A purrfect break in the land of the Cats

Esther N McCarthy and family travelled from the Rebel County to Kilkenny to discover fairy trails, a plunge pool with a difference and a heap of hurling history            

Newpark Hotel, Kilkenny's fairy trail

The home of the Cats isn’t the first place you’d think of to go on a family break with three little Rebels, but when we rocked up to the Newpark Hotel, Kilkenny, with the three mini hurlers in their red and white kits, we were welcomed with open arms. The kids got welcome packs, including a booklet titled “My Family Holiday” and bright green baseball hats at reception. The staff remembered all the kids’ names for our stay (something I struggle with at the best of times, and I gave birth to the little darlings) and were so helpful and attentive, with smiles and chats every time we passed. Being voted the number one family hotel in Ireland for Viewer’s Choice on Trip Advisor has clearly brightened their moods.

THE ROOM

A bedroom in the four-star hotel

We booked into a family suite and had adjoining rooms, which make the weekend so much fun for the lads, running in and out, and having their own bathroom was a huge bonus, if you catch my drift. Flat screen TVs, fast, free wifi, bottles of water, tea and coffee facilities and all the gorgeous goodies four-star hotels offer, including a slate of chocolate-dipped strawberries, mini cakes and chocolates, with the three boys’ names written in chocolate. VIP treatment right from the get go. The travel cot was all set up and there were hurleys and sliotars for the boys. They were in black and amber, mind, but there was no fear of converting us. Nice try though. There was a comprehensive map of the hotel and the grounds, which the older boys loved. What is it with kids and maps? They didn’t let them out of their hands the whole weekend. The hotel is quite large and it’s set on 40-acres of stunning parkland, so they came in rather handy.

THE FOOD

From a family perspective, dining in the Newpark is easy-peasy. Scott’s Bar & Brasserie is casual, buzzing and has huge booths, so we could relax with loads of room and no worry of disturbing other diners. The menu is divided into sections - Small Plates, From Our Chargrill, From the Sea, From the Land, SIde Portions and Dessert, all very reasonably priced. A simpler kids menu is split into mains (€7.95) and desserts (€3.50). The older boys were able to head up to the supervised playroom, while we had dessert (the Coffee Créme Brulée was a sensation and the Newpark Knickerbocker Glory, well, it was glorious).

On the Sunday, the entire Kilkenny hurling team were in Scott’s Bar & Brasserie for their lunch before a match. Sure, if it’s good enough for those lads, it’s good enough for us.

We chanced Gulliver’s Restaurant for an early sitting on the Saturday night. I’m always wary of bringing the loons into a fancy restaurant, but we timed it well and the staff were just so kind and attentive to the kids, we felt, dare I say it, tranquil. All the dishes
offered seasonal ingredients,
portions were perfect and the service explementary.

THE AMENITIES

The children’s playground

The Newpark is one of the best hotels we’ve ever visited when it comes to making a family feel at home. There’s that 40-acres of parkland they’re sitting on, with a wildlife farm, a fairy trail, a go-kart area, a cool playground and a sand pit with sit-on diggers. We had to literally drag the two-year-old away from it.

The farm is fabulous too, with emus, piggies, poulty, alpacas, ponies, bunny rabbits, donkeys and a very expressive peacock. Our city slickers lads adored them.

The fairy trail was really fun, the guys at the Newpark have gone all out to create this little fantasy land, that starts with a brochure in the room, with a map, detailing where all the different fairies live and a note from the fairies telling us about their home. “In Fairyland, the sky changes from blue to green and the clouds look like candyfloss. When we go shopping we use fairy gold as money but this fairy gold burns into dry leaves in the human world.”I know that feeling, preach it, fairies.

Each fairy has their own personality and story - like Glitter the Elf - she loves everything pink and glittery. Not what you’d imagine three boys would like, but they were entranced by all the glitter outside the door. There’s also a Worry Plague at the start of the trail that had all the kids queuing up to try.

The fairies also tell us they love coming on their holidays to the Newpark Hotel because loads of people come to visit them and write them letters. And lo and behold, there are fairy mailboxes dotted around the trail. It’s a testament to the level of detail the hotel goes to, to create a magical stay for children. And if the kids are happy, mammy and daddy are ecstatic.

Crazy Cats Kids Club is available if you fancy a break. We didn’t opt for it as we were having too good a time with everything else going on but it’s good to know, it’s open every Friday and Saturday - and daily during school holidays. It’s fully supervised and aimed at children aged 4-12.

The Aveda Escape Health Club and Spa is worth the trip to Kilkenny alone. There was a great deal when we were visiting, any 45-minute treatment for €59, from a Green Science anti-ageing facial to a back, neck and shoulder massage. Check the website, there’s always different deals on offer. The outdoor infinity plunge pool has to be seen to be believed. There is no better way of getting back to nature than lying submerged in hot bubbling water sheltered by a giant tree and peaceful parklands. Obviously, the kids are inside in the pool with their father in this scenario. Bliss.

WHAT TO DO

Scott Read in his Cork GAA kit in Kilkenny’s Newpark. Up the Rebels!

Both us adults had been here before on various weekends away, hens and stags, but Lanigans Legends Hurling Bar is well worth a visit with the kids. The plan had been to take the 2-hour tour at Nowlan Park and give our future Cork Allstars a feel of the Cat’s home turf. But torrential rain meant we went straight to Lanigan for lunch. The boys adored the memorabilia on the walls, the handpainted murals of all the great hurlers, just being among all the hurling history. Of course, the gigantic TV screens were a bit hit too. The Legends Bar boasts the largest library of games in the world, like All Ireland finals right back to 1967. Lunch was excellent with friendly and fun staff and a great variety of choice. See lanigans.ie and thekilkennyway.com

Playstation is in Hebron Business Park, a short car ride from the hotel and a great option if you get a rainy day.

www.theplaystation.ie

THE BOTTOM LINE

The Newpark have a Mini Staycation, two-night family package at the moment starting at €155, including 2 BB & 1 dinner for two nights. And if mammy spends over €65 on a treatment, she gets a €25 voucher for the Escape Spa.

See ww.flynnhotels.com/Newpark_Hotel_Kilkenny/ for full details.

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