“You could sleep at a hotel right in Galway City,” explained my Ireland informant when my husband and I were planning our week-long Ireland trip, “OR, you could stay in the cute town of Barna, just a few minutes outside of Galway City, at one of the most famous foodie hotels in Ireland.”
“Famous food?” I panted. “I’m in! What’s the name of this hotel you speak of?”
It turned out that the spot was called The Twelve Hotel (click to see availability and rates), and it is a stylish 4-star luxury delight. Upon arrival, Colin and I rapidly realized why The Twelve has won so many awards, including “Best Overall Boutique Hotel in Ireland:” It is yummy, pretty, and smart.
“Smart?” you ask. “What do you mean?”
The Twelve is smart because it is one of the few hotels that renovated to provide customized experiences for different demographics. In particular, a brilliant architectural scheme differentiates sleeping arrangements for guests with and without children. (As a reminder that Colin and I have a funny little child, here is a photo of Devi poking our Smoked Salmon Eggs Benedict during breakfast at The Twelve’s restaurant, The Pins. YUM, was that Irish salmon good!)
This is how The Twelve’s rooms are differentiated for optimal experience: In the suites for travelers with children, there are two distinct rooms, with a door between them. Words cannot express how thankful Colin and I were for this separation, given that Devi was exhausted and stinky (he had just thrown up all over the Cliffs of Moher), and having a separate room for the baby meant he could sleep soundly, and we didn’t have to keep our lights shut off after his 7pm bedtime. Further, each two-room family suite at The Twelve has a second suite next to it, with an adjoining door. Bigger families can book both of these rooms to create a mega-suite with two bedrooms, two living rooms (used for kids’ rooms), and sanity. Smart, right?
Meanwhile, for travelers without children, The Twelve offers a distinct wing of the hotel (yes, wisely far from our baby’s yelps) which boasts rooms with open floor plans: a luxe bedroom that flows freely into a hip living room. The second photo in this article shows one of those rooms.
As glamorous as those open floor plans are, you would be surprised how many hotels fail to realize the truth that The Twelve understands: Those designs are a dream for families without children, but for us parents, the key is having a door between the two sides!
The night we checked into The Twelve, I called the 24-hour Reception Desk three different times, requesting for them to please bring up: dish soap to scrub the baby’s bottles, extra towels to assist in the vomit-cleansing bath for Devi, and cleaning spray so Colin could do the manly duty of scrubbing the baby mess from the car. Each time I called, the staff was gracious and helpful.
The final time a staff member from The Twelve came up to our room, I mentioned to them how much we appreciated the design differentiation, providing families with the option of a hotel room that has two rooms instead of one. The woman smiled and replied, “We have children, ourselves, so when we planned the hotel we knew what was needed!”
Here is another example of the smart, creative thinking that went into The Twelve’s redesign. Upstairs is the hotel’s famed restaurant, West. This restaurant features a section with booths that look like this, below. As you can see, they are both beautiful, and offer that blessed privacy that I so need when I want to gossip about something in my uncontrollably loud voice over good food.
But check this out: If you see the whole section these booths are in, the design genius becomes evident. Each of these chairs can rotate ninety degrees to create one long table in a semi-private room!
Let us now discuss the food, as that’s a major element that brings The Twelve fame. The Pins restaurant, adapted from the 1800s establishment on the same site known as The Twelve Pins, recently won “Best Gastropub in Ireland” by the Restaurants Association of Ireland Oscars, and Colin and I would second that award. The restaurant has succeeded in its lofty aim of being popular with both locals and tourists like us, which gave it a homey, soulful feel.
The meat and fish was local and fresh, so we dove right into whiskey-cured salmon (!) and a butter-drenched oyster atop tender Irish fish, among other delectables. I loved the touch of zesty grapefruit slices alongside the salmon. Speaking of food, let’s not forget the awesome welcome plate that winked at us from our hotel room, pictured in the lead photo to this article. I haven’t seen such a fun riot of welcome food since our Hawaii Babymoon!
I would also like to put in a good word for the town of Barna. People are obsessed with the city of Galway, but Colin and I were ultimately very happy that The Twelve is a few minutes outside the city, in the much quieter small town of Barna, County Galway. Why this preference? The southwest of Ireland is mostly rural and tranquil, so my guys and I got into a chilled-out groove that fit best with the calming embrace of Barna, versus the bustle of Galway City. We see plenty of concrete cities, but charming Irish villages are precious few in this world.
When it was time to check out, I was sad. Staying at The Twelve feels like being carried by muscular, loving arms: the hotel is strong, sturdy, and confident in how to take care of you well. Out of our whole week in Ireland, the prize for best hotel room for families with children goes to The Twelve!
So what do you think? Is The Twelve the kind of place you’d like to stay? Have you also experienced wisely designed hotels around the world that provide a customized experience for different demographics? Do share in the comments section below.
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We were guests of The Twelve Hotel, but all opinions and scone snacking are my own.