Ballygally Castle Hotel -September 2020

Hello everyone,

As mentioned in our final causeway coast guide we spent a night in the Ballygally Castle. This hotel is always special to us as it is where we had our wedding reception. We would pop in for a bite to eat a few times throughout the year, but we thought this time we would spend the night and have dinner.

On our way to Ballygally we stopped off in Glenarm to have a bite of lunch in the Glenarm Tea Rooms, these are part of the Glenarm castle and walled gardens. This is a place we always try to visit at the weekend and find that its full making it difficult to get into – especially during current circumstances! But the grounds were really cool, there is a workshop that sells really unique items, a clothes shop, fudge factory, gardens to walk around and a castle. The tea rooms provide afternoon tea, coffee and your usual fare – the food was good and reasonably priced.

After this we journeyed on to Ballygally Castle along the coast road, the castle is a 17th century castle that overlooks Ballygally bay. It has a modern section and then the older castle and exterior walls alongside a beautiful walled garden and river area. The hotel is owned by the Hastings group who own a chain of 4- and 5-star hotels across Northern Ireland, we aren’t normally huge fans of chains but we find that Hastings generally provide great service and accommodation.

On arrival our rooms were ready so we went and freshened up, our room this time didn’t have as good a view as previous stays – overlooking the roof of the function room, however as always with this chain the room itself was top class. We always find that they have the most comfortable beds, and the bathroom and shower are always great! We spent the afternoon in the lounge having a few drinks and chatting, the setting is really beautiful here and we sat by the window looking out over the Irish sea.

Dinner in the Garden Restaurant

Our stay included dinner and breakfast in the hotel, we had booked in that evening in the Garden restaurant for food, for dinner Iain had prawn cocktail, and chicken and mango curry and Brianna had the pate with toast, and salmon with crushed baby potatoes. If we are being honest about the food we found that whilst it was fine, the quality and flavour were lacking.

We had stayed at the Bushmills Inn the night before and the food was much better – another issue we noticed during this visit was the lack of staff. There appeared to be only one staff on the bar and serving all the guests in the lounge and during dinner only two staff members for the whole restaurant. Whilst the service was friendly and helpful the staff members were run off their feet – at one stage, we noticed ourselves and three other tables in the lounge waiting for drinks orders to be taken.

Overall, we found that the Ballygally Castle as always has great rooms and is a beautiful hotel, but compared to other 4 star experiences the food and service weren’t quite up-to-par during this visit.

Stay safe and keep planning the next adventure!

Brianna and Iain

PS. you can’t miss the Ghost Room if you visit

Opening up Again!

Things have been a bit slow on our blog lately – between busy work schedules and establishments still being closed. The good news is that here in Northern Ireland the lockdown is slowly starting to be lifted. This weekend is a big step in the lifting of restrictions with bars, cafes and hotels reopening again, we can’t wait to get out although we will maybe wait a week or two till it dies down a bit!

With the shops opening up again in Belfast we got to go shopping over the weekend, and even with the miserable weather on Saturday the streets were busier than we’d seen them in a long time. The city is starting to buzz with life again, and you can see that businesses are starting to prepare for the big reopening.

A wet day in Belfast

In the meantime, we have been planning our travels for the future. It’s looking very unlikely that we are going to be cruising in September and so we have set our sights on other destinations. We might get away to Poland with our friends and we have talked about doing a “staycation” and exploring more of Ireland!

A Photo from our last Stay-cation

Further into the future we have booked a cruise for next summer around the Norwegian Fjords, and we have also been looking at exploring some of Eastern Europe with city breaks, and perhaps a trip to Asia in future – Thailand being a destination we have heard some great reports about.

So Beautiful!

Until then stay safe and keep planning the next adventure!

Brianna and Iain.

Causeway Coastal Route Part 2

View over Cushendall

Hey everybody, welcome to the second part of our causeway coastal route series. Our last one finished off at Red bay a beautiful beach at the town of Waterfoot. Travelling northwards from here we reach Cushendall, Cushendun and Ballycastle.

Cushendall is a busy little village on the coast, from Waterfoot you will drive under the arch by the coal pier which featured in Sons of Anarchy, pass by the Yacht club and lifeboat station before passing over the bridge. Parking and toilets are available here and there are a few shops to stop in and restock. There is a coastal cliff path walk here which leads to the Layd Church – a 13th century Franciscan church with great views, this area will always be important to us as it is where we got engaged.

View of Cushendun from the Torr Road

Not far along the coast is our next stop of Cushendun, this little village is popular for its beach. As you enter Cushendun before you cross the river is a row of Cornish style buildings and a statue of a goat to commemorate “Johann” the goat who used to wander the village – created by artist Deborah Brown. Further along the road with the goat statue you will discover Cushendun’s sea caves, made famous by Game of Thrones. We have also read that one of the local pubs has a door commemorating the series, however we will have to wait until lockdown is lifted to be able to check this out.

There are two routes to take from here to Ballycastle, the main road and the Torr Road, if we have visitors, we always choose the Torr Road, however it isn’t for the faint hearted. This single lane road winds its way along the coast at parts it drops down to the sea below. However, it has some amazing views and a couple of places to stop, the main one being Torr Head.

View over Torr Head from the Torr Road

Torr Head is a place steeped in history due to its position, it overlooks the North Channel to Scotland with beautiful views on a clear day. The waters in this area are known for being treacherous and the current and swirls can be seen as you make your way along the Torr road. There is car parking available at the foot of the Torr and we recommend taking the time to climb to the top where you can go to the look-out post and get great views over the Channel.

View from Torr Head

On the way to Ballycastle you will notice signs for Fairhead, this is another great place to visit in passing and on our last visit all the car parks were full. Dotted around Fairhead you will find lime Kilns and there are old mine shafts. The area has impressive cliff faces that are popular with climbers and it has an amazing coastal walk – caution advised! This is an area we want to explore more and to write about in future as there is so much to see.

Lime Kiln and Fairhead

The road from Fairhead will bring you to the Hunters Bar and you might be glad to see a main road again, following this will lead you to Ballycastle, passing the beach and golf course. The next blog in this series will cover Ballycastle to Bushmills. Until then stay safe and keep planning the next adventure!