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Bundoran- A promise broken

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I know I should have written this around 4 weeks ago but with the summer, the kids and too much else to be done I’m only getting to it now. Hopefully I’ll make better progress over the next few weeks while the kids go back to school.

It’s terrible, but we promise our kids that they can do things that they look forward to and then the world conspires against us and the best you can hope for is to make the best out of a bad situation.

Well like every year we took a trip to Bundoran during our break in the North-West.

Bundoran caught on to this tourism industry early and has been a resort since 1777. There are lots of amusement arcades so as kids my parents tended to avoid it as they didn’t want us wasting our money on slot machines and rides.  

In the last 20 years there has been an improvement in facilities and attractions in the town, with the development of Waterworld and the Adventure Park as well as the whole town getting a bit of a facelift and clean up.

Bundoran is also a major Mecca for surfers with some of the best surf in Europe and a host of Surf shops in the town.

We’d promised to bring the kids to Waterworld for the day while my father in law went for a walk and then we’d all go for lunch.

We got to Waterworld at around 11 and I’ll not bore you with labouring over the full hour and 30 min we were waiting to get in. Suffice to say that we were initially told we couldn’t be let in due to crowding in the pool and the changing rooms, finally we were informed that there was a problem in the pump room but they couldn’t tell us what or how long it would take to fix and there was never a problem with crowding. It turns out that there was a problem with high levels of chlorine in the water causing major discomfort to the bathers, many getting their money back as they left. Why they left people queuing for hours, telling us false tales on the delay while still letting more people join the queue I can only put down to no respect for their customers and bad customer service.

We left Waterworld and met with Orla’s dad to get some lunch, heading straight to Stakes on Main St. near the bridge.

We’d eaten here before and while it’s not fancy food it is good decent grub, well priced and very family friendly. I had a burger which was lovely, my Father-in-law was very pleased with his fish and everyone had a great feed. Again.

Since the pool was off for the day, Orla brought the kids down to the Adventure Park while I brought Tomás on a walk to do some shopping so that he could have his nap.  Purchasing the multi-ride tiny tots wrist band which gave them loads of access to rides over a few hours for €11.95         

Aoife and Aidan Enjoying the rides at Bundoran Adventure Park

Aoife and Aidan Enjoying the rides at Bundoran Adventure Park

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Although I don’t enjoy this kind of thing my older pair loved it and had a great time on all the rides. No sooner was one finished than they had run off completely ignoring me or Orla to the next one to get in as much as they could. It was well worth it and the price.

In the end we couldn’t keep our promise of going to Waterworld but the kids had a great day in the Adventure Park so everyone left Bundoran happy.

Lough Navar Forest Park

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During the great weather in mid July we headed off to South Donegal for a few days bringing my Father in Law on a break from Dublin.

There is lots to do around the region covering, South Donegal, Fermanagh and Leitrim. This week however we kept it near to base so that there were no long car journeys to stress out my Father-in-Law.

We made two trips to Lough Navar Forest, my Father in Law is an avid walker and we like to do it when possible and the Forest Park offers a range of different walks.

Lough Navar Forest is undoubtedly one of the jewels in the Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark. Located approximately 5km outside the village of Derrygonnelly, this spectacular forest extends across 2,600 hectares.

Photo of Lough Navar Map

Photo of Lough Navar Map

The first trip was to the Magho Cliffs, a 9km long limestone escarpment dominating the southern shore and skyline of Lower Lough Erne on the northern edge of Lough Navar Forest. The spectacular view is arguably one of the most dramatic on the island of Ireland. At a height of 300 metres, the viewpoint offers a bird’s eye view across the lake far into counties Fermanagh, Sligo, Tyrone and Donegal and even as far as the Atlantic Ocean. A path brings you a short way along the cliff which broadens the view. There is also a walk up from the Shore Road along the Erne but it was closed for repairs when we visited. This was our second trip to Magho Point but our first to do the walk and it was great to look down on an area of the Irish country side that I’ve loved for my lifetime. We were able to look out and spot the Atlantic ocean, the hills and mountains of Donegal and Tyrone, Belleek and the islands on Lough Erne. There is also information on the history of the Erne, from its formation due to Glacial Movement at the end of the last Ice Age through to it’s use during the 2nd world war and the unfortunate aeroplane crashes.

This was a short visit to the park as we had no food in the house this trip to the park before we headed on to Enniskillen for lunch, then the kids went to the playground while I did the shopping.

Our second trip on Friday was to be a more testing one for us. Well that was the plan. I’d proposed to do a longish walk of around 6km, however my father in law was concerned that the kids wouldn’t be able for it. So we opted for a shorter walk through the Correl Glen Nature Reserve which is easily missed on the other side if the road from Lough Navar Forest.

It is a beautiful walk along the river before rising up to look over the Fermanagh country side. The kids moved the walk with Aidan leading the way, and climbing to the top of the hill when we got that far.

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By the time we got back to the car the kids were warmed up and ready for more so we drove on around to Lough Achork. The smallest of the upland lakes situated within Lough Navar Forest, is accessed via a looped path that hugs its shore line creating a beautiful 1 mile walk.

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We stopped at the first of the picnic tables for a snack,shorter before stalking on. The kids rushed on a head with Grandad while Oral and I took our time with a nice leisurely walk. Last time we were here the flowers around the lake were teeming with wildlife, dragon flies and damson flies. This time however we only seen one or two. So we told the kids that there were badger and otter tracks going down to the lake so they set off to inspect ever hole along the path for signs of life.

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It was another beautiful day and a great run around for the kids who were starting to get tired as they climbed the hill back to the car.

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The Great Escape

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In the days and years BK (Before Kids), you get to spend much of your free time with that person you have fallen in love with, someone you want to spend all your time with relaxing, going for walks, having dinner all those lovely things that young (and old) couples get to do together. Then you have kids, and your time together is limited, regardless of wither you want to go down the co-sleeping route with your child. The stresses and strains of family life, your kids demands on your time, the housework, homework, everything can have a major impact on the quality time spent with your partner.

We’ve always believed that in order to keep our relationship alive we need to make an effort to set a side time for each other. So when we’re up with my parents we occasionally go for a night out and catch a movie or a meal.

The 15th July is our wedding anniversary. This year we celebrate 10 years by getting a night away somewhere nice and my parents were more than happy to volunteer to mind all three of our kids for the night. So on we booked a room away in Crawfordsburn on the 14th July to stay in The Old Inn

The Old Inn, Crawfordsburn, Co. Down

The Old Inn, Crawfordsburn, Co. Down


We headed off before lunch and went around to explore Bangor, Co. Down and get some lunch. After which we headed to the hotel to check in and settle in our room.

The Old Inn stands on one of Ireland’s most ancient highways leading from Holywood Priory to the Parent Abbey at Bangor, founded by St. Comgall as a University in 570 AD. The thatched portion of The Old Inn is the most ancient and was formed circa 1600 AD, about the close of the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. Records show this building to be standing in its present form since 1614. The East Wing is modern, based on Irish Georgian times. In the 17th and 18th centuries, the mail coach making connections with the sailing packet from Donaghadee to Great Britian, changed horses at The Old Inn at Crawfordsburn and so it came to be patronised by many notable persons who commuted between Britain and Ireland. Famous writers were much in evidence: Swift, Tennyson, Thackery, Dickens and Trollop knew of its charms.

The Old Inn was also used as a sanctuary for those who were involved in the more “physical pursuits”. For example, in the 17th century, a portion of William III’s army under the Duke of Schomberg, marched through Crawfordsburn on the way from Groomsport to join the main body of the forces at Belfast. Smugglers down to the close of the 18th century used The Old Inn. Secret hiding places for contraband were discovered well into the 20th century. Even more intriguing, the famous highwayman, Dick Turpin, during a period of hiding in Ireland is also said to have been a visitor here. Many famous names of the 1798 rising, including that of Henry Joy McCracken and Robert Emmet, are coupled with The Inn.

For students and followers of the famous author and scholar, C S Lewis, “Jack”, The Inn is very special. It was here that Lewis and his literary friends met on social occasions. In July 1958, Jack and his wife Joy stayed at The Old Inn, Crawfordsburn, for what they called a “perfect fortnight” and a “belated honeymoon”.

Our room was one of the Suites, (it was our 10th Anniversary after all); the Castleward Room.

Our bedroom in the Old Inn Crawfordsburn

Our bedroom in the Old Inn Crawfordsburn

My photo’s don’t do the room justice so heres two from the hotel’s website:

Old Inn's pictures of our bedroom

Old Inn’s pictures of our bedroom

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After settling in our room we decided to explore a bit and went down for Afternoon Tea in the bar down stairs. We would have liked to have our Tea and Scone in the garden however just as we were going out the heavens opened again and everyone was diving for cover and out of the rain. So instead we had it in a room overlooking the garden.

We had an absolutely gorgeous meal in the restaurant that evening which left us well and truly filled.

After a great night’s sleep and a light breakfast, neither of us had room for a full Ulster Fry after the night before, we gathered our bags and headed back into Bangor for some shopping at the Bloomfield Shopping Centre and then into Belfast for some lunch and to get school uniforms for the kids. Rested and refreshed we’d had a lovely time together back on our own, with out a buggy, or kids trailing out of us complaining about being hungry or tired. Alas now it was time to get back to reality and go and collect them.

And so that was our Great Escape for this year, the best we can plan for now is the odd night out. What’s your Great Escape? And can you recommend anywhere for next year?

Photos own and from The Old Inn, Crawfordsburn, Co. Down

Ducking Sunday

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For the 12th weekend we headed to Belfast, not a normal trip for most people from Northern Ireland, the majority usually head the opposite direction. We had good reason, as it was our anniversary and we’d planned to abandon the kids with my parents over night on the 14th for some well deserved rest.


We arrived up a few days early and after a quiet, secluded and rainy 12th the Sunday was bright and sunny. Time for us to get out and do something.


Itching to be going, Orla checked out possible places to visit for an hour, looking for things that would interest the kids and be fun for us too. Eventually she settled on the Waterfowl and Wetland Trust’s bird reserve at Castle Espie, just outside Comber.


€19 in for the family was possibly a little steep, but since the centre is a conservation project, we don’t mind making a charitable contribution once in a while. Special bird food can also be bought to feed the birds around the main pond.


The guide map brings you first to the main pond where the resident waterfowl can be fed. This was the best bit of the day for us.

"Can I have more food for the Ducks"

“Can I have more food for the Ducks”



A part from one overly hungry bird who tried to have one of Orla’s fingers, all the birds were very friendly, relaxed around the visitors. Orla had them eating out of her hand which just goes to show that it’s not just me and her class who she has the power to enthral.

Orla gets the birds on side.

Orla gets the birds on side.



The kids loved it too. Tomás spent the whole time wandering around saying “duc” and trying to make a honking noise to mimic the particularly friendly Eurasian white fronted geese which we had feeding from our hands.

The Geese wanted fed too

The Geese wanted fed too



We walked on then, visiting the different hides looking out over Strangford Lough and activities for the kids to get involved in.

Aoife the maiden of the prehistoric boat

Aoife the maiden of the prehistoric boat



Next we stopped in the adventure play ground to play on the climbing frames, balance logs and play hut. As always they made their presence felt, despite our best efforts to get Aoife to stop shouting instructions to Aidan.





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Pickaboo

Pickaboo



Kids enjoy the play ground

Kids enjoy the play ground




The Duckery was the last port of call on the walk to see the newly hatched ducklings. The kids were disappointed that they couldn’t handle the ducklings themselves. Unlike a lot of countries swans are very common in Ireland during the year. But locally these tend to be Mute, Bewick and a lot of whooper swans. Castle Espie now has 2 Black Neck Swans who had chicks this spring. `Rather than the dull dirty grey cygnets we all know from the story these were small white fluffy balls.

Black necked Swan at Castle Espie, photo from Castle Espie's FB page

Black necked Swan at Castle Espie, photo from Castle Espie’s FB page



A great afternoon was had by all with a tea, scone and some treats for the kids before heading home. I’d recommend a trip to Castle Espie for the kids. You can take annual membership, as I’m sure there is also plenty to see in the winter out in Strangford Lough as well as the birds in the main pond.

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