For some time I've had a hankering to take my family to Ireland, but somehow it never happened. I imagined beautiful scenery, friendly people and a relaxed, peaceful, atmosphere, where my children could run around happily. Now I've finally been, and reality didn't disappoint.
|My son loved throwing pebbles into the sea|
Our trip to the West of Ireland began at Luton airport, and became the first holiday where my two-year-old son had his own seat on the plane. This was great for him, and for me. (I have had my fill of an enthusiastic child bouncing around on my lap while I am stuck thousands of feet up in the air).
After an hour-and-a-half, we arrived at Galway Airport and, having hired a car, immediately set off for Connemara.
The drive was gorgeous, through beautiful rolling hills, and my city children were astonished by all the sheep, while I loved the silence as I'm used to busy roads - these were almost deserted.
We drove to Renvyle, almost at the western tip of the country, and checked in at the Renvyle House Hotel. I know I'm at risk of gushing, but it was fabulous. These days, what I dream of on holiday is a room of my own (that is, without the children, who wake up obscenely early).
At Renvyle House, our accommodation was one of the new Island Suites. This meant my two children were together in one room, while my husband and I shared the other. Bliss.
The rooms were lovely, as was the hotel. It is spectacularly situated on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, right on a lovely pebble beach, and my son Robbie greatly enjoyed throwing pebbles into the clear, blue sea.
The hotel is well set up for youngsters, with a playground and heated outdoor swimming pool. It also has an indoor children's club and serves a children's supper from 5.30pm to 6.30pm every evening. The only small negative is that this can push things rather late - children order off a menu and the service was not quick. The food on offer also doesn't change daily, so my children had the same thing three days running. However, these were small niggles.
The food in general was excellent, including a slap-up breakfast and delicious evening meal. The staff were friendly and helpful, and the hotel really does have lots to offer, including a nine-hole golf course, its own lake to fish in and beautiful surrounding woodlands.
Lovely as the hotel was, we couldn't spend all of our time there as there are so many other things to see and do in the west of Ireland.
One place we visited was the very pretty town of Clifden. From there we took the appropriately named Sky Road (up into the cliffs) which had stunning views. We also saw the monument to Alcock and Brown, the men who took the first transatlantic flight, and who landed right near the tip of Clifden.
Despite its name the beach at Dogs Bay, near Roundstone, was so clean, fresh and pretty it was almost the stuff of dreams. While in Roundstone itself we made sure we went to the workshop run by Malachy Kearns, better known as Malachy Bodhran among folk musicians because he makes Ireland's oldest product, the bodhran drum. Naturally we had to buy two, one for each of our children.
Other highlights of the first part of our stay included another beautiful beach near Cleggan (I think the beaches in Ireland are some of the best I've ever seen - although the weather is not quite as impressive!) and the Cleggan Riding Centre, where our five-year-old had her first ride on a pony and loved it.
After three days in Renvyle, we weren't quite ready to leave (we hadn't even visited the Connemara National Park, which was just 10 minutes away from our hotel), but we had to, as we were booked in for a stay in Galway City.
Galway City is buzzing at the moment. It's the fastest growing city in Ireland and incredibly busy. It's also a great place to visit, easy to walk around and with lots of shops, cafes and restaurants. Luckily there is (once again) lots to explore with children.
We visited the Galway Atlantaquaria, the national aquarium of Ireland, where my son was mesmerised by the fish. It really is a fantastic attraction, as you can get so close to the exhibits. We also went the City Limits Entertainment Centre in nearby Oranmore where the kids took advantage of the soft play area and slot machines. It didn't even matter that it was pouring with rain outside.
Another gem was the Turoe Pet Farm and Leisure Park, around 20 minutes away by car in Loughrea and another excellent attraction for families. Turoe not only has a lovely outdoor playground, but a very good soft play area, and the biggest bouncy castle in Europe (I was itching to get on, but sadly, it is for the little ones only).
At the farm, you are not just allowed to pet the rabbits, but can also feed the sheep, goats, cows, horses and donkeys.
Our base in Galway City was the Days Hotel, well located and once again family-friendly with a very good kids' club. It offers a buffet supper for the young ones between 5pm and 6pm and they happily look after children (ages three-plus) while parents have dinner.
The rooms, however, were small and as we were all in together it was somewhat more difficult to relax. Still, if we had thought ahead, we could have booked an interconnecting room for the children, and that would have made a great difference to our sleep patterns!
All in all, the west of Ireland was a great place for our family summer holiday. I would have been happy to have stayed longer and would love to go back one day.
The children were (and still are) incredibly enthusiastic about it, and as all parents will know, if the kids are happy, then you are too!
We were guests of Tourism Ireland and stayed at the Renvyle House Hotel in an Island Suite. In high season, suites cost pounds 225 per night B&B, plus pounds 30 for dinner, and pounds 10 for child's supper. Single, double and family rooms available.
At Days Hotel, Galway, dinner and B&B costs around pounds 75 per person per night, with three to 15-year-olds paying an extra pounds 25 per night, including access to Kids Club.
Visit Discover Ireland for more information on this beautiful country.
(This was first written and published by the Press Association in 2008, and was syndicated to regional and local newspapers across the UK).
Labels: Connemara, family holiday in Ireland, Galway, Renvyle House hotel, West of Ireland