Beech Hill Country House – a Review Peace & Tranquility on the Edge of the City

We recently had the pleasure of being invited to spend Easter Weekend at Beech Hill Country House, just outside Derry.

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The beautiful Beech Hill Country House

Nestled in the hillside of Ardmore, Beech Hill is a hidden haven of peace and tranquillity, despite being only a stone’s throw from the main Derry to Belfast road.  It is quite literally on the cusp of the city and only a 20 minute drive from our home.

Recently taken over by Sam Harding, Barry Kemp and Adam Kemp, the new owners of country house have vowed to turn it into Northern Ireland’s best four-star hotel.

The 32-acre estate has a rich history which is beautifully catalogued and shown both inside the hotel and on plaques throughout the forests; it was taken over by US Marines during WWII as a base for soldiers, before being transformed into a hotel in 1989.

What is a grand and stately building, filled with history and character, is being gently moulded into a modern hotel to compete with any of its contemporaries.  The natural beauty of the grounds combined with the quaint decor is indeed stately and classic, and yet the restaurant and bedrooms are modern and fresh.     What is also traditional and classic, is the staff and how they interact with the guest; polite, helpful and professional.

We brought the two girls along for a family switch-off and catch-up weekend!

Check in was easy and friendly.  Our family room brought us on a trek through the many little corridors and rooms, all well signposted and filled with history and photographs.  A lift brought us to the first floor and then a small flight of stairs brought us to the room.  If you had a buggy however, there is plenty space to safely leave it if you don’t want to carry it to the room.

The family room was huge!  A massive double bed, with a single bed and a fold-out bed for the toddler, these beds were incredibly comfortable.  There was a sofa and resting chairs in front of the TV and lots of space for a family of 4. 

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The bathroom, gleamingly clean, had a bath which is so essential when travelling with kiddies.

The forests provided a beautiful playground for the four of us.  We spent over two hours running and playing on the grounds before dinner and another hour on Sunday morning in a completely different part of the forest.

We had booked dinner for 6.30pm.  The restaurant is bright and has gorgeous views over the little lake and gardens.  Again, the staff were incredibly pleasant and efficient.

The food was beautiful.  I had mussels to start; a subtle portion as opposed to the unnecessarily huge bowl that is so often served.  I then had pork belly, which was served with a perfect balance of flavours and again, was a perfect size.  Himself had a meat terrine to start, and then the steak, perfectly cooked and seasoned.  Both were served with potato and veg.   Dessert was sorbet for Him and a cheeseboard (yes, as usual) for me.  It didn’t disappoint.

I was particularly impressed by the kids’ menu and the freshness of the food served to them.  No beige frozen or processed food for the kiddies at Beech Hill.  The chicken tenders were obviously freshly battered in breadcrumbs and the burger would have been acceptable on any adult menu!  The hand-cut chips still had skin and the girls devoured their meals.

I would love to see some crayons and colours for kids next time we visit.  In fairness, we managed over two hours with the girls, with no crayons or books or screens! They were quite happy to sit and chat and eat with us.  Mini-Me loved feeling grown up when her food was served on proper plates, the same as ours.

They were full of stories from the forest and were so suspiciously well behaved that we even ventured into the gorgeous bar for a drink before bed.  Special shout out to Aaron, the lovely barman who really knew his stuff.  He was able to recommend a beer to Himself and proceeded to explain the difference between different types of draft.  When I asked for an Espresso Martini, he asked if I’d like it bitter or sweet and was able to tell me the history of where the instapopular cocktail originated.

My favourite meal as always was breakfast; I get very excited about breakfast!

I love the selection and variety of fruit and cereal and baked treats, but what particularly excites me is when there is a menu and someone brings you a lovely plate of cooked joy!  I am not a fan of having to plate up and serve myself.  Maybe it comes from working as a waitress for many years, but when I am out for any meal, I truly appreciate it being brought to me at the table. This is unusual in hotels nowadays, but a definite tick in my book.

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We had the most relaxed 24 hours.  And to only have to drive a short distance to find such a beautiful escape, means that we will certainly be back.  Beech Hill House is wonderful for a family switch-off.  The TV in the room didn’t get switched on and the girls were so happy exploring the forests and the corridors.

It would also be perfect for a romantic sneakaway or a girly break.  I’m looking forward to visiting again many times and to seeing how the new owners develop and grow this beautiful estate.

 

Mammy and her family were invited to review the hotel.  As always however, Mammy was under no obligation to write anything, maintains her honesty and all views and comments are my own.  

 

Supporting Fellow Writers – Not Just a Princess

My Blogging Buddy Gavin Leonard from Not Just a Princess  blog is launching his Kickstarter campaign to get his gorgeous book series up and running today.

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Gavin wants to spread the message that little girls can be anything they want to be and that they should not be pigeon holed by stereotypes or gender expectations.

 

He says that the idea and “name for this little project of mine came from me continuously insisting that Jade was “Not Just a Princess” despite all of our family and friends telling me that she could be a baby model, or that she was like a little ballerina, or that she was going to break hearts! No one said she was going to win a Nobel Prize, or invent something amazing, or that she could be the President – and when I said she was going to be a Kung Fu Master or a Ninja, these ideas were dismissed out of hand.”

He says “Although I’m not necessarily against the Princess genre, I do think that the stereotype we are unknowingly projecting onto young girls can be very damaging. There might not be hard evidence to back up this feeling but whoever she wants to be, I want my little girl to know I’ve got her back!”

I couldn’t agree more!

And so the Not Just a Princess Books were created.

They are launching at 4pm today!  

And they are beautiful.  My two have been reading them daily since they got them last month.

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Mini-Me and Princess love these books

The large font is clear and appealing to younger readers and means that Mini-Me can read them by herself and she loves reading them to her little sister.  The stories are simple but exciting.  Jade finds herself in all sorts of situations and dilemma, and is helped efficiently by her friends, all of whom have skills required to deal with the problem.

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Read me a story

They particularly love the book where Maria helps. (I’ve told them she’s named after me, I’m joking of course, but Gavin has named the characters after the strong women he knows.)

The illustrations are beautiful; bright and colourful with realistic images of the characters.

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The books are Beautiful 

We love these books in our house and wish Gavin and Jade all the best with the their launch.

Oh!  And I have a set to give away on my Facebook Page so pop over there to be in with a chance of winning.

 

The girls were gifted these books by Gavin, but I was under no obligation to share or support his launch.  I am happy to support these books.

My Book Heroes – Review and Offer

Mini-Me is strong little lady.

She is determined and outspoken and incredibly bossy… but it’s been recently bothering us that her “leadership” skills are tending towards dictatorship.

In fairness, she’s grown up in a house where both parents are usually leading situations.  She sees The Him in charge in the gym, throwing out instructions and routines.  She sees Mammy in rehearsals, either calling out dance routines or directing the cast.  She sees us in charge of events we run and so maybe, our “get up and do it” example to her has been misunderstood.

Of course I want her to be a leader, but leadership has to be earned.  It doesn’t just happen over night.

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So I found this book at just the right time.

My Book Heroes allows you to created personalized story books where the main themes are Leadership, Courage and Determination.  You choose your own avatar for your child and can write your own dedication.

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Their own dedication reads “We hope every child sees the hero in themselves and we promise to bring you beautiful stories that inspire all kids to be the best version of themselves.”

Mini-Me LOVES it.   It goes through a lovely story where the main character has to help others solve problems.  It promotes taking steps to solve problems, inspiring others, communicating clearly and having fun as the key to being a good leader.

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It also shows how all of the characters have very different skills and talents and how their goal will only be achieved, if they all work together.

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Gorgeous messages throughout

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Lovely illustration

It’s nicely written, rhythmic and rhyming; and the illustrations are lovely.  Mini-Me loves having it read to her and she loves that it has herself as the main character.

These are lovely books and are available on their website. It’s easy to use and delivery was quick.  The quality of the book is lovely and it is fast becoming a favourite bedtime story here.

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I am working with My Book Heroes and so have a lovely 10% discount for anyone who orders through this link.

Just use the code SMUM10 at checkout and you’ll receive your discount.

#af

#reading

Giveaway – Babynow Teether Ball

The lovely Dan Connolly from Cork mailed me to see if I would like to review his product.  Now as my girls are past this and because I don’t do the whole “I’ll review if you pay me to craic”, I declined.  So instead he offered to send me 3 sets of these lovely wee teething balls to give away to my followers.

I agreed on the condition that I liked them.  If I didn’t, I’d be returning them.

And guess what, I like them.  I’m a bit sad actually that I hadn’t found them while Princess was in the hellish horrors of the slabbering and screaming a few months ago. And while she could still get some joy from them, at 2 and a half, she’d more likely to throw them, so I’ve kept her hands away from them.

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They’re colourful and the colours are neutral and bright.  The material and glue used are food grade silicone and safe to little mouths.  The jingle of the little bell is lovely and they are a sensory dream.  A beautiful product which would be a wonderful gift for a new parent.

31369352_10160151839550167_1761351695654191104_nNot only have I got some sets to give away, Dan has kindly reduced the price of them on his amazon page for my blog readers this weekend!

Usually retailing at over €40, they are available to you for  £24.95!

 

 

This price is only valid from Friday to Sunday Night , for my followers by clicking here here!

 

This item has been developed by www.babynowbrand.com run by Daniel Connolly from Cork. He is an ecommerce entrepreneur and focuses on selling globally via the amazon.com marketplace.

If you fancy winning a set, hit on my facebook page before 1pm Saturday.

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I am Special Fundraiser Mum

Well what can we say?

Today, we had the most festive few hours with the most wonderful people and raised lots of money for two very worthy charities.  The Jack and Jill Foundation and The Victoria Thompson Scholarship do such incredible work for so many families and children all over the country.  What better cause to do a fundraiser for before Christmas, than Children and their parents?

 

A few months ago, I commented to The Him that it’d be lovely to watch the Polar Express on the big screen again.  “Make it happen then” he said.  So I did.

 

Today, 220 smiling faces watched the Christmas Classic on the Biggest screen in Century Cinemas.

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The queues began to form at the cinema from before 11am, with the excited crowd clutching their golden tickets.

 

Tickets were punched by the Polar Express Conductor, (The Him does have a fun side outside of Jim!) and everyone, EVERYONE, received a little Jingle Bell, just like the bell in the movie, as they entered.  No one has any excuse not to believe now…

 

We thanked everone for coming and for supporting, before presenting a cheque to Sharon Thompson from the Victoria Thomspson Scholarship.

 

(We’re meeting a representative from Jack & Jill next week!) Then we told the girls and boys that the train needed some Christmas magic to get started, and so the crowd sang Jingle Bells before the much awaited feature.

 

And, just as we’d hoped, it was WONDERFUL!  It’s a beautiful movie and the runaway train scene was just as spectacular on the big screen as it was the first time we saw it.  The most magical part for me was when everyone started to jingle their little bells as Santa arrived.  It was AMAZING!

And this evening, I’m smiling from ear to ear at the photographs of families at the event, and of the kids hanging the bells on their trees at home.

Thanks to our followers and friends, we were able to present over €900 to EACH of our chosen charities; The Jack and Jill Foundation and The Victoria Thompson Scholarship.  But tonight, I can happily announce that the final total for each charity is a whopping €1000!  

The event was sponsored by Rushe Fitness and wouldn’t have happened without Anne-Marie, Pete and Mark in Century Cinemas.  Thank you all so much for supporting yet another one of my random ideas.

So that’s that… for now! It might just need to be an annual event apparently, but I’ll get tonight over me before I start planning anything else!

 

We do hope that everyone who joined us today had a wonderful time and once again, thank you to you all.

The S-Mum & The Conductor…