Where I’ve been

It’s been three months since I last posted a blog. Not because I got bored of doing it, or couldn’t be bothered, or didn’t have the time. It just wasn’t the right time to do one.

So many things have happened over the past few months – my daddy passing away at the end of May being the hardest. I kept the whole thing very private and it didn’t feel right to post pictures of him and say that he had passed away. It’s a private thing.

We also moved permanently to Cushendun and have been moving our lives up there. I still commute to Belfast so my 20 minute journey to work is now 1.5 hours each way, including dropping off Niamh to my mum or my husband’s mum! That’s tiring but coming home to beside the beach is nice! ūüôā

Everything has been crazy and I didn’t want to write. But it’s nice to still get out and about and hopefully pick up the blog again. If anything, I’ll write for myself even if no-one wants to read it!


Tour Lough Neagh this summer

If you’re starting to plan your summer holidays, now you can tour Lough Neagh at your leisure with a range of guided tours!

Steeped in history, heritage, folklore, fauna and culture, Lough Neagh provides the backdrop for this unique range of one day tours which depart from Belfast.

  • Lough Neagh Crosskeys Flyer Tour, Co Antrim

Visitors will be transported from Belfast aboard the ‚ÄėCrosskeys Flyer‚Äô to enjoy a traditional evening of music and craic in Ireland‚Äôs oldest thatched pub and where they can purchase one of the best tasting pints of Guinness in the north. The stone built cottage was once a coaching stop on the route between Belfast and Derry~Londonderry and dates back to 1654.

  • Lough Neagh Shane‚Äôs Castle Tour, Co Antrim

More recently acclaimed as a location for Game of Thrones filming, visit the ancient ruins of Shane’s Castle and hear the stories of the family Banshee. Inspect the mysterious black face on the rock which must remain in place to protect the continuation of the O’Neill dynasty. And enjoy indulgent afternoon tea in the old railway café!

  • Lough Neagh Craic ‚Äėn Food & Drink Tour, Co Antrim and Co Londonderry

A sampling of Lough Neagh Eel accompanied by stories from an eel fisherman whose family have been fishing on the Lough since the Flight of the Earls in 1607 starts the tour which ends with toe tapping traditional¬†Irish¬†music in¬†Ireland‚Äôs oldest thatched pub ‚Äď The Crosskeys Inn. There is a visit to Northern Ireland‚Äôs only buffalo farm at Ballyriff and a stop off at a pub made famous by much loved local poet, Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney on the Lough Neagh Craic ‚Äėn Food & Drink Tour.

  • ¬†Lough Neagh Wilderness Tour, Co Armagh

For those who wonder what rural life was like before technology took over, this one day tour transports visitors into the wilderness to provide an insight into how the ancestors of Lough Neagh lived and survived! The ultimate adventurer’s day out, Lough Neagh Wilderness Tour offers visitors an opportunity to build a shelter and a chance to canoe on Lough Neagh with only the resident swans for company.

  • Lough Neagh Rams Island Tour, Co Antrim

A short boat journey to Ram’s Island where visitors can explore a round tower from the remains of a 1,000 year old Celtic monastic settlement and the ruins of the O’Neill family’s 19thcentury summer house on this unique Lough Neagh Rams Island Tour.

  • ¬†Lough Neagh Heartland Food & Drink Tour, Co Armagh and Co Tyrone

Foodies will enjoy the first stop on the Lough Neagh Heartland Food & Drink Tour, at award winning Harnett’s Oils. The cold-pressed rapeseed and hemp oils are made from crops grown on the family run farm. At the next stop visitors can sample Long Meadow Cider and take in a tour of the orchard.  At Crannagael House, a grade two listed Georgian house, a delicious buffet showcasing the produce on the tour will be provided. The last stop is at a real gem of a pub in Moy which has been in the Tomney family for 300 years.

To book a place, log on to www.loughneaghtours.com

Granny Shaws Fudge Factory opens at Glenarm Castle

As if consuming my weight in chocolate over Easter wasn’t enough, I was delighted to receive some creamy, delicious fudge from Granny Shaws.

I’m a big fan of Granny Shaws fudge, having bought plenty of it at artisan markets and Victoria Square over the past few months. (That, and the fact that a former colleague’s granny is, in fact, Granny Shaw!)

But now Northern Ireland‚Äôs first fudge factory has opened at Glenarm Castle just in time for the new spring season.¬†¬†Visitors can watch the art of fudge-making at ‚ÄėGranny Shaws Fudge Factory‚Äô before choosing from more than 50 flavours including Eton Mess, Sea Salted Caramel and Rum and Raisin.

I was so pleased to also receive a membership card for Glenarm Castle in the package which I’ll make good use of as Glenarm is only 17 miles away from Cushendun.

 Glenarm Castle visitors can purchase membership cards before their visit online at www.glenarmcastle.com/membership, priced at £17.50 and membership entitles you to visit the national treasure as often as you like throughout the season, until October 2018.

As well as unlimited access, membership includes special discounts on various events including the award winning Dalriada Festival (14-15 July), free admission to Bloomfest (5-7 May) and advance pre-sale tickets for the renowned Christmas Experience before general release.

Glenarm Castle is open from 9.00am to 5.00pm on Monday to Saturday and from 10am to 5pm on Sundays until October.

The House of Peroni presents: La Primavera Belfast

I was just finishing up work for Easter on Thursday when a package arrived for me from the House of Peroni. The hamper was filled with, of course, Peroni lager, but also ingredients such as Arborio rice, Parma Ham, Buffalo mozzarella, duck ravioli from the Italian restaurant Coppi and Parmesan from Arcadia delicatessen.

Our task was to whip up our best Italian feast, and to mark the House of Peroni’s food and drink market, La Primavera, taking place this week at St Anne’s Square in Belfast.

The House of Peroni Presents: La Primavera will run from¬†Thursday 5th¬†April to Saturday 7th¬†April 2018.¬†A celebration of the start of spring, La Primavera is marked in Italy with food festivals which take place during ‚ÄėFesta della Primavera‚Äô.

Some of Belfast’s finest Italian eateries will unveil delicious seasonal offerings at the market, which can be eaten al fresco in St. Anne’s Square or taken home to share with family and friends.

Restuarants taking place include The Chubby Cherub, a family run establishment which will offer traditional Italian street food, known as Strada Cibo. Belfast Woodfire Pizza Company will bring its authentic wood-fired pizza to the pop-up market, while Coppi will serve up a delicious selection of Italian breads and fresh handmade pastas.

Italian chef, Riccardo Grande, will also host bespoke Art of Pasta masterclasses. Taking place at the market on Friday and Saturday at 7pm, Riccardo will teach attendees how to create this Italian staple at home. Tickets for the event can be purchased on www.thehouseofperoni.com for £20.

So, what did I make with my ingredients? Well, I decided to have Italian chicchetti (small dishes similar to Spanish tapas.)

On the menu was:

  • Roasted red pepper and rocket risotto
  • Asparagus pan fried in garlic butter and wrapped in Parma ham
  • Caprese salad
  • and Coppi duck ravioli topped with garlic basil oil and grated Parmesan.

This was all washed down with cold Peroni beer! I know I made it so I may sound bias here, but it was delicious! Fresh, simple and tasty!

I’m heading down on Thursday and Saturday (for the pasta masterclass) to taste and drink more Italian goodness- can’t wait!

The House of Peroni Presents: La Primavera takes place at St. Anne’s Square in Belfast city centre from Thursday, 5th April to Saturday, 7th April. Entry is free, and on a first come, first served basis. Over 18s only.

For more information, follow Peroni Ireland on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, or visit www.thehouseofperoni.com.


Family day out to Tayto Park

Last Halloween I had my first experience of Tayto Park in County Meath.¬†The theme park was running special Halloween-themed evenings and it was there I faced my fears and went on rides I’d been too afraid to go on before. See here for the evidence!

Therefore, when I was invited down last weekend with my family, I was intrigued to see what it was like from a very different perspective- i.e for families, with a 1-year old toddler, during the day, no ghosts or ghouls jumping out at me!

So, Barry, Niamh and I made on way down on Saturday, which incidentally was the opening weekend (due to a delayed opening because of stormy weather conditions the week before) and also the launch day of Ireland’s first driving school for kids, a joint venture with Nissan and Tayto Park.

We headed off at 7.30am and arrived at 9.00am (so a relatively short drive from Belfast) and went straight for a sneak preview of the driving school which was to open to the public later that morning.¬†All kids enjoy a short video demo where they will learn the rules of the road before negotiating the traffic course.¬†Now Niamh is obviously too young to drive (she’s just learnt to walk!) but she did enjoy seeing the other children whizz by and I got her in a car to get a quick snap.

We then had some breakfast in the Lodge Restaurant (there are numerous places to eat and drink around the park) before we headed out to explore what Tayto Park has to offer.

Our first stop was the zoo, home to a diverse animal collection, from chickens and goats, through to tigers and monkeys. Niamh is obsessed with animals and has already mastered quite the catalogue of animal noises so she was in her element. I think her favourite were the meerkats who popped up to say hello.¬†There are a number of different shows such as the “World of Raptors” and the park also opens up the Farmyard petting area to visitors in the summer.

Once we’d spent an hour to two in the zoo, with Niamh shouting hello to every animal, we headed back down towards the attractions. Unfortunately Niamh was a little too small for some of the kids’ rides (you have to be 84cm) but we were aware of this before we went and had already looked up which attractions she could go on (there is a “How tall are you” sliding scale on the website. These included the traditional-style Steam Train which takes you around the park which she loved!

But, Barry and I were able to go on all the rides so we just took turns. Yes, I went on the very same rollercoaster I was scared off last time by myself! The C√ļ Chulainn is Europe’s largest wooden rollercoaster and reaches speeds of 100km per hour and a drop of 31 metres…gulp!

There is also a 5D cinema, extreme climbing wall, Viking Voyage water ride, as well as other attractions such as the truly scary “Rotator” (soaring 31 metres in the sky!)

We spent over 6 hours at Tayto Park and really could have spent longer had Niamh been able to go on a few more rides, so you can make a full day out of it.

The verdict? It is a totally difference experience with a toddler as I did things I hadn’t done before, like visit the zoo or go on the steam train. I loved seeing her face light up with excitement which made for a wonderful day out!

Disclaimer: We were guests of Tayto Park so received free entry, wristbands and breakfast. We paid for all other food, drinks and gifts.

Launch of Pravha beer at The Perch

Last week we attended the launch of a new beer in the Northern Ireland market.

Barry and I headed to The Perch were Pravha, a 4% ABV Czech style pilsner from the brewers of leading lager Staropramen, was unveiled.

Pravha has the iconic flavour and gentle bitterness of a high quality Czech pilsner, but is also crisp, light and refreshing.

The launch is being supported by Molson Coors in Northern Ireland with point of sale materials including outlet activation, stylish glassware bar runners, coasters and signage for on-trade customers.

Brewed using the passion, ingredients and knowledge of the famous Staropramen brewers, Pravha represents the unexpected side of Prague, by offering a twist on the classic Czech pilsner made with two specially selected malts and three Czech hops.

¬†‚ÄúWe are delighted to welcome Pravha to the Molson Coors portfolio in Northern Ireland,‚Ä̬†said¬†Ryan McFarland, NI Director at Molson Coors.

 “In Prague, there’s always something new and exciting going on underneath the surface of the city. In the same way, Pravha is the unexpected side of Staropramen, a refreshing drinking experience that consumers may not expect from a Czech pilsner.

¬†‚ÄúBy introducing this beer, we hope to excite our customers and consumers and continue to expand our premium world beer category.‚ÄĚ

Timescape Belfast- can you escape?

Locked in a room and having to figure out how to escape in just one hour? Now, does that sound exciting or slightly terrifying?!

Well, that’s what we experienced at Timescape Belfast, a new escape room where the aim of the game is to work out how to ‘get out’ before it’s too late.

Escape rooms have become huge in recent years, with players using different rhymes, puzzles and codes to work out the next move. Think a mix of ‘Crystal Maze’ and ‘The Krypton Factor.’ It requires skill, logical thinking and most importantly, team work!

The theme of this Escape Room is Titanic- the Final Hour. Can you escape before the ship sinks?¬†It may seem somewhat of a strange theme but it isn’t crass or insensitive. It could be the inside of any ship.

I went on a Thursday night with 2 other complete novices (teams are anything between 2 and 6 people) and we were locked in the room with one clue to help us on our way.

To be honest, for about 10 minutes we didn’t know where to begin! We just kept looking around us for inspiration.

But soon, we got the hang of it and we were cracking the codes together and apart. When we were stuck, we were able to avail of some clues which popped up on the screen, but players are asked beforehand if they would like them or not in times of need.

The time starting ticking away and when it got to 50 minutes I started to panic. Can we do this?! Or are we going to fail miserably?

Thankfully, we did it! With just 4 minutes to go…..phew!

It was such good fun and really got me interested in escape rooms. It’s great craic and perfect for team building. The high score to beat when we were there was just over 30 minutes….can you do it?