Cheap Caravaning, I think not !

silvercove-holidaypark Whoever said caravanning was a cheap holiday is, in my humble opinion not exactly telling it as it is.

Recently I tried out a Caravan holiday at Silvercove Caravan Park in Kilkeel. Kilkeel is a popular tourist spot and there are a number of Caravan parks for both Statics and Touring vans. Statics are what we normally refer to, as Mobile Homes and touring vans are the traditional type of van that is towed behind a car etc.

Silvercove is known as a static caravan park and some of the caravan owners have been visiting there for years. Butchers, bakers and well not so many candlestick markers but they all love the atmosphere and that’s why they keep coming back and back. Small play park on site shop, recycling centre, activities over the summer, it’s really a place that is hard to beat, so if you are considering a static van or just want to visit check out:

Fsilvercove,park,kilkeelor those people who have a few more pounds in their pocket than me, they can spend as much as £30,000 for the latest three-bedroom offering with all the mod cons and £1500 a year site fees. Now that’s not what I call a cheap holiday.

But the peace and tranquillity you get is well worth the spend. And just a little reminder, if you take out a Static Caravan at Silvercove, your first year’s fees will be waived.

Another wonderful event site managers Fiona and Darwin organise is the most improved pitch or site, this event encourages the site residents to improve their pitches with decking, flowers and general appearance etc and improves the surroundings for all the guests, winners then get reduced fees for next year too.

The high price of a home from home is not just as bad for the touring caravan, but they still can cost a pretty bob or two. Touring caravans come with single or double wheel configuration, most cars can tow a single wheel config and jeep, 4×4, and large vehicles can pull the double wheel types.

IMG_3354Although I have a jeep type vehicle I had a single wheel type caravan with me.  My van, an Elddis Typhoon, is not new but she is just fine for me. Cooker, fridge, shower and on-board loo, mean you can be self-contained, wherever you go.


I dream of something like the Elddis Crusader Storm, 4 berth and it comes in at £25,494 on the road, including a delivery charge of over £400. There is admittedly a lot of Vat included in that price which goes straight to David Cameron and the likes.


3542-JUY_5506_10cmsThe Crusader Storm is a twin-axle model with transverse fixed bed and luxurious end bathroom to the rear. A superb and spacious option for couples and families alike. But at that sort of money it’s a tad well a long way out of my range but I continue to dream.


Beautiful Friday evening.

I arrived Silvercove on a beautiful Friday evening in July, probably the only one we have had this July! I towed my van down to Kilkeel as the GI Jive festival was on and set it up at my pitch, dropped the stabilising legs and hey presto I was sorted.


Silvercove superb toilet facilities

No hotel fees for me, I had everything I needed. Electric hooked up and mains water connected and I was in my element. I don’t use a TV in my caravan and I’m going to keep it that way, as you may be surprised to learn that there is an awful lot of good radio out there to listen to.

When using a touring caravan most of us have a cassette chemical toilet, but when visiting touring sites like Silvercove. The toilet and shower blocks are oh so important!

Generally your entrance fee covers the toilets and showers or site fees and they do save you a lot of bother. So Caravaners will know the best sites to use because of the great facilities on offer. Silvercove was I’m glad to say excellent. Their toilet facilities were warm, exceptionally clean and the showers had piping hot water and clean shower curtains. This site even had an up-to-date cleaning schedule on the rear of the door. So full marks to Silvercove.

IMG_2829As I sat in my touring caravan on this tranquil site yards from the beech at Killkeel, I watched kids play quietly in the play park and families enjoyed each others company as they talked from their bespoke decking and were gently lit by their solar powered butterfly lights.

There is little doubt that when you visit a caravan park, you do leave the normal world behind and enter a place of tranquillity and harmonious holidaying. A site like Silvercove really does embrace core values of acceptable behaviour. Kids must be indoors by 11-30pm, no crazy parties, no outside ‘flegs”, just good old-fashioned friendliness, where everyone gets on and has a great time.

I can tell you that my time spent at Silvercove was superb, I loved it and I for one will be back again and again, well if the managers have a pitch for me?


Tel 028 4176 3136



DSC_0157There are few places on earth that hold on to a story like the Loch Ness Monster, which apparently lives in one of the deepest and longest lochs in Scotland.

As someone who loves boats, I thought that the month of June 2015 would be a great time to try and see if I could find this elusive creature for myself along with some other fascinating wildlife along the Great Glen. Living as I do in Northern Ireland I had to get across the pond to Scotland. And this time I chose to use the Belfast Stena Line Belfast service.



The Stena Line Belfast to Cairnryan service offers a direct link from Northern Ireland to Scotland on the Stena Superfast VII and Stena Superfast VIII from as little as £10*day return for foot passengers or for single car and driver from £79 (when you book 60 days in advance based on an economy crossing for a car and driver)The crossing time is approximately 2 hrs 15 mins with a choice of up to six sailings a day.

Experience the various lounges and Taste restaurant onboard the ships as well as the Curious George kids play area and POD Lounge with iPads and Xboxes so you can stay connected throughout your journey. Customers can upgrade to the luxurious Stena Plus lounge while onboard and indulge in a wide selection of complimentary snacks and beverages or indulge in the Pure Nordic Spa where you can make the most of the only Jacuzzi and sauna on the Irish Sea from £10 per person.

Copyright Frank Lose

Copyright Frank Lose

Those looking to book a Superfast Suite cabin for their crossing can do so from £20 per cabin.  Upgrade to Stena Plus from £12 per person single.

To make a booking, click on, call Stena Line on 08447 70 70 70, or visit your local travel agent.

*£10 day return including coach transfers to Glasgow, available on selected dates from January to December. For the lowest fares, passengers should travel off peak, Tuesday –Thursday and book online at least 60 days before departure.



Loch ness is one of the largest Lochs, which divides the north of Scotland in a diagonal line from Fort IMG_2612William to Inverness. There is little doubt Loch Ness or “Ness” as it’s known, is indeed long, 23 miles long and it is pretty deep too, for in places it drops to some 600 feet.  

Dark peaty water makes visibility somewhat problematic, well except for the creatures that lurk in the deep.


Rather than hire a little boat, I felt something more substantial would be far more appropriate, just in case “Nessy” decided to pay me a visit. I decided therefore to take a wildlife tour along the Loch with Caledonian Discovery.

Caledonian-discovery run a number of cruises and boats up and down the Loch, and there are a plethora of trips to choose from. There are

DSC_0179walking cruises where you can walk the 70 odd miles of the great glen, wildlife cruises where a botanist and wildlife expert will answer your questions, and more importantly point out the Buzzards, Eagles, Ospreys and Feral mountain goats, show you some amazing flora and fauna that are native only to this part of the world and teach you about the geology of the area.

If that sounds all to classroom botany classy for you don’t worry its hands on out in the great outdoors. If you feel less active then fear not there are plenty of other trips you can consider. Canoeing, wild Loch swimming, cycling, dingy sailing or simply sitting on deck in the glorious sunshine and soaking up the amazing surroundings.

IMG_2611I joined my Caledonian-discovery cruise at Fort Augustus and for my first day I was intrigued to see the majesty of 5 locks which dropped our craft, a 45 meter Belgium built barge over 40 feet and into the mouth of Loch Ness, which was our mooring overnight before our cruise along the first part of Loch Ness.

Dinner on the Ross Crana is served in the capacious dining room and is taken with the crew; this gives everybody an opportunity to discuss the day’s activities and sightings and an opportunity for Martin the Captain, to discuss the day just finished, and agree the itinerary for tomorrow.


IMG_3240On many cruises the captain decides the ports to visit and the passengers go along with that. This cruise is inherently passenger led and far more customer focused. The Skipper tells us what’s ahead on the route and gives the passengers the opportunity to choose their preferred activities.

If it’s canoeing, sailing, walking, cycling or even swimming you will be accommodated. And that is the beauty of this well planned and thought out cruise.

No matter what your activity, you will have a seamless transfer to shore, sea, Loch or boat all carried out by the very experienced crew. Silently a motor rib will be alongside the Ross Crana and canoes will appear ready to be boarded.
DSC_0093On my second morning were treated to great Scottish porridge or delightful kedgeree delightfully cooked and prepared by “Tree” our expert chef. Who then produced what can only be described as a smorgasbord of delights. If you want to know what it contained then you have to book a cruise. See 

After breakfast we set sail at a hearty 4 miles an hour along what is known as the rough side of Loch Ness to spot some wildlife.

Nick Picozzi our resident wildlife expert pointed out common buzzard, osprey, kite, feral mountain goat and a few other creatures to boot. We then moored across the right hand side of Loch ness in a little mooring known as Foyers. Nick then led the ramble up the side of Loch Ness to a waterfall known as the “Falls of Foyers”.

DSC_0185After a delightful lunch prepared and served by what should be the Michelin Star “Tree”, we were treated to a gentle cruise down the Loch spotting wildlife in abundance.
Three hours and lots of sunshine later we moored at Doughgarragh on the upper side of the Loch.

Here we were treated to another wildlife walk from Nick who pointed out unseasonably late bluebell and various plants that I could not even spell, let alone pronounce. More buzzard, osprey and cormorant and we were fast becoming potentials to replace David Attenborough.

Another sumptuous dinner from “Tree” fresh Sole with a green dill salsa Verdi, roasted sweet potato cubes and a sticky toffee pudding to die for, we were just able to add some delightful red wine and a selection of cheese. Surly after all this open air and sunshine it was time for bed. Indeed it was.


gallery-12 gallery-11Accommodation on board was superb our compact cabins were expertly designed to maximise space, a full sized power shower was a real treat.

A double bed and single above provided great sleeping facilities and there was even room for the suitcase too!



IMG_2612The following morning we were off to Inverness and after a bite of lunch at the locks at Inverness we were to head for the salt water of the Moray Firth and the Beauly Firth.


Now we were in the briny sea and again the weather had astounded most on board, including Gwen our antipidiean fellow traveller. She was finding it warm enough to remove her thermal layers.


For the rest of us the factor 50 was out for the amazing weather we were experiencing. So much so that an excess of 22 degrees caught a lot of us by surprise.

Mooring in the Beauly firth just of the coast from Moniak Castle was areal treat. The Ros Cranna sat astride the tide like a dressage horse in competition.

After another fantastic dinner of Aberdeen Angus beef slow cooked in local ale and “clooty” a Scottish suet pudding, we were set up for a great nights sleep.

But before we retired into our soothing water bed for the night, Martin our captain gave us a debrief on the day’s events and Nick covered the wildlife events of the day.

IMG_2686Thursday morning saw us travel out of the Beauly Firth and under the Kessock bridge as we went in hunt of seal, dolphin, porpoise and more bird life.

We were not disappointed and true to form dolphin made an appearance near to the coast of Fort George and enthralled us with their blow holes and acrobatics. After an hour or two sitting in the splendid sunshine we moored for dinner and were treated to a specular blessing of the haggis.

If you want to know more I suggest you book. Just remember Caledonian Discovery holiday let you wind down into ‘Highland time’. Where you can take in the spectacular scenery of the Caledonian Canal and the beautiful inland lochs of Loch Ness, Loch Oich and Loch Lochy.


This is a unique holiday barges experience of the finest quality. ‘Fingal of Caledonia’ and ‘Ros Crana’, will be your Scottish Highland home for the week, whilst their friendly skippers and attentive crews look after you. Its a soft adventure for people of all ages, so come and relax into the gentle world of life afloat.

Belfast’s “The Wee Tram”

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Belfast’s Wee Tram

The-Wee-Tram-logoPractically every city you visit there is a we train that runs tourists around the interesting parts. And for years I have always wondered why Norn Ireland does not have one. And I assumed quite rightly that the road service would be dead against it. For example in any other city I have been to, Taxi’s are allowed to use the bus lanes, nope not here in Belfast the only taxis that are, are Black Taxis, but I hear you scream private hire taxis do the same job. They do but the idiots in our local authorities, (who pay thugs to have bonfires on the 12th July) refuse to allow private hire Taxis to use the bus lanes, its ridiculous.

Well someone has taken on the authorities and finally won, and all I can say is well done Chris Bennett for your fortitude and determination. Chris has finally managed to get a wee tram service up and running in Belfast.

The Wee Tram is a brand-new hop-on-hop-off tour of the Titanic Quarter.  Visit the birthplace of Titanic… where you can experience the story of the shipyard… get close to giants… and rest yer wee legs!

BELUM.Y.W.10.46.44In 1912, Titanic’s builders were transported to and from the shipyard by frequent, pollution-free, electrically-powered trams. And now, in the emerging and inspiring surroundings of the Titanic Quarter, the tram is back!


Wee Tram passengers travel in carriages purpose-built to echo the outlines, proportions and colour schemes of the 1912 tram cars – and just like the originals, electricity provides the motive power.


Passengers can even echo the past themselves by wearing their very own Edwardian ‘duncher’ (the yardman’s flat cap)!

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The tram route is a ‘figure-of-eight’ continuous loop with its centre at the iconic Titanic Belfast, the world’s largest Titanic visitor attraction.


The route also brings you up close and personal with historic Titanic landmarks – the Drawing Offices where she was designed, the Slipways where she was built and launched, and the Thompson Dock where she was fitted-out and stood on dry ground for the last time.


The route also visits the host of creative new enterprises and initiatives in the area such as the Movie Studios located in an old shipyard shed, T13 Urban Sports Park, the Odyssey Arena and Pavillion, Northern Ireland Science Park and Public Records Office of Northern Ireland.


The story of the Titanic Quarter comes to life on board. You’ll hear amazing stories of the shipyard, with photography, video material and local knowledge on screens in each tram carriage.


Now running daily 11am – 6pm, The Wee Tram leaves Titanic Belfast every half hour.

Tickets are valid for two days of unlimited hop-on-hop-off travel and cost £6 (adult), £5 (concession – children, students, seniors) and £20 (family – up to 2 adults/4 children).

Visitors with a valid Titanic Belfast ticket get a special discounted rate of £5 (adult), £4 (concession) and £18 (family)!


Simply hop on at any one of the eight stops all across Titanic Quarter, and buy tickets on board via cash or card.


Children must be supervised by an adult at all times. The tram is wheelchair-accessible and has rain covers, making it a great wet-weather day out!


For more information check out

What do the Brits think?



1st July 2015…Les Castels, the group of premier four and five star camping sites in France has recently completed its 2015 customer survey with some ‘topical’ results as far as the British guests are concerned. As the British make up the largest number of guests to Les Castels, even more visitors than the French, the results are always closely scrutinised and the participation of more than 1,000 respondees this year, much appreciated. British, French, Dutch and German clients were questioned and the response rate was 70%.

image002It is clear to note that for the majority of clients of all nationalities the profile of Les Castels sites is just what they are looking for – a minimum four star rating, not too big a site – 250 pitches tops, and a lovely setting. Of course budget plays a part but the clients tend to expect paying the sort of rate Les Castels propose and therefore this is not an issue. Nearly all received their information about Les Castels form friends or via the Internet.

The Brits love glamping and the majority use their own tents for this, whereas if they decide to rent somewhere they plump for a mobile home or a chalet – in contrast to the Germans and French who prefer to ‘glamp’ in a mobile home.

The Brits, not surprisingly, prefer to holiday in the summer but they do take a number of holidays annually – on average three a year, like the Germans, which is high compared to the French and Dutch. Brits also book well in advance so that they are not disappointed.

The other big difference for the Brits, they love their own space but also like to have a mixture of nationalities on site. In contrast the French prefer to pitch their tent or caravan next other French people

What are the clients looking for on a site? Only the French think that entertainment for adults or children is essential – it was not a motive to book for a Brit – facilities are – yes, but not the shows and games put on by the on-site staff. Even then the Brits were more concerned with the shower blocks etc than other services whereas essential for the Dutch and Germans is fresh baked bread every day and for the French – free WIFi!

And where do the Brits prefer to go to in France for their Les Castels holiday? Well, first choice is the Loire, closely followed by Aquitaine and Brittany.

This contrasts with the French, Germans and Dutch who plump for the southern regions first and foremost – Provence and the Riviera, Languedoc – Roussillon with the Germans the most adventurous in wanting to try a different site each year.

And best of all 99% of respondees of ALL nationalities say they will stay with Les Castels again.

Created in 1959 Les Castels is a collection of 42 four and five star camping sites across France and is the leading provider of glamping sites.
Characterised by their outstanding sites near areas of cultural interest and outstanding natural beauty.
As a ‘Camping Qualité’ Award winner, Les Castels offers a wide choice of accommodation with everything from chalets and mobile homes to tree houses, gypsy caravans, houses on stilts and apartments and also operates a loyalty card programme for repeat customers – ‘Carte Castellissime’.

The facilities and entertainment varies from site to site, no two are alike, however one thing unifies the group as a whole is the Les Castels environmental approach. As outdoor accommodation specialists they are entirely committed to sustainable development. The accommodation is blended into the landscape as far as is possible, using light, mobile installations such as tents and caravans.

The sites are committed to supporting ongoing environmental conservation initiatives in France and two sites that have been awarded the European Ecolabel Award with 20 receiving the Green Key Award.

For more information please visit


Leading ferry company Stena

Stena Line are the official sponsors of the Tall Ships volunteers 2015 and pictured at the announcement are (L-R) Lyndsay Malone (Volunteer), Francisco Lorumbe (Volunteer), Mark Casey (Marketing Manager, Stena Line), Jo Glancy (Volunteer), Eleanor Lewis (Volunteer) and Wendy Osborne OBE (Chief Executive, Volunteer Now). To celebrate, Stena Line will be hosting a special marquee and will offer customers special deals and a prize draw.
The Tall Ships is set to be one of the most exciting maritime events of the year and over 535 volunteers have been recruited to undertake ship-specific liaison roles as well as event management, media support, customer servicing and volunteer support.

LEADING ferry company Stena Line are the official sponsors of the Tall Ships volunteers 2015.  The Tall Ships is set to be one of the most exciting maritime events of the year and over 535 volunteers have been recruited to undertake ship-specific liaison roles as well as event management, media support, customer servicing and volunteer support.


Marc Casey, Stena Line’s Route Marketing Manager Irish Sea North, said:  “We are proud to be sponsors of the volunteers at this year’s Tall Ships festival. It is set to be an actioned pack four days and with fantastic events and activities planned for all of the family the thousands of people expected will keep our volunteers busy.


“As a way of celebrating the event, Stena Line will host a marquee from July 2nd-5th and we encourage people to come and visit us as we will be running a draw to give away fantastic prizes including two Apple iPads and two Apple watches as well as return ferry crossings. Kids will be kept entertained with face painters, balloon modellers and special Maritime entertainers.


“Another great reason to pop along to the Stena Line marquee is that staff will be handing out leaflets that offer people the chance to avail of a fantastic deal. Between 2 – 7 July*, customers can book a return journey for one car plus two for only £199 on sailings between Belfast and Cairnryan and Belfast and Liverpool.


“Don’t worry if you would like to book an extra person as additional adults can travel for only £50 return whilst children are an extra £20 and infants are free of charge. If you would like some extra luxury on your journey you can book a Stena Plus lounge cabin or Superfast suite and receive a 50% reduction,” added Marc.

From 2 – 5 July 2015, over 50 tall ships from across the globe will anchor in Belfast for the start of The Tall Ships 2015 Race.  Here is a small selection of what’s planned:


  • The Red ArrowsThe amazing Red Arrows will do a fly past preceding the Tall Ships parade in their Hawk T1 jets, followed by an aerial display close to the stunning, Carrick Castle. Flypast will be at 11am over Titanic Belfast, followed by a full display at Carrickfergus.
  • There are many fun workshops during the festival including – World’s Smallest Kite-making Workshop where you can learn how to make a kite in your favourite colours before launching it to the breeze.  The Percussion Boat Workshop, will allow you to get hands-on and experiment with a variety of electronic and junk percussion.  The Living History Viking Workshop will provide craft displays from the Viking period and an exciting interactive experience that brings the past to life.
  • The Ulster Aviation Society’s ‘Sky Meets the Sea’ exhibit will celebrate Northern Ireland’s strong aviation link with the sea.  You can climb aboard a full-sized replica Spitfire for a photo, and enjoy other fascinating items from their huge collection.  The exhibition will take place throughout the Tall Ships Belfast event.
  • The main stage at the Odyssey Arena will feature musical performances from various artists including, The Nooks, Saffyre, the Down and Out String Band and the Broken String Band.  Plus sixteen year-old ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ pop star, Bailey McConnell, who has just finished his debut US tour.
  • The Dock Market has over 30 stalls to enjoy, packed with locally handmade products with everything from gourmet waffles and award-winning burgers to melt-in-your-mouth cupcakes and fresh bakes. There will also be stalls showcasing the very best of Belfast’s art, photography, craft and fashion so you can buy a memento for loved ones.
  • Vintage Teas and Music on SS Nomadic – Thurs 2 July – Sat 4 July, 12-4pm and Sun 5 July, 11am-4pm.   Enjoy vintage afternoon teas with period music on Titanic’s original tender ship, SS Nomadic.
  • In conjunction with the Ulster Scots Agency, Scottish Maritime Museum presents a replica 1934 canvas canoe and ‘the Vennel’, a 22ft St Ayles Skiff on display. You can see demonstrations on oar making or learn the techniques of boat building.
  • End on a high with the Tall Ships Parade of Sail when the Northern Ireland shoreline will come alive as the magnificent flotilla of ships sails out of Belfast around 12 noon. Sunday 5 July from 11am will be the best date to view the vessels ‘en masse’.

Terms and conditions: *Available on selected sailings. Travel to be completed by 17th December. Cannot be used in conjunction with any other offers. Subject to availability.

Some of the ships signed up so far for The LIDL Belfast Maritime Titanic Festival 2015 include:


  • Lord Nelson is owned by the charity Jubilee Sailing Trust. Lord Nelson, named after the famous British Admiral is the first of their two vessels, both of which are the only tall ships in the world that have been purpose-designed and built to enable able-bodied and physically disabled people to sail side by side and share the adventure and experience of tall ship sailing as equals.
  • Guayas is a beautiful three-masted barque. She was built in Bilbao, Spain and is named after the river on which the Ecuadorian Naval School is situated. Guayas is one of the biggest ships coming to Belfast at 79.5 metres long.
  • Sorlandet is owned and administrated by a non-profit foundation and the Sorlandet’s High protector is HRH Crown Princess Mette-Marit of Norway. Sorlandet is 56 metres long.

Santa Maria Manuela is a four masted gaff schooner initially launched in 1937, built by Companhia Uniao Fabril, in Lisbon. She began operating in cod fishing and was one of the most beautiful vessels of the so famous Portuguese White Fleet. She is 68 metres long



Sir William Hastings, Chairman of Hastings Hotels today unveiled the plans for the latest addition to the leading hotel chain’s portfolio which will see a £30M investment and the creation of over 150 new jobs for Belfast.  The new hotel, which will be called the Belfast Grand Central Hotel, will boast 200 bedrooms, a restaurant and bar, 18 serviced apartments and a range of superbly appointed office accommodation when it opens in 2018.

Sir William Hastings, Chairman of Hastings Hotels today unveiled the plans for the latest addition to the leading hotel chain’s portfolio which will see a £30M investment and the creation of over 150 new jobs for Belfast. The new hotel, which will be called the Belfast Grand Central Hotel, will boast 200 bedrooms, a restaurant and bar, 18 serviced apartments and a range of superbly appointed office accommodation when it opens in 2018.

Hastings Hotels, Northern Ireland’s leading hotel chain, today unveiled its plans for the latest addition to its portfolio which will see a £30M investment and the creation of over 150 new jobs for Belfast.


Last month Hastings Hotels announced the purchase of Windsor House, one of the tallest buildings in Ireland, which it will transform into a 200 bedroom hotel, subject to planning permission.


Sir William Hastings Chairman of Hastings Hotels said: “We are delighted to unveil the plans for what will be the seventh hotel in our portfolio in Northern Ireland.


“This acquisition represents our biggest single investment to date of £30M and upon completion in 2018 the hotel will operate at the upper end of the 4-star market offering 200 bedrooms, a restaurant and bar, 18 serviced apartments and a range of superbly appointed office accommodation. The hotel will create over 150 new jobs.


“This project is a huge undertaking for Hastings Hotels and it is has only been made possible by the strength of our existing hotels portfolio and the quality of our staff and management. It will bring the number of bedrooms in our group to over 1,000 making us the largest privately owned hotel chain on the island of Ireland,” Sir William said.


“I am also thrilled to announce that our new hotel will be called the Belfast Grand Central Hotel. The original Grand Central, which also boasted 200 bedrooms, was built in 1893 and was the thriving hub of Victorian Belfast as well as the finest hotel in Ireland. Winston Churchill, the King of Belgium, Al Jolson, Mario Lanza and the Beatles were all guests who enjoyed its luxurious hospitality.  I am extremely proud to be able to pay tribute to this much loved property of the past by naming Belfast’s newest hotel after it.


“Today I can also reveal the new branding for our new hotel, which incorporates the Seahorse. The Seahorse, part of Belfast’s Coat of Arms, celebrates the City’s Maritime history.  Old photos from the Glory Days of the Grand Central show the Seahorse motif featuring on menus and plates. Our new interpretation of this classic Belfast emblem is a permanent reminder of the new Grand Central’s connection with its elegant past.


“The Belfast Grand Central Hotel will fulfil the requirement for much needed city centre accommodation in Belfast. Tourism in Northern Ireland continues to thrive and it is the ideal time to extend our portfolio of hotels with more high profile events coming to the city as well as an increase in business tourism which will be helped by the expansion of the Belfast Waterfront next year,” Sir William added.


Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister Jonathan Bell said: “I have been very impressed by Hastings Hotels vision for its new city centre hotel. This is great news for Belfast and for Northern Ireland, as the group’s continued investment is a massive vote of confidence in our tourism sector. The new hotel will add considerably to the local accommodation offering and allow Northern Ireland to capitalise further on the growing international business conference market.”


Belfast Lord Mayor Cllr Arder Carson said: “This is great news for the city. One of our major objectives is to double the current tourism revenue by 2020 and developments such as this one by the Hastings Hotels Group are a huge step forward towards achieving that goal.”


“Hastings Hotels is well known for its dedication to supporting the local economy and we have appointed WDR & RT Taggart Architects in Belfast to design the building, and once planning has been approved, we look forward to working with other local firms to build and furnish the hotel to the high standards for which our group is renowned,” Sir William concluded.

Airlines See Shocking Rise in Disruptive Passenger Behaviour

UK Travel Operators, Led by, Pledge Decisive Action

 LBA_G-CELS_0713_14As the summer holiday season moves into full swing, the UK’s largest holiday companies are reporting a record double figure rise in disruptive passenger behaviour. As a result, leading leisure airline, along with some of the UK’s biggest travel operators, is calling for industry-wide measures to tackle what has become a serious problem for the travel sector.


Phil Ward, Managing Director of said, “We are a family airline and holiday company carrying millions of passengers every year.  These are people who have chosen to take their well-earned summer breaks with us and we want them to have a wonderful time.  Therefore, under no circumstances will we allow the disruptive few to spoil the experience for the majority of the fantastic customers that fly with us.” is working closely with other high profile holiday companies, industry bodies such as BATA (British Air Transport Association), the AOA (Airport Operators Association) and the UK’s leading airports, to put in place a series of comprehensive measures to tackle disruptive conduct associated with air travel.


Over the past two years, unruly and disorderly behaviour often linked to excessive alcohol consumption prior to embarkation has risen drastically on-board aircraft.  Cabin crew increasingly have to deal with people displaying abusive, racist and often noisy and aggressive conduct, causing misery and disruption for other passengers nearby. has already put in place a series of measures under its ‘Onboard Together’ programme, to educate passengers about the effects of alcohol at high altitude, and to outline its policies.  It has empowered its staff to take decisions quickly regarding disruptive passengers including verbal and written warnings and, ultimately, the ability to divert the aircraft to the nearest airport to off-load particularly offensive people before flying remaining passengers onto their holiday destination. Measures also include banning disruptive passengers for life, handing them over to the police, issuing a bill for the cost of the diversion and taking legal action, post travel., along with its fellow operators, has also written to the Secretary of State for Transport, urging more decisive action from the government to help them enforce new policies to ensure unpleasant and disruptive behaviour during air travel is eradicated.


Continues Phil Ward, “By far and away the majority of the travelling public are decent people wanting to have a great holiday. We want people to have a fantastic time from the moment they start their holidays with us.  Most passengers absolutely know how to behave on board, whilst having a good time too.  It’s for that reason that we must stamp out this rise in disruptive behaviour.”

Orange Is the New Black: Eight Luxury Prison Hotels

Emmy Award-winning drama Orange Is the New Black recently returned to our screens (via Netflix).

If the tales of Piper, Alex and the other inmates of Litchfield Penitentiary have left you longing for a prison-like experience, look no further than this list courtesy of

Once correctional facilities, these buildings have been converted into luxury hotels, boasting unique architecture, comfortable rooms and fine dining.

Many retain original features, making it possible to spend the night in a prison cell – with a little added comfort.


image002.1image0031) Het Arresthuis, Roermond, Netherlands

Het Arresthuis is located in the quiet and picturesque Dutch town of Roermond, close to the German border
The building served as a house of detention and later a state prison until recent years, with the hotel opening in 2011. Guests can choose between comfort cells, made up of three former prison cells, and deluxe cells, which are housed in former recreation rooms. Although the original bars still line the windows, guests will find the cells transformed to comfortable havens complete with flat screen televisions, tea and coffee making facilities, rain showers and dressing gowns and slippers. Staff are happy to arrange flowers, chocolate or Rituals beauty products for special occasions – a far cry from life in prison.

Cells available from €132:


2) Malmaison, Oxford, UK

The Malmaison Oxford is housed inside the former HM Prison Oxford, which is part of a Grade I listed medieval castle.

image005malmaison_extThe prison closed in 1996 and was reimagined as a boutique hotel, incorporating the original castle walls and many features from the prison. A range of 95 rooms and suites are available, including the cell double, cell superior double and rooms located in the adjacent House of Correction building. Malmaison prides itself for its unique concept and high standards, with each room boasting power showers, mood lighting, 24 hour room service and exclusive toiletries. Inmates won’t have to worry about sub-standard food here: the stylish Brasseries serves generous portions of fresh, local and classic food.

Cells available from €285:


sultanahmet_ext3) Four Seasons Sultanahmet, Istanbul, Turkey

Four Seasons Sultanahmet is found in a century-old neoclassical Turkish prison in Istanbul’s Old City, with the 6th century Haghia Sophia and the 17th century Blue Mosque a few steps away.
Views of these landmarks are best enjoyed from the A’YA Rooftop lounge, which specialises in wines from different regions of Turkey and traditional Turkish snacks.
The prison operated between 1919 and 1969, located adjacent to the courthouse and housing inmates awaiting trial or serving brief sentences.
Today, the inner courtyard houses a lush garden and alfresco dining area.
The spacious rooms and suites bear little resemblance to the former prison cells, boasting private bars, large plasma televisions and marble bathrooms complete with deep soaking tubs.

Cells available from €605:


4) Långholmen, Stockholm, Sweden

Like many parts of Stockholm, Långholmen is situated on an island, incorporating a hotel, hostel, conference centre, restaurant and prison museum. langholmen_exteriorimage007
The prison, which operated between 1725 and 1975, was one of the largest in Sweden, housing over 500 cells. Guests can visit the museum to see how former inmates used to live, or alternatively check into one of the hotel rooms – which are housed in former prison cells.
The original windows remain, although the cells have been updated with contemporary design solutions to include flat screen televisions and other amenities.
Guests can choose between single cells, double cells, family cells and even romantic cells, featuring sparkling wine, chocolate, dressing gowns and slippers.

Cells available from €78:


Liberty HotelLiberty Hotel5) The Liberty, Boston, USA

The Liberty is housed in the former Charles Street Jail, constructed in 1851 and formerly housing inmates such as Malcolm X and World War II prisoners of war.
Today, this architectural gem has been redesigned to house a luxury hotel and six different bars and restaurants.
While the former prison cells were just 80 square feet, the 298 rooms and suites range from 400 to 800 square feet. Guests can expect advanced technology and contemporary style, including mahogany woods and touches of stainless steel. Those wishing to see the original prison should head to CLINK restaurant, where guests can sit in parts of the original cells while enjoying modern American cuisine.


Cells available from €453:

Lloyd Hotel & Cultural Embassy, Amsterdam, Netherlands


Not only is Lloyd Hotel located in a former prison, but it’s also the world’s first one-to-five star design hotel.
This means the rooms range in comfort and price, from cosy one-star rooms to deluxe five-star suites, featuring grand pianos, swings, hammocks, milk bottle chandeliers and much more.
Each room is unique, created using the inspiration of over 50 designers and artists, making the hotel an icon of Dutch design.
A prison is just one of the hotel’s former functions: it was primarily used to house immigrants, before becoming a prison, a collection of artist’s studios and finally Lloyd Hotel in 2004.
Today, the hotel strives to bring travellers and locals together by hosting cultural events ranging from design exhibitions to percussion performances and Japanese markets.

Cells available from €70:—cultural-embassy-42138


katajanokka_intkatajanokka_room7) Best Western Premier Katajanokka, Helsinki, Finland

 Best Western Katajanokka was previously the Helsinki Country Prison, serving pre-trial criminals from Southern Finland between 1837 and 2002. Extensive renovations, reportedly costing €15 million, were undertaken in order to create the hotel, although strict guidelines concerning historic buildings means the exterior remains largely unchanged.
Sets of two or three cells were combined to create spacious and comfortable four-star hotel rooms, ranging from queen rooms to junior suites, accessible by the original prison corridor.
Restaurant Jailbird has a prison theme, complete with exposed brick walls, barred windows and medieval-style chairs. Here guests can sample Scandinavian specialities, including the acclaimed President Ryti’s beef.

Cells available from €103:




image011clink_exterior8) Clink78, London, UK

Not technically a luxury hotel, but certainly a “posh hostel”, Clink78 is found in a 200 year-old courthouse.
The Clerkenwell Magistrates’ Court previously housed The Clash, who were fined for shooting expensive racing pigeons and inspired the name of the hostel’s late-night bar: Clashbar.
The former courtrooms now serve as a TV and film lounge and a computer room, complete with the judge’s podium and witness and usher stands.
Guests can also choose to sleep in one of the original prison cells, which accommodate one or two people in bunk beds.
Original features such as the heavy metal door, barred windows and steel toilet (no longer in use) remain, but the cells have been refurbished to add colour, warmth and humour.


Cells available from €103:





North Coast Offers Cosy Family Fun

Nes Bay view 1
Families love to get away and many choose to go abroad, but for Law Student Karen, a week away was just too much as she has important exams coming up.

She did however book a fab weekend to the North Coast to let her children experience the fun she had as a child. With a little detective work on the Internet Karen grabbed herself a bargain weekend at the Bayview Hotel Portballintrae.
The Bayview sits proudly in one of Ireland’s most stunning settings, overlooking the ever changing Atlantic Ocean in the picturesque harbour village of Portballintrae, on the famous North Antrim Coast Road.

Here an avalanche of culture awaits you on one of Irelands most famous coastlines, which offers the mythical Giant’s Causeway, Old Bushmills Distillery & Dunluce Castle to name but a few.

Karen and her Children, Sydney and Seth, arrived at the Bayview Hotel just before dusk and were shown up to their superior family room. Karen explained, “ Our room was simply fantastic, lots of room for the children and me, and the place was spotlessly clean and we had a bed each!

Superior Family


If you are looking for a quality north coast experience then the Bayview is close enough to the excitement but far enough away for a really quiets nights sleep.

After checking in and unpacking it was off to the premier entertainment centre in Portrush.


Jet Centre Portrush

Arcade___The_Jet_CentreIf you’re looking for Fun and entertainment for you, your friends and your family, then why go anywhere else? Whatever you have in mind, you can be sure of having a great time at the Jet Centre – even if none of you can agree on what to do!

Movie House Cinema, Ally Cats Children’s Play area. Superstrikes, Arcade, Jet Centre and of course Mini golf, with entry prices from £3-00 there is bound to be something to suit all ages and pockets. One thing I am delighted to see is the Jet Centres dedication to children with Autism. Special autism friendly film showings are available just visit for more details. So if you want to have some fun on the North Coast then the Jet centre is the place for all your entertainment needs. After exhausting the children Karen and the kids returned to the Bayview for a bite to eat and then bed.


Great Food in the Porthole!

ThPicture 30e Porthole has the reputation of being the heart of Portballintrae and is a popular meeting place for both locals and tourists alike.

With sumptuous cuisine, an excellent weekend entertainment schedule, well stocked bar and wines from all over the globe, the Porthole is the perfect place to sample good old Northern Ireland hospitality in a venue renowned for its relaxed ambiance.


Karen and the children enjoyed beautiful home made hamburgers, chunky chips along with the usual trimmings and the children were more than satisfied with the super offerings from the children’s menu.

After a great nights sleep and a wonderful breakfast of locally sourced produce, which is a great start to any day, our three intrepid explorers were off the Giants Causeway

in the footsteps of giants…



Flanked by the wild North Atlantic Ocean and a landscape of dramatic cliffs, for centuries the Giant’s Causeway has inspired artists, stirred scientific debate and captured the imagination of all who see it. These wonders of the world are truly spectacular and these amazing basalt columns are not to be missed.

Try a knowledgeable tour guide, or pick up an audio guide and go at your own pace amongst one of the worlds great wonders. Climb the Shepherd’s Steps and hike along the cliff-top trail to get a bird’s eye view of the beautiful causeway coast.

In the new exhibition area you can unlock the mystery and stories of the landscape in the exhibition area of the causeways award-winning visitor centre, which also boasts a café serving a seasonal menu, and retail zone where you can pick up locally sourced souvenirs and handicrafts.


Its got to be Barry’s



After a morning of history and geology, the kids were full of knowledge, and as all mums know if the kids are happy then you will be too, so it was off to the reason Portrush exists. Barry’s Amusements

No one is really sure why the five Chipperfield sisters and one brother brought their unique blend of plays and musical show to Ireland. But back in the 1920’s it was certainly a brave and radical step. They were also at the forefront of technology bringing with them one of the earliest movie projectors.

As they toured local towns they built a reputation for themselves and such was the esteem in which they were held that, when the Royal Italian Circus came to tour Ireland in 1923, they asked Evelyn Chipperfield, the eldest of the sisters, if she would act as their agent.

This was how Evelyn met Francesco Trufelli. He was the director of the circus and a former high trapeze artist. The two fell in love. Evelyn was already in love with Ireland and it was not too difficult to persuade her sweetheart to stay.

Together they continued to tour Ireland, in 1926, they were then invited by the Railway Company to set up a permanent site in Portrush. That was the beginning of the most iconic amusement park in Ireland. And they remain true to their motto “fun for all the family”. Barry’s has thrilled thousands of children for many many years and they are as popular today as they ever have been and no one can go to the “port” without a visit to Barry’s. With just too many rides to mention it’s a must visit destination for young and old alike.

Needless to say after a full day out, and with all the thrills they’d had. It was time for dinner and bed.



Back to the Bayview all three were ready to “eat for Norn Irelan” and the Porthole did not disappoint. Sumptuous dinner was a speciality of the Porthole, locally sourced fish and chucky chips, Mum even managed to squeeze in a wee glass of wine before bed, with free WI-FI internet connection in the Bayview the kids devices were well connected too.

All in all our intrepid travellers had a fantastic weekend in Portballintrae and Portrush and it can be the type of holiday where you can do as little or as much as you want to do.

One thing above all, it’s a local holiday, helping local economies.

So the next time you want a weekend away don’t forget our wee part of the world and consider the North Coast.




Tempted by the Hot Tub Cinema craze but not by getting nearly naked with strangers? These hotels get a standing ovation when it comes to hot tub movies in style

Across the globe, movie enthusiasts and hot tub hunters have found their match made in heaven in the form of Hot Tub Cinema, a craze now taking off here in the UK.

Though for shy and retiring types who prefer not to bubble in public, a rom com happy ending is in sight with the finest hot tub hotels in the UK, revealed courtesy of They might not have cinemas, but you can always use a tablet…

tub1Sanctum Soho, London

Saving the best ‘til last, this stunning hotel is the epitome of indulgence. Sanctum Soho not only has a rooftop garden with an alfresco hot tub but it also boasts an underground cinema so you can have a VIP style hot tub cinema experience of your own.


Prices from £190 per night


tub2The Greenway Hotel & Spa, Cheltenham

Set in the beautiful rolling hills of the Cotswolds, The Greenway Hotel & Spa is an idyllic hotel in a wonderful location. Bathe in the outdoor hot tub with the stunning countryside as your backdrop and enjoy an evening of sophisticated elegance, this hotel hot tub is more premier than a film opening.

Prices from £199 per night


tub3Cotswold House Hotel & Spa, Chipping Campden

With two acres of gardens, traditional regency architecture and a first class spa, Cotswold House Hotel & Spa is the perfect place to unwind and indulge. Boasting an outdoor hot tub, your stay won’t be complete before you soak in the starry night sky as you relax in the hydrotherapy pool.


Prices from £160 per night


The Malvern Spa Hotel, Malvern

Designed exclusively for adults, this spa is more of a sexy classic. A true fusion of historic and contemporary, Malvern Spa Hotel has been providing luxury since 1910. The rooftop hot tub is exclusive, sensual and the epitome of indulgence.

Prices from £99 per night


tub4Oban Bay Hotel & Spa, Oban

Set on the edge of Oban’s picturesque Esplanade, Oban Bay Hotel & Spa is the ideal base to explore Scotland’s west coast. The panoramic views of the bay and mountains will make you feel like you’ve been transported to a film and you get to sit back and take it all in from the rustic, enticing outdoor hot tub.


Prices from £70 per night



tub6Cameron House, Loch Lomond

Cameron House is a stunning five star hotel on the banks of Loch Lomond. Perfect for those who don’t want to brave the cold, the indoor luxury spa with rooftop infinity pool will make you feel like you’ve walked straight into a millionaire’s movie mansion.

Prices from £127 per night is the UK’s leading online accommodation site, offering fantastic deals in over 55,000 properties worldwide, ranging from bed and breakfasts to five star luxury hotels.

It was awarded gold for Best Hotel Booking Company in the British Travel Awards in both 2012 and 2013, taking bronze in the category as well as the Feefo Excellence in Customer Service Award in 2014.

With more than 55,000 global properties available on our iOS and Android app and on our simple and easy to use website, customers can book now and pay later, and receive instant booking confirmation. also offers more than 1.4 million trusted guest reviews, written by customers who have booked through and actually stayed at the hotel.