Thursday, 19 June 2014

Travelling with children: Galway Bay Hotel

The Galway Bay hotel
(This is a sponsored post*)

A couple of weeks ago my family and I took a short break and headed to parts of Ireland we had never spent time in before.
First stop was Salthill, just outside Galway City on the west Atlantic coast. Our road trip from Dublin went well, after a stop-off for lunch in Athlone the only excitement was a burst tyre 40km outside of Galway. (I'm talking smoking rubber and 5 holes in the tyre!) Thankfully that was sorted out pretty quickly, and we got back on the road. We arrived at The Galway Bay Hotel in Salthill to blazing sunshine, blue skies and fluffy white clouds, what a perfect start to our break!

Check out that clear water!
We were checked in by the warm and welcoming receptionist, Vaida, which set the tone for our whole visit. Our room was on the second floor overlooking a public park, with the sea visible from the bed, wow!

Charlie took this photo! Way better than all my efforts.

 The children were delighted with the hospitality tray containing cupcakes and sparkling/still waters which were replenished throughout our two night stay. We left our bags and headed over to the beach, got ice-creams and paddled, and met some new friends straight away.

Some kids were throwing beached jellyfish back out to sea. Our boys were delighted to see these creatures they had only seen in cartoons, and learned which parts of them are safe to touch, and how to scoop them up in a bucket.

Pint for the Mama, whiskey for the Dada, blackcurrant with ICE and STRAWS for the kids, it's the little things that matter! the lopsided camera angle was a fluke, I hadn't touched the drink yet I swear!
We had our evening meal on the terrace with drinks in the sun, bar food which was lovely, I'd recommend the creamy potato dauphinoise and my husband loved his smoked salmon platter.

On our first night we went to Trad on the Prom, a live Irish music and dance show in the Galway Bay Hotel itself, in its tenth year. Here's a link to their website. I've seen Lord of the Dance in the flesh, and this is IT (albeit on a smaller scale!) World champion dancers and musicians from Riverdance / Lord of the Dance, The Chieftains etc, perfectly tight choreography, fantastic running order keeping a great pace, lovely production using lights and visuals, ballads, jigs and reels and a bit of humour make this show a must if you're anywhere on the West coast this summer. This is top Irish talent which will make you proud to be Celtic, no matter how far-removed your roots. Our children loved it too, and there was a lot of jigging around for the coming days. Jaw-dropping stuff. I seriously can't put it into words... ok, I'll try: picture a dancer as light as a butterfly doing a beautiful solo, then an evocative ballad bringing tears to your eyes, followed by a pair of champion dancing brothers out-doing each other with faster and faster rhythms, then a group piece with dancers out among the audience... All strung together by just enough background information and history of the music and its meaning. At one stage near the end our boys got a little restless and we didn't want to disturb the audience (we chose seats at the back on purpose!) so a staff member showed us to a nearby playroom where the kids could play, and we adults took turns watching the show to its brilliant finale. Here's a link to a short video clip of the show.

Both mornings we got breakfast in our room, a little luxury which is more a necessity when your toddler won't get dressed or leave the room. It just cut down the hassle of having to get us up and out  at a certain time, and was well worth the small surcharge.

Picnic on the beach: Cheesy coleslaw and tomatoes on crusty bread
We wandered around Salthill that sunny second day, bought a baguette in a bakery and salad fixings in a mini-supermarket for a picnic on the beach. We spent ages on the beach, playing and splashing in the sea, it was a great way for my husband to spend his birthday. The food in the Galway Bay is fresh and wholesome (with the requisite chips for fussy kids) and some lovely combinations, like my beetroot and orange salad in their Lobster Pot restaurant on the second night. And wow, the desserts... the kids strawberry sundae had meringue, ice-cream, fresh strawberries, jelly and strawberry syrup... I had a gorgeous chocolate brownie with pistachio ice-cream. And vegetarians are well-catered for here, phew!

The hotel has a real old-world luxury feel to it, like a grand old dame (with no wrinkles/mothballs though!) but just oodles of elegant style, though modern design. It didn't seem crowded, as the layout gives you lots of public seating areas for relaxing and enjoying the sea view, or people-watching. You can also walk into Galway city in only a few minutes, so I'd say this would be perfect for families wanting a seaside holiday with the interest and culture of a city nearby. Speaking to a couple of locals, I was informed that the area is safe and friendly at all hours of the night. There's also a playground on the prom, two minutes walk from the hotel, beside the aquarium. With so much to see and do, we didn't dream of leaving Salthill for our 2 day stay.

I had to add this photo of me acting the eejit!

I loved the red and gold colour combo, echoed throughout the hotel it is cosy and luxurious.
The beds were brilliant, we had a camp bed and a super-king in our room which were more than adequate for our co-sleeping family of four. The bathroom was laid out in grey marble, with a jacuzzi bath which fit us all too (we were spoilt rotten and loved every minute of it!). We loved our swim in the hotel pool together, and there is a separate kids bubble pool which lived up to my son's expectations, double phew! All in all this is a 4 star hotel with a 5 star feel.

We have shied away from hotel breaks in recent years, with two energetic young children we don't want to disturb anyones holiday, so we have preferred renting houses of late. But our children were made welcome and their presence was treated as it should be: perfectly normal without making a literal song and dance about them. The Galway Bay also have great family packages available during school holidays which include their fully supervised Penguin Kids Activity Camp and a family activity voucher for a local activity such as: Galway Atlantaquaria, Galway Tourist Train, Loughwell Pet Farm, Rusheen Bay Windsurfing and many more. There is a real grace and elegance about the hotel, and each staff member has the utmost training in hospitality and really knows their stuff. A fabulous all-rounder.

Here's a link to the hotel's website:
Here's their Facebook page:
Phone: (091) 520520

*We stayed as guests of the Galway Bay Hotel and Trad on the Prom, all opinions are my own, and no compensation was paid for this article.

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