Saturday, 2 July 2016

Travelling with children: Aran Islands / Doolin*

Just off the boat from Inis Oirr and I'm laughing at having to walk like the Hunchback of Notre Dame to keep baby's head from lolling back as she slept - lost the hood of the sling.
Last week we had a wonderful few days away as a family of 5. First we went to a friend's beach wedding on Inis Oirr, one of the Aran Islands off the west coast of Ireland. It's a Gaeltacht area so we got to practise our Irish there with the locals and our friends. We'd been speaking Irish with the kids for the last few months in preparation for this, and they were able to feel part of conversations.

We stayed for the first time in a hostel, a lovely family room in the Bru Radharc na Mara. There was a double bed, a single bed and two single bunks in our ensuite room, which was more than adequate for us. It was right next to Tigh Ned where the wedding reception was held, really handy for popping back to get jackets / more whiskey / have a break from the party. We really fell in love with the island and want to return to camp later on in the summer. A semi-tame dolphin even swam at our legs while we were paddling in the sea!

At the wedding: counting our winnings, we guessed the length of the speeches to within 60 seconds. 75 euros paid for us to stay another night on the island!
The wedding day was amazing, island traditions met modernity in the most beautiful authentic way and we were all high on the LOVE for the next few days. The only snag was a wardrobe malfunction which saw me running around the hostel looking for a safety pin/needle and thread minutes before we were due to leave for the ceremony. Luckily a fellow hosteller Catherine came to the rescue with a needle and thread and I did not do a Janet during the day. Thank you Catherine, and enjoy the rest of your travels!

c/o Cliffs of Moher
The only bit of our trip I wasn't mad about was the boat from Doolin, only 30 minutes but I get really nervous on the water, so I stayed on my own each journey so I wouldn't transfer my nerves to the kids. I kept baby in the sling on my back each crossing, the safest way to travel on a boat with a baby I think. Cars aren't allowed on the island, which is great as the little roads are safer and it's way more picturesque that way. So we left our car in the ferry port in Doolin and took just a couple of clothes bags for the 2 nights (which we extended to 3 nights as the magic had caught us and we didn't want to leave) and a bag of food as we were self-catering and there's only a convenience store on the island. We ate a couple of meals out but also cooked in the hostel, and it was really easy and convenient.

Back in Doolin we arrived on Sunday at lunchtime, an hour before the Euros match of Ireland v. France. We were staying in Tony McGann's B&B, just a stone's throw up the road from the pubs. He met us there and showed us around, then we went to McGann's pub (which Tony and his brother set up) for the match and food. The atmosphere was brilliant, we had brought our flags for the kids to wave and everyone was in high spirits. The kids shared a plate of battered cod and chips and I had a few too many pints and some crisps, before we hit the vegetarian cafe across the road for a great meal after our defeat.

The Supermarket Cafe gave the kids a board game to play while waiting on lunch, a lovely touch. There are great places to eat in Doolin, all tastes are covered, including gluten free, vegan and plain ol' fussy (me).

We drove to the nearby town of Ennistymon one day and had a slap up lunch in Ginger Lou's, you have to visit if you're there. Lou herself is on the floor (as in working there) and the food is all locally sourced with gluten free, dairy free etc. options and an amazing brand of Baobab coffee (the decaf is decaffeinated with sparkling water, not chemicals, tastes like the real deal). We met a local artist and spent a while chatting with him and seeing his art works, it's a really artistic town. I bought some herbal teas in a health food shop to bring home as a souvenir and the kids enjoyed ice-creams in the newly opened O'Connor's ice-cream parlour.

Back up to McGann's B&B, we had two rooms for our use, one had a double and single bed with ensuite, the other had the same but a kitchenette and small seating area with patio doors and a view to die for. My photos don't do it justice, but sitting up in bed you could see out in 3 directions at the Atlantic, Inis Oirr, beautiful fuchsia in bloom, green fields and some other holiday homes. Tony gave us a warm welcome, cereal for our breakfasts, fruit for the kids and offered us a lift down to the town. He is the local taxi driver too. 

Proper free-range eggs :)

I could fit one of these in our small city garden, couldn't I?
Three lovely hens were wandering around the garden and Tony dropped in the most delicious eggs to us one day for our breakfast. The baby's favourite thing to do was to stand inside the patio doors shouting at the hens. There was a petrol station across the road with groceries and fresh produce on sale, plus a lovely weaver's shop selling Irish knits and tweeds, I had my eye on a few of them.

The entrance to our accommodation
Me and Tony in his Rambling House
Tony is setting up a Rambling House from his house in Doolin. He has a large bright dining/sitting room which seats 35. He is a top-class cook, known locally for the best Beef and Guinness stew, and he'll be hosting music nights with traditional Irish musicians. Visitors will get a great meal, his famous stew, homemade brown bread, colcannon, drinks and desserts. Tony will entertain them with local history and Irish cultural anecdotes in between the music pieces and the option to stay overnight is there.

Contact Tony on 087 242 2950 for more info or find him on Facebook here. If you just want to stay in his property like we did, his Airbnb page is here.

We'll certainly be going back, Doolin has loads to offer and we only scratched the surface. The cliffs of Moher were gorgeous both in the sun and in the mist of a drizzly day. This is a really magical part of Ireland, and it certainly had me wondering if a move to the country would be a good option for our family. The trad session in the pub on our last night was really memorable, lots of old and new songs for us to enjoy, chatting with other families and everyone passing round the baby like she was a box of chocolates at Christmas!

Back to reality today, but I'm trying to keep the Doolin magic alive a little longer. I bought a tin whistle and I'm YouTubing some trad tunes so the next time I'm near a seisiun I'll be able to join in!

Nee x

*This is a sponsored post but as always all opinions are my own.


  1. Replies
    1. I know, Gab! I'm dying to go back! x

  2. What a lovely post. Sounds like you had a fantastic few days. This is the sort of holiday I've always imagined having in Ireland. I will have to take the family x

    1. Thanks Clare, it was really chilled despite having 3 young kids. I hope you get here some day and have a relaxing time, thanks for reading x

  3. Love Doolin, only said to my husband today I would love to go there and bring the kids to Aran Islands (last time we went to Aran we only had two kids, now we have four!). It is a truly beautiful part of the country and has a wonderful atmosphere. We have been there a good few times and it always blows me away. Great post, glad you enjoyed.

    1. Thanks Anon, lovely to hear from you. I don't know Co. Clare half enough, I really want to go back and spend longer and do some walks. You're right, the atmosphere is really special there. I'm sure your kids will all love it xx


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