Well, what a week of weather – is it sunny? Is it wet? Is it October already? Who know?! What I do know, is that recently, we embarked on the next leg of our journey through the summer and… wait for it… we stayed away… for a WHOLE night! I know – how crazy was that?! If you’d heard Miss K before we left, talk about ‘going away on holiday’, multiple times an hour, you’d be forgiven for thinking we were going a bit further for a lot longer. If you’d heard her when we got back declare, ‘It’s good to be home’, you’d really think we had!
They say a change is as good as a rest and for us, I think this really was the case. So, what did we get up to you ask? Well, here’s what!
We headed off for a 2 day one night adventure! Our destination of choice was Antrim – I never promised exotic – mainly because we got a nice wee offer for the Hilton Templepatrick, and it didn’t disappoint. We had a fabulous family room which was big enough for little Miss M to shuffle around and peer out the floor to ceiling window; who knew car park watching made such exciting entertainment?! We all fitted in nicely and, there was even space for an additional 2 had we chosen to smuggle a couple of others in ( we didn’t). Having stayed in hotels with very small rooms when the other two were around this stage and seen how frustrating it was, the large room was a real gift!
As the weather was a little less than summery, we decided to make use of the hotel pool. This was a great opportunity for the girls to try out whar they’d learned in their lessons and, for Miss M to try out the pool for the very first time. There was great excitement ‘waiting for the wee pool to bubble’ … who knew jacuzzis were so exciting?! The family changing just off the pool was brilliant and very handy when juggling a little person. The only downside was that the whole pool was 1.2 metres deep but, a few minutes in the pool and the girls were showing great confidence in the water which, in itself, was enough to make the lessons worthwhile.
Poor weather and lack of motivation to uproot everyone from perfectly lovely surroundings meant that eating in the hotel from the bar snacks menu was a no-brainer. It was a lovely spot, the staff were an absolute delight, the girls were given little activity bags -AND the food was gorgeous. Not it that, but as we were hotel guests the girls are free and that included dessert! We were stuffed but, not wanting to seem rude or ungrateful to the staff who reminded us of this extra course, we ordered a bowl of ice cream and a chocolate pudding and forced ourselves (😉yeah, I know you believe me!!) to eat it between us… The martyrdom was so worth it!!
We laughed to ourselves as we took our full selves back to our room. We’d had two eating out experiences that day: the first saw the bits of food little Miss M dropped to the floor being brushed up from around the high chair while we still ate ( please note: firstly, the phrase shovelling snow in a drift comes to mind and secondly, I do always clear up as much of her after-dining debris as I can), a brusher-upper who didn’t actually speak, even when we spoke to him. A charming establishment… Hmmm. Our second, where our apologies for messiness were laughed away and the staff actually came to engage in conversation with us and the girls… And there you have the Burger King vs Hilton dining conundrum- in case I’ve lost you, my advice would be that for not that much more money but ridiculously better food, lovely surroundings and delightful staff and for a special holiday treat… There are some times when fast food really doesn’t deliver!!
In all honesty, of all the hotel stays we’ve had with the girls, this was one of the most successful. The room space was great; the pool was a hit; the grounds were lovely and the food – both our meal in the evening and our breakfast – were great! All being well, this will be a wee spot we will return to at some point!
Despite how this may sound so far, we did actually do more than stay in the hotel! A trip to Junction One was part of our little jaunt though, to be honest, it was probably more of a time filler while we waited to see if the rain was going to stop (it wasn’t!) and to get a swim suit for our littlest Miss… some things really are just cuter when they’re small! We weren’t there for a long time and while we weren’t really that interested in a lot of heavy duty shopping, The Works was a hit with everyone and Burton’s Ice-Cream Parlour proved itself a worthy port in a storm (literally!!) Undoubtedbly my favourite spot was Jolie Art… definitely worth a visit if you have any interest at all in crafty things and supporting local talent… oh how relieved my hubby and the bank balance are that I don’t live closer!
One of our most anticipated ‘spots we really want to visit’ was World of Owls in Randalstown. As we’d managed to arrive with only a handful of change, there was a £1 charge for using card payment and so, for all of us to get in, it was £19. While it was great to be able to see these incredible birds up close, I’ll be honest, we have no intentions of ever going back. Almost all of the birds were in enclosures and the few that were out, I’d thought there might have been the offer of holding. Alas, this was not to be! Generally, it felt a wee bit in need of tidying up and some of the birds just didn’t seem to have much space though, please note here, I have absolutely no knowledge of what birds do and do not need, so who am I to comment on this. Honestly, I was glad to get back to the car and insisted that baby wipes and anti-bac spray were used liberally!
Without a doubt though, I have saved the best for last. The highlight of our trip was most definitely the Antrim Castle Gardens and my only regret here was that we had not given ourselves enough time to explore. I’m pretty certain that despite being wowed by what we did see, there was much that we didn’t. Although we didn’t have the time to sample it, there was a lovely wee coffee shop that looked very much like a pleasant wee spot to stop in. As it was a holiday, the little gift shop was also closed but, from what we saw through the window, please refer to the Jolie Art scenario above!
While I’d love to describe for you the long pool that beckons at the end of an avenue of arching trees; the numerous little squirrels darting around playing hide and seek (in fairness, this is more a supposition than a certainty); the gorgeous stone arches that just call to be walked through to the mysterious pathways beyond; the carefully crafted and nurtured gardens that demand you just take a moment and catch your breath, I really don’t feel I can do this wee gem any real justice. In short, all being well, we will most definitely return here and we will come prepared to spend longer… I’d only ever seen its equal on TV and usually somewhere in the English countryside… can you tell I’m kinda smitten?!
And so, that brings the next stage of our journey to a close… where we venture next, no-one knows!! Quite literally, no-one knows, not even us… well, who doesn’t like a mystery tour?!
Hope you’re having a great summer, wherever you are and whatever the weather!