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 Cú 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.

Advertisements

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

 

 

 

 

 

Breaffy House Resort, Co Mayo

Last weekend, I had my second trip this year (yes I know it was only the second weekend in January but I can’t help myself!)

Barry and I headed down to County Mayo to spend Friday-Sunday at Breaffy House Resort, which is situated just outside Castlebar in 90 acres of woodland.

We left Belfast about 4pm and, with a few leg stretch stops in-between, we arrived at about 9.30pm that night. It was obviously dark when we arrived but we could tell the hotel was an stunning and impressive old building. We  checked in to our standard double room which we felt was very spacious with a good-sized bed (King perhaps?)

The long drive meant we didn’t explore the hotel that evening but it was up early the next morning to head down for breakfast. The dining area was separated into two buffets- one ‘cold food’ section with breads, hams, cheeses, cereals and pasties, and one hot ‘food section’ with typical fry items such as eggs, sausages, bacon and beans. I had a fry and, because I was on my holidays, treated myself to a sweet pastry to finish. (As if I needed an excuse!)

It was then time to explore the grounds and to walk off the big breakfast. Barry and I headed off towards the “forest walk” trail. It was a dry but cold morning so we spent about 1 hour walking around the parkland.

As part of the deal, we were welcome to a complimentary spa treatment each in the hotel’s “Breaffy Spa”. Barry wasn’t keen on receiving one so I was lucky to have both. We could pick from three different treatments and I selected the 30 minutes Dry Float (normally €30) and the 20 minute Hydro Bath (again, costing €30). The Dry float felt like I was on a warm cosy water bed, while the Hydro Bath was a specialised bath with over 200 jets messaging from shoulders to toe.

After I had both spa treatments, I joined Barry in the hotel’s lesuire facilties which included a 20 metre indoor swimming pool, gym, sauna, jacuzzi and steam room. Bliss! (An really enjoyable afternoon!)

We then headed back to the room to get ready to go down to the restaurant for dinner. Again, as part of the package, we were able to avail of main course each. I selected the Roast Irish beef served with potatoes and vegetables, while Barry chose the spinach and ricotta ravioli. We decided not to have a dessert and instead went to check out the hotel’s Healy Mac bar where we had a few pints of Healy Mac’s own beer. The bar has a good atmosphere so we stayed for a few hours.

We enjoyed our stay at Breaffy House, particularly the pool & spa! A nice weekend!


The day i became Mrs Sarah McCurdy

So I have been married for 3 whole weeks today! On 25 July I tied the knot with Barry and became Mrs Sarah McCurdy!

Everything was perfect, from the gorgeous weather and beautiful food to the amazing band and a handsome new husband! haha!

Big thanks to La Mon hotel for the reception, Blackstaff for the music, Divinity Bridal for the beautiful bride and bridesmaid dresses and Chris Huston for the photography!

Afternoon Tea at Avoca Belfast

With just a few weeks until the ‘Big Day’, you really do cherish just sitting down and relaxing with each other amongst the madness of final numbers and table plans!

So, last weekend we did just that and went for afternoon tea at Avoca on Arthur Street in Belfast. I’d been to Avoca before to have a look around  their pretty homewares and gifts- but I didn’t realise it had such a large foodhall upstairs! The menu looked great but it was afternoon tea on the cards.

We were welcomed with cucumber-infused water and a list of speciality teas which included Peppermint; Oriental Sencha; Elderflower and Lemon; Mango and Strawberry; as well as Irish Breakfast and Earl Grey. I went for the Oriental Sencha which is an exotic, fruity tea with hints of papaya and mango. A fan of fruit teas, it was very refreshing. Barry chose his old favourite- coffee- but we were offered unlimited top ups for both.

Then came the best bit- the food.

To start we had 3 different types of sandwiches – free range egg and cress – sliced cucumber, cream cheese, apple and mint – and roast beef, horseradish and watercress. The bottom tier also came with a wheaten sandwich with smoked salmon and cream cheese; a savory scone; and a vegetarian quiche. A lovely way to start.

It was then on to the middle tier which was a sweet scone served with jam and clotted cream; and fruit tartlets filled with custard and fresh berries.

Finally, we finished with a mini lemon meringue; chocolate eclairs filled with fresh cream; and chocolate and praline ‘spoons’ which came with chocolate mouse and chopped nuts.

The food was really delicious, especially the chocolate and praline spoons- despite the fact I kept it to the very end and was bursting by that point, I could have eaten a few of them! Gorgeous!

Afternoon is £18.95 per person or £21.95 per person with a glass of prosecco (which we treated ourselves too!)

If you’re a fan of afternoon tea, check it out! Very pretty setting with top notch food to match.

Avoca Belfast

Enjoying a glass of Prosecco at Avoca

 Afternoon Tea

Top Tier

Middle Tier

  Bottom Tier

WIN £100 M&S GIFT CARD WITH THE BIG BEACH CLEAN UP!

This week my blog is exactly one year old! And what a year it’s been! My first ever “proper” post (after an introductory one) was a visit to Loughshore Park in Jordanstown to help take part in the 2014 M&S Big Beach Clean-up.

Every year, M&S team up with the Marine Conservation Society to help rid our beaches of unwanted rubbish.

There’s lots of everyday rubbish such as cans and crisp packets, but there are always some more unusual items such as a hammer, a For Sale sign and even a plastic leg!

This year I’ll be back where it all started for the 2015 M&S Big Beach Clean-up at Hazelbank in Newtownabbey on Monday 11 May at 10am! Hopefully you’ll sign up too: www.mcsuk.org/foreverfish

In Northern Ireland, there are also beach cleans at:  

  • Portballintrae – Thursday 7th May at 10.30am
  • Warrenpoint, Newry – Monday 11th May at 10.00am
  • Ballyholme, Bangor – Wednesday 13th May at 10.00am

To celebrate the beach clean (and my one year anniversary), I’ve teamed up with Marks & Spencer to give away a £100 M&S gift card to spend in store! What a nice prize!

To be in with a chance of winning, just head to my Facebook page to find out more – it’s http://www.Facebook.com/BelfastTravels

The competition closes on Sunday 10th May and the winner will be picked at random on the day of the beach clean, Monday 11 May!

Good luck!

Having a go on the new Belfast Bikes

On Wednesday I got the chance to try out the new Belfast Bikes before they ‘go live’ to the public next week.

From Monday, 300 bikes will be available to hire to make short cycle journeys across Belfast city centre. Think being able to jump on a bike outside Castlecourt and cycling up to the Dublin Road, or grabbing a bike at Central Station and heading over to St Anne’s Square. It’s all about accessibility across the city.

They’re already really popular in other big cities around the UK and Ireland , including London (‘Boris Bikes’) and Dublin.

So, here’s some quick facts about the new Belfast bike scheme:

1.) The first phase of the bike scheme will initially have 30 docking stations. Check out the locations of the first 30 stations here.

2.) You can pay £5 for a three day membership (good for tourists) or just £20 for a full year’s subscription!

3.) Once you’ve paid a subscription, you can cycle for half a hour for absolutely no cost. It’s only 50p for up to one hour!

4.) The bikes will be available to hire 7 days a week from 6am to 12am.

5.)To hire a bike, simply swipe your membership card at the on-street terminal or use the Nextbike app. (It was really straight forward when I tried it out.)

I’m looking forward to seeing the bikes around Belfast from Monday!


Docking station just outside City Hall

At St Anne’s Square

Terminal