Listen well, I have good news. With a little bit of planning, a dash of flexibility and a good surf forecast, you can actually have a ‘weekend’ and a ‘break’ with smallies in tow.
We wanted to go somewhere we never stayed before, with lots of outdoor activities, a nice hotel and a few waves thrown in. Sea air, as everyone knows, knocks the little darlings right out.
After a bit of research, we agreed on Wexford — JFK country with the lighthouse at Hook Head, Kilmore Quay, Wells House and Gardens and the spooky Loftus Hall on our itinerary.
Whites Hotel ( www.whitesofwexford.ie ) scored full marks with the little dudes as soon as we rocked up to the reception — free lollipops! And the good ones too, Chupa Chups. Fancy.
We had interconnecting superior rooms, with complementary petite fours and rice krispie cakes to make us feel at home — and high as kites on all the sugar. It’s a four-star hotel with everything you’d expect and super family friendly.
There’s no hassle with kids, they’re made feel really welcome, the Library Bar welcomed the little ones up until 9pm every evening, which was great.
Wexford town is lovely to walk around, easy to explore and offers some very nice places to eat, such as Cistin Eile and The Yard.
We hit the road for Loftus Hall. I’m not the superstitious sort but there’s a real vibe about this place, as abandoned haunted houses go. The tour was fabulous, although some bits were a little bit too scary for the five- and three-year-old, there’s lots of dark corridors and spooky tales and recreated card games where the devil goes up in the smoke. The history of the house was very interesting, originally built by the Redmond clan in 1350 during the time of the Black Death, in the 1650s it went to the Loftus family and then the Sisters of Providence turned it into a convent in 1917 - there was a whole lot of staircases to polish for the young girls in the order. In 1983, it was bought by Michael Deveraux who reopened it as “Loftus Hall Hotel”, then it closed again in the early 1990s and was sold to the current owners, the Quigley family from Carrig on Bannow, in 2011. I loved the little tidbits of info too, did you know: “Hook Head is said to have found its way into usage in the saying “By Hook or by Crook”, derived from a vow to take Waterford by Hook (on the Wexford side of the estuary) or by Crook (a village on the Waterford side) made by Oliver Cromwell.”
They have a lovely fairy trail there that the boys loved and those bouncy trampoline yokes that you harness yourself into, so the kids did enjoy it too. ( www.loftushall.ie )
From there we went to Hook Lighthouse, at the very tip of the Peninsula, where we had a fabulous guided tour, which the kids really liked, it’s very interactive and it’s one of the oldest operational lighthouses in the whole wide world.
The views are spectacular, you might even spot a whale or a dolphin if you keep a sharp eye out. ( www.hookheritage.ie ).
Back to Mary Barry’s in Kilmore Quay for a mean curry and sea food platter and with two bouncy castles out the back, the boys were more than happy. A quick surf in the morning in a secret spot I’m not allowed to reveal, then we packed into the car again for Gorey and Wells House and Gardens. 300 years old but only open in its current splendour since 2012, this place is brilliant for a family day out. We started off with a woodland walk, the Lady Frances walk, coming across wooden animal sculptures and glittery fairy houses, a wishing well, hopscotches, and the kissing gate, it was wonderful. The boys really loved the archery, real-life targets and arrows and everything. There was a war re-enactment going on the day we visited which was the two lads’ highlight. Guns and uniforms and cannons and knives and all the rest, had them gawping, they couldn’t believe their luck.
There’s a lovely cafe there too, well worth checking out. There’s also an Irish Wildlife Sanctuary, clay pigeon shooting, falconry and an adventure playground in case you needed any more convincing. For prices and car park details see www.wellshouse.ie
If you’re thinking of heading to Wexford this Halloween, a ghost hunt will take place at Enniscorthy Castle, Wells House will host ghoulish house tours, tales of the Enchanted Forest will be on offer at the Irish National Heritage Park, and The Irish Agricultural Museum at Johnstown Castle host a family ‘Spooky Spectacular’. Loftus Hall will host an adults only Halloween experience, but a family experience tour is also on offer.
What are you waiting for?