Why you should make Hillsborough your base in County Down, Northern Ireland


Northern Ireland isn't a big country and no matter where you are, you're really no more than 90 minutes away from each main attraction. If you're looking for a base near the coast then I would recommend Portrush or Portstewart but if you're looking to explore the Mourne Mountains then Hillsborough is where you should stay. 


Famous for being the home of Hillsborough Castle, a royal residence and a place which played a key role in the peace talks, the town is unlike anywhere I've been in Northern Ireland. We joked it was a place where you could smell the money! The houses were pretty spectacular and people looked rather fancy. You know when people just have that 'look'? It had a very affluent feel and, despite only being 20 minutes away, it felt miles away from Belfast.






It boasts a cute little high street filled with an independent greengrocer, butcher, cute homeware shops and lots of pubs to whittle away a few hours over a pint. Everything is within walking distance which means you can forget about the car for the night and enjoy the craic. We enjoyed a bite to eat at The Parson's Nose and loved our breakfast at the Owl & Pussycat Cafe - be sure to get the fry! On our list for next time is dinner at Hara and a few drinks at The Plough. Make sure you make time to enjoy a walk around the man-made lake. Take a stroll through the forest, keeping an eye out for the 17th-century fort. 


We stayed at the most adorable little cottage in the middle of town. It was tiny but had absolutely everything you could possibly need including a gorgeous log burner. Sadly the weather was pretty special while we were over so never got to use it. We had such a warm welcome from the host and nothing was too much trouble. We were impressed with the interiors that we even stole an idea from the bedroom storage to use in our own house. Our understair storage doors are modelled on that house! They left us a lovely bottle of wine and apple pie as a surprise. It was the little touches like that which made it a joy to stay. 


We had such a lovely few days in Hillsborough and will definitely be back!







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Exploring the UK: Devils Pulpit, Finnich Glen, Glasgow, Scotland


We had one last morning in Scotland before having to catch our ferry over to Ireland. Needing to fill the time, I did a google and realised we wasn't too far from Finnich Glen aka Devil's Pulpit. Thanks to the underlying red sandstone, the water flowing through this gorge looks red, giving it the sinister name. 




I'd recommend arriving early morning as parking is very difficult. There isn't a carpark and you'll have to fight it out over a few spaces on the side of the road. It can get pretty chaotic! Tucked away in a forest, the gorge is a short walk from the car parking spaces. Wear sensible shoes and ones you don't mind getting muddy. Keep an eye on where you're walking as the gorge is pretty steep so it could be easy to lose your footing and fall over the edge. It's not a place I'd recommend taking children or visiting with people with mobility issues. Keep walking around the gorge until you get to a pair of stone stairs with a rope handrail attached to the side.


The steps will be very slippery thanks to the traffic up and down. Don't let go of the rope and tread extremely carefully. The stairs are narrow and only really allow for one-way traffic so always make sure to look down to see if anyone is coming. Keep in mind your feet probably will get a little damp. Despite all these warnings it's absolutely fab. It really does feel like an adventure! It was one of my favourite sights we visited during our trip. 


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Exploring the UK: Loch Katrine, Trossachs, Scottish Highlands


Back in September we decided to stop for a few days in Scotland to help break up our gigantic road trip to Ireland. We wanted some fresh air but didn't want to drive too far north. So the most logical answer was to venture just past Glasgow and arrive at Loch Katrine. Pretty close to the border but far enough in the countryside to feel like you were a million miles away from home. It was absolutely glorious and one of the most beautiful places I've visited in the UK. 



Loch Katrine is situated in the Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park. The freshwater loch has served the city of Glasgow for the past 150 years. If you're a fan of Outlander (something we're not!) then you'll recognise the scenery from season two as it's where Brianna and Roger have a picnic together. Following in the footsteps of Queen Victoria, its home to an historic steamship you can board for a trip up and down the loch. We chose to veto this option and decided to do our sightseeing by foot.

We were so incredibly lucky with the weather. It was pretty cold but such beautiful blue skies and sunshine. It made walking around the loch a dream. We parked the car in the main carpark, picked up a drink from the kiosk and took to our feet. The rangers are pretty helpful and pointed us in the right direction to find a map. There are numerous suggestion of walks in the leaflet depending on how much time you want to spend in the area. We still had other sights we wanted to squeeze in so we chose the two hour walk. We didn't end up completing it but still had a leisurely stroll for just over an hour. It was pretty empty so seemed even more magical because we had it to ourselves. I'd recommend scheduling in at least half a day to really enjoy the scenery. 



It was nearing lunchtime and we were getting hungry so we stopped for a bite to eat in the cafe over looking the loch. It was pretty pricy for a bog-standard fizzy drink, soup and sandwich but it was worth it for the view as we sat on the balcony wrapped up in a scarf and hat. Sometimes you've just got to pay up eh?


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