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Self-catering versus the hotel experience? The choice for families

For families holidaying in Ireland this summer, there’s a huge range of accommodation on offer to suit your budget and lifestyle

Summer is upon us and, with travel restrictions easing and the ability to travel at will available again, there has been a surge of international travel — and the resultant chaos at the airports. At home, domestic travel is also surging this year, as are international visitors to the country. For those with families, the debate of where to go — and what type of holiday to go on — is always top of mind.

While hotels can provide something of an air of luxury compared to a self-catering unit, the price can be off-putting. However, there’s a lot to be said for the amenities a hotel provides, especially if it accommodates children and allows the parents a little time off to enjoy themselves too. On the other hand, the freedom a self-catering holiday offers may make up for having to cook dinner.

Close to Dublin and its benefits

Maynooth-based Glenroyal Hotel and Leisure Club is finding its summer demand predominately from domestic visitors, particularly those with children. “We’re just outside Dublin, but too far away for weekend city escapes,” says general manager Paul Joy, explaining why the hotel is popular with families, and why it gets so many return visitors. “We’re on the canal greenway, and close enough to the zoo and other amenities in the city, so a good spot for families.” The hotel is very family-centric, with two pools: one strictly for families, and one for adults. “So, if a family is here there are no time-of-day restrictions for the pool — it’s available morning to night for kids.” There is also a kids’ club every evening.


Wandering the 100-acre wood

Alan Maloney, owner of the Mount Falcon Estate in Ballina, Co Mayo, is finding demand somewhat slower than usual this year due to Irish people going abroad for the holidays. “It’s understandable,” he says. “We anticipated it. Ireland’s climate is its climate. People understandably want to get away.”

The estate offers both a boutique hotel and self-catering lodges, and he says that families are keen to take full advantage, often booking multi-generational family holidays. “Grandparents stay in the hotel, and the parents and grandkids would have lodges.” In Mount Falcon, families tend to opt for the lodges, but even within that, there is a fully self-catering or a full-service offering, meaning guests can have housekeeping and avail of the hotel whilst staying in the lodge — the best of both worlds.

Both adults and children are kept entertained with Mount Falcon’s amenities, from fishing and golfing — which attract international guests every year — to falconry, archery, clay pigeon shooting and the 100-acre grounds to saunter, as well as the pool and spa.

Wild west

In Sligo, international visitors have increased since May, says Edel McPartland, revenue, sales and online marketing executive with Sligo Park Hotel and Leisure Club, presumably attracted by the stunning landscape. “We are hoping to see many international visitors enjoying what we have to offer on the Wild Atlantic Way.” Families are a strong market for the hotel, and it aims to accommodate both adults and children with a range of activities including movie nights complete with popcorn and ice cream, adventures on the hotel’s special fairy trail, the new Turbo Fun Float, a pool-based inflatable obstacle course, and tennis, basketball and soccer pitches.

A little independence

On the other end of the spectrum, holiday homes offer families more independence, especially with regard to being able to cook for themselves, and not having to go out to restaurants for every meal — which certainly helps the holiday budget. Lisa Argue, marketing manager at Dream Ireland Holiday Homes, is seeing international travel start to trickle in, though it’s nowhere near pre-pandemic levels; however, she says, domestic business is strong.

“Families are the bread and butter of our summer business and a very high proportion of our bookings during the months of June, July and August, in particular, are from families and extended multigenerational families,” she says.

“Holiday homes are absolutely ideal for families as they offer space, privacy, full kitchens, laundry facilities, an average of three bedrooms as well as a livingroom, so when the kids go to bed, Mum and Dad can enjoy the rest of the evening together in their own space.”

Best of both worlds

Amy Alice Horgan, director of sales and marketing at Breaffy House Resort, says it’s hard to compare a self-catering unit to a hotel. “It’s a real holiday feel when you don’t have to cook for yourself or worry about what to do on a rainy day.”

The resort — which offers family rooms as well as self-catering residences — attracts a strong family market during the school holidays as it has “a fairy garden, kids’ club, children’s swimming pool, crazy golf and playgrounds, not to mention our 101-acre resort for them to explore”.

Edel Corrigan

Edel Corrigan is a contributor to The Irish Times