I will start this off by saying , I do love a sun holiday…but I love to holiday in Ireland more. There is so much to be said for staying put and not having to fly and that is what we did for the Easter mid term break. Galway has always been my favourite place to visit and when my eldest girl Holly was smaller we had taken her a few times but our youngest Harper had never been. We booked for 3 nights as I do find when you are travelling a two hour car journey with a three and a half year old and 17 month old that any less is quite a short time.
Galway is such a beautiful charming city with a lot to do so don’t let travelling with the little people put you off. We found that we had loads to do and could have done more! I have compiled in this post details of our stay how we filled our days the best we could and all still remain friends ( most of the time!!).
Accommodation: Galway Bay Hotel Salthill
On this occasion we decided to stay out in Salthill as there were more facilities there for the kids. We booked the Galway Bay Hotel which is a nice clean hotel with a great location and is situated directly beside the amusements in Salthill so the kids were made up by this alone! The location was in fact met with a seal of approval ‘Sttttoppp the car, its a funfaaaaair’. Holly our three and a half year old was beyond impressed by fact there were some nice treats laid out on our arrival to the room of muffins, brownie, chocolate covered strawberries and water. This was a nice touch especially after the long journey and made us feel very welcome. The bottle of red wine made the folks feel even more welcome, especially as we were back in the room early in the evenings to put the kids to bed. It really is the small things!! Also the room had a breath-taking sea view with lots of light coming through which really gave the feels of vacation.
As we were so busy gulping down the goodies on arrival, it wasn’t until Harper crawled ( she wasn’t steadily walking at this point) into the bathroom that we noticed there was no bath and just a walk-in shower. This would have been no problem for Holly but we needed a bath for Harper. My heart sank a little but when we contacted reception they were extremely helpful and advised us that they did have another room available with a bath tub so we made the change. While on booking we did note that we were travelling with children but we should have however requested our room to have a bath as with all the adventures throughout our stay they definitely needed it!!
Oh hey, there I am in the mirror!
The hotel does have a kids club which we were informed is suitable for 4 years up so our little ones were too young. The staff are very helpful and were very kind to the kids which is important to the overall experience. My kids are all about breakfast, they cannot get it quick enough. The breakfast is a buffet style Irish breakfast and lots of choice for a continental which is my thing. Also impressively provided is a self service pancake maker, depending on the time you arrive for breakfast there may be a slight wait for the pancake maker but we managed to still grab some! I do remember once upon a time loving a breakfast being brought to the table from a menu…We have two imaptient feeders that have changed that! So personally we like to walk around and let the girls help choose from the visual display what they would like, help get their cereal, fruit toast etc. Therefore breakfast at the Galway Bay was a big hit.
On our first evening at the hotel we did order from the bar menu to eat in the open sunroom but we did find while staff were very helpful that service was a little slow (refer back to the impatient feeders!). The food was however delicious and the kids loved it but had it been a little quicker there wouldn’t have been need for the tired ‘I want my fish noooow’ pleas. We had arrived equipped with our own ‘prevent boredom pack’ of crayons, colouring books, small toys but I would have liked, while eating in a family hotel to have been offered this. Ok so I am probably scraping for the negatives but I do think it is little details that create positive experiences for young families so that is why I mention these points.
The hotel also has a pool and I was really impressed to see a lifeguard on duty. Also something you don’t always see provided in hotel swimming pools was a plentiful supply of spare inflatable arm bands for children and babies (all different sizes). The staff at the leisure centre and pool could not have been more helpful. The girl on duty used her initiative to help me out when I had forgot a swim nappy and coins to purchase one as Holly wasn’t waiting for me to go back to the room for one for her sister! I did of course bring back down the coins for the swim nappy!!! Again I will be honest in saying the water in the pool could have been a tad warmer as Harper being smaller wanted to get prematurely out which isn’t like her. Overall though the pool and changing areas were clean and well kept.
The Galway Bay Hotel was overall a very pleasant experience and Holly decided to call it ‘Home’ while we stayed there so that alone made it a good choice!
For more information on the hotel and an extensive gallery visit the website HERE.
What we did/Things to do
SALTHILL PROM WALKS
Whatever the weather you cannot stay in Salthill and not walk its glorious prom. This is probably my favourite thing to do in rain or sun but on this occasion we were lucky enough to get sunshine to do so. I had at the last minute luckily thrown some buckets and spades into the car when we left so we got the chance to build (in Harper’s case knock down) sandcastles. We filled our lungs to capacity with the sea air and when we were finished went for some ice-cream at a parlour close to the prom which was possibly the highlight for the girls. They are still talking about it and looking to go back for more (ice-cream that is!).
To say we felt refreshed is an understatment!
Also situated on the Salthill Promenade is the National Aquarium. I decided to take the girls and enjoy it at our own leisure but there are tours available. I was so impressed upon arrival, with a double buggy on my own, the help of the staff at opening doors, guidance, and just general information. Inside the staff were so friendly to the girls and we even got assistance to find Nemo and Dory!! I did initially think the pricing was a little hefty at €12 an adult but under 2’s go free and children are €7.50 so the experience and education was worth it. I myself found it so entertaining watching the girls take in the whole experience.
I was a little worried that Harper might be too young to appreciate the experience but to my surprise she loved it. The girls were both mesmerised at all the different species to discover.
For more information on tour times and pricing of the Aquarium visit the website HERE.
MAKE NAP TIME A DRIVE TOUR
I think if its anything a parent dreads when they are away for a few days with small ones its a missed nap. We decided not to throw caution against the wind and encouraged Harper’s nap by going for scenic drives at nap time. There are so many beautiful drives around Galway. One of the days we were there we drove out the picturesque coastal route to Connemara and stopped for a lovely lunch at Donnellys of Barna.
If you are partial to a bowl of seafood chowder you need to check Donnellys out. Thankfully we have good little eaters who loves fish so I was delighted to see featured on the children’s menu some poached salmon and mash which was enjoyed by two happy little ladies.
GALWAY TOURIST TRAIN
This was another highlight of our trip. This is a sightseeing tour taking you through Salthill and Claddagh villages while also getting the opportunity to see landmarks such as Blakes Castle, Spanish Arch, Lynch’s Castle, St. Nicholas Church and the bustling Latin Quarter. We decided to board the train, buggy and all and had a stroll through Galway City’s vibrant streets with the kids. They loved the activity, movement and pace as well as bopping away to the musicians and street artists which adds to the eclectic mix of culture within the city. Of course the food choice of that afternoon was a visit to McDonaghs fish and chip bar for a plate of the freshest battered fish and home cut chips you could ask for. We could then board the train again to take us back to Salthill which made for a beautiful afternoon.
For information and times on the Galway Tourist train, visit the website HERE.
As if we weren’t all tired enough that afternnon we finished off the day with a visit to the playground in Salthill which is so well equipped and a quick visit to the amusements. Without a doubt everyone was asleep on queue that evening!
That said one of the evenings we stayed was a Thursday and to my delight most shops in the city are open until 9. When I got the kids back to the hotel and to bed I put on my running gear and yes ran into the city to grab an hour of retail bliss for myself. My husband was happy enough to read the newspaper and watch the kids while I damaged the credit card, I then grabbed a taxi back out. I am all about killing two birds with the one stone and that I did in the Brown Thomas Make-up and perfume departments!
TUROE PET FARM
Last but not least we were lucky enough to visit Turoe pet farm on Easter Saturday when the Easter bunny was paying the farm a visit. The girls shrieked with excitement at the entrance when we were given a supply of food to feed the animals on our tour around. The pet farm is an extensive amenity based in Lough Rea just 4 Kilometeres off the M6 motorway. The walk through the farm itself has so much to offer with a vast variety of old trees where there are visible sign of resident fairies!!
There are many breeds of animals such as ducks, Alpacas, goats, sheep, ponies which the children can feed and see up close. The girls really enjoyed this and weren’t a bit afraid. They can also cuddle the friendly rabbits which made for very cute photos had I remembered at that point to take them!
Yes Harper lost her hat so she had to wear Daddys!
How adorable are these gorgeous geese and their babies!!!
The outdoor facility is for all ages with a football pitch, sandpit and two playgrounds which the girls were able to enjoy after meeting all of the animals.
Also on site are picnic areas indoor and outdoor where all you have to do is pack up your picnic for yourself and enjoy a whole day there.
There is no limit on the amount of time you spend there so nobody is in a rush to get around the facilities.
The trail around the pet farm is buggy friendly and very clean considering you are on an animal trail.
On our way out of the pet farm we gave the girls one last treat there, a visit to the indoor play area. This is a huge soft play area for both kids and a safer area for toddlers. It is very well supervised and without doubt an excellent addition to the pet farm. The play area in its own is worth the visit so overall the value for money in Turoe went way beyond my expectations.
For more information on this excellent visitor farm visit TUROE PET FARM website.
Needless to say on announcement it was time to leave Galway there was a very loud response of ‘I don’t want to go home’ but after such a fulfilled trip I can guarantee them we will go back!
Have you any recommendations for our next trip?
I would love to hear them!