So it’s been quiet on my little blog page recently. No real reason, just life getting in the way….from work to exam marking to holidays and trying (and currently failing) to potty train a toddler, time just passes by so fast. But I’m back and want to share about our recent family holiday. Every year, we pick a place on our little Emerald Isle and pack ourselves off with our extended family and enjoy a week of rest and fun. Ireland has so many wonderful places to offer families, and I’m not sold on karting the kids on flights to sunnier climes until they are old enough to really appreciate it so for now, holidays close to home are fine by us.
This year, my only stipulation about where we went was that it wasn’t more than two hours drive away because last year our drive was about 5 hours and Adam did not manage the lengthy journey well….he just refused to nap and wailed the whole way. We opted for Carlingford in County Louth, just over an hour’s drive from Belfast but it genuinely feels like you’re ‘getting away’. It’s a little gem of a medieval village with lots of accommodation, interesting restaurants and of course some great pubs. There’s plenty for little ones too with outdoor pursuit centre, fairy cave tours, a local swimming pool, play park and it isn’t too far a drive from lots of other great attractions.
If you’re reading this and you’ve never been to Carlingford, I’d definitely recommend it. The accommodation we chose was called The Anchorage. A listed building, one time owned by the church and apparently the Bishops’ ‘summer residence’ this house was perfect for us. Great sized rooms, a garden for the kids to play in, and literally a one minute walk from the centre of the village. Oh, and the best thing….? A Jacuzzi bath. *sighs*
Other highlights of our week in Carlingford was getting a pass to the Four Seasons Hotel pool – when the weather typically did the usual Irish Weather antics – we took the kids off to the pool and they just loved it. The G Man and I were given a night off – the excitement was almost too much – and we booked a meal in a gorgeous restaurant called Magees Bistro, where we enjoyed some wine, beautiful food and a fantastic atmosphere. We forced ourselves to NOT talk about the kids. We didn’t last long, of course. We also enjoyed a gorgeous lunch in the famous PJ O’Hares – of course it was a half pint of the black stuff and some locally caught mussels for me. Delicious.
What is great about Carlingford is how close it is to so many other areas and attractions in Ireland. We took ourselves off to the well-known Tayto Park – people in the rest of the UK reading this will genuinely probably think its something crazy from Peppa Pig – but yes, we do have a theme park that is based on a brand of crisps (Tayto) and yes, the branding and images are a man with a potato head. I’ll stop now. Only the Irish, eh? But we had an absolute ball there. The kids enjoyed the rides (there are many to choose from for all ages), ate candyfloss, visited the circus (Adam was actually spellbound) and even trekked round the zoo. We were there all day and didn’t even see everything. I will warn people in advance that it is pricier than I thought it would be. We paid in advance for our family ticket to physically get in the door, but had no idea that once you’re in, you then have to buy tokens or a wristband to pay for some (most of) the rides that aren’t included in your entrance fee. It was expensive but I think most people would say it was worth it.
Another gorgeous place within a 20 minute drive is the Ring of Gullion, and Slieve Gullion Park. We met up with Granny and Granda who drove down from Belfast with our niece, and we spent the day walking round the Giant’s Lair and seeing the little fairy houses. The kids enjoyed ice cream and playing in the outdoor adventure play park. It’s definitely worth a visit – and it’s free!
Two other restaurants worth mentioning in Carlingford are The Wildwood Café (a healthful whole food cafe with amazing views) and an Indian called The Sitar. The whole family visited The Wildwood Café for lunch and the food was absolutely gorgeous – really wholesome but with great flavour and no guilt about calorific content in your meal! And on the other side of the coin (calorie-wise) was the Sitar, so nice that we ate there twice, and it really was one of the tastiest Indian meals I’ve ever had.
Other highlights of the village include lots of historic plaques and buildings, and as you amble around you can read up on various details of the village, as well as checking out King John’s Castle, built by Hugh De Lacy – and King John was said to have stayed there in 1210AD. We had an amazing view of it from our house.
But the best part of all, of course, was making memories there with our two little ones – they just soaked up every experience, each moment of laughter and second of fun – whether it was being entertained by trapeze artists in the glamour of the circus tent, or just playing chalk games and hopscotch with Mummy and Daddy in the garden. They loved it all.
Roll on next year. Carlingford – I think you’ll see us again.