OLIVER CROMWELL destroyed the original Dunboyne Castle but it’s definitely alive and kicking in 2014. The history of this beautifully-refurbished building was only the start of what turned out to be a fascinating journey exploring the Royal County of Meath.
Dunboyne Castle Hotel is only 11 miles from Dublin but we decided to point north for our family break and explore what Meath’s Boyne Valley has to offer. So from kayaking on the Boyne, to discovering just how heavy a medieval suit of armour is, to the pre-historic wonder of Newgrange, our two-day break was packed full of adventure.
Dunboyne Castle Hotel which was rebuilt and completed in 1764 is set in luxuriant grounds with wonderful old trees. Originally the Butler family seat, it went through several families and incarnations before it was restored and opened as a hotel in 2006. A sympathetic restoration incorporates the 18th century building with 21st century architecture producing large, modern and comfortable, light-filled rooms.
We had what is so rare in many hotels — adjoining rooms. So Conor (nine) and Liadh (six) were able to snuggle up with their own TV — big treat for them — which meant we could kick back in our exceptionally large room and relax without sneaking around, worrying we might wake them up.
The hotel’s Ivy Restaurant is really about fine dining and this makes Dunboyne Castle a destination hotel. It was lovely to return from all the day’s activities, get cleaned up and know we were going to be treated to an excellent meal without having to leave the premises. Some of the dishes we enjoyed included Panfried Loin of Rabbit with Confit of Leg Ravioli and White Truffle Cream along with Seared Fillet of Wild Halibut with Pistachio Crust and a Lime Beurre Blanc. But this is fine dining without the stuffiness. The children were completely welcomed, even after they got bored and decided to have a little wander. Breakfast is held in the same restaurant and was delicious. A buffet breakfast is combined with an à la carte menu which offers poached and fried eggs along with thick American style pancakes much to the children’s delight. The service was exceptional, with our waitress arriving with plastic bags to fill up with breakfast muffins and pastries to takeaway, which came in handy a few hours later.
Seoid means gem in Irish and Dunboyne Castle describe their Seoid Spa as the hidden gem of the hotel. Their hydrotherapy pool and thermal suite ensure total relaxation, along with a host of treatments including their Body Cocoon Signature Floats and Wraps as well as pregnancy treatments. I was treated to their Ultimate Aromatherapy Associates massage, an hour-long full body massage which used fragrant essential oils and it was heavenly.
There’s no better place to start your visit to the Royal County than by kayaking down the River Boyne. Despite having two children under 10 and not much experience of kayaking, this was no impediment to a safe and very enjoyable trip, mainly down to our informative and entertaining guide James from Boyne Valley Activities in Trim. After a safety talk, we set off and saw a feast of historical sights as well as wonderful wildlife on a five-kilometre trip down one of Ireland’s most famous rivers. It was easily the children’s highlight of their visit. But the Living History Tour at Trim Visitor Centre came a close second, especially after they were dressed up as a medieval knight and princess! Manned by volunteers, who really make history come alive, the tour features an impressive array of replica medieval swords and weapons.
We packed a lot in over two days, including the award winning Rathbeggan Lakes, where the children enjoyed bouncy castles, paddle boats, the Pet Farm and an impressive Zip Wire. And of course, you can’t go to the Boyne Valley without visiting the neolithic magnificence of Newgrange.
Dunboyne Castle Hotel has a midweek offer of bed and breakfast for €89 for two people sharing. A family of four kayaking trip with Boyne Valley Activities costs €80. Trim Visitor Centre’s Living History Tour is €3 per person and entry to Rathbeggan Lakes starts at €5 per child per day.
Dunboyne Castle offers a luxurious and enjoyable family stay and can be used as a great base for Dublin. But our advice is explore Meath, easily Ireland’s most historical county.