Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The Boys Go Racing at Harolds Cross

It's unusual to say the least, when we go out at night - but then - we were approaching Halloween!

The children are now almost 10,11 and 14 and we genuinely were not sure what to expect. Both Mum and I had been Greyhound racing in the past - but that was pre-children and to be frank, we thought we'd have to wait either until they were a little older or make a night of it on our own sometime - but no - we didn't need to worry at all.

We arrived on Friday night, found parking easily enough (there is lots) and the children got their first glimpse of some "real" greyhounds and the track. 

Andrew joked if we had just arrived at the Aviva, fascinated by the floodlights and the buzz around as we collected our Race Card and went through the Turnstiles! We were about to experience Greyhound Racing as a family for the first time!

Walking track side, with the viewing stand on our left we noticed several families with children around the same age as ours, and seemed to be regulars, in fact, there is a great sense that down by the track, everyone knows each other. Being early, first race starting at 8.00pm, we went inside to find our table.

On the ground floor there are several outlets where you can choose some food and also a bar, lots of tables and screens - so you don't even need to go outside if you don't want to. There is a Tote there too if you wanted to have a flutter. However, we had opted to eat in the Grandstand Restaurant, overlooking the track on the first floor. 

Taking the stairs and we were amazed on arrival at the restaurant. Firstly by the speed at which we found our table but also by the decor and vista we had of the track. We were introduced to our waitress, Claire, who quickly took our orders and explained how it all worked. We opted for starters of chicken wings, followed by a lovely Fillet for Dad and Sirloin for Mum. For the kids there was a great choice, where they could choose Soup or Garlic Bread for starters, followed by either Goujons and Chips or Bangers and Mash - with customary Ice Cream to top it all off!

While awaiting our starters to arrive, Dervla, arrived to look after us with Table-Side Tote Betting. She was brilliant - explained how it all worked and was so, so patient. She became "the lady who knows all about the races".

We placed a couple of €1 bets and a competition started between Mum and Dad, that was the first mistake Dad made on the night!!

Dinner arrived just in time for the first race - it really was superb and the children enjoyed eating and watching the races on what felt like a giant TV! Dinner was followed by deserts which the kids literally demolished!!!

What works really well here, is the visibility and the atmosphere Upstairs, it doesn't really matter where you are sitting you will be able to see what's going on. Once the race gets going the noise is deafening and you can’t help get involved in the cheering for “your” dog – it’s brilliant fun.

Studying the Menu!!!
The squeals of excitement coming from the kids are something we'll never forget - they just got so into the race. Once the bell went to signal we were about to go - they pinned themselves to the windows screaming and shouting for whatever Dog we had picked - it was brilliant craic.
There were 11 races on the card - we stayed for 8 inside and then went outside to experience it from a different perspective as it was a mild evening.
videoFor Race 9 we were track side and our dog started well which only increased the tempo of the shouting – from us and all around us – however it was not to be and “number 4” finished third! 

Oh well – time to go and with some gentle persuasion we said goodbye to Harold's Cross Greyhound Stadium. 

The boys were exhausted but genuinely enjoyed the night so much. It’s the morning after now and Andrew (10) just walked in and said “thank you for the best night ever” – high praise indeed!

Mid-Term Packages
There are a number of great packages available which offer great value, particularly for Halloween 

€15 for 2 Adults & 2 Kids including admission, race programmes and Puppy Treats for the kids.

Puppy Treats includes:
2 Fruit Juices,
2 Bags of Crisps,
2 Chocolate Bars
2 Colouring Pages
2 Box of Crayons

Package value €30

Friday 28th October to Saturday 5th November inclusive in all IGB stadia (as listed above)
This package must be booked in advance and is not available to purchase on the night.

Huge thanks to Orla,Dawn, Claire,Darragh,Ross,Amar and Dervla for looking after us so well tonight and all the staff at Harold's Cross Greyhound Stadium for an amazing night out to remember!

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Discovering Dungarvan

We were looking for a great place to spend a well earned, relaxing weekend. 
Not too far from home but far enough so we could go experience some new things as a family.

Having stayed at other Flynn Hotels (Newpark, Kilkenny) we opted for The Park Hotel, Dungarvan, Co. Waterford.

We had been allocated two adjoining rooms one with 2 double beds for the kids and another fine bright and airy room for Mum and Dad - the beds are super comfortable - an extremely welcome feature after a long working week - but it would be a while before we got our heads down - Dungarvan awaits! 

For us, with energetic boys there are a couple of "must haves" - Swimming Pool and Kids Club - The Park had both! We opted for the 2 Night family trip package - which included a family ticket on the wonderful Waterford and Suir Valley Railway (20 minutes drive from the hotel) - more about that later.
After a quick check in and registration for the kids club (designated desk) the kids wanted to go explore the hotel and grounds - it's funny and quirky but they always want to go all round the hotel so see what's going on - where's the kids club, how big is the pool, is there a games room..... In fairness - when writing a blog it's no harm to follow the leader!
After about 30 minutes roving the hotel - we took our bags to our rooms.
There are 2 options here both of which are great for families - family rooms or Self catering houses - both perfect for us.

The hotel itself is really well located for families within easy access to Dungarvan town.I remember as a kid myself my parents would often spend a night or two on the way from Dublin to Kerry, in Dungarvan or Youghal "just to break up the drive". 

The town itself oozes charm with lots of narrow streets and waterside cafes - it has changed a lot since I stayed here before - for the better.

We took a walk along Dungarvan Harbour - which has become a very popular area full of trendy eateries overlooking the water.
We stopped by St. John's Castle which is free to visit - open to the public - with great access which the kids really loved.

We stopped by St. John's Castle which is free to visit - open to the public - with great access which the kids really loved. 
With hungry tummies it was time for a pit stop.Interlude, on Quay Street, seems to be a hot spot for families and came recommend by staff at the hotel. 

Nice menu - reasonable prices - the food was incredible. It's always encouraging when the menu is simple. 

Kids are tough critics! Pizza and Pasta for the children which they loved - with a stunning and renowned Chicken Caesar Salad from mum and and super tasty fajita wrap for Dad (www.interlude.ie).

We spent a couple of hours browsing the shops of Dungarvan before changing gears and heading to Colligan Wood ( a short drive away) - a really great idea and one we would highly recommend.

There are many trails to be experienced - however,we didn't have time to do one - but even for short walk we were able to experience great views of Dungravan Harbour and Helvick Head in the distance - more details http://coillteonfilm.ie/colligan/ 

On the way back to the hotel - we actually took time to check out both of the playgrounds near the hotel. Both are relatively new and modern and the kids loved the opportunity to enjoy them for half an hour so - working up yet another appetite.

Something every parent of boys will appreciate is their ferocious appetites so back at the hotel again - this time to The Meladon Bar - which is busy due to the Euro 2016 Quarter Finals - so a great atmosphere.
There is a kids menu available here which offers 3 courses for €10 and a great choice for adults. Service was quick and with lots of staff on duty there were no delays at all. Special mention here to Kenny, the Manager and the restaurant supervisor who looked after us so well.After dinner, the younger boys decided to sample the kids club. 

As they get older it can be a challenge to get them to go to the kids club and normally first impressions are critical! We need not have worried - within the centre of the hotel - is a dedicated Kids Club House run by Sydney an experienced Irish teacher who has a great philosophy on Kids Club fun.
She suggest that a varied programme encouraging the children to focus on doing as opposed to the end results. Kids bake and play and are all very hands on which you can see when we arrive when some of the "guest" are face painting Sidney!

They also get involved in other activities including arts and crafts and movie nights.The boys played for a while but were exhausted and bed beckoned!We began our final day with an early swim in the lovely pool. There is a superb leisure centre here but with a young family it's often a tough ask to try and get the time - maybe next time!

After another lovely breakfast (buffet plus hot options from generous menu) it's time to both check out and head for our next stop - The Waterford and Suir Valley Railway - where we board a period carriage and take in the wonderful views of the River Suir. It's a family friendly railway which run through scenic areas along the River Suir with stunning views of Mount Congreve Gardens. The Ticket office is based out of an old carriage and really sets the scene.

Ticket for the family - 2 Adults and 3 Children cost €26 which works out as terrific value for money. Details here Take a look at our "arrival" in KilmeadanWe spent a lot of time in the immediate area of Dungarvan and Youghal - two lovely towns to base a family in the sunny south east. There are so many things we could have done if we had longer - such as take a cycle along the new Waterford Greenway or ventured out to take in some water sports on any of the amazing beaches along the Copper Coast. This area has really evolved since our last visit, pre children - there is a really nice vibe in Dungarvan and it's not hard to see why this hidden gem is so popular - sure to be back.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Fun Times in The Pines - Zipit Dublin


It may well be a clichĂ© but making the most of the family time we have is a real challenge for parents – as is getting value for money. Now – throw a teenager and his two younger brothers into the mix and you might have a conundrum on your hands when finding somewhere to go on a sunny Sunday.

We’ve known about Zipit Forest Adventures for a long time but hadn’t had time to visit for various reasons. I’d grown up near the
ir Pine Forest base – and spent hours orienteering through the woods of Tibradden as a teenager myself – so it was a sort of trip down memory lane when we drove under the canopy of Pine trees last Sunday. Instantly we were captivated by the buzzing sound of the zip lines, the whoops of kids and adults as they moved through the trees via the various apparatus!

Zipit describe the activity as offering “up to 4 hours of tree-top, fun-filled, adventure challenge in a healthy, outdoor setting for adults and children from age 7.  Climb poles and climbing walls, swing into cargo nets, balance on a rope bridge, hurtle down a zipwire, even ride a BMX across a treetop bridge!”  – show me an adult or child who would not be intrigued to find our more and give it a go.

Let me introduce the kids – Christopher (14), Andrew (10) and Kyle (9). The doors opened and they ran over to the Log Cabin base at the edge of the forest. Up above – people of all ages, were zipping across the treetops at different heights. Others were walking across “tight ropes” encouraged by others either in the trees or from the ground. There were people everywhere at different heights and if you strained your eyes you could just about make them out high up in the trees.
We had booked online so our instructor was waiting for us. After signing the requisite forms we were all fitted with our safety harness.
What I noticed was the team are all very good with the kids, extremely patient. Ours had now gone suddenly quiet – anticipating and probably a little fearful of the next four hours. They needn’t have worried.

The safety briefing and training takes about 20 minutes. Zipit use a special safety system which means that anyone taking part is at all-times secured and can only “disconnect” from the circuit when they are on the ground. It takes a few minutes to get used to but the kids got it first time of course with the adults taking just a bit longer. After a few laps on the test course – we were ready to go.
Happy to start on the green course was me. Father of three, adventurous boys, but such a coward when it comes to heights. Just a couple of metres or so off the ground we took turns on stepping out on the circuit.
The first few activities involve either a sort of tight rope walk or some floating steps and then there is the first of the Zip Lines. Stepping off the platform and putting all your faith in your harness is a great test of mind over matter. Height is relative but once you let go the rush is amazing as you zip feet first towards the next platform.
The next three courses get gradually higher and the “tasks” get more and more extreme. All around you can hear people whooping and screaming as they take on the next obstacle. The buzzing of the ziplines is all around as you look up and see people flying through the air.

The younger two boys decided to stay on Green while myself, Mum and Christopher (14) took on some more challenges on the other, higher and more challenging courses. As you go higher and higher the challenges really do get extreme – culminating in a Skate Board ride through the trees about 15 metres and there’s even an opportunity to cycle a BMX too! The zips get faster and longer – the climbs get higher and higher and the nerves get tested to the extreme. I have to admit to only making it around 3 of the 5 courses – I simply couldn’t force myself anymore! However our teenager would have climbed all day and showed no sign of stopping or tiring.

Having been in the trees for four hours we were all starving but having been warned we came prepared. We took a picnic with us and we sat out under the trees and ate our lunch – laughing and joking about what we had just done - surrounded by the sights and sounds from the tree-tops.

It’s so hard to find activities that suit everyone but Zipit was perfect for us as a family. It allowed us all to have fun together – encouraging each other and laughing heartedly as we pushed ourselves just
a little past our comfort zones.

I can definitely recommend Zipit as a family, group or team building activity. It’s perfect for boosting self-confidence and esteem in children and really gives them a great lift.

There are four circuits to choose from all colour coded and rated by age. The course prices depend on the participant’s age firstly and then their ability.

Prices for the younger ones was €15 rising to €29 for for those 15+. This gives 4 hours of fun for everyone. Booking is highly recommended particularly in busier school holidays.

fun.ie TOP TIP: Bring a Picnic and make the most of the amazing environment

More details on the and lots more activities at www.fun.ie or www.fun.ie/zipit-forest-adventures-dublin

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Time Out? Bridge that Gap - at The Dunloe - Killarney, Co.Kerry

Taking a holiday, in Ireland or anywhere for that matter, with kids is never straight forward. The obvious thing like budget and scheduling time off are likely to be the easy bit – location is the challenge. We’ve been all over Ireland either with or without the children but constants in our list of locations are Killarney and Kilkenny – the reasons vary – and over the years we’ve seen the good and the not so good offerings from around the country.
A mini-break is a treat for everyone – and there are so many hotels now offering family breaks – but when you pull back the covers – some are not really family breaks at all – more like family prices for a double room with two or three extra bed squeezed in. Now – don’t get me wrong – sometimes a product of that quality will be matched by the price and you will settle but there’s much, much more to consider and value when looking for a family break.

For us – before we even consider a family break we ask two simple questions. Does it have a pool and a kids club. If the answer to either of these questions is no – we move on. The pool is the main thing that our children want and its terrific to see them all having fun in the water – I’m eternally grateful that we stuck with the swimming lessons. For Mum and Dad – well, frankly – it’s our break too and if there is a well organised activity programme for the children while we are away – that give us some precious time together to catch up – otherwise it’s just geography isn’t it? Same thing different place!

We were invited to take a trip to The Dunloe, a 5* property about fifteen minutes from Killarney just off the main Kilorglin Road, to experience its luxury family package offerings. 

As the name would suggest, this fine hotel is within spectacular viewing distance of the renowned Gap of Dunloe and on the site of the original 12th century castle of the same name. As we drove down the long tree lined avenue of The Dunloe – we couldn’t help but stop and say hello to the amazingly friendly Halfinger Ponies that were there as if to greet us.

At the front door, one of the Hotel porters was on hand to help us with our luggage and park the car so we could start exploring straight away. Check in with Liam, was a quick process and he took the time to explain all that was available for the family at the Hotel. 

It quickly became apparent that we were not going to need to leave the hotel for fun this weekend.  It quickly became apparent that we were not going to need to leave the hotel for fun this weekend.

The Kids Club was of particular interest and promised an action packed itinerary of Indoor and Outdoor activity such as Indoor and Outdoor Games, Arts and Crafts, Movie time with Popcorn among the high-lights. 

However – that was only the Kids Club – as ll guests can also avail of the Leisure Centre, Fishing, Tennis, Pool,Table Tennis and the wonderful new playground to the rear of the Hotel  - in the shadow of Dunloe Castle. Our room was  a “Family Room” which was an ideal set up for us – essentially two large ensuite rooms connected by an un-lockable door. The kids room had 3 large single beds all facing a massive TV on the wall. Perfect. 

Having the “Separate “ rooms makes such a difference as it offers everyone some space to unwind and chill out and Adult time when the kids are exhausted from the days events. 

Our huge room offered the most amazing views of the Gap of Dunloe and just some of the 64 acre, real working farm, upon which The Dunloe is situated. The hotel has two full time farmers on site and it was really interesting for the kids to watch them tend the animals and indeed prompted plenty of questions. We were really enjoying this. 

Time to go explore before dinner and our maiden voyage to the Kids Club.

The three boys all have one thing in common – they love the water – so while it was too late to go for a swim we went to take a look at the pool anyway – we were not disappointed. 
There was a beautiful pool with probably the best views we’ve experienced from within it, plus Sauna, Steam Room, fully equipped gym with the latest technology and treatment rooms.  The area is fantastic and so bright and airy!

The Kids Club

The kids club operates every day from 10am to 12pm and 6pm to 9pm which is great for everyone as it gives the kids time to go and play and meet other kids. 

Kids Club activities vary by day and include Tennis, Table Tennis, Indoor Soccer, Parachute Games, Circuits, Rounder, Music and Movement, Novelty sports games, scavenger hunt, Horse bingo, Painting and Collage, Clay Modeling, paper Mosaics, Fun quiz, Kids disco, story time and more.  

There is a nice emphasis on outdoor activity with the children and if the weather is poor – which is not unusual in Ireland – there is also the huge indoor Tennis Court area on site to use. 

All indoor activity takes place in the purpose built Kids Club which is, as Andrew told me “the biggest kids club he’s ever seen” – it even had a cinema!

For us – it’s a few precious hours to catch up, have some dinner etc. This is so important to us and hence when we find a destination that offers a great Kids Club it really helps us to relax and enjoy our break too. However – this time there was a bonus. 

Normally our 13 year old would be too old or not interested in the Kids Club but The Dunloe have already thought of that, thankfully.  

Already available were the latest consoles including PS4s, Xbox and Wii so the appeal of the area was widened – in fact the lure of brand new PS4s was too tempting even for him to resist!

The Park – Playground, Gardens, Castle, Picnic Areas, Fitness Circuit!

Nestled within the grounds of the Hotel is a little oasis of fun for the kids.  Mum and Dad can relax and watch them enjoying themselves on the swings, zip lines, see saws, slides and play frames in this magnificent setting. 

There’s even an all-weather table tennis table and equipment can be borrowed from reception.

Family Fun

While the Kids club here at The Dunloe is fantastic – there is also the opportunity to spend some time together as a family enjoying some of the other activities available on site, we collected our fishing rods from reception and headed to the park on the hotel grounds which had a small trail down to the river.

 We took full advantage and spent a few hours on the banks of the River Laune fishing together. We had never done this before and surprisingly for us – everyone had a great time and great memories were formed.

We also explored the vast grounds and took full advantage of the offer of a guided tour of the castle itself by The Dunloe General Manager – Jason Clifford. The castle has had vast amount of restoration work done by the owners in conjunction with the OPW and its imposing form acts as a focal point from many angles within the grounds. From the top – there are amazing views to be enjoyed of the River Laune as it weaves its way toward the lakes and indeed the Hotel grounds itself. From our vantage point we imagined what is might have been like to live at Dunloe Castle during times of attack. How it would have been to defend it as the intruders clambered up the hill from the River banks. That was great fun!

Pony Trekking & Kayaking

Guest at The Dunloe also have the opportunity to visit the stables on site and take a complimentary Pony Trek. Again all ages and experience levels are catered for and Kyle and Christopher really loved it.  It is also possible to arrange locally for Kayaking experiences on the river but we just simply ran out of time – that’s probably the only one thing you can never have enough of here.

Dining at The Dunloe

The food at The Dunloe is incredible. The The Garden CafĂ© is open all day and offers a terrific selection from it’s menu in a casual setting over looking the grounds. For a more formal, elegance experience – try The Oak Restaurant – either are superb. 

If you have a penchant for presentation you will just love the creative flare exhibited on every dish. Breakfast is a buffet style which an mouthwatering array of options to choose from. If you wanted something a little different Chef is happy to accommodate – in fact – he even “created” a delicious fresh savory omelette for me, that was typical of our Dunloe experience.

 The Kids menu is comprehensive and offers a great range of healthy options and alternatives so no complaints there.

Our favourite though had to be the triple Chocolate Mousse which along with any other deserts we tried was exquisite and yes temptation did give way once or twice!!

Menu Links

If it’s a luxury family break you are looking for – The Dunloe ticks all the boxes and more. The children will be spoiled for choice and you will just want to kick back and take it all in. There is something seductively sedate about The Dunloe that will have you so relaxed leaving you will never want to leave. Friendly staff, fantastic food, breathtaking views and happy kids – it ticked all the boxes for us.

Family Package Rates:
Prices for 3 Nights B&B and Dinner for 2 on one evening are:
  • €890 per family based on a family room
  • €890 per family based on Superior room
  • €1070 per family based on interconnecting rooms
Prices for 3 Nights B&B, Dinner for 2 on one evening, Family ticket to Muckross House & Traditional Farms
  • €935 per family based on a family room
  • €935 per family based on Superior room
  • €1115 per family based on interconnecting rooms
Prices for 3 Nights B&B, Dinner for 2 on one evening, family trip through Gap of Dunloe by jaunting cart
  • €950 per family based on a family room
  • €950 per family based on Superior room
  • €1130 per family based on interconnecting rooms
Fun.ie Recommend:Go for the three night option with Muckross House and Traditional Farms included. It’s only a short drive but the experience the family with get from stepping back in time on the farm is fantastic.

More information on The Dunloe Packages from the Hotel :

3 Night Family Special
Treat yourself to a wonderful 3 night break with the family (valid for 2 adults and up to 3 children in a Family or Superior Room) with one a la carte evening meal for two in our Oak Restaurant. Wake up to our sumptuous full Irish breakfast buffet for all the family each morning. All guests enjoy complimentary access to the extensive leisure activities at The Dunloe which include 25m indoor pool, sauna, steam room, dedicated chill-out zone, Techno gym, indoor tennis, horse-riding, outdoor children's playground and indoor Wii / Games Room. €890 per family in family/superior room (or € 1070 per family based on interconnecting room).

3 Night Family Package with Muckross House & Farms
This fantastic family package includes 3 Nights Bed & Breakfast in one of our spacious family or superior rooms for 2 adults and up to 3 children, dinner for 2 on one evening, a family ticket to Muckross House, Gardens and Traditional Farms plus complimentary access to our onsite leisure facilities which include 25m indoor pool, sauna, steam room, Techno gym, indoor tennis, horse-riding, outdoor children's playground and indoor Wii / Games Room. €935 per family in family/superior room (or €1115 per family based on interconnecting room)

3 Night Family Package with Carriage Ride through the Gap of Dunloe
Take the family on an adventure through the famous Gap of Dunloe. A horse drawn carriage will collect you from the front door of the hotel to take you on a trip through the spectacular glaciated pass, where the path leads through the valley with Ireland’s highest mountains rising on either side. (Approx 2hr trip, returning to The Dunloe) Your trip will include a stop at a coffee house at the end of your carriage ride, where your choice of hot chocolate, tea or coffee and scones is included. Your package also includes 3 Nights’ accommodation in a family or Superior room for 2 adults and up to 3 children, dinner for 2 on one evening and full buffet breakfast each morning and complimentary access to the hotels unrivalled leisure facilities. €950 per family in family / superior room (or €1130 per family based on interconnecting rooms)

N.B. Damian and his family were guests of The Dunloe during their stay.

More information at www.fun.ie/the-dunloe and www.thedunloe.ie

Kids Club Details Below!