Browsed by
Tag: donegal

My Favourite Airbnb Experiences

My Favourite Airbnb Experiences

Remember back in the day when you had to rely on a grainy brochure photo to book your accommodation? I’ve a few horror stories from across the years from a grotty apartment in Santa Ponsa (we were 17 so no surprise there) to a shower that comprised of a hose wrapped in electrical wires in Cuba (I’m lucky to be alive after that one). Now we’re in the digital age it’s almost impossible to book a bad place with Tripadvisor and Google reviews giving us the heads up if a place seems too good to be true.

I love finding places for us to stay any time we’ve booked a trip because we always like to go for something a little different. Big fluffy hotel beds can be lovely but when I’m visiting somewhere new I love to live like a local and get to know the neighbourhood around me. Airbnb is the best place to find those little secrets that make a holiday memorable and we’ve had some incredible Airbnb experiences over the years. Well, except for that one time in Lisbon when we lived under the noisiest Portuguese family who might as well have been sharing the apartment with us – that was definitely one of our Airbnb fails!

I share most of where we stay on my Instagram stories but I thought I would put together a list of our favourites from trips around Ireland and abroad. It can be hard to choose from the huge amount of properties on Airbnb and by simply choosing too many filters you could be missing out on a gem of a place that’s perfect for you!

Here are a few highlights we’ve had both at home and far away, just click on the links attached to each location and you can have a look at what takes your fancy…

IRELAND

Fintown, Co. Donegal

We stayed in this converted cowshed back in October 2016 and it remains one of our favourite places we’ve ever stayed. Maybe it was because it was early in to the relationship and it felt magic to be sharing a cosy den together for a whole weekend but looking back on the photos I can understand why we loved it so much.

It had been renovated by the owners of the cottage across from the old cowshed, Pete and Anna, who have since built their own eco-hut on the other edge of the property looking over the Glenties countryside. The eco-hut is on my wishlist but unfortunately you have to book months in advance because it’s so popular, I think the next available weekend is November!

It’s no surprise that Anna and Pete are listed as Superhosts. They were super friendly when we met the pair of them, full of knowledge on how to live sustainably and DIY tips with an inquisitive kitten who I fell in love with. If you’re ever looking for the perfect base for an escape to Donegal then this is it!

Dingle, Co. Kerry

I could stay in a hedge in Co. Kerry and I’d be happy enough purely to have the scenery wrapped around me but this spot wasn’t too shabby either. The apartment, which is part of a large house that had previously been a manor, has incredible uninterrupted views out to the sea and is on the doorstep of one of the most beautiful drives in the whole of Ireland around Slea Head.

We visited in July last year and hit the weather jackpot the whole weekend. The sun was beating down for the three days we spent driving along the coastline and sunbathing on empty golden beaches on our snack breaks – sunbathing in Ireland?! We ate our breakfast in the courtyard and enjoyed the views curled up on armchairs with the windows down and the sea breeze pouring through – absolute bliss.

North Coast, N.Ireland

I booked Archie’s schoolhouse for Andrew’s 30th birthday party last year and it was such a lovely spot to gather some mates together for a celebration. It’s been beautifully renovated by Claire (she of the gorgeous Bramble Green knitwear) who has added thoughtful touches that honour the history of the house.

It’s a perfect base to visit all the favourite spots along the North Coast; the Dark Hedges, Whiterocks beach and Carrick-a-Rede bridge. Claire is full of brilliant tips too for local cafés and businesses to stop in to, a perfect host for the North!

Even the loo is gorgeous! 

Galway City, Co. Galway

Usually we book the entire place to ourselves on Airbnb but this was a private room in probably one of the most sophisticated houses I’ve every stayed in. The hosts, Dee & Mark, used to run an art gallery out of the house but now they just show their own private collection throughout which is a real treat for guests.

Photo taken from Airbnb 

Their bedrooms are beautifully decorated with en-suites providing plenty of privacy. It’s a short walk to the city centre to explore all the craic Galway has to offer and if you have too much craic, well then you can recover after the delicious breakfast Dee and Mark prepare for you while they play soft classical music and give you the morning papers to read. Not a bad way to beat the hangover!

We stayed in this room overlooking the garden. Photo taken from Airbnb

Photo taken from Airbnb

Co. Down, N. Ireland

For my birthday a couple of years ago, Andrew surprised me with a night away in this eco cottage tucked away in the Mourne mountains (no wonder I’m marrying the guy!). The cottage is run as part of a small organic farm which guests can stroll through and meet the neighbouring hens and horses. The hosts even run workshops on weekends if you fancy doing a spot of basket-weaving!

You can explore the woodlands or mountains on your doorstep here or you can just play with the dog, collect some firewood and keep cosy for the night. A special place that feels further from home than it really is!

Ballycroneen, Co. Cork

When my pal was coming all the way over from Australia in October 2016 I wanted to take her to as many parts of Ireland as I could. I love showing visitors from overseas my favourite spots on this island but there’s just never enough time to see them all! I found out that the annual Cork Jazz Festival was on during her stay with us and so I booked this spot which was just a half hour away from the city centre along the coast.

The home had views across the field and then out to the sea which was breath-taking even in the mucky October weather. During the day we crawled through venues to listen to jazz but soon found ourselves heading back to this place to light the stove and reminisce about our time gallivanting in Australia. The homemade bread was a special touch too and ended up being the perfect midnight snack after a few pints of Guinness!

The pretty village of Cobh is about 30 minutes drive and from there you can take one of many scenic drives along the coast. Cork is the biggest county in Ireland and covers most of the southwest of the island so bear in mind that the drives can be long and it’s best to just stick to nearby towns and villages that won’t have you emptying your tank.

house across the fields

OVERSEAS

Corniglia, Cinque Terre, Italy

I booked this trip as a present for Andrew’s 30th but didn’t realise just how expensive accommodation would cost during peak season – yikes! We went in July when the crowds fill the narrow cobbled streets – lots of cargo shorts and socks with sandals if you catch my drift. It was a stunning place though but I would recommend visiting during the quieter seasons either side of summer when it’s easier to walk the trails and enjoy the views with a little more peace (and get cheaper rates too!)

Photo taken from Airbnb

SOGGIORNO

Photo taken from Airbnb

I decided to book an Airbnb apartment in the quieter of the five villages, Corniglia, because I thought it would be a good place to have our evenings while the other towns tend to the masses. It was one of the best decisions we could have made because the apartment, which was on a tiny street with views out to the terraced hills, was a real retreat from the teeming crowds.

Well, it was quiet most of the time until the afternoon of the World Cup Final – Italians and football, eh? That afternoon, the local who owned the restaurant across from us pulled an industrial-sized TV in to the tiny street where a crowd quickly gathered to watch France v Croatia. It was a case of if you can’t beat ’em then join ’em so we bought a few beers and drank while watching the escapade below, cheering with everyone from the street and neighbouring windows when Croatia scored. Sadly Croatia ended up losing that game but the memory of drinking cold beer on our Airbnb windowsill will stay with me forever.

Bonus: our hosts even provided us with homemade limoncello which we enjoyed each night after coming home from dinner – it’s the wee things that make all the difference when choosing an Airbnb!

Dordogne, France

If you follow me on Instagram you will have seen me share photos and videos from this woodland sanctuary a few weeks ago. We were over in France to visit some venues for the wedding and I booked this Airbnb to use as our base in between days on the road.

This cabin is why I love Airbnb. It gives you the opportunity to stay somewhere totally unique and experience a place that you wouldn’t get to see otherwise. No electrical sockets or wifi meant this cabin was completely off-grid but was the fact it was totally unconnected to the outside world that made it so special. Instead of scrolling through my phone there was a pond to stroll around, a woodland to explore or a boat to take out on the water – I felt like a kid again!

While Andrew heated up the hot tub I took care of dinner in the fully-equipped kitchen. It was like a camping trip but with all the home comforts – big cosy bed, good shower and a log stove to keep us toasty. While we finished our bottle of wine under the stars I realised how long it had been since I watched the sky instead of my phone – wayyyy too long.

 Gers, France

After the woodland cabin we had booked a private room in this beautiful home close to Toulouse. We arrived late after a long day spent in the car and when we were offered to have a home cooked dinner we leapt at the chance. Catherine and Philippe’s house was spotlessly clean and our room was better than a lot of hotels we’ve stayed in! We actually had the entire upper floor to ourselves which was equipped with it’s own stove fire and dressing gowns and slippers to change in to for the hot tub!

After we dropped off our bags and lay in a heap for a few minutes we popped back downstairs to eat with our hosts. Their French country kitchen was everything I’ve ever dreamed of and the food was even better. Andrew proclaimed that it was the best meal we had during our entire trip – four courses of food so good I was ready to burst my the time we polished off dessert. They charged us 35 euro each for the dinner but it was worth more for sure just for the chance to chat with our hosts and learn a little about the area.

Unfortunately we were so full from dinner and knackered from the drive that we didn’t have the energy to sit in the hot tub after. We promised ourselves that we’d return again only for a wee bit longer, this home was a retreat worth coming back to.

Our breakfast was fresh fruit in wee jars with yoghurt and crusty French bread (which I slathered in local honey!)

chambre

La maison et le jacuzzi

Hoi An, Vietnam

Andrew and I visited Vietnam and Cambodia in September last year and mixed our accommodation between hotels and Airbnb stays. Christina’s was a small complex we found on Airbnb located on Tra Que, a patch of land just outside Hoi An that’s been used for organic farming for hundreds of years (it’s the oldest organic farm in Vietnam!). Our room was huge here with two separate balconies looking out across the fields.

Nice and cosy

Photo from Airbnb

The staff at Christina’s were incredibly helpful, booking our taxis and renting us mopeds and push bikes to explore the farm and Hoi An. We even booked a cooking class with them at the farm across the road which turned out to be the highlight of our trip and super cheap too!

 London

Oh, London. Our favourite city that we love to visit any chance we can get. Luckily for us we have friends who we usually stay with to help with the cost but sometimes it’s nice to just book somewhere on our own in a new neighbourhood for us to explore. This Airbnb was a great find; super cheap for London with a garden to relax in after a day walking the city.

The flat had everything we could have needed and even had an apple tree in the garden which is a good way to get to an Armagh girl’s heart! I loved the sash windows which we kept open at night. We were there during the heatwave in summer 2018 that suffocated the city for weeks. Luckily our flat had a fan which we had by the end of our bed and gave us the relief our Irish skin needed.

The original floors in the hall of our London Airbnb

Ubud, Bali, Indonesia

We were lucky to visit a few places in Bali back in 2017 but Ubud was the place I was most looking forward to seeing. It’s located right in the middle of the island surrounded by dense jungle and mountains – worlds away from our wee house in Belfast!

Our Airbnb was newly renovated and when we arrived it appeared as if everything was new. The rooftop pool was the reason we chose the place as it looked out over the jungle and seemed to be a good place to relax after sightseeing. When we got there we realised the pictures didn’t do the place enough justice because the sounds coming from the jungle were so incredible we just stood in silence on the roof gazing out.

The breakfast was simple but really good for what we’d experienced in Bali and was included in the room rate. We ate on the rooftop each morning, filling up on plenty of fruit before heading out for the day. The complex also had a tourist office where we could rent mopeds, book excursions and get tickets for the ferry across to the Gili islands. This saved us so much hassle and the staff were always there to help us if we ever had a question.

 

Thanks for reading through my favourites, I hope it helped give you some ideas and tips for your next trip! If you have had some great Airbnb experiences then please share them in the comments – I’m always looking for more places to add to our wishlist! 

Beer Pairing and Four Poster Beds at Castle Grove House

Beer Pairing and Four Poster Beds at Castle Grove House

The snow is falling incessantly outside my bedroom window this morning, tiny flakes tapping at the glass to remind me how much things can change in a matter of days. Only a week ago Andrew and I were on our way to Donegal for the night, arriving at Castle Grove House under blue skies and bright sunlight that only fed false promises of Spring. Oh to feel just a wee bit of heat again!

We had been invited to Castle Grove by Ireland’s Blue Book as part of a beer-pairing night the hotel were hosting in their award-winning restaurant (with local brewery Kinnegar’s providing all the pairings!). This was one of the first events I have ever been invited to as a blogger so I was unashamedly very excited about being there! It’s no secret that Andrew and I are lovers of Donegal since we usually visit the county every few months so we were never going to turn down a chance to spend a night in digs on the north coast, especially when there were craft beers involved!

Neither myself or Andrew had been to Castle Grove before and as we pulled in to the beautiful country lane that took us to the banks of Lough Swilly where the house is nestled, it felt as if we had crossed in to a different era completely. The manor house sits proudly as it would have done when it was first built in 1695 except the Grove family have been and gone and now the Sweeney’s are holding the fort and welcoming in fresh faces in to their home.

Inside it felt like not much had changed either; fires were crackling in grand fireplaces in numerous rooms downstairs, beautiful antiques decorated corners that I am sure had heard plenty of stories and old paintings hung on the walls above the sweeping staircase that led to the bedrooms upstairs, all of which were named after Irish literary legends (we were in the Jonathan Swift room which was just a bit fitting what with his connection to our hometown of Armagh!).

The room itself was not just a room but more like a suite straight out of Downtown Abbey equipped with a four poster bed and a cabinet full of crystal I was too terrified to touch. There were parts of the suite that were a wee bit dated (the bathroom for example looked like it hadn’t been updated in a few years) so lovers of modern finishes may not feel quite at home here. Personally I loved the quirky charm especially the bed since I had never slept in something that was so like the bed of every princess story I had ever read.

Though what struck me most about the house was it’s warmth. Everything about Castle Grove exudes the feeling of being so welcome, of being looked after and mollycoddled the minute you step through the door. Irene Sweeney, the manager and figurehead of the house, could always be found mingling with guests, tending to the fire and ensuring that everyone’e needs were met. She was genuinely delighted to have people coming to visit her wee part of the world and hosting events like the beer-pairing night was a way for her to showcase the house and everything Donegal has to offer.

Which as it turns out, is a lot. The beer pairing event delivered more than we were expecting, each course having been meticulously curated by Chef Brady and the head of Kinnegar Brewery, Rick LeVert. The Donegal oysters specifically were a sensation for me (Andrew is still sitting on the fence when it comes to oysters) and the dessert was practically licked off the plate. Each beer was introduced by Rick allowing us to understand why the flavours on our plate were designed around the flavours in our glass. It was obvious that great care had went in to the night which, judging by the hum of contentment around room, was a complete success.

I practically had to roll myself out of the dining room after we finally finished eating, only having enough energy for a few moments by the fire before collapsing in my fairytale bed. Next thing I knew it was morning which I welcomed by opening the shutters of my sash windows half-expecting cartoon birds to flutter around my head. We woke up slowly leaving just enough time to meet in the dining room for breakfast (are we the only one’s who leave it until the last 10 minutes?) which was the obligatory full Irish breakfast and lots of tea.

The sun was streaming in and not wanting to miss another moment of Donegal fresh air, we said our thankful goodbyes to Irene and the staff after a quick stroll around the grounds. We were told to make a beeline for Portsalon where we could find blue flag beaches empty of crowds (and in true Donegal style it over-delivered). We drank in the salty air and when the Atlantic winds settled for just a moment we could feel the head of the late-February sun on our backs, a sensation I can barely remember feeling now it’s snowing outside!

Not wanting to end things with Donegal just yet, we took a drive to Glenveagh Castle (so I could play princess just a little longer) which surprisingly neither of us had visited before. It’s actually younger than Castle Grove but looks like it’s been hidden on the lough for centuries longer. There’s a great trail for walkers and cyclists from the visitor centre to the castle but for those with little time or patience (or unruly kids) can hop on the minibus which saves a fair amount of time.

The views are incredible once you reach the castle with Scot’s Pine trees decorating the edge of the lake, providing plenty of magical forest walks. There are beautiful gardens to stroll in too which I can only imagine are even more outstanding in the summer. The views reminded me of Connemara, another essential destination in Ireland where Glenveagh Castle could be compared to Kylemore Abbey as a diamond in the midst of a wild landscape.

There is a real rawness to Donegal that I think has percolated to the people who live there. The people are as open as the land and the sea that batters it’s north and west so it’s only natural to feel yourself open up once your feet are on the ground there. For me there is a collective sigh from my mind and body when I’m Donegal, I release everything I’ve been holding within me and I feel instantly lighter, more open. It’s no wonder I felt so welcome by everyone at Castle Grove, it’s doors are open like the people inside, happy to invite anyone in need of a warm meal and cosy bed or even just a drop of tea by the fire.

10 Pubs To Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland

10 Pubs To Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland

Lá Fhéile Pádraig shona daoibh! Or Happy St. Patrick’s Day for those of you who aren’t as familiar with the Gaelic language – ye poor sods. Today is the day we celebrate the shamrock, the day we paint ourselves green and the day we permit ourselves to drink bucketfuls of Guinness (even though a lot of us out there don’t even like the taste that much).

Personally I actually love a pint of the black stuff and plan to consume several over the weekend while I act the young thing with my best friends. We’re headed south for our girl Louise’s hen party and I’m a big ball of excitement/fear for the activities ahead of us. What I’m most looking forward to is being wedged in between the gals. roaring over our drinks while we listen to the same traditional music that’s been listened to for generations.

It’s a cliché I suppose but there is no greater place to be in Ireland than in a pub on St. Patrick’s Day. When you pick the right one you find yourself not wanting to leave, soaking in the atmosphere that’s thick around you while trying to say sober enough so you remember it all. It doesn’t even have to be a session, it may only be for a wee sensible skiff of a drink but it’s sure to be enough to fill your heart with as much patriotism as you need.

As well as being lucky enough to be born here, I’ve also been lucky enough to have had my fair share of pints across the island so I’ve decided to share some of my favourites from over the years. Obviously there are hundreds of establishments that are stupendously wonderful so please share if you have any tips of your own but for now, here are mine. Wishing you all of the luck this St. Patrick’s Day wherever you find yourself!

Fitzpatricks – Carlingford, Co. Louth

This is the best place to go for a pint with your Granny. It’s coming down with old artefacts from across the years and it even has a pet farm out the back to keep the kids entertained! If you don’t make it this Paddy’s Day be sure to pay a visit over Hallowe’en. The owners go all out with decorations and spooky scenes across the whole site – definitely something to be seen!

img_6943.jpg

 

Kelly’s Cellars – Belfast, Co. Antrim

As a new local to Belfast I could list a load of pubs here that are good enough to pay a visit to but for now I’ll choose my favourite. Kelly’s Cellars is a great spot for a lit fire and when you walk through the doors it feels like you’re in the middle of old Ireland. It’s a great place to escape the city pace and slow down over a few cold ones.

img_7544.jpg

 

Singing Pub – Downings, Co. Donegal

This is a gem to be found on the Wild Atlantic Coast and well worth the trek to. The place is family run and the manager, Tony, makes you feel like a local anytime you drop in. Whatever you do, please order the seafood chowder. It’s without a doubt the best chowder I’ve ever tasted and the portion size will surely soak up whatever you’ve been drinking.

 

img_7125.jpg

 

Matt Molly’s – Westport, Co. Mayo

I remember walking in to this place after stopping off on a road trip. We walked to the very back of the pub to pick out a seat and found ourselves parked beside the local musicians who had dropped in for a session. More and more players joined and soon the entire place was filled with music so amazing my eyes filled with tears. It’s a place I can’t wait to go back to.

 

Peadar Kearney’s – Dublin, Co. Dublin

This place has been hiving both times I’ve been in it but the live music was sensational. It’s a good place to start a night out but I wouldn’t blame you if you found yourself still there at closing time.

 

Tig Cóilí – Galway, Co. Galway

I was in this pub on St. Patrick’s Day in 2013. The sun was splitting the trees that day as we sat by the windows that were open on to the famous Shopping Street of the city. The pub was jammed with people and we were delighted to have scored some seats when all of a sudden the crowd fell silent. An aul fella who was propped up at the end of the bar had started singing an old Irish song, the words of which I can’t remember. What I do remember was the feeling in the room as every man, woman and child had been hushed by these gorgeous lyrics. Once he finished, the pub erupted and it was probably the best St. Paddy’s moment I ever had.

 

img_0345.jpg

 

Tynan’s Bridge House Bar – Kilkenny, Co. Kilkenny

This pub is off the main street but I loved it for it’s simple charm. The floors were uneven which did nothing to help the inebriated among us but it was quiet and had plenty of dark corners to hide in. Sometimes the best pubs are the quiet ones; where you’re free to have a relaxed chat and the whole place is yours to fill with forgotten conversations.

 

Red Ned’s – Armagh, Co. Armagh

Of course I had to include Ned’s – a pub I’ve frequented since I was a child with a Club Orange upper lip and wee legs swinging from the benches. The pub has plenty of familiar faces for me but it also has some fantastic live music that would attract any from outside the town. Definitely a recommendation if you’re about the Orchard County.

 

The Mutton Lane Inn – Cork City, Co. Cork

We were in Cork for the Jazz Festival in October and this was the pub that stuck out for me. It’s one of the oldest establishments in the city which is just bursting with tradition. You’re really spoiled for choice though around the Oliver Plunkett area so you can find yourself doing a pub crawl that could last for days.

 

img_6662-1.jpg

 

McDermott’s – Doolin, Co. Clare

A class wee pub that I stumbled upon once with friends while visiting the Cliffs of Moher. Doolin is a really sweet village and this place is perfect for resting the hooves and whiling away an hour two with some drinks in hand. It’s also a great place for a feed if you find yourself staying on for dinner – which no doubt you will!

 

Where are your favourite pubs in Ireland?? Will you be celebrating this year?? 

img_7077.jpg