Tony Clayton-Lea chooses some of the best mid-term breaks around Ireland in order to ensure that the kids are all right. Clue: if they’re happy, you’re happy.
Established several years ago as, perhaps, one of the oddest theme parks in Europe, Tayto Park is ideal for younger children (age 10 and under). The park is very well organised, has an open zoo, a well-appointed playground and surprisingly good options for eating. The downside for some is that price of entry doesn’t include all of the rides.
Offsite: Tayto Park is about five minutes by car from Ashbourne town, and 15 minutes by car from Drogheda. It is also less than 20 minutes by car from various Boyne Valley attractions such as Newgrange and Tara.
What to say: “I love spuds.”
What not to say: “Are crisps bad for you, mammy?”
Tayto Park is open for the mid-term break from Saturday, October 25, to Sunday, November 2. Family admission (two children), from €44; (three children), from €55; (four children), from €66. www.taytocrisps.ie/park
If you’re looking for a little bit of class in which to wallow before the rush into Christmas madness starts, then we’d whole-heartedly recommend this luxury self-catering option. More importantly for parents, perhaps, is the supervised Little Rascals Kid’s Club, which takes children from junior infants to age 12 (open from 1pm-5pm, closed on Saturday). And don’t forget Mount Juliet’s well-appointed leisure centre, tennis courts, biking and walking trails.
Offsite: Kilkenny is a shade over 10 miles away, and is a beautiful medieval city with great shopping, restaurants, cafés, bars, a theatre (Watergate), a fine music venue (Set Theatre), and a cinema.
What to say: “Darling, I’m off to the equestrian centre for the next few hours – you don’t mind, do you?”
What not to say: “Darling, is it okay is to play a game of golf with Barry from next door?”
Seven-night stay from €1.650; www.mountjuliet.ie
There are many hotels around the country offering mid-term breaks, but one of the best valued is the award-winning Quality Hotel, Clonakilty. Mid-term/Halloween treats for the kids include nightly entertainment for the mid-term week, face painting, balloon modeling, Jungle Gym, fancy dress kid’s disco and a pumpkin carving competition (both on Friday, October 31). There is also on on-site kid’s camp, swimming pool, and an indoor playzone. Oh — and a three-screen cinema in case it lashes down.
Offsite: A few minutes away is Clonakilty, which has successfully retained its mix of old-world charm and bustling town endeavor. Beyond the town the beauty of west Cork awaits.
What to say: “Take off your mask — it isn’t Halloween yet!”
What not to say: “Take off your mask — Halloween is over!”
Packages start from two-night B&B, with one dinner €109pps (kids rates apply). www.qualityhotelclonakilty.com
The Carlingford Adventure Centre has more than 10 acres of forest (and the town’s harbour) by which to propel the visitor into a flurry of activities that include abseiling, zorbing, windsurfing and a three-dimensional human-sized maze known as ‘Communication Breakdown’. The Adventure Centre is also host to Skypark (skypark.ie; pre-booking essential), which opened in July, and which has proven to be extremely popular for all age groups with its zip lines, rope bridges, base jumps and Tarzan swings.
Offsite: Carlingford village is on the doorstep — it has restaurants, bars, accommodation, shopping, and a vintage Tea Room
What to say: “The Force is strong within you.”
What not to say: “I need to go to the toilet!”
Mid-term break deals are valid from Monday, October 27, to Friday, October 31. Options are: Five-day adventure camp, 9.30am-5pm (ending 2pm, Friday), €145pp. One Day Adventure, Monday, October 27 to Friday, October 31, 9.30am-5pm, €39pp. www.carlingfordadventure.com
If your children are of a certain age and like a bit of a thrill, then Westport House’s annual Hallowe’en Festival is a must. For once, you can call your children little monsters and get away with it. Prepare for a transformation of Westport House from its normally refined 18th century style into a (not too scary) haunted mansion.
Offsite: The charms of Westport town have long been documented with all the amenities required for a weekend, long weekend or a mid-term break. Great bars, great restaurants, and too many excellent accommodation options to list.
What to say: “Who ya gonna call? Ghostbusters…”
What not to say: “Boo!”
Runs from Saturday, October 25 to Friday, October 31, 11am-5pm daily. There is a fireworks spectacular on Sunday, October 26, at 7pm. Various ticket prices; www.westporthouse.ie
There are many city centre-based things to do while the kids are off school, and one of the best places in Dublin is The Ark. Simple as.
Offsite: There’s no ‘offsite’ in Dublin city centre, is there? That said, right beside The Ark is the Irish Film Institute, cafés, vintage clothes shops, Urban Outfitters, restaurants, and the like. Let’s put it this way — you won’t be stuck for things to do while the little ones are in safe hands.
What to say: “This jazz stuff is simple!”
What not to say: “No, pet, I’d rather you didn’t borrow any of daddy’s Jay-Z albums.”
There’s a musical focus to The Ark’s mid-term schedule, with gentle jazz-inspired music workshops for 2-4 year olds, pop music jam sessions, weird instruments, and a U-cert hip-hop session. Some of these are free admission. Further details regarding timings and ticketed events from www.ark.ie
One of the leading children’s arts festival in Ireland, Roolboola is perfect for introducing your children (suitably from ages two to 12) to high calibre and very accessible children’s theatre, music, dance, book readings, exhibitions and a variety of hands-on arts-oriented workshops.
Offsite: Close by is the beautiful Lough Lannagh, for which you might need to wrap up. For those who prefer indoors, Mayo Leisure Point ( www.mayoleisurepoint.ie ), has laser games, bowling, and ball ponds.
What to say: “Roolaboola is coolaboola.”
What not to say: “Do I really have to go to the sean-nos dance workshop, mammy?”
There are various accommodation options in and around Castlebar, including Breaffy House Hotel & Spa ( www.breaffyhouseresort.com ), Harlequin Hotel ( www.harlequinhotelcastlebar.ie ), and the TF Royal Hotel & Theatre ( www.tfroyalhotel.com ). From October 24-27, Linen Hall, Castlebar. Further details on events from www.linenhall.com