Our top buys of 2020 to date!

Hello Everyone! As most of our travel plans have been curtailed this year we have found ourselves with a bit more extra money to make purchases. Here are our top purchases of the year and why! We also want to advise that this post contains affiliate links so any purchases you make we will receive a small commission.

Camera

We finally took the plunge and decided to start our blog in May, we both have decent smart phones but we really wanted something that could capture the details – especially with our great Irish Landscapes.

We saved up some money for this purchase and read reviews online, in the end we decided to go for a Nikon D3300 that we got second hand at MPB.com

So far this has been a great purchase, it joins us on all our travels and has got us some great captures for our blog and instagram.

Instant Pot

We both work pretty long hours due to our professions and are always looking for ways to make things easier around the house. After recommendations from friends and watching some YouTube reviews we took the plunge and bought an Instant Pot. This has to be one of the best purchases we have made, we use it pretty much daily to make curries, stews and soups. It has also got us exploring vegetarian/vegan meals with lentils and beans.

The big plus for us with the Instant Pot is we literally come in from work throw our ingredients in, set the time and go get washed or laundry etc and your dinner is ready in around an hour- We regulalry use cheaper cuts of meat that take longer to cook and they come out super tender!

Coffee Machine

Another purchase we made for our house is a filter coffee machine with timer, we both enjoy our coffee and would regularly get a delivery from Hasbean. We always got up in the morning and used our Aeropress but the convenience of setting a time on our machine at night and waking up to freshly brewed coffee is brilliant.

Robot Hoover

Most recently we took the plunge and bought a Robot Hoover, we opted for the Amazon Basics model as it was only £99 and we thought we can upgrade in future if needed. Our Hoover – now named Trevor, arrived two weeks ago – we have it based in our hallway and it comes with a remote control for its different cleaning settings.

Every morning we come down, have our coffee and send him off on auto mode, being a basic model it does struggle navigating sometimes but it has done a great job so far and manages to keep our floors really clean! This model also has sensors to detect drops as we discovered when we first let it loose at the top of the stairs and stood ready to catch it! We are completely sold on Robot Hoovers now!

Craft Gin Club

We have now received a couple of boxes from the Craft Gin Club and have really enjoyed what we received, they always come with a range of goodies and ideas –

Referral link for £16 off first box.

Non-Referral link

Flavourly

We also keep an Eye on Flavourly for offers on their Craft beers, we have got a couple of boxes this year for around £30 for 24 beers. We enjoy trying the variety of beers from Brewers that we would never see in Ireland. However, we don’t think their monthly subscription is really value for money compared to just getting beers locally.

Naked Wines

On the recommendation of a colleague we signed up to Naked Wines, our initial order was 6 bottles for £30. We received a mixture of red and white wines and they were really nice. Naked Wines allow you to deposit each month into their “piggy bank” which you can then spend on their wines, if you do this you also receive a discount. We are currently making deposits and are going to spend it before Christmas to stock up instead of getting our normal supermarket wines.

Click here to find out more (Referral link)

Non Referral Link

Shipquay Hotel, Derry – September 2020

In our previous blog post, we talked about our night in Carlingford. The next day we headed north again, but not before stopping off for some Irish Tayto and Cadbury. We had booked into Bishop’s Gate in Derry for a night, a city we’d been to once before for an hour or so, but never spent much time in.

Entering Derry in the car

We were really looking forward to our stay in the hotel, as it had so many positive reviews online. However, a problem arose as we approached the Glenshane Pass. A phone call came through from Bishop’s Gate to say they were unfortunately having to close for 48 hours due to 2 members of staff testing positive for Covid-19. They quickly reassured us however that they had a room available for us in the nearby Shipquay Hotel, should we want it. After pulling into a carpark and taking a quick look at it online, and seeing that it had the same level of high-praise reviews, we phoned back and confirmed our new booking.

The entrance to Shipquay Hotel

The hotel is a beautiful boutique hotel originally built in 1895, and is in a great location in the city. It was only a five-minute walk away from the car park on Bishop Street, and handy to a number of bars and restaurants; it was also close to the famous City Walls. We were a bit early, and our room wasn’t ready yet, so we left our bags off and went to grab some lunch. We stopped in at The Thirsty Goat, where they were continuing the Eat Out to Help Out scheme. After some stew for Iain, and bangers and mash for Brianna, we went to Blackbird bar around the corner for a drink, before going back to Shipquay, where our room was ready for us.

Bangers and Mash at The Thirsty Goat

The hotel had upgraded our room from a premium to a superior, and had brought our bags up to the room so we didn’t have to, which was a lovely touch.  Our package also included a glass of prosecco on arrival, which we enjoyed in our room with some delicious chocolate truffles and chocolate chip cookies. Already we were realising why the hotel had so many good reviews. An interesting touch about the rooms was that they were all named after different streets in Derry, rather than numbered. We were in the Silver Room, which was the original name of Shipquay Street. Our room was beautiful, with a lovely modern feel to it. There was a well-sized en-suite bathroom, with both a walk-in shower and freestanding bath. The room also had lovely soft bath robes and deliciously smelling Voya products.

Shipquay Room
VOYA products in the bathroom

When we had originally booked our stay at Bishop’s Gate we had a 2-course included into the price of our stay. Shipquay had upgraded us to a 3-course meal, which we loved. We had booked dinner for 8, but were ready an hour early, so we decided to head down to the restaurant early for a few pre-dinner drinks. There was a lovely buzz around the restaurant, with a mix of families and couples in having some food. We had a couple of cocktails each before dinner – a margarita for both of us, and then an whiskey sour for Iain, and an espresso martini for Brianna –  all of them delicious.

Margaritas

By then it was time for us to order our food. Both of us opted for the scallop starter, and for our mains Iain went for the Moroccan lamb, while Brianna had the fillet steak. We wrapped up our delicious meal with a chocolate brownie and a crème brulee. The whole dining experience was one of the best we’ve had in a long time. The food and drink were wonderful, and the serving staff were friendly and attentive. The great experience continued with breakfast the next day, where we had an Irish breakfast and avocado toast. We even received a glass of prosecco with it, which was a nice touch.

Scallop starters

Our stay in Shipquay was a wonderful. We had a lovely time from start to finish, from the warm and welcoming staff, the great food and drink, and the comfortable room, it was all great. We’re glad Bishop’s Gate were kind enough to arrange for us to stay. We left feeling refreshed and ready for the next stop – The Bushmills Inn.

Keep an eye out for our blog post about our night in The Bushmills Inn.

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.