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

Cruises We’d Love to Try – Part 1 – Cruise Lines

Last time on the blog we wrote about our experience on our first cruise ship holiday. Next up we’ll be talking about the cruises we’d love to go on in the future, both in terms of itinerary and cruise lines. First up – the cruise lines themselves.

We’ve already sailed with Celebrity, but we’ll definitely be going back to them, as we had an amazing first experience with them. We were on the Constellation, which is from the Millennium Class of ships, the oldest class in the Celebrity fleet, so we’d love to sail on a more modern ship. We did have a Mediterranean cruise booked on the Reflection for the end of September, but it’s sadly been cancelled due to Covid. We also had one booked on the Silhouette around the Norwegian Fjords in 2021, but it looks like we’ll be moving that one also as one of our best friends is getting married! So, sailing on a Solstice Class is definitely on the cards at some point – but when that will be we don’t know. We’d also love to go on a cruise on an Edge Class ship, so we can compare them to the rest of the fleet. At the minute, there’s only the two ships in this class – Edge and Apex. However, Celebrity Beyond is the next in line. Perhaps it’ll be the next Celebrity ship we sail on!

Royal Caribbean is another line we’d love to try out. We love the look of their ships, especially the Oasis class. We think it would be pretty cool if we could get the chance to sail on board Symphony of the Seas – the largest ship in the world. We’ve watched vlogs of passengers who have sailed on Symphony, and it looks incredible. The next Royal Caribbean ship Wonder of the Seas is also on its way to being ready to sail in 2022. It’s not finished yet, but it looks like it’s going to be another incredible ship from Royal which we would love to try out.

Next up are Virgin Voyages, which at moment only comprises of Scarlet Lady, although Valiant Lady is on the way in 2021. We love the idea of sailing with Virgin Voyages as they operate as an adult only cruise, plus there’s no speciality dining, so all 20+ restaurants are included in the price. We also watched Cruise With Ben & David’s vlog on board Scarlet Lady when they got the opportunity to check it out, and it looked like such a uniquely designed ship.

Finally, MSC cruises. They’re of particular interest to us at the moment as the currently have a special offer on where health care workers can receive up to 50% off on cruises. Iain is a health care worker, so we’d love to avail of this offer, perhaps for our next cruise.

There’s definitely other cruise lines out there that we’d be up for trying, such as Princess and Norwegian Cruise Line. We’ve also talked about how we’d love to do a transatlantic sailing on board the Queen Mary 2, but we worry that the crowd and atmosphere would be too old for our taste. The same is to be said for river cruises in Europe – the idea of being able to get closer to places further inland on a smaller ship is appealing, but they seem to be an older clientele, plus they can pricey.

It’s difficult to know when we’ll be able to sail again, or who it will be with. We’re keeping an eye on the current climate, and it’s reassuring to see that service is beginning to resume, so hopefully it won’t be too long before we’re back on board! Check out part two of this series here.

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

Brianna and Iain

A Well Needed Break

Last week we had the chance to take some time off work together, something we were both in desperate need of. We’ve both continued working throughout the pandemic, and hadn’t really had any time off since the beginning of February. Needless to say, we were beginning to feel burnt out, so a little bit of R&R was needed.

First up was an overnight stay at Castle Leslie, located in County Monaghan. This beautiful hotel is situated just over the border, and has the most beautiful grounds to walk around. You can choose to stay in either the castle itself, or the lodge. We chose to book ourselves into the lodge, as the rooms looked more modern and to our style. We were not disappointed in the slightest. Our room was more like a small studio apartment, minus a kitchen. With a massive bed, a sofa for chilling on and easily the nicest bathroom we’ve ever had, it was one of those rooms you don’t want to leave when checkout time comes.

We spent the day walking around the grounds taking photographs, although in typical Irish fashion the rain was never far away from us. We also went for afternoon tea, something we had never had before. After a quick drink in the bar we headed back to our amazing room to get ready for dinner. A delicious four course dinner followed by a couple of drinks in the bar and then back to bed.

We did feel like the service was quite hit or miss at times during our stay, and to be honest wasn’t on par with other hotels of that level that we’ve stayed at in the past. Overall though a lovely stay at Castle Leslie, with beautiful surroundings and delicious food (easily the best breakfast we’ve had out by far!) We left feeling the most refreshed we’ve been in a long time.

Next it was on to County Down, and the wonderful Slieve Donard. We booked this night as a last-minute thing while we were in Castle Leslie because we weren’t ready to go home and stop living the high life. So we headed off from Castle Leslie towards Newcastle. When we arrived the Mourne Mountains were completely hidden behind a veil of clouds, with no clearing up in sight. We were quite early when we arrived, and our room wasn’t ready, so we decided to go to the Percy French for a bit of lunch. We ended up getting a great deal, as they had a set menu offer on, along with the Eat Out to Help Out scheme. We enjoyed a delicious meal, a couple of drinks, and the lovely relaxed atmosphere in the restaurant.

Afterwards we made our way back up to the hotel to get our room. This one wasn’t as nice as the one we’d had in Castle Leslie, nor was it as nice as previous rooms we’ve had in the Slieve Donard. But that was our fault – we chose to book a standard double, rather than the superior we’d usually book while staying. If you’re the kind of person who enjoys spending time in their room, we’d recommend paying that little bit extra when staying here. Because while our room was perfectly clean, and comfortable, we really did miss the space, and those sweeping views of the Mournes.

We had another lovely meal in the Oak restaurant for dinner, and again a few more drinks in the bar. It was nice to see that the hotel had a real buzz about it, while still feeling like it was taking the necessary precautions with Covid-19. Slieve Donard is probably our favourite place to stay in Northern Ireland, and Hastings in general just never let us down. The setting is always beautiful, the food delicious, the atmosphere relaxed, and the staff are always incredibly friendly and helpful.

After checking out of Slieve Donard on Tuesday we made our way back home to a bit more normality. We spent the next few days just chilling out in the house, and then went for a drive up to Ballygally Castle on Friday afternoon for some lunch and a dander around the gardens. It was the first time we’d been back since getting married almost 3 years ago, and it was lovely to be back.

We finished off the week at a family BBQ on Saturday. Overall a great week off together, and a well needed one. We went back to work feeling more refreshed. And the best part is that we don’t have to wait as long for our next bit of time off! So watch this space for more updates on what we get up to.

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

Brianna and Iain