History tour of Cushendun

As I’ve mentioned on here before we live in Cushendun at the weekends.

With it being the 12th holidays this week, we’ve been staying up since Tuesday which has been great as it’s also the Cushendun festival week.

I recently did a walking tour of the village which focused on the five ‘Big Houses’ and I found it really fascinating. So when I saw another walking history tour was taking place during this week’s festival I made a special effort to get along.

The tour this morning was taken by local historian Alastair McIlhatton who took us around Cushendun pointing out places of interest and telling us all about the people who lived here, not least Lord Cushendun, Ronald McNeill, for whom Cushendun was designed in memory of his Cornish wife Maud.

The tour culminated in the Cave House, one of the five ‘Big Houses’. As the name might suggest, entrance to this spectacular property is through winding caves! Incredible!

The property, which was owned by the Sisters of Mercy, is currently on sale for £375,000. It needs complete restoration but how lucky is the person who acquires it, with unbelievable sea views and unrivalled privacy.

The tour was so informative and I love hearing all about this beautiful village. Check out the video and pics below to see how we got on during the tour!


Through the caves to the Cave House

 Cave House
Cave House

Cave House

Cushendun Beach

 

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Cushendun- what a difference a week makes!

Barry and I spend most weekends in Cushendun where (if you’re a fan of Game of Thrones), the caves are situated in which Melisandre gives birth to her “shadow baby”.

Cushendun is a small village in the Causeway Coast and Glens which is National Trust-owned. The charming village has always been somewhat of a hidden gem but has grown in popularity over the past few years due to its connection with the HBO fantasy series.

As well as the Cushendun Caves, the local pub, Mary McBrides, houses one of the “Door of Thrones”, a tourism initiative which saw a series of doors unveiled in restaurants and bars across Northern Ireland. The doors have been carved from fallen trees from the ‘Dark Hedges’.

I wasn’t due to give birth until 14th January so Barry and I decided to spend the few days between Christmas and New Years in Cushendun. Plenty of time, I said! The baby isn’t due for another few weeks, I said!

But alas…. there I was on 30th December when the little one decided she would quite like to be born in Cushendun! Yes, I went into labour over an hour away from where I was due to give birth in the Mater Hospital! So, we abandoned ship and made our way down the road, hoping I wouldn’t have the baby on the hard shoulder of the M2!

Thankfully, I didn’t – and in fact, it wasn’t until 27 hours later that little Niamh was in my arms. My waters broke at 1opm on Friday night and she wasn’t born until 1.10am on Sunday morning!

But, it wasn’t long until we where back up in Game of Thrones territory. Yes, a mere five days after giving birth I was in Cushendun, walking the beach and having my first Gin and Tonic in 9 months in Mary McBrides.

We didn’t waste any time, eh?One week later- what a difference a week makes!

Cushendun Beach- January 2017. (Brave kayakers!)

Door of Thrones- Mary McBrides

The River Dun, Cushendun

 

 

 

Drummond Hotel, Ballykelly

For Valentines Day I bought Barry the very romantic present of…Premier League Darts tickets! Surely that’s a few girlfriend brownie points?

But when I saw a deal online for a night away on Valentine’s Day itself, I couldn’t resist that as a surprise present as well. The deal was for the Drummond Hotel in Ballykelly and, for £40 per person, consisted of an overnight stay, candlelit dinner, breakfast and a late checkout- what a bargain!

So I surprised Barry on Saturday morning and off we went to the North Coast. We arrived about 3pm and checked in to the family-run hotel close to Limavady. The bedroom was compact but came with tea/coffee facilities, television, hairdryer and other amenities which made the stay very comfortable.

We had booked dinner in the hotel for 6.30pm so we had a few hours to explore the surrounding area. As big Game of Thrones fans, Barry and I decided to drive to the Dark Hedges in Stranocum close to Ballymoney. The journey took about 40 minutes and we were so glad we made the trip. This stunning avenue of beech trees has always been popular, but because of the Game of Thrones link, the Dark Hedges has become a major attraction. Indeed, while we were there, a bus of tourists, as well as several cars, arrived.

When we went down for dinner that evening, we weren’t sure how many courses was included in the package- but we were so surprised to discover that dinner was a 4-course Valentines menu! (which cost £19.95pp alone, might I add!) Fantastic value.

For starters I picked the Italian bruschetta with roasted Mediterranean vegetables, while Barry chose the Wild Mushrooms on toasted bread with a creamy garlic drizzle.

For mains I selected the slow roast beef with a chasseur sauce and crispy onions. The large portion of beef was a highlight for me- the tender meat just fell apart and the sauce really complimented it. Barry went for the pan fried fillet of duck breast on an Asian noodle salad. He asked for the breast to be cooked rare and commented on how juicy it was.

For desserts, I opted for Pina Colada Pannacotta with mango and passion fruit compote while Barry went for the Raspberry Ruffle cheesecake. I’m glad I went for the Pannacotta as it didn’t feel too heavy after the large, filling main. We were very impressed with the dinner, particularly for the price.

The next morning, we headed down for breakfast, but still fairly full from the night before, I didn’t go for my normal big breakfast! Some toast and eggs did me- but there was a decent selection of cooked options on offer.

The hotel is situated in between the more popular tourist destinations of Derry and Portrush, but a nice spot if you’re looking for something quiet, family-run and unassuming- especially at that price!

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Drummond Hotel

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Drummond Hotel bedroom

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Dark Hedges

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Bruschetta

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Slow roast beef

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Drummond Hotel Restaurant

Merchant Rooftop and seeing the sights of the Antrim coast

This past week has been extremely busy, with little time to sit down and watch the World Cup (which I had been doing religiously since it started!) As a quick overview, on Tuesday I went to a Chamber of Commerce networking breakfast which resembled speed dating as we had two or three minutes with other attendees before the buzzer went and we all had to move on. (Great way to meet other businesses though!) On Thursday I went to Stann and Olly’s for dinner then a “Cocktails and Canapés” event in the Merchant Hotel’s rooftop garden. On Friday, I went to Tullyglass Hotel for a family wedding; Saturday I went to  Drumbo Park greyhound racing; and Sunday we took a trip up to Cushendall and Cushendun for a BBQ picnic and to enjoy the sun! Phew- so a busy week all round but great to see so many new places.

So, back to Thursday evening. It was Barry’s birthday so we went for dinner to one of our regular spots- Stann and Olly’s on the Dublin Road. We’ve always found the food here to be lovely! It’s typical American diner style- think Burgers, Chilli Dogs and Philly Cheese Steak- with music from the 40s/50s/60s playing on the radio and clips of Laurel and Hardy on the TVs. I normally get the Philly Cheese but went for something just a little less American this time- chicken, champ and pepper sauce. Barry had nachos to start and then scampi with a side of Caesar Salad for main. Once again, a nice meal if you’re after a good ‘hearty’ feed.

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Stan and Olly’s Nachos

 

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Scampi and Caesar Salad- Stan and Olly’s

After dinner, we headed round the Merchant Hotel’s rooftop garden for an evening of Cocktails and Canapés which was being hosted by the Daily Mirror. What a great venue for a party! It was an evening for those who advertise in the Mirror and I had been invited through my work. I didn’t try any of the food, having just had dinner, but great cocktails! Thanks to the Mirror for a great evening!Image

Merchant Hotel Rooftop garden party

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Sampling the cocktails

On Saturday we headed to Drumbo Park for a night ‘at the dogs’. I’d been before and really enjoyed it last time. Not big ones for gambling, we were putting just £2 bets on each race! Out of the 12, I won one race and Barry won four, so not too bad for amateurs!

 

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Drumbo Park

Finally on Sunday we took a quick tour up round the Antrim Coast to see some of the amazing scenery- at lot of it where Game of Thrones is filmed! It was a beautiful day so we stopped of at Cushendun beach for a BBQ picnic before heading round to the caves where, if you’re a Game of Thrones fan,you’ll know Melisandre had her shadowy baby! It was a great day to just relax and enjoy the sun, and wind down after the busy week! Image

Cushendun Pier

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Cushendun

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Cushendun caves- Game of Thrones

 

ImageMere enjoying a quick swim!

Hospitality BBQ and Ascending the Wall at Game of Thrones

Partying on a Monday night? Sure, why not?

On Monday I attended the Hospitality Review NI BBQ which saw over 300 people from the local hospitality industry and the media come together for the annual charity event. It was held in The Hudson Bar beer garden and even Masterchef’s John Torode made a special appearance! The theme was ‘Hats and Shades’ which was pretty appropriate as the weather turned out nice! All proceeds raised from tickets sales and the raffle went to NI Chest Heart & Stroke (although sad to report I didn’t win anything!) Plenty of food and drink on offer, and good to see some old faces! Image

Hospitality Review BBQ

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Hudson Bar beer garden

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Myself and Stuart Robinson of Cool FM/Downtown Radio

On Saturday I headed to the much anticipated Game of Thrones Exhibition at the Waterfront Hall! As an avid fan of the show, I had been looking forward to this for many many weeks. I was delighted to have managed to get my hands on tickets having sat for around 45 minutes in the online queue! The exhibition was unbelievable, featuring costumes and props from the programme. But the two biggest highlights were the Iron Throne and ‘Ascend the Wall’ which was a virtual ride up ‘The Wall’! Any fan who went along will not have been disappointed! Just wish there was more of Jon Snow…Image

Little Aya on the Iron Throne

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Joffrey Baratheon

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Cersei Lannister

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Ascend The Wall

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Priestess Melisandre

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Jamie Lannister and Brienne of Tarth

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Ygritte

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Me on the Iron Throne