Great family hotels in Ireland

by Jane.Anderson

It's not every hotel that's happy to see children - but these five Irish gems will deliver the goods for both parents and children alike

Keep your carbon footprint to a minimum and take a family holiday right on your doorstep. Ireland has hotels to suit every family, from five-star city style to rural eco retreats.  
When it comes to grand, the Four Seasons Hotel Dublin delivers for parents and children alike. Located in the showgrounds of the historic Royal Dublin Society, in the quiet residential community of Ballsbridge, this 197-room hotel is sure to impress and pamper all the family with its slick service. There are special children’s menus, pencils, colouring books and games in room, board games and DVDs to borrow, and babysitting services. The concierge will help you arrange bicycling, hill and mountain walking, a museum or art trail with the kids, horseback riding or a visit to Viking Splash Tours. Children under 18 can share their parents’ room at no extra charge.  
Dublin is a magical city for kids to explore, especially if you go during the St Patrick’s Day celebrations. And despite its sophistication, the Merrion is possibly the most child-friendly hotel in the city. It welcomes young guests with a special ‘Miss & Master Merrion’ programme, which provides all sorts of surprises to make children feel as welcome and as pampered as their parents. There are mini fruit skewers and homemade fruit smoothies on arrival, special Merrion crockery and cartoon table mats, plus an entire playroom by the Cellar Restaurant during brunch on Sundays. Kids have mini-Frette robes and slippers and in-room games, and there’s all sorts of complimentary baby equipment from bottle sterilizers to talc. Families can also use the pool at Tethra Spa and the Merrion concierge will guide you to all the best spots in the city, from the zoo to the ducks in St Stephens Green.
Capella Castlemartyr is just 25 minutes drive from Cork Airport and is a truly fairytale 17th-century manor house, set on Sir Walter Raleigh’s old estate. A team of ‘Private Assistants’ (headed up by Iona, who used to work for Prince Charles) call you before you arrive to arrange whatever you and your family want to do during your stay. Family suites are spacious, with two bedrooms and a large living room. There’s a delicious Organic Pharmacy Spa, golf and fine dining. Families can take carriage tours of the 220 acre estate or explore a bit futher afield: 10 minutes away is the fishing harbour of Ballycotton and five minutes away is Garryvoe Beach.
Rural: Ard Nahoo Health Farm
This luxury eco retreat in the unspoilt beauty of the North Leitrim Glens has new self-catering cottages that are perfect for families. The farm is located in Ireland’s Greenbox, the country’s first integrated sustainable and ecotourism destination. Ard Nahoo has a full range of chill-out breaks, retreats and holistic treatments and has just launched an eco family retreat summer workshop for the perfect carbon-free family escape. There is children’s yoga theatre, and a fairy gardening workshop course where children get to create a fairy garden and learn to enjoy nature. There are also plenty of water activities (including kayaking) and, for new mums, a new mother/baby yoga parenting class.
Ballygally Castle Hotel is set right on the scenic County Antrim coast in Northern Ireland and has recently had an extensive makeover. Just 26 miles from Belfast, it’s easy to get to with the kids, and the Castle faces the soft, sandy beaches of Ballygally Bay. There are 44 lovely bedrooms, which make kids feel they are staying somewhere magical, with beams, turrets and antique furniture along with contemporary touches. There’s even a ‘Ghost Room’ dedicated to the hotel’s friendly ghost, Lady Isabelle Shaw. Go for Halloween and children receive a toffee apple, special ‘pass’ to the Ghost Room and a spooky kid’s cocktail. The hotel is a great base from which to explore the famous Nine Glens of Antrim, not to mention the Giant’s Causeway.


Travelling the world and writing about it has been my dream job for over 15 years. I write for many publications from the Sunday Times Travel Magazine to Elle, and currently specialise in romance and family travel. I have two new books out this year, Footprint Guide to Dorset, New Forest & Isle of Wight and the Brit Guide to Las Vegas. Using my past experience as travel editor of You & Your Wedding magazine, I am also the guest editor of an inspirational new website,