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A fairytale break
Carlton Redcastle Hotel & C Spa (Donegal)
Member Name: belglen
Carlton Redcastle Hotel & C Spa (Donegal)
Date: 25/09/09, updated on 29/12/09 (139 review reads)
Advantages: Spa, setting
Disadvantages: Service a bit slow
My children have just returned to school after another rubbish summer, weather wise. I think from they finished school on 29.6 until they went back on 27.8 it rained practically everyday. The bad weather was compounded by the fact that we were not going on a foreign holiday this year, a combination of our financial limitations and that my youngest is only 20 months and I don't think I could deal very well with him in the heat. The children have not been totally deprived over the holiday period, they have had days out to farms, cinema, local beaches and other places of interest but there was no big holiday adventure to be had. However we decided as a treat we would take a couple of nights away at a hotel, just for a little break and to let them think they had had a proper holiday.
We live in Northern Ireland, and there are many beautiful places to visit and lovely hotels to stay in but we decided we would book our break in the Republic of Ireland. Our main reasons for this were:
* We would have a little bit to travel, again making the children think they had been on an adventure;
* The Euro, not the exchange rate, but the fact that the children would get to experience using a different currency;
* Into our journey we included a ferry crossing, something the children had never done before, so would be completely new and add to the adventure.
We stayed in the Carlton Redcastle, near Moville in Donegal. The hotel is part of the Carlton chain of hotels. It is rated as 4 stars and has a spa and golf course attached. A primary reason for choosing the hotel was that it has a swimming pool, and I thought that even if the weather was particularly bad at least the children would be able to make use of the swimming pool.
I booked a two night family break, I booked this online directly through the hotel's site. I did try to book through other sites such as Quidco but found that because I was looking for a family room I couldn't get the correct details and found it easiest to contact the hotel directly and check that they could cater for our needs. Basically I needed a room(s) that would cater for 3 children and 2 adults, my youngest child is under 2 so we didn't have to pay for him, even after booking I wasn't sure whether we would have one room or 2 adjoining rooms.
Our journey to the hotel was very straightforward, we were travelling from Belfast so drove to Magilligan Point where we took the small car ferry to Greencastle and then drove the rest of the way to the Carlton Redcastle. There are alternative routes, the ferry is not essential but we thought it would be different and a new experience for our children and it certainly was. The ferry crossing is very short, just over 10 minutes and the ferry goes every hour, it cost us £12.00 for our car the return journey. The children really enjoyed the crossing and my husband and 2 oldest children walked around the small ferry. The journey in total took us about an hour and a half to an hour and three quarters.
The hotel was very easy to find, and was well sign-posted from the road. There is a sweeping drive up to the hotel and it is quite impressive on first sighting, a large sand coloured building set in beautiful grounds. There was ample car parking at the hotel. We had no problems with checking in, the receptionist took my payment card details and provided us with our room card, like many hotels there is no room key rather a card that is swiped at the door. The card is also used in the room to turn on/off the electricity. Our room number was 501 and we were on the first floor, there are lifts and stairs available. We entered the room and were pleased to see that it was 2 rooms, sort of a suite, a min sitting area and a bedroom, also a bathroom with shower. The sitting area had a large leather sofa and 2 leather chairs, television and storage space. In the living area were 2 single beds for the children and a cot for the baby, the single beds were camp beds but more than adequate for the children.
The bedroom had a large king-sized bed, also there was plenty of storage space and a large vanity area. There was an iron and ironing board, hairdryer and tea making facilities provided. The rooms were bright and airy and of a good size. All the bedding was very clean and fresh and there were plenty of pillows, the carpet could perhaps have done with renewing but overall the furnishings were fine. The bathroom was a good size, bright with a large mirror, the shower was over the bath, very easy to use and there were plenty of towels.
When we booked our stay we opted for 2 nights bed and breakfast with one evening meal included for the adults, the children's meals were extra. On our first night we went to the restaurant, we had booked a table for 8.00pm, there were no problems having the children in the restaurant. We were seated at a round table and provided with a high chair for the baby. The menu was ok but not very adventurous, a choice of about 5 starters and mains, a dessert menu and a separate children's menu, although you could order for the children from the main menu.
I ordered soup of the day, potato and leek and my husband had a roll in a pot with olives and garlic. For my main I ordered pork and my husband had Caesar Salad, I ordered spaghetti bolognaise for my daughter, my older son had chicken nuggets and the baby had a bowl of plain pasta. There were no starters that appealed to the children so I ordered extra bread for them and they both received a large helping of different breads, which they did enjoy. The starters went fine, my soup was lovely and my husband enjoyed his roll in a pot, however the rest of the meal was not such a great experience. We booked our table for 8.00 and were shown to it on time, however the rest of the service was very slow, we didn't leave the restaurant until well after 10.00 and for small children this just seemed too long. The wait between finishing the starters and the main course was about an hour and perhaps it is just my children but they definitely are not used to waiting that long for their dinner.
The main courses were alright, nothing spectacular, my pork was served on a bed of mash with port sauce and there were seasonal vegetables to accompany it. To be honest to me the pork was just a big chop served on mash, it was cooked ok and was good and hot, there were plenty of vegetables. My husband enjoyed his Caesar Salad, and he got exactly what he ordered, he said it was a good sized portion and very tasty. The children were less impressed, my daughter had the bolognaise and it looked appetizing, plenty of spaghetti and a good helping of the bolognaise, however the bolognaise was very spicy, more like a chilli than a bolognaise and she could not eat it. My older son had ordered the chicken nuggets and there is not much to be said about them, the children could have had vegetables or beans with their orders. The baby had a bowl of plain penne pasta and thoroughly enjoyed it. We all had desserts, I had strawberry meringue, my husband had trifle and the children had ice cream. The desserts were fine and everyone enjoyed them. We also had a glass of wine with our meal, there was an extensive wine list to choose from.
The staff in the restaurant were attentive and there were plenty of them but the service was seriously slow. I don't think it was just us who thought it was slow as there were numerous tables with children and I did see several other people ask if there meals would be much longer. My overall impression of the evening was that the food was alright, some better than others, the restaurant has a lovely view over Lough Foyle and the staff were very pleasant, just the service was slow, so be prepared for a wait.
We had also booked breakfast and this was fine, served in the same restaurant, available from 7.00am to 10.00am. The breakfast is self-service, with waiting staff to bring tea or coffee. Plenty to choose from cereals, fruit, yoghurt, cooked breakfast, croissants, toast, cheese, hams juice etc and eat as much as you want. I have no complaints about the breakfast, it was well organised, everything was hot, or cold as needed and they didn't seem to run out of anything at any point. We all enjoyed our breakfast and it set us up for the day.
The second night of our stay we decided to eat in the Captain's Bar, children are only served until 9.00pm. The bar had a similar menu to the restaurant with the addition of some specials. One of the specials available on our second was an 8 inch pizza - marguerite or pepperoni, so the children were well pleased with this. I ordered chilli and my husband had a rump burger, we didn't have starters and again the baby had plain pasta. The pizza was lovely my children really enjoyed it and it had plenty of topping, the crust was not too doughy and there was plenty of pepperoni. My chilli was served with rice, although you could have chips if you preferred and my husband had chips with his burgers. My chilli was hot and not too spicy, in fact less spicy than the bolognaise of the previous night, my husband's burger was a good size and piping hot, served with plenty of chips. We all enjoyed our meal and again the children had ice-cream for dessert.
The food and accommodation were overall quite good but our main reason for choosing the hotel was because it has a swimming pool. The swimming pool is part of the spa complex, both contained within the hotel, on the lower ground floor. The spa offers numerous treatments and these can be prebooked or booked during your stay. Unfortunately I had no time for spa treatments but I did get plenty of opportunity to try out the pool. Children are only allowed in the swimming pool during specific hours 08.30 am to 11.00 am and 3.00 pm to 6.00 pm. These sessions were ample for us we were able to get organised in the morning and then going swimming, have lunch do something else and then go swimming in the afternoon. There is a large pool and a very small pool for babies or toddlers, the main pool is quite deep for children about 1.35 meters or just less than 5 feet deep. My eldest child is a competent swimmer but I did need arm bands for my older son, we have a ring for the baby. Normally armbands and rings can be bought from the spa reception but when we visited they had no stock left. All users of the pool are supposed to wear swimming hats again these can be purchased from the reception.
The swimming pool has various water jets and jacuzzi type areas and my children found these quite fun. There is no life guard so children need to be watched carefully, I found the swimming pool to be cleaned and well maintained. The changing areas were clean and dry and towels were provided, there are also hairdryers, lockers and shower gel available to be used.
Overall we enjoyed our stay at the Redcastle and I would recommend it, there were no problems having children to stay and other than the slow service in the restaurant I have no complaints. The Redcastle is situated in Donegal and there are plenty of beautiful drives to take, beaches to visit and stunning walks. The total cost for my family was £405.00, this was for 2 nights bed and breakfast for 2 adults and 2 children and one evening meal for the adults, we also had food on the second night 2 glasses of wine and 1 bottle of beer and 1 pint of beer on the second night.
There is also a golf course attached to the hotel, although we didn't try it out.
Further information on the Carlton Redcastle can be found at:
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Summary: A good place to have a break in lovely Donegal
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