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.

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