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

Cruises We’d Love to Try – Part 2 – Itineraries

We’ve talked about our first cruise experience, and we’ve talked about cruise lines we’d love to go on. Now it’s time for us to talk about cruise itineraries that appeal to us – although if we’re being honest they all appeal to us, there just happens to be a few that stand out for us.

First up, the Norwegian Fjords. Because Norway is apparently rather expensive to holiday in, we feel like this would be the best way for us to see this beautiful part of the world. We did have a cruise on the Celebrity Silhouette booked for August 2021 to the Fjords, but we’re now planning on cancelling that one, as we have a close friend getting married during that time. But we’ll definitely be planning another cruise up around that area at some point.

Another cruise we’d love to go on is one around the French Polynesian islands. This area has been on our bucket list for the longest time, and we think a cruise would be the best way to get a taste of it without paying high prices for flights and accommodation.

We also love the possibility of doing a Caribbean cruise, especially ones that would allow us to visit Aruba and Cuba. We’ve talked about the idea of going on a Caribbean cruise at Christmas time some year. We imagine it would be a cool experience to spend Christmas day on board a ship in the middle of the Caribbean!

Alaska is another area we’ve always talked about going to. Like a trip to the Norwegian Fjords, we think a cruise here would provide us with breathtakingly beautiful scenery. We both have family on the west coast of America, so we’d love to incorporate a trip to Alaska if we go visit them at some point.

Two of our closest friends spent their honeymoon on a cruise around Japan, and after hearing about the experience and seeing their photos we knew had to add it to our bucket list of cruises. Aside from Norway, this is probably the cruise we’d be most keen to try out next.

Finally, a transatlantic or a transpacific cruise – either one appeals to us. We found that when we cruised last year we loved the sea days. They were the perfect opportunity to just relax and enjoy the ship, plus there was something exciting about going up to the top deck and seeing no land in sight. Also, if we did a transpacific one we’d get the chance to cross the International Date Line!

Who know where our next cruise adventure will be. But we think it’s safe to say that wherever we sail to next it’ll be an exciting trip.

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