A fairy tale stay at a 16th century castle on a private island in Ireland’s oldest city awaits your family clients: Waterford Castle Hotel and Golf Resort in County Waterford in Southeastern Ireland.
Luxury Rooms or Garden Lodges?
There are two choices of accommodations at Waterford Castle: luxurious rooms and suites with stunning views or big, bright, contemporary houses tucked away next to the 18-hole golf course.
Each of the castle’s 19 rooms has an elegant, Old World charm and is uniquely decorated with four-poster beds, beautiful furnishings, and antiques belonging to the castle’s original owners. These rooms are quiet, comfortable, and have all the modern conveniences that your clients need. Many are large enough for travel cribs and/or rollaway beds, and the suites all have two bedrooms.
However, we chose to stay on the other side of the island in the resort’s more modern, Garden Lodges, mostly because this was a multi-generational trip with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, but also because we felt that the seven children in our party, ranging in age from 2 to 13, would disturb fewer guests this way! We made the right choice. There are 48 lodges, or townhouse-style homes, that are spacious and family-friendly. The lodges offer three light-filled bedrooms, each with a private balcony, three full bathrooms, one half bath, and views of the golf course and grounds. The homes have nice open plans with the living, dining, kitchen, and laundry areas on the ground floor and bedrooms upstairs. Each home also has a fireplace and back terrace that opens up onto a grassy common area.
Note that these are self-catering units, meaning guests cook for themselves, and there’s no daily housekeeping. I know some parents who say, “if there’s a kitchen and a laundry room, it’s not really a vacation,” but for us, traveling as a group of 16—seven of them young kids —it just made sense. The houses are more spacious than hotel rooms and allow kids and parents to have separate rooms. They also have communal living spaces and large dining areas where guests can all socialize in the evenings.
Dining Out in the Castle
If your clients enjoy the royal treatment, definitely book dinner at the onsite Munster Room. This award-winning restaurant has a warm atmosphere, local seasonal menu, and extensive wine list. It has preparation and presentation down to an art with impeccable service to boot. This fine dining experience is definitely for a special occasion for adults or families with teenagers or quiet, well-behaved young children. There isn’t a children’s menu, but I have no doubt the staff could accommodate a picky eater, if need be.
For dinners out, we found The Munster Room a tad too fancy for our big, high-energy brood. We felt much more comfortable dining in the King’s Channel Club House, which overlooks the golf course. It has a casual, relaxed atmosphere, good food, and friendly service. It also has kids’ menus, crayons, and coloring books.
Another great option for lunch or early dinner is The Fitzgerald Room. Located in one of the most opulent spaces in the castle, this is a great spot for elevated bar food. It’s a limited menu, but guests can get everything from soups and salads to a club sandwich or fish and chips. And there’s a really cool and quirky bar with a whiskey selection that your clients won’t believe. Or take the kids here for afternoon tea, a time-honored tradition at the castle. Guests enjoy a selection of small sandwiches, homemade pastries, and scones with clotted cream and jam—all while overlooking the gorgeous formal gardens.
If you’re staying in the self-catering lodges and want to treat your little prince or princess but don’t want to do fine dining, try breakfast in the Conservatory. It is, quite possibly, the prettiest room in the castle. Guests can help themselves to the buffet or get made-to-order items off the menu.
Roaming the Castle
Ireland may not have the sunniest of climates, but it’s bursting with charm, history, and beauty. There’s no shortage of things to see and do on the property and in Waterford City, which was founded by the Vikings in the ninth century. Here are just a few activities that we enjoyed during our stay.
Maybe it sounds a little corny to put this activity first, but I just couldn’t help notice that the kids in our group actually enjoyed walking the property. Waterford Castle is set on a 310-acre island estate that is truly stunning. There are several peaceful nature trails and grassy walking paths around the island for families to explore. Our kids particularly liked spotting wildlife along the way—from the resident family of deer to foxes, red squirrels, badgers, hedgehogs, wild hares, swans, owls, cuckoos, and even a peacock! It kept them interested, engaged, and learning while we wore them out.
My little city kid also loved venturing through the tranquil, moss-covered forest in search of the “Hedgehog Hotel” and Eliza the fairy, who is said to live and watch over the property. Watching your child search for and find the adorable, red, fairy door and knock to see if she’s home… magical. It was one of the many enchanting things about staying at Waterford Castle.
The coolest thing that we did as a family during our stay, hands down, was take part in the Falconry Experience with John Duggan of Hawkeye Falconry. I’ll admit that I thought it was just going to be us watching some trained birds flying around doing tricks. I had no idea just how much we’d learn and how fascinated each one of us would be by the experience!
For the entire two hours, despite the heavy drizzle and mud, the kids and adults alike were captivated, mesmerized, and wowed as we watched and handled these majestic birds and learned about falconry, the ancient sport of kings. Hundreds of years ago, falconers trained birds of prey to hunt on their behalf, making them wealthy from all the meat and hides that the birds would bring in. John introduced us to Dennis and Stewart, two beautiful Harris hawks who demonstrated their hunting skills and would land on our gloved hands. Each of us, even my 3-year-old and her 70-year-old grandmother, got to personally catch, handle, and release the hawks and Maggie, a soft and adorable Southern White-faced owl. John even let the hawks fly right over our heads—so close that you could feel the whoosh of their feathers as they swooped down. It was terrifying, exciting, and exhilarating all at the same time! The kids loved it; I loved it! It’s a unique experience that we won’t soon forget.
If your clients are golfers, then you know the appeal of Ireland. It’s one of the most beautiful countries to play a round. It’s certainly a big attraction at Waterford Castle, which is home to a championship woodland and parkland golf course designed by former Ryder Cup player, Des Smyth. It features first-class practice facilities, a 300-yard driving range, and a stunning natural landscape as its backdrop. The golf club also offers private lessons, junior group classes, and camps.
Other Fun Stuff
One of the many perks of staying in the Garden Lodges is that they are located right next to the playground, complete with swings, slides, toy golf carts, and the flying fox zipline, which was a huge hit with all the kids. There’s also a nice big grassy area where kids can run around safely and play soccer. Families can also partake in clay pigeon shooting, archery, tennis, or lawn games like croquet or jumbo outdoor Connect Four. If you’re visiting in July or August, there’s also a kids’ club for children ages 5 to 12. Activities vary from drama, dance, arts and crafts, outdoor games, and more.
If your clients can tear themselves away from the island, more family fun awaits just a few minutes away.
Just seven miles away from Waterford Castle is the beautiful seaside town of Tramore, a paradise for kids of all ages, especially because of the amusement park that’s located here. With a broad beach, windswept boardwalk, and the scent of cotton candy, Tramore has a Coney Island-kind of feel that your clients will love.
While you’re in Tramore, pop in to the Seagull Bakery (4 Broad St.). This little, artisan bakery, specializes in naturally fermented sourdough breads made with unbleached and additive-free flours. With beautiful designs baked into the bread, they’re as nice to look at as they are to eat!
When it comes to family summer vacations, no pool on the property is kind of a negative, but that’s not unusual when traveling in Europe. So, if your clients are missing that amenity, advise them to get the kids in the car and head to Splashworld, an indoor waterpark, also located in Tramore. Afterwards they can head to lunch at one of the many restaurants or pubs in town. We liked Vee Bistro (1 Lower Main St.) and Brooklyn Cafe right on the boardwalk.
Located about a 30-minute drive from the castle is the start of the Waterford Greenway (also called Deise Greenway), a spectacular 30-mile-long, off-road cycling and walking trail. Built along an old railway line between Waterford and Dungarvan, this paved pathway has become one of Southeastern Ireland’s most popular attractions. It’s a beautiful journey well worth taking. The castle will help guests find a place to rent bikes.
No trip to Waterford is complete without touring the famed House of Waterford Crystal. Feel the heat of the furnace and marvel at the skills of the master craftsmen as guests are guided through the centuries-old tradition of glass blowing. After the 50-minute tour, step into the opulent, 12,000-sq.-ft. retail store, which houses the largest collection of Waterford Crystal in the world. Just keep an eye on little hands
The House of Waterford Crystal has an onsite cafe where your clients can grab breakfast, lunch or just a coffee and pastry. If they’re looking for a proper meal, send them to L’atmosphere Restaurant (19 Henrietta St.). It’s a charming, yet inexpensive bistro that serves up authentic French food in a cozy setting. It’s just a 5-minute walk from Waterford Crystal. Try the beef Bourguignon!
Waterford Castle is located on Little Island, a private estate encircled by the River Suir on the eastern outskirts of Waterford City. The only way to get to the island resort is by private car ferry, which is free and operates a 24/7 service. Ferry crossing takes just three minutes. Then your clients drive up the winding, beech-lined drive to reach the castle doors and its 500 years of history. Clients can fly into several of Ireland’s airports, including Dublin, Shannon, Cork and Rosslare; and Waterford has a regional airport.
For more information, visit waterfordcastleresort.com. For more information on the town of Waterford,
This story originally appeared in KidTripster.com, which provides expert information & inspiration to families traveling with children anywhere in the world.