Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Break for the Lakes with Fun.ie & Family

Is a couple of weeks before Christmas a good time to take a family break in Ireland?

We weren’t so sure either and so we decided we wouldn’t go too far from Dublin and headed to Athlone, in the heart of Irelands Lakelands. 

With the car fully loaded we made it to Athlone in a little under 2 hours – not bad given the Friday traffic out of the capital. 
It’s a while since we traveled directly to Athlone – and coming off the M6 at Junction 13, where our Hotel was located – we decided to head directly into “town” first. 

The kids are, like all kids, crazy about Christmas and Athlone was looking stunningly festive as we drove along the banks of the Shannon, passing Custume Army Barracks, the Luan Museum and the imposing silhouette of Athlone Castle. 

We took a whistle stop tour in the car to soak it up and take some photos before turning around and heading for the 4* Athlone Springs Hotel, our home for the weekend.
What made us pick the Athlone Springs

Well, our requirements are consistent. We want a nice size room or rooms (there’s 5 of us, 2 adults and 3 kids), a pool, nice restaurant and close proximity to fun activities. Athlone Springs ticked all of those boxes. Normally during key holiday times the hotel has a fantastic kids club but given the time of year there was more than enough for us to do. All we needed was a good night’s sleep – which we had after a quick snack at the Cedar Bar, before turning in early for our fun filled Santa Saturday!!

Waking early as you do with three young boys – we found ourselves down at Zen Fitness – the Hotels leisure centre. Collecting our towels at the club reception we were delighted to be first in the 20m pool. The kids were in heaven. Making a mental note to sneak back down later alone to enjoy the steam room, Jacuzzi and Sauna myself or even to be adventurous and avail of the Gym facilities upstairs – the boys had other ideas!

One hour later and extremely hungry – we popped into the Cedar Restaurant for breakfast – a sumptuous feast in buffet style – in the bright and airy dining room. A perfect place to plan the day.

On checking into the Athlone Springs  we were advised of some “recommended” things to do, some even we weren’t aware of but as always at fun.ie we already had a plan.

We left Athlone and took advantage of our proximity to Galway City, due to the convenience of the M6. 45 minutes later – we were parked up and walking into Eyre Square and the famous Christmas Markets. 

The weather was completely on our side – mild temperatures and blue skies, with beautiful aromas coming from the various artisan food and drink stalls. 

Chocolate Filled Crepes, Cinnamon Donuts, Organic Hamburgers and freshly ground coffee were in abundance. We did find the market a tad expensive with the average price of everything €3 but it was a one off and we decided to really immerse ourselves.

An antique carousel, retro Ferris wheel and Helter Skelter really made it feel like we were stepping back in time and everyone really enjoyed the few hours we spend. After a brief stroll through the city we returned to the car and headed for our next stop – Ireland’s Lapland at Glendeer Farm. 

The children loved the farm – with its array of animal and amazing lights and d├ęcor it was a perfect next stop for us all. The children got to feed the animals, play in the indoor Skywalk area and get to meet the man himself.

Back in Athlone town itself and all ravenous – we decided to try out an award winning Bistro recommended by our Facebook community – The Left Bank , on Fry Street.

It's always a risk when bringing 3 hungry boys into a restaurant especially fussy eaters. However we experienced the best and most reasonably priced Kids menu to date - which went down a treat with the boys. 

Mum and Dad were spoiled for choice and enjoyed light starter and Mains - and the boys ate like kings!!Can't recommend The Left Bank Bistro enough for a family treat.
Following our meal, we still had a little time left so headed out to Jump Lanes (Indoor Trampoline Park) – about 200 metres from the Athlone Springs Hotel - to burn of a little energy. 

What a fantastic concept. A gigantic trampoline (one of Europe’s largest) where kids can bounce away to their hearts content while getting a little exercise too. Just €10 for an hour of bouncing on Weekends, reducing to €8 during the week.

There is also a Carers Hour at the weekend where those with disabilities can avail of the facility with carers going free – great idea. 

There is also an artificial Ice Rink on site and bounce and skate Combos are available. Really is a great spot. Find out more at www.fun.ie/jump-lanes-athlone

Whatever about the kids – the parents were tiring rapidly and just time to get back to our lovely room, and shower and change and pop down to the Cedar Bar for some light snacks. 

A nice menu is available and service is fast and friendly – even at the height of Christmas Party season. Come nine o’clock we head back to our room, watch some TV (in the amazingly comfortable beds) and by ten, are all fast asleep. What a day!

Sunday – we again get up early but the boys remember we haven’t explored the hotel yet (it’s a tradition) so we took our swimming gear, explored the hotel and arrived at the pool first again when it opened at 8.00am. 

This time we took two hours and just about made it back for breakfast – seriously hungry men by this point. 

We decided that we would take a walk along the banks of the Shannon and into the west side of town – home to Athlone Castle. 

Unfortunately we were too early to avail of the tour as the castle has been “transformed into a multi-sensory experience in which family-friendly multimedia displays and interactive games guide visitors through its halls”, this was perhaps our one regret during our trip, however, we will make it up on our next visit. 

It is well worth taking a wander through the streets of Athlone, soaking up the atmosphere and enjoying and experience some lovely and unique shops – (we have to support the small retailers, the very fabric of our smaller towns).

With a trip to collect our Christmas tree planned – and daylight against us, we said our goodbyes to the wonderful staff at the Athlone Springs hotel – our base in the Lakelands this weekend. As we did we all agreed that this was one location we had only started to discover. We felt we packed a massive amount into one weekend but promised to return to “finish the job”.

2 Night Family Packages available from only €105 per night midweek – check out the Athlone Springs Special Offers page for more details. For more great ideas on fun things to do in Athlone check out www.fun.ie

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