Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Christmas at Kia Ora Mini Farm, Gorey, Co.Wexford

We arrived @ Kia Ora Mini Farm in the early afternoon and were met by Maura and here team in the Mega Festive shop and restaurant. We do this every year but each time it is different. Its dimly lit with loads of lights and decorations for the kids to feast their eyes on.


With admission you also get a voucher for either a glass of mulled wine, tea or coffee. However – the boys just wanted to get going.

When you leave the shop you enter the farm and it’s only a question of what to do first! There’s Christmas music playing to create a nice atmosphere in the background but the boys went straight over to a huge shed which houses a lot of the animals and birds. In here you get to sit and pet various animals from dogs to baby Rabbits, talk to the Parrot (he’ll even talk back) see the guinea pigs, chipmunks and the huge range of other animals. In the adjoining shed you can meet other poultry, sheep, potbellied pigs - Bella and Babe, Charlie the Donkey, Jack and Jill the alpacas, Larry the llama, Posh and Becks the black swans, Eddie & Betty the emus, and loads more.

Of course – it’s always a case of what’s next and that’s not a problem at Kia Ora. Next, after hearing the siren, we boarded the Kia Ora Fire Engine. A brilliant idea and great fun. You get aboard, in what is like a mini bus inside, and carols are played while you take a short spin around the farm. The boys love this bit as they get to sing their favourite Christmas songs while on a REAL fire engine.

Full of Christmas cheer we then decided it was time to visit the man himself. Santa visits are unique here, and its one of the things we love about Kia Ora – the boys pick their own gifts!! On entering Santa’s Grotto we were treated to a brilliant set up – lots of different rooms which showed the North Pole Post Office, The Elves Factory and lots of different, colourful Christmas scenes.

An elf greeted us and invited us to one of the rooms where Santa was waiting to check if the boys had been naughty or nice. He really did seem to have been listening at our house and gave each of the boys some good advice on how to behave in order to get the best presents this Christmas eve.

Presents are all on view and the boys opted for Model Cars and a Paint Your Own Tea-Set. Thrilled with the visit – they said goodbye for now to Santa, and went outside for some more fun.


From Go-Karts to Sand-Pits to a brilliant Maze and even a play frame for the children – energy is the only thing Kia Ora Mini Farm don’t over for a Christmas experience to remember.

Admission is €16 for Children and €7 for Adults and includes Tea/Coffe/Mulled wine for parents and a present for the children – what’s more – you can spend as long as you like.

Opening times are 4-7pm weekdays from now till 21st December and Weekends 1pm to 6pm.

Really recommended by us and we’ll be back next year – for definite.

Check our all of our photos here -

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Our Night Out at Harold's Cross Greyhound Stadium

It's unusual to say the least, when we go out at night - but then - we are approaching Halloween!

The children are now almost 6, 7 and 11 and we genuinely were not sure what to expect. Both Mum and I had been Greyhound racing in the past - but that was pre-children and to be frank, we thought we'd have to wait either until they were a little older or make a night of it on our own sometime - but no - we didn't need to worry at all.

We arrived on Friday night, found parking easily enough (there is lots) and the children got their first glimpse of some "real" greyhounds and the track.

Andrew wondered if we had just arrived at the Aviva, fascinated by the floodlights and the buzz around as we collected our Race Card and went through the Turnstiles! We were about to experience Greyhound Racing as a family for the first time!

Walking trackside, with the viewing stand on our left we noticed several families with children around the same age as ours, and seemed to be regulars, in fact, there is a great sense that down by the track, everyone knows each other. Being early, first race starting at 7.55pm, we went inside to find our table.

On the ground floor there are several outlets where you can choose some food and also a bar, lots of tables and screens - so you don't even need to go outside if you don't want to. There is a Tote there too if you wanted to have a flutter. However, we had opted to eat in DOBBINS at the cross which is on the first floor.

Taking the stairs and we were amazed on arrival at the restaurant. Firstly by the speed at which we found our table but also by the decor and vista we had of the track. We were introduced to our waiter, Ramsey, who quickly took our orders and explained how it all worked. We opted for starters of Salad and Focaccia, followed by a lovely Sirloin for Dad and Chicken and Melon dish for Mum. For the kids there was a set menu, where they could choose Soup or Garlic Bread for starters, followed by either Goujons and Chips or Bangers and Mash - with customer Ice Cream to top it all off!

While awaiting our starters to arrive, Edel, arrived to look after us with Table-Side Tote Betting. She was brilliant.

Being total novices she explained how it all worked and was brilliant with the Children. She became "the lady who knows all about the races".

We placed a couple of €2 bets and a competition started between Mum and Dad, that was the first mistake Dad made on the night!!

Dinner arrived just in time for the first race - it really was superb and the children enjoyed eating and watching the races on what felt like a giant TV! Dinner was followed by deserts which the kids literally demolished!!!



What works really well here, is the visibility and the atmosphere Upstairs, it doesn't really matter where you are sitting you will be able to see what's going on. Once the race gets going the noise is deafening and you can’t help get involved in the cheering for “your” dog – it’s brilliant fun.

And we're off!!!
The squeals of excitement coming from the kids are something we'll never forget - they just got so into the race. Once the bell went to signal we were about to go - they pinned themselves to the windows screaming and shouting for whatever Dog we had picked - it was brilliant craic.

There were 11 races on the card - we stayed for 8 inside and then went outside to experience it from a different perspective as it was a mild evening.

For Race 9 we were trackside and our dog started well which only increased the tempo of the shouting – from us and all around us – however it was not to be and “number 4” finished third!

Oh well – time to go and with some gentle persuasion we said goodbye to Harold's Cross Greyhound Stadium.

The boys were exhausted but genuinely enjoyed the night so much. It’s the morning after now and Andrew (7) just walked in and said “thank you for the best night ever” – high praise indeed!

There are a number of great packages available which offer great value, particularly for Halloween where for €38.50 Adults get Admission, Race Programme, 4 Course Dinner plus Children under 12 dine Free (Max 2 per booking). There’s face painting and treats all laid on and this promises to be a brilliant night out.



Special thanks from the Rovers to Philip, Ramsey, Edel and all the staff at Harold's Cross Greyhound Stadium for an amazing night out to remember!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Our Viking Splash Tour - Dublin October 6th 2012

If you have visited Dublin City anytime since 1999, there is little doubt you will have seen (and heard) the Viking Roars coming from the Yellow Amphibious vehicles dotted around the capital.

These are the transportation of the Honorary "Vikings for a Day" - created by Viking Splash Tours.


Essentially, the tour is a fun, Viking themed tour of Dublin’s main sites on board a World War II DUKW, complete with knowledgable (and extremely witty) Tour Guide - in our case Captain Pat.

Departing Stephens Green, the tour takes approximately 1 Hour 15 minutes and it is a thrill from start to finish. Tours cost €20 for Adults and €10 for Children (3+).The ultimate thrill comes near the end!

Before we left, we were given a brief, comprehensive safety instruction and then the Fun begins in earnest. Everyone, young and old, is encouraged to don their helmets and practice their roar!! We practiced on Dawson Street - roaring at the "Cappuccino Dubliners" sipping their drinks Al Fresco in the autumn sun - it was hilarious watching their reaction as the merry band of "Vikings" let rip!

The tour route takes in sights along the route such as Trinity College, Christ Church Cathedral, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Viking Dublin, Medieval Dublin, Georgian Dublin, Government buildings, the Dublin Docklands and much more.

 It was amazing, as Dubliners, the nuggets of information Captain Pat shared, which we didn't know or had forgotten. We were told about the origins of Dubh Linn, the Easter Rising, tales of Molly Malone and Anna Livia.

We were shown some of the highs and lows of the Celtic Tiger and shown the impact it had, and is having on Dublin Today.

As we arrived at Spencer Dock in Dublin’s Docklands, or DUKW was fitted with floats and we were all given life jackets and another safety briefing.

Then - We SPLASHED into the water and took a tour around the Surf Dock - taking in the sights such as Facebook HQ, The Board Gais Theatre and the recording studios of U2.

Back on terra firma we proceeded back towards Stephens Green, via Pearse Street, passing Trinity College, just in time for some more roaring for our tiring band of marauding Vikings.

Our trip had come to an end and as we turned onto the green, the children sighed, knowing we had come to the end of our journey. Anticipating the next question, I told them we would definitely come back and do the tour again, perhaps in the spring.

Truly, a wonderful way to see Dublin - suitable for young and old. If you fancy a couple of hours seeing the sights of Dublin - while role playing a Viking - or just want to have some good old fashioned fun - this tour is definitely for you!! Check it out!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Fun.ie Visit Killarney May 18th-21st 2012

We decided we wanted to do something a little different for our May break and decided we would visit Killarney. Having checked the http://www.fun.ie/ Family Breaks Category and the Destination Killarney site (http://www.destinationkillarney.ie/) we opted for The Gleneagle Hotel and Apartments as our base for the break.

So what did we want when in Killarney?

Key to our plans was a weather contingency - we know the weather can be changeable and unpredictable in general and wanted to plan our activity so that it couldn't ruin the break. We also wanted to find somewhere that would give us a little bit of space in the evenings when the Children went to be so Mom and I could relax and catch up on the day. Sometimes a Family Room works fine for a night or two - but when you have a longer period and 3 boys - you do need at least two rooms.

The Apartments in The Gleneagle Hotel gives us just what we need and more. On arrival - with super quick check in - we opened the door and were genuinely surprised at the size of the Apartment. Christopher even said it was better than the Apartment we sometimes go to abroad - High praise indeed...

This is a real home from home, spotlessly clean - with everything you could need for a busy family including 3 young boys. Fully equipped Kitchen, Dishwasher, Washing Machine, Microwave, Oven and Hob - perfect! Bedrooms are spacious with En Suites of both of them. The room set up we have is 3 Single beds in one room and 1 double and a single in the 2nd - Ample for us. Bathrooms are huge!





As Parents - we feel it's important to try to get the best value for money - while still trying to have the "Home Comforts" - very happy in the Gleneagle Apartments.

This morning we ate a lovely buffet breakfast in the 4* Brehon Hotel - part of the Destination Killarney Group. The Brehon and the Gleneagle Hotel and Apartments are all within walking distance of each other - catering for different tastes, budgets and preferences. The Brehon is more suited to a pampering break for Mom and Dad - with the amazing Angsana Spa - more about that later... The Gleneagle on the other hand is legendary for its Family Entertainment programme - promising entertainment every night of the year!!!

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DAY 1: - Morning:

Following our breakfast we left The Gleneagle for a short 8 minute drive to Kennedys Pet Farm. We met with Noreen Kennedy and her family and took a leisurely stroll around the very relaxed and secure environment the farm offers. Animals roam freely and we "Bambi" the Reindeer was first to meet us. The children’s faces were hilarious - just not expecting a "Bambi" to even be there!!

There are a myriad of Animals here - from the traditional to the unusual - from the big to the small - but it was lovely - despite the drizzle - to wander around at our own pace - taking it all in.

There is a terrific Indoor Playground too - which really helps as an alternative when it gets a bit too wet - we were fortunate today though!!

Prices are €8 per person and you are totally free to bring your own Picnic and stay for as long as you like (great value on a summer’s day)


DAY 2: - Afternoon:

In the afternoon we travelled to Muckross House and Traditional Farms - http://www.muckross-house.ie/ - a beautiful estate within Killarney National Park - at the start of The Ring of Kerry. There is a whole day (or more) to be spent here but we were short on time so we opted for Lunch in The Garden Restaurant - which was superb. There is great value to be had here and the staff readily caters for Kids - even though it was very busy at the time.

Following lunch we were met by Majella who took us on a journey back in time. The trip takes you on a 2Km circuit of the farm - where you experience life in 1920 and 1930's rural Ireland. Experience what is was like to live there - with no running water, living in small dwellings on real working farms. The tour shows you the different styles of houses - from the labourer’s houses to the wealthier land owners. We met with some "residents" - who told us just what life "is like" in rural Kerry in the 1920s. They make real bread and butter in the ways of old and encourage the visitors to ask questions and taste the food they make fresh daily. The smell of the turf fires will stay with you forever!



In addition there are real animals on each individual holding - which you can meet and really get a feel for the time. At about midway through the tour - there is a Mini-Farm where you can take a break - have an Ice Cream, see the animals (Rabbits,Peacocks,Puppies, Baby Goats and much more). This is great as it lets the parents "take 5" while the kids burn off even more energy.



At the end of the tour you get a chance to visit the Souvenir shop which is well stocked with reasonably priced items. You then get to decide if you want to visit the craft shop and actually see the crafts people at work - weaving or pottery making - or go out and explore the beautifully manicured gardens - with amazing colour variety evident.



A lovely, lovely experience which I would thoroughly encourage all to enjoy - though do allow yourself to be transported back in time to get the most out of it.
DAY 2: - Afternoon:

Travel Inn Killarney.

Following our trip to Muckross we decided to check out some other hotels in the Destination Killarney Group - I suppose with an eye on our next trip! We went to see the Travel Inn as it had been recommended to us as a good base - midway between Killarney and Kilorglin and perfect for an Activity based holiday. Couldn't agree more - there are a variety of room options available but the ones we liked best were the one or two bedroom suites. Offering Moms and Dads the opportunity to settle the children at night and then use the other room to relax while the kids are settling. There is a kitchenette there - with Microwave/Fridge/Toaster - which is enough for most - again as a base.

If you wish you can take the breakfast option - in the spacious breakfast room on the 2nd Floor. If you have gear with you - maybe wet from a day’s activity - many of the suites offer "drying rooms" which are so convenient and located just outside the door of the suites.

Looked to us like a great base for a cycling/Kayaking/Mountaineering adventure holiday - but book early as it's a popular spot for Activity Tours already.....
Back to the Hotel for Dinner in The Brehon - wow - Kids opted for Danu Dogs - essentially a Hot Dog and Chips but it was a traditional sausage that they told me was bigger than the one you get at the Aviva!!! Staff were very attentive to the kids and gave them Paper and Crayons to keep them occupied while we waited for our meal.

And Desert.... Triple Scoop of Ice Cream with a "side serving" of Chocolate sauce...the men were in Heaven...Following dinner an early night for all is planned - it's been a long, fun filled day for all The FunDays.ie Team....

DAY 2:

Our second day began with a let up in the rain that had been falling heavily all night.. Good Start but the weather was not going to "dampen" our plans no matter what. We left our Apartment and headed over for a beautiful breakfast in The Brehon - the boys discovered the Pancakes while Dad discovered the delicious mini-criossants! The breakfast in buffet style which is great for parents of picky/fussy eaters. We even got the boys to sample things which they might not even try at home!

Following breakfast - we had pre-arranged a Jarvey to come to the Hotel and take us to Ross Castle -about 30 minutes trek on a Jaunting Car. We had also arranged a Picnic Basket with the Hotel which was absolutley amazing - a full healthy lunch for the 5 of us.

Last time we tried this Kyle backed out about 3 minutes into it - but not this time - he was first aboard. Our Jarvey, Billy, was pleasant and very informative and chatted with the boys all the way through The National Park - where he let them sit up front - they were delighted! He told us about Rosie - his 7 year old horse up front doing the work and filled us in all the up to the Castle on the History, Flora and Fauna of The National Park. We even discovered that one of the co-architects of the Pentagon in Washington had built a mansion up there - he also happened to be the father of Grace Kelly - or Princess Grace of Monaco -the boys were enchanted!

When Rosie got us to Ross Castle - we set about boarding the MV Pride of The Lakes for our boat tour of the Killarney lakes. The weather was starting to clear now - it hadn't been raining but it was misty and a little cold - but it was now getting warmer and the skipper of our boat told us it would be a nice calm cruise with nice visibility - perfect for photos.



Again - we were a little aprehensive with Kyle - who was nervous of the boat the last time - but need not have worried he took to it so well! The cruise costs €10 per adult and €5 per child. Family ticket, for 2 Adults and 2 Children costs €25. The tour takes about 1 hour (which is about enough for young children) and takes you out around the island of Innisfallen - passing the Killarney Golf and Fishing Club and the various Hotels along the way. We went right up close to some of the smaller islands where the Rhodedenrons are in full bloom and you can even spot the occasional deer. We turned to head towards home and got an amazing treat when the vista of Torc Mountain came into view.

The boat docked and we disembarked - by now we had 3 hungry Children and 2 famished Parents. We decided to head into the forest via the well posted trail to find a suitable Picnic spot - we were not disappointed!


After what could only be described as a feast we treked back to the Car Park where we collected our car and headed back to The Gleneagle Apartments. And here is where the Apartments come into their own. Three sets of dirty clothes - three children looking for baths and showers - our two bathrooms swung into great use - with one in the bath and 2 in the showers - Efficient and clean at the same time!

Revitalised now - we headed over to the Aquilla Club at The Gleneagle to check out what was available for us the next day. Our plan was to look around but having met Dieter and his team and seen the facilities we quickly raced back to get our Swimming stuff. There are so many different things to do in the Leisure Centre and associated facilities that we know that even when we leave we will only have done some of them. Activities include - Swimming, Kids Club (Mid-June on), Teen Zone for the older children - with separate area - Kidzone for the 2-6 year olds (Soft Play). There are a number of Pool Tables and Arcade machines around the centre - particularly useful for the older children.

On top of all of that there are many sports which residents can particiapte in. From Squash, Pitch and Putt, Tennis, Table Tennis and many more - the active among us will be well catered for.

In the Summer, there is a full calendar of events laid out for the Children, including external tours to the Cinema, Bowling and various Play Centres  - lending itself perfectly to giving Mom and Dad the opportunity to have fun too.

We had a ball in the pool - well sectioned - so the younger, less confident swimmers are catered for - and it seems to graduate depending on ability. There are plenty of Life Guards on hand so Moms and Dads have the added security of knowing they can act as back up in the pool while minding the Children.

After a long and protracted struggle - we managed to prise the children away and go and prepare for Dinner. We chost to eat in The Flesk Restaurant within The Gleneagle Hotel itself.

We arrived in plenty of time - got a lovely mountain view table and enjoyed a lovely meal. There was  a good selection for the children and Adults alike, service was friendly and prompt - again key when children are dining and the moods can change in an instant!

 

Following our meal we took the short walk across the car park to our apartment - and within twenty minutes Five exhausted bodies were fast asleep.... What a great day..... how can we top that tomorrow...

DAY 3:

For day 3 we wanted to see how we could experience Killarney on a Budget - how to create a great, memorable day out - on a budget. And what a day it was too!

Following breakfast we set off. We started out with a trip to town to gather supplies for our picnic - since the day was looking promising weather wise. We visited the local Tesco and got some fruit, bread rolls and some ham as well as a large pack of small bottles of water. Then we hit the playground opposite the Cathedral - it is superb. Safe and enclosed and in immaculate condition. It wasn't our first visit so we knew what to expect. The boys had a great time

We left there and went to Killarney Rent a Bike - met with Dave and hired 4 bikes. 1 each for Mom and the two older boys - while Kyle and I opted for a tag a long - which is essentially a mountain bike and a half - we both peddal but I have control of steering and braking - was a brilliant invention!

We went for a VERY long cycle through the park - taking in Muckross Abbey and House all the way up to the breathtaking TORC Waterfall - we'll never forget that bit.




Then we sat down with our "Budget" picnic when the Sun Came out. Our Whole day cost us just €52 and we got so much out of it. Highly,Highly recommend this as a FunDay when in Killarney.

Back to the Hotel for a quick swim - the younger two were promised a spell in the Soft Play area once the got out of the pool when told and this proved a great "carrot". The spent about an hour in there and Andrew reckon it was "awesome"..

It was now 6.45 and we headed back to the Apartment - quick shower and change and over to The Brehon Bar for a lovely meal from the excellent Bar Food Menu. Kids had home made chicken strips and most of my delicious Chicken Wings - followed by Chocolate Brownie (mine) and generous servings of Ice Cream and Chocolate sauce.... We left The Brehon and headed home (to our apartment) - where all were out for the count by 9.30 - including Mother!!

Super, Super Day in Killarney today!!

Day 4:

It's always the hardest day ... packing up and heading home - so we decided to soften it a little and took an early morning swim in the Aquila Club. The kids were tired now after such an action packed weekend but we felt with all the outside activity we hadn't spent enough time with the Indoor facilities on offer - which I suppose is a good thing. The hotel has the Indoor piece covered with loads of Kids Club/Teen Zone activities during the Summer - just in case you run out of things to do - which you won't in Killarney - but it's nice to have the options.



The Leisure centre offers all you could need. Fully supervised pool - segemented by depth and ability - with lots of kids inflateables to stop them getting bored. These toys are great for getting them to interact and make new friends - particularly the older ones who often find it harder to mingle (in our experience). There is also a fine size Sauna, Steam Room and Jacuzzi for Moms and Dads.

What we loved about this set up was the proximity of the Kids Softplay area to the pool - which means you could leave the younger ones (2-6) in the Play area - again supervised - and go and have a swim or a Sauna - don't forget we're on holiday too - so that's what we did.



Back to the apartment now and packed up really quickly - handy being able to park right up at the door and load the car quickly. I would have loved to have played Pitch and Putt or Tennis but we simply ran out of time - and that's something you will need plenty of when you visit The Gleneagle or Killarney in general - that and plenty of energy!

Loved our time - and I think the one word we heard most on the trip was "Awesome" - exactly what you want to hear at the end of a holiday - we'll be back!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Our Visit to The McWilliam Park Hotel, Claremorris, Co. Mayo





On April 6th we set out from Dublin on our Adventure to the West of Ireland - specifically to Claremorris, Co Mayo where we had been invited to enjoy the pleasures of the McWilliam Park Hotel (http://www.mcwilliampark.ie/). On arrival we were delighted to see that nothing had changed since our last visit. Following a swift check in we went upstairs to our 1st Floor Family Room - a lovely spacious room ideal for a family of 5. With 1 Double and 3 Single beds.


After a quick shower and change (the kids put their robes and flip flops on) we decended upon the amazing Leisure Club, Pool and Spa. WOW. Now all the boys wanted was the pool but the fab Gym, Sauna,Steam Room, Jacuzzi and Chique Spa had mum and dad really interested ( though to be honest we didn't get time to check out the Spa as so much more to do!)


There's an offer on at The McWilliam Park right now which is amazing value. 5 Nights B&B for a Family of 4 just €399. When you are based in Claremorris it is like and outlet to the West - so central to visit so many different attractions. Our agenda included a Visit to Westport House, The Museum of Country Life and a cruise on Lough Corrib - but check out http://www.fun.ie/ where you can find many, many more activities.
BOOK A FAMILY PACKAGE BEFORE 31ST MAY AND GET 10% OFF

At the Hotel, indeed any hotel, there is alway a worry that the kids will get bored - we didn't find that at the McWilliam. In the evenings the boys happily ran to the kids club where they were met by a couple of great girls who were so enthusiastic with them and most likely the reason the ran down each of the three nights. There is a small extra charge of €5 for the Bizzie Bees kids club but that included their dinner, drinks, movie and entertainment. Each morning in the lift we were told the agenda for that days fun at the kids club (they also do a session in the morning). A big hit with our two youngest for sure.

A special treat arrived on Easter Saturday night - when all the children recieved an Easter Egg from the Hotel Management - a really, really nice touch - well done!

We ate most evenings in Kavanaghs' bar and the food was very good and reasonably priced. Breakfast each morning was a treat with a great choice of Cereal and Fresh Fruit plus the option to order a cooked breakfast from the friendly, plentiful and attentive staff.
As a base for your visit to the West you will struggle to find better than the 4* McWilliam Park - we're looking forward to our return!!