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.


2019: A year in travel

I said I wanted to have a big year for my 30th and it certainly happened. At the risk of sounding overdramatic, it's been one of the best years of my life. I've seen and been places I have always dreamed off and I'm not quite sure how next year is going to beat it. What a year!

Our first holiday of the year was two weeks in Malaysia back in February. We booked flights the day after my 30th birthday party, not the wisest idea we've had, and flew out to see our friends who were living out there as teachers. South-east Asia is a part of the world I had been dreaming about visiting since I was 17. I wasn't somewhere I thought I would be lucky enough to tick off so when I did it was absolutely incredible. It still feels like a dream! For the first week we did an epic 7 days road trip visiting Malacca, Ipoh, Kuala Lumpur, Cameron Highlands and Fraser's Hill. After our friends went back to school we took things a little easier for the second week and visited Georgetown and Langkawi. I can't wait to explore more of south-east Asia now and hopefully will be able to go back to that region soon.

Las Vegas
A mere two months later I headed to the bright lights of Las Vegas with five other friends to help celebrate our 30th birthday year. We had this trip planned since we were 21 so it was slightly shocking to realise we were finally old enough! Vegas was an absolute whirlwind and I've never experienced anything like it. It was bold, brash and intense. It's not a city I can see myself visiting again but I had the absolute best week. My highlight was an overnight stay at the Grand Canyon. It was the first I have ever been rendered speechless in my life. Words really can't do it justice.

I booked Dublin as 30th birthday treat for my boyfriend originally as a surprise. But, as usual I got far too excited and spilled the beans. Sadly we had some sad news a few days before we were going to fly so we had to do a detour to Derry. But we made it to Dublin a day later than planned and spent the next few days eating and drinking around the city. The Irish capital is just as expensive as people say but I really fell in love with it. There isn't an awful lot of sightseeing to do but it's a fantastic place to just chill. We pub hopped and stuffed ourselves silly on some good food. Ireland really is the best country in the world.

My best friend and I decided we needed a few days away bonding with each other but didn't want to spend much money. So we headed to the Travel Lodge website and had a search of hotels to find the cheapest one two hours or less away from home. Our search concluded with Birmingham and we paid a mere £35 each for two nights over the August Bank Holiday. Despite being the only adults in the attraction without children, the detour to Cadbury's world was a highlight. We spent the three days gossiping about everything and everyone whilst eating all the best food Brum had to offer. We had such glorious weather so it was a real treat. A kinda last hurrah to the summer.

September saw me head to Rhodes for the first time for a work colleagues wedding. The whole team jetted out to Lindos on a wild adventure. I have never laughed or partied so hard as I did for those four days. Certainly a trip I won't forget in a hurry! It look me a good week at home to feel normal again.

I was lucky enough to go on a press trip with Made.com to Paris through work. A whirlwind of a trip, it was lovely to spend a couple of days exploring new places in the French capital. the girls at Made put on a fab itinerary and it was nice to get to know new people.

Northern Ireland
The last trip of the year was to Northern Ireland in October. A place very dear to my heart. This trip was made even more special as it was where we got engaged! It still feels really weird to say that out loud... We took two of our friends over for the weekend and showed them all our favourite places. There is just something about the Emerald Isle, especially this part, that makes my heart sing. We had such great weather with lots of blue skies so really lucked out.

Exploring the U.K: Torr Head scenic route, Ballycastle, Northern Ireland

We've been over to Northern Ireland so many times over the last decade yet it still surprises me when we stumble across somewhere new. It only increases my love for this part of the world. There's still so much I need to explore! On our last trip back to Northern Ireland back in October, something special happened which I'll take about more in the next post, we decided on a whim to follow the Torr Head scenic route.

The route is very well signposted but I recommend popping Torr Head in your satnav if you have one. Just to be on the safe side. Although getting lost isn't too bad in a beautiful place like as the Causeway Coast. The scenic route takes along the coast up winding and sometimes hair-raising roads to the top of a huge hill. It isn't for the lighthearted and I had to refrain looking out of the window. It didn't do my nerves very good! Keep in mind it's a narrow road and you'll have to move over to let other cars come through.

Once you make it to the top of the hill, park your car on the side of the road and start climbing! It's still a fairly undiscovered place so you'll more of less have the whole place to yourself. At the very top of the hill there is an abandoned house which isn't really that nice. But once you've given that the quick once over, start exploring some more. Don't be afraid to climb over a few fences. Just don't go to close to the edge on a windy day. You'll be able to see Scotland in the distance on a clear day. It'\s such a beautiful place to take in the sheer beauty of the Emerald Isle.


Exploring Europe: Acropolis of Rhodes, Lindos, Rhodes, Greece

The most famous landmark in the village of Lindos is the Acropolis. Overlooking the village, you'll be able to see for miles once you make it to the top. A long hard slog to get there, even more so when you've been to a rooftop bar the night before, you soon forget about how much your legs are aching when you are greeted by the endless views. Make sure to stop a few moments and truly take in the sights below you. I'd recommend going as early in the day if you can to avoid the crowds and the heat. We ventured up about 2pm and it was pretty busy and the sun was in full swing.

Entry to the Acropolis costs 12 euro and you can pay in care or in cash at the top. Children can enter for free. Once you're through the barrier there are more steps to climb before you get the very top. You'll find lots of donkeys in and around the area at the bottom. Although they look well looked after I don't really agree with riding the donkeys up the steep hill in the searing heat. It doesn't quite sit right with me.

Built around 300 BC, the temple of Athena Lindia grow under the Romans with more building being added. The buildings fell into disuse during the medieval times. In the 14th century they were overlaid by a massive fortress. Work is still being done today to help preserve the ancient buildings. 

Be sure to keep away from the edge as there isn't any barriers to stop you toppling off. That Instagram post isn't worth falling headfirst into the surrounding sea and rocks. 

I'd recommend a drink in Lindos By Night as the rooftop bar offers a fantastic view of the acropolis all lit up in the evening. 


Postcards from Lindos, Rhodes

Well I'm a bit behind with everything recently - just where is the time going? I feel like this year has completely flown past and I haven't kept up my new year resolution to keep on top of this blog! But I thought I'd do a little postcards from Lindos post from my trip back in September.

Our picture editor at work was getting married in Lindos on the isle of Rhodes and invited the whole team over to Greece to celebrate. So in September we all trekked to Gatwick and made the trip over to Lindos to take H&P on tour for a few days! I hadn't been to Greece since I was a kid so was excited to experience one of the islands as an adult and tick Rhodes off my list. I was expecting white-washed houses, little coves you could get lost in and history on every corner. And it was exactly what I experienced. I don't really do 'relaxing' holidays, always so keen to cram so much in so I don't feel like I've missed out as soon as I get home.  So this trip was such a welcome change and made me think maybe I should try relaxing more often!

Well relaxing during the day anyway! I don't think I went to bed before 3am for the four nights I was there. I didn't think I still had that in me. I thought that had all passed away by the time I entered my mid-twenties! Part of me is a little proud I can still do it night after night. Just about! Who knew Lindos was such a great place to party the night away... I had so much fun and don't think I stopped laughing the whole time I was there. But by the time it rolled around to Monday I was ready to come back to normal life and my own bed. I don't think any of us truly recovered from the four nights until after the following weekend. Turns out dancing all night really does take its toll...

Lindos is a great place in Rhodes, especially if you go with a big group of friends. It has the rooftop buzzing bars for those who want to party with the best of them. It has the stunning acropolis for those who love a bit of history. It has the endless winding streets of shops for those who love to pick up a souvenir or two. It has beautiful beaches for those who love nothing more than laying in the sun. It has cute little tavernas for those who love to try local food. It's a good hour from the airport which can sometimes put people off but I'd say it was well worth the trek.  This little jolly to Rhodes has made me want to explore so much more of the Greek islands - especially those much more remote, less touristy gems I've heard so much about.


Four places where you should eat if you visit Birmingham

Digbeth Dining Club
This was a suggestion from Iain on Instagram and I'm so glad we managed to fit it in. If you've ever been to one of the Street Feast locations in London then this is very similar. Digbeth remindS me a bit of Shoreditch. It's pretty gritty and full of street art but lots of hipster bars and restaurants. Boasting numerous bars and street food stalls, Digbeth Dining Club is a great place to hang out for a few hours eating some good food and enjoying some ice cold beer. My friend Jay went for some steamed buns which I can confirm were absolutely delicious. I had some sriracha smothered fried chicken strips which were delightfully mouth-tingling and very addictive. We decided to share a trio of deep fried cookie dough desserts which were just as sickly and delicious as they sound! Keep in mind there is a £2 cash charge to get in but the stall do accept card.

Wayland's Yard
This was a cracking suggestion from Emma via Twitter. Gotta love social media! Located just footsteps from the Bull Ring it's a great shout if you're staying nearby. Emma recommended the eggy crumpets which I definitely had to try as soon as I knew they existed. I loved the cool vibe of the cafe and service was so friendly. I highly recommend grabbing a cronut for the road as they were delicious!

Original Patty Men
This was a suggestion by Roisin who told me I would love it and she was 100% right! Located not too far from the Bull Ring in Digbeth under some railway arches, this burger joint offers five different types of burgers alongside some specials. I opted for the spicy Korean inspired patty with lashings of gochujang sauce. Perfect! Jay and I shared chicken chunks which were more or less giant thighs and a portion of O.D.B fries. A delicious concoction of triple cooked skin on fries topped with an addictive nice mix, house slaw, coriander, lime, sriracha mayo, crispy fried onions and chopped spring onion. They were one of the best fries I have ever had. Such a dreamy combination.

Indian Brewery Co
I read about this place on Time out and it piqued my interest because it reminded me a bit of Dishoom in London. Whilst not as good as Dishoon it was a pretty solid shout. We opted for around four dishes to share between us so we could try a bit of everything. Stand out dishes for me included the paneer roti roll and crispy chicken Bombay bites. Sadly they were in the process of moving their brewery so we couldn't try some of their special beers.

Postcards from Birmingham

Earlier this year my best friend Jay and I decided we needed a weekend away together bonding. Actually it was probably me that needed it the most as I have a tendency to become a bit needy at times... A weekend full of too many cocktails, endless eating and the chance to put the world to rights. The August bank holiday was the perfect situation. We wasn't bothered on where we went, we just wanted somewhere within two hours drive from home. I got on the case with the Travelodge website and stumbled across a hotel in Birmingham which was offering a two night stay for under £25 each. Sorted!

I had never been to Birmingham before but as a keen, obsessive Peaky Blinder's fan it was going to crop up on my radar eventually. We just so happened to be in the city the weekend the first episode of the fifth series aired. What a twist of fate!

We got up early and left Essex fuelled with a Macdonald's breakfast with the mission to finally tick off a trip to Cadbury's World at the grand age of 30. We were the only two adults visiting who didn't have an army of kids with them so it was a bit chaotic. But it was really good and worth a visit, not least because they kept handing out free bars of chocolate as you made your way round.

After we'd arrived in Birmingham we checked in and heading straight out for some burgers which pretty much set the precedent for the rest of the weekend. We didn't stop eating. Who knew Birmingham had such a great food scene? We headed to the main strip of Broad Street which reminded us far too much of our nights out in Magaluf. We wasn't drunk enough for that so we headed back to the canal which was much more civilised and found a cracking pub offering tune after tune on the dance floor.

I'm not sure I'll head back to Birmingham any time soon. It seemed pretty empty and whilst some parts were buzzing, others were completely dead which was a weird experience considering it's a city. But it's a great place to visit for a weekend if you're a keen foodie, Digbeth especially was pretty cool and reminded me as a scuffier version of Shoreditch. Kinda how Shoreditch used to be before the bankers started zoning in on it...


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