We were invited to spend Easter weekend as guests of the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Dundalk. We were given their Easter package, which included 2 nights B&B in a family room and an evening meal one evening in exchange for our review. This review is an honest review of how we got on.
I’ll admit that it had never really occurred to me to spend a family weekend away in Dundalk until we were offered one to review. In fact, the only time I’d really ever spent in Louth was driving through it on the way to Belfast. I’d heard a lot about Carlingford and had heard whispers about Slieve Gullion so we gratefully accepted our weekend away and got planning.
After we had booked the hotel asked which option we wanted to add to our free package, the choices being a family pass to one of Funtasia Waterpark in Drogheda, Airbound Trampoline Park, Tayto Park, or a fairy adventure to Slieve Gullion. We went with the Slieve Gullion option, which gave us a free fairy door per child in the room and a picnic to bring with us the next day when we went to Slieve Gullion, as entry to Slieve Gullion is free (the hotel did recommend that we get there by 10am as it gets very crowded as it’s so popular).
We stopped on the way from Gorey at Newgrange an impromptu decision as we saw signs from the motorway, we spent a few hours there then hit the road for the 30 minute drive to Dundalk.
It’s hard to miss the hotel from anywhere in Dundalk, it towers above the rest of the town, an imposing 13 storey building located right next to Dundalk IT on the Inner Relief Road through Dundalk. When you go through the revolving door (which was such a great novelty for my children that they went around at least twice every time we entered or left the hotel) you’re met with modern interior design that’s warm and inviting with ornate chairs (thrones we called them see my Easter Bunny Princess sitting on one below), open spaces with plenty of couches for a drink or a chat, and mesmerising tropical fish tanks. The grounds are small but well landscaped and there’s a deck that goes from the bar lovely for an outdoor drink if summer ever arrives. Due to the open water features you’d need to keep an eye on smaller children (and accident prone adults).
The warmth is extended to the staff, and Brendan who checked us in was both friendly and professional, he covered everything including our room upgrade to an Executive Family Room and made us feel very welcome, assuring us that the hotel had good wi-fi “even by his standards”. The kids were given Heritage Louth Colouring books and little activity packs (and Brendan took time to confirm that to our eldest that he knew that he was probably too old for one but said “sure to take one anyway” with a wink that made our nine-year old smile like a child who had finally been understood by an adult). The final business was to take our sandwich order for our picnic the next day before we boarded the lift.
Our room was on the 12th floor and had views out to the sea at Dundalk Bay and if you looked left up to the Cooley Peninsula. The kids were delighted to be up so high and to be able to see for miles around.
Our room (Executive Family Room) had 2 double beds and a fold out bed on the floor between them. The fitted wardrobes contained a safe, ironing board, and two very fluffy bathrobes that the kids took turns wearing, declaring them “very snuggly”. There was a separate small table and armchair and a desk space that proved very useful when the aforementioned colouring books got taken out. Rooms also have a kettle, a small fridge and a Nespresso coffee maker (vital for parents). Our Easter package and Fairy adventure package meant that waiting for us in our room were 3 fairy doors and 3 Easter Eggs, and the hotel also gifted us a bottle of prosecco, chocolates and a fruit bowl. We felt well and truly spoiled.
The bathroom had a now unusual feature, a separate bath and shower, something you rarely see any more. The kids were delighted with the bath and decided to try it out, with the multiple bubble baths in the bathroom. So often have we stayed in a hotel room, all 5 of us, to be only left with 3 towels and 2 tiny shampoo bottles. Not so this time, there was 5 of each towel size and 4 of each toiletry type. Little details like that bring people back.
Having tested the room facilities to the max we adjourned downstairs to the bar for our complimentary dinner. I always prefer to eat in hotel bars when I’m away with the kids rather than restaurants as we enjoy the less formal atmosphere. The bar is big with glass doors going to the garden but we chose one of the booths on the way in. The kids chose garlic bread and the standard chips and goujons or sausages and were happy with their choices. Colouring sheets and crayons were provided. I chose the quinoa bowl in anticipation of the amount of chocolate I intended to eat over the weekend, and was disappointed when I saw my husband’s burger arrive that I had gone for the healthier option, his was fantastic looking. The kids ordered cordial with their dinners and it came in pint glasses, whereas a smaller glass would have been easier for our four year old to manage, but the boys were delighted with the extra juice. The glass dishes that the kids’ icecream came in was also a little delicate for my younger one, but they felt very fancy eating from it. My pavlova was excellent, I love a good pavlova.
While we were eating Brendan who had checked us in came looking for us, letting us know that another guest on our floor had reported an issue with the heating in their room and asking if we had noticed anything, and if we wanted to change rooms as a result. Our room had no issue, but we were really impressed at the proactivity of the staff in looking for us rather than adopting a wait and see approach.
Ask my children what their favourite thing about staying in a hotel is and you’ll hear a deafening chorus “THE BREAKFAST”. The offering at Crowne Plaza Dundalk did not disappoint. It’s a buffet set up, like most hotel breakfasts, with some off-buffet items like pancakes, poached eggs and kippers (has anyone ever seen anyone ever order kippers in a hotel, yet they are always on the menu!) The fresh fruit buffet was excellent, featuring not just the run of the mill prunes, grapefruit and fruit salad but fresh watermelon and pineapple too and a variety of yogurts to accompany them. Cereal wise hotels get blacklisted in our house if they don’t offer Coco Pops since it’s the only time my kids are allowed to eat them, and happily, they featured among a gallery of cereals that included a tasty granola and All Bran among the usual suspects and some fancy seeds and nuts to sprinkle over. The real honey comb was a real feature, one I’ve never seen in a hotel before.
The meat and cheese selection was well stocked and our request for soya milk was met with a “no problem”, we often have issues with waitstaff having to “search” in the kitchen, but not this time.
Hotels often run out of the best bits of the breakfast buffet, but the mini pastries and muffins were kept in plentiful supply both mornings and the toaster was set at a temperature which didn’t mean that the whole room smelled of burnt toast.
In order to make sure we fully tested the hotel breakfast we sampled poached eggs and pancakes from the kitchen, both arrived in good time and were excellent. The hot buffet had rashers, sausages, delicious fried potatoes, grilled tomatoes, flat mushrooms and black and white pudding. The kids were disappointed not to see any beans, but I was glad, they spill them everywhere! After 32 trips to the buffet each we rolled back down from the rooftop restaurant to our room on the 12th Floor.
We collected our picnic and headed to Slieve Gullion for our day out. The picnic provided was our pre-ordered sandwiches, a bottle of water, and two pieces of fruit each, in brown paper bags.
We had a wonderful time in Slieve Gullion, it’s about 30 minutes drive and free entry, I’d definitely recommend visiting if you’re in the area. We also visited the villages of Carlingford and Blackrock.
After a pub dinner on the second evening we camped out on couches to the side of reception, the adults sipping wine and beer, the children playing cards and making up games with Barbies. It was calm, and quiet, and felt just perfect. We were welcome, we could be ourselves.
Having spent a weekend in the wee county I have already recommended a visit to many people since my return home, I was taken off guard by the beauty of the Cooley mountains and the calmness of the Irish sea. Dundalk surpassed my expectations.
We had a lovely family weekend in Crowne Plaza Dundalk, and while the hotel doesn’t have a kids’ club, pool or playground we didn’t feel that we were missing out. Sometimes, when you get away with the family you just want to be let be, without feeling that even when you get back to the hotel that you have to get all the use out of the facilities and get no downtime. We played cards and coloured and sat (and read our phones let’s be honest). There is so much to do in short driving distances that Crowne Plaza Dundalk is an ideal touring base or stop on the way further north or south.
Would we go back and pay with our own money? Most definitely.
What more endorsement do you need?
Disclosure: We received a complimentary Easter package which included 2 nights bed and breakfast and one evening meal, a picnic lunch, Easter eggs and fairy doors in exchange for this review. The review reflects my honest opinions and the hotel had no control over its content.