Lough Erne Resort – October 2020

The start of October saw us continuing our annual leave. After a few days chilling at home following our stays in Carlingford, Derry, Bushmills and Ballygally, we were looking forward to getting away again.  October is our wedding anniversary month, so we were planning to do something special. But as is the case lately, the situation was ongoing and ever changing.

Lough Erne golf course

We had booked to spend a night in Lough Eske, but in the weeks leading up to our stay government guidelines changed in County Donegal and it was now recommended only essential travel should be happening. So, we moved our stay in Lough Eske to a night in November when we’re off. Next we decided to book 2 nights in Bishop’s Gate in Derry, where we were meant to stay the previous week before it was cancelled due to a Covid outbreak. However, days before our wedding anniversary restrictions in Derry were tightened, meaning we would have been confined to the hotel for our stay. The morning we were meant to go we contacted the hotel and cancelled our stay, and went back to the drawing board. We knew we didn’t want to venture too far, and that it would be best to stay in Northern Ireland. We realised this was the ideal opportunity for us to stay somewhere we’d always wanted – The Lough Erne Resort in Fermanagh. Luckily for us they had rooms available, so we booked a couple of nights, finished up packing and threw our cases in the car.

Jetty near Tully Castle

Fermanagh is about an hour and half from Belfast going down to the M1, with the Lough Erne Resort being 10 minutes away from Enniskillen town. It rained the whole way down in the car, which seemed to make the journey feel longer. We were glad when we arrived at the hotel, and were greeted by the doorman holding a golf umbrella to shelter us as we carried our bags in. A quick temperature check at the door, some hand sanitizer, and we were in. The cosy feeling inside was in stark contrast to the dull, wet afternoon outside – there was a fire burning in the hearth, soft music was playing, and the hotel lobby was decorated with beautiful autumnal features. We checked in, booked in dinner for the two nights, and then headed up to our room.

room at Lough Erne

It was a beautiful room. The bed was unbelievably comfortable, and the bathroom was well sized with a walk-in shower and freestanding bath. The view we had was also amazing, overlooking the lough, golf course and reed bridge all at once. After settling into our room and freshening up we headed downstairs to grab a couple of drinks, but not before booking in afternoon tea for the next day. After some drinks by the fire looking out at the rain we went back to the room and got ready for dinner.

view from our room

We had dinner in The Blaney Bar the first night, which had a lovely relaxed feel to it. There was a small crowd in, so the atmosphere was lively. We had salmon fritters and dim sum to start, before sharing a delicious bento box. We decided to pass up on dessert, and instead have a Midnight Express cocktail, a wonderfully moreish cocktail that was like an espresso martini with a chocolate orange twist.

Midnight Madness cocktail

The next day the weather had improved significantly, so we thought it would be the perfect chance to explore the countryside around the hotel. Neither of us had been to Fermanagh since we were children, and we were amazed at how beautiful the county was. When talking about the beauty of Northern Ireland most people mention the breath-taking ruggedness of the Antrim Coast, and the rise and fall of the peaks in the Mourne Mountains, but Fermanagh often goes unmentioned, apart from the now Instagram famous Cuilcagh walk. With its rolling hills, stunning lakes and old trees dotting the landscape, it’s a truly stunning place. The area surrounding the hotel had a rich history, and there were a couple of 17th century castles nearby: Monea Castle, and Tully Castle, which we checked out. Then it was back to the hotel for afternoon tea.

Monea Castle

The afternoon tea was served in the beautiful Catalina restaurant, and it was absolutely delicious. We spent a couple hours enjoying a mix of sandwiches, scones and sweet treats, all beautifully prepared. We were full after eating so much, so we went for another walk, this time around the grounds. After a loop of the golf course we headed back to the hotel.

Dinner that night was in the Catalina, the setting for the hotel’s more fine dining experience. We had booked in for a five-course meal, and it was incredible from start to finish. First up was an amuse-bouche served with a small cocktail. For starters, we went with foie gras, and crab ravioli, and mains were the beef, and stone bass, all served with wine pairings. We finished up the meal with petit-four, and desserts – some ice-cream, and another celebrating different texture of apple.

The stone bass main

We left the Lough Erne resort the next day very pleased with our stay. From start to finish the entire stay was a pleasant one, in every sense. The setting was beautiful, the food and drinks delicious, and all the staff were friendly and welcoming.  It truly was a five-star experience, and we both agreed it was the best hotel break we’ve had. In fact, we enjoyed it so much that when we got home we booked another stay, this time in December for a mini Christmas break. We’ve already started counting down the days!

Until then stay safe and keep planning the next adventure!

Brianna and Iain

Carlingford – September 2020

We finally finished up for our annual leave last Friday – the work was handed over and the out of office was put on until October 12th. We had originally booked this time off to go on our cruise, but as expected it was unfortunately cancelled. So, we decided to book a few nights away in different hotels around Northern Ireland, and go on a bit of a staycation. First up was a night in Carlingford on Sunday, at the Four Seasons.

We’ve driven through Carlingford before, and at most hopped out of the car for a quick dander, but we’d never taken the time to actually explore it. It’s a small town in County Louth, just over the Irish border, nestled in against Carlingford Lough. It takes roughly an hour to get to going down the motorway from Belfast, although you can take the longer, more scenic route and go through Newcastle and Rostrevor.

Main road leading into Carlingford

It was a beautiful day on Sunday, and Carlingford was thriving with people. Our room wasn’t ready when we arrived, so we headed into the town for a bit of lunch. The Four Seasons is a quick 5-minute walk away from the town centre. We walked around for a while to check out what was available – a good selection of small pubs, serving run of the mill pub grub. Fun fact – Iain’s great-aunt once owned The Carlingford Arms!

In the end, we decided to go to PJ O’Hare’s, a pub right in the middle of the town, located at the top of Tholsel Street. It had a typical Irish pub vibe, which we love, and a great menu. It didn’t take us long to both decide on the fish tacos, which the server confirmed as a good choice. He wasn’t wrong – they were absolutely delicious, and we kept eating even after we were full as they were too good to leave any behind. We enjoyed a couple of drinks with them, before heading back to see if our room was ready.

Downstairs the hotel was beautifully decorated, especially the bar and restaurant, and had a lovely relaxed, modern feel to it. However, the rooms were poor in comparison to other hotels we’ve stayed in that are at a similar price point. We had booked a suite, but we were unfortunately disappointed with what we ended up getting. The furniture was dated, and so much space had been given to the giant bathroom that the room itself wasn’t any bigger than regular sized hotel rooms. The room was also unbearably warm when we tried to go to sleep, with no way to regulate the temperature. We couldn’t even open a window to control it, as we only had sliding doors that led on to a small balcony that overlooked the carpark, and opening our curtains gave a direct view of our bed, or at least it gave the impression that it would when you lay in it. Neither one of us could get to sleep until the small hours of the morning, and we didn’t wake feeling refreshed at all.

Our stay in The Four Seasons came with 20 euro off the menu, along with a glass of house wine each in the hotel restaurant. We both decided to skip starters, and order the ribeye steak. For dessert, we had a passion fruit cheesecake and an apple and wild berry crumble. The food was of decent quality, and we didn’t have any complaints about it. Drinks were reasonably priced, although near the end of the night it became difficult to grab someone’s attention to get anything.

Overall we had an enjoyable time in Carlingford, and we’d love to go back at some point. However, we’d like to try staying in an Airbnb next time, and eating out in a few of the different bars and restaurants. There were too many to get around in one night, so we’ll maybe go back for a weekend break one day.

Next time we’ll be writing about our night in Derry.

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

Brianna and Iain.

Hotels Versus Airbnb

Often when you go away on holiday, one of the most important questions is where you’re going to stay. For us, we want somewhere that’s central, not too pricey, and comfortable and clean. We feel like it’s important to check out all your options before you visit somewhere, and find the option that’s best for you for whichever trip you’re going on. So, we always think it’s a good idea to check out both hotels and Airbnbs. There are many reasons to choose either one, and today we’d like to talk about them. This isn’t a post pitting one against the other – both accommodations have their pros and cons. We’ve stayed in some beautiful hotels and Airbnbs, and we’ve staying in some rather dire hotels and Airbnbs.  It’s just about finding what’s right for you, and bear in mind that can change from trip to trip.

First up, hotels. For most of us they’re the more familiar of the two, and many people would automatically gravitate towards them. The idea of a hotel is well established in our minds, when you book one you generally know what you’re getting. They’re generally easier to find when you arrive in a new location, especially if you get a taxi and don’t speak the language. They’re perfect for those of us who love to book an early flight so we can kick off exploring a new destination right away, because even if you’re room isn’t ready, there’s normally a storage room to drop your bag off in. Hotels are also great as there tends to always be someone there if you have an issue, or need something for your room. They also tend to feel more secure, although this isn’t saying that they are. We also think they’re great as they often have a bar and restaurant on sight. This makes them perfect if you can’t be bothered venturing out, or if you want somewhere to go back to for a nightcap before bed.

Hotels are great, and can be perfect, especially for a shorter stay. However, they’re not without their negative points. Often they are part of a chain, and can begin to feel generic and duplicated in style. While we know this isn’t a massive issue, it is something we think it worth pointing out. Also, depending on the style of hotel, they can attract loud and disruptive crowds of people, such as stag or hen parties. This means they’re not great if you like to get an early night, or wake up early. They’re also not ideal if you can’t afford to eat out for all three meals, as they don’t allow for self-catering. It’s always handy having small kitchen facilities to whip up something for breakfast and lunch, even if it’s just a small fridge and some cutlery and crockery for cereal and sandwiches.

Next up is the relatively new Airbnb. We had never stayed in one until we went on our honeymoon to Italy, and then we stayed in three back to back. Because it was our first time, and our honeymoon, we were a little bit apprehensive. However we’ve found them to be a pleasant experience for the most part. Unlike hotels, they’re great for those of us that love a self-catering element to their holidays. This is great for two reasons – it allows you to save some money on eating out, and it can lead to a home from home feeling, which is perfect if you’re planning on staying for a few days. Speaking of a homely feeling, Airbnbs often tend to feel more personalised. They can be bare and basic, but they can also be beautiful, unique, and reflect the style of the person renting it out, which we find to be pretty cool. The personalised feeling also extends to a local knowledge that tends to mean you find out about places off the beaten track.  

Our Airbnb in Florence

This was our favourite Airbnb we stayed in, it was based near the centre of Florence and the host Chiara was amazing. It can be booked here – please note this is an affiliate link and we will earn a small amount of money if you book through it.

They aren’t without their disadvantages though. We found them to be problematic on three fronts. Firstly, they can be difficult to find, especially if they’re in a less touristy areas. Because they’re just an apartment or house, there’s no signage outside to indicate you’re at the right building. Which is fine if you have a way of contacting the owner for directions. But we’ve been in situations when we’re wandering around with our bags, unable to find an apartment or get an answer from the person renting out the Airbnb. And that leads us to the third negative point – what to do with your bags. Many Airbnbs won’t be ready for check-in until the afternoon, which means if you have an early flight you’ll be stuck pulling suitcases around, and having to keep an eye on them. There’s obviously the option to book a later flight, but this doesn’t suit some people.

So, hotel or Airbnb? Honestly, there’s no one answer. We think the best thing to do is plan what kind of trip you want to go on, and then choose the option best suited for your needs at that time. Like anything, it’s just about weighing up the pros and cons, and then going with what feels right. Either way, you’re still going to be on holiday!

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

Brianna and Iain