You can’t beat a traditional family holiday and there’s no better place for it than Ireland, as the range of great places to stay right across (and around) the country is fantastic. From the charm of West Cork to the dignity of the Giant’s Causeway, from the long golden beaches of Sunny South-East to the gloriously uncrowded north-west tip of Donegal, and from rugged Connemara to the lush riverlands of East Cork, there’s a wonderful base waiting there for you – and great value is to be had too. We suggest a few of our favourite hotels, country houses, guesthouses and B&Bs below, and many of them would offer self-catering nearby too. Contact them through the website and you should be pleasantly surprised by the customer-friendliness of the prices offered this year – you really don’t have to spend time hanging around airports with children in tow when heading for your perfect family holiday destination.
Kelly's Resort Hotel
Rosslare Strand, Co Wexford
For many regular visitors the Kelly family’s renowned beachside hotel sums up all that is best about the sunny South-East. Perhaps it’s because its history in the same family spans three centuries, so there’s not a lot they don’t know about keeping guests happy - quite simply, this hotel has everything, for both families and individuals. Whether you want a quiet reading room, a snooker room or a supervised crèche (the number of children is limited at any one time, to prevent creating an imbalance), there’s something to suit all ages. Leisure facilities include two indoor swimming pools, a well-being centre ‘SeaSpa’, indoor tennis, and - a bit of fun for Francophiles – boules; everything imaginable is provided for children, including delicious food, while adults appreciate the Kelly family’s outstanding art collection, the excellent dining choices provided by two distinguished head chefs at the opulent Beaches restaurant or more informal La Marine bistro – and, of course, the hotel’s famous wine cellar.
Shandon Hotel Spa & Wellness
Marble Hill Strand, Port-na-Blagh, Dunfanaghy, Co Donegal
Donegal is renowned for family holidays and (although it’s a bit of a climb up the hill on the way home), this large, privately-owned hotel overlooking Sheephaven Bay is within walking distance of the famous Blue Flag beach that makes it such a special destination. Friendly hands-on management and open fires make for a relaxed atmosphere, and excellent facilities for families include a children’s play centre, play room and playground, plus activities like pitch & putt, tennis courts, basketball, soccer, snooker and table tennis for older children. And, with good food, treatments at the recently added Spa & Wellness Centre and golf, horseriding and walking nearby, there’s something for all age groups. Bedrooms vary in size according to their position in the building (the suites are especially desirable), but all are comfortably furnished and have sea views. Just the spot for a great traditional holiday.
Castlelyons, Fermoy, Co Cork
LUSH EAST CORK
The Green family’s lovely 18th century house near Fermoy (Georgina Campbell Country House of the Year 2009) is a very relaxed family-friendly place. Justin and Jenny Green offer special ‘Little People’ breaks throughout the year for a few days of family fun. Ballyvolane is ideal for little people, with vast grounds to get lost in, a tree house to play in, woods to explore, hens to feed, eggs to collect, donkeys to pet and lots more entertainment nearby, such as Fota Wildlife Park, Blarney Castle and Leahy's Open Farm. Each child is given a storybook and a jar of cookies on arrival, and Farmer Justin (!) takes all the kids on a tractor and trailer ride around the estate after breakfast; then each evening at 5.30pm, Justin and Jenny's kids Toby (7), Jamie (4) and Fleur (1) host a High Tea party. Children are free if sharing with their parents (minimum stay 3 nights).
Caherdaniel, Co. Kerry
STUNNING RING OF KERRY
The Ring of Kerry is a magical holiday destination and this well-managed and exceptionally family-friendly 1960s-style hotel offers beautiful beaches at the end of the garden and great places to visit nearby, including Daniel O’Connell’s serenely atmospheric house at Derrynane and the amazing Ballinskelligs chocolate factory - and the opportunity for golfing parents to withdraw to Waterville Golf Course occasionally, with special rates offered at certain times. Modest but comfortable accommodation includes family rooms (under 4s free in parents’ room, cots available without charge), and babysitting can be arranged. All weathers are catered for, with a playroom, a heated outdoor swimming pool, tennis, pool table, and excellent fishing with a local fisherman; activity holidays are a big draw to the area and they have their own in-house walking brochure. The beautifully located restaurant offers wholesome fare based on quality ingredients, local where possible (a list of suppliers is given) and a proper, very reasonably priced children’s menu is offered separately. Self-catering accommodation also offered.
Drinagh, Wexford, Co Wexford
You can’t beat the excitement and mystery of a castle for kids, and the Mernagh family’s home is a real one: the farmhouse and Towerhouse are 17th century and some of the 13th century Norman Castle still stands. Inside it’s spacious and comfortable, with an open fire in the residents’ sitting-room, a TV room and, up the 17th century staircase to the second and third floors, bedrooms with great views over the countryside; there are two family rooms, and a cot is available without charge - your kids will be in heaven. Children always love a working farm too - here visitors can see a modern dairy in action - and, although no dinners are offered, their own hens supply the eggs for the delicious breakfasts that Kathleen Mernagh serves buffet-style in a warm, cosy dining-room. In the evening Kathleen advises guests on the best local choices for dinner – the restaurants of Wexford are very near. Self-catering also available.
Quality Hotel & Leisure Centre Clonakilty
Clogheen, Clonakilty, Co Cork
If you’re worried about the weather when deciding whether to holiday in Ireland, this exceptionally family-friendly hotel on the edge of Clonakilty town is just the kind of place to head for with kids. There’s masses to do and visit nearby, including the West Cork Model Railway Village which has an old-style train that picks people up at the hotel en route to explore Clonakilty and nearby Inchydoney (with blue flag beach). And the hotel’s fantastic on-site facilities will be even better this summer with new choices just coming on stream, including a Jungle Gym area (over 2 levels, with a toddler area and one for 4-12yrs) and also a Teen Zone (with Xboxes, Playstations, air hockey etc). In summer and all mid-term breaks a Kids Kamp offers masses of activities for 5-14 year-olds, mainly held outdoors if possible. Fun for kids and relaxing for parents – accommodation is recently refurbished and Clonakilty’s on the doorstep for evenings too.
Loguestown Road, Portrush, Coleraine, Co Antrim BT52 2PT
GIANT’S CAUSEWAY COAST
County Antrim – and especially the seaside resort of Portrush – is Northern Ireland’s most popular traditional family holiday destination and, while the town may not be for everyone, anyone lucky enough to have stayed at the White family’s farm will definitely be a fan of the area. Just two miles from Portrush, Madddybenny is a very comfortable and exceptionally hospitable place to stay, where children of all ages (and their parents) are thoughtfully catered for, with snooker, a games room and quiet sitting places for reading, as well as a garden and an area for outdoor games. Bedrooms have all sorts of useful extras (electric blankets, a comfortable armchair, a torch and alarm clock beside the bed…) and a family-run equestrian centre includes stabling for guests’ own horses. Golf, fishing, tennis and pitch & putt are all nearby too – and, of course, the area’s famous sandy beaches. No evening meals, but the breakfasts are legendary. Self-catering also available.
Renvyle House Hotel
Renvyle Co Galway
This very special place is our Family Friendly Hotel of the Year 2009 and, for anyone travelling with children and/or pets, this remote Connemara haven should be heaven. There’s loads to do on site – heated outdoor swimming pool, tennis, trout fishing, golf (9 hole), croquet - and numerous activities nearby, including archaeological expeditions, horse riding, hill walking, scuba diving and sea fishing; or you can simply savour the surrounding rugged beauty in comfort from an armchair beside a turf fire. Family facilities include a seasonal crèche, playground and children’s tea – and, as standard rooms may be rather snug with a cot added, it’s worth going for one of the newer, more spacious rooms or suites. Dinner is served in a formal restaurant (complete with grand piano), cleverly designed so that parents can see their children in the supervised playroom next door while enjoying Tim O’Sullivan’s renowned cooking – and with General Manager Ronnie Counihan always on hand to chat with guests.
Glendine Country House
Arthurstown, New Ross, Co Wexford
With a safe, enclosed playground for children on site and sandy beaches nearby, Ann and Tom Crosbie’s large nineteenth century farmhouse at Arthurstown makes a very hospitable base for a traditional family holiday. Children love the highland cows, Jacob sheep and horses kept in paddocks around the house beside the house, and they are allowed to feed the animals (using food provided). All of the comfortable rooms have sea views, and the Crosbies take pride in giving guests advice on local amenities - and sending everyone off well-fed for the day after a really good breakfast; it’s a far cry from the kind of B&B where you’re expected to be ‘out for the day’, though, as you can pop back any time for a light meal. A la carte dinners are provided by well known chef Phelim O’Byrne, and other great restaurants in the area include the famous Dunbrody Country House (within walking distance). Self-catering cottages also available.
Bunbeg Co Donegal
This blocky 1970s’ hotel makes the most of a stunning location. With its wonderful beach and activities including tennis, pitch & putt and day visits to nearby islands Tory, Gola and Arranmore, it’s a relaxing place and ideal for family holidays. Parents and older children who relish fresh air and exercise will enjoy the various walks and cycle paths nearby - a booklet, Walks in the Bunbeg Area, was specially commissioned by the hotel. Wet days are looked after too, with good supervised leisure facilities including a swimming pool, Jacuzzi, gym, and a spa offering seaweed treatments. Some bedrooms may seem a little dated but they are comfortable and most have panoramic views. Spacious public areas echo the setting – the Ocean Restaurant and Oyster Bar (“the most westerly reading room on the Atlantic seaboard”) have superb views over the shoreline - as does the Sundowner Wine & Tapas Bar, where you can watch the sun sinking in the west.
The very best spa breaks in Ireland