July began with the 8th anniversary of my becoming a mother. Life has been a fantastic rollercoaster ever since and I wouldn’t swap it for anything.
That said, it has been a busy, busy eight years with a lot of thinking of others and not so much thinking of me. There have been times when I have made myself sick through overdoing it. I often have to remind myself to go easier on myself and take some time for myself.
With my return to work just weeks away, I decided it was high time to start looking after myself. I got my hair done and had a back masssage. I bought some new clothes and sandals. That was all lovely and enjoyable, but an hour here or there, while a welcome break, is forgotten pretty quickly.
So when, a few months ago, an old friend suggested a girls’ night away to coincide with my visit home to Ireland, I was delighted with the idea. We chatted to a few mutual friends, – our old set from our college days in Dublin, now scattered across Ireland – looked at dates and set about finding a hotel that would be easy for us all to reach.
The Athlone Springs Hotel in Co. Westmeath was where we settled on. We got an excellent deal – the five of us sharing two rooms, a double and a triple. We wanted a hotel that would be comfortable for one night away and wouldn’t cost us the earth. What we got was a four star spa hotel for the price of a basic budget hotel.
Having handed over the children and driven for two hours to the hotel (alone and with the radio blaring- bliss!), I was relaxed and ready to launch into hours of chat with my friends before heading out to one of Ireland’s best Thai restaurants. I was hoping the hotel would be nice but my main interest was catching up with the girls.
On my arrival at the hotel, located in a retail park a few minutes drive from Athlone town, I was pleased to find ample free parking and a modern-looking, glass-fronted building. I parked and headed in in search of the girls.
We had a coffee in the bar before checking in. No sense in wasting valuable download time, as The Bavarian calls the initial chats my friends and I get into as soon as we see one another after months of only texts and irregular phone calls squeezed in between work, school runs, bath time and all the rest of it.
Colleen and the team at the front desk checked us in quickly and efficiently and we piled into the lift up to our rooms. Both the double room and the triple were bright and of a good size. Equipped with a desk and chair, a luggage stand, plenty of wardrobe space, a seating area and tea & coffee making facilities, the room was ideal for us.
The bathroom of the double room was kitted out with a large, glass-sided and powerful shower, the room tiled from floor to ceiling in matt black tiles and with a huge mirror above the washhand basin, making the spacious bathroom feel even roomier.
As tends to happen when old friends get together, we sat in the double room and talked, laughed and had a drink until it was time to leave for our dinner reservation in town. A short taxi ride took us into Athlone and right to the door of Kin Khao Thai restaurant where we ate a fantastically flavoursome Thai meal.
Later, back at the hotel, we had a couple of drinks in the lobby, with live music in the background. The bar was full and the music entertaining, but not so loud as to keep you awake or prevent you chatting.
Located as it is in a retail park, the hotel is perfectly quiet at night. There is nothing going on outside to bother guests, as you might encounter in a city centre hotel or one located along a motorway.
Being away from my children overnight, I was keen on having a good night’s sleep and a lie in in the morning. When I woke, the room was so dark I assumed it must be only 3am, maybe 4am. It was 6.50am! I rolled over and dozed off again, waking at 8.30am to a still dark room. The curtains, I realised, were heavy as well as being dark coloured.
Since the hotel has a pool, I had packed my swinsuit. Once I woke I decied to head down for a swim. It is very rare that I actually get to swim in a pool – I am usually holding a baby and supervising two enthusiastic little swimmers – so I was determined to use this chance.
The pool and changing area were clean and I almost had the place to myself. Swimming my laps, I spotted the jacuzzi and then the steam room and a smile spread across my face. There is a sauna too, but I am not a fan of saunas.
When I arrived into the pool area I noticed that, while not run down, it could do wth a little sprucing up. The look could be much improved by adding some loungers or chairs and by polishing the streaks off the windows.
But even having noticed that, I felt myself relaxing ever more as I first swam then lounged in the jacuzzi and later cleared my head in the steam room. Clad in my robe and slippers, I left the changing room to find complimentary coffee awaiting me in the leisure centre reception.
My friends and I met in the dining room for breakfast and it was then that I realised I had forgotten to inform the hotel about allergies. Since I have none of my own, I tend to forget that eating out can be a bit of a nightmare for anyone with a food allergy or intolerence.
But I needn’t have worried. The hotel staff were as helpful as could be, providing gluten-free bread, lactose-free milk, dairy-free porridge and checking which elements of the fried breakfast buffet were suitable for the girls to eat.
Within ten minutes, our table was laden down with tea, – black, green and camomile – coffee, juices, bowls of fruit, yogurt and seeds, cooked breakfasts, toast and homemade brown bread. Needless to say, we didn’t need a lunch that day.
This is a hotel I would return to, without a doubt. It is not perfect but it is good. It ticks all the boxes of what the girls and I were looking for. It also ticks the boxes of the type of hotel I would be happy to stay in as a family.
What stood out for me were the helpfulness of the staff, the cleanliness of the hotel and the value for money.
The location is, to my mind, fine unless you really want to be in the thick of things in the centre of town. But if you are looking for quiet surroundings, free parking and value, this location, just outside the town is an ideal choice.
[Disclaimer: The Atlone Springs Hotel, following my initial booking, provided us with a double room free of charge in exchange for a fair and balanced review. We paid for the triple room ourselves at the price of €165 for one night, B&B. All photos, opinions and words are my own.]