Saturday, December 15, 2018

Bridge that Gap at The Dunloe - Co.Kerry

Taking a holiday, in Ireland or anywhere for that matter, with kids is never straight forward. The obvious things like budget and scheduling time off are likely to be the easy bit – location is the challenge. We’ve been all over Ireland either with or without the children but constants in our list of locations are Killarney and Kilkenny – the reasons vary – and over the years we’ve seen the good and the not so good offerings from all around the country. Our blogs are intended for parents mainly but we hope they are relevant and useful to everyone.
The Dunloe
Normally – in the Summer time we will try to break our holidays into a number of short mini breaks. This way we get to see different parts of Ireland and are able to jam pack our agendas to make the most of our time wherever we land!

A mini-break should of course be a treat for everyone – and there are so many hotels now offering family breaks – but when you pull back the covers – some are not really family breaks at all – more like family prices for a double room with two or three extra beds squeezed in.

Now – don’t get me wrong – sometimes a product of that quality will be matched by the price and you will settle but we think  there’s much, much more to consider and value when looking for a family break.

For us – before we even consider a family break we ask two simple questions. Does it have a pool and a kids club. If the answer to either of these questions is no – we tend to have to look long and hard at the particular offering. The pool is the main thing that our children, and in our experience most kids -  want and its terrific to see them all having fun in the water. I’m eternally grateful that we stuck with the swimming lessons and that investment in time is paying off now!

For Mum and Dad – well, frankly – it’s our break too and if there is a well organised activity programme for the children while we are away – that give us some precious time together to catch up – otherwise it’s just geography isn’t it? Same thing different place!

This year we returned to a place very special to us – the newly renovated, Dunloe Hotel just outside Killarney, Co. Kerry. The hotel has just been reopened following a (wait for it) €18 million facelift and oh my will you be impressed. The hotel was closed for 18 months while the work was undertaken and you will experience the painstaking attention to detail the owners and management have invested.

Aer Lingus Regional
This time round we did it a little differently. I dropped mum to Dublin Airport in the safe hands of our three sons so she could fly to Kerry and make it feel even more like a holiday. I took a leisurely drive – just me – a full tank of fuel and a Spotify playlist direct to Kerry International Airport. Everyone was happy. I met the gang off the flight at Farranfore Airport only 20 minutes from the hotel – after a fantastically quick – 30 minute flight with AerLingus (from only €45.99 each way!). They were in flying form!

The Gap of Dunloe
We arrived at the beautiful Dunloe. As the name would suggest, this fine hotel is perfectly situated with spectacular views of the renowned Gap of Dunloe and on the site of the original 12th century castle of the same name. As we drove down the long tree lined avenue of The Dunloe – we couldn’t help but stop and say hello to the amazingly friendly Halfinger Ponies that were there as if to greet us.

At the front door, one of the Hotel porters was on hand to help us with our luggage and park the car so we could start exploring the “new” hotel, straight away. Check in was a quick process with some lovely touches such as a drink for Mum and Dad and cookies for the kids. It quickly became apparent that we were not going to need to leave the hotel for fun this weekend.  
Our host took time to chat with us and make us feel welcome before escorting us to our room.

The Kids Club was of particular interest and promised an action packed itinerary of Indoor and Outdoor activity such as Indoor and Outdoor Games, Arts and Crafts, Movie time with Popcorn among the high-lights – but for our boys nothing topped the games room equipped with a number of games consoles such as PS4, Xbox One and Wii. 

However – that was only the Kids Club – as all guests can avail of the Leisure Centre, on site fishing, Tennis,Table Tennis and the wonderful playground to the rear of the Hotel  -  in the shadow of Dunloe Castle. Our room was a “Family Room” which was an ideal set up for us – essentially two large en suite rooms connected by an un-lockable door. The kids room had 3 large single beds all facing a massive TV on the wall. Perfect. 

Family Room
Having the “Separate “ rooms makes such a difference as it offers everyone some space to unwind and chill out and Adult time when the kids are exhausted from the days events. 

Stunning Room Views
Our huge room offered the most amazing views of the Gap of Dunloe and just some of the 64 acre, real working farm, upon which The Dunloe is situated. The hotel has two full time farmers on site and it was really interesting for the kids to watch them tend the animals and indeed prompted plenty of questions. We were really enjoying this and part of our morning routine involved sitting on the balcony watching the ponies during their play-time.

Our boys all have one thing in common – they love the water – so on our first evening – before it was too late to go we went for a quick swim. The pool is amazing with probably the best views we’ve experienced from within it, plus Sauna, Steam Room, fully equipped gym with the latest technology and treatment rooms.  The area is fantastic and so bright and airy!

The Kids Club

The kids club operates every day from 10am to 12pm and 6pm to 9pm which is great for everyone as it gives the kids time to go and play and meet other kids.

Kids Club activities vary by day and include Tennis, Table Tennis, Indoor Soccer, Parachute Games, Circuits, Rounder, Music and Movement, Novelty sports games, scavenger hunt, Horse bingo, Painting and Collage, Clay Modelling, paper Mosaics, Fun quiz, Kids disco, story time and more.

Outdoor Advenuture
There is a nice emphasis on outdoor activity with the children and if the weather is poor – which is not unusual in Ireland – there is also the huge indoor arena which house two Tennis Courts and is used for a variety of activity during those rainy days. Generally though all indoor activity takes place in the purpose built Kids Club which is, as Andrew told me “the biggest kids club he’s ever seen” – it even had a cinema!

For us – it’s a few precious hours to catch up, have some dinner etc. This is so important to us and hence when we find a destination that offers a great Kids Club it really helps us to relax and enjoy our break too. However – this time there was a bonus.

Normally our 13 year old would be too old or not interested in the Kids Club but The Dunloe have already thought of that, thankfully. Given the games room is fully kitted out with the latest consoles including PS4s, Xbox and Wii so the appeal of the area was widened – in fact the lure of brand new PS4s was too tempting even for him to resist!

The Park – Playground, Gardens, Castle, Picnic Areas, Fitness Circuit!
Nestled within the grounds of the Hotel is a little oasis of fun for the kids.  Mum and Dad can relax and watch them enjoying themselves on the swings, zip lines, see saws, slides and play frames in this magnificent setting. There’s even an all-weather table tennis table and equipment can be borrowed from reception.

Family Fun
While the Kids club here at The Dunloe is fantastic – there is also the opportunity to spend some time together as a family enjoying some of the other activities available on site. On day two, we collected our fishing rods from reception and headed to the park on the hotel grounds which had a small trail down to the river Laune.

We took full advantage and spent a few hours on the banks of the river fishing together. We hadn’t doen this in a long time and surprisingly for us – everyone had a great time and great memories were formed – but we still didn’t catch anything!

Dunloe Castle
Family Fun
We took the time to explore the vast grounds. The castle has had vast amount of restoration work done by the owners in conjunction with the OPW and its imposing form acts as a focal point from many angles within the grounds. 

The River Laune
From the top – there are amazing views to be enjoyed of the River Laune as it weaves its way toward the lakes and indeed the Hotel grounds itself. From our vantage point we all imagined what is might have been like to live at Dunloe Castle during times of attack in century’s gone buy. How it would have been to defend it as the intruders clambered up the hill from the River banks waiting to storm the castle. We let our imaginations run wild and we has some hilarious fun there – a total digital detox. That was great fun!

Pony Trekking, Fishing & Kayaking

Waiting for the one the got away!
Guest at The Dunloe also have the opportunity to visit the stables on site and take a complimentary Pony Trek. Again all ages and experience levels are catered for and Kyle and Christopher really loved it.  

Why the long face
It is also possible to arrange locally for Kayaking experiences on the river but we just simply ran out of time – that’s probably the only one thing you can never have enough of here.

Dining at The Dunloe
The food at The Dunloe is just incredible. The Grill restaurant offers a terrific selection from its menu in a relaxed setting with stunning panoramic views thanks its new and fabulous floor to ceiling windows. If you have a penchant for presentation you will just love the creative flare exhibited on every dish and the quality to match. Breakfast is a buffet style which a mouth-watering array of options to choose from.
Breathtaking Dining View
If you wanted something a little different Chef is happy to accommodate – in fact – he even “created” a delicious fresh savoury omelette for me. The kids loved the fantastic pancake machines and copious supply of nuttlella to accompany them that were available. Able to watch in awe through the machines glass as the pancake was made right in front of them,that was typical of our Dunloe experience.

To accommodate the kids busy schedules and before heading off to the kids club, the younger guest have their very own buffet dinner option available. Adults are welcome to accompany them but this is a kids only area. Our younger boys loved the opportunity to dine alone and it was a great way to meet new children who might have just arrived that day. The Kids menu is comprehensive and offers a great range of healthy options and alternatives so no complaints there from ours.

Menu Links

If it’s a luxury family break you are looking for – The Dunloe ticks all the boxes and more. The children will be spoiled for choice and you will just want to kick back and take it all in. There is something seductively sedate about The Dunloe that will have you so relaxed leaving you will never want to leave. Friendly staff, fantastic food, breath-taking views and happy kids – it ticked all the boxes for us. Nice Idea for a Christmas family gift to book when the hotel re-opens in April 2019.

Lots for fun things to do 

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

When Mid-West is best…..

After a pretty miserable winter which seemed to run on forever we decided to look for a mini-break somewhere a little different but not too far from Dublin. The last time we were near Shannon was returning from Honeymoon and three children later we decided it was time for a return to the treaty city – how Ironic! The 4****Radisson Blu Hotel and Spa, Limerick (Family Hotel of the Year’ at the Irish Hotel Awards 2018) – just off the N18 on the Clare/Limerick border seemed the perfect choice. Close to Limerick City – which has blossomed since our last visit and within 10 minutes of Bunratty Castle and a revisit to the famous Dirty Nellie’s’ Pub and Restaurant – it seemed like destiny was calling us – so, we listened.

Day 1: Arrival, Discovery and Bunratty CastleHaving stopped off in Moneygall along the way, and explaining all of the President Obama connections to Ireland, which was great to do by the way, we arrived at the hotel 50 minutes later, still with plenty of energy to burn – and that was just the parents!A nice long driveway with plenty of wide open space is the first thing you notice on arrival at the hotel, and that’s really welcoming. Immediately you feel the stress dissipate and the relaxation begins to creep in. Parking the car, each of us grabbed a bag from the boot. The kids all love having their own bags (even if Mom supervises the content) and it makes things easier for everyone – plus it’s only a weekend after all!We were met by Luba in reception, with a lovely warm welcome which the boys really responded too. She took the time to outline to them specifically, what was on offer for them here at the hotel, gave them their gift bags and told them how to sign up for the Global Explorers Kids club – located in a dedicated, purpose built “Base Camp” behind the hotel. Other things on offer for the kids was Basketball and Tennis, Games Area (with PS4's) and of course the Swimming Pool – available from 8-11 and 2-7 for children swimming times. There is also a playground and fairy garden for the younger children with is lovely and very welcoming.Luba gave us all the information we required, outlining the dining options – either in Porters Restaurant or Quench bar and told us about the buffet breakfast available (she didn’t tell us JUST how amazing that was).
Clearly, as a parent of young children, having lots of things for them to do is essential – and with supervised kids club, a pool, tennis and basketball courts they were very well catered for but what about Mum and Dad. Not to worry. The Radisson Blu Hotel has the Rain Spa and Leisure Club so Mum was able to book some treatments while Dad and Chris (16) could continue trying to burn of those Easter Eggs – a perfect combination for everyone.Given there are 5 of us now – ranging from 10 to 16 we chose 2 interconnecting family rooms – which allowed everyone that little bit of extra space. However the family rooms (there are 32 of them) are really spacious enough – especially if you plan to spend as little time as we did indoors then you will not be disappointed. For those with smaller children cots are available as is a babysitting service (available locally) - to truly maximise your break!

So – bags dropped, we took a quick tour, one of our traditions and headed for the car. The hotel is spread across 2 floors which means very few steps and so very buggy friendly! Next stop Bunratty Castle & Folk Park, somewhere we were so keen to show the boys – who are all crazy about castles. We could not have picked a better day to visit. The park, which we expected to be full of tourists, was actually relatively quiet for a Friday afternoon and in fact, with a couple of wedding parties taking photos our only companions. The castle is such a stunning sight and especially on a beautiful, cloudless spring day.Within the folk park itself are several restored houses and outbuildings, with white washed walls and thatched roofs featuring prominently. Inside each house there are turf fires burning and you really get a sense of yesteryear – but the boys just wanted to get to the castle and climb to the top – they were not disappointed.

Although used commercially for its famous medieval banquets each Saturday night – the castle has managed to maintain its charm and remain mystical and curious to the visitor. Lots of hidden chambers (and a dungeon), restored rooms and great halls, plus fantastic lookouts in the battlements make the most amazing imagination fodder. We took about two hours here before exiting via the surprisingly good value souvenir shop on the periphery of the park. The tour is in our view well priced for a larger family with a family ticket and you can even get preferential rates to top local attractions (Bunratty Castle & Folk Park, Craggaunowen and King John’s Castle) from the hotel reception.If  you get the weather and pack your bags with some snacks and a picnic you should really reap the rewards and spent a good half day there.

Ten minutes later we were back at the hotel. The boys were really looking forward to a swim but caught between a swim and registering for Global Explorers Kids Camp. They met the team at 5pm to register and came with us for a swim. The pool is located In the Rain Spa and Leisure Club and Leisure club and parents are allowed to sit on the edge and watch if the children are old enough, that’s very useful sometimes and as a result can mean the kids see more of the pool!After the pool the boys headed off to the kids club. They could have remained with the rest of the group and the team meet them all a reception and they all eat together in the restaurant – a great way to interact with other young guests. Then they are taken to the purpose built “Basecamp" to continue the fun. Activities include Hoverball Archery, Animal Magic Petting Zoo, Orienteering, Ninja Training Camp, Arts & Crafts, Movie and Treat nights, Pool, games (indoor and outdoors) with a fantastic team of staff all just wanting to have Fun!Our dinner that night was booked in Porters Restaurant with the super-efficient Kasia. It’s important to note here that all kids under 12 eat for free though some T&C’s apply – and what a lovely menu it is, especially for the children. It’s really great to see healthy options like Fish and Salads on a kids menus – other Hotels and Restaurants take note! The food arrived promptly, we were served by Ailbhe and Jake and it was a really enjoyable experience I must say. Exhausted, we retired for the evening – 2½ exhausted kids ready for bed. This is when the interconnecting rooms come into their own and the adults are able to watch some TV and some catch up time while the children sleep in the adjacent room. Perfect.

Day 2 – The Milk Market and King Johns Castle
After a great sleep, a little bit more than usual, we wandered back down to Porters for breakfast. Wow! The choice of options was incredible. From the huge choice of Teas and Coffees, to the huge variety of breads and fruits and hot breakfast items – we were so spoiled for choice. The children were delighted with the fresh orange juice maker and the Belgian waffles they were able to order from the kitchen. Mum and Dad were particularly fond of the omelettes which chef prepared for us specially – fantastic. We really enjoyed the breakfast and the time together at the table – which is so hard (and rare) for busy working parents. Breakfast done – we were on the move again – but first – a quick wander around the hotel itself. Outside there are two tennis courts, a basketball court, an 800m nature trail, playground and fairy garden. Inside is the fantastic Rain Spa and Leisure Centre which ensures there is something for everyone.

We left the hotel and travelled toward Limerick City via the home of Munster Rugby, Thomond Park. The boys were impressed with the size of the stadium and wished there was a match on against Leinster – maybe next time! Our destination today was to visit the famous Milk Market and we just could not have wished for better weather to experience it. The market itself is a mix of indoor and outdoor and a huge variety of things were available. The aromas of Artisan cuisine from all corners of the globe, breads, cheeses and chocolates to try, books to browse and tools to buy – everything was there to experience and enjoy, and we really did.We spend about two hours wandering around and even the younger ones enjoyed it. We wandered from there toward King John's Castle next on our tightly packed agenda for the day.The castle itself is located on King’s Island in the heart of Limerick City and a real hidden gem in our option. The stunning exhibition in this medieval castle really brought us back in time to 800 years ago and helped us “re-live” just what it would have been like back then. The tour is across many levels and is brought to life through CGI, Interactive displays and other technology. Lots of ghostly projections and characters punctuated along the tour – which took us almost two hours and was the highlight of the visit to the city.We ate lunch in the famous gastro pub The Locke Bar  – enjoying really great menu and lots of choice – totally recommend for a hungry family.We left the city and made the short trip back to our hotel, mindful that we needed to sign up to fully supervised "Global Explorers Kids Club "Base Camp" at 5pm in reception. The boys were torn between the idea of spending time at the club or heading to the pool – so we compromised and did both. Claire, who leads the Global Explorers Rangers explained how they offer a range of seasonal activities to entertain and engage children of all ages with lots of season activities which could include a Petting Zoo, Hoverball Archery, Arts & Crafts, Training Camp, Scavenger Hunt and lots more. 

At weekends - following the growth in popularity of Afternoon Tea - there is a kids version available at weekends, Midterms and School Holidays at just €12 per child, T&C’s apply and but must be booked in advance - fabulous treat idea!The building is fantastically equipped and fitted out with a huge array of games, arts and crafts, pool table and PS4 – so something for everyone. As the boys had eaten late – they didn’t join the other Children and Paula for dinner and went along with one of the other team members to get a head start. They had an amazing time and went from there directly to the pool.Needless to say – all this activity had the family exhausted so by 10pm we were all asleep!Day 3: The Extra MilesWe had agreed the night before that we would go play basketball and Tennis and duly borrowed the equipment from the Rain Spa Reception (thanks Orla). The  courts at are the edge of the hotel near the nature trail so an opportunity for Dad and eldest son to enjoy the lovely nature trail while Mum competed with the under 12s. When Mum was truly amazed by the comprehensive lesson in Tennis by the boys, we all went in for breakfast and yet another wonderful surprise.The morning before Kyle had mentioned to Kasia, the manager of the Restaurant , his favourite breakfast cereal was Cheerios but there were none left in the hotel. Well, as we gave our room number to Kasia, she produced a box of Cheerios just for Kyle. What an amazing and classy gesture that was – he is still talking about it – could this hotel put a foot wrong – apparently not!Following another sumptuous breakfast – we asked the hotel receptionist where there nearest playground was – as we figured one last run around was required. We were directed to the village of Cratloe, Clare, about 10 minutes away – a lovely playground created for and dedicated to, the Cratloe community.Noon arrived and it was time to say goodbye to our dear friends at The Radisson Blu Limerick and it really felt that way. The boys made sure to get a card and “something nice” for the staff just to say thanks – as we always say – it’s the little things…..We can’t recommend this hotel enough – it’s conveniently located, had plenty of space, a pool, an amazing kids club, playground, tennis courts, a phenomenal breakfast, the friendliest staff, I could go on and on but seeing is believing! Just Go..
Summer Packages: Stay July & August with Bed & Breakfast rates from €185 per room

·    Rain Spa & Leisure Facilities
Radisson Blu Limerick Family

King Johns Castle 
Bunratty Castle Locke Bar visited Radisson Blu Hotel and Spa Limerick as guests of the Hotel

More Photos:

Sunday, August 13, 2017

The Wax Museum Plus - Dublin

We stopped by the @national… today – we hadn’t visited since they relocated the museum around the corner to Westmorland Street. The new location is much better, lovely bright and airy and the welcome we received from Imelda and team was lovely.
The museum has really evolved since the move – and lots more focus has been placed on the younger kids (which is hard to believe as it was always so kid friendly). You start to the left of main reception and kids can go via a secret tunnel to the first floor – while the adults have to

We encounter what the kids called the “science area” (Science and Discovery) where they can find out about Irish inventors and engineers from times past. We opted to go and visit the Mirror Maze
– another new and exciting addition which made for some hilarious wrong turns! We met some very interesting sports characters from the past and indeed present – some really good likeness. An old favourite of Dads, Fr. Ted Crilly
is another new and very good addition. We met some Superheroes and Cartoon figures and even got to take a ride on a Harry Potter broom.

Down several flights of stairs – passing hundreds of different types of clocks (which was somewhat unnerving in an Alice in Wonderland type of way). Here we travelled back in time – and the audio visual effects mean you get the chance to experience and immerse yourself in the particular era of the exhibit you are visiting. We saw the signatories of the good Friday agreement, many past and present leaders of Ireland and there is even a brand new area dedicated to Irish Mythology! A fantastic new addition.

However top of the kids favourites was the fantastic Chamber of Horrors! Wow – without giving too much away this contains to very realistic and scary exhibit but you don’t have to do it – you can bypass it if you have very young kids or are a big scaredy!

We emerged in the wonderful new gift shop after what felt like a few minutes – which in fact was nearly 2 hours. It’s a wonderful way to spend a few hours. Our top tip would be to try and slow it down and try (It’s hard) to get the kids to take it in a bit. It’s a really good, fun and even educational day out – highly recommended.

Admission charges are as follows: Adult €15/Child (Under 12) €10/Student/ Teenager €13/Senior/ Concession €13/Family Ticket (2 Adults 2 Children under 12) €39

Note – visited The Wax Museum Plus as guests.