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

Bushmills – Causeway coast part 3

After our recently published post about our stay at the Shipquay in Derry we stayed a night at the Bushmills Inn. We thought this would be the perfect opportunity to finish up our Causeway Coast Series after publishing part 1 and part 2 so long ago!

From Derry we made our way first of all to Benone Strand. We were lucky to get a sunny and dry day in September, and the strand was really beautiful. We had a walk along the tideline before stopping to take some photos. After this we stopped off at Mussenden, a national trust site – it was pretty busy that day, but nice to walk around and get a few pictures of the temple and the views from the clifftop.

We then proceeded to drive to Portstewart as there was a restaurant on the beach that Iain has wanted to try for a while – Harry’s Shack, located on the beach at Portstewart. It was busy but we managed to find a table – we ordered mussels and crab claws which were delicious.

After refuelling we headed towards Bushmills. We didn’t stop at Portrush but would recommend anyone visiting the area to visit. Portrush has a number of bars, cafes and restaurants and beautiful beaches to explore. En-route to Bushmills we made a quick stop at Dunluce castle to get a few pictures.

We haven’t stayed at the Bushmills Inn for about 6 years, however the welcome as always was friendly and professional. We were asked if we would like to upgrade our room which we did. On arrival we received a bottle of prosecco and some delicious Irish chocolates – these went down well after our drive.

The style of the Bushmills Inn is old with mahogany furniture and old-style plastered and whitewashed walls in the bedroom. However, everything is well thought out and really comfortable. The bed was amazing and the bathroom was really modern with a lovely walk in shower.

Bushmill’s Inn Dinner

We had dinner in their restaurant, for starters Brianna had duck liver parfait and Iain had onion soup, these were delicious and had us looking forward to the rest of the meal. For mains we had lamb and pork with sides of dauphinoise potatoes which were beautiful and to finish we both ordered sticky toffee pudding.

The next morning we both had the cooked breakfast on offer ordering the eggs benedict, again this was perfect and we gave the food here a 10/10. Unfortunately we had hoped to visit the Bushmill’s distillery but it had closed to visitors due to covid-19, so we will have to return in future.

We weren’t quite ready to return home after this so we booked in for a night in the Ballygally Castle. On the way there we stopped off at Balintoy Harbour, as it was during the week it was great being able to walk around without the weekend crowds. It’s beautiful around this part of the coast and would recommend any visitors make a point to stop here. We then made our way through Ballycastle and along the coast to our final stop Ballygally Castle. Keep an eye out for our next blog on our stay there.

Until then, stay safe and keep planning the next adventure!

Brianna and Iain

The Causeway Coastal Route: Northern Ireland

We are lucky to have lived near to this coastline for many years now, and like all of Ireland it is a stretch of beautiful and rugged coastline. This coastline is renowned for the Giants Causeway and Carrick-a-rede rope bridge, and is described as one of the best road trips in the world. In this series of blogs we will discuss some interesting and some of our favourite places to visit on the causeway coastal route.

Coming out of Larne you pass through the Black Arch; it always feels like the starting point of the causeway coast to us. If you stop here you will notice there is a set of stairs leading down to the rocks; this area is called the devils churn by locals due to the sounds made by the sea and the old tales of a man who went missing here one night.

Travelling along the coast road you will pass Drains Bay and Carnfunnock Country Park before rounding Ballygally head where you will get a sweeping view of Ballygally bay and the Ballygally Castle. Keep an eye out for the “Polar Bear” rock as you enter the village!

Ballygally Bay

This area has always been special to us, on our first date we went a walk along this beach and a few years later we held our wedding reception at Ballygally Castle. The beach here is a favourite spot for families during the summer, with car parking, toilets, and a local shop with Ice Cream Parlour; it is a favourite for us to stop at and spend an afternoon by the sea.

Our next stop is often Carnlough, on the way there you will pass through Glenarm village, home to Glenarm Castle and the harbour. Carnlough bay has a beautiful sandy beach which is great to visit during the summertime. The village itself is home to several cafés, pubs and shops, often we will call into The Galley for a fish and chip. Passing under the bridge and taking the first left will lead you to a car park opposite the old harbour which featured in Game of Thrones.

High tide at Carnlough Beach

Leaving Carnlough along the Garron Road will lead you to Garron Point. There is a car park here that you can stop for some great views along the Causeway coast.

Continuing along this road you will notice the ruins of Ardclinis Church and Graveyard, there is a small car park here and it is an interesting place to stop. Crossing the small stream and walking up through the field will lead you to what’s left of the church and the graveyard. You will also find a fairy tree here; its base is surrounded by rocks for protection. Fairy trees can be found throughout Ireland tradition dictating that bad luck upon anyone who damages or removes one. In the branches you will notice travellers have attached ribbons and items for good luck and wishes.  

The Fairy Tree – Ardclinis

Continuing along this road will bring you to Waterfoot and Red Bay beach, another picturesque sandy bay where you will often see the Red Bay lifeboat moored near the pier. The next blog in this series will cover Cushendall to Ballycastle until then stay safe and keep planning the next adventure!