Spring Break: A Wexford hotel with wow-factor for families
Co Wexford's Amber Springs is a four-star that families should take note of, says Jillian Bolger.
Set the mood
"We understand that the key to a successful family holiday is happy children," the Amber Springs Hotel says on its website. It delivers in bucket (and spade)-size quantities.
This spacious four-star hotel in Gorey, owned by a local family, sets the bar for an affordable and memorable getaway, with kids treated like VIPs and an unrivalled wish list of activities on site.
Alongside the usual swimming-pool-and-kids'-club shtick, the hotel has its very own Amber Park, created especially for family fun, offering a petting farm, playground, football, and charged activities like crazy golf, go-karting and a ride-on train.
Guests can enjoy all these outdoor attractions without leaving the grounds. And as it's located between lively Gorey and Courtown, you've the best of North Wexford's beaches on your doorstep too.
Book a babysitter and a table for two in FARM, the hotel's smart steakhouse (it's adults-only). Amber Springs serves excellent dry-aged Angus beef from its family farm a few miles down the road (the 20oz T-bone is legendary) alongside their own vegetables and potatoes, in season. Popular with locals, the grown-up space also serves delicious seafood from nearby Kilmore Quay and has a well-chosen wine list.
With a busy kids' club that includes cupcake decorating and pizza making (in Farina, Amber Spring's pizzeria), you should find time to slip away and enjoy the hotel's Elemis Cocoon Spa.
Demand is high in peak season, so book your pampering session at the same time as you book your stay (family rooms book out quickly for school holidays and midterms, so plan ahead).
While babysitters can easily be arranged, the complimentary nightly games, tournaments and family movies with popcorn mean the kids will be kept entertained for a few hours (7-10pm) should you fancy an early dinner or child-free drinks.
Amber Springs isn't just for younger kids. Alongside a games room with table tennis, foosball and air-hockey tables, there's an age-restricted digital PlayZone (10-17), where we tried deep-sea diving via virtual reality headsets (a refundable deposit of €5 is required for Xbox controls).
While there's a small fee for crazy golf, go-karting (€3pp each) and the Amber Express train to the secret village (€3pp or €10 for a family of four), most of Amber Spring's activities are free. That means swimming, treasure hunts, arts and craft sessions, and during school holidays, falconry displays where kids can handle owls and hawks under supervision. There's also a playground, petting farm and a football pitch, while a jungle gym for toddlers and games room provide wet-weather entertainment.
Our connecting rooms gave us plenty of space but were beside a fire door on the corridor. Every time a guest passed through these heavy doors, they made a loud bang outside our bedroom, which was annoying late at night.
Get me there
Jillian and her family stayed as guests of Amber Springs, just over an hour from Dublin on the N11 (the hotel is on the Wexford Road close to Gorey's train station).
A two-night stay for a family of four (two adults and two children) in a large family room with full breakfast starts from €290, with dinner for four charged at an additional €70.
Call 1800 505 901 or see amberspringshotel.ie for bookings.
Nearby, Courtown Adventure Centre (courtownadventure.ie) offers pools, laser tag and high-ropes courses. See also visitwexford.ie.