Belfast is a very cool city with a great reputation for its vibrant nightlife - which attracts hen and stag parties as well as shoppers from all over - but we were here on a different mission: to explore, keep the kids amused and relax.
Being on Fisherwick Place, only a stone's throw from the Opera House, Belfast City Hall and the main shopping streets, the Jurys Inn is a great place to base yourself.
A trip out of town to the zoo was arranged at the Jury's Inn reception, where you can get discounted family tickets.
Belfast Zoo is sprawling and a bit of an uphill battle. Pushing a buggy up the slopes was a challenge but it was worth it. The sea lions were a hoot - flapping and barking around in their pool. The elephants and giraffes were another highlight. One-year-old Lewis proceeded to use his arm as a trunk and bellow at the top of his voice and Fraser enjoyed squawking back at all the roaming peacocks. Lots of families were out in force and a snack at the hilltop picnic area was a welcome break with views across all of Belfast.
We also took a trip out to the Giant's Causeway - about an hour's drive from Belfast. It's a place of natural wonder with the stacks of hexagonal-shaped rocks said to be the stomping ground of the giant Finn McCool. His nemesis, another giant called Benandonner, lived only 80 miles across the sea in Scotland. It is a must-visit place in Northern Ireland. I've never seen a coast like it anywhere else.
Buses run up and down the walkway between the top car park and the shore, and with little children - or indeed less fit or able travellers - it is a good idea to walk down and get the bus back if their legs are tiring. On our way up the hill by bus, a tour guide with a microphone talked us through a few stories about the giant and added to the fun of the day.
Back in the city, the list of things to do is endless and bus tours can be snapped up all round the city centre. This would be a great way to take in all the sights and many boast of routes which take you through the famous areas daubed with sectarian artwork. We saw some of these painted buildings by car and they really are worth a look.
We also took a drive past the Stormont parliament building with its vast tree-lined drive.
Other jewels of Belfast include the docks where the Titanic was built and also Belfast Castle.
There is so much to do in this city, whether you're in nappies, high heels or hiking boots!
SHRIEKS of delight bounced around the large, plush entrance of the Jurys Inn, Belfast. My family - two adults and two very excitable boys aged one and two-and-a-half - had just arrived in the big city and were ready to check in for two nights.
With Belfast being only a hop across the water - by air directly from Inverness Airport or by ferry from southern Scotland - it is a perfect place to escape for a few days of fun.
The newly refurbished hotel has 190 standard rooms and ours was bright and stylish. Two double beds and a ready-prepared pop-up travel cot were waiting for our weary bodies, as well as a sturdy fold-out sofa bed. The room was fit for a huge group and we only made use of half the space.
Basic, but modern in style, it had everything we needed - television, tea and coffee facilities, plenty of storage space and a bath as well as shower.
Dinner that evening was in the restaurant downstairs.
The staff couldn't have been more family friendly and offered up special packs with crayons and puzzles as well as a good quality children's menu, from which we ordered two really tasty bowls of spaghetti bolognese. They went down well with the boys who were kept amused by our streetside window looking out onto city hustle and bustle.
I had chicken in a creamy sauce with vegetables, which was nice but a little bland, and my husband had a curry which was served beautifully in a metal dish with a dome of rice and a huge naan bread. His was rich and delicious and we both agreed his was the best option.
Portion sizes were so good we didn't need dessert. We enjoyed a glass of wine in the relaxed surroundings before heading upstairs for bath and bed.
Bundled into pyjamas and tucked into the cot and a blow-up toddler bed we had brought ourselves, it was time for two little boys to go to sleep. With the lights turned low and the grown-ups watching telly with the sound turned down, they giggled and blew raspberries until 10pm. All fell silent but then I realised there were two sets of eyes peeping at me round the corner of the double bed. It wasn't the best set-up for an early night, but it was funny.
Eventually, we snuggled into the extremely comfortable bed but found the room too toasty to get a decent sleep. We had to open the window, but then city sounds seeped in and distracted me from slumber. In fairness, with the UK's changeable weather the hotel had probably not expected such a scorching day and still had its heating turned up.
Breakfast time eventually rolled round and it was the perfect pick-me-up. In the same restaurant as the night before, we tucked into croissants, sausages, cereal and hot coffee. The self-service breakfast costs around £8 in addition to your room price, but it is worth it as you can nibble away as much as you like and I helped myself to drink refills.
Staff again were extremely friendly and made us feel welcome with two small children rather than in the way.
We noticed a wide range of hotel guests from couples old and young to solo businessmen and families with children. The hotel seemed to adapt well to all these groups and the atmosphere was calm.
l You can travel direct from Inverness Airport to Belfast with Flybe. Prices depend on dates of travel but for August prices vary from around £90 to £170 per adult. Visit www.hial.co.uk/inverness-airport/
l Alternatively, to bring your car across to Northern Ireland as we did. You can hop on a ferry from Stranraer - a 6.5-hour drive from Inverness.
Jurys Inn fact file:
l 190 standard rooms.
l Bar and restaurant.
l Breakfast buffet purchased separately at £8 per person.
l Overnight car parks close by.
l Room prices vary upon booking. In August, a room such as ours for two adults and two children, booked online, would cost from £65 to £90 per night, depending on date and time of booking.
Visit www.jurysinns.com/BelfastHotels for details.