A Special Report is content that is edited and produced by the Special Reports unit within The Irish Times Content Studio. It is supported by advertisers who may contribute to the report, but who do not have editorial control.

Options aplenty for those with young families in burgeoning staycation market

Whether toddlers or teenagers, there are great escapes available in Irish hotels for kids and parents alike

Inchydoney Island Lodge & Spa: Inchydoney is a firm favourite among families due to its two Blue Flag beach and its thalassotherapy seawater spa

Inchydoney Island Lodge & Spa: Inchydoney is a firm favourite among families due to its two Blue Flag beach and its thalassotherapy seawater spa

 

As a mother of two small boys I know how important it is to choose a holiday that will keep the kids active for hours, but might also offer some rest and relaxation to addled parents.

Playgrounds, baby-sitting services, beaches nearby and leisure complexes are just some of the priorities that top my list when booking a staycation. Whether choosing a hotel, campsite or a holiday let, happy kids equate to happy parents, so it’s important to get it right.

Hotels are great for families, and most have stepped up to the plate with the safety measures they have put in place. Any that we stayed in over the summer made sure good social distancing was maintained.

Several have designated play areas that are cleaned and sanitised regularly, while we also noticed booking systems in place for use of the swimming pool. This ensured the pool remained uncrowded, kids could splash till their hearts content and we the adults could catch our breath. Staggered breakfasts and dinner times also added to our peace of mind.

When kids are small, all you need from a holiday destination is a good playground.
When kids are small, all you need from a holiday destination is a good playground.

Service and attention to detail were always at the heart of the Inchydoney Island resort but now, even more so. Generously-sized bedrooms have super cosy beds, flat-screen TVs and Nespresso machines and there are 12 self-catering apartments also for rent. 
 

There is plenty to do in the hotel and surrounding areas including whale watching, sea kayaking, surfing, horse riding, bike hire and picnic hampers available. With frisbees, swing ball, kites, croquet and skipping ropes all for use by guests, the beach then serves as playground. Babysitters can also be prearranged.

Two nights in a two-bedroom, self-catering apartment starts at €395 and includes access to the seawater therapy pool, relaxation area, snooker room as well as buckets and spades and DVD’s available for loan at reception. For more see www.inchydoneyisland.com.

For something inland, The Heritage is an upscale golf resort situated 5km from Portarlington in County Laois. As well as having one of Ireland’s largest spas, it also has a 5km walking track on site, tennis courts and complimentary bikes for guests to use. An on-site playground and a children’s room with toys and games is sanitised daily for guest safety.

Family rooms have a mini fridge which is great for those who need to store bottles or snacks and suites also have a separate dining area, very handy when tired parents want to get some room service whilst baby or toddler takes a nap.

There’s plenty to see and do in the surrounding areas including a picnic in Emo Court House and Gardens, Abbeyleix bog walk – a nice easy walk with kids or a stroll around Lullymore Heritage Park or the Japanese Gardens.

Family Suite bedroom in The Heritage in Co Laois.
Family Suite bedroom in The Heritage in Co Laois.

The 2020 Heritage Mini Heroes two night package costs €260 per night and includes 2 nights B&B, one dinner, 30 minute spa treatment and a family pass to nearby National Stud and Japanese Gardens. Gardens close for the winter on Nov 4th. For more see www.theheritage.com.

The idea of being self-contained and independent has never been more appealing and campervans give the freedom to travel overland in relative isolation.

With a van, camping season can be continued right throughout the year and the off-peak seasons from September to June are the perfect time to hit the road.

Lazy Days VW Camper Hire in Wicklow allows those with an adventurous spirit to explore Ireland’s attractions in relative peace and quiet and it also means being able to stay in close proximity to a beach without paying a massive premium, something we enjoyed this summer.

Campervan holidays have been a steady growing trend in recent years. Ireland is slightly behind the curve but we are catching up and the pandemic has accelerated interest in camper van hire, sales and conversions in Ireland, Susan Best, owner of Lazy Days says.

Campervan holidays are becoming increasingly popular for their versatility and safety during the Covid-19 era.
Campervan holidays are becoming increasingly popular for their versatility and safety during the Covid-19 era.

“Small children adore the camper experience. They are, after all, just a giant wendy house. There are lots of great campsites catering to young families with onsite activities and adventure parks so you can release your kids into the wild whilst you kick back and enjoy some well-deserved R&R.

“Ireland boasts an extensive network of great campsites, but if you prefer to get more off the beaten track then wild camping is a worthy experience too,” she says.

Prices start at €300 for up to 4-adults or families sharing for three nights and prices include fully comprehensive insurance, unlimited mileage and AA rescue plus. For more see www.lazydays.ie.

Sandra O’ Connell

When kids are little all you need from a holiday destination is a playground. Everything else is jam. It’s that wonderful time when they’re happy to climb up a ladder and down a slide all day, and you’re happy to watch them.

After that comes a phase when all that seems to matter is whether or not there’ll be WiFi, at least, that is, until some genius invented 4G.

The only antidote to all-encompassing screen time now is to keep them active so choose a place with plenty to do either in-house or nearby.

West Cork’s Celtic Ross Hotel in Rosscarbery is a good example, with Atlantic Sea Kayaking specials and guided foraging. Its ‘Great Escape’ dinner, bed and breakfast option costs from €159 per person sharing, while a two-night B&B family break, based on two adults and two under 14s, costs from €290.

Touring by car is a younger child’s most loathed activity but older ones are not averse to a ruder version of “are we there yet” too. Marketing genius that it is, driving a section of the Wild Atlantic Way makes such jaunts that bit more palatable.

If you base yourself at the Killarney Towers Hotel and Leisure Centre in Kerry, it’s more palatable still because they can provide you with a picnic for the drive.

Stay two nights with breakfast both mornings, dinner on one evening and a picnic plus, when you get back and you get complimentary access to the swimming pool and leisure centre too.

The gym is now the teen equivalent of a national sport for teenagers.
The gym is now the teen equivalent of a national sport for teenagers.

Given that going to the gym is now the teen equivalent of a national sport, you’ll have some happy bunnies. The cost is from €135 per person, based on two sharing.

Head further up the WAW to stay at the Central Hotel in Donegal Town, a great place from which to visit Europe’s highest seacliffs, Sliagh Liag.

It’s great value too with prices from €135 per person staying for three nights B&B, based on two sharing, including full use of the leisure centre. Donegal has 12 Blue Flag beaches and in autumn the water is still warm but please don’t embarrass them by getting into your actual togs.

Of course the midterm break is coming up too and, for older kids, this one can be tricky. When they’re very young Halloween rivals Christmas for excitement. If they’re too old for trick or treating however, but too young for the parties that replace it, there’s an interim period where the whole event is a bitter disappointment.

Heading off to a fun hotel can be a nice way around it. It’s a particularly good idea if your family has both older kids and younger kids. The Sligo Park Hotel in Sligo’s Family Spooktacular breaks comprises two nights B&B with one three course evening meal, for two adults and two children for €427 – add extra rooms as required.

It includes a welcome pack and fairy trail for little ones, plus a movie night, tennis courts, gym and leisure centre that should appeal to older siblings too.

There’s loads of great things to do in the area, including booking a session with activity provider Carraig Climbing, which specialises in outdoor rock climbing in the area. Older ones will love it.

A view of the par 4, 4th hole at The Old Head Golf Links towards the Old Head of Kinsale Lighthouse. Photograph: David Cannon/Getty Images
A view of the par 4, 4th hole at The Old Head Golf Links towards the Old Head of Kinsale Lighthouse. Photograph: David Cannon/Getty Images

For your adult kids who love golf, take advantage of a once in a pandemic opportunity to book into the Old Head Golf Links in Kinsale, Cork. Typically 95 per cent of the people staying there are members and visitors from abroad, mostly the US.

Only a spectacular course can encourage people to make such a journey so it’s a fantastic opportunity for them to see it for themselves. They never grow out of a taste for bragging rights.