Exploring Ireland: Glenariff Forest Park, Ballymena, County Antrim, Northern Ireland

I feel like I've explored a lot of Northern Ireland, especially the stretch between Belfast and Derry but Glenariff had slipped under the radar. Based in the north of Country Antrim, the glens are a series of nine narrow valleys. Glenariff is 'the queen of the Glens' and the most famous. Most people head to Glenariff to do the Waterfall Walkway. And this is why you should add to the top of your list if you visit Northern Ireland.

The three-mile waterfall walkway first opened up 80 years ago. I am relatively unfit so did struggle a fair bit and had to take a few breathers every once in a while. Make sure you wear suitable clothing and shoes. It's not the place for a fashion show! But it is so rewarding and you soon forget you're out of breath when you're greeted with such stunning views. I will never tire of seeing a waterfall up close. There's just something so magical about seeing them as the mist floats up and the sound of crashing water fills your ears. You can tell how misty it was by the photos! I almost feel like I'm in a completely different land.

Glenariff offers a casual cafe, an outside picnic area and a more fancy restaurant as well as pretty clean inside toilets. A god send during a waterfall trek with all that gushing water! You could spend the whole day there without getting bored, with lots of trails to be explored. I'd recommend the short Rainbow Trail too. Parking is a fiver but make sure you have change on you as I'm not sure the machines take card.

The caravan and camping site is open from Easter to October. Definitely something I'd like to take advantage of!


A bank holiday weekend in Ireland

Ever since I was a little girl I've had a fascination with Ireland. I couldn't tell you why as I have zero Irish heritage and I don't even think my parents have ever stepped foot on the Emerald Isle. I once declared to my mum that I was going to have an Irish husband. I don't know how the obsessession started but I just knew it was going to be a country that I would love before I even had a chance to visit. I totally didn't only start talking to my boyfriend when I realised his very Irish name is due to the fact his dad is Irish... Now thanks to his Irish heritage I've been across the water quite a few times now and it really is one of my happy places. A place where I can never grow tired of visiting.  As soon as I see those rolling green hills I feel all my troubles just melt away.

My friend Hannah is also Northern Irish and her parents have a holiday home along the Causeway Coast. They very kindly let us gatecrash for the bank holiday weekend. And it was glorious! Along with Sarah and Michelle, we based ourselves just outside Bushmills for a weekend of exploring the Causeway Coast which has to be one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world.

I'm going to go into more details on my favourites parts in other posts so this is just an overview. We crammed a hell of a lot into a weekend! So where did we visit? No trip to this part of the world is complete without witnessing the wonder of the Giant's Causeway. It really is stunning. We saw lots of castle ruins, Kinbane Castle, Carrickfergus Castle and Dunluce castle spring to mind. We spent the afternoon in Belfast eating burgers and exploring the Botanic Gardens and seeing the Game of thrones tapestry at the Ulster Museum. We stopped for a delicious red velvet slab of cake at Ballintoy Harbour and had a tasty ice cream in Ballycastle. We went on a pretty special hike in Glenariff Forest Park to see some amazing waterfalls. And we made sure we stuffed ourselves silly on Taytos. If you don't know what they are then you are missing out!

I had such an incredible weekend away with some of the best girls I know. It's so nice to spend a weekend with people on the same wavelength as me - and are just as little piggies as me! Surround yourself with girls who see cake stops as vital stops on a road trip. I'm actually back in Belfast again in two weeks to see Biffy Clyro so I'll see you soon Ireland!


Buying a house 101: what to consider when you buy a doer upper home

When we were looking at a home to buy, we came to the conclusion that we could either buy a really nice flat which didn't need much doing to it or buy a house which needed a LOT of work. We came to the conclusion that we would eventually have to move from a flat within a few years, it was never going to be a 'forever' home. Whereas we could buy a two bedroom house and really be able to stay there and build a home. We could take our time really doing it up to our tastes without having to worry about spending all the money and then having to room because we would outgrow it.  Taking on a doer upper is a huge task and at times it can feel too much. It's not for the lighthearted at all! But if you want to go down the same path as us then there are a few things I think you should consider...

1. Work out what your budget is to do the renovations and double it. We were pretty lucky that my dad is very handy so we have saved a hell of a lot on labour costs. But not everyone has this resource! Labour is probably the most expensive part of saving for a house and it's very easy to forget about it. Costs tend to spiral out of control and you have to be prepared for it!

2.  Dealing with structural issues is so much more expensive than dealing with cosmetic issues. make sure you have a full survey if you're buying a doer upper. That way you don't have any nasty surprises waiting for you when you start the work.

3. Consider which rooms are the most important to you and which rooms you can live without doing. For us we wanted to make sure the downstairs looked ok so we decided to concentrate on the kitchen and the living room. You'll have to accept that it won't all get done at once and it will be a work in progress. You have to order each room in importance.

4. Be prepared to live in a building site for a while. The reality is you simply won't have the money to overhaul the house completely - unless you're very lucky! We ran out of money within a few months and now have to live in a half done house for at least a year in order for is to save up to do another project.

5. We used a few tradesmen for jobs that my dad couldn't do such as plastering and electrics. Always make sure you get a tradesman that someone has used before and has been recommended. Don't just pick one out of the yellow pages. Ask around friends and family to find people you can trust.


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