Travel: Holiday retreat at Wexford's Ferrycarrig Hotel a revelation
An easy drive through stunning scenery proved to be a delightful prelude to a break at Wexford's Ferrycarrig Hotel, writes Bimpe Archer
AFTER having not stayed in a hotel for three years, Wexford's Ferrycarrig ended up being my third in a month.
It hardly seems possible after almost 18 months of staring at the same four walls that one could become jaded following a combined total of just four nights living out of a suitcase - and yet here we were, wearily rolling up socks and checking for essential children's unguents with a sinking feeling.
It's possible there would have been more of a feeling of joyous anticipation had I been delivering the two children as well as the dog to my parents' house the night before ('What do you mean, they're coming too?' my husband had asked in dismay), but back-to-back hotel stays had us feeling holidaying exclusively on the island of Ireland inherently brings a certain sameness that lockdown had already provided more than enough of.
Nevertheless, as we ticked off county after county, that holiday feeling did begin to creep in, undiluted even by the constant siren call of a toilet which no five-year-old bladder can resist.
The combination of EU/PPI investment in Irish roads and service station evolution has made cross-country trips with young children bearable, and the terrain including passing the Ring of Gullion and skirting the garden county of Wicklow tips it firmly into the pleasurable bracket.
That easy drive through stunning scenery was a delightful prelude to the Ferrycarrig Hotel itself.
On the water's edge of the River Slaney and 'carved into the rock' from which it takes its name, the four-star hotel has the most beautiful setting of any hotel I have ever stayed in.
A sharp turn off the main road into Wexford takes the car down a tree-lined approach onto which a glamorous third-floor entrance opens out.
On the other side of the airy lobby is a balcony view of the riverbank.
The reason for the discombobulation of a reception in the sky becomes clear when you stroll down to the back of the hotel and realise that its unique architecture means you are descending gracefully down the side of what would have been a steep cliff to the river.
One wing is the restaurant (of which more later) with a panoramic view of the waterway and a bar with a lovely terrace that draws guests
As the late summer sun dances on the water, one has an irresistible feeling of being transported to a north Italian lakeside retreat.
The children are delighted by a small but perfectly formed play park, discreetly located close enough for a parental eye to be kept on them while beverages are sipped but unobtrusive enough to keep the Como-vibes intact.
Beyond the bar are the 102 guest rooms, each one with a breathtaking view and most with their own balcony.
Waiting inside a comfortably sleek bedroom decorated in elegant muted tones is a thoughtful welcome gift.
Unfortunately, because it was a family vacay, the next stop was a pre-booked swim in the pool rather than a treatment in the Riverwood Wellness centre.
The pool was a delight, a small children's area shallow enough to allow our youngest to feel confident, but with all the bubbles and jets to thrill her older brother. A roped divide separates it from a decent-sized main pool.
Dinner was at Reeds restaurant the first night.
Named the top hotel restaurant in Wexford and among the top five hotel restaurants in Leinster by the Restaurant Association of Ireland, awarded two AA Rosettes annually for the last four years, it has made Ferrycarrig a destination hotel for gourmands.
Choosing between roast rump of Slaney Valley lamb with basil and mint pesto crumb, grilled Tuscan vegetables, and confit garlic roast jus; Kilmore black sole on the bone with saffron potato, beurre noisette and chives and Pat O'Neill's Irish BBQ pork belly with broad bean and smoked bacon cream, sweetcorn puree and wild turkey bourbon whiskey glaze is an impossible task.
The menu featuring fresh locally sourced ingredients is complemented by an impressive wine list and the knowledgeable maître 'd is happy to offer guidance when asked.
The children's menu is a welcome change from the endless goujons and sausages more usually thrust upon the next generation and is devoured accordingly.
Breakfast in Reeds is also pleasingly varied, with kippers and pancakes among the offerings alongside the 'full Irish'.
The next day sees a quick 5km trip into Wexford, with its winding medieval streets and Viking roots, and then we go in search of the county's famous beaches.
The rolling golden dunes are a revelation and on a sunny day it is worth shunning the packed car parks of popular blue-flag Curraloe Beach for the equally beautiful but more secluded strand beyond the Raven Nature Reserve followed by tasty fish and chips from an unpretentious diner takeaway.
We leave the next day sunburnt, happy and determined to return – only next time possibly with a room on the adult-only floor, full spa treatments and nightcaps in the adult-only snug bar.
But then again, watching the children delightedly clutching the 'We'll Miss You' balloons tied thoughtfully to the door on the last day - maybe not...
An Autumn Escape at the Ferrycarrig Hotel in Wexford for two people sharing is available from €340 or a three-night break for two from €480.
Halloween Family Fun packages are available from October 22 -November 1 with a two-night for two adults and two children under 12 sharing in a family room from €400 or a three-night break from €600.
- Tintern Abbey - founded in 1200 by William Marshal and featuring a nave, chancel, chapel and cloister.
- The old town walls and ruined 12th-century Selskar Abbey where the first Anglo-Irish treaty was signed in 1169.
- Johnstown Castle Estate with its Gothic towers, turrets, arched windows and walled gardens.
- Irish National Heritage Park – Ireland's largest outdoor museum with a replica Viking longship, a stone-age chipper and demonstrations of how dolmens were made.