Bonamargy Friary, Ballycastle

On our trips to Ballycastle we often pass ruins of an old Francisan friary.

At the end of September we decided to explore them a little more, as you are able to walk in and around them which I thought would be fascinating.

Bonamargy Friary was built around 1500, but many of the features are well preserved, including the cloister, gatehouse, altar and church.

The remains of Sorely Boy MacDonnell, a Scots-Irish chieftain, are said to reside there.

The friary is also supposed to be haunted by the “Black Nun” Julia McQuillen, who lived there alone in the 17th Century after it was no longer in use.

Some say she fell to her death while others say she was pushed and that’s why her ghost still haunts the grounds. (Thankfully we didn’t experience anything sinister!)

It was a really interesting place, full of  history. Have a look at some of my pictures:

Tomb from 1630

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Brunch at The Gallery

The Gallery cafe and bar opened its doors on the Dublin Road in Belfast a few months ago.

Since then, I have seen many pictures of its stylish interior, elegant crystal chandeliers and most importantly, mouth-watering food!

I was invited down to try out the new breakfast menu which is served from 8am. My mum and I went at 11am on a Wednesday morning and were shown a seat beside the window.

The place was relatively busy with locals drinking coffee, as well as three American tourists who were praising the food. Good start!

The breakfast menu is priced between £4.95 for the Gallery Organic Porridge which is served with a mixed berry compote and honey, to £9.95 for the New York Breakfast, which was to be my choice after a recommendation.

Other breakfast dishes include French Toast, Homemade stacked pancakes, Smoked Salmon and Eggs, Poached Eggs and Avocado, and of course, the Gallery Ulster Fry.

I was torn between the Ulster Fry and the New York Breakfast, but I was told the New Yorker was really good – so I put my trust in them!

The New York Breakfast is two poached eggs served on a toasted bagel, with baby spinach, smashed avocado, Halloumi, cream cheese, sun blushed tomatoes and pastrami.

When it came I wasn’t disappointed in my choice- it was filling, it looked elegant, it combined different flavours and textures and most of all, it was really, really tasty!

My mum went for the Eggs Benedict which is two poached eggs served on sourdough toast, with honey roast ham and Hollandaise Sauce. She, too, was impressed with her brunch and said the Hollandaise sauce was zingy and creamy but not too thick.

The Gallery is chic with an impressive arty decor, and fits in really well on the Dublin Road. I’m looking forward to seeing what else it has to offer.

New York Breakfast

Eggs Benedict

Stylish arty interior at The Gallery

Dining at Windsor Park

I don’t often go to sporting events, but my evening a few weeks ago at the National Football Stadium was less about football and more about food and drink! Gooooal!

The event was to showcase the hospitality offering at Windsor Park by their catering partner Sodexo Prestige, as well as the chance to sample local producers, which I always love doing.

Sodexo delivers events and dining experiences at over 50 in venues in the UK and Ireland, so I was intrigued to see what was on offer when dining at Windsor Park. (We were in the George Best Lounge, with great views of the pitch.)

First up we were treated to smoked eel, served with pickled carrot and Armagh Bramley Apple. This was matched with Kilmegan Irish Cider, a cider handcrafted in County Down. We sampled the dry cider which worked very well with the rich smokiness of the eel and the sharp acidity of the Bramley Apple.

Next up was a slow braised brisket of beef, matched with Belfast Black Dry Stout from Whitewater Brewery, based in Castlewellan. The meat fell apart to the touch- really very tender! It was served with seasonal vegetables and a rich red wine jus.

Finally, (for me the best dish of the night), we were served Clandeboye Estate yoghurt Panna Cotta with poached peaches and honeycomb. How pretty is this dessert! The presentation was fantastic and the taste equally as good! I loved it.

This was served with Echlinville Gin, a premium gin made in Newtownards (and incidentally the same distillers as the ever popular Jawbox!).

Once we finished dinner we got the grand tour of the grounds, seeing the changing rooms, media area and even going pitch-side.

It was really interesting to hear all about the hospitality opportunities at Windsor Park, including work conferences and Christmas dinners. They even just had their first Wedding there!

Do you fancy saying ‘I do’ at the National Stadium while enjoying the prettiest panna cotta?!

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole

Shoulder pads, big hair and the Thatcher period- that was the order of the day when I went to see The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole (aged 13 3/4) at The Mac last week.

Having gone to school with Adam Dougal, who plays Adrian, I couldn’t wait to go to the play to see him on stage.

The show, which tells the story of 13-year-old Adrian who is struggling with the worries and challenges of teenage life, is running until 7th October.

Adrian, who thinks of himself as an intellectual, is dealing with the break up of his parents, school bullies and his first love.  He’s even trying to get his poetry on the BBC!

The play features just five actors who quickly and cleverly change character, all while making use of the same props. In fact, one table was used as a school desk, walking aid, BBQ and even a dog kennel!

The Bruiser Theatre Company once again brings its typically quick-paced and energetic style in this 20th anniversary production.

It is funny, smart, nostalgic and oh so slick! Get tickets before they go!

Adam Dougal (Adrian Mole) (1)BACK - Orla Mullan, Gerard McCabe, Keith Lynch (Ensemble), FRONT - Adam Dougal (Adrian Mole), Colette Lennon (Pandora)_previewColette Lennon (Pandora), & Adam Dougal (Adrian Mole)_preview

 

Doagh Famine Village, Donegal

During our time at Redcastle Hotel, we wanted to explore the local area as it’s a part of Donegal we had never stayed in before.

One of the places of interest my mum wanted to visit was Doagh Famine Village in Inishowen. This museum tells the story of Irish life from the Great Famine of the 1840s through until the present day.

The first part of the tour looks at Ireland in the 1900s and includes an original thatched cottage from which the museum grew. In fact, the tour guide himself lived in this very cottage until 1984!

This was very hard to believe when you entered the cottage as it seemed so “old-fashioned” and yet 1984 was the year I was born.

The museum shows you how families and communities lived generation after generation, as times moved on and Ireland grew and developed.

The museum is open from 17th March until October 31st (so there are only a few weeks left) with guided tours every day. Check it out if you’re interested in Irish history!

 

Redcastle Hotel- Dinner at The Edge Restaurant

As part of our stay at Redcastle Hotel, we enjoyed dinner in the Edge Restaurant which is right on the water’s edge, so a beautiful setting in the evening.

The hotel prides itself on using fresh, in-season Irish ingredients. In fact, I saw some very familiar names such as Filemiletown Goats cheese, Shortcross Gin salmon and Dart Mountain Sperrin Blue cheese on the menu.

I think this is very important, as using local suppliers can add a real difference to the taste to the food. Which was the case here!

The Edge restaurant serves a fine dining menu in the evening, but if you’d prefer more of a ‘relaxed’/ pub grub setting, then there’s The Captain’s Bar too. The Table d’hote menu in the Edge Restaurant is 2 courses for €36 or three for €43.

Starters include:

  • Cauliflower Veloute and Serrano Ham with Apple and Celery
  • Fivemiletown Goats Cheese & Kalamata Olive Pithivier with Shallot Marmalade and Herb Veloute
  • and the aforementioned Shortcross Gin and citrus cured salmon with cucumber gazpacho and pickled cucumber.

Now anything with Shortcross in it sounds great to me, but I went for the Home Oak smoked Chicken Salad with baby gems, shaved Parmesan, crispy bacon, and creamy garlic dressing. My mum selected the slow roast Pork Belly with apricot, ginger & rosemary.

My starter was a creamy, hearty Cesar salad with large pieces of chicken, while mum said her pork belly was soft and tender with a good crispy crackling.

Salmon Amuse-Bouche

Chicken salad

Pork Belly

The available mains include:

  • “Redcastle” Glazed Daube of Beef with Gremolata, Onion and Thyme Crumble
  • Wild Mushroom & Leek Pie with Fava Bean and Chive Vinaigrette
  • Breast of Barbary Duck with Barbequed Aubergine, Asparagus, Crab Apple and Liquorice Jus

I went for the Risotto of Broccoli & “Dart Mountain” Sperrin Blue cheese with Smoked Almonds and Broighter Gold Rapeseed Oil.

Mum selected the Roast Cod with Smoked Pancetta, Garden Pea Bon Bon, Prawn and Lemongrass Bisque.

The reason for picking the Risotto was, not only because I always enjoy the dish,  but also because of the use of two local ingredients- Dart Mountain, which is a cheese maker in the Sperrin Mountains in Derry, and Broighter Gold, a rapeseed oil made in Limavady and a stock cupboard essential in our house. Both mains were thoroughly enjoyed!

Risotto

Roast cod

Finally, available desserts include:

  • Pistachio Parfait with Chocolate, Cherry and Lime
  • Honey & Lavender Crème Brule with Sauvignon Poached Peach
  • Seasonal Berries served with Prosecco & Elderflower Jelly

I selected the Chocolate and Orange Delice with Caramelised Orange Ice Cream, while my mum had Raspberry and Vanilla Cheesecake. This was served with the interesting- sounding Peanut Butter Powder and Bee Pollen Meringue.

For me dessert is always about chocolate or cheesecake! The delice was smooth and mousse-like, while mum’s cheesecake came “deconstructed” It almost took me a second to remember what she had ordered when it arrived, but the taste was delicious.

Chocolate and orange delice

Deconstructed cheesecake 

Overall, the whole meal was fantastic, and the passion which goes into the dishes is evident. The Redcastle website says the food is “not fussy food but prepared with such care, attention and flair so good it will leave you sighing with happiness.”

And we did just that- sigh!

Views over River Foyle in the Edge Restaurant 

 

 

Redcastle Hotel, Donegal

Afternoon tea by the sea? Now doesn’t that sound great!

It must have been last year when one of my friends stayed at the Redcastle Hotel in Donegal or someone I know ‘liked’ a picture, but whatever it was, my attention was drawn to the hotel and, in particular, its afternoon tea offering.

I’m a huge fan of afternoon tea anyway, but the picture of their high tea and the stunning sea views behind it put it on my list of ‘must-dos’.

That chance came at the end of September when Redcastle asked if I would like to experience what the hotel has to offer. I really couldn’t wait and my mum, 8 month old daughter Niamh and I headed off an a girly trip to Moville in Donegal.

The journey took about 2 hours and the hotel was very easy to find. We were welcomed by Feleena who was so helpful in explaining to us about the hotel and the local area (especially as we wanted to explore this part of Donegal while we were there.)

As I said, I was so eager to try the afternoon tea so a few days beforehand had booked 2 of the ‘Afternoon Tea and Spa’ packages which costs €80pp.

This consists of the Classic Afternoon Tea and either a 50 minute Swedish massage or a 60 min Voya Self Discovery Facial.  Cakes and a massage! My favourites!

But first, before I could get my hands on any cake, we checked into our room. What can I say- the views are simply breathtaking. From every window all we could see was water.

We had the pleasure of being in the Balcony Suite (from €110pp) which is a luxurious one bedroom suite with a king-size bed, living area and a Balcony overlooking Lough Foyle.

The bathroom has a Jacuzzi and separate shower, while the room also has Satellite TV, free WiFi, refreshments, and bathrobe and slippers.

This is the type of room you book when you really want to treat yourself! Even just sitting in the living area watching the water as the sun went down was so relaxing.

Once we had settled in, it was time to make our way to the The Deck, where they serve the afternoon tea.

Our waitress talked us through the different teas, bringing a selection over so we could take in the aroma before picking. I went for the Rooiboos Tea from South Africa while my mum went for the traditional Chinese Lychee Tea.

Then we were served our lunch. The afternoon tea consists of a selection of finger sandwiches- Free Range Egg & Onion on white bread, Roast Coronation Chicken on white bread, Oak Cured Smoked Salmon & Horseradish on wholemeal bread and Honey Glazed Ham & Wholegrain Mustard on white bread.

This is followed by freshly baked scones with whipped Cream and preserves, and finished with mini cakes and sweet fancies: we had homemade carrot and walnut cake, macaroons, lemon tart and coffee opera cake. The afternoon tea was really tasty- exactly what I wanted. And again, those views really made it for me!

After afternoon tea, it was time for the second part of our package. Mum picked the one hour facial, while I went for the full body Swedish massage. We took it in turns so one of us could look after Niamh while the other was being completely pampered! This is a great package and I would highly recommend it if you are staying at Redcastle.

As well as the spa, the hotel also has a leisure centre which has a swimming pool, sauna, steam room and fitness suite. Use of the facilities is complimentary for guests. Now I didn’t try out the gym (surprise, surprise!) but we did use the leisure centre the next morning and Niamh loved playing in the baby pool.

After our treatments, we got ready for dinner (which I will talk about in the next blog post) and retired to our room for the evening. Niamh went to sleep early so mum and I enjoyed the luxury of the room and the living area, with a great night’s sleep in the big king-size bed! What a great break at Redcastle!

Check out my video and pictures below:

​Redcastle Hotel

Hotel Balcony Suite

Views from our room!

Afternoon tea by the sea

Redcastle Breakfast


 Leisure Facilities