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 

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