HMS Caroline

Last week I got the chance to tour HMS Caroline, a World War 1 Light Battle Cruiser, based in Belfast.

HMS Caroline, which has undergone extensive restoration, is the sole surviving ship from the Battle of Jutland in 1916.

Working in the Titanic Quarter, I was curious about the ship I pass every single day.

What was life like on a warship? How did the 300 crew live? Where did they sleep and where did they eat?

The tourist attraction lets you see all this, passing through the Captain’s quarters, to the engine room, to the sick bay, to the decks.

The ship has real character, full of history with an engaging story. I’m not particularly interested in naval or military history, but it appealed to me as someone who simply wanted to see what life was like on a ship for the hundreds of young people who went off to War.

Check out the video and pictures for more!

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Rathlin Island Food Tour

Last year I went on a walking food tour of Ballycastle which was hosted by Caroline Redmond from North Coast Walking Tours.

North Coast Tours runs food tours of towns and villages around the Causeway Coastal Route, including Ballycastle, Rathlin Island and Bushmills.

I was blown away by the quality of the food but also by Caroline, whose passion and enthusiasm for local produce was undeniable. You can read all about my experience here: https://belfasttravels.com/2016/05/26/ballycastle-food-tour/

So when I saw that Caroline was running extra food tours of Rathlin Island during the recent Rathlin Sound Maritime Festival, I jumped at the chance and booked Barry and I on a tour (and of course, Niamh, who was just a small bump during the Ballycastle one!)

We met in Ballycastle and boarded the ferry to make the short journey across to Rathlin Island where we met Caroline and our fellow foodies.


Caroline explained what was in store before we made our first stop at Watershed Café. Our first dish of the day was a mix of the old v the new- a mini fry, yes, but with a difference!

Not just any old bacon and eggs, but goat bacon from Broughgammon Farm (based in Ballycastle) and quail eggs from Ballinteer Farm (based in Macosquin.) This was served with soda bread to make for a great breakfast!


The second course was then a picnic! Normally the picnic is in the old Kelp store but unfortunately the weather wasn’t on our side so had to eat inside. But that certainly didn’t take away from the selection of food and drink on offer. Local produce galore!

We tried Glens of Antrim Ales (including Rathlin Red), Dart Mountain cheese, Genesis Crafty wheaten bread and more. All that was missing in this picnic was the sun​!

Once we’d finished our local picnic, we made our way to the pub! At McCuaigs bar we had a bowl of vegetable soup.

Tasting homemade and fresh, we all enjoyed the warming broth in the island’s friendly pub.

Finally we headed to the newly re-opened guesthouse, Manor House, overlooking the harbour. There, we tried the kelp we had heard so much about, tasting a kelp pancake with kelp butter. I really loved this dish and the seaweed worked so well in a savoury crepe- something different!

We stayed on the island for another hour or so before catching the ferry back to Ballycastle.

The tour was fantastic because not only did we get to try out Rathlin Island/ NI produce, but we got to see and hear about Rathlin, which I had never visited before.

Once again, Caroline was the perfect host- friendly, knowledgeable and most of all, a real champion of all things local!

 

Castle Espie

I recently saw an Instagram post about Castle Espie in Comber and it looked lovely! I realised I had never been and I’m always looking for somewhere new to visit, particularly on maternity leave.

Castle Espie is part of the WWT (Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust) and is one of ten wetland centres the charity has in the UK.

Castle Espie prides itself on allowing visitors to get up close to Ireland’s “largest collection of native and exotic waterbirds, bats and migrant birds.”

I had a look on the website and saw that a Giant LEGO trail is currently on at the attraction. Visitors are able to follow the trail of nine individually-designed LEGO brick animals, some inspired by real species at Castle Espie.

As you follow the path you can read just how many bricks went into each animal. In fact, it took 75,000 bricks to make just one of them- Fred the Frog!

The brick animal trail is running until Sunday 2 April so there are still a few weeks to see the sculptures, as well as the real life wildlife of course! Prices are just £7.68 (without Gift Aid) for adults and £3.73 for children!

We spent a few hours here, having a picnic at one of the picnic tables dotted around the centre, feeding the ducks with the corn we purchased at reception and enjoying a cup of tea in the café once we arrived back at the visitors centre.

The sunny weather made the day even more enjoyable so hopefully we get some more of that coming into spring!

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Deane’s Meat Locker

To celebrate three family member’s birthdays last week we visited Meat Locker in Belfast city centre.

The restaurant is one of three owned by renowned chef Michael Deane in his Howard Street complex- the other two being Love Fish (a seafood restaurant as the name might suggest) and Epic (a fine dining experience.) Meat Locker is all about top quality meat and the Asador grill.

The starters consist of dishes such as duck liver parfait, Walter’s smoked salmon, and a St Tola goats cheese salad. Prices range from a very reasonable £6 for the Meat Locker soup of the day to £10.50 for the Venison carpaccio & crispy shoulder, celeriac, mushrooms and Szechuan.

Two of my party selected the soup while two went for the house breads served with Abernethy butter (a butter handmade in Dromara, County Down which I often rave about.)

I decided upon the beetroot risotto with hazelnut, wild rice and rosemary, costing £8.00. The risotto was beautifully done, creamy without being too runny.

Of course the mains were all about grilled meat! The Meat Locker’s speciality is steak, ranging from Hannan’s 250g shorthorn rump (£17.00) to Hannan’s 350g salt aged Delmonico ribeye (£35.00). As the menu states, Hannan’s Meat is matured in their Himalayan Salt Chamber using a 12ft wall of 1,000 hand–cut Himalayan rock salt bricks.

It was steak for three of our party, while two of us, including myself, went for the Hannan’s BBQ shortrib beef burger with smoked cheddar, relish, dill pickle and fries (£15). The burger was a great size (so much so, the toppings were sliding out as I couldn’t fit it all in in one bite!) and there were no complaints about the other mains.

Other mains include asador grilled chicken with smoked potato, mushroom and tarragon (£15) and whole lemon sole, cockles, spiced sausage and fennel (£17.50.)

We didn’t have dessert in the end as we had birthday cake but at just over £150 for the five of us (including drinks) we thought it was a reasonably priced and very tasty meal!

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10 Things to do in Northern Ireland: 20-26th February

If you love getting out and about as much as I do, here is Tourism Northern Ireland’s pick of the Top 10 things to do next week! (w/c 20th February)

  • Celtic Mindfulness, Navan Centre & Fort, Co. Armagh, February 25 – 26. Celtic Mindfulness is a unique healing experience of the land and energy. Music, myth and mediation will be used to awaken your Celtic Soul, creating focus positivity and stillness for the mind. Featuring workshops from Sandra Nelson and Kate Fitzpatrick.

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  • Mid Term Fun, Titanic Belfast, Belfast, until February 21. Challenge the kids with the Explorer Trail throughout the Titanic Experience, meet the Titanic Mascots and try out the new family interactive guide, before stopping off for a bite to eat with the ‘Kids Eat Free’ meal deals this mid-term holiday.

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  • Ards and North Down – A Postcard View of the Past, Newtownards / Ards Visitor Centre, Co. Down, until February 25. Do you remember the age of steam trains, pony rides on the beach, Bangor seafront activities, the Ballywalter lightship, or the Whale’s Jawbone Arch near Portaferry? Step back into the past via the medium of old picture postcards and see the towns and villages of Ards and North Down going back over the 20th century to days when the pace of life was much more sedate.

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  • Winter Wooly Walk, Saint Columb’s Park, Derry~Londonderry, February 25. It’s time to kick off those winter blues. Rally your kids, friends and family, and join the big Winter Woolly Walk in St Columb’s Park, Derry~Londonderry. Starting at 10:30, the 3 mile walk starts at St Columb’s Park House and takes in the beautiful surroundings of Ebrington Square and the iconic Peace bridge. Afterwards there will be plenty of warming refreshments and family fun.

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  • Glasgow Girls, MAC, Belfast, February 21 – 25. Glasgow Girls is a potent political drama, with uplifting songs, music, dance and humour to tell the tale of the most powerful asylum campaigns in recent history. A show with universal appeal – a massive hit at Edinburgh Fringe 2016, selling more tickets than any other theatre show in the festival.

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  • Ulster Orchestra, Ardhowen Theatre, Co. Fermanagh, February 25. Join the Ulster Orchestra and its sensational young Music Director, Rafael Payare, in a concert that celebrates its fifty years as Northern Ireland’s world-class symphony orchestra and that will evoke, ‘the awakening of happy feelings on arriving in the countryside.’

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  • Jane Eyre: An Autobiography, Riverside Theatre, Coleraine, Derry~Londonderry, February 22. Dyad Productions presents ‘Jane Eyre’, Charlotte Bronte’s classic novel, dramatized on stage and starring Rebecca Vaughan. Struggling to live, think and love beyond the stifling expectations of duty, class and convention, governess Jane Eyre and Master Edward Rochester take a dark journey towards sensual and intellectual liberation.

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  • William McKinley by Alex Blair, Ballymoney Town Hall, Co. Antrim, February 22. William McKinley was one of many Scotch-Irish presidents with Ulster links. His links lay in Conagher and the talk will untangle the family lineage which links Conagher to The White House. He will tell of the 25th President’s progress to the highest office in the U.S.A. and how his presidency ended tragically in assassination.

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  • Let the Dance Begin, Alley Cat Theatre, Co. Tyrone, February 23. Inspired by The Pushkin Trust’s theme of Floodtide in the Heart – Seamus Heaney, Let the Dance Begin aims to bring many different people together through Creative Arts within the community of Strabane through a display of dance, drumming poetry and more.

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  • A Taste of Flavour SenseNation, Black Box, Belfast, February 25. This exciting interactive event will take your taste buds on a roller-coaster ride through the senses. It will challenge your sensory skills, your taste, smell, touch, sight and hearing, to see how they react with each other when different sounds, smells and textures are thrown into the mix. This is no ordinary experience; you will sample the ‘fifth taste’, test your smelling memory skills, trick your taste buds and sample some very weird foods.

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