Breaks: Wexford strawberries a taste of summer in Ireland's Sunny South East
Barbara Collins and her family hit the Sunny South East and found Wexford a welcoming place for adults and little ones alike
STRAWBERRY sellers line the roadsides as soon as you hit Wexford and Ireland's Sunny South East in summertime. Like many other holidaying families, we stopped off for a punnet – and the fruit tasted so much better than the usual supermarket imports. Just the thing to get us in the mood for a three-day break at the Ferrycarrig Hotel.
The hotel, on the outskirts of Wexford town, is set on the bank of the River Slaney, which makes for very picturesque views from its bedrooms and restaurants. It has a deserved reputation for being family-friendly and, having three little ones including a small baby in tow, that's exactly what we wanted.
The food is very good indeed; we ate mostly in the Dry Dock Bar which opens from lunchtime till 9pm and one night we did the fine dining thing in Reeds Restaurant. The staff clearly understand how it's better to feed children first; they coloured in, fed and satisfied, while awaiting dessert.
There are various kids club activities on offer, including the popular Bricks 4 Kidz, a Lego-based activity that our two loved, as they did Giggles the Clown's antics in the evenings. There's also a weekend kids club which you need to book.
The hotel pool is pristine and the adjacent spa one of those which are so popular with locals that hotel guests are lucky to get a slot for a treatment. I was glad to fit in a luxury pedicure while the little ones splashed around with their dad. Booking a spa visit ahead is a good idea.
We really wanted to go to Hook Head Lighthouse, one of the world's oldest, but it was a very misty, wet day and we were advised against it on the basis that we wouldn't have seen much.
There's plenty of history in this part of Wexford; on the way to 'the Hook', as it is known, is the 450-year-old Duncannon Fort, a national monument, strategically built overlooking the approach to Waterford Harbour and also a fine beach.
But our kids saw the brochures for Pirates Cove in the Ferrycarrig's lobby and decided they just had to buckle their swashes. Pirates Cove is in nearby Courtown, which is as close to a traditional seaside resort as you will get. We got a family ticket which covered activities including adventure golf, bowling, bumper boats, paddle boats and a miniature train.
There's also an amusement arcade where children win tickets which they exchange for gifts, a nice touch that only cost us a couple of euro.
But the highlight of our stay was a morning stroll around Wexford, a picturesque and, again, historic town where I was impressed with the number of independent shops. We had coffee in a fantastic little café called Button and Spoon.
Our next stop was the truly magical Irish National Heritage Park, just five minutes from our hotel. Set in 35 acres of woodland, it is laid out in such a way as to take you on a journey through through 9,000 years of history, its installations including recreations of Stone Age huts, a monastery and a ring fort.
We tried our hands at archery and writing ogham script, panned for gold and made a wooden fence. The whole experience, at the end of which children get a certificate for having taken part, is informative and really well thought out. Top marks too for the friendly staff and the gift shop/cafe.
Wexford is well worth a visit whether you go with children or not. We only did a fraction of the activities available but there is always next time.
:: For more info and booking details see ferrycarrighotel.ie; piratescove.ie; inhp.com