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!

 

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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  

Galgorm Hotel- A night at the Spa

I’ve been back to work now after maternity leave since the start of August and I’m slowly getting into a good routine of getting both myself and Niamh out the door in the mornings.

It’s been a busy few weeks so sometimes you just need to take a break and relax. That came in the form of an invite to the Galgorm Hotel two weeks ago to try out their luxury spa.

I’ve stayed in the hotel before, but as it’s always been for a wedding, I had never made it along to the spa. I couldn’t wait to experience it, especially the snow room which I had heard about – and was totally intrigued!

I went with my mum and on arrival to The Orangery, we were treated to Prosecco and canapes while we told of a new treatment partner, BioEffect. The brand, which is from Iceland, is a luxury skincare range and the Galgorm is the only spa in the whole of Ireland to now offer BioEffect treatments.

After hearing about the range’s benefits and seeing a treatment being carried out, we headed over to a new section of the hotel’s renowned Thermal Village called Elements.

This is a 2 floor, 60-seat restaurant in the shape of a dome.  The idea is that if you fancy lunch and cocktails, you don’t even have to leave the spa now! There, we tried a sample of the dishes, both mains and desserts, and one of the Elements’ most popular cocktails, the Gin Daisy.

I’m hoping to take my mum away to the Galgorm in the New Year as a thank you for all her help on maternity leave, so Elements really got me excited for when we go and spend the day in the spa, and having a few cocktails at the same time!

Finally, we got to try out the Thermal Village for ourselves. We were in the Jacuzzi, hot tub, swimming pool, sanarium and most importantly, the snow room! If you’re wondering why there’s a room full of snow, its about enhancing blood circulation and is good for the respiratory system.

The spa is just first class! It was very different to be sitting outside on a cold evening, but in the warmth of the bubbling water! Many thanks to the Glagorm for letting me experience the Spa and Elements, and I can’t wait to get back next year!

The Orangery

Canapes on arrival

BioEffect treatment

BioEffect

Elements 

Spa restaurant Elements

Food and drink at Elements

Desserts in Elements

Thermal Spa

 

 

 

Stix and Stones at Balmoral Hotel

I’ve been to Stix and Stones in Belfast City Centre numerous times since it first opened just over 3 years ago and always loved the “steak on a stone” experience. What better way to get your steak just how you like it by cooking it yourself!

At the start of August I visited the Balmoral Hotel for the Belfast Masterchef Challenge where we told the exclusive news that Stix and Stones Part 2 was opening…in the very place we were sitting! Yes, Balmoral Hotel!

I thought it was a fantastic idea. There are loads of people who want to experience Stix and Stones who don’t necessarily want to go into Belfast city centre, who prefer to eat locally, who want ample parking or who want to have dinner and a few drinks and be able to stay over too!

So, when I was asked if I would like to try the new restaurant last week, of course I couldn’t say no!

We arrived at 6pm so were able to avail of the Pre-theatre menu which is available Monday to Friday from 5pm to 6.30pm. You can get 2 courses for £15.95 or three for £18.95.

The starters include Minestrone Soup with warm bread, or Goats cheese with pickled pears, pear gel and filo pastry.

I went for the Stix and Stones Chicken wings which are served with a creme fraiche salsa, while Barry choose the miso glazed salmon with fennel, blood orange, quinoa and rocket.

I loved the starter- the chicken wings had a slight sweetness to the glaze which worked very well with the tangy sourness of the creme fraiche. Barry said his salmon was beautifully cooked and coated with the simple and delicate miso dressing. He said the hints of fennel were mild but enough to come through on the palette.

Then it was time for the main course. You can choose from the “On the Stone” selection and the “Off the Stone” selection. The “On the stone” menu includes the rump steak and the rump of Lamb, while the “Off the Stone” includes pan roast supreme of chicken, chorizo and three bean stew, or Gnocchi served with wild mushroom ragu, smoked garlic and pea shoots.

We both went for the ‘cook-your-own’ experience and I selected the 7oz matured rump steak which comes with a flat cap mushroom, slow cooked tomato, balsamic glazed beetroot and sauce.

Barry selected the 6oz Yellowfin Tuna steak which was served with roast butternut squash, chilli, soya beans and quinoa.

Soon we heard the loud sizzle of the meat as our waitress brought the hot stone down to our table and explained the best way to cook the meat, from the size of the strips to the time we should each strip for.

I just love doing this- I think it is novel and fun and a different dining experience! My steak was gorgeous- a big juicy bit of meat which I cooked medium-well and devoured every bit. Barry thought his Tuna steak was fresh and delicious, and cooking it quickly over the high heat meant it didn’t dry out. Great!

Finally, we both went for dessert to round off a lovely meal. The desserts include Strawberry semi-freddo, Vanilla rice pudding or Lemon posset.

We went for our firm favourites- cheesecake, which was White chocoloate and Passionfruit- and anything with chocoloate in it, picking the Chocolate Tart served with a salted caramel macaroon and ice cream.

The tart is not the way to finish if you are looking for something light!! It was rich, dark and oh so chocolatey! Right up my street. The cheesecake was much lighter and more to Barry’s taste!

Overall, we had a great night out at Stix and Stones in Balmoral. It has only been open for a few weeks but I am already hearing that it has been very popular with both locals and people traveling from further away.

The atmosphere was lovely and the food was great so perhaps we might hear about Stix and Stones Part 3 in the future!

Starters- Chicken Wings and Miso glazed salmon

Mains- Rump steak and Yellowfin Tuna Steak

Dessert- White chocolate and Passionfruit Cheesecake and Chocolate Tart

Disclaimer: I was invited along to the Balmoral Hotel so the food was complimentary. I paid for all the drinks. All views expressed are my own. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Armagh Food and Cider Festival- Part 4

The final two stops on our food tour of Armagh were to the Armagh Robinson Library (where I attended the pop up restaurant last year) and 4Vicars.

The two will, this year, play host to a “Harvest Supper and Concert” during the Armagh Food and Cider Festival in September.

Following a canapé reception in 4 Vicars restaurant, guests will be led by lamplight to the elegant setting of the Robinson Library to enjoy a short concert before returning for a harvest supper featuring the best of seasonal Food Heartland produce.

We were greeted to Armagh Robinson Library by two “interesting” characters who informed us about the customs and etiquette of the day!

Robinson Library is one of the oldest libraries in Ireland and we were shown some of the rarest collections of books and manuscripts, particularly those to do with food and travel, given us foodie bunch!

We then made the short distance to 4 Vicars, a restaurant which is the current holder of the Georgina Campbell award for ‘Best Casual Dining Restaurant’.

There, we were treated to the most delicious four course dinner introduced by each of the local producers- I honestly couldn’t fault a thing!

The first course was O’Chatten Smokery Lough Neagh pollan with carrot and sauerkraut slaw and a Cavanagh free range egg.

The second course was Tyndale Goat kid meat ball with yogurt sauce and Swiss chard from Crannagael House (which we had visited earlier in the day.)

We then had Kilkeel hake with Crannagael House fennel puree, fennel salad and Connemara air dried pork.

To finish, we had Plum and Almond tart with Crannagael House plums and homemade vanilla ice cream.

The food was simply amazing, a wonderful spread!

I have to admit I was sceptical about goat thinking it would be very tough, but it was tender and juicy- a surprise! Guests to the Harvest Supper are in for a treat if this was anything to go by.

Armagh Robinson Library- teaching us etiquette!

Music at 4Vicars

Cocktails and canapes at 4Vicars

O’Chatten Smokery Lough Neagh pollan

Tyndale Goat kid meat ball

Kilkeel hake

Plum and Almond tart

For more information on the Armagh Food and Cider Festival, visit http://www.armagh.co.uk/foodandcider

 

 

Armagh Food and Cider Festival- Part 3

The third stop on our tour of Armagh was to The Moody Boar, a restaurant recognised by the Michelin Guide and located in the grounds of the Palace Demesne.

With an ethos for fresh and local food, many of the herbs and vegetables they cook with are grown in their own gardens.

The Moody Boar was one of the eateries which had created a course during the pop-up restaurant in the Dean of Armagh Cathedral’s house and it really stuck out to me back then.

During this year’s Armagh Food and Cider Festival, guests can enjoy “Pairing under the stars“. This is a wine, cider, tapas and chocolate evening held within the Palace Greenhouse, pictured below. What a lovely way to eat looking up at the night sky!

We went to the greenhouse where the event will take place and the owner Sean Farnan plated up a dessert individually for us to enjoy. A take on the warm apple pie!

I can just imagine how nice this setting will be in the evening!

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Read more in Part 4