Day out at Victoria Square- Pop up museum

I’m back to work now after maternity leave but am doing a phased return so I’m off on Fridays for a few weeks.

I’ve missed getting out and about every day so I make sure I always have something planned for my days off.

Last Friday that was a trip to Victoria Square in Belfast, not just for a spot of shopping but because the complex has teamed up with National Museums Northern Ireland to host a museum!

Throughout the month of August different historical activities will be popping up around the centre including a transport zone, craft zone and games zone.

So, what’s there to do?

Old craft and skills: Different workshops every day such as lace making, wool weaving and story telling.

Discover Old Belfast: What was Belfast like before Victoria Square was there?

Belfast Street Games: What did kids do for fun in days gone by? Experience hopscotch and “What’s the time, Mr Wolf?”

Experience Transport: Celebrating the life of NI inventor Harry Ferguson, famous for the development of tractors and the Ferguson monoplane

Docks in the Dome: Explore the history of ship building in Northern Ireland whilst looking at the H&W cranes

Check out the pictures below to see what it was like!

A nice day exploring our heritage and culture, and Niamh loved getting on the old transport!

Old craft and skills- Harvest Knot making and mystery objects

Discover Old Belfast

Belfast Street Games

Experience Transport

Docks in the Dome

Oh…and some dragons!


 

 

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

 

Barberstown Castle, Kildare

A few weeks ago Barry and I spent the weekend in County Kildare in a beautiful 13th Century Castle! (It’s not every day you stay in a castle!)

The hotel, Barberstown Castle, is nestled in 20 acres of gardens and was built as a fortress to protect the people of Barberstown from the attack of Ui Faelain, who tried to burn the town back in 1310.

Since 1288 Barberstown Castle has had 37 owners including one Eric Clapton! Yes, the singer owned it from 1979 until 1987. Now that’s a story!

In fact, each room is named after one of the previous owners and we were in Room 34 (“Sir John Fanning”) after the owner in 1288. The Castle was first converted into a hotel in the early 1970s.

We had a massive bedroom, complete with four poster bed and a seating area so we felt extremely comfortable during our stay. The room came with little perks such as branded bottled water and dressing gown and slippers. We were even able to order room service every time we wanted tea/coffee at no extra cost.

One highlight was the five course dinner, priced at €55 per person. To begin with we had an amuse bouche to stimulate the appetite and then I selected the free range egg served with grilled leek, onion soubise and black truffle, followed by chargrilled Irish Beef fillet, celeraic, ox tongue with onion and red wine.

For my fourth course I selected the “Mexique” dark chocolate, kumquat jelly, cocoa biscuit and Tonka chocolate sauce, and finished off with petit fours served with tea and coffee. For me, the dinner was exquisite- every course was bursting with flavour and I couldn’t fault a thing. A real treat.

Below are just some of the highlights of our brilliant stay. Check it out if you want a bit of luxury for a special weekend away!

Barberstown Castle- our bedroom

Four poster bed

Sir John Fanning- owner of the castle in 1288

Barberstown Castle


Castle grounds

Breakfast selection

Breakfast

Lounge with grand piano

Amuse bouche

Free range egg served with grilled leek, onion soubise and black truffle

Chargrilled Irish Beef fillet, celeraic, ox tongue with onion and red wine

“Mexique” dark chocolate, kumquat jelly, cocoa biscuit and Tonka chocolate sauce

 

 

 

 

 

Beech Hill Country House, Derry

A few weekends ago I treated my mum and sister to a night away in Derry for both of their birthdays. I had booked Beech Hill Country House which is a stunning Georgian house, with 30 bedrooms and suites, based at Ardmore Road.

I had booked a classic double room for my mum and a superior room (as it included both a king size as well as a single bed) for my sister and I, but on arrival were delighted to receive two superior rooms beside each other with adjoining door! A lovely touch.

The rooms were huge, warm and comfortable and we were looking forward to relaxing in them later that evening. (I later found out that each room in the hotel looks different as they have all been individually restored, so different décor, paints, fabrics etc)

But before we relaxed in our rooms, it was down to the bar for a few drinks and dinner! It was a cold evening so we parked up right in front of the fire- bliss! In fact, we didn’t leave and decided to have our dinner right there.  The Beech Hill is famed for its food and a number of people remarked to me that I would enjoy it when I mentioned I was staying there.

The next morning we went down for breakfast and were impressed with both the cooked and continental selection- with all three of us having a bit of both! After breakfast, we walked round and explored the grounds. The hotel has different trials, with 32 acres of woodland and gardens. During our walk I was so impressed to learn about the history of the site.  In June 1941, the United States constructed a naval base on the Foyle, named ‘Base One Europe’. It remained the US Navy’s main centre of operations in Europe until June 1944. The Beech Hill Country House Hotel provided the location for one the main accommodation camps and we couldn’t believe a hut was still in place. Fascinating!

Overall I had a brilliant night, particularly the comfortable rooms and amazing history. Looking forward to bringing Barry next time as he will love it!

Front of Beech Hill Hotel

Mum at Beech Hill Hotel

Our room

Mum’s room

Relaxing by the fire

Breakfast- continental selection

Breakfast- continental selection

Cooked breakfast

Beech Hill grounds

Beech Hill grounds

History- Beech Hill Camp


History- Beech Hill Camp

 

Lisburn Visit: Irish Linen Centre and Lisburn Museum

On Saturday, as part of our weekend break in Lisburn, we visited the Irish Linen Centre and Lisburn Museum for the first time. The Centre, which is situated on Market Square, is a museum which explores the history of Irish linen, from the flax fibre, right through to the finished fabric such as tablecloths and handkerchiefs.

To be honest, I didn’t know much about the heritage so I thought it would be good to see the skill and expertise which went into creating the fine linen cloth over hundreds of years.

We made our way around the museum, stopping to listen to the expert guides and seeing live demos along the way. We were shown flax spinning and heard all about how the term ‘spinster’ derives from the fact that most of the spinners were unmarried women! (Not least because the work resulted in bad backs, limps and mouth sores!)

To finish, we saw the intricate techniques and detail needed in creating the final design on the fabric! Even back then, the precision was really impressive!

As I said, I didn’t know much about linen production but it’s an interesting , free museum which opens your eyes into the rich linen history here.

 History of linen production

VIDEO 1: Flax Spinning

 Weaving

Creating the final design on the fabric

Tyrone and Sperrins Visit: Ulster American Folk Park

On Saturday afternoon, as part of our visit to Tyrone and Sperrins, we left Campsie and drove down to Omagh to visit the Ulster American Folk Park.

I can’t remember the last time I had been there (maybe during my school days in the 1990s?) so I was excited to see it now I’m that (little!) bit older and no doubt, understanding the historical aspect of it a lot more.

We arrived about 1.30pm and had a quick bite to eat in the newly refurbished café before making our way around the extensive museum.

If you’re unfamiliar with the site, it’s the story of Irish immigration to America and the tales of the men, women and children who left our shores for what they hoped would be a better life. We saw the type of houses and lands they left behind and the new homeland that awaited them.

The first half of the museum is the “Old World”- the thatched cottages, blacksmith’s forges, weavers cottages, schoolhouses and the religious meeting houses of Ulster.

One of the most interesting parts of the “Old World” is the Mellon Homestead: standing on its original site, it was the small farmhouse in which Thomas Mellon was born in 1813. He emigrated with his parents to Pennsylvania at the age of 5 and would go on to set up Mellon Bank which is an important financial institution in the USA.

Then comes the “Ulster Street”- the type of street that thousands of emigrants would have passed before boarding ships to America. It is a collection of original 19th Century shop fronts.

At the end of the street is the ship waiting to take you “to your new homeland on the American Frontier”. It is a replica of an early 1800s emigrant sailing ship and once you exit, you’re now in the “American Street” and the “New World”- the type of scene in ports such as New York or Boston.

The second half of the museum then focuses on the sort of houses the emigrants would have lived in once they arrved in America- log farmhouses and log cabins, or after a few generations, plantation houses.

It was fascinating to see the difference between their new lives and the ones they left behind and we really enjoyed experiencing the story, particularly brought to life by the costumed characters we encountered along the way.

As it was Easter Saturday, there were many additional Easter celebrations taking place around the museum,  such as a “Spring Fair Day”- depicting April 1915 and the sights, sounds and smells of a busy market day.

There was also an ‘Arms through the Ages’ display (a selection of black powder firearms used during the 1700s and 1800s) and the Bog Standard String Band playing old-time American Folk music.

We spent over three hours at the Park and it was great to see so many families there! A fun day out if you’re looking to experience history brought to life.

“Old World”- Ireland

 

 “New World”- America

 

Segway Experience at Titanic Quarter

As someone who has regular work meetings in the Titanic Quarter , I often saw groups of people whizzing past on a Segway. And I was intrigued!

If you’re not familiar with a Segway, it’s a two wheeled, self-balancing vehicle, perhaps “made famous” by mall cops on TV!

So, yesterday, myself and my friend Eileen took the Segway NI tour around the Titanic Quarter- a chance to see and hear about the history of the famous liner; the Slipways; its tender ship SS Nomadic; and the Pump House, for example, all from a very different perspective than your usual tour!

The tour started at 3pm at their offices at Unit 7, Titanic View Apartments, Queens Road, Belfast, (just behind the Dock Café/Mace). For about 15 minutes we were talked through how to use the machines and then got our chance to practice individually.

I was really surprised that it’s the user’s balance which dictates where the vehicle goes, and indeed, how fast it goes! So if you want to move forward, then tilt forward. If you want to go a bit faster, then tilt forward more!

Equally, to slow down to a stop you begin to tilt backwards until your back is straight -which will keep the vehicle still!

I found it tricky enough to begin with (others didn’t, might I add!), but after a few spins round their offices, we were good to go! The tour around the Titanic Quarter lasted about an hour, and I learnt some really interesting facts that I didn’t know before- such as the reason the wooden benches outside are different sizes (i.e a one seater, then a three seater) is that they are spaced in Morse code sequence!

After the hour, we stopped off at Titanic’s Dock & Pump House Café for a quick cup of tea and to stretch the legs. We then headed back up to the offices, and I allowed myself to go a tiny (and I mean, tiny!) bit faster than before the break! It’s really good craic and I can see why it’s so popular with hen/stag parties and team building.

As you are unable to use a Segway on public roads, this is the only Segway city-guided tour in the UK as the area is privately owned. The team at Segway NI also have an off-road tour in Craigavon, so you never know, Eileen and I could be down whizzing round Co Armagh soon!

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Slowly does it! Nervous at first

 

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Pros by the end! Eileen and I on the Segway tour