Every summer for the past 5 years, the closest I generally get to a summer holiday is joining my family for a few days away locally so the idea of Staycations isn't something new to myself. In fact, if you count some of the summer jobs I've had for Tourism NI and Tourism Ireland travelling the country with tour operators, I would assume I'm picking up some good knowledge from the best in what makes a good local experience.
So being technically off-duty this summer has given me a new kind of experience and unfortunately for my fellow companions a few odd requests and freedom to match, but more of that later. Kilkenny was the location and the quota for myself was to get a pint of Rock Shandy and a drink of Cidona within the few days, harder feat than I would've wanted but perseverance prevailed in another wise chilled out few days.
Firstly, timing wise, this was 3 day weekend break to Kilkenny with my brother, niece and nephew (other wee bro joined for a day). It was at the start of summer so a number of venues were at the beginning of their Covid safety measures which was top notch in all places visited. Below I've outlined some places of interest especially with families in mind
NATIONAL REPTILE ZOO
The drive to the zoo was a good example of don’t judge a book by a cover. As we drove past a few roundabouts, a McDonalds (which seems to be the new postbox of the world) followed by an industrial/business park my own expectations (which is normally very level) stooped down a bit but alas I was to snap (pun!) out of this as soon as I stepped into the Reptile Zoo. Some of the reptiles on show were fantastic creatures and was amazing to think how long some species had lived on the planet and unfortunately how some species were endangered.
Normally when I get towards the end of a zoo experience I get a bit depressed as I worry on the animals quality of life, this was different, I even still consider getting an Iguana as a pet. There was a few examples of the reptiles that seemed to be interacting and enjoying the visitors that came to goggle and tap their make shift homes. All and in all a great experience, ohhh, the two kids really enjoyed this too.
The next day we decided that while in the town to quickly check the museum. OK apart from my search for particular soft drinks this was definitely my request. As soon as we entered, the two reps of the museum made sure all of us in the party where made welcome and professionally outlined the services within the building. The museum guide John was brilliant and straight away introduced the kids with a treasure hunt involving hidden Lego figures. This was a great simple way to make the tour a bit more interactive for children, it also allowed me a bit more time to get to investigate the museum. Like all good guides, John made the experience, and chatting to him for a good 20 minutes was worth the entry fee itself. One anecdote, I got from John was the origin of ‘Stinking Rich’ came as the rich of the area where allowed to buried on the site. The smell was so bad, that the folk of Kilkenny would lean over the wall, take a big wiff and proudly declare ‘Stinking Rich’. For those interested in other historical tours, there is Kilkenny Castle which we visited but didn’t avail of tours.
The hotel was first class and all staff were brilliant. I tried, while off-duty, to check and push the customer service buttons a bit by turning up for breakfast with my patterned PJ bottoms, to be very politefully declined access in my attire, was well handled and expertly done (and that was just me).
Food on the first night was excellent and spacing from other guests tables etc was great. Each morning the kids would use the swimming pool and the facilities were all great. The hotel itself is a few minutes’ drive from the main city centre which wasn’t an issue and proved great value in the staycation.
All in all this was a great trip, highly recommended, and people of Kilkenny were a joy to chat with. Cidona was ticked off list on first night but the journey for the elusive Rock Shandy (Club Orange and Lemon for those not in the know) took us to Carlow on the way home before I had the pleasure to be reunited with this piece of perfection (tastes different from 2 separate bottles, swear). There was probably a few akward moments as I ranted that Coca-cola had took over and displaced Club in the 'South' and the venues should all look into sorting this out (can see this not being the last similar conversation!).
Other places of interest for families was a bowling alley in the city and an amasing outside play area called Castlecomer Adventure Park that’s about 40 minutes drive from the city. Oh, and for any people from Kilkenny possibly reading this, check out the Belfast Bap, blaaa, blaaa, blaaaa!!
COVID-19 Safety Measures
Belfast Hidden Tours have been working hard the past few months to ensure the safety of our guides, guests and city when it is time for us to start walking again.