Five family breaks for June bank holiday
Go Ireland:A good three-day break can feel like you’ve spent a week away and the feel-good factor it provides can linger for a long time, writes ODA O'CARROLL
1 Westport Woods Hotel, Leisure Centre Spa: the buzzing heritage town of Westport makes a great base for exploring Connemara or for taking a trek up Croagh Patrick with the kids. Westport Woods Hotel, about a mile from the centre of town, is a family- friendly hotel where everything seems to be laid on with families in mind.
You can avail of its excellent kids’ club where small ones are collected by a “breakfast train” (allowing parents a lie-in) and whisked off on a post-crispies programme of arts and crafts, swimming at the hotel’s pool, pony riding or outdoor games in the hotel’s wooded grounds. You collect them for lunch and do your own thing for the afternoon with the option of the kids rejoining the club at 6pm for dinner and activities. This allows parents to try Westport’s excellent restaurants for their early-bird deals. Family rooms at the hotel offer good value, with breakfast and kids’ club included in the price.
A family room for two adults and two kids for two nights (June 3rd to 5th) is €318. See westportwoodshotel.com or tel 098-25811.
2 Cape Clear Hostel, Cape Clear, Co Cork: Ireland’s most southerly inhabited island, Cape Clear off the coast of west Cork, has a micro-climate that makes it noticeably milder than the mainland. This is also one of the reasons why it attracts a large population of migratory birds which greatly outnumber the island’s 100-odd Gaelic-speaking residents.
Only three miles long and one-and-a-half miles wide it’s a wonderful place for a leisurely walk or cycle with a picnic, a dip in a rock pool or snorkel in the clear waters off its white sandy beach.
The Cape Clear Hostel, in a 17th century building by the harbour, was once the coastguard station and is run by the Fenlon family. It has a number of four- and six-bed rooms suitable for families. There’s plenty to keep young ones entertained on the island with the local museum, a goat farm, kayaking and sailing.
Kids will also be enthralled with the chance of spotting the regular dolphin, minke whale and basking shark that cruise the waters around Cape Clear – you could bring binoculars or take an organised boat trip which you can book through the hostel.
The hostel has chess, table tennis and board games to while away the evening or fear an tí Ritchie Fenlon is happy to take kids out mackerel fishing. Follow that with a meal and trad session in one of the island’s three pubs and they’ll really get a feel for island life.
Ferries to the island go regularly from Baltimore or Cape Clear and the journey takes about 45 minutes.
Adults €17 and kids €14.50 per night (capeclearhostel.com or tel 028-41968). Cape Clear Fast Ferry (capeclearferry.com): adults €16/kids €8 return or €40 for a family ticket (two adults, two kids).
3 Morriscastle Strand Holiday Park, Kilmuckridge, Co Wexford: there’s something about camping that captures most children’s imagination in a way that a trip to a five-star hotel just doesn’t. Parents may balk at the lack of space and having to produce a family dinner on a gas ring, but kids adore the sense of outdoor adventure, meeting new friends and the freedom that being on a campsite brings.
Camping Ireland’s website is a great resource for finding the best campsites. One of the best is Morriscastle Strand Holiday Park in Kilmuckridge, Co Wexford. The southeast might be your best bet for sunshine over the June bank holiday and the site’s location on a 20km dune-fringed stretch of sandy beach is an instant hit with kids. There’s basketball, an astroturf football pitch, table tennis, games room, playground and, with kids’ curfew and quiet time from midnight, you can have a good night’s kip under canvas.
Pitches €26 per night for a campervan or car and tent for two adults and two kids (€3 extra per child. See morriscastlestrand.com or tel 053-9130124. See also campingireland.ie.
4 Self-catering in Co Sligo:self-catering offers a pocket-friendly alternative to staying in an hotel and gives the family a bit more living space. There’s still good availability on cottages for the June bank holiday on websites such as Selfcatering Ireland, Dream Ireland or Imagine Ireland which has a two-bedroom house in a lovely spot at the foot of Benbulben between the villages of Cliffony and Mullaghmore in Sligo.
If the kids like watersports, you would be ideally located for surfing, sailing or diving at Mullaghmore, or you could take a trip on the Saturday to Riverstown for its Vintage Festival at Sligo Folk Park. Here you can all learn about and take part in traditional craft activities like blacksmithing, creel-making or bee-keeping and watch a sean nós dance display. If that seems too cultural for kids there’s also a Barbie display, face painting, games and a bouncy castle.
The cottage at Cliffony, Co Sligo on Imagine Ireland (imagineireland.com ref 4421) costs €264 to rent from June 3rd to 6th. See also selfcatering-ireland.com and dreamireland.com for self-catering options in Ireland. Admission to Riverstown for its Vintage Festival at Sligo Folk Park is €10 per adult, kids free. See riverbrookeinitiative.com.
5 Eclipse Activity, Adventure and Equestrian Centre, Kenmare, Co Kerry:on a picturesque estate near Kenmare with MacGillycuddy’s Reeks for a backdrop, this is a fantastic one-stop-shop for an active family weekend offering great value. Its Cypriot owner, former chef Athos, fell in love with the area, made it his home and set about creating a tourist centre of excellence.
He built five contemporary holiday homes set around a courtyard where people can stay and take part in a range of on-site activities, such as horse-riding, rock climbing, falconry, cross-country cycling or mud-surfing (see right). After a day’s outdoor adventure, parents can chill out with a sauna, massage or yoga. If you’re lucky, you might even get to sample some of Athos’s barbecued brown trout fresh from the estate’s lake trimmed with veg from its organic garden. Over a weekend you could easily mix an active day with another day’s sightseeing around the Gap of Dunloe, Muckross House, Crag Caves and a mooch around Killarney.
The houses are well equipped with good kitchens, TV, DVD players and stereos, perfect if the weather isn’t on your side.
Two-bed cottage for three nights (June 3rd to 6th) is from €295. Activity packages cost €25pp for two activities, €35pp for three – €5 supplement for horse-riding. Tel: 064-6682965 or eclipseireland.com.