Before we had a baby, we were quite accustomed to a weekend away. I love nothing more than lazying in a hotel on a Saturday afternoon, stuffed to the gills after an epic hotel breakfast. Or spending the evening discovering local bars in a new town or city in Ireland. However, since having Conor, weekends like this stopped for what I thought were obvious reasons.
I have often seen friends and family pack up the car to head to a hotel with their kids for a weekend and I could never understand it! To me weekend breaks consisted of gin, meals out and lie ins. However, I was so wrong. As the weekend we spent in Kilkenny as a family, was one of the most enjoyable I have had in a long time.
We were recently invited down to Kilkenny to sample what it had to offer for families. I had only ever been to Kilkenny once fo a Halloween night out. So as you may imagine, my memories of what Kilkenny were like were a little on the hazy side.
With the motorway system so good from Dublin to Kilkenny, it only took us an hour and twenty minutes on the Friday evening to arrive down in the Lyrath. Travelling long distances for a day or two away, is normally a bit of a turn off for me, so the fact it was so quick to travel down, was an absolutely bonus.
For anyone that doesn’t have a car, there is a train station in Kilkenny that is about a 6 minute drive to the Lyrath.
I should also mention if you are heading back to either the Cork or Dublin direction, you could very easily tie in a trip to Kildare village, as it is just off the N7.
The Lyrath Estate
We had been invited to stay at the Lyrath Estate just outside the centre of Kilkenny. I have heard great things about this hotel, but I am always one to withhold judgement until I experience something myself but my god did I love this place! Although I was invited down as a blogger, I was treated just like everyone else in the hotel, which I loved. It meant I got a real feel for the place, as nobody had a notion that I was there for any other reason than a weekend away.
The hotel itself is quite big, which I know can be a turn off for some people. But we found, even though it was big in size, it still managed to maintain a cosy feel to it. There were plenty of little nooks and crannies to hide away and have a sneaky glass of wine and read your book, if you had a few spare minutes.
There is a massive amount of facilities on site too. Both for families and those on a more relaxing weekend sans children. Theres a spa, which offers a range of Elemis treatments and more.The spa has a thermal suite, relaxations area and outdoor pool too. The indoor pool area, is on the small size but it has a decent pool and a small paddling pool for smaller babies. For smaller children there is a kids club run during school holidays and on arrival the kids are given a gift bag with a few bits and pieces in it. If you have teenagers, there is a snooker room and a well equipped games console room. As well as a 22 seater cinema. If all else fails when it comes to keeping them entertained, there is also a creche onsite too.
When it comes to food there are a few options to suit everyone. We dined in the Yew restaurant, which is a little more formal dining. I was initially a little worried when I saw the type of restaurant that it was, as we had Conor with us, but the staff couldn’t have been more accommodating. As soon as I expressed my fears of ruining someones meal out by having a toddler near them, they told me that they were well used to small kids in the restaurant and I was not to worry. They offered me a table that was a little further away from dining couples, which I was delighted with. As soon as we were seated, they had colours and a colouring page for Conor to work on while we ate.
The food in the restaurant was really lovely. I had pork belly to start and steak for my main. Due to a fidgeting toddler, desert had to be missed, or there would have been an epic tantrum in the middle of the restaurant.
There are also a number of bar areas to drink in and the upstairs bar had music on both nights and food was served there too.
We stayed in an executive room, which was quite spacious. It had a walk in dressing area and a huge bathroom. There was a travel cot supplied for Conor, although the divil decided that since he was away, sleeping in with Mammy and Daddy was fair more appealing. Let me just put it to you this way, although the bed was huge, I ended up on the edge for the whole night, with regular kicks to different parts of my body!
I found the hotel to be very family friendly. There was loads to do on site that we didn’t really need to leave the hotel to keep both ourselves and Conor entertained. While at the same time I didn’t feel that the family atmosphere was in your face either. I felt that if you were away on a couples or girls weekend, you wouldn’t be bothered by families around the place.
One final thing I think I need to mention about the Lyrath, is the breakfast. Holy good god it is incredible!!!! I am quite partial to a hotel breakfast but this was on another level! There was such a selection of food.
While we ate in the Lyrath on the first night, it was all about Kilkenny on the Saturday. Our day was a little time poor, as we had to fit in Conor’s nap, or he would have been like the anti christ but we started off our day with a trip to Nicholas Mosse Pottery.
Nicholas Mosse is location about 15 minutes from the Lyrath in Bennetsbridge. The shop and cafe are in an old stone mill on the banks of the river Nore. The weather was a little bit miserable but I could imagine on a fine day, this would be quite the spot to grab a bite to eat. The views are fairly something.
All of the pottery in the shop is made on site and during the week, you can see the craftsmen in action. They even have a room dedicated to the history of the mill.
In Nicholas Mosse there is a lovely cafe located upstairs in the mill with some fairly special views of the river. There was a couple sitting beside us with tea and cake reading the papers at the big window and I just thought they had the right idea! There was a good selection of quiche, lasagne and cakes to be bought. We had some scones, cream and jam, clearly leaving the new year new me at home for the weekend.
We spent the afternoon after Conor’s nap wandering around Kilkenny city itself. What struck me straight away was how clean it was! There was also plenty of parking and lots of little boutiques and shops to have a nose around. Although with my two men in tow, it was more a quick glance in the windows for me.
I am not normally one to sightsee but we were invited to take a tour of Kilkenny Castle. First thing to note here is the castle itself is not buggy friendly. They have a space where you can store your buggy, but if you have a toddler like us, pack whatever it is you need to keep them by your side. I have a little monkey that Conor wears on his back, that has a type of leash that comes out of it. It meant he could roam but there was no running off!
I was blown away by the castle tour. It is a self guided tour, but there are tour guides located in most of the rooms to answer any questions that you might have. I took full advantage of this and played the ultimate tourist asking them a million and one questions. The castle is beyond stunning and the restoration works that the OPW did are incredible! I can’t recommend this tour enough, even if this isn’t normally your thing on a weekend away.
The grounds are huge and really beautiful. There is a large playground on the grounds themselves but unfortunately they were closing up as we got down to it.
Kilkenny Design Centre
Across the road from the castle is Kilkenny design centre. The design centre is part of the the Kilkenny castle yard and the shops are actually located in what would have been the coach house. There are two sides to the design centre and they both stock a huge range of Irish designed products, including clothing, candles and artwork. There is even a range of jewellery from Irish designers including chupi.
The Kilkenny Design centre isn’t a tourist gift shop but rather a really well curated shop stocked with quality Irish design. It is well worth visiting.
There is also a cafe upstairs in the Kilkenny design centre. We got a few cakes from here and my husband actually said to me he would love to go back and eat there properly. In fact at the weekends the cafe turns into an award winning fine dining restaurant called Anocht.
We finished up our evening in Kilkenny City with dinner in Petronella. This is a little gem of a restaurant. I am probably the furthest thing from a food blogger and describing food is certainly not my forte but the food was unreal! There was a great selection on the menu and they even had a large vegan menu too. I had a black pudding and beetroot tarte to start and steak for my mains. I literally mopped the plate clean. Don’t even get me started on the chips!
The owner couldn’t have been more attentive not just to us but to all customers. He took time to chat to us, telling us the history of the building and a little about the menu. The kitchen also went out of their way to make something that Conor would eat, as he isn’t the easiest to feed while out.
There are so many things to do with children in Kilkenny. We were limited with our time because we had to let Conor nap but we honestly had such a fantastic time. It really is a city to suit couples, singles and families. There is so much to do that you would struggle to fit everything into one weekend. We loved our stay in the Lyrath and Kilkenny so much that we have actually booked to go back again ourself. This time we will be leaving Conor at home with his Nanny, as the nightlife of Kilkenny was calling us as we wandered around in the late evening.