Thursday 22 February 2018

Five find bliss on beautiful beaches

Madeleine Keane

Madeleine Keane

LAST summer, the word "staycation" started to feature in my conversation. "Why?" cried my children in consternation. Well, Mummy has always liked to stay in touch with the zeitgeist, and it was time to get loyal to the Irish economy (to make up for the guilt at doing the Christmas shop in Lisburn) and she was sick to the back teeth of airports and it was going to be a fabulous summer according to everyone. Also we had a new addition to our household. I don't have the spine of steel that would have let me put her in kennels -- not for her first summer, anyway -- and it would prove an interesting experience to book a holiday with a pet in Ireland.

And actually -- cue absolute derision from my jet-set daughters -- I love holidaying in Ireland. While they may be used to the Hamptons and the Cotes D'Azur and D'Or (only because we have lovely friends and relations with homes in those sunshine havens), my earliest summer vacations were spent variously on the beaches of Curracloe, Spiddal and Ballyconneely. And so I had very happy memories which I wanted to recreate for my own children.

Anyway, she who pays the piper plays the tune, and Eire it would be for the hols last summer. And so it was that myself, my daughter (the elder one fled to the lights of Las Vegas), my best friend, her son and nephew (all three children around 12 years old) and a brace of black bitches (our four-month-old Labrador siblings Elsa and Nanou) headed down the N11 one fine July morning.

Here was the first upside to holidaying at home. Apart from the bliss of not having to get up in the middle of the night and pay extortionate rates to get to Dublin airport, I simply walked out my front door and put the key in the ignition. Then there was the beauty of packing the car with everything we needed from DVDs to dog bowls, Pinot Grigio to picnic baskets. I also didn't have to do my usual pre-hol two-week manic wind-down of the fridge; I just decanted everything into a cold box and off we went.

Our destination was a much loved place of mine -- Dunmore East -- and the helpful people at Trident had booked us into one of their holiday homes at Fisherman's Grove, a pleasant development just on the edge of this delightful fishing village. Our house, comprising double, twin and single bedrooms, slept five in comfort and -- this was the kicker -- was designated pet-friendly. Thankfully "the girls" didn't wreck the pretty walled garden.

Like most Trident properties, it was well appointed with all mod cons, though we brought the DVD player and our Nespresso machine. There was also a tennis court on site which we used a lot over the week. Best of all was Kim, who managed the property and for whom nothing was too much trouble -- phone numbers for vets, restaurant bookings, maps.

The location was a winner. A five-minute walk took us down to the Lower Village and Counsellors Strand (the popular beach) while an eight-minute stroll in a slightly different direction brought us to the livelier Upper Village with its shops, hostelries, adventure centre and harbour.

There are plenty of places to eat there. Our favourite was Azzurro at the Ship. Set in an ivy-clad corner house, this is a busy restaurant where the five of us had a stunning meal for €100, which has to be a record, especially since this included a couple of starters, a decent wine (€25), and minerals for the children. For pub food, the Spinnaker was hard to beat -- seafood chowder, crab salad and the like done simply and without fuss. For morning coffee and luscious confectionary, we often repaired to the Lemon Tree Cafe which also does a handy line in pricey but yummy homemade take out. This was very much a beach holiday, and apart from the two strands on our doorstep, we also discovered a tiny gem, Ladies Cove, where it was heaven to swim. A few miles out of town, Woodstown has a very picturesque mile-long beach covered with shells which was lovely for walking "the girls", as were the flower-strewn woodlands above the village.

For rainy days, Tramore is only a 20-minute drive away and is home to Splash World water park and a honky tonk funfair with rides, carousels, dodgems and slot machines. Both went down a treat with our pre-teens. For smaller children, there's the Run Amuck Children's Indoor Play and Party Centre and for teenagers, the Oceanics Surf School.

I've been going to Dunmore since I was a child, as a student, a young mother and now a middle-aged one. Twenty years ago I brought my then-90-year-old grandmother -- she adored it. Each time I find something new about this magical corner of the south east. On this stay I discovered three new walks, two more beaches and several new restaurants. It never fails to enchant.

With sunshine, this is a family holiday that's hard to beat. It's cheap and cheerful, doesn't involve the nightmare of airports, and you're contributing to the economy which is much needed. Our famous five had a fab time ... and so did Elsa and Nanou.

Sunday Independent

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