At the end of August we booked a week off with my family - a time to get away together and celebrate my mum and dad's 40th wedding anniversary. After much deliberation and about a zillion whatsapp group messages, we finally decided on a beach holiday in County Wicklow on the south east (ish) coast of Ireland. It is often referred to as the Irish Riviera, so I went on a search frenzy for the perfect place to suit all 7 of us.
Airbnb came up trumps, as usual, and we ended up booking a fantastic holiday home in the Brittas Bay area - which is a small community built around a spectacular stretch of beach - the finest beach on this coastline for sure. The beach and area is plonked right between the larger towns of Arklow and Wicklow, and was just the right amount of seclusion and access for us.
Just off the motorway and down a winding lane is Brittas Bay Holiday Park, a small gated community with just over 50 detached homes. There is a communal games room, tennis courts and football pitch and we really felt at home there from the get-go. It was buzzing with young families, children riding their bikes safely up and down the park and just a short walk or cycle up the lane to the dunes. Follow the path up the dunes and you will find yourself standing above the incredibly clean, golden sand of Brittas Bay beach.
Our pad was everything we needed and more. A really great living/kitchen space, a beautiful wrap around deck and enough room for all of us to gather and also to have our space when we needed it. We did without wifi for the 5 days, only dipping in for short bursts when we hit up a coffee shop etc. It was miraculous! I actually read an entire book!
Sinead, who looks after the property was an incredible host. She looked after us so well, nothing was a bother. We would hugely recommend staying here to any other big group that wanted a peaceful break, particularly if you need something family-friendly.
Typically, we arrived to glorious sunshine and had a couple of good days where we could wander around the area, hit a tennis ball about and brave the Irish sea. On the days we were limited by the weather, we explored the surrounding sites and villages, including a visit to Glendalough and Avoca. Glendalough is one of the oldest Monastic sites in Ireland, with remains dating back to the 6th Century. Mind blowing. There's something really incredible about standing in these historic places, aware of the depth and discipline of those that dwelled there - even reading some of the ancient tombstones still standing from the 1400's was so surreal.
We made it to Avoca, which is both the location of Ireland's oldest weaving mill as well as the filming destination of the old classic Irish TV programme 'Ballykissangel'. Sadly, the weaving house was just closing as we arrived so we had to settle for a snoop in the window and tea and cakes in the shop (tough gig). I'm a huge fan of the Avoca store in Belfast, so to get to see the original location and flagship mill was a real treat.
For the last 15 years, we have never really been able to celebrate big milestones as a family. Distance, finance and scheduling has meant that birthdays, anniversaries and big events are rarely shared together - so it was so beautiful and important that we were able to make a fuss of my mum and dad on their 40th wedding anniversary. We had a gorgeous meal out and spent the evening back at the house putting mum and dad over their wedding day. It was even more significant that they spent their honeymoon in Wicklow, only a few miles from where we were staying.
Thankfully, this season of separation is coming to an end and mum and dad will be moving back to Northern Ireland next summer after over 20 years in Canada. It's a bittersweet time for them especially, but it will be so amazing to be able to share in more of these family landmarks together.