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

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