west in show Whether you want an adults-only weekend trip or a break for all the family, Galway is a jewel of our island
FULL confession. When we booked this trip three months ago it was supposed to be am adult-only getaway for two couples. Babysitters were lined up and pubs were earmarked for afternoon pints. It was going to be bliss. Even the 8pm curfew wasn’t going to dampen our unbridled enthusiasm because we knew we’d be able to eat and drink in our hotel beyond it.
Then, with a few days to go, our partners in crime got Covid and had to isolate, leaving our best laid plans in tatters. All of a sudden we found ourselves with two rooms booked and no one to go with at such short notice.
So, a quick call to the Galway Bay Hotel and we changed the two double rooms into more family-friendly interconnecting rooms and our weekend break in January was magically transformed into a kid-centric getaway. And, whisper it, do you know what? It was just what the doctor ordered.
We swapped pub crawls for aquariums and late nights for early starts and we loved every second of it. Genuinely.
It was helped by the fact that our hotel was perfect. Situated in Salthill right on the beach meant that we had so much to do on our doorstep. Amusements, coffee shops, water parks and the much-celebrated promenade were all hit hard by Team Keany throughout our stay.
Landing down late on Friday evening (it’s an easy 2.5 hours from Dublin these days) with the kids still in their school uniforms we had one thing in mind and that was a swim. The kid-friendly pool doesn’t have a deep end so even our eight year old was able to bob about in all four corners meaning potential stress levels were eased.
We had the pool to ourselves, which is a good thing because we were far from graceful as we bombed in and out letting off built-up car journey steam.
The energetic craic in the big pool and the kids’ pool gave us an appetite so we headed straight to the hotel’s Brasserie restaurant where the girls were fixated on the enormous fish tank and its inhabitants before we sat and devoured everything in front of us.
Peppered Venison Rump and Honey Roast Duck Leg were presented to myself and Sarah while the girls were treated to a huge portion of Chicken Goujons and Homemade beef burger respectively from the Children’s Menu. The brownies with ice cream and bottle of Fleurie also went down very well before we rolled up to our room for a well-earned sleep.
The next day started with the delicious and unnecessary-yet-obligatory gigantic hotel breakfast before we stretched our legs (and full stomachs) on a gorgeous little walk along the promenade. Even though it was a whole week before Micheál Martin announced the restrictions were to be lifted there was an incredible buzz about the place.
The DryRobes were out in force as the Blackrock diving point is Galway’s answer to 40 Foot in Dublin’s southside and the hardy souls of the county all descended on the impressively photogenic diving tower for where us blow ins were happy just to watch in admiration as opposed to partake.
We didn’t hang around for long though as we had a busy day ahead. First stop was the ridiculously fun indoor sports challenge centre called Pure Skill where the four of us battled it out in nine different sports (the baseball swinging cage wasn’t available as you have to bring your own helmet) over an hour and a half.
Penalty taking, golf chipping, putting, cricket bowling, basketball shooting, free taking, hurl swinging and tennis smashing were all included in the centre. I’m not sure families of four are their target market but on a quiet Saturday morning it was the perfect way to let off some steam, break into a slight sweat and have some fun. I obliterated them by the way. Thanks for asking.
Next up was the aquarium that is so close to our hotel that we just parked back there and walked down. We’ve done a few different aquariums through the years; in various cities. But there is something special about the Salthill one because all of the lodgers are natural to our waters.
We got up close and personal with an amazing amount of sea creatures in various well-designed enclosures and learned loads about our nearest sea-based neighbours. Word of warning though – I challenge you to walk through the gift shop afterwards without buying something!
We then drive into the city to soak up the atmosphere. And while we didn’t get to sample Neachtain’s, The Quays, Taaffe’s, Hyde or even O’Connell’s on Eyre Square (like we had planned to when the trip was a kid-free zone), we did get to wander in and out of shops and all afternoon and discover a beautiful and quirky side to a great city.
The Wooden Heart is a gorgeous little toy and gift shop on Quay Street that you could easily just walk by and we also treated the girls to a mini CandyLand spree before dinner too.
On the recommendation of the hotel manager the previous night, dinner that night was booked in Brasserie on the Corner on Eglington Street and it didn’t disappoint at all.
We felt a little underdressed as we walked in, but the staff could not have been nicer as they treated us like royalty; especially the girls, which as any parent will know is key to an enjoyable dinner out.
Even though they were only serving the pre-theatre menu there was still loads to choose from but based on what we had heard both myself and Sarah opted for the steak while the kids were laden down with burgers, wings, goujons, chips and even onion rings. Their eyes were definitely bigger than their bellies, which suited me just fine as I got to have a post-steak graze.
As we walked back to the carpark it was around 8pm just as the pubs were closing (that still sounds weird to say) and we got a flavour of why the City of Tribes is so popular. There was no messing, just people having a laugh and sing song; even an outdoor dance before the night was over for them.
For us, there was only time to head home wrecked after a long and day and settle in for the night.
The next morning we grabbed a cheeky pre-brekkie swim before devouring another hot Full Irish and then checked out and hit the road for Dublin.
A quick pit stop in Kilbeggan in Westmeath, where we discovered an amazing little hidden gem in the Chocolate and Coffee Bar (directly across from the distillery), and we were soon home feeling relaxed, refreshed and rejuvenated. Not bad for a dreary January weekend.
It may not have been the wild weekend we had initially planned with pals but the lack of hangovers and quality time spent with the girls meant that it was even more special.
■ DARAGH stayed at the 4-star Galway Bay Hotel in Salthill ( galwaybayhotel.net).
■ THE Keanys ate at Brasserie on the Corner just off Eyre Square ( brasseriegalway.ie).
■ PURE Skill is €25 per adult and €15 per child ( pureskill.ie).
■ ATLANTAQUARIA costs €35 for a family of four ( nationalaquarium.ie).
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