers Organic Restaurant prepared a most delightful gluten free picnic packed full of organic produce and plenty of goodness from the organic kitchen garden. Our donkey companion, John Willy, then took us on a stroll along another woodland trail through the forest and to the donkey picnic field so we could enjoy our picnic deep in the countryside yet only a 30 minute walk from the centre. You can go back at this stage or follow some more trails through the forest with the maps provided depending on what suits you best. The food was delicious and so much so that the children devoured some very healthy ingredients that I am sure would normally think twice about. This activity was probably the highlight of our summer as the children really enjoyed walking with the donkey and I must say I adored the peace of it all.
Other activities on site included cycling, nature trails and walking trails but to be honest we were so chilled at this stage that we were happy to sit back and just enjoy the centre for the remainder of our stay. Walkers can enjoy glorious trails right from the front door. You can wander up and down to the enchanted forest and through the organic kitchen gardens as much as you want. We did this a few more times over the stay when the children became restless as you would never tire of the enchanted forest and each time we visited we always seemed to discover something new.
Family Friendly Activities Nearby
While there is plenty to keep us occupied in the centre we did head out to explore further once or twice. Portumna was only a 20 mins drive, there was a small shop and petrol station approx. 5 mins drive away and Loughrea town is about a 15 mins drive. The lake in Loughrea is very popular for swimming on a warm day and Turoe Pet Farm is about a 20 mins drive away. Turoe Pet Farm boosts Europe’s largest indoor bouncy castle and my two older ones adored it. It is exceptionally clean as open farms go and plenty to do both inside and out even working as a rainy day activity with the bouncy castle alone. Each child received a bag of animal food on arrival so they could feed the animals as they go and the animals were well trained to spot that bag a mile away, making his way to it delighting the children. Furthermore they offer plenty of gluten free hot meals for kids.
The Irish Workhouse Centre, Heritage Council Winner 2017, 2018 & 2019, is located in Portunmna which we had planned to visit but we were just two busy chilling out at the centre and decided to leave it for another trip. However, if you do have time it is meant to be good for the older kids.
Dining at Slieve Aughty Centre
The Three Towers Organic Restaurant is one of two organic certified restaurants in Ireland and the only one in the west of Ireland. They use certified organic ingredients and a special effort is made to ensure the use of local suppliers, as well as ingredients from their own certified organic garden. With creativity and a passion for organic food, their aim is to offer delicious, healthy meals using only natural and organic ingredients.
Both breakfast and evening meal is buffet style with plenty of choice and the gluten free porridge in the morning was so delicious that I finally converted Saoirse to a porridge eater after 11 years. Each morning I enjoyed avocado and fresh tomatoes from the garden with gorgeous local cheese and it made a welcome change to the usual fry up that is offered in hotels. The children enjoyed eggs and organic chocolate spread on toast.
Lucky for us we were staying on a Friday night which is Pizza Night at The Three Towers Restaurant. A wide array of pizza toppings were laid out around the outdoor pizza oven and we each were provided with a pizza base (including gluten free) so we could make our own pizza ready to cook in the stone oven. This was my favourite night as the children loved it. The atmosphere was so relaxing yet party like in the outdoor seating area and the pizzas were delicious. Locals, guests and team members of the Slieve Aughty Centre spread out to enjoy the feast in a friendly relaxed setting where friends and strangers chatted amicably. We stayed here for the evening enjoying a few glasses of wine and craft beers as the children pottered about. The restaurant was full this evening and it is only a testimony to their fabulous food and setting as most were locals who are lucky enough to have such a wonderful experience on their own doorstep. For those of you with a large appetite you will be please to know that you can go up for seconds however very few required it. The pizza night costs €12 per adult and €6 per child and it will be a long time before I see value like this again.
On our first day we stopped in Portumna on the way to Slieve Aughty and enjoyed an Indian in Modena Restaurant in the town itself. It had excellent choices for Coeliacs and a lovely kids menu. While Thomas opted for a burger, Saoirse and Lonán enjoyed a gorgeous Indian curry. As Indian food fans both Craig and I loved it and could thoroughly recommend it.
On another day, when we visited Loughrea, we popped into Maggie May’s for a bite to eat. They have seating downstairs in the bar or restaurant style seating upstairs. I must say it was a very relaxed option for a bite to eat with plenty of lovely choices for the kids. Most importantly our food didn’t disappoint.
Downsides is one of my normal blog headings but this time I struggled to find one. All I can say is that is it’s really a holiday for those who enjoy the outdoors and a laid back feel. Children potter amongst the activities provided and make their own fun and if you are looking for fast food you won’t find it here (even though we have one fussy eater and got on fine).
The honesty shop and honesty book in the bar, where you write in what you helped yourself to, provides an idea for how they perceive their patrons. We were not customers, patrons or even your usual guests but rather “a family visitor” if there is such a term. It’s a magical place to holiday with kids, surrounded by picturesque views and wandering wildlife, where gazing at the stars around the fire pit is as stressful as it gets.
As a certified Ecotourism provider, its green credentials include: More than 1 acre of vegetables and fruits are sourced on the property, grown without pesticide or herbicide, additional fruits and vegetables, cheese and free-range eggs are locally sourced and organic (when possible), more than 90% of purchased products are certified organic, food waste is composted, the main building is a beautiful example of functional, comfortable sustainability in practice with lots of windows for natural lighting, low flow taps and toilets, efficient lighting features, puraflo peat filtration wastewater system, and eco-foam insulation, biomass burning boiler for heating, the centre uses only 24 wheelie bins per year and plans to decrease waste generation annually, eco-friendly cleaners are used for all cleaning and clothes washing, washing is air dried 95% of the time, rainwater is collected for use in the stables and garden and wastewater is treated with a natural puraflo peat moss treatment system.
So as you can see from the above efforts long before eco-tourism and reducing our carbon footprint became trendy, The Slieve Aughty Centre were leading the way in Eco Friendly Holidays in Ireland and today are prime example for us all. This place is certainly people, nature, community and environment before profit without scrimping on any of the luxury and standards that we all desire from a family holiday.To find out more click here!
A Family Break in Dublin
Dublin is a fantastic city for a family breaks because like many cities there is so much to do but Dublin City is unique in that it offers a lot for families in a small geographically area. Our children love the hustle and bustle of this busy capital and look forward to a trip every so often. We have not been in a couple of years so with the opening of the new and exciting Explorium, National Sports and Science Centre, we decided to head off.
I have previously stayed in The Castleknock Hotel amongst others and decided to return here for a number of reasons, namely location, service, facilities and most importantly the family rooms. The hotel is located in Castleknock just off the M50 and very easy to find following google maps. We prefer a hotel on the fringes of the city centre for parking and it is easier to find your way around. The rooms sizes and prices are also always more favourable. It’s not as if we need to be close to the nightlife these days so The Castleknock is more convenient for our needs as a family. It’s location in relation to some of Dublin’s main family attractions is perfect. Go back onto the M50 and go north to Tayto Park (approx 25 mins) or head south the Imaginosity (approx 20 mins), Explorium (approx 25 mins) and Dundrum Shopping Centre (approx 25 mins). Fort Lucan is only a 7 minute drive while Dublin Zoo is only a 10 minute drive as Castleknock is situated just behind Phoenix’s Park. You will actually enter the back of the Phoenix Park thus avoiding the city centre.
In fact Phoenix Park is so close that we took a walk here on our first evening to stretch the legs and the kids were excited to spot Mr. D’s pad. We found a gorgeous restaurant/pub called Hole in The Wall just outside one of the side gates (Blackhorse Avenue Gate). It has such charming decor, outside seating and plenty of space for families. The children’s options were excellent. Saoirse got the kid’s chicken curry and rice and I was sorry I did not get it myself even though my salmon dish was divine. Thomas got battered fish and chip which was a half portion of the adults option and Craig was very pleased with his steak. It is a very relaxed place for kids and very reasonable as the kids got a drink and dessert all for €10.
When we returned to The Castleknock Hotel we were not surprised to see quite and few families around the lobby area having a drink or some food as it really is one of Dublin’s top child friendly hotels. You can see evidence of how they pride themselves on being family friendly throughout the hotel. From the table at reception with directions to all the top family attractions, offers of board games for the rooms, to the table with sun cream and hand wipes at the door to the outdoor area. However, it is the facilities such as the swimming pool and the playground which make you feel really welcome as a family. The pool area is beautiful and there are two little pools for the small ones but best of all it was a very warm pool so much so that you would notice it.
There is a large seating area just off the bar and restaurant and the playground sits adjacent to it. This was perfect for dining as the kids could play while we were waiting for our food and after dinner we squeezed in a little glass of wine while they were busy playing. It’s a great place to enjoy a cup of coffee after breakfast in the morning also!
With any family break I always feel that the room size is most important as if it’s too small you can get somewhat claustrophobic. The Castleknock Hotel prides themselves on their family rooms and their rooms have recently undergone a refurbishment. They are an excellent size and they have options for up to 5 in one room very comfortably or interconnecting rooms which we had. The decor is very stylish, there is no scrimping on luxury for size.
The kids received goodie bags on arrival so they felt extra special and in that were our passes to Dublin Zoo as they were included in the package we were booked under. They also have a summer package including Tayto park passes. The goodie bags are handy for taking with you on your day out as they included little treats and water.
We were very excited to check out Explorium and were not disappointed. The National Science and Sports centre contains more than 300 exhibits spanning 110,000 sq ft near Sandyford. Our top favourites were the G-force anti-gravity loop where Craig was harnessed into a bicycle and rotated 360 degrees on a circular track, the lightning room where we learned how it is made and saw a lightning show and Movie world where Saoirse got to try out to try out the different tricks and techniques that can be used to craft a piece of video content. In the Senses exhibit, visitors will be able to test their sensory abilities compared to animals with extraordinary abilities, exploring bio-electricity, magneto-reception and thermos-reception. In the sports area you can try scaling dizzy heights with climbing, caving in Ireland’s longest indoor cave, experience a formula one race and so much more. They even had a section for little ones with dress up area, make and do, sensory area, climbing, outdoor play area and again many exhibits where they learn through play. There is something for everyone but a day is not enough as they are wrecked after a few hours and our two were keen to get back to the pool in The Castleknock Hotel. I have promised them I will bring them back soon as there is more they want to try out. A family ticket for two adults and two children is €70 for the science centre and well worth it. The climbing or caving is €15 but I would keep this for another day as there is so much to do in the science centre alone.
While we have been to Dublin Zoo a couple times already, the kids were insisting on going again as they love Dublin Zoo even though we go to Fota Wildlife Park regularly. There is always something new to see here and the animals never disappoint especially the Sea Lions and Gorillas. This time around we planned our day in accordance with the talks as our older two are of an age where they learning about conservation and love to ask questions making for a very interesting day. All the zoo keepers gave interesting age appropriate talks and answered every questions with great patience.
As coeliacs we are limited in options for dining in Dublin Zoo and we were in the mood for something more substantial so we had our lunch in The Phoenix Park Cafe just around the corner from the zoo. The Phoenix Park Cafe is really a hidden gem for families. I love it. Here you will find an array of healthy and vibrant salads, freshly baked quiches gorgeous organic coffee roasted in Wicklow. Cakes and slices are baked fresh everyday, and there are plenty of freshly made gluten free options too. What a treat! The outdoor seating area is the courtyard of what seems to be the renovated farm buildings of Ashford Castle and now the visitor centre. It is truly unique.
Right next door is one of Dublin’s largest and in my opinion best playgrounds as well as the old walled Victorian gardens. You could even make a second day in Phoenix Park by renting bikes at the front gate of the park, cycling around and discovering Farmleigh, Áras an Uachtaráin, the resident deer and this area (Ashtown Castle visitor centre).
Back at our hotel we were also very well taken care of in terms of dining as both coeliacs and a family. There are two restaurants, Earth & Vine, their signature restaurant and 22 Bar & Restaurant for casual dining. The Lobby is the hotel patisserie while the Lime Tree Bar is the main bar. We choose the Earth & Vine Restaurant which has been recently refurbished and awarded ‘Best Place to Eat’ for two consecutive years at the Fingal Dublin Business Excellence Awards. The surroundings were very sumptuous and the food only divine. They even had gluten free pizzas for the kids. There is no questioning their credentials as Dublin’s top child friendly hotels with the pancake machine at breakfast causing great excitement in our party and each morning they cooked a gluten free Irish breakfast for Saoirse and I so there was no cross contamination and with gluten free sausages and puddings we were truly spoilt!!
After all that fun we were sad to leave our room at The Castleknock Hotel and Dublin because as usual there was so much more we could have done but we are looking forward to returning sometime soon. I could not fault it as the service was excellent and the welcome we received as a family was very genuine which is why I feel it is one Dublin’s top child friendly hotels. Click the above names to find out more!
Nature Trails at Fota House & Gardens
The gardens at Fota House are truly a hidden gem here in Cork and one of my favourite family fun activities in Cork. They are beautifully preserved (cared for by the OPW) and offer adventure, escape and tranquillity around almost every corner. There are many walkways and trails to discover and you could spend hours lost in amongst the trees, languishing in the open areas or exploring the formal and Victorian walled gardens. All of this is free and there is only a charge of €3 for the car park.
Family Fun Activities in Cork
However, should you wish to add a bit more fun to your day you can buy one of their trail packs for €4 each. They have two to suit both young and older children. We had great fun following the map as children always love map reading and leading the way. While our three were running along, working out which way to go at each juncture, stopping to find little titbits and clues as per the instructions, Craig and I wandered along at our own pace, chatting and enjoying the surroundings. Pure Bliss!!!
We stopped on route at the giant’s chairs for a picnic before continuing along the trail and discovering the Victorian walled gardens, the shed with old tools and the formal gardens. The children were extremely curious and enjoyed the few hours we spent wandering along. I really do think it was the nature trail and activity pack that added that element of structure and fun to our afternoon.
We spent the next hour rolling down the grass hills, playing ball and generally chilling out in the open area just behind the house. As family fun activities in Cork go this one got big thumbs up from me and I am looking forward to trying out their house tour as I believe they have one geared towards children coming shortly!
Glamping in The Garden of Ireland
Best Family Glamping Holidays
Wicklow is known as the ‘Garden of Ireland’ as it boasts many gorgeous grand houses with sumptuous formal gardens such as Kilruddery, Russborough, Avondale and Powers court as well as been home to Ireland’s largest National Parks and the only one located in the east of the country.
I have been keen to explore this part of Ireland for some time now and when I came across Clissmann Horse Drawn Caravans I thought what better way to immerse ourselves in these surroundings but on one of the best Family Glamping Holidays. You have the option to take the horse drawn caravans out on 3, 5, 7 day trips or stay put in their farm a few minutes walk from the Vale of Clara Nature Reserve and we choose just to do that and really switch off!
This is really a holiday about turning off all screens, chilling out in your wellies and getting in touch with nature however we soon discovered it was about we got to spend time enjoying each other’s company too in a way that you often don’t on other holidays that are action packed!!
Family Accommodation in Clissmann Horse Drawn Caravans
The glamping accommodation are beautifully restored gypsy caravans and the attention to detail was superb. The bright colours both inside and out made for a playful and almost nostalgic atmosphere whereby I was remenicing on Wanderly wagon and the kids felt the whole excursion was one big cabby house play.
We had all the usual mod cons for cooking and dining including little luxuries like the all-important coffee plunger but we also had the option of the campers kitchen that was well equipped if we did not want to cook in. There is no electricity in the caravans but we did have gas for cooking and lights. We were provided with a cooler box for refrigeration and we could replenish the freezer packs daily but again there was also the option of fridges in the common areas. There even have laundry facilities for those of you that would be organised enough to wash before you go home.
There were two indoor common rooms for eating and relaxing as well as a play area with both indoors and outdoor toys. For those of you who need some connectivity they also provide free WIFI in these areas. The shower facilities were fresh and contemporary and in keeping with the simple natural feel of the place. All in all I could not fault the common areas and facilities on offer.
Things to at Clissmann Horse Drawn Caravan’s Farm
You are in a very secluded part of the country and in all directions there is countryside to explore. Just a few minutes walk would take you off the farm to the Vale of Clara Nature Reserve which is a 550 acres forest of native Irish trees with three sign-posted loop walks taking in the Avonmore River, the picture-postcard Clara Vale church and hump-back Bridge, the most idyllic setting for a picnic and dipping your toes in the river.
You are encouraged from once you arrive to visit to donkeys and take them treats and they are very sociable animals and love to meet little ones. To do so you will have to take a little walk along the farm and you can even buy special treats at the reception for this. There are many horses around the farm and again we found such neighbours very friendly and curious. In fact on one occasion we had the opportunity to walk through a field of older retired horses and the children were in their element at being so close but yet it was very safe as they were such docile creatures.
We built a campfire most evenings as this was an extremely exciting adventure for our little ones and the best part was spending the afternoon roaming the nearby forests and fields to gather wood. This activity often took a few hours and you would be surprised how far they walk when on a mission. Craig and I loved these hours as we rambled along after the troops. When we finally built our campfire in the evenings we would sit out and be joined by neighbours. It was the perfect way to end any day.
Family Things to Do in Rathdrum and Surrounds.
For such a remote and scenic location you would not believe how close you are to so many attractions and activities. That is if you want to head out for a day. To be honest for research purposes we dragged both ourselves and the kids out only for the bear minimum as we were all enjoying the chill out.
Clara Lara Park is only a 6 mins drive away and Greenan Maze and Farm 30 mins away. However, you want to keep in the nature theme try out Squirrel’s Scramble, an adventure tree park that offers fun for all the family at Killruddery House and Gardens. Glendolough is only 15 mins away and is not only free but well worth an explore. The village of Rathdrum is minutes away and if you only want a short break it has a few shops, pubs and restaurant but the cherry on top is a most fantastic playground with an even better view of the valley.
We ventured out another day and discovered a place called Ballymurrin Farmsted, which is a 17th century quaker settlement and offers a unique insight to a difficulties experienced in Wicklow by Quakers. We have a passion for history so enjoyed the hour we spent here.
On another day we ventured into the town of Greystones which also boosts a fabulous playground, gorgeous shops and cafes. This drive was only 30 mins away. Mount Usher Gardens, with its Avoca Garden Café and Courtyard Shops is situated in the village of Ashford, just a 12 minute drive away and is a great morning or afternoon out also.
On our way home we stopped at Avoca Village (only 30 mins drive) to visit the home of the original weavers mill and have something to eat. The kids enjoyed a small free tour before we headed on route for home.
All in all you do not need to head out much but enjoy chilling out and if you do there is something to do in every directions in minutes!
Places to Eat in Rathdrum and Surrounding Areas
Rathdrum is only a ten minutes drive and here you will find a supermarket with all you need for a few days or Wicklow town is a 30 mins drive for a more extensive shop.
Make sure you plan at least one meal around the open fire some evening as the kids loved this and in particularly mingling with the other other children. A good simple way to do this is sit out by the fire and make using a small portable BBQ cook your meat before eating it around the fire.
Bates Restaurants in the nearby village of Rathdrum have coveted many awards over the years and you must venture out and about at some stage to enjoy a feast there. It is easy to see why they have won many awards and you will be surprised at how busy it is for such a quite village in the middle of the week. I would recommend you book in advance. Bates offer an excellent menu in a very atmospheric old stone building. The food was divine and the children loved to watch the kitchen from behind their high counter meticulously preparing our sumptuous meals. Everything here was about quality, locally sourced and the highest standards produce. The courtyard outside offers a haven after the meal where we could enjoy a final glass of wine while the children played and explored!
Further a field, only a 20 mins drive away is Glenmalure Lodge Restaurant. I can also highly recommend this place. Glenmalure Lodge Restaurant offers exceptional cuisine within an atmospheric old style bar. This is a busy spot and with its majestic views and gorgeous gardens along with the fantastic food it is easy to see why. Nessa had given us a tip to ask about the new baby deer up the back and when we did we were pleasantly surprised to be invited up to visit. Here a young deer rescued in the nearby national park after been abandoned by her mother was been cared for by the lodge owners and in particular by the two resident sheep dogs who were very protective of her. They are often asked to take in these rescues for a period of time before they are old enough and healthy enough to return to their national environment. They also have other animals in their sheds next to the lodge and it was such a pleasant way to end the meal.
I found it very hard to think of one but all I could suggest is a little playground but then you were in the middle of a most natural and scenic playground and Rathdrum Village is only mins away.
Make sure you bring warm PJs as it can get cool in the night but once you have these you are fine. I cannot recommend strongly enough that this is place is all about sitting back, chatting, chilling, laughing, picnics, campfires, wellies, donkeys, nature, adventures and best of all little rambles so don’t waste it! It is a thumps up from me as the best family glamping holidays in Ireland.
What the Kids Said about Clissmann Horse Drawn Caravans
“My favourite part was collecting wood to build the campfire and then having our dinner at the campfire” Saoirse
Lucky for us we live only a half an hour from Trabolgan and so we can make regular day trips with the kids. Trabolgan was one of my own favourite spots as a kid and I love to watch the kid’s excitement when we head down there now. Trabolgan day passes are great value as you get a full day of fun so get down early and plan it out beforehand!
Trabolgan Holiday Village is located on over 140 acres of woodland beside the sea, 30 mins from Cork city and operates as a holiday camp or day visitor attraction.
Family Things to Do at Trabolgan
We normally start at the playground so kids can have a run around and I a coffee. One word of advice take a good look at the activities timetable for the day at this stage as there may be shows that you want to see and some of the activities have specific time slots. I prefer to organise our swimming around the shows as the kids will be starving after swimming and you can get lunch into them while watching a show.
There is a glass roof over the main outdoor area and the main stage is under this so if you get a fine day like we did last week it is was perfect to sit outside and relax while actually enjoying a picnic while being entertained.
Our next port of call is normally the swimming pool and with the waves and slide we normally pass away an hour or two here. The water was actually quite warm last week and I was pleasantly surprised with the renovations in this area. There is new flooring running throughout the changing area and a new seated area for those who wishing to sit this one out.
After our picnics we head back to the playground for a walk out towards the water area. However, last week I stumbled across the duck pond which has been developed into a nature area. It is a gorgeous spot to sit with a prompt board to encourage children to search the surroundings for little titbits of nature. I am glad to see Trabolgan making use of their gorgeous natural setting more.
The sports centre houses a jungle gym (admission included in the day pass) and a coffee shop for more hours of fun and it is here you can buy tickets to any of the TAS activities. You can also use your day pass for these instead of the swimming pool but to be honest we would not do these everytime as there is so much without having to include them.
Places to Eat in Trabolgan
At this stage we would head back down for another show as they are normally getting quite tired. A great way to end the day is Sally O’Hara’s Restaurant in the main square so I don’t have to cook when we get home and I know they will be starving after going all day so they will eat a belly full. Along with the main menu a carvery is available which is brilliant for the kids. There is a family special at the moment of €45 for two adults and two kids. I have never been disappointed with the food here and they have excellent coeliac choices. The staff are extremely friendly and always so accommodating.
Other dining options are Costa Coffee for a quick snack or Big Als@Casey’s Fast Food so there is something for everyone!
I am delighted with the renovations they are doing every year but I hope they might add new shower cubicles some time soon as I am not too fond with the open showers!
At the moment the Trabolgan day passes are €12 per person/ €50 for a family pass which is outstanding value as you can have one of the main activities which are swimming, crazy golf, birds of prey, TAS (Trabolgan Adventure Sports). Follow Trabolgan on facebook and keep an eye on their website as there are always doing offers on Trabolgan day passes. Click here for more.
What the Kids Said about Trabolgan
“Next time we go we are staying so we can do more stuff”
Killarney as a base to explore the world famous Co. Kerry!!
As a big fan of the mobile home holidays, this year we choose to stay in Beech Groove Caravan Park so we could explore probably our most famous county, Kerry!! Killarney is a fantastic base for exploring Kerry as it is in easy reach of most of the major towns and tourist hotspots of Kerry. There are many Family Fun Things to do in Killarney and we wanted to check these out!!
Family Accommodation in Killarney
Beech Groove Caravan Park is situated in Fossa which is just a few short miles outside Killarney and on the main road to Killorglin and Dingle. It has fantastic views of the Mc Gilly Cuddy Reeks and is a quiet haven to the hustle and bustle of Killarney town.
It is easy to know that Beech Groove Caravan Park is a family-run caravan as you will regularly meet Joan, Tony and their family as they ensure the caravan park is well run and everyone is happy. They cater for touring caravans, dorm mobiles, motor homes and tents. We stayed in one of the 8 static luxury mobile homes for hire.
Our mobile home had three bedrooms, two with two singles and one double. There was a separate shower and toilet as well as a large open plan kitchen, dining and sitting area. It was very bright and most importantly spotless clean. Often I would give the mobile home a quick clean before we unpack but on this occasion I was pleasantly impressed as there was not a speck of dust in site! The mobile homes were not only modern but well-kept and what I loved the most is they offered plenty in the way of storage for all our paraphernalia.
Next door our friends stayed in another mobile home which was slightly bigger but with a similar layout. We had all we needed for cooking and in the larger mobile home there was a separate fridge and freezer, perfect for this type of holiday as we came armed with some dinners we made at home so we reduced our workload while away! Most evenings we were enticed to eat outdoors as we were provided with outside table and chairs and even though it was not the warmest part of our summer the holiday feel onsite would encourage you outdoors! Just to note though that bed linen is not always provided but can be at an extra charge.
Facilities at Beech Grove Caravan Park
The park has all the usual facilities such as a Shower/Toilet block, large camper’s kitchen with kettle, toaster, microwave, fridge/freezer etc. and finally a shop next door to the TV Room with a pool table and other games also. Wi-Fi is free onsite and there are plenty of barbeques as well as outdoor table and chairs to enjoy. There was a small playground in front of the camping area and next door to the kitchen.
The Park is a 10 min drive from Killarney town center. If you wanted to walk, there is a beautiful walk through the Fossa way, which links with the National Park. A five minute walk from the park is a pub and restaurant while just next door on the other side is a new public playground with a mini gym for adults.
It’s best feature by far was the view and if you were camping I would suggest requesting a spot on the upper level which is more private but the views are gorgeous! To find out more about Beechgrove Caravan Park Click Here!
Family Fun Things to do in Killarney and Surrounds
Killarney is famous as a tourist hotspot for a reason, there is an abundance of fun to be had at every turn. We visited some of the many Family Fun Things to do in Killarney and around the area to discover our favourite family attractions.
This was our first visit to Kennedy’s Pet Farm even though I had passed their sign on the Cork road many times. Kennedy’s Farm stands out from all the others in that when you first enter you are greeted by the local resident committee made up of calves, sheep and goats rambling around and beware they are not shy about checking your hands for any treats you may have picked up for them at the gate. All the children loved this and proceeded to play and cuddle these very friendly animals. However, Lonán, as a toddler, was mesmerised and if she had got her way we would have spent the whole day here and ventured no further.
There is very little farm machinery but plenty of animals to pet including cuddly kittens, puppies and rabbits. For us fairy fans the fairy walk through the wood was a treat and the outdoor play area has something for every age and child with plenty of seating for us to enjoy the views while they play. However, the indoor areas were superb especially for a wet day. There was an indoor wooden maze with play areas to discover as well as an indoor sand pit area which is another word for paradise for our children so we had to beg, drag and bribe them out of here. There were plenty of showers that day so this place is perfect for a wet day also. They even brought some pets indoors for petting when it rained! To find out more about Kennedy’s Pet Farm Click Here!
Just make sure you bring a packed lunch and plenty of snacks as we got caught out here and we could have stayed the whole day if we had more food. There is a coffee shop onsite but it only offers light snacks and beverages. The charge is €8 each for adults and children with a family ticket (2 adults & 3 Children) costing €35 and under 2’s are free.
Next on our list is The Playdium in Tralee as it rained for few days we were there and this was another excellent thing to do on a rainy day. This was my second time at the Playdium play centre in Tralee and I was looking forward to returning. One of the first things that will strike you is the cleanliness of this place and at all times you will see someone cleaning! The staff are very helpful and even took time to play with Lonán on a number of occasions in the baby play area. If you arrive in flip flops like us they have a variety of socks in all colours and sizes for just €1. While this play centre is here for quite a number of years it is as fresh and modern as the day they opened. It is easy to see that one of the owners are on site at all times, paying great attention to detail. A child’s entry costs €8. The playdium is located is a large retail park which is also home to Debenhams, Next and many more house hold names if you want to get some shopping in too!
Tralee was approx. 30 mins from our campsite so we also paid a visit to The Aqua Dome. You would want to give yourself a full day here and if the swimming pool with all the slides and play areas was not enough they have now added Aqua Golf outside. So the aqua dome is much more than your typical swimming pool as it boosts a lazy river, high fume slide, river rapids, waves, outdoor falling rapids, toddler slides and general play areas with a pirate theme. For lunch we just wrapped some towels around the kids and popped into the coffee shop before we went back to it. They loved it so much they stayed until they were too exhausted to do any more so I would definitely recommend a day here.
Adult day passes are €16 while children are €13 and under than 2 are free. Family Tickets start at €52.20 for 2 adults and 2 children but what I loved the most is that they offer weekly passes for those holidaying in the area and can tailor a pass depending on the length of the stay. This is perfect if you are camping locally and wanted a daily swim. The weekly family pass was €150 and I am sure you would get your money’s worth.
The Aqua Golf is beautifully landscaped with water features, a cave, fountains, ponds full of leaping trout and a 40 foot high water fountain. It is a very new feature with a very modern look and feel and offers a good challenge for those families that like a bit of competition. A family ticket will set you back €15.00.
Cragg Cavewas the biggest surprise of the week. Only 30 mins drive from our caravan park and in the Castleisland direction. Cragg Cave is one of those hidden gems that I love to discover. Cragg Cave is not only a 1 million years old cave wonderland of stalagmites and stalactites but it is also home to a large fun filled play centre with separate toddlers play area, a climbing wall and rodeo bull ride. It has a gorgeous gift shop and the restaurants draws locals as well as the tourist from far and wide. You can get a combined ticket to both the play centre and cave for just €11 a child and this also includes the climbing wall and rodeo bull when they are open. However, Cragg cave also offer a holiday membership from €30 for three months over April, May and June if you were staying again for a length of time in the area.
What made the cave visit so unique is that is very much geared towards the young audience and our guide had amazing patience to answer the avalanche of questions she was asked (sometimes twice) throughout the tour. But to top it all off when we emerged out of the cave at the end of the tour she offered the children some “samples of bone fragments, gem stones, diamonds and rock that had been discovered in the cave” from her pocket to take home and they were not only thrilled but amazed……. Needless to say this selection process went on for as long as the tour!!!!
Back inside we were hard pushed to fit in the rodeo bull, climbing wall, back to the play centre and all before we even enjoyed the outdoor play ground. Believe me there is another full day here so come early and bring a book to enjoy!! Click here to find out about Crag Cave!
Not many people know about our next find, The Kerry Bog Village Museum just a 25 mins drive from our caravan park beyond the town of Killorglin. An adult ticket is €6.50 while children are €4.00. The village is made up of a selection of period thatched cottages, fully furnished with authentic antiques, complete with sound effects and figurines. Outdoors, there were displays of rural farm equipment, used by turf cutters and farmers of the time period. Thomas had great fun trying to guess what they were.
The village is also home to some friendly Kerry bog ponies and two large but very friendly Irish wolf hounds. I would suggest you bring a picnic as it is small and compact so you could take a seat and enjoy a picnic while the children wander and explore at their own pace for an hour or two. There is a very well-known pub with excellent bar food next door, The Red Fox Inn if you want something more substantial.
Killarney’s National Park is famous the world over and the best way for families to enjoy it I think is by bike. You can join the bike trail just about 400 yards from the caravan park and the first stop would have to be the Knockreer Playground or the little tea rooms not too far from this before heading down to Ross Castle 3 km from the tea-rooms. The children will not notice the km go by as they will be distracted by the many jaunting cars on the route along with the spectacular surroundings. There is a charge to enter the castle itself but I think a cycle around is plenty for the kids!
We also discovered a little hidden gem in The Blue Pool Walk that is left just after The Blue Pool Art Gallery on the road to Muckross House, apporx 10 mins drive from Killarney. It is a gentle loop walk for children that takes around an hour and the main attraction is the most unusual blue pool of water surrounded in the most magnificent array of trees and scenery. It is very easy to miss from the road so look out for Cloghereen Woods and you are in the right spot just after The Muckross Park Hotel.
Knockreer Playground is a 6 minute drive from Beechgrove Caravan Park on the road into Killarney and is one of my firm favourites as playgrounds go for many years. It is situated in to lush surroundings of the national park and has plenty to offer in the way of fun from climbing frames to little wooden trains! For more information on Knockreer Playground Click Here!
Beech Groove Caravan Park is beside the main road to Killorglin and some of the mobile homes are situated along the front by the road which can be noisy at night. If you have children that need peace and quiet to sleep or may make a dash to hop the wall for the main road I would suggest that you book one of the mobile homes higher up the park and away from the road.
We head off for a week with friends every year so we can catch up, the kids are occupied and we have company in the evenings as our other halves often head to work mid-week. It is very relaxing staying in a caravan park as the kids will play together on the bikes, trot up and down to the playground and explore more freely than at home. As you know once they are happy, we are happy and can relax. The mobile home is even easier to manage especially if we are on our own mid-week. The location of the campsite was great with the national park and local playground on its doorstep as well while Killarney and many of the attractions were easy and quick to access. Killarney surprised with all there was to do for families and we even had plenty of choice on the wet days!
What the Kids said about Killarney
The highlight for the kids was the playground next door to the caravan park and our day at The Dome in Tralee; they certainly feel they did not have enough time here!!
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 Irelandfor 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.
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.
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.
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.
Mobile Home Rental Ireland
The most common question that I am been asked this Summer is “Where can I you can rent a mobile home for a week, weekend or mid-week break? or “Are there any Caravan and Camping Parks with Mobile Home Rental in Ireland?” Most campsites and mobile home parks do not have this facility so I have compiled a list of the few that do. All mobile homes are full equipped with a comprehensive range of cooking equipment and kitchen utensils. Some parks also supply TVs in their mobile homes. Models and sizes vary so please check when booking. This is how I discovered Ireland as a child but for some reason mobile home hires were not popular for sometime but are certainly back in demand recently.
I have not stayed in all of the ones below but my top three favourites Mobile Home Rental in Ireland would be:
A word of advice DO NOT STAY at Seaside Caravan and Camping, Camp, Co. Kerry. Not only is it not family friendly but I would not recommend it for anyone. We were told it was clean but once we opened the door to our luxury cabin there was an open packed of crisps spilled on the floor. The beds clearly had not been changed never mind dressed and bathroom filthy so while we called reception and asked for it to be cleaned we visited the playgournd. When I had to explain to Thomas why there may be two bottles of Vodlka dumped in the tiny playground I knew it was time to leave long before I was asked “would they remove the bed sheets from the last guests or do I have my own” on our return from the playground. As for the facilities we won’t even go there!
Mobile Homes for Families
Hiring a mobile home in a clean and family friendly site can be so much fun for both adults and the kids. The kids feel like they are sleeping in a cabby house and the parents have the housekeeping done in less than 20 minutes each day. The first thing the kids will do is make new friends and if they are bike friendly sites they are gone for hours at end cycling around with such freedom within the confines of the campsite. They tend to want to go out and mingle even in light rain and we have a rule that there is not going into other caravans or mobile homes so they will potter away outdoors all day. Thus leaving plenty of time for you to relax and savour the peace.
We don’t often use a TV and traditionally we will play cards and board games which allows for very competitive but fun family time. I must say it is a very relaxed way to holiday and often the kids don’t want to go off and do any activities as they are happy to relax and explore their new surroundings also.
One of my top tips is to check they have freezer facilities on site you can use and I prepare Lasagne, Soup and Cassarole before I go and freeze it for the days that I don’t feel like cooking. The rest of the nights are BBQs.
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.
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.
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!