Vickie Maye discovers that there is a lot more on offer in Co Wexford – if you are willing to leave the hotel.
IT says a lot about a venue when it’s your third visit to Wexford, and you realise you have never set foot beyond the hotel grounds.
But that is the joy of Kelly’s in Rosslare. Kids clubs, discos, an hour by hour schedule of activities, child-friendly swimming pool, even your own private beach.
There’s babysitting if you feel like dining alone, and on the subject of food, Kelly’s has some of the best we’ve eaten. Where else would you have daily afternoon tea?
Each time we came home people asked what we’d seen, where we went.
We’d answer Kelly’s — and we would be bombarded with lists and itineraries of all Wexford had to offer, and all we had missed.
This time, reluctantly, we put Kelly’s to one side and booked into self-catering apartments in the centre of Wexford.
Our thinking was without the organised activities we’d be free to explore with four children to entertain on Easter holidays.
We soon realised we could have fallen into the same trap at Stonebridge apartments, part of the Talbot hotel.
This accommodation opened in June last year and it is high spec.
Fully kitted, modern, slick kitchens, flat screen TVs in the living room and both bedrooms (with a huge supply of kids channels), this had everything, right down to luxurious feather pillows and duvets.
Request a sea view room if you can — think wall to wall blue — but the courtyard view we had was lovely too, the kids could play safely outside in the modern decking and manicured grass.
We also had access to the hotel swimming pool, one of the most toddler friendly I’ve experienced.
And the breakfasts — oh the breakfasts.
The kids — and grown ups — were enthralled by the pancake making machine (and the chocolate sauce on hand beside it.)
We had dinner there too on the Saturday night, a child-friendly experience — colouring packs were waiting for us, kids menus at the ready.
My cod with roast red pepper, lemongrass and coconut sauce was sensational. And as for the chocolate mousse with raspberry — I’m still dreaming about it.
Granny was the other grown up companion on the trip and she was just as impressed with her beef, sweet potato, baby spinach and roast beetroot.
The hotel and holiday apartments are right on the pier, take a right and enjoy a stroll on the waterfront. Left and you’re on Wexford’s shopping thoroughfare.
Truly, we could have spent our weekend between the apartment, the restaurant and the pool.
But we were determined to see the sights. First off we visited the National Heritage Centre.
An outdoor museum with a difference, it recreates 9,000 years of Irish history in The Time Trail, showcasing Stone Age houses, crannogs and ring forts.
There’s even the option of sleeping in the latter overnight. No electricity meant no deal for my mini historians.
The next morning we headed for Courtown and Pirates Cove.
An activity centre for kids of all ages, it does exactly what it says on the tin. The mini golf took us on a trail through pirate caves, ships and waterfalls.
Inside the kids tried their hands at bowling, later there was go karting and paddle boats.
Wexford was true to its claim of the sunny south-east when we visited.
There were clear blue skies and balmy sunshine, so we made time for an ice cream at Courtown on the beach.
Ten minutes away was Kia Ora Mini Farm. The kids are well used to mini-farms in Cork, but Kia Ora was something very special.
It’s more compact and less sprawling than some of the others we have visited.
You can leave the kids potter or run free and always manage to keep one eye on them.
Later we spoke the owner, Padraig, who said that was his aim — to give the kids freedom.
The family-run business understands children, they know they have short attention spans, and no tolerance for queues and waiting.
So in the sand pit I counted at least 25 buckets. No fighting for spades here.
There were dozens of mini cars dotted around the entrance, all different varieties to keep little people entertained.
There were no lines either to pet or feed the animals.
My kids held baby bunnies at their leisure, fed baby goats a full bottle.
They loved the maze, and the Fireman Sam fire engine that drove them through the farm.
And the name? Kia Ora isn’t sponsored by a drinks company, as we assumed. It’s the Maori word for welcome. And there was no shortage of that.
A stroll through nearby Gorey in the sun and it was the perfect end to a perfect day.
The following morning, after another sensational breakfast, we had a final dip in the pool.
And we hit the road again, this time for Wells House and Gardens. A great Victorian house built in the 1600s and renovated in the 1830s, the current owners have lovingly restored it.
It’s their passion and their personal touch which shines through. We had a 45-minute tour of the house — there was colouring for the four- and five-year-olds and an age appropriate quiz for the 11-year-old.
It’s a living house tour so in a stroke of genius little hands are encouraged to touch everything — they even rang the great bell for ‘dinner’ as we entered the dining room.
My favourite was the Versailles room — white walls and gold panelling where the women would embroider and gossip after dinner.
They had a box of Victorian toys too for the kids to try out, vintage wooden doll houses and spinning tops.
Afterwards, all three tried their hands at archery. There’s a two-hour option to take the bow and arrow into the woods and fire at model animals. We were tempted but opted for the more age-appropriate option of a walk through the fairy woods.
Wooden fairy doors, miniature washing lines and a tiny castle guide you through the woodland walk, with wooden characters from the Gruffalo dotted throughout the 1km route. It was magical.
Wells House is worth visiting for the restaurant alone — Sabine the owner, tells us she’s been four years getting the menu right. And she’s definitely succeeded. All the food is sourced and made on the farm.
We headed home for Cork and realised we had only barely sampled all that Wexford has to offer families.
We’ve decided on a longer stay next time, a few days in Kelly’s — and for the rest, we’ll take to the road.
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