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!

FullSizeRender[3]

IMG_8269

IMG_8268

FullSizeRender[1]IMG_8216IMG_8225IMG_8270IMG_8271IMG_8272

FullSizeRender[2]

pic

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Weekend break in Lisburn

Lisburn is only 20 minutes away from my house so it’s somewhere I go shopping from time to time- in fact, I recently bought my wedding dress there in Divinity Bridal (Longstone Street.)

But, besides taking a short trip to visit Bow Street Mall every few months, I’ve rarely been to Lisburn to actually see what the city has to offer in terms of attractions or eating out. So, that’s exactly what we did last weekend! (I’ll be writing a blog post about each place we visited but I thought I’d do a quick overview of our trip.)

On Saturday, our first stop was to check in to our accommodation for the night at Larchfield Estate. Larchfield is a 600-acre site which is famed for its weddings and events. (In fact, our friends Julie and Dan had their wedding here in 2013 in a converted barn and the venue was striking.) We were staying in the “Farm Cottage” on Saturday which is one of the original carriage rooms on the estate. The refurbished cottage consists of two twin bedrooms, each with an ensuite bathroom, and a large open-plan kitchen/dining/living area.We could tell we were in for a night of luxury!

 Larchfield Estate

Once we were settled in, we made the short drive to Lisburn City Centre to visit the Irish Linen Centre and Lisburn Museum. The museum explores the history and heritage of Irish linen production, and includes live demonstrations of flax spinning and weaving. I didn’t know much about the history so I found it really interesting to see the transformation from flax to fabric. (Every day’s a school day!)

Irish Linen Museum

After the museum it was time for shopping and some sightseeing! As well as Bow Street Mall, we checked out Bow Street itself and Lisburn Square which is a pretty, open square of Georgian-style buildings. There are lots of big ‘high street’ names, including Marks & Spencer, H&M, Next and Primark so we came away with a few shopping bags in tow! We then walked up to see Lisburn Cathedral, before stopping at Yellow Door café for a quick bite to eat.

Lisburn Cathedral

Once we’d spent our fair share of pennies, we headed to Hilden for a tour of Hilden Brewery. This was something I was really excited about as I couldn’t wait to see how the beer was made! We learnt all about the ingredients and the various stages of production from the owner Seamus, before sampling a few of the craft beers at the Tap Room restaurant.

Hilden Brewery

Finally, it was back into the city centre for a two-course dinner at Del Toro Steak House and Urban Grill. I went for the warm chilli beef nachos for starters and the 12oz Sirloin for mains. Mum choose one of the day’s specials- the sticky BBQ pulled pork springroll- followed by the grilled Irish hake. The dinner was absolutely delicious! There wasn’t a bit left on the plate and we both agreed that we will be back again in the near future!

Hilden Brewery

After dinner we headed back to Larchfield to spend a very relaxing evening in our lovely farm cottage before checking out on Sunday morning! It’s great to think all these attractions are so close to home and it was good to see Lisburn from a tourist perspective!