2021 – Looking Ahead & Setting Goals

With a new year comes the chance to look towards the next 12 months, and think about how you want the year to look. Like many of you, we like to think of the new year as a way to start fresh – a chance to think of goals, and set out to achieve them.

Our new home:

We’re planning to start putting our own stamp on our new house over the coming years, and this year our biggest focuses are to:

Completely renovate the bathroom

Renovate the kitchen to enhance the current space (until we can do a larger renovation in a few years’ time)

Tidy up the garden so that we can hopefully enjoy spending time in it once the summer months come around.

Overall for our house the goal this year is to start to make it feel like it really is ours. We’re extremely excited to start turning it into our forever home.

Health and fitness:

This is a big one for us this year, as it’s something we’ve let slide recently. We’re keen to start focusing more on our health, so our main goals are:

To drink more water, and not just when we’re thirsty.

To cut back on alcohol – we got really into making cocktails during lockdown, but we’d like to limit how many we’re making.

To go to bed at a more reasonable time – we’re both night owls, so staying up past 12 is a common occurrence – not the best thing when the alarm goes off the next morning!

We’d love to start incorporating more of a plant based diet into our lifestyle – perhaps a few times a week.

Finding an exercise routine, we actually enjoy – we’d love to eventually convert our garage into a small gym. But for now the plan is to just start moving!

Hobbies:

The combination of the winter months and lockdown have led to us spending more time than ever binge watching TV. We have a number of hobbies we’d love to pursue:

Reading more books – we were both avid readers growing up, but recently that’s slipped.

Getting more into our blog and social media sites – starting up the page last year was a real mood lifter for us both, and a way to remember our love of travel during lockdown.

Trying out new recipes, both sweet and savoury, as way to get out of a food rut.

If COVID restrictions allow for it – we’d love to explore more of Ireland.

2 books Brianna read last year

It’s a lot of goals to set out for ourselves, and we may fall short on some – but we think setting it out in a list helps hold us accountable. Perhaps we’ll do a 6-month review in June!

Do you have any goals for the new year? If so what are they?

Stay safe!

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