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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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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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.

celtic-mindfulness

  • 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.

mid-term-fun

  • 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.

ards-and-north-down

  • 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.

glasgow-girls

  • 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.’

ardhowen-theatre

  • 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.

jane-eyre

  • 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.

ballymoney-town-hall

  • 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.

the-alley

  • 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.

flavour-sensenation

 

 

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

 

 

 

SkyTrek Activity Centre

A few weeks ago I was invited to come along to Colin Glen Forest and try out the SkyTrek Activity Centre. Now I’m not usually one for big heights or any extreme sports, but I’m always up for trying something different, so off I went to the centre on the Stewartstown Road in Dunmurry last Saturday.

SkyTrek has been open for nearly two years and offers a daunting 16m ropes course, a 5m ropes course, 30ft climbing wall, 90m ziplines, as well as the (feet-firmly-on-the-ground) sport of archery.

I thought I would ease myself in gently and tried out the archery. The centre has two target boards so Barry and I were able to practice together and get the feel of the bow and arrows, before having a competition. For each round we shot five arrows, with the points totted up at the end. Not once, not twice, but for three rounds, I beat him! (He’ll not be pleased at me saying that!)

On a high from the win, I then moved on to the more daunting activities of the day. Our instructor Brendan got me set up in my safety gear (harness and hat etc) before it was up the climbing wall I went! 30ft is fairly high, so I didn’t quite make it to the top, I’m ashamed to say. But it was very exciting, nonetheless!

It was then over to the rope course, where I crossed log bridges, tyres, swinging balance beams and more, 5m up! Wow! You are completely secure but there’s still that fear factor that gives you such an adrenaline rush!

Finally, it was time for the zipline! Yes, the 90m zipline! A few minutes of “trust me, it’s fine” from Brendan ensued before I finally pushed myself off the edge….and loved it!

SkyTrek is a great place to overcome fears, and I came away very pleased with myself! Sometimes you have to push yourself (in this case, quite literally) to realise how exciting some challenges really are!


 
Archery





 Ropes Course