Charente-Maritime – The Great Chefs larder

IMG_3180The Charente-Maritime area of France can really be described as a chef’s dream kitchen with a cupboard full of specialist ingredients. Situated in the heart of the French Atlantic coast, the Charente-Maritime destination is the premier tourist destination in France for French travellers.

The Charente-Maritime offers the visitor a lovely choice of coastal destinations such as Royan or the Ile de Ré, city breaks to Saintes or La Rochelle and beautiful countryside such as the Marais Poitevin or Cognac Country.

Charente-Maritime has more wellness centres (six) than any other French ‘department’ and a number of UNESCO World Heritage sites.  It is a gastronomic destination of note – oysters, mussels, sea salt, pineau des Charentes, and is easily accessible by road, rail or air from the UK.

It boasts a Mediterranean climate of around 300 sunshine days a year as well as a whole host of events taking place throughout the year. For more information visit www.france-atlantic.com

Here in Ireland we have many amazing chefs and local producers and as all the ‘greats’ will tell you the best way to produce fantastic dishes is the equality of the ingredients you make them with.

And its to this area of France I go, to list some amazing food. It’s not just a great place to get good food but it’s a fantastic place to stay too. Famed for the oysters grown off the shores of this area on France’s Atlantic Coastline, there’s also salt, sea urchins and potatoes from the Ile de Ré, saffron from the Marais-Poitevin and the “hens with the golden eggs” from Marans, among many other gourmet delights.

The excellence of the products from this region has lead to a number of official certifications:

  • 2 AOC (appellation d’origine controlee) Cognac and  Pineau des Charentes 
  • 2 AOP (appellation d’origine protégée) Butter Charentes-Poitou, potatoes of Ré
  • 2 IGP (indication geographique protegée) Wine from Pays Charentais and oysters from Marennes Oléron 
  • Label Rouge (red label) for the moules de filières (mussels)

My good friends at the Charente-Maritime tourist board have picked some highlights for you:
3da77405-9408-4c5d-badd-3b5ae5740e23Treasures from the Atlantic – The varied oysters of the Charente-Maritime each have a unique flavour no matter the variety – ‘affinée en claire’ or ‘pleine mer’.

This is due in no small part due to the diversity of the cultivators who devotedly nurture these shellfish to maturity, intent on retaining the very best flavours.

Their taste is very delicate and perfumed due to the exceptional cultivation in a unique ecosystem only found on Oléron Island and in the Marennes basin, where the fresh waters of the Seudre River meets the sea.

This dedication shown by the farmers of Marennes Oléron has led to them being awarded the ‘Label Rouge’ (Red Label) for the ‘fine claire verte’ variety.  Bestowed in 1989, these oysters are the only ones in France to have been given this honour.

 

For those who want to learn more about oyster cultivation, then head for the unmissable Oyster City. In parts fun and educational, visitors will find out everything they’ve ever wanted to know about the oyster, how to open them, how to prepare them and finally, how to eat them.

c41ac15b-a295-45ea-b7eb-50eb160362e5I am maybe not wrong when I say many people in Ireland do not eat Urchins, but I can assure you they are a delicious seafood and widely underrated.

The production of sea urchins has taken place in La Flotte on the Ile de Ré since 2006.

These creatures Sea are used as a bio-indicator of the presence of clean, clear water as without it, they would not survive.   Fortunately, the water quality on the island is exceptional and its so good for the urchins that only eat a certain type of seaweed which is found here all year round.

The methods used to raise them were started by Pierre Le Gall in 1980. The exceptional well-being of the animals means that a top quality product is available all year round.

 

 

4667f00f-99ac-4f27-ac7a-09e5c3930166The Hens with the Golden Eggs –

The Maran Egg is also known as the ‘extra red egg’ because of the deep red-brown colour of the shell.  The egg is typically large (70 grams as a minimum) from a regional hen, also prized for its tasty meat at the entrance to the Marais Poitevin. Locally known as the ‘hens with the golden eggs’, they lay between 230 – 240 a year.

 

Not only are the eggs attractive, they are also delicious and especially good when boiled rather than used in an omelette.  The Marans hens are the result of crossing a black hen of the Vendée with hens from the UK brought over by English sailors towards the end of the Middle Ages.

There was a second cross in the nineteenth century when a Chinese hen, a particularly effective layer called a Langshan, was imported in 1876. This new variety of bird was introduced to the world in 1914 at a national exhibition held in La Rochelle and was called the ‘country hen’.

 

Les Cagouilles or Petits Gris

44fa73be-c87c-4aa0-a274-53bb8b1af62bIf there is one dish that some people find difficult to eat it’s the snail. In Charente Maritime they have a special word for snails Les Cagouilles or Petits Gris.  They are bred between April and September and used in various ways.  Snail caviar, which originated from this area, looks like little balls of white pearls and now graces the tables of France’s elite restaurants.

Jean–Philippe Rousseau and his two associates from Mons is renowned as one of the top producers.  Charente – Maritime is the premier department in France for snail breeding – also known as heliculture – and there is even a brotherhood of snail producers.  400 tons are produced each year.  In France as a whole, 45,000 tons of snails are eaten every year.

 

 

 

72488575-c1f1-454b-a500-4a93d5dd55ceSpicy Saffron – If salt is king in Charente-Maritime, saffron is not far behind it with the production of this spicy plant having taken place for during the last twenty years.

Saffron is grown between Marennes and Surgères it’s manually harvested in October and November.   Saffron sets the taste-buds going – especially in Indian, Spanish or North African dishes – but it is also good in a butter sauce on mussels, with prawns, pasta or otherwise in crème brulée or butter biscuits.

 

 

The King of Salt

7d36131a-6f68-479d-b60c-300a34ccb18eIt was the monks that first worked the salt beds of the Ile de Ré and Oléron.  From the Middle ages to the nineteenth century, salt provided prosperity for the area.  The Ile de Ré was the powerhouse of production having more than a thousand salt workers and 25,000 tons of salt harvested annually. 20% of the island was taken up with this activity.

 

Today, the industry is enjoying a revival with around a hundred young workers proud to be in an environmentally friendly and long-standing business.  The sea salt is collected between June and September and the fleur de sel (that pure top layer) is prized in French kitchens for its unique flavour.

Either fine or in rock form, salt from the islands are often flavoured with thyme, basil or fennel.  With varying meteorological conditions these days (you can’t harvest when it rains), production is between 1000 and 2,500 tons a year.

 

8042707a-f1ac-483f-98f5-6d5570ad9385Samphire

Samphire is very fashionable at the moment, a popularity that has spread far beyond the borders of the Charente-Maritime where is grows on the salty marshes.

It is also found along the side of the oyster beds and grows for four months in summer in salty, dry conditions.

It is a plant rich in minerals and thus very good for the health. It can be eaten raw – particularly good in salads, pickled like gherkins or cooked and served with meat or fish.

 

 

Photo credit thanks to:  Alison Boissard CMT / Oursin © PhotoPin / Stéphane Morand / Ile d’Oléron / Salicorne © PhotoPin /

48 Hours in Dublin

dublin_bus_open_top_tour_bus_largeAs a frequent visitor to Dublin for work purposes, I have never thought of it as a tourist destination, I take the train down attend a meeting or two and train home. I see hotels, tourists and attractions but never give it a second thought. Well until last week.

For this trip I took my accommodation with me and booked a pitch at Camac Caravan park just off the N7.

Camac is a great spot because the red sightseeing bus stops there in the morning and evening every day, meaning you can take in the sights and not have to bother with parking.

My first morning I had slept, and missed the red sightseeing bus so I hopped on the Dublin Bus no 69 down to fleet street just close to temple bar. When I got off the normal bus I hoped on the Dublin Bus sightseeing tour (www.dublinsightseeing.ie).
This hop on hop off tour is ideal for visiting Dublin. It visits all the major tourist spots in Dublin and for me the first port of call was the amazing Dublin Zoo

Photo by kind permission of Dublin Zoo

Dublin Zoo is much more than a fun-filled, stimulating day out for all the family, it’s a place to learn about wild animals, especially those which are endangered.

The Zoo is a registered charity and by visiting you will help maintain Dublin Zoo, improve the Zoo and contribute to conservation programmes.

 

Located in the Phoenix Park Dublin Zoo is Ireland’s most popular family attraction, and welcomes over one million visitors a year.

As one of the world’s oldest, yet popular zoos, the 28-hectare park in the heart of Dublin is home to some 400 animals in safe environment where education and conservation combine for an exciting and unforgettable experience!

I had only planned to spend an hour or so there but it was so fascinating I spent a whole day. For me the Orangutan stole the show. These highly intelligent animal were just fascinating to watch. Be warned though when they climb the ropes to cross over the walkway they are likely to relieve themselves, yes on top of you.

I have never laughed as much when I saw them taking a pee over a group of visitors.

Dublin zoo is not just a place to cage in animals it’s a sanctuary for conservation and without the Zoo a number of species would be lost forever. Entry start at around €17 with group and family tickets available. See www.dublinzoo.ie.

 

My first day was supposed to be a host of visiting but I was so taken by the Zoo, I spent the day there.

img_5074After the Zoo I went down to the temple bar district to while away a few hours enjoying the “Craic”. The temple bar area is jam packed with amazing traditional bars and eating establishments. Probably a throw back to 795AD when the Vikings populated the area it continues to be one of the most popular areas in Dublin today.

Back out on the bus to Camac for some alfresco dining in extremely pleasant temperatures for mid September. Next morning I was up bright and early to get into town for more city sights.

 

Day Two

First port of call was Dublin city hall, which houses a wonderful and little known exhibition of the history of Dublin. The City Hall which was built by the Guild of Merchants and originally known as the Royal Exchange is a magnificent example of the Georgian architecture for which Dublin is world-renowned.

 

dublin_city_hall___historic_building_attractions_dublin__ireland___virtual_visit_toursDublin City Hall was built between 1769 and 1779 purchased by Dublin Corporation in 1851.
The circular entrance hall or Rotunda where the merchants strolled and discussed business is now available for the solemnisation of civil ceremonies and can also be hired for corporate and private functions.
In the vaults lies the Story of the Capital multi-media exhibition where visitors learn about Dublin’s evolution from Viking to modern times.

Treasures of the city such as the great sword and mace of Dublin and the Lord Mayor’s chains come together with video, medieval manuscripts, interactive computer displays and period costumes, to tell the story of the capital city.  Admission to Dublin City Hall is free for 2016. This is well worth a visit.

 

Kilmainham Gaol

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Kilmainham Gaol

After the city hall I grabbed a sandwich and was off to Kilmainham Gaol. Kilmainham Gaol opened in 1796 as the new County Gaol for Dublin. It closed its doors in 1924. Today the building symbolises the tradition of militant and constitutional nationalism from the rebellion of 1798 to the Irish Civil War of 1922-23.

Leaders of the rebellions of 1798, 1803, 1848,1867 and 1916 were detained and in some cases executed there. Many members of the Irish Republican movement during the Anglo-Irish War (1919-21) were also detained in Kilmainham Gaol, guarded by British troops. Names such as Henry Joy McCracken, Robert Emmet, Anne Devlin, Charles Stewart Parnell and the leaders of 1916 will always be associated with the building. It should not be forgotten however that, as a county gaol, Kilmainham held thousands of ordinary men, women and children. Their crimes ranged from petty offences such as stealing food to more serious crimes such as murder or rape. Convicts from many parts of Ireland were held here for long periods waiting to be transported to Australia. Kilmainham Gaol Museum is operated and managed by the Office of Public Works.

It matters not what side of the political divided you may come from this is a must see attraction. Just like Crumlin Road in Belfast the Gaol this wonderful museum evokes the memories of all those who passed through its gates. Such as the 5yr old who did 15 days for stealing bread to some of the founders of the Irish state who met their end in front of a firing squad. It is hard to get tickets if you turn up so please book on line to avoid disappointment see: http://kilmainhamgaolmuseum.ie/.

After Kilmainham I was off to the Irish National Gallery.
img_5073In June 1852 William Dargan, the father of the Irish rail network, approached the Royal Dublin Society (RDS) with an offer to underwrite a spectacular exhibition on Leinster Lawn in Dublin, the home of the RDS since 1815.  He wished to imitate the great exhibition that had taken place at Crystal Palace in London the previous year.  Just eleven months later, on the 12th May, the exhibition was opened in an astonishing series of pavilions for which the architect, John Benson, received a knighthood. The enthusiastic response of the visiting crowds demonstrated an active interest for art as well the desire for the establishment of a permanent public collection that would also be a fitting tribute to the generosity of Dargan.

If you like art then this is the place for you. Inside you will see a restricted (due to refurbishment) amount of art but it is still a must do. Monet to Yeats, the National Gallery collection holds some 15,000 works of art dating from the 13th to the 20th century.

 

I was coming to the end of my 48 hour Dublin city visit, and I had not even stepped foot in St Stephen’s Green, O’Connell street, Grafton St, the Guinness brewery any churches or cathedrals which means one thing.

 

I have to come back and return I shall do.

 

Campingaz Party Grill 600

img_4217Before going on my Caravan holiday in France recently, I knew that I required a BBQ as outdoor cooking was going to be the norm for me whilst in Brittany.

I checked a number of providers of outdoor cooking equipment.

As a boy scout I was aware of the Campingaz brand, as I had used their products previously. I was looking for a lightweight easy to assemble BBQ. I then discovered the Campingaz party grill and boy was this a compact BBQ.

img_4224When it arrived the BBQ was literally packed inside itself, the extendable legs, were inside the main body of the BBQ as were the detachable cooking options, i.e a typical BBQ rack and a griddle and non stick grill pan as well.
Using the BBQ was a dream, it assembled in minutes and was really easy to use. I connected it to my caravan with a push fit connection and within a minute or so I was ready to cook. I found that the temperature gauge was an added bonus and if you wanted to you could cook a chicken or a roast or even bake bread in the grill as it becomes an oven too.img_4216

All in all this BBQ grill is a super device, it packs up neatly (once cool), it comes with a handy carry bag, is super easy to use and is extremely well priced.

So if you are considering a BBQ for your camping or caravanning needs consider the Campingaz party grill you won’t be disappointed.

 

Coleman TWIST+ 300 LED lantern

When caravanning many people do two types, off and on grid. Off grid is for the more extreme vanners who brave the weather with no EHU or electric hook up.

26650I suppose its seen by some as the more traditional way of vanning without the modern convenience of the 240v supply. Being a green vanner I use solar power a lot and this is where the Coleman twist LED lantern comes into its own. Multipurpose and strong, this weather resistant TWIST+ 300 Lithium Ion Rechargeable Lantern doubles as a charging unit and a light source. It is USB compatible and with a bright 300-lumen output, you can stay out of the dark and remain connected for longer.

This is an ingenious product that holds an amazing amount of charge for your mobile device and provides outstanding brightness from a low drain ultra bright LED.

All in all this means if your camping or vaning and you have little or no power left pug in you phone or tablet to the Coleman twist-light and you will have a charging facility right at your fingertips.

Cleverly Coleman have introduced a patent-pending BatteryLock™ technology to prevent battery drain, the TWIST+ 300 lantern is the ultimate sturdy and reliable campsite lighting companion, and it proves extremely invaluable on my caravanning trips worldwide. Needless to say charger and USB cable is included.

GUARANTEED FREE FUN FOR ALL THE FAMILY WITH EHOD

Hillsborough Fort

Hillsborough Fort

THIS September is set to be jam-packed with exciting events taking place all over Northern Ireland, thanks to . With over 340 events to choose from, all completely FREE!, it will come as no surprise that there is something taking place in every county. Organised by the Historic Environment Division of the Department for Communities, under the banner of ‘Love Heritage NI’, EHOD provides a great chance for people to experience the magic of Northern Ireland’s heritage and historical background.

Rachel Quigg, Tourism Northern Ireland’s Communications and Destination PR Officer said: “Northern Ireland is set to become a hive of activity on September 10 and 11 when European Heritage Open Days unlock the doors to the past and present, allowing the public free entry to lots of different and fun places “Families won’t be stuck for something to do, there is something for everyone and to suit all ages, from quizzes and treasure hunts to food and craft markets, walking tours and much, much more! “Why not try something completely new and visit a property that is not normally open to the public such as family owned and maintained Ennish Scutch Mill in Dungannon, Rocklands House in Carrickfergus and Killymoon Castle in Cookstown”, concluded Rachel.

Tourism Northern Ireland have listed just some of the fantastic things to see and do over EHOD:
Family Events
PoguesPogue’s Entry Historical Cottage (Antrim), Saturday 10th & Sunday 11th September, 10am – 5pm. This is the childhood home of Dr. Alexander Irvine, author of ‘My Lady of the Chimney Corner’, which has been preserved to give a rare insight into how many Irish working-class families lived in the latter half of the nineteenth century. With living history and craft displays, European Heritage Open Days bring the cottage alive.

Navan Centre & Fort (Armagh), Saturday 10th & Sunday 11th September, 10am – 4pm. Enjoy a flavour of the historic Navan Centre & Fort which is one of Ireland’s most important historic monuments. Get an introduction to Navan and visit an Iron Age dwelling where you will meet Living HistBangor Castleory characters as they recreate Celtic Life. Take a guided tour to the base of the Fort. Tour lasts 45mins. Tour are available at 10.00am & 12.00noon.
Booking required. To book call (028) 37 529644.

City Hall Children’s Puzzle Challenge (Belfast), Saturday 10th & Sunday 11th September, 10am – 5pm. Do your little ones enjoy quizzes and treasure hunts? Why not come along to City Hall and try our children’s fact finding mission. Explore the City Hall grounds and gardens and discover the heritage of Belfast, its individuals and industrial past. Pick up your challenge sheet at City Hall reception and return once completed to claim your prize. This activity is suitable for ages 5 – 12 years.

Northern Ireland War Memorial, Saturday 10th & 11th Sunday, 10:30am – 4:30pm. Northern Ireland War Memorial, an accredited museum in the Cathedral Quarter of Belfast, is a ‘must see’ for those with an interest in Northern Ireland’s role in the Second World War. Call in to discover how local communities rescued, nursed and gave shelter to 100,000 families made homeless by the Belfast Blitz, 75 years ago. Try on uniforms to step into the shoes of an Air Raid Warden, a Home Guard Soldier and a Red Cross Nurse. Sample foods made with recipes by the Women’s Voluntary Service as they served 70,000 meals in the aftermath of the Blitz.

Downpatrick RailwayDownpatrick & Co. Down Railway (Downpatrick), Saturday 10th & Sunday 11th September, 12pm – 5pm. The Downpatrick and Co Down Railway is Ireland’s only full size heritage railway, running vintage steam and diesel trains between Downpatrick and Inch Abbey. This is a working railway museum with exhibits relating to industrial and transport heritage with free guided tours of the Carriage Viewing Gallery and Co Down Railway Museum. The model train layout, buffet car and shop will also be open. A free steam train ride will be available at 5pm (fares payable on trains between 2-4pm).

Enniskillen Library (Enniskillen), Friday 9th September 3.30pm. Storyteller, Liz Weir will celebrate local heritage by telling traditional stories with a strong sense of place. Her stories will take attendees on journeys from castles to fairy forts and from Loughs to ancient sites.

Marble Arch CavesMarble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark (Fermanagh), Saturday 10th & Sunday 11th September, 10am – 4.30pm. A number of interactive activities for all the family will be on offer at the Marble Arch Caves Visitors Centre to help celebrate European Heritage Open Days 2016 including fossil making, fossil treasure hunt and a variety of arts and crafts activities.

Green Lane Museum (Limavady), Saturday 10th & Sunday 11th September, 1pm-4.30pm. Green Lane Museum has a fantastic collection of objects relating to rural life around Limavady from the 19th century onwards. Come and join in for an afternoon of paper crafting and quilling which promises to be full of fun and creativity. Suitable for ages 6+.

Film Events
Screening of ‘The Frankenstein Chronicles’
Where: Campbell College, Belfast
When: Saturday 8pm
This screening will take place in the stunning surroundings of Campbell College’s Central Hall where The Frankenstein Chronicles was filmed. This room doubled as the Houses of Parliament in this magnificent production. In the film, Inspector John Marlott, played by Sean Bean investigates a series of crimes in 19th century London, which may have been committed by a scientist intent on re-animating the dead. Rated PG.
Booking required: https://belfastfilmfestival.org/films

Screening of ‘Road’
Where: Ballymoney Town Hall
When: Sunday, 8pm
Narrated by Liam Neeson, and produced by Belfast’s DoubleBand Films, this feature documentary tells the extraordinary and dramatic story of two sets of brothers from Northern Ireland who have dominated road racing for over thirty years; Robert and Joey Dunlop. Visit the Dunlop memorial gardens while you are there. Rated PG.
Booking essential: https://belfastfilmfestival.org/films

Screening of ‘We’re doomed! The Dad’s Army Story’
Where: Crumlin Road Gaol, Belfast
When: Sunday, 2pm
This is the dramatised story of how the legendary writers of Dad’s Army, Jimmy Perry and David Croft, overcame every obstacle thrown at them – from a cast of uniquely challenging personalities to fierce opposition to the idea within the highest ranks of the BBC – to create one of the most beloved and successful sitcoms of all time. The drama features an incredible cast including Paul Ritter, Richard Dormer and Shane Ritchie. Rated PG.
Booking required: https://belfastfilmfestival.org/films

The Truth CommissionerScreening of ‘The Truth Commissioner’
Where: The Guildhall, Derry~Londonderry
When: Sunday, 2pm
This screening will take place in The Guildhall, which was used as the interior of the Truth Commission hearing room in the film. Set in post-Troubles Northern Ireland, The Truth Commissioner follows the fictional story of Henry Stanfield who has just been appointed as Truth Commissioner to Northern Ireland. The story revolves around the lives of three men who are directly or indirectly involved in the disappearance, 20 years earlier, of the 15 year old Connor Roche. Bloody and inconvenient truths about those running the country are uncovered; truths which none of those in power are prepared to reveal. Rated PG.
For booking: https://belfastfilmfestival.org/films

Screening of ‘Made in Belfast’
Where: Queens Film Theatre
When: Sunday, 3pm
QFT invites you to a free screening of the debut feature of writer/director/actor Paul Kennedy. Made in Belfast is a wry, observant tale of forgiveness and redemption with a distinctive Belfast flavour. Successful author Jack (Ciarán McMenamin) returns home to Belfast after an 8-year self-imposed exile. He finds a city that has moved on and some unfinished emotional business that clearly hasn’t. Rated PG.
Booking required: www.queensfilmtheatre.com

Not Normally Open to the Public

Single Brethren House
Open Day at Ballealy Cottage (Randalstown), Sunday 11th September, 10am – 4pm. Visitors have the opportunity to see the conservation work of Irish Landmark in this self-guided tour of the restored gamekeeper’s lodge.
The conservation of this property has won the Environment and Heritage Service Award and is now available as holiday accommodation.

Single Brethren House (Ballymeana), Saturday 10th September, 12:30pm-5pm.
This five bay, four storey house of squared basalt was built in 1819 on the site of a previous dwelling.
It provided accommodation for the single men as well as for a school and a bank.
Once community housing for the settlement, it is now in private ownership.

Derrymore House (Armagh) Saturday 10th September, 2pm – 5.30pm.
An elegant 18th-century thatched cottage in a pleasant parkland.
Part of the Ring of Gullion way-marked walking trail, the demesne has fine elevated views and is perfect for family walks.

Rocklands HouseRocklands House (Carrickfergus), Saturday 10th September, 10am-4pm.
Built in the 1820s for the Inspecting Commander of the Coastguards, Rocklands House is now owned by the older people’s charity Abbeyfield & Wesley.
This is a unique opportunity to see inside the ground floor of this Georgian building and find out a little of its history and its use today.

BHCBelfast Harbour Commissioners (Belfast), Saturday 10th & Sunday 11th September, 1pm – 5pm. This is an Italianate design by George Smith, built in 1852 containing many artworks, sculptures and stained glass windows.
The second phase of 1895 contains the splendid public rooms.
The modern office block was added in 1970.

Hillsborough Fort (Hillsborough), Saturday 10th September, 10am-5pm & Sunday 11th September, 1pm-5pm.
Hillsborough Fort is an Artillery fort built in 1650 by Colonel Arthur Hill – the Hill family built the village of Hillsborough starting with the fort.
It was remodelled in the 18th Century for feasts and entertainment and currently hosts an exhibition of photographs and artefacts from the area.

Bangor CastleBangor Castle (Bangor), Sunday 11th September, 12pm – 4.30pm. This is a large Victorian mansion built for Hon. Robert Edward Ward, the local landlord, to designs by William Burn in a Jacobean / Elizabethan revival style. Completed in 1852, the interior includes decorative plasterwork and joinery, particularly in the current council chamber which was once a grand music salon as well as a beautiful art collection.
The castle has served as council offices since 1952. Access by guided tour only which begin every 30 mins from 12 noon.

Light ShipLightship Petrel (Newtownards), Sunday 11th September, 1pm – 5.30pm. Petrel is a retired Commissioners of Irish Lights, Light Vessel built in Dublin 1911 which was registered by ‘National Historic ships UK in 2014. Since 1968 Petrel has been in the ownership and use of Down Cruising Club as the club headquarters. The ship is a well known landmark and this event is an opportunity to invite the public on board to view the ship and be guided on board and hear the history from our knowledgeable guides.
Booking required. To book call (07549847147).

Ennish Scutch Mill (Dungannon), Saturday 10th September, 10am – 5pm, Sunday 11th September, 2pm – 4pm.
This is a fully working traditional scutch mill and mill buildings which is family owned and maintained.
Tours on the hour.

Woodbank HouseWoodbank House (Garvagh) Saturday 10th September, 11am – 4pm. Woodbank House is a Georgian house set on the outskirts of Garvagh. The original house is said to date from 1745 with the current house structure dating from 1822. It is very much a family home which still has the original front door and decorative side-lights and Georgian fan-light, 6/6 sash windows, staircase and servants’ kitchen in the basement.
Hourly guided tours given by the owner. Booking required. To book email clyde@btinternet.com

Killymoon Castle (Cookstown), Sunday 11th September, 2pm & 3.30pm (tours). Killymoon Castle was built for James Stewart in 1671. After a fire the castle was designed by the famous London architect John Nash and in 1830 was rebuilt incorporating the earlier building.
The castle was Nash’s first Irish design and was to cost £80,000.
Recently the castle has had a huge restoration.
Booking required. To book call (028) 90 823238

If you would like further information regarding these events or would like to extend your stay and book a short break visit http://www.discovernorthernireland.com/loveheritageni/EHOD.aspx, http://www.facebook.com/discovernorthernireland or http://www.twitter.com/DiscoverNI.

La Garangeoire, It just gets Better


IMG_4512
My final part of my three part series on French caravan sites covers the La Garangeoire in Pays de la Loire which is located in the in the hart of the Vendée Bocage in a little village called Saint Julien des Landes.

 

This is a superb site features 60 pitches, including 181 equipped with chalet or mobile-home and some tent /caravan pitches with private bathroom and showers. As I have mentioned before shower blocks are important to campers and caravaners. However on this site I booked a private bathroom with shower / wc and dishwashing facilities. Now trust me this is something special.

 

IMG_4489Private Facilities

 

Having private facilities like this at your own site means no long walks in the middle of the night to the loo or to the showers and to add to that the facilities are even heated. This is clearly glamping at its best. It’s hard to explain what a tremendous difference the private bathroom makes to your pitch if it’s a tent or caravan paying that little extra is really going to make a massive difference to your camping experience.

 

Relax

We all know that holidays are special as they are supposed to be the release valve for the years work so it is important that what ever you do and wherever you go you time should be a relaxing as possible. The staff at La Garangeoire will do their utmost to make your holiday as pleasant as possible. Multilingual receptionists and bar staff are always on hand to give you the best information and advice about activities in and around the campsite and other tourists locations.  Need a doctor, a mechanic, a visit to the vet? They will help you making an appointment and point you in the right direction. The “service and maintenance” team ensure that an incident, or a technical problem, is resolved in less than an hour.

 

If it all goes wrong!

It’s fair to say that many companies make amazing claims about their services but the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Not that I wanted to but I had a very serious incident that pushed their staff assistance to the limit. During a visit to a pine forest in another part of France, I didn’t realise I had been infected by a Pine processionary moth – (Thaumetopoea pityocampa)

 

This little blighter can cause a very severe reaction and swelling. And after I had arrived at La Garangeoire, my leg started to swell.

 

The reception staff pointed me in the direction of the local Doctor and made an appointment for me. I got some antibiotics and looked forward to my quick recovery. Sadly the leg kept on swelling and it caused such a problem a vein burst.

What was a swollen leg, turned into a life-threatening situation very quickly and I was loosing a large amount of blood. A difficult situation at any time but this was midnight. A kind caravaner called reception staff and it was the owner of the campsite who was with me in minutes. An ambulance was called and the staff and my amazing wife applied a tourniquet and saved my life.

The staff at La Garangeoire could not have been more helpful and they did everything to assist us before my repatriation back to Ireland, and I owe them a lot of thanks.

 

Facilities
IMG_4498La Garangeoire has it all and here you have the opportunity to play your favourite sport or discover new activities such as angling in one of their 4 lakes, tennis, football, basket & volley ball, horse or pony riding, canoeing, crazy-golf, trampolines, pedal karting and so much more…

There is a spa, yoga, relaxation classes, and a fitness centre to burn off all that cheese and wine, beauty care and a heated swimming pool.

 

Not only does La Garangeoire have all those facilities but they also have two bars, supermarket with fresh bread every morning and some amazing entertainment.

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The evenings at La Garangeoire pass by, and none are the same !

Every summer night there is something to do!During the summer season, there is a wide range of entertainment that will deliver music that is sure to please everyone. Covers of famous rock bands, French songs, jazz, rhythm & blues, African drums and if you’re a musician, don’t hesitate to bring your instrument!

There is also a piano where you will be encouraged to participate.

le lacIf that sounds to lively, then you can learn the secrets of wine tasting and discover French wines with a specialist. Every week during the high season La Garangeoire run a family fun evening. A bit like a fair, they offer lots of outdoor games:  giant wooden games, face painting, rodeo or mechanic surf simulator, duck fishing etc

and in July and August they have “night swimming” every Tuesday evening.

From end of May to the beginning of September, a mini disco is also organised every week and of course the very popular quiz where countries genrally pit their wits in family event for our British and Irish guests. Every week we have a quiz about the culture and knowledge… and in English!

 

Like all the Le Castel campsites I visited the attention to detail was superb and you are guaranteed a great camping experience. And for the “Connected Kids” there are 5 free WIFI areas.

All in all La Garangeoire is an amazing site and one, which I will be returning too without a doubt.

Visit http://www.les-castels.com/.

colours for guidelinesHow To Get there.

If you want to go and try some of the exciting places I have visited then get yourself onto www.aferry.co.uk and book yourself a great deal.

With exceptional prices too.

 

 

 

LEAF THE CITY BEHIND AND VISIT NI’s STUNNING GARDENS

 NORTHERN IRELAND boasts some of the most magnificent gardens in Europe that are perfect for family days away, inquisitive horticulturalists and lazy summer picnics.  To celebrate our great green spaces Tourism Northern Ireland has created a green-fingered list of stunning gardens to visit and exciting events to attend.

 

Tourism NI’s Communications & Destination PR Officer Rachel Quigg explained why everyone should experience some of the beautiful gardens that NI has to offer:

“During the summer months, there is no better time to get together with friends and family and spend some time outdoors. From grand ornamental gardens to charming walled gardens, award-winning rose gardens and woodland meadows, there are a wide range of magical open green spaces all over NI just waiting to be explored.

“So whether you are a gardening enthusiast or just love to be outdoors there will be a garden to suit the experience you are looking for,” Rachel added.

 

Must See Gardens

 

Benvarden Garden in Ballymoney Co Antrim, is a beautiful walled garden which dates back to the 18th century and includes a woodland pond and a small stream with a waterfall. The garden is one of the finest and best maintained in Northern Ireland and visitors can take in the stables, coach houses, cart houses and tea room which is converted from a former stable. How to get there Head to Ballybogey and it’s on the Ballymoney/Portrush road. On B67, 7 miles east of Coleraine, signposted.

 

Bangor Castle Walled Garden

Bangor Castle Walled Garden

Bangor Castle Walled Garden was officially opened as a visitor attraction in April 2009. The gardens have four distinct sections which are the kitchen garden, the herb and topiary garden, the swamp garden and the flower garden so there is plenty for visitors to uncover and explore.

 

Antrim Castle Gardens are renowned as a historical gem and are the perfect way to spend a day out for a leisurely stroll with friends or family. Visitors to the gardens can explore many beautiful features such as the Large Parterre, Her Ladyship’s Pleasure Garden and Yew Tree Pond.  After a walk around the gardens why not stop for a rest at the Garden Coffee Shop where you can sample a treat from the menu before visiting the nearby shop which has a unique range of goods.

 

 

Lisburn Castle Gardens

Lisburn Castle Gardens

Lisburn Castle Gardens was once the site of Lisburn Castle, a 17th century fortified manor house. The upper 19th century gardens and the 17th century terraces have recently been restored by Lisburn City Council with aid from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the gardens main features include mature trees and many historic monuments.

 

Seaforde Gardens in Co Down is the perfect destination for families as it hosts a Tropical Butterfly House which has a large flight area with hundreds of free-flying exotic butterflies as well as reptiles and insects available to view behind glass.  The Tropical Butterfly House is set in beautiful grounds with avenues of mature trees, a maze set in the middle of an old walled garden and many tropical plants.

 

Glenarm Castle Gardens in Co. Antrim is part of the Antrim Garden Trail and is one of Ireland’s oldest walled gardens dating back from the 18th century.  This stunning garden is a centre of horticultural excellence with water features, fruit and vegetable gardens and colourful displays of flowers.

 

Florence Court is a truly welcoming home. The house, formerly the home of the Cole family, Earls of Enniskillen, is surrounded by a large area of parkland, garden and woodland, with breathtaking views to Benaughlin and the Cuilcagh Mountains.

Florence Court

in Enniskillen, Co.Fermanagh is set against a dramatic backdrop of mountains and forests. Visitors can discover the many serene and beautiful areas such as the Pleasure Grounds and the Walled Garden within this magnificent demesne where garden lovers will also find the famous Florence Court Yew. Other interesting features include a saw mill, original ice house and charming summer house.

 

Rowallane Garden in Saintfield, Co Down is an enchanting garden enclosed within a demesne landscape. The garden reflects the beautiful natural landscape of the surrounding area with spectacular displays of shrubs and several areas managed as

wildflower meadows.

 

Castle Ward in Strangford Co Down has 40 acres of parkland and contains many beautiful historical garden features such as the Temple Water, the Sunken Garden and the Irish Yew Trees. The grounds at Castle Ward are perfect for those with an interest in garden history and keen gardeners will revel in the trails, stunning vistas and a picturesque farmyard as well as woodland, lakeside and parkland walks with breath-taking view points.

 

Mount Stewart

Mount Stewart

Mount Stewart in Newtownards, Co Down is one of the most popular gardens in Northern Ireland. Visitors can enjoy formal gardens of clipped topiary, impressive colour schemes and a picturesque lake surrounded by beautiful areas of woodland.

 

Garden lovers should keep an eye out for the Ulster Gardens Scheme which sees a number of private gardens open each year to raise funds to support work in the gardens cared for by the National Trust in Northern Ireland. Some gardens open for one or two days every few years whilst others make their gardens available throughout the summer months ‘by appointment’.

 

For information on which gardens are open, go to

www.discovernorthernireland.com/gardens

 

Green Fingered Events

Orchid Walk, Belfast, July 31. Enjoy a beautiful walk along the western shore of Lough Beg which is just one of a handful of sites in NI that is home to a rare type of orchid known as Irish Lady’s Tresses. Walkers are sure to be delighted at the delicate scents and stunning scenery.

 

Kids Mini-beasts Nature Trail, August 6. Join local naturalist ‘Woody’ for a creative exploration of Killynether Wood in Newtownards, Co Down and look out for the mini–beasts that make the parkland their home and find out more about the flora and fauna.

 

Creatures of the Night Picnic, August 10. Enjoy a picnic with a difference at the Ring of Gullion and find out what goes bump in the night. Families can watch mammal expert David Tosh as he tries to catch bats with his nets as well as listen out for them with special bat detectors. Those that are lucky enough may even see an elusive pine marten or a fox.

 

Edible Geology Bus Tour, August 16. This fun event will be hosted in Mullaghbane, Co Armagh and attendees will join geologist Kirstin Lemon and accompany her on an edible geology tour of key sites in the Ring of Gullion. There will be lots of home baked delights on offer, all in the form of different geological features!

 

For further information on things to see and do in Northern Ireland click on www.discovernorthernireland.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

French Camping at it’s Best

1-Logo_principal_LES CASTELSLike so many Irish people who visit France, none of us can be immune from the horrific events in Nice last week.

Having spent a month in this wonderful country recently I thought long and hard whether to postpone these next few articles on one of the most popular holidays the Irish take in France. I decided however that the French need our support at this time and that we should support our friends in time of need. 

Camping in France is big business and there are many sites dotted across the country.Accommodation can vary between mobile homes, tents, luxury safari tents, caravans and luxury pitches with their own toilet facilities. The services and facilities offered at sites can vary wildly so it’s important to know what your going to get before you set off.    

Les Castles have 39 sites over France and 30 of them are 5 star rated, and if like me you have been a camper or caravaner, the quality of sites varies enormously.

My second campsite on my French Sojourn, was down near Carnac.

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Standing Stones at Carnac

Carnac is famous for their rows of standing megalithic stones. The standing stones of Carnac are one of Brittany’s greatest attractions. Three fields – Ménec, Kermario and Kerlescan – contain around 3,000 aligned megaliths, which date from 4000 BC.

The granite stones were erected on the spot where they were dug, hence the differing sizes, although it is not known why they were put up; it is thought they had a religious or cultural significance. 

Located opposite the renowned Megalithic site is Les Castel Camping’s La Grande Metairie, once a traditional Brittany farm, this wonderful campsite offers you a superb 5-star experience, which extends over 15 hectares of greenery.

Jam packed with things to do this is a wonderful site for children. The Michelin Camping Guide, selected 6 exceptional campsites in France. And this site is one of them, having received the highest award of “5 red tents”.

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It’s all about Children

If the children are having fun then it makes for a much better holiday for the parents and the activities on this site are endless.

Segway tours, zip wire adventures, high level tree walks, aquatic park, petting zoo are just some of the activities available.

French holidays are nearly all about the water, it maybe a lake, water park or villa pool, but its what the children generally want and at La Grande Metairie they go all out to make sure the kids have fun. 

This site boasts a truly fantastic pool complex, sliding down the toboggans, swimming the lazy river, passing under the waterfall, relaxing in the jacuzzi, splashing around with the toddlers in the padding pool or doing gentle lengths in the swimming pool. You can just enjoy the waterpark as you wish.

parc_aquatique_24And whatever the Brittany’s weather may throw at you there’s always the heated indoor pool with it’s own Jacuzzi!

Bordering the different pools you will find plenty of space to relax on a sun-lounger and soak in the sun. Blue-Lagoon bar and terrace is just a “splash” away for a refreshing drink or ice-cream.

Many of the visitors to La Grande Metairie stayed in mobile homes, but there are of course other options available such as caravans, wooden camping pods and tree top cabins. The Squirrel’s and the Birds’ Cabin.

Those in mobile homes have en suite toilet facilities and many caravans do, to but when on a campsite the most important building is the sanitary block. Such buildings can make or break a campsite and I can tell you that in La Grande Metairie, they know this and provide exceptional facilities.  In fact they are hotel class.

Spotlessly clean at any time of the day, there are piping hot showers, family showers, hair driers, laundry and ironing facilities which were all amazingly clean. Over all La Grande Metairie, is an exceptional site it has everything you need and more for a fun packed family holiday and you literally do not need to leave the site if you don’t want to. If you do decide to go sightseeing then there is lots to see and do as Brittany has so much to offer.

IMG_ 1 1078With prices as little as €9-00 per day for a pitch its great value too.  

Situated about 4 meters above ground, (children must be over 2 yrs. old ) each cabin is built with two bedrooms, and an open terrace.  

Soft beds (for 4 people in one bedroom, and for 3 people in the other), several chairs and tables, you can leave your car in the area provided, and you will be just a few meters away from the toilet blocks. 

grande_metairie_sanitairesIMG_4264I brought my own caravan with me so I had a pitch with water, electric, and an outside fridge, which was extremely useful. I also had a patio set as well. My site was spacious and located close to the shower block and on site store.

See www.camping-castels.co.uk

 loadImage.phpLe Manoir de Ker An Poul

After three days of fun I then headed further south to try out Le Manoir de Ker An Poul near Sarzeau. This was a 4 star Les Castel site about an hour and a half further down the Brittany coast and situated about 800m from the beach. Covering three quarters of the Rhuys Peninsula, Sarzeau is lined with fine sandy beaches.

You can also enjoy the charm of the Damgan seaside resort and the picturesque town of Arzon.

IMG_4399My accommodation this time was a charming little chalet in the style of what the French call a Gypsy Caravan.

This chalet had all the facilities one would require for a comfortable stay on the Brittany Coast.  Two bedrooms and a living area, gas cooker, fridge coffee machine shower and toilet, outside eating tables and chairs BBQ and parasol these chalets are the ideal themed holiday chalet. 

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Le Manoir de Ker An Poul is a beautiful little site with about 300 pitches covering Caravans, mobile homes and tents. The Manoir de Ker An Poul is a typical Breton architecture. It was probably built around the fifteenth century, although it is difficult to make a precise dating of the building.

loadImage.phpThe building adjacent to the tower entrance was probably built around the same time and has often been altered over the centuries.

Little is known about the use of the building but the house belonged to belonged to De Francheville and CILLART families (called “Kerampoul”).

It is now owned by the Marquis de Gouvello Keriaval. The building has been listed as a historical monument since 1968.

 

The campsite offers mobile homes of 2 and 3 bedrooms and it boasts a large fully heated water park with an indoor pool, an outdoor pool and a third pool with three slides. 

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The campground also offers many activities such as bowls tournaments, sports tournaments on the sports ground, water aerobics, water polo. And for the evening, musical entertainment, theme nights, karaoke … are offered in high season!

This is a slightly more grown up campsite than the one above but no less amazing.

Situated amongst pine trees is it close to a superb windsurfing center just 800m away.

The little village a few feet away offers a great pizzeria and local bar and tabac.

Facilities again were superb and this is a must visit site if you want to feel the breeze and see the ocean.

 colours for guidelines

Travelling to France I used Aferry.co.uk

Finding a cheap ferry has never been easier. With AFerry.co.uk you have access to the largest selection of ferries in Europe and beyond.

 

AFerry.co.uk is proud to be the winner of “The World’s Leading Ferry Website” award at the World Travel Awards four years running.

 

Camping Les Castels with AFerry.co.uk

 

 

 

The Football is all over, Andy has won Wimbledon and the “12th”is over (peacefully) in the North, so what next ?

Sunshine perhaps?

Over the next couple of weeks I am going to make some suggestions about campaignCamping and Caravanning and this comes after the recent opening of quite a number of Go Outdoors  stores and the fantastic offers from the likes of Halfords and CampingGas.

It’s clear we all could do with getting outside a bit more and exploring our natural environment, even if that means on our doorstep.

And for many like me, going on holiday means forgetting about everything at home, stopping the hum drum of normality and just getting out there.

So I have teamed up with AFERRY.CO.UK and LES CASTLES CMPING to see what’s on offer.

If you didn’t know AFerry.co.uk  is the Travel Gateway’s leading online ferry brand, which features real-time comparison technology for ferries, generating over 55 million unique visitors per year and over 3,000 bookings per day. Founded in 1997, AFerry.co.uk has been an industry leader for nearly two decades and has strong relationships with ferry companies from across the globe.SO if you want to secure a great price check them out.

Les Castels was created in 1959 and is a collection of 38 four and five star camping sites across France and is the leading provider of glamping sites – characterised by their outstanding locations near areas of cultural interest and outstanding natural beauty.

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.

So if you are stuck for somewhere to go this summer? Why not take a ferry crossing over to France with AFerry.co.uk, the leading ferry comparison website?  Travel by car, caravan, bike or on foot and stay at possibly France’s most stylish group of glamping sites, assembled under the Les Castels brand.

With 38 locations throughout the country, there’s a wide range of accommodation options ranging from mobile homes to gites, tents to treehouses,  lake-side cottages to gypsy caravans – basically every kind of accommodation that you can imagine. AFerry.co.uk features all the best routes and prices for ferry crossings across the world and if booked via their app, you can even amend your booking en route.

Best of all, Fido can come too!

 

So here are suggestions:

Before you all start shouting, the ferry routes below are prices for sailings from the mainland or England, you can of course go via Brittany Ferries, Stena-line, Irish ferries from IRISH ports if you prefer. Prices on the Irish routes are a little distorted because of the return s fro the Euros which is why I didn’t list them.

Ferry Crossing: 

Newhaven Dieppe – with DFDS, this is a four hour crossing with three sailings per day in high season.  Lead-in return ferry price, subject to change, for a car plus two adults and two children is £323.00*.

Le Domaine de Drancourt – This Les Castels is close to the Grand Site de Franceof Saint-Valéry-sur-Somme in Picardie.  The domaine has a plethora of beautiful century old trees.  Entertainment, as mini-club and fitness activities are on offer in season. Classic pitches in July start at around €250 (approx £214) for two adults, two children under seven and a dog, subject to availability,

 

 

 
Ferry Crossing: 
Dover Calais – with either DFDS or P&O who run several crossings daily taking 90 minutes crossing.  Lead in return ferry price, subject to change, for a car plus two adults and two children is £99.90*.
La Bien Assise is located just ten minutes from Calais port, the Opal Coast and the Grand site National de 2 Caps – Cap Gris and Cap Blanc – Nord-pas-de-Calais.  La Bien Assise is situated in the grounds of a 200 year old manor house and has great facilities and a good restaurant. Simple pitches in July start at around €401.60 (approx £343) for two adults, two children under seven and a dog, subject to availability,

 

Ferry Crossing:

Dover Dunkirk – with DFDS A two hour crossing with several every day in high season. Lead in return ferry price, subject to change, for a car plus two adults and two children is £106.20*.

Le Brévedent in Normandy encompasses an eighteenth century hunting lodge in the middle of a large forest overlooking a pretty lake. There are numerous children’s activities like nature workshops, juice making, plus concerts, story-telling and visits to a cider mill.  Simple pitches in July start at around €330.50 (approx £283) for two adults and two children under twelve, subject to availability. No pets allowed

 

 

Ferry Crossing:

Portsmouth Le Havre – with Brittany Ferries who operate two daily crossings which take eight hours. Lead in return ferry price, subject to change, for a car plus two adults and two children is £622*.

Chateau de Chanteloup in Le Mans is located in the heart of the Sarthe with pitches throughout the park, down by the lake and close to the castle which dates from the nineteenth century. This is a very pleasant site especially for those looking for a charming countryside location. Simple pitches in July start at around €325.50 (approx £279) for two adults, two children under seven and a dog, subject to availability.

 

 

 

Ferry Crossing:  

Portsmouth or Plymouth to St Malo with Brittany Ferries – one daily crossing and takes 11 hours.  Lead in ferry price, subject to change, for a car plus two adults and two children £659*.

Le Domaine des Ormes in St Malo covers an enormous area of 250 hectares between Saint Malo and Mont St Michel.  There are several types of unusual accommodation here from rat houses and tree houses, log cabins and so forth.  There is a wave pool, indoor water fun area,  golf, horse riding and much more. Classic pitches in July start at around €512.80 (approx £440) for two adults, two children under twelve and a dog, subject to availability.

 

 

 

 

Ferry Crossing: 

Portsmouth to Caen with Brittany Ferries – two daily crossings taking seven hours.

Lead in ferry price, subject to change, for a car plus two adults and two children £604*.

Le Chateau de Martragny in Normandy is exclusively for campers looking for a quiet unspoilt and peaceful retreat.
The facilities are all housed in the stone outbuildings of the main castle and each pitch is surrounded by apple trees.
This is a perfect place from where to visit the D-Day beaches and Bayeux Tapestry.
Classic pitches in July start at around €185 (approx £159) for two adults, two children under thirteen and a dog, subject to availability,

 

 

 

 

Ferry Crossing:  Plymouth to Roscoff with Brittany Ferries – there are two daily crossings and it takes around five and a half hours. Lead in return ferry price, subject to change, for a car plus two adults and two children is £560*.

L’Orangerie de Lanniron in southern Brittany was once the summer residence of the Bishop of Quimper on the banks of the Odet.  They offer a restaurant, nine-hole golf course, a 600 m2 aquatic arena and many different types of accommodation. Classic pitches in July start at around €468 (approx £400) for two adults, two children under nine and a dog, subject to availability,

 

 

*School holiday ferry price quotes are based on two adults and two children, a standard car crossing and cabin (where route applicable).

Les Castels prices have been based on an arrival date of 22nd July for seven nights for two adults, two children and a pet where applicable. Other accommodation is available.

All prices are for guidance only and subject to change and availability at time of booking.

AER LINGUS GETS SMART WITH NEW, MORE PERSONALISED MOBILE APP

Mobile_App_mock_up[1]

 

7th July 2016: Aer Lingus has officially launched its brand new mobile app available to Android and Apple iOS users promising a smarter and more personalised mobile experience for its guests.

 

Currently almost 50% of Aer Lingus guests check in online before they reach the airport, over three quarters of those via desktop, with the remainder on mobile or tablet devices. As a result of new check in and ‘day of travel’ features Aer Lingus expects mobile check in to grow significantly.

 

The new Aer Lingus mobile app boasts features that will help save time and make the booking and travel experience more seamless, allowing a more personalised mobile experience. Guests can search and save the best fares from 170 destinations worldwide, create personal and travel companion profiles, and securely save payment details for speedy purchase and check in. You can also add your mobile boarding pass to wallet* for easy access through security and while boarding your flight.

 

Key features of the new Aer Lingus mobile app include:

 

Personal Profiles

Guests can create profiles that store all personal, travel and payment information. We’ve made it a whole lot easier to check in, add travel companions, and complete future purchases using your personal profile.

 

Planning and Booking

Redesigned search functionality makes finding the best fares easier and faster. Searches can be saved for extra convenience.

 

Speedy Check in

Check in just got simple, speedy and paperless. Guests can check in for inbound and outbound flights at the same time. With the option to add several travel extras, we’ve got all your last minute travel needs covered. With new ‘add to wallet’ functionality, simply surface your boarding pass and you’re ready to go.

 

Personalised Home Screen

Here guests can view details of their next flight and the latest flight status. They will also be informed when it’s time to check in.

 

Managing Trips

As part of a more personalised offering the new Aer Lingus app will display all past and upcoming trips, making it easy to retrieve bookings. It will display all flight, passenger and travel extras information and provide a fare summary and receipt.
The new Aer Lingus mobile app is part of the airline’s new brand repositioning which launched last year, ‘Smart Flies Aer Lingus’. It provides users with an entirely refreshed mobile experience that better reflects the new Aer Lingus brand and meets the needs of consumers today. It follows on from, and supports, the newly designed aerlingus.com which launched last year, based on the same principles of innovation and a more personalised user experience.

 

Speaking about the launch of the new Aer Lingus app, Chief Commercial Officer, Keith Butler said:

 

We’re delighted to reveal the new Aer Lingus app which we believe will become the ultimate travel companion for travellers. The new app complements the new website experience at aerlingus.com and together enables Aer Lingus to offer guests a smarter online experience. The improvements in this app have been guided by customer feedback to facilitate a more convenient check in, trip planning and booking experience.  Currently almost half of Aer Lingus guests check-in on our website and we would expect advanced check in numbers will further swell as the new app means every step is simple, speedy and tailored to their needs.

 

Download the new Aer Lingus app now, available for both Android and Apple iOS mobile devices.

 

*Wallet, an iOS application, is Apple’s digital wallet that lets users store boarding passes, movie tickets, etc. in one place. Android applications boasting similar features are also available.

 

Shandon Hotel, Dunfanaghy, beats the best

shandonhotelspa_com_2wp-content_uploads_2016_06_Shandon-Hotel-Before-After-Images-2016_pdfWell it’s all over and the fans are home, the money is spent and the partners are just about talking again. So here is a tip for those of you who want to build up the brownie points and treat your significant other. After 35 years of marr
iage, I know there is no better way to do that than a few days away at a luxury hotel with a spa.

Following a major refurbishment the Shandon Hotel and Spa in Dunfanaghy, is once again putting its best foot forward and providing Donegal with superior accommodation in a wonderful location.

On arrival at the Shandon Hotel and Spa its clear to see this is a very impressive building. Standing like the Whitehouse overlooking Dunfanaghy beach, it is a landmark that draws your eye.

The main reception area is as welcoming as the as the view you can see from it. Check in process was efficient and seamless and within a minute I was off to my room.

Sea Views

All the Rooms in this hotel face the sea, giving everyone a spectacular view. The view is breathtakingly beautiful, you can sit in your room and watch four seasons pass in 20 minutes.IMG_95509

It’s like having the latest HD screen right across the room. Having visited many hotels over the years I have developed an ability for spotting housekeeping faux-pass.

A very important thing for me when visiting hotels is the standard of housekeeping, it can make or beak a hotels image in an instant. The Shandon was at the great end of that spectrum, the housekeeping was superb and it was easy to see this was a beautifully kept hotel. Large seating areas at the front of reception made a great space for just watching the views and taking afternoon tea.

 

IMG_95437Wonderful Rooms

My room was large and extremely spacious and had excellent amenities, full sized fridge (great for families), two large comfortable beds, good quality linens and housekeeping was spotless. A comfortable armchair was provided to enable you to take in the view; needless to say it was well used. The spacious bathroom was clean and dust free and clearly had been well cared for. The drying line over the bath was a great idea and no doubt for the bathing suits. Having a bath and a shower were pleasing to see as this hotel is geared for families.

Breakfast  

Breakfast was a delight, two members of staff were working so hard, they hovered over the tables like silent drones, cleaning, lifting plates wherever they can, a real asset to any hotel are the staff and these people did not disappoint.

One other member of the restaurant team was asked where the breakfast sausages came, he was full of knowledge about the local produce used in the hotel, what a gre
at level of service this was. After breakfast my wife was looking at a map in the front lobby, the same waiter came over and offered assistance on tourist info. Brilliant service!

Spa

shandonhotelspa_com7_wp-content_uploads_2016_06_Shandon-Hotel-Before-After-Images-2016_pdf

I’m not a spa person, so that is why I bring my wife she know the right end of a pedicure and manicure and has been in the very fortunate position to have been in many spas in many countries, the good news is the Shandon Spa is right up there with the best, my spa tester was extremely impressed, she had the €85 treatment, she loved it and was extremely impressed with the quality and delivery of the product.

One of the spa receptionists also gave us some superb tourist info and told us of the Rusty Oven. What a font of knowledge a veritable walking tourist board encyclopaedia, and again great ambassador for your hotel.

Bar

The bar in the Shandon was well used spacious it was busy with a mix of families and diners alike. Vibrant friendly and busy, just what you want in a bar. I was too busy looking at the beautiful scenery to eat dinner in the hotel, but did have the opportunity to talk extensively to four ladies who had afternoon tea. They told me what they got, how much they got and the fact they could not eat it all and they loved the whole experience. Says it all really.

What an impression    

The Shandon has probably the most stunning location of any hotel I have ever been in, including the Inter Continental in Kowloon. Hong Kong harbour is amazing but I sat in room 316 for a lot longer looking at the majesty of that view. It is simply breath taking as you watch the seasons roll in and out. Donegal has a lot to offer visitors, and every time I visit this magnificent country I enjoy it more and more. It is not hard to see why so many people have a holiday home there. The Shandon has now come of age and the refurbishment has meant it is a truly splendid place to stay, for an afternoon, day weekend or longer, you will not be disappointed.

Friendly, kind, considerate and dedicated staff makes the Shandon a real treat to visit.

Check out http://shandonhotelspa.com