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The Land of St. Patrick is a Baby-friendly Place

If there ever was a more baby-friendly destination than Ireland, I haven’t met it in over 21 years of traveling with my kids. For our very first holiday as a family, we journeyed to the land of shamrocks and St. Patrick with our new babe in arms. Though we had lots of help from grandparents and brothers and sisters at our family rendezvous at Glin Castle near Limerick, the Irish citizens we encountered were just as thrilled to see us. A novel concept when arriving with a wiggly four-month-old purveyor of spit and grins.

“Will you be wanting a comfortable chair to nurse the baby?” asked the waitress as we entered a cozy pub-like restaurant. “Well, why don’t we set you up by the fire with a nice bit of brandy.” My kind of quality time with a new baby! “Will you be needing a baby minder this evening?” wondered the staff at our castle hotel. They were so eager to take turns cooing and playing with baby Will during dinner that we almost had to take reservations. From recommending rosehip syrup drops for digestion at the local chemist to fitting the just standing baby with new soft buttoned shoes to help his feet grow or taking him around to point out the family ancestors hanging on the walls, our Irish hosts anticipated just what baby might need.

And what mom and dad needed too—a bit of rest and relaxation as well as reassurance that our baby was the most wonderful creature on earth. The Irish slogan of “Cead Mile Failte” or One Hundred Thousand Welcomes was certainly true for our first foray as a threesome.

Today, in honor of Saint Patrick, Ireland’s most famous citizen, the citizens of Dublin and Downpatrick (as well as in Montreal and Toronto) will be marching throughout the streets to celebrate the saintly man. Traveling himself between 433 and 460 A.D throughout parts of Ireland., Patrick supposedly calmed tempests at sea, eased the tempers of Irish kings, and preached love and tolerance—all necessary qualities when dealing with babies. The new Saint Patrick Centre in Downpatrick beside Down Cathedral where the saint is reputedly buried (southeast of Belfast), tells the fascinating story of Ireland’s patron saint in multi-media fashion.

If you’re thinking of taking your own baby jewel to the “most beautiful emerald on earth,” here are a few suggestions for suitable and affordable accommodation:

SELF-CATERING COTTAGES: Families can rent traditional thatched cottages or modern-style bungalows equipped with “mod cons” such as laundry facilities for those mountains of laundry and microwaves to heat formula in over 560 locations all over Ireland. Many are by the seaside and come with cribs and high chairs; some are situated on elegant castle grounds. Extras such as baby-sitting, bicycle rental, pony treks for older children and golfing or fishing for parents can be easily arranged. Prices range from E 200 in spring to E 795 and beyond for cottages that sleep up to 14. Call 1-800-223-6470 to receive the huge book listing over 5000 choices or visit www.selfcatering-ireland.com.

BED & BREAKFASTS: The Irish call them Family Homes but we know them as Bed & Breakfasts. You can opt for a Town and Country home B & B or an Irish Farmhouse Holiday, all inspected by Tourist Boards. Hundreds of them welcome babies as guests. Look for the symbols that advertise Facilities for Children or cribs and babysitting. Sunquest offers rates of $110 C per night including full Irish breakfast. Car extra from $176 per week. Royal Irish Tours offers a seven-day driving holiday including car and B & B accommodation from $399 per person. Babies are free.

CASTLE ACCOMMODATION: Over 21 years ago, our family of nine plus friends stayed at Glin Castle on the River Shannon, owned by the Knight of Glin. The Knight still rents out his castle to families although children must be 10 and over. Rooms start at E242 per night including full breakfast and taxes. For other castle and country house accommodations that welcome families, check out Ireland’s BlueBook manors, country homes or castles at www.irelandsbluebook.com. Hopefully, your baby will enjoy his or her Irish visit as much as ours did!

MORE INFO: Last year some 140,000 Canadian visitors visited Ireland on holiday. Starting in June, Air Canada will offer new daily direct flights from Toronto to Dublin. Air Transat offers regular direct flights to Belfast, Dublin and Shannon between May and October. SIGNATURE VACATIONS offers direct flights and hotels in Belfast and Dublin. Consult your travel agent for brochures, rates and schedules. Note: children now need their own Canadian passports in order to travel.

Tourism Ireland can help with vacation plans in both Northern Ireland and in the southern Republic of Ireland. Call 1-866-477-7717 or visit www.irelandvacations.com or www.discovernorthernireland.com.

To learn more about the new Saint Patrick Centre, visit www.saintpatrickcentre.com.





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