Exploring Ireland: Monea Castle, County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland

We did the drive from Derry to Dublin back in July and passed through a few places in Northern Ireland we had yet to visit. We stopped off halfway at Enniskillen for some lunch. After a quick search on Tripadviser to see what was nearby, we stumbled across Monea Castle and decided to give it a whirl. As with so many attractions in Northern Ireland, the castle was deserted and we luckily had it all to ourselves.

Dated back to 1618,  it became the residence of the governor of Enniskillen in 1688. The castle was gutted by a fire in the 1700 and abandoned, that is the ruin you see today. It is free to enter and to be honest there isn't too much to do. But on a dry day, its a little gem to walk around and explore. There really is something special about having a ruin all to yourself. It feels as if you are on a secret that no one else knows about. I wouldn't go out of way to visit it but it's well worth a stop over on a road trip. I imagine it would be lovely in the summer sunshine with a picnic! It's not too far from the Fermanagh Lakes so would be good to combine the two.


Exploring Ireland: Giant's Causeway, Bushmills, County Antrim, Northern Ireland

The UNESCO world heritage site of the Giant's Causeway has been named the fourth greatest natural wonder in the U.K.  It's been on my list for years to visit and despite venturing over to Ireland quite a few times I'd never quite made it. We usually visit my boyfriends family and other things always seem to get seen first. Plus there's just so much beauty in this part of the world that it's so difficult to know what should be your first priority! However, this time I knew I had to finally make it as Hannah's house was a mere walk away so there was no excuse. 

They say the 40,000 interlocking basalt columns are the result of an ancient volcanic explosion. But really the columns were actually built by a giant... Irish giant Fionn MacCool was challenged to a fight by the Scottish giant Bonandonner. Having bravely accepted the challenge, Fionn started building a causeway across the North Channel so they could both meet for a fight. But Fionn starts to panic when he realises just how much bigger Bonandonner is than him so his wife Ooonagh disguises Fionn as a baby and tucks him into a cradle. When Bonandonner sees the size of the "baby" he reckons his father must be absolutely huge so he flees back to Scotland, destroying the causeway so that he can't be followed.

Despite the insane crowds, the Causeway is such a peaceful place. There's just something about being with Mother Nature, seeing all the beauty and hearing the waves crashing against the rocks. It's such a beautiful place. Ireland really does know how to blow you away. I could have spent hours mesmerised by the Atlantic Ocean but alas we had a schedule to keep too. 

I'd recommend visiting as early as you can to avoid the crowds. You do have to pay around £13 to visit the visitors centre and park in the car park but actually entry to the Causeway is free.


A foodie trip to Cardiff

A few weeks ago we took a road trip down to Cardiff to celebrate Gem and Martyn's wedding. We stayed the night at Hannah and Steve's in south London before heading across the country. Wales is a good three hours away from us, so as with taking any type of road trip it's essential to make sure your car is up to the challenge. No one ever likes breaking down hours from home! Make sure you keep your car up to date and in good shape by getting it regularly checked. Use companies such as Ossett Tyre House offer car servicing in Dewsbury if you need a little help. 

Despite visiting for the weekend, we probably only had a full day in Cardiff so decided to do what we do best. Eat, eat and eat some more. Take a look at all the places we stuffed our faces in and take some notes for when you make a trip to the Welsh capital. You don't want to miss out!

I knew as soon as it was decided we week sharing a house with Hannah and Steve, a Scandi-inspired trip to somewhere would be involved. This time it was a breakfast trip to the Danish bakery Brød. This cosy coffee shop offers an incredible selection of pastries and cakes alongside delicious savoury options which include meatball paninis, loaves of bread and mini pizzas. The cafe has a great atmosphere and the staff are very friendly, more than willing to to talk you through the menu. It's a little way out of the city centre but it's well worth the trip.

Got Beef
This small but perfectly formed burger restaurant features an open kitchen where you can see the chefs work their magic. It's not the best burger in the world - so spoilt in London - but it's a good solid choice.  I opted for the Soprano. A tasty concoction consisting of a juicy beef patty, smoked streaky bacon, Monterey Jack cheese, spicy jalepeno mayo and chunks of chorizo sausage. As you can imagine, it went down a treat!

The Potted Pig
Gem's wedding wasn't until 5 so we wanted a good substantial meal to keep us going - and stop us from becoming lightweights when we started on the prosecco. The roasts at The Potted Pig had come highly recommended. I'm not a huge roast dinner fan - take my British passport away immediately - but this one was amazing. Located in a former bank vault underneath the city, they offer an amazing set menu on a Sunday which includes two courses for £15. The pork belly was heavenly and I'm still dreaming about the cauliflower cheese now.


Four places to visit in the Scottish Highlands

The Scottish Highlands are one of the most beautiful places I've ever been. I still can't quite believe they're in the UK. And that it took so long for me to finally visit! Make sure you don't wait as long as I did as trust me, you're missing out. We're lucky to have friends living up there who knew all the best places to take us. If you're planning a trip to the east coast, here are four places you should definitely add to your intinerary. 

1. Golspie
This little town is famous for being the home of the beautiful Dunrobin Castle, a fairytale chateau-style castle build an incredible 700 years ago. Make sure you spend an hour or so taking in the walled gardens and catching the fun falcon show. Once you've enjoyed the castle, it's time to refuel with some cake at a little tea room in the high street before heading out to explore the waterfalls. The city girl in me had no idea that scenes like this existed in the UK. I don't get out to the countryside much! The Big Burn is an easy 2.5km walk through lush, green woodlands. Pack sensible shoes and wander until your heart's content.

2. Tarbat Ness
This lighthouse is the perfect places to watch the sun go down. Climb over the rocks and you're greeted with the amazing sight of seals splashing about in the water below - this was by far a highlight of my trip. If you visit during the summer, you'll find the seals soaking up the rays on the rocks themselves.

3. Loch Ness
Probably the most famous loch in Scotland, Loch Ness is the largest one in the UK thanks to the sheer volume of water. It's around 45 minutes from Inverness and makes a great day trip. We explored the Loch with an hour long boat ride with Jacobite Cruises who helped to set the scene. It was fascinating to listen to the folklore and history of the area. The scenery is absolutely breathtaking, even on a gloomy day.

4. Glenmorangie Distillery
No trip to Scotland is complete with squeezing in a trip to a whisky distillery. Book yourself into the fascinating tour and learn about the history of this famous whisky. You'll be able to try a sample at the end. Even if you're not a whisky fan it's still worth doing because it really is such an interesting process and the guides are so enthusiastic.

Have you been to the Highlands before? Anywhere I should add to my list? I'm definitely planning on heading back soon!

Four places I'd love to visit for a country weekend away

I say this time and time again but I really do need to explore more of the the UK - there really are some Great Little Breaks to be taken advantage of.  I have a list as long as a piece of string but as soon as I look into booking a trip, I automatically start booking flights. I really need to make more of a effort to see more of my home country. Here are my top five places I'd like to visit for a country getaway from the Big Smoke - one day I'll make it here!

1. Peak District
I have this weekend planned for when I finally get to the peak District. I want to do a slow drive up there before basing ourselves in Bakewell to enjoy the country pubs. From here I want to spend a day at the gorgeous Chatsworth House before spending a day doing the Monsel Trail. The former railway tunnels along the limestone dales look so picturesque. I imagine it just can't be beaten on a sunny day.

2. Bath
I have no idea why I still haven't made it to Bath as it's only a few hours away. It's not the country as such but it's a lot more like the country than London is! I'm dying to lose a few hours in the stunning architecture, the Roman-built baths, the quirky independent shops and follow in the footsteps of Jane Austen. It seems like such a vibrant city and I'd love to see it during the festive season for the Christmas markets.

3. Isles of Scily
Located off the Cornish coast, this archipelago doesn't even look like they belong in the UK. The southernmost point of the country, the islands seem to have their own microclimate. I'd love to spend a week island hopping, soaking up the rugged coastlines, incredible locally sourced food, the slow pace of life and the interesting history.

4. Vineyards of Kent
It's my dream to spend a weekend on a vineyard but it's so expensive to go to France and Italy. I could have a two week holiday for the amount it would cost me for a weekend. But I really don't have to venture that far to tick it off my list. Kent has fast become the heart of the English wine-making industry. So Kent is where I would like to go!

This is a collaborative post with Great Little Breaks

Exploring Ireland: Carrick-A-Rede rope bridge, Ballycastle, County Antrim, Northern Ireland

One thing on our list for our trip to Northern Ireland was a visit to the Carrick-A-Rede rope bridge, located not too far from Balintoy Harbour. Owned by the National Trust, this wooden rope bridge was first erected by salmon fishermen in 1755 and is a Game of Thrones filming location. Even if you're not a GoT fan, it's well worth a visit.

Once you've bought your ticket - it's about £6 -, it's about a 15 minute walk from the ticket office to the bridge with lots of stunning scenery on the way. The electric blue of the Atlantic Ocean and rugged cliffs are breathtaking and truly a sight to behold. Sometimes I can't quite believe this is the UK when it feels like you are a million miles away from home. I feel incredible lucky to have this part of the world a mere 50 minute plane journey away.

The rope bridge connect two cliffs and is suspended almost 100ft above the sea. It's a slightly terrifying walk across. My legs were like jelly and I couldn't bear to look anywhere other than straight ahead. It didn't help with my boyfriend behind me wobbling the bridge and making the experience even less enjoyable... Despite not really enjoying it, I really did enjoy it and it was something I'm so glad I did. Everyone should do it! The view from the other side was gorgeous - well worth the six quid fee for that.

Keep in mind there will be lots of crowds. Even in January we counted three huge coaches full of tourists. It seems other people have discovered how beautiful this part of the world is too...


Exploring Essex: A day in Leigh-On-Sea

Despite being a born and bred Essex girl, there's plenty I haven't done in this county of mine. The plus and minus of living so close to London... But what I have done is visit Leigh-On-Sea a handful of times. And it's somewhere I know I'll visit time and time again.

I headed to Leigh-On-Sea back in January for my birthday for a day of delicious brunch, cockles (my favourite seafood) and a chilly walk along the coast to blow the winter cobwebs away. So often I rush into London when I have some spare time but it was so lovely to stay close to home. It isn't the prettiest beach in the world but that's exactly why the cockles are famous - it's a prime location for cockle picking. Make sure you stop off at Osbourne Bros on the seafront before you go home. I often forget the coast is a mere 30 minutes away from my house. A quick hop in the car and I'm soon breathing in the calming sea air. I'm especially keen to go back for breakfast at Stop the World Cafe.

The town is full of cute independent homeware shops, pretty cobbled streets, the county's best seafood and enticing restaurants that have made me promised I won't leave it so long to visit again. I'll see you soon Leigh-On-Sea!


Exploring Europe: Ballintoy Harbour, County Antrim, Northern Ireland

Ireland is place very close to my heart. I've been three times now and each time I fall more and more in love with the country. It helps that my boyfriend has family over there who are the best tour guides and hosts, taking us to all the great places and letting us into secrets. Thanks Brendan if you're reading this! On my trip last week we hired a car and set out to see the stunning Causeway Coast and spot a few Game of Thrones filming locations along the way.

If you're a GoT fan, you'll notice that this is in fact the Iron Islands. The home where Theon Greyjoy received a lukewarm welcome after coming back from Winterfell and the scene of his baptism. But if fantasy TV shows aren't your thing then make sure you come here anyway. It is one of the most beautiful places I've ever been too. The clear blue sea, the waves crashing against the rocks and the stunning scenery blew me away. I could have clambered over the rocks for hours but alas our bellies were rumbling and dinner was calling us.

On a sunny day, I imagine it's the perfect place to settle down on one of the rocks, enjoy a picnic and admire mother nature.  Next time I'm back in the Emerald Isle it's going to be top of my list of places to visit. Definitely add it to your list if you're ever in that part of the world - pack some trainers as those rocks can get slippery!


Search This Blog

About me

About me
A Essex based lifestyle blogger who lives a champagne life on a lemonade purse!

Get in touch at

As from July 2015, all PR samples will be marked with a *.

Blog Archive

Design by elevatormusik. Powered by Blogger.


All content copyright to The Story of a Girl Who Lives Above Her Means unless stated otherwise.