A great way to sample Dublin delights

CELTS on the left, one, two, three..... RARRRRRRGH”.

I’m on the Viking Splash tour bus, wearing a horned hat, screeching at a bemused Japanese couple consulting a map on the corner of O’Connell Street.

I’ve spent years in Dublin, studying and working. But I witnessed a whole different city on this trip. I borrowed two four-year olds and a willing friend and went to our capital to experience it through young eyes. If this means bed by 9pm, no hangovers and channelling my inner Viking, so be it.

First impressions

We wanted to be close to everything and not be messing around with transport hassles so after a little research we opted for the Summer Haze and Lazy Days package the Fitzwilliam Hotel was offering.

I’d never stayed in the city centre before, as I was usually in rented accommodation or bunking in with friends. After bustling our way through the Grafton Street crowds, we arrived, a slightly bedraggled foursome, to be greeted at the door by two smiling doormen, one of whom took our bags, walked us to reception and helped us with check in. It was like flicking a switch, from chaos to calm. The lobby is sleek and sophisticated with modern, clean lines, plush purple furniture merging with marble, muted tones.

The rooms

The room, designed by Terence Conran, had everything one would expect from a five-star hotel. Boutique chic, contemporary designs, rainforest-style shower and plenty of room for the four of us. One four-poster bed and a large sofa bed did the job. The balcony was a treat — it was hard to believe we were so close to the buzzing city centre as we sat overlooking a serene courtyard — designed by Diarmuid Gavin no less. Little touches made all the difference: colouring books for the kids, real orchids, candles dotted around, Egyptian cotton sheets. A little gripe — the WiFi signal was poor on my device.

The food

We had dinner in Citron Restaurant on the mezzanine. The kids were happy enough snacking on the selection of fresh breads and the restaurant had no problem with them sharing our mains — fish all the way, with sea bass with chorizo, borlotti beans, courgettes and paprika for me and my nephew and salmon peas, broad beans, watercress and tomato consomme for the other pair. Dinner was part of the package, but the à la carte menu was reasonable, mains all around the €20 mark and top class service. The two tykes were getting restless by the time dessert was due, so we got it delivered up the room, sat out on our balcony and devoured scrummy brownies and strawberry shortbreads. The lads gave the candyfloss flourish two thumbs up. Breakfast was an easy-going affair, with a buffet of everything you could think of and an extensive menu. The kids would recommend the pancakes and hot chocolate — but be prepared for the sugar buzz that inevitably ensues.

On our second night in Dublin, we tried the Thai restaurant, Red Torch Ginger, a stroll away from the hotel, down St Andrew Street, (redtorchginger.ie). One of the advantages of going on a city break with kids is the whole early bird phenomenon. We got a gut-busting, three-course meal with teas and coffees for €23.95 each.

Local produce is a big thing here and the beef dishes are made using only Irish fillet beef supplied by Mick Doyle butchers and the fresh fish is by Hanlons of Cork Street. There’s an impressive cocktail list too and a concept I can’t believe I didn’t come up with myself — dessert cocktails. Toffee Alexander — yum.

The amenities

The hotel is like this bridge between two worlds — shopping hub on one side, serene green on the other.

We toddled along to use our Brown Thomas voucher that came as part of the hotel package in the morning, then availed of the packed picnic in the afternoon.

St Stephen’s Green has a fab playground I never knew existed and we settled ourselves down with the hotel hamper while the boys relieved the tension of having to humour us in the shops.

Wicker basket, Avoca rug, artisan sandwiches, pastries, sparkling fruit pressé, a selection of Irish cheeses and charcuterie, full cutlery and even a bottle of a wine. These guys thought of everything — everything except a Frisbee shield. I nearly got beheaded by a stray one. Beware low-flying missiles in the park, that’s my advice.

What to do

When you’re trying to entertain kids for the weekend, the only problem in Dublin is whittling it down — there’s SO much to choose from. We got the Luas to Imaginosity Dublin Children’s Museum out in Sandyford, (01-2176130; www.imaginosity.ie). It’s a charity and it’s very cool. Word to the wise though, it’s best suited to kids under eight or nine. The water playground on the roof garden and the replica supermarket were our highlights. Oh, and the snoring badger.

We also visited Dublinia in Christchurch, (www.dublinia.ie; 01-679 4611) walking distance from the hotel, to meet Gunnar, the Viking warrior and Olaf the coin minter. The boys loved the warship and the part where they got to pretend to be archaeologists but a lot of the exhibits went over their heads. Older kids would love it.

We did find out Vikings didn’t really have horns on their helmets — a fact that two precocious Corkonians took great pleasure in sharing when we hopped on board the Viking Splash tour (www.vikingsplash.com; 01-7076000). A good ole authentic Dub gave us a tour around the streets, along with jokes more corny than a corn-fed chicken eating popcorn in a corn store.

The bus then turned into a boat which was highly exciting for the boys, not least because apparently there’s a character in Bob the Builder that can do the same thing. Hey, an aunt does not have to know these things. Great fun. If you’d prefer the bus without the splash, a Dublin Bus Tour ticket is handy to hop on and off. Kids go free and it hits key spots like Dublin Zoo, the National Gallery and Dublinia too. (www.dublinsightseeing.ie).

The last thing we did before hitting the M50 was a River Liffey cruise. It took 45 minutes, from Bachelor’s Walk and gliding under the historic bridges was a lovely way to finish our weekend. It was worth a punt. (www.liffeyrivercruises.com).

The bottom line

The Summer Haze and Lazy Days package included 1 night, our evening meal in Citron Restaurant, the gourmet picnic hamper, a €30 Brown Thomas voucher and full Irish breakfasts. From €155 per person sharing. It must be booked five days in advance. . See fitzwilliamhoteldublin.com, T: 01-4787000 /Facebook.com/fitzwilliamdublin for more bespoke packages.

Anything to add

There was a small plumbing issue on the morning of our departure and it’s a good example of how a top class hotel makes solutions out of problems.

It was dealt with personably and efficiently, another room was made available to us and we were offered complimentary lunch.

We were impressed overall at the high level of service and never once felt the children were being a pain — even when they were.


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