Tuesday 16 July 2019

Barry Egan's Wexford: We’ll fight calories on the beaches

Kelly's Hotel plays a huge part in the sense of the free and easy at Rosslare Strand.
Kelly's Hotel plays a huge part in the sense of the free and easy at Rosslare Strand.
Wells House and Gardens, Gorey
The wonderful food in Kelly's is made all the more wonderful because there is a kids' club
Barry Egan

Barry Egan

Being near the ocean is one of the best places to reconnect with something deeper than ourselves. Sitting on the beach at Rosslare Strand and watching — or listening to — the waves crashing on the shoreline is especially calming.

Watching the big boats manoeuvre themselves slowly, very slowly, into the nearby port is good too. As is a bag of chips sitting on the wall by the entrance to the beach at lunchtime. Or an ice cream from Centra after the bag of chips. Or a pint in Tides gastro pub at 7pm. Or a glass of fine wine in La Marine Bistro at 8pm. Or a fine meal at a certain hotel that evening. Or a midnight, and moon-lit, cocktail out on the terrace. Lazying is de rigueur in this part of the world. Life goes at its own pace here in Rosslare Strand, Wexford, regardless of the time of year.

We’ve been in the summer (when the beach and the area and the beau monde about the place has certain echoes of the South of France) and in the guts of winter (when the rough, mad sea is beautiful to look out at as we go for long bracing walks along the sands) and there is a perennial feeling of the laid-back — the serene — about this part of the world. The aura created by Bill Kelly and his staff in Kelly’s hotel plays a huge part in this sense of the free and easy in Rosslare Strand. He has put Rosslare Strand on the world map. A family-run resort for five generations, Kelly’s is one of the finest establishments in Ireland to escape from the outside world.

It sometimes feels that you are escaping to a secret planet where the pull of the culinary in the atmosphere is so strong that the food never stops coming. It is an eating experience in and of itself — as my waistline will happily attest.

But it’s the New Year and now is not the time for fat-shaming.

Once we settled into our room for our most recent stay last month, the next three days were all about chilling out, going for swims in the pool (sorry — I am too much of a coward for the cold, cold sea) and having some truly wonderful meals. I have mentioned food, haven’t I?

After breakfast every morning, we would go for a walk along the beach before jumping in the car to explore. We have been in the sunny south east lots of times so we know what we like around here. We love picnics on the beach.

We love Wild & Native on Strand Road for dinner. Great seafood and a children’s menu to match. My wife and I love coffee in the mid-morning at Kelly’s Deli on the Strand. We love the little fishing village of Kilmore Quay too for walks and the beach. Or crab and prawn linguine for lunch and a go on the bouncy castle for the kids and daddy in Mary Barry’s pub in Kilmore village. Or early tea in the Lobster Pot in Carnesore Point. There is also a hipster pizzeria called Crust in Wexford town where the pizzas are to die for. We love the haunted house tour at Loftus Hall on the Hook Peninsula. We also love Duncannon Fort, built in the 16th Century in anticipation of the Spanish Armada’s arrival, with its Game Of Thrones-y battlements, moats, dungeons, tunnels, old cannons pointing out to sea. 

But back to our recent trip to Wexford. One morning we drove to St Helen’s Bay. The two kids played on the sand with their father while my wife went for a swim in this most beautiful of settings.

It was then time for lunch. We had a picnic on the beach and despite the weather being cold there was something special about sandwiches you made yourself being gobbled up by your kids as the sea roared on to the shoreline in front of us.

Afterwards, we packed up and made our way to the Victorian Tudor Gothic pile in Gorey that is Wells House & Gardens. It is also worth an hour or two of your time as you can nose around the house designed by Daniel Robertson in the 1830s and enjoy the wonder of the gardens; and if you are my three-year-old daughter, enjoy the fairy trail of the woodlands to your heart’s content.

Wells House and Gardens, Gorey

Indeed the enchanted forest not only has pixies darting around the gaff but a certain Mr Gruffalo and his child and other forest friends. What more could you want?

How about a pint in Tides watching a soccer game on the big telly? This I was lucky enjoy to enjoy while my wife and the kids got ready for tea in the hotel. The wonderful food in Kelly’s is made all the more wonderful because there is a kids’ club here and we could gently deposit our children there while we enjoyed our meal.

There was even a kids’ disco every evening to wear the aforementioned children out before they could be deposited in the kids’ club.

Proprietor Bill Kelly came over to us on one of the nights and we availed of a glass of wine or two from his and his beautiful wife’s French vineyard.

The next morning we drove to the tip of the Hook Peninsula to see Hook Lighthouse. My daughter was fascinated that it is one of the oldest lighthouses in the world, with the monks in the 13th Century lighting fires to warn ships about the rocks and the rough seas. It was an educational, and fun, two hours. The 115 steps to the top of the oldest operational lighthouse in the world was as good way as any to walk off some of the calories from dinner in Kelly’s the night before.

We also took in the historic Vinegar Hill in Enniscorthy. The cobwebs had well and truly blown off my hangover as I contemplated the musket-balls flying through the air and bayonets raised bloodily at the Battle of Vinegar Hill on June 21, 1798 when 13,000 British soldiers launched an attack here on what was then the biggest camp of the Wexford United Irish rebels.

When we got back to Kelly’s, myself and the kids had a swim in the pool while my wife went for a treatment in the hotel’s award-winning SeaSpa. I got the game and a pint in Tides the day before while she minded the kids, so fair’s fair. Though nothing seemed fair about saying goodbye to endless lazy days on the Strand to get in the car to drive back to the Big Smoke.

Getting  there

The wonderful food in Kelly's is made all the more wonderful because there is a kids' club

The multi-award winning four-star Kelly's Resort Hotel is an excellent choice for a relaxing spring break. Re-opening for the season on Friday, February 15, Kelly's Resort offers a choice of interesting, informative and exciting activities and specific theme midweek breaks.

The hotel is situated along five miles of safe sandy beach and offers an easy atmosphere that encourages relaxation and fun.

Beaches Restaurant offers locally produced food, specially selected wines and nightly entertainment.

Four-day full-board mid-week breaks cost from €545 per person. Two-day weekend breaks cost from €350 per person.

More details: 053-9132114 or www.kellys.ie

This article originally appeared in The Sunday Independent.

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