Generations of Irish families have made the trip to the sunny south-east for a holiday at Kelly's Resort in Rosslare. It's a family-run hotel and its proprietor, Billy Kelly, is the fourth generation to carry on the tradition. His great-grandfather opened a tea room in 1895 to cater for visitors who arrived by train for day trips to the beach.
The services for families are excellent. There is free childminding from 7.00pm until 9.00pm so parents can enjoy their dinner in peace, and all rooms have a 'listen in' service: by leaving the phone off the hook in the room you can listen-in from any public phone around the hotel. There are clubs for kids and teenagers, and babysitters are available for €8.50 per hour. The elders of the family will enjoy night-time entertainment in The Ivy Room, which may bring them back to the showband days. There is also a crazy golf course, a tennis court, a fitness centre with two pools and, of course, the hotel is situated on a beautiful stretch of golden strand.
Gourmands can enjoy excellent seafood in all of the hotel's three restaurants. The bar has an adjoining restaurant called La Marine and the Kilmore Quay Crab Claws (€15.50) were delicious and generously proportioned. My companion had Pan-Fried Fillet of Hake (€14.50) and it was also a large portion, cooked perfectly and for a reasonable price.
Dinner in Beaches Restaurant is a set menu of three courses for €43.50. Just like La Marine, the menu reflects the value placed in good local produce, with dishes such as Wild Wexford Salmon and Wicklow Venison Steak. Again, the portions were large and the food was tasty. Just like the rest of the hotel, the service was excellent. It was refreshing to see older waiting staff, who I suspect have been working in the hotel for a long time, many of them knowing the guests on a first-name basis. The wine list is extensive, with most of the wine coming from the Bordeaux and Burgundy regions. Kelly's has directly imported its wine from France since the 1950s.
The dining room in Beaches is large and spacious, with chandeliers overhead and fantastic artwork adorning the walls. The one piece that stands out was a large painting by the late Louis le Brocquy, which is one of his series of paintings entitled Procession with Lilies. Kelly's has been building its art collection since the 1960s and it's a mixture of Irish and international traditional and contemporary. The hotel is like one big gallery with paintings and sculptures in its rooms, corridors and gardens. Names such as Miro, Andy Warhol, Rowan Gillespie and Jack B Yeats are decorating the hotel.
I stayed in a standard room in Kelly's which was functional and simply decorated. Its big widows gave it a bright and airy feel and spectacular views of the Irish Sea. Not all rooms have a sea view, but if you're lucky enough to get one, there is a reading area where you can lie back in the armchair and take in the view. There are no tea and coffee making facilities in the room but that was made up for by free tea and coffee made available in The Ivy Room all day long where many of the hotel guests socialise with one another.
Kelly's Sea Spa opened eight years ago and is free of charge to hotel residents - but you must book in. Or, if you have a treatment, it's advised to spend the hour prior in the spa. I had the ESPA facial for 55 minutes which brought me to a relaxed, dream-like state. At €65 it was well-priced for a hotel spa treatment.
The spa was developed in consultation with ESPA, which is a prestigious international company in the spa industry. Both ESPA and Clarins products are used and facilities include: nine treatment rooms, sauna, steam room, seaweed baths, a pebble walkway to work on the pressure points on your feet, heated loungers, an ice fountain and rainforest/aromatherapy showers. The pool is rectangular-shaped and mostly indoors, with a section in the open air. Both areas have lots of water jets, which are good for a massage.
While the spa has great facilities and service, it lacked the attention to detail I found in the main part of the hotel. It had one big drawback: it doesn't make the most of its seaside location. The pool, sauna and relaxation rooms don't look onto the Irish Sea but a terrace garden which is a bit unkempt and has some unhealthy-looking plants. But on the other side of the hotel the fitness centre has a swimming pool and sauna, with big widows giving panoramic views of the beach.
Overall, I found Kelly's hit the mark in terms of facilities, location, food and services. And for family breaks it's what cherished childhood memories are made of.
For more, visit: www.kellys.ie.
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