Here at Lovin Dublin, we adore this city; we adore this city in the same way a dad adores his own kids. But just like the dad who adores his own kids, we do need to take a break every now and then.
That's why we'll be bringing you the best weekend jaunts within easy reach of Dublin – and to kick things off, we're turning our attention to a town in the midlands...
Where is it?
Tullamore, Co Offally. About an hour outside of Dublin on the train, bus or by car (if you’re mad posh), it’s perfect for when you want to head off after work on a Friday night.
How do you get there?
Both the Galway and Westport trains stop here, but make sure you book – not only is it cheaper, but both those Friday evening trains can be pretty mental. That said, it’s such a short journey that you could probably survive standing. Better still, the train station is less than five minutes from the hotel itself, so you don’t have to shell out for a taxi.
If you’r travelling by car, take the M4 to Kinnegad, then change on to the M6 and turn off at Kilbeggan. Follow the signs for Tullamore, and the Bridge House is located (surrounded by ample parking) right in the town centre.
The town lies on the Grand Canal also, so theoretically you can get there by barge. If you do, we’ll see you down there yeah?
The slick exterior is unfortunately surrounded by a fairly unsightly shopping centre, and the aforementioned car park, so it doesn’t really do much for what’s a pretty impressive exterior.
Go through the front doors and you’re met with an ornate, Titanic-style (if perhaps slightly tired-looking) foyer. The front desk staff are predictably sound, the Library Bar will ignite your thirst for that first drink of the weekend, and the whole check-in process is super-quick. Nothing worse than being kept waiting after a trek, after all.
Clean, bright but ultimately unremarkable; the sort of rooms that don’t make it on to Instagram, but don’t make it on to TripAdvisor either.
What if it’s raining?
It’s not quite one of those hotels where you could spend an entire weekend without a hint of cabin fever – there are few enough of those in Ireland, to be fair – but the gym and leisure centre is top-class, and the pool has enough distractions and breakaway areas to keep you occupied for hours.
The Library Bar is cute, cosy and as good a place as any in the town to while away a few hours, although the televisions somewhat undo the old-worldly comfort of the place. This is where the Bridge House Hotel’s place as a popular local venue comes into conflict with its place as a weekend break destination – but hey, it all adds character I guess.
What if it’s not raining?
Admittedly, there aren’t endless activites in Tullamore – a stroll up to the church on the hill on the outskirts (from which the town gets its name) will occupy a good 20 minutes of your time, and you can while away a little bit more time in the cutesy, kitschy Bake café just across the road from the hotel.
But the one must-see in the town is the Tullamore DEW tour, based on the site of the old distillery that straddles the Grand Canal. Informative, entertaining and staffed by a lovely bunch of people who know and care about whiskey, it’s as good a distillery tour as you’ll get in the country.
As the tour winds down, and the Japanese tourists sidle away, we get chatting to our guide – who generously tops up our whiskey tasting glasses as he waxes lyrical about the history of the town, the distillery, the trade, the drink itself and whatever else comes up in conversation. It’s the sort of thing that sends you off squiffy, and fully determined to come back another time.
Which you probably won’t, but let’s take a moment to dwell on those drunken thoughts.
And the food?
The hotel offers two great options, albeit on opposite ends of the scale: the Balcone Italiano restaurant that overlooks the foyer (great for a spot of people-watching) and the more refined Charleville Restaurant downstairs. The latter also serves breakfast, although manages to dish up possibly the worst eggs benedict I've ever had placed in front of me – I opt for the buffet the following morning, and end up all the happier for it.
Both are slightly pricy, but the quality is good and the service is even better. While dining in the Charleville Restaurant (in the evening), my partner has to take an urgent phone call that ultimately – outside of her control – ends up lasting for nearly an hour.
While she’s gone, the staff kindly arrange to defer our starter, hold off on cooking our mains and are generally kindly and attentive right throughout. It’s the sort of test that doesn’t come up very often, but it’s passed with flying colours.
For my part, mind you, I hold off on milling into the wine until she’s back. So I think I’m the real hero here.
Any decent pubs nearby?
The Tap has a great atmosphere, but if it’s packed with a touring rugby team while we’re there and we have to make a fairly quick exit due to our lack of ability to hear one another.
Down the road, The Bus is a nice place to slip in for a relaxed pre-dinner drink – but it presents the opposite problem of being eerily quiet.
All in all, The Library Bar is probably your best bet.
The Palace is a part of the Bridge House Hotel – in fact, it’s rather audible from the Charleville Restaurant – and seems to be the destination of choice for every decent night out in the town.
We pop in for a whiskey (carrying on the theme of the day) and listen to a pretty decent covers band blast through some Wheatus covers. It doesn’t get much better than this, folks.
Should I bother?
There’s not a lot to do in Tullamore, and there’s not a lot particularly remarkable about this hotel; it doesn't quite feel like a four-star venue, that's for sure. But it’s inexpensive, it provides the basics and it’s staffed – along with the rest of the town – with the soundest people in Ireland
As quick city getaways go, Tullamore – and Bridge House Hotel – you’re quite alright. Quite alright indeed.