10Sep

An Irish Family Vacation, Part 1

Ireland

When close friends recently invited us to spend a few days with them in Ireland where one of them grew up, I gently nudged my husband until he agreed to go.  The two of us have stayed with friends in exotic places many times over the years, and we know how much fun it is to stay with natives.  It’s a unique experience and a sure-fire way to get to know the destination on a truly intimate way, directly through the eyes of a local.  We broke up our trip up into a stay with them and a bit of sightseeing en route, to give our kids a taste of the country and to soak up the Irish spirit.

The verdict? Ireland is a lovely country for traveling families.  Great people, great food, easy to travel around.  My children’s’ eyes were wide open as we discovered new places and they showed more interest in our travels than ever before.  It was quite thrilling as they’ve been traveling since they were wee small (yes, I would like to inherit that beautiful Irish accent).

We flew directly into Shannon via Aer Lingus, which was a relatively easy flight from JFK.  So easy, however, that none of us slept. So when we arrived, we phoned up the staff at the Fitzgeralds Woodlands House Hotel to see if we could get our room earlier, and they were kind enough to give us a room to rest our heads for the morning.  I honestly don’t think we would have made it through the day without that rest, and I loved how easy-going the staff was about it.

fitzgeralds woodlands hotel

Fitzgerald’s Woodlands House Hotel is located in Adare, a small rural village in southwestern Ireland just outside Limerick.  Minutes from Adare Manor Golf Club and within easy driving distances of many attractions, Shannon International Airport and Limerick City, the hotel offers spacious rooms and suites, all inclusive of a full Irish breakfast, complimentary parking, free WIFI access and full access to a Leisure Center that’s equipped with a swimming pool and steam room.  Our room was incredibly comfortable, and the fresh flowers were certainly a nice touch. The hotel has a  small world feeling that makes for a cozy stay, perfect for Irish newbies like us. For example, when we walked into the hotel, we were greeted by tea and cookies. That was typical of the Fitzgerald experience. The staff goes out of their way to ensure a good stay is had by all. When we didn’t have swim caps to swim in the pool, they offered us very inexpensive ones, and that’s just one example of their hospitality.

Their local Irish breakfast was delicious and very authentic with its offerings of Irish pudding and sausages.  On our second day, we shared a table with a couple who were there for an Irish wedding, and I was surprised to hear that each person was allowed two drinks at the event.  I thought Irishmen drank a lot! Nonetheless,they were absolutely lovely and we learned more about the area from them as they lived just 25 miles away.

Best of all, the hotel is extremely family-friendly and it made our transition to a new country and time zone just a little bit easier.  My kids loved their swim in the pool (although my son was upset that he couldn’t enjoy the jacuzzi as the lifeguard was strict about keeping kids under 16 out. Note to self: teach him to be more flexible!). They also have a kid’s club and game room, which is a bonus to every parent. Woody’s Kids Club has really good hours and offerings for kids. Unfortunately, mine were not in the mood to separate from us to try it out. We also really liked the hotel’s location.

Don’t forget about this hotel for your next trip to Ireland: Fitzgeralds Woodlands House Hotel, Adare, Co.Limerick, +35361605107

We were hosted by Shannon Heritage while staying in the Limerick area and treated to visits to Bunratty Castle & Folk Park and King John’s Castle. Both were great adventures and took up several hours of time.  They were excellent ways to orientate both us and the children to the history and heritage of Ireland.

Bunratty is one of Ireland’s biggest tourism destinations, featuring a village of recreated buildings from the 1800s like a doctor’s office, school, farm house, shops and kitchen.  The name Bunratty, Bun Raite (or possibly, Bun na Raite) in Irish, means the ‘bottom’ or end of the ‘Ratty’ river. This river, alongside the castle, flows into the nearby Shannon estuary. From the top of the castle, one can look over to the estuary and the airport.  The castle itself is impressive and historic.  We wandered around the dungeon, captain’s quarter and great hall, and I was excited and proud to watch my kids run up and down the old staircase as they were eager to see and learn more about the structure. It certainly felt older than anything we’ve seen in America! They sat in a pretend classroom and learned how to make butter from one of the actors recreating the past.

PicMonkey Collage

We also enjoyed a wonderful lunch at MacNamara’s Pub, filled with real Irish homemade dishes and great ale. It was a great day. Bunratty is an ideal base for visiting and touring the unspoiled, cultural West of Ireland with Galway and Connemara, the Cliffs of Moher, the Burren and the beautiful lakes of Killarney all within an easy day trip. I definitely recommend a visit on your next trip to Ireland.

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King John’s Castle re-opened a few months ago after a major renovation and we were happy to explore the 800 year-old castle on a rainy day in Limerick.  This Castle,  built on the orders of King John in the early 13th century, occupies a commanding position on the southern bank of the River Shannon, on what was the site of an earlier Viking settlement.  It’s a five-sided castle, with high curtain walls surrounding a rectangular yard, it has been repaired and rebuilt many times over the years to be used as a garrison, particularly after being severely damaged in the Siege of Limerick 1642. Later In the 18th century, a military barracks was built within the castle.  The castle has been called the bleeding heart of Ireland as it signified the end of English rule. My kids loved climbing from tower to tower exploring the archaeological excavations from the  Pre-Norman settlement. The exhibit inside offers a lot of detail about the history of the sieges which changed Ireland’s fate and about the medieval structure and we all, fortunately, found it interesting.

PicMonkey Collage

From Adare and Limerick, we headed to Dingle, a sweet town on Ireland’s western coast and then to the infamous Ring of Kerry.  To be continued…..

Disclosure: I was provided with a complimentary room at Fitzgeralds Woodlands House Hotel and tickets to facilitate my reviews at the castles by Shannon Heritage.  However, as always, my opinions are my own.

 

 

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Comments

  1. I definitely want to travel in Ireland — but probably on a couple’s vacation first, not with kids. Thanks for the tips. I hope I get to use them in the near future!