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.


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…



I am Sneak Peak of Santa Express Mum

The Santa Express at Oakfield Park was such a treat last year that I was probably one of the first to book for this year when it went on sale.  


You all know how much I love this park, and one of my favourite things about it is that they add to it and improve it every winter.  Well, with the Santa Experience, they’ve done it again. It’s bigger and better than last year.

 We’re not going with the girls until later in the month, but Santa and his elves invited myself and The Him to pop over tonight for their opening night to have a sneak peak!  Oakfield Park has once again been transformed into a magical Winter Wonderland and if you have booked tickets, you are in for a treat.

We didn’t go on the train or meet Santa tonight as we want to save that for when the girls are with us.  We simply had a wander around the artisan market in the Plaza, which is new this year and full of fab stalls by local traders.

The atmosphere is perfect…cozy and excited. Christmas music lilts subtly through the park and the lights are spectacular, all over the park. The piano background music in Buffers is beautiful…very relaxing.

The Elves, like last year, were brilliant.  Lead by the marvellous Mollie Mistletoe, they were energetic, festive and fun. The Elf Workshop is running in the marquee with elves teaching visitors how to be an elf, arts and crafts and storytelling with Mrs Claus.

What can you expect when you get there?

 You shall board the train to go on a journey through the woodland to visit Santa and meet the elves. Keep an eye out along the way for surprises and secrets in the forest such as the elf washing line.

Children will receive a certificate to say they have been on the nice list as well as a small gift, and a mulled wine or hot chocolate for the adults is included in your ticket.

Things to know for your visit:

A photographer will be in Santa’s Grotto to capture the magical moment you meet Santa with prints available to purchase during your visit.  

Wrap up warm.  It was dry and mild tonight, but it was cold! Lots of layers and hats!.


Some of the artisans participating in the market are:

Amelia’s Irish DesignBallyholey Farm ShopBernie Murphy TextilesThe Counter Deli, Hammer & TongsMarina Hamilton Painter and Sculptor, Modern Eire (Printmaker and Designer), Rathlin Knitwear.

We’ve had a lovely date night tonight and are even more excited about coming to visit Santa later in the month now.  I can’t wait to see the wee faces on my two little Rascals.  Oakfield Park has once again created a magical experience for the whole family.

Tonight was the perfect start to our Christmassy weekend.  We have our Polar Express Fundraiser in Century tomorrow and then Sunday will be the Toy Show and decorating the house.  Any notion we had of waiting until next weekend has gone well and truly out the window after tonight.


I am “Searching for a Babysitter?” Mum


As the season of Christmas parties and events approaches, so too arises the question of babysitters.

So many people find it difficult to get a sitter, whether for weddings, parties, or even just to go to a class or an appointment. Finding someone who you can trust to mind your most precious possession in the world is difficult, especially if you live away from family.

Recently, I’ve been following conversations online about Babysitting apps and websites that offer parents the chance to find and meet possible babysitters.   My initial reaction was that such a service isn’t for me.  And it isn’t… simply because I don’t need it to be.

I’m so very lucky to have a great support network around me, largely due to the fact that I built my house in the field next to my Mum and Dad… (Dad drew the line at me building in their garden!)  


However, I know that so many parents aren’t surrounded with eleventy-billion family members and I know that there are plenty Mums and Dads who would gladly use such a service, where it available here in Donegal.


So, when Babysits.ie got in touch to ask if I’d like to review their new website and service here in Letterkenny, I declined politely.

As I said, it’s not for me…but then I remembered what I’m ALWAYS PREACHING…

“just because it’s not for me, doesn’t mean that it’s not for everyone”.

There are lots of parents who could find themselves a great babysitter through this site.  And so I thought I’d simply share the website for you to look at if it IS something that you might avail of.


Here is the map of where they provide the service.



They also have a Facebook community if you’d like to check them out.     Find it here

Parenting is hard.  If something works for you, use it.  If it doesn’t, don’t.

It’s really that simple.



(This is not an endorsement of or an advert for the site.  It’s simply a service that I have become aware of here in Donegal, that parents may be glad to know about.)


I am Stunned by NYC Mum

NYC – The City of Dreams?

The Him and I have had one massive ambition for a long time… to get to NYC.

We tried and failed twice to book it. We’ve spent the last few years saying things like “We’ll go for your 40th” or “We’ll go for whatever…” In May this year a few things happened in the space of a week that made us realise that life was way too short to be putting things off over and over again.

He came home one night and said “See if your Mum will keep the girls. We’re going.” I swear to God Ladies, I had it booked within 24 hours. He was NOT getting a chance to change his mind!

And so off I trotted to a local Travel agent. (They quoted me an extortionate amount of money for basic flights and a very basic hotel. The price didn’t include any extras in flight, any taxes or charges in the hotel or any tickets to sights.)

Eh… no thanks!

A few hours at the laptop and I had the whole trip, with upgraded seats, a gorgeous hotel, AND tickets to ALL the main attractions in the city booked and paid for, for €250 LESS than the agent had been looking for for basic flights and hotel.

We had the time of our lives. It was honestly everything we’d ever expected it to be and more. Do you know when you’ve thought about something for so long, imagining every detail? And then it doesn’t turn out to be what you’d hoped? Yeah, that didn’t happen. From the second we landed in NYC, we were awestruck.

Our trip:

We flew with Air France carried by Delta. We paid extra for Comfort seats, which included extra leg room, priority boarding and free everything on board. It was €103 extra each, but even after adding this, the flights were STILL hundreds of euro cheaper than our “national” airline.

The flight was great. Good movies, decent food and very comfortable. We’ll definitely fly Delta again.

We arrived in JFK. What a cattle mart! We got the train into Penn Station. Landing into the middle of the Pride festival meant that we had quite the welcome to the city! What an AMAZING atmosphere! Because taxis, sorry cabs, weren’t running, we took off walking to our hotel. It was about 15 blocks and despite the heat and trying to drag cases through the festival filled streets, it was a brilliant way to start the visit.

Our hotel was gorgeous. The Time Hotel NY is just off Times Square, right next door to “The Book of Mormon” and “Chicago”.


We were shown to our room and it was very cool; chic and well appointed, with a TV in the Mirror! (Seriously!?) The bottle of chilled bubbles awaiting us was much appreciated and enjoyed!

The hotel was so clean and the staff were incredibly attentive. We were told they could upgrade our room the next day, but we were quite happy with the room we’d been given and didn’t really intend to be in it too much anyway! It was at the back of the hotel and even amidst the noise of NYC, it was quiet, so we stayed put.

A quick change, a pop of the bubbles and off we went to begin our adventure. Our first stop was Times Square

We went straight to the top of the famous red steps and we must have stood there, breathing it all in and just watching and listening for at least an hour. The colours, the sounds, the smells, the sounds… What an experience. I can see why locals hate it, but as a tourist who wants to drink in the magic of the big city, it’s fricken awesome.

One of the best tips we received was to buy the 4 day “hop-on hop-off” Tour Bus Ticket. We did the Brooklyn tour at 7pm. It was brilliant. The tour guides know their city so well and the few we met were funny and engaging.

We saw so much of the city and Brooklyn, and then were treated to the sight of the city lights coming on as we crossed the Brooklyn Bridge at nightfall. This really is a brilliant way to do the tour. It was beautiful.

Next morning, we hit Ellen’s Stardust Diner. for breakfast. We were first in and the waffles are to die for. Our only regret was that it was very early and so quite quiet, so we didn’t get to enjoy the atmosphere that we’d anticipated, but the food was great and wow, the servers can sing!

We hopped on the bus downtown and took the cruise (which was included in our City Pass) out to meet Lady Liberty.

The cruise was amazing and The Statue of Liberty was gorgeous. We hadn’t intended getting off the boat, but are both so glad we did. It’s well worth taking an hour to wander around her. She’s spectacular.

We also visited the 9/11 Memorial


9/11 caught me by surprise. I knew there was a museum, but I had no idea that the water memorial fountains where the two towers had stood, even existed. I got such a gunk when we walked around the corner to this. It’s a special place; sombre, emotional and appropriately solemn. It’s an eerie experience to suddenly experience such quiet amidst the noise of the city. I was so taken aback. The museum itself is incredible. After a while, I couldn’t take any more sadness. We left, full of sympathy for the people who will always be affected by it. It’s a wonderful tribute to the people and heroes who died.

We hadn’t intended to visit the new One World Observatory, but Himself decided that we should go up as we were there. Guys, THIS was possibly my favourite experience of the trip. The elevator up is shockingly fast and the experience at the top is breathtaking. It really is worth going up this building. We had lunch in the restaurant on floor 102, and while it is expensive, it was excellent. And it’s not everyday you can have lunch on top of the world is it? We even had binoculars on the table!

With the glass of wine costing $17, one was enough! Yes, the restaurant is expensive, but it really was worth every penny. Having lunch with The Him overlooking the city we’ve always wanted to visit, was a moment I’ll never forget.

After lunch, we walked across the Brooklyn Bridge, found Wall Street and Trump Tower and Tiffany and Co. before heading back to drink in some more of Time Square.


We went back to the hotel to change for dinner at 7.30pm…and woke up at 6am next morning! The jet lag had hit, but it was actually great as we were full of energy and raring to go for Day 3.

We started off at the Top of the Rock. The The Rockefeller Centre is just class. It’s so beautiful and elegant and the views from the top ARE, without doubt, the best in the city.

We then headed towards Central Park, where we listened to a live string quartet, ate hotdogs and walked and walked! The weather was perfect for the whole trip.

Central Park is beautiful in summer, but I can’t wait to see it at Christmas some time very soon.

I fulfilled my ambition to run like Phoebe from Friends through the park. I did and it was wonderful!

We visited the The Met where we spent a few hours wandering around looking at loads of cool and funky things, before sipping bubbles on the lovely rooftop bar.

Then, we walked across the Park to the Natural History Museum to see the dinosaurs and the whale. Once we’d seen these, and been suitably gobsmacked by their size, we headed back to the hotel.

We got ourselves dressed up and had a cocktail in the very cool hotel bar at The Time, before hitting the famous Buddakan for dinner.

Now, this place had been highly recommended to us. It is so chic and dark and loud and exciting, from the minute you arrive. It’s like the movies. The staff are supergroomed and supermodelly and the atmosphere is electric. Service was excellent to begin and we were impressed. The food was beautiful. (Try the sharing platter to start!) Described as Asian Fusion, the menu was comprehensive and interesting.

We had a hiccup when our sides didn’t arrive along with the main dishes, but after a while, a very apologetic manager tried his very best to make things up to us. He sent champagne and complimentary desserts to the table and really was very kind and pleasant, but the experience had been tainted a little. Having looked forward to this meal so much, and being such lovers of food and fine dining, we left a little disappointed. For the price of the restaurant, and the reviews we had been given, we didn’t expect the service to be so disappointing. But the food was superb and the place is very cool. It’s definitely worth a visit.

Day 4 was our last full day. We started with The Empire State Building. It was everything we expected. Incredible views. Again, hitting it early is advised.

Then we wandered around the streets for a bit. We found the Bluebell Cafe, which is owned by my friend’s sister Shiela. We had a lovely brunch with her. It’s a gorgeous establishment. Find itThen we found Macy’s (I walked in, looked around and left. It’s an inflated department store on a whole new level of chaos; the same as we have at home, but sooooooo loud and soooo busy. Great if you love to shop. Not so excited if you’re like me and have little interest in shopping when on holidays! Still, I’d love to see it at Christmas!)

There was a street food festival just off Times Square. We had lunch there (2 days in a row, that’s how good it was!) and headed towards NY Public Library We had a coffee on the steps before heading to 5th Avenue to meet my cousin for drinks. (I have one in every city!)

We had a few ($5 a glass was much more palatable!) at John Doe’s Bar before heading to the VERY cool 230 5th Avenue. Now, we had no idea where we were going. At 4.10pm, we toddled in and made ourselves comfortable to enjoy Happy hour. We had a few drinks and a bite to eat, enjoying the incredible views of the Empire State beside us.

There was a music video being recorded on the other side of the bar, and as the evening went on, we were surrounded by all the “beautiful ones”. You know those bars you see in the movies where everyone is tanned and fablis and quaffing and perfect? Yeah, that’s where we were; the three of us, sans makeup and in our shorts and teeshirts! But hey! We fitted in just as well hah! As we left at 6.30pm, there was a queue around the block, with at least 250 impeccibly dressed and very glam folks waiting to get in.

We headed once again for the red steps to the TKTS Ticket Booth . At 7.15pm we got two brilliant tickets for Phantom of the Opera. The queues here earlier in the day were savage. We really weren’t fussy about what to see. The new shows are booked up months in advance and tickets are either like gold-dust or ridiculously priced.

Do go see a show. You’re on Broadway for crying out loud! But unless you are determined to see something in particular, just go see what they have available before the theatres open and go with it! Phantom is one of our favourites, so we were delighted to see it again.

We finished off our final full day back at the Empire State Building. When you buy the City Pass Booklet, your ticket for the Empire State admits you back in at night time on the day of your visit. It is stunning at night and was the perfect way to end a perfect day.

Our last day, we headed back down town. The Him took a helicopter ride over the city. I took a wander through the streets, then sat by the river freaking out at the sky bugs taking off and landing, people watching and eating cakes. Heaven!

We wandered back up through the city, before finishing the holiday where we had started; in the hustle and bustle of Times Square.

Our hearts bursting and our heads filled with memories, we headed back to the airport to go home to our little Princesses. The flight home was delayed as there had been a fire at the airport. If we can manage to avoid EVER flying into JFK again, we will. It’s a nightmare. But we got home and all was right with the world.


How did we leave the girls for 5 days? With great guilt and huge trepidation. But was it worth it? To spend 5 whole days with your partner, remembering that you actually do enjoy each other’s company and genuinely like each other, is something that should not be underestimated. We live busy lives, and our worlds revolve around our babies. But in the midst of school and work and routines and dance classes and temperatures and worries and bills and the general chaos that is life with kids, we are still us, and this holiday was a great reminder of that.


NYC was so good to us.

It was exciting and romantic and pretty amazing. The height of the buildings can’t be fathomed until you see them. The skylines. The sounds. The sirens! The smells. The buzz. The excitement. It is electric and exciting and yet, a calm and refreshing place. Around every corner is something new, something exciting and something wonderful.
My tips?

  • Book it yourself. You get so much more bang for your buck.
  • Book the hotel directly. Make sure the price includes taxes and charged and resort fees. Had we booked with the travel agent, we’d have been hit with a bill of over $150 on check out.
  • Buy the City Pass. It includes all of the big sites and attractions.
  • Plan your trip and do the big touristy things first thing in the morning. You don’t have time to be queueing in NYC!
  • Buy the 4 day ticket for the bus. Cabs aren’t expensive if you need to use them, but the buses go everywhere and are a great way to see the city.
  • Fit as much as possible in. Early starts are the way to go. We were up and out and had eaten breakfast by 8.30am each day. You can sleep on the flight home!
  • Plan. My friend had given me a map with the main attractions circled. We simply went to different areas each day and ticked off the things we wanted to do in that area.
  • The city is beautiful. Wander. Have a morning or afternoon where you have no plans and just see where you end up.
  • Finally, DO IT. Stop putting it off. If we’d put it off until next year, or the following year, we’d have found something else that needed done or paid for and made excuses. Go for it. NYC is a must see. And we only saw a fraction of it. I think a thousand trips wouldn’t cover it!

NYC has stolen our hearts. I’m almost afraid that if we were to return, it wouldn’t be as good, but I won’t let that stop me from booking to go back first chance we get… but I have a feeling it might need to be a Christmas trip next time.


FYI All views and comments are my own. No gratuity or collaborations apply.

I am Such a Weekend Mum!


Aw Ladybelles, where do I start?

On Friday 13th, myself and The Him headed to the Big shmoke for the Maternity and Infant Awards 2017.


The Incredibly Beautiful Royal Marine Hotel

I couldn’t believe that my blog had even made it into final. Getting to meet the creme de la créme of Irish Parenting Bloggers was a dream come true for me.

We arrived at the Royal Marine Hotel in Dun Laoghaire just in time to get changed and join in the champagne reception that was in full swing.  The hotel is GORGEOUS.  HImself had booked us a suite as a surprise and I have to tell you Ladies, it was amazing; big and bright with chandaliers and high ceilings and a view of the sea. Romance indeed.

We went downstairs and despite never having met any of the other bloggers, were soon hugging and chatting. Such a friendly bunch.  We really felt welcomed and any nerves I had settled very quickly.

We were ushered into the beautiful ballroom, where we were served a lovely luncheon. We were sitting beside the legend that is The Stented Papa and his lovely wife. On my other side was one of my heroes, Miss Jen Hogan from Mamatude. She’s a Mum of 7 and an all round Supermum who has even published a real, actual BOOK! I may or may not have been slightly starstruck by her! But what a cracker of a Lady she is. The amazing Jolene from One Yummy Mummy kept us giggling all evening and with the lovely Becky from Cuddle Fairy beside her, the laughs were many.  Add Kellie from My Little Babog, Cliodhna from Lean Mean Momma and the lovely Sinead from Bumbles of Rice and we were in great company altogether.


The awards were so well organised. (You all know how well organised things make Me happy!) Between courses, the lovely Maura Derrane from TV3 kept proceedings going, announcing awards and conducting interviews. Very impressive.

The wine was flowing and the craic was mighty.  And then it was time for the Best Parenting Blog Award.

No award for The S-Mum this Time, but lots of joy.

Well done to the amazing Jolene from One Yummy Mummy who deservedly won Best Parenting Blogger.

Huge congrats too to the lovely My Little Bábóg Blog and Leanmeanmomma who got Silver & Bronze respectively.

I was quite emotional listening to the stories of the winners of the People Awards. So many incredible stories and amazing people. Well done to all of the winners.

With the ceremony over, we all retired into the rather fablis bar where the wine, gin and general fun continued for a few hours.  Not used to the art of daytime drinking, myself and The Him grabbed barfood at about 8.30pm and hit the massive leaba in our suite.  This was easily the most comfortable bed I have EVER slept in.

We had to hightail it back to Letterkenny at 9am on Saturday as I was hosting a charity event with my buddy Joanne.


Hosting the Donegal Youth ServiceAfternoon Tea with Joanne Gallinagh of Beaus and Belles

But we did manage to grab breakfast first. I do love me a good hotel breakfast, so I do!

We’ll definitely be back in the Royal Marine, but next time we will make sure we have time to sleep in and enjoy the area for a bit.

As for the awards?  We were treated like Royalty, and spoiled with food, drinks and goodie bags. I honestly hope we get a chance to attend them again.

Gals. I’m just delighted to have made the top 10. 😙😙 To be placed among the ten best bloggers in the country was such an honour. And as well as making memories, I’ve also made friends.


With the  Finalists

Thank you. YOU LOT got me there; Your support, your votes, your messages. And I’m so very grateful.
And as always thank you to my Mammy Squad and especially to my Him… 😍😍😍

Oh and of course to the two little ladies who provide me with SO much subject matter! 🙂



I am So we went to Specsavers Mum

Evening Ladybelles.
Nothing overly entertaining or funniful tonight, but I do want to share a quick post about Mini-Me’s first trip to the opticians with you.

So last May, her school flagged that she might have a vision porblem and would be refered for further testing. Over the summer, I noticed all the wee signs that I remember showing myself when my eyes went fuzzy when I was 6; she was squinting more and more frequently and moving closer and closer to the telly.

So with her going back to school, we decided to go ahead and take her to Specsavers to get checked out.

(Why did I not wait? Well, interesting story…The fact that I was refered to the HSE for orthodontic treatment for a mouth akin to a saber-toothed vampire 28 years ago and am STILL waiting on treatment might ecplain my lack of faith in the system. 😂The last communication I got from them was in 1995 asking for a voluntary donation to move me up the list. They’re still waiting for the donation and I’m still waiting for the treatment. What a surprise they’d get if they saw my mouth now! One visit to the dentist when I started Universiry in Coleraine and I had traintracks on within 48 hours. For FREE. 😆

Anyway, we decided to go to the Specsavers in Letterkenny. I’ve been hauling my nearly-blind butt in there every year FOREVER, and I can only say that they are AMAZING.

Bringing Mini-Me was emotional for me. I knew in my heart before we arrived that she needed glasses, and while there is NOTHING wrong with this, having worn glasses myself for my whole childhood, it makes me sad that she needs them. Granted, the cute and fashionable styes available now are NOTHING like the Deirdre Barlowesque Jam jars that I wore! 👓🤓

From the second we arrived, the staff were brilliant with her. She was seen by John who had the patience of a Saint. He was so thorough and so kind to her and even managed to put drops into BOTH eyes. (I can barely get a plaster on her knee.😂) Then we met Hazel who was just wonderful, chatting away to her and putting her at ease. We were helped to chose frames by Ingrida who was so professional and honest, telling us in no uncertain terms what shape and style she needed and why. We were fitted and helped more by Kirsty, who had Mini-Me eating out of her hand and quickly picked up on what I was trying to steer her away from. (Master manipulator. Very impressed!😍)

We chose a lovely wee pair of Frozen glasses and collected them…wait for it… 3 hours later! (My own will take a week as they need to be stepped on by pixies, danced upone by leprachauns and sliced with unicorn thread to get them to fit the frames, unless I want to walk around with frames 5 inches thick! 😛😂😛😂)

And so off she trotted to school today with her wee glasses. The test cost €30, which for this anxious Mammy was worth every penny. I have always hoped the girls would get The Him’s eyesight. Turns out, Mini-Me is more “Mini Me” than I thought.

I can’t recommend Specsavers highly enough. Over the years, their services have been improving and becoming more and more thorough and impressive. I’m sure there are many wonderful opticians in town, but I just wanted to share this with any Mammy who is worried about their minions and wondering where to take them.

And thank you to John and the team in Specsavers on the Port Road. You’ve made what was a pretty crap thing for me to have to do, into some lovely memories.

#specsavers #milestones

I am showing what I like Mum

Right Ladybelles.

You know I don’t DO the whole “Wow, look what X have sent me so I can tell you how amazeballs it is” melarky, but when I find or buy something that genuinely makes my Mammying easier, I must show you.

I bought these for Mini-Me starting school last year and then when Princess started childcare. Guys, these stickers are BRILLIANT. They survive dishwashers, washing machines and children in general!

I was so impressed, I bought MYSELF some for going back to school. 😁My whole classroom shall be labeled! 😂😂

I MIGHT actually consider THINKING about going to buy the uniforms etc now that I have these badboys to start sticking onto stuff… on Friday! I’ll do it on Friday! 😣

Anyone else use them? Or do you have any other BTS hacks for the Mammies this morning? 😘😘😘

#mynametags #notareview #genuinepraise 😂

http://www.mynametags.com @MyNametags

I am sipping bubbles in the bubbles Mum-Review of The Shandon Hotel & Spa, Donegal

​Shandon Hotel and Spa, Dunfanaghy, Co. Donegal.

The Him decided to finally whisk me off for a romantic break in The Shandon Hotel and Spa.

Since it reopened in March 2016, we’ve heard only gushing reports about it so have been very much looking forward to visiting ourselves.

We’re a fussy pair you know? When we do get a little time away on our own, we like exciting food, comfortable and clean surroundings and a little bit of luxury.  The Shandon gave us all this and more.

First Impressions:

Check-in was efficient and quick and friendly.  The foyer is beautiful; very tastefully decorated and perfect for relaxing with a paper or simply enjoying the amazing views of Sheephaven Bay.

Because we visited at Christmas, it had the added sparkle and romance of the Christmas trees and seasonal decorations; beautiful.

Our room was on the third floor. It was large, spacious and ever so clean. The bathroom was small but cleverly appointed, making excellent use of the space. Again, pristine cleanliness. (I love clean…did I mention that?) The window was massive, and like every room in the hotel, overlooked the bay and offered stunning views of the area.

Tea/coffee and shortbread, a safe and all the usual. The only thing I missed were robes, but no biggy.

​ (Our only issue on arrival was that when we got to the third floor, it became clear that there was major work/renovation being carried out upstairs. The noise was deafening. We checked with reception who immediately apologised and assured us that the workmen would be finished shortly and wouldn’t be starting until 10am the next morning. We were happy enough with this, but had we not been booked into the spa at 10am and had we been anticipating a lazy morning until Check out, I would not have been impressed. A small issue for us, but it might have beena disappointment for others, and perhaps we might have been made aware on booking that renovations are underway at certain times.)

But first impressions were good and we instantly relaxed, knowing that we were in for a perfect “switch off”.

Feed me Now!

The hotel bar is comfortable and cozy and has a full wall of window.

It seems that no matter where you go in the building, you are able to see the famous view. It’s wonderful. We enjoyed lunch in the bar and were treated to good conversation and excellent G&T by the lovely Gary.

There was absolutely no problem when I asked for a variation to the Gin menu. He was more than happy to accommodate Little Miss Fussy Knickers here.😂 After lunch, I ordered a glass of wine. I wanted a glass of Malbec, but it only came by the bottle. Gary suggested that he could open the bottle and have it in the restaurant for us for our dinner booking. This is the first time that I have ever been offered this in a busy hotel. We were hugely impressed, and true to his word, the bottle was in the restaurant for us when we arrived that night.

Lunch was superb. The menu is impressive and the wine list and gin menus are extensive. If you visit, you MUST try the Salt and Chilli Prawns. They were HUGE, perfectly cooked and subtly flavoured. The only other place I have had prawns that good, was in a seaside restaurant in Portugal. They were so good that I ordered them again for lunch the next day. The Him had Salmon which was also superb. (The Steak burger he had for lunch the following day was incredible too.) We figured that if lunch was this good, then we were in for a treat at dinner.

We figured right.

The service was perfect. The food was divine. I had a duck confit to start and Seabass (with more of those prawns!) for my main, followed by a Cheese board to match any I’ve had before. The Him had a Crab starter (yum!), a perfectly cooked steak and a lemon tart to finish. There was a sorbet between courses and the Guinness Bread to start was gorgeous.

(I don’t have pics of the dinner as we left the phones in the safe for the evening…imagine!? 😂💖)

The next morning.

Breakfast was excellent; your typical hotel breakfast, but again the standard was high, with lots of little touches like “Shandon Detox water” with lemon and cucumber and homemade smoothies. Very good.


The Shandon Spa​.




We had hoped to visit this on arrival, but it was fully booked. (Check with the spa for availability as early as possible to avoid disappointment.) In hindsight, it was a much better way to do it anyway as rather than have breakfast and head home, we felt like we had a second day away! We checked out after breakfast, threw the bags in the car and were in the spa as it opened at 10am. Again, it was superb; the Reception, the staff, the changing rooms (soooo clean! 😅) and atmosphere was  quiet, relaxing and gentle.

​ We were first into the Thermal Suite that morning.

Ladybelles, it is THE nicest spa I have been to in Ireland.

It is bright and spacious with a spectacular glass wall, again overlooking the bay. Jacuzzi, pressure/massage showers, tropical showers, a herb infused sauna and a little room filled with essential oil steam are only a few of the facilities. It is first class.

Sipping bubbles in the bubbles!

We spent an hour in the Thermal Suite and then headed out to the famous Hot Tub on the balcony. You know when you anticipate something for so long that it ends up a disappointment?

​ Yeah, well that did NOT happen.

We were brought two glasses of chilled prosecco and spent 20 glorious minutes sipping bubbles in the bubbles! It was baltic that morning; cars were frozen in the carpark; my wet hair was frozen by the time we got out; but we were toasty warm and afterwards, you can warm up on the heated marble loungers inside. The tub is magical. It is EVERYTHING I hoped it would be and EVERYONE needs to experience it.

We were then taken off for our treatments. The Him had booked the Spa Sensation Package so we were getting Full Body massages. My therapist was Rita and she was brilliant. The relaxation room offered fruit and water and more views of the bay. We stayed there for about 15 minutes before returning to the changing rooms. Afterwards, you can chill with a selection of teas and coffee in yet another room with sea views beside reception. There are also soft drinks, wine and prosecco available for purchase. What I loved most about this was the lack of rush.

So many other spas tend to want you to leave ASAP after your treatment. “When you’re ready” generally carries the subtext of “Hurry along now!”, but not in The Shandon. We could have sat there drinking tea and enjoying the view (yes again!) for as long as we liked. It really was the most relaxing few hours and I have it on good authority that The Him loved it every bit as much as I did.

Overall, The Shandon Hotel and Spa really is a jewel in the Wild Atlantic Way. It is beautifully appointed, well run and the food and service are equal to any we have enjoyed in any 5 star hotel, both at home and abroad. The spa is exceptional and the setting is perfect. And for us, the fact that it is only a 30 minute drive from home meant that we could escape for 24 hours and still be home quickly to the girls. 💖💖

We returned home completely relaxed and rejuvenated and ready to start the hectic New Year. For some quality time as a couple, it is the perfect location. We only wish we had been able to go over earlier on the first day so we might have gone for a walk on the gorgeous beach and had a look at the leisure centre and pool…

Next time!

We can’t wait to visit again, and might just have to make it an annual anniversary trip. (But I’m already planning a night with my Girls in February, because as romantic as it is, it would also be the perfect spot for a girly catch up, gossip and giggles and some first class pampering. Sssssh! I won’t tell Him just yet! 😂💙)

Congratulations to the Shandon team on creating a magical hideaway, right on our doorstep.

If you’d like more information, here’s their website. http://shandonhotelspa.com

And find me on Bookface @the.s.mum for polite and shy daily musings about motherhood… 😂

The Shandon Hotel and Spa gets a Super 💋💋💋💋💋from The S-Mum!

 Please note: I write this review simply because I feel like it and because the hotel deserves it.  We paid for our stay in full and I have no ulterior reason for my gushing, other than having had a wonderful time.

I am Sunday Fun In W5 Belfast Mum. (Review)

Yesterday was the last Sunday of the summer holidays (and indeed of my maternity leave 😣), so we decided to take a spin to Belfast to check out W5.

Mini-Me is Dinosaur Crazy and I’d seen on their website that they had a Dinosaur themed exhibition. So off we went.


On a Sunday it opens at 12pm.

We arrived at the Odyssey at around 12.20pm and parked close to the door. There were huge bouncy castles and slides in the foyer. Mini-Me wanted to go on the inflatable slide. It was £2 for 5 slides.  She did it once then freaked out that it was “too SCAWY!” and the guy supervising it handed the Him back the money, which was unexpected but very kind. So good start!

There was no queue for W5, the staff were friendly and helpful and £32 later, we entered. (In fairness, we are now 3 adults and 2 kids. Our Bloke is 18 on Friday so gone are the days of a family pass into ANYWHERE!😅)

Immediately, the kids are entertained. Smoke signals, hot air balloons, lava lamps, interactive screens… it’s interesting from the first room.

The first floor had a brilliant exhibition of sciency stuff.  What was most surprising to me, was how entertaining it all was, even to the adults.  It’s one of those places that really does cater for ALL AGES. Mini-Me and our Bloke were equally intrigued by some of the stands! 👇👇👇

We did lots of tests and of course, with S-Mum and The Him involved, it got competitive! 😂Balance test, grip test, heart rate, strength etc. And we both lost YEARS on the “What’s your real age?” test! 😂

The Costa dock on the 2nd floor was clean and the young man was efficient and very polite. The climbing pod for kids there is AMAZING! Seriously, EVERY coffee shop should have one of these!

There is a brilliant play area for under 8’s with water features, interactive boards and floors, a huge train track, dolls’ house, doctor’s area, play shop and pretend cafe.  Waterproof aprons are available to allow kids to really get their hands stuck into the water feature. Oh, and the toilets in this section are kiddy sized!

Up on the next floor is the Dinosaur exhibition. The Interactive Screen was FABLIS! Not just for kids…we ALL got in on the action here!

I did expect a few more models of dinosaurs to be honest, but the two displays there were impressive. There were loads more games and features on this floor too, again, interesting to everyone.

Oh! And the views of Belfast from up there are beautiful.

The venue is clean, well laid out and there are lifts to each floor so it’s accessible to all. Bathrooms and Baby change areas were well sign-posted snd clean. Staff were very helpful and although it was quite busy by the time we were ready to leave, it’s a very safe and family friendly place.

Our ticket was valid until 6pm so if we had wanted to go out to one of the restaurants in the Odyssey, we could have come back in.

We left after 3 hours, but really could have spent another 2 easily. (We realised how close we were to the Disney Shop and so HAD to pop in to the City Centre!)😅

So overall, we were impressed.  I think Mini-Me will enjoy it even more as she gets older.  For Princess, there wasn’t much apart from the Under 8 area, but she IS only 9 months old! She was more than entertained looking around her and listening to the sounds.

When we left at 3.15pm, there was a queue of approximately 70 people outside, so it is definitely somewhere to go early.

We enjoyed it.  The kids enjoyed it. We were suitably impressed and we shall indeed be back.

Follow me on Facebook @secretsofsmum @bumpandbeyondNW

Also on Instagram @the.s.mum

#SMum #Belfast #W5

I am Summertime-Family-Fun at Castleknock Hotel.

Last week, The Him and I took Mini-Me and Princess to Castleknock Hotel and Country Club for a 3 night Staycation.  Situated on Porterstown Road, Castleknock, this hotel is perfectly located for exploring Dublin.

We booked the Family Fun Package, which included a family room, Breakfast, tickets to Tayto Park and the Zoo, a dinner and a packed lunch.

When we arrived, we were checked in by a truly lovely young man.  Stephen was his name as far as I remember. He was friendly and efficient. When we arrived in the room allocated to us however, we weren’t overly impressed.  It was at the far end of the hotel, looking out at the hotel bins.  My 4 year old’s first words about the room were “Look at the man working at the bins Mammy.” There was a single bed and a double bed, but no cot and there wasn’t enough room to fit one in.

I rang reception and asked for a different room.  Again, he was very friendly and said he would look into it.  I went back to reception after ten minutes where Stephen was working on trying to find us alternative room for the three nights.  He eventually moved us to a new room, which was a bit bigger and so the cot fit in and we still had room to move about.  This room was overlooking the carpark and above a flat roof, but was much better than the first.

The hotel is clean and the public lobby, bar and reception are spacious and comfortable.  (Gorgeous air freshener in the huge lobby!)  The outside patio area is beautiful and a playpark was very well received by Mini-Me each evening. One lovely touch was the table of blankets, suncream and sunglasses at the door to the outside area.  Very simple, but very thoughtful.

The gym is basic but functional and the pool area is beautiful. There are two pools suitable for young children.  They were a perfect temperature and open to children from 9am until 6pm each day. (I should say that this suited us with very young children, but had our kids been a bit older, or teenagers indeed, we would not have been impressed that they couldn’t avail of the pool after 6pm.)

A family changing room would be helpful in the leisure area also.  Yes, there is a baby changing room and changing tables near the entrance to the pool, but for a young family, a communal room where both parents can help the children dress would have been wonderful. (A suggestion rather than a criticism.)

Breakfast each morning was perfect.  Porridge, fruit, pastries, cheeses, smoked salmon and a hot buffet.  The toasting machine needs replaced asap however…infuriatingly slow and took three attempts to warm the bread before eventually burning it!  The staff were very accommodating each morning.  On the third morning, Trish had seen us coming down the stairs and by the time we got to the restaurant, had reset the table closest to the buffet, set up the highchair and had even left extra teaspoons on the table for feeding the baby.  This was a simple act, but again, made us feel welcome and looked after.

We had barfood on the first 2 nights.  It was tasty, with a varied menu and satisfying portions.  Again, staff were efficient and friendly, taking time to talk to Mini-Me.  On our final night, we used the included dinner in the very elegant restaurant.  Decor in this area is stunning; elegant, tasteful and classy.  Our server Christina was superb from beginning to end and the food was exellent.

Had the Him and I been in this beautiful restaurant on our own, we would have enjoyed it much more to be honest.  It was difficult to enjoy this meal to its full potential with a tired baby and a 4 year old who thought we were at a ball in her honour!  We were terrified she would break or spill something. We both agreed that a barfood voucher included in the package would have been much more beneficial in the family package.

The hotel is very close to the zoo; it’s only a 5 minute drive to Phoenix Park.  It’s also close to Tayto Park and the City Centre so it is ideal for a family adventure in the Capital.

Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed our break. We have stayed in Family rooms in other hotels which had a small hall or reception area which allowed for us to watch a movie or even have a drink after the girls went to bed, but the fact that they go to bed early isn’t really the hotel’s fault is it!?  It is however something that we would consider if booking again.  Perhaps adjoining rooms or a suite would be worth paying the extra for.

The Castleknock Hotel was very pleasant and perfectly located, the grounds and golf course were lovely, the food was excellent and the staff were friendly.  We left with a tasty packed lunch to spend the day at the zoo and they even put down the red carpet for Mini-Me! (Obviously it was for her and not for the beautiful Bride that day. 😂)

We will be back, (but maybe we’ll try one of the couple’s packages next time!)

I am Summertime-Family-Fun Mum

Follow me on Facebook  @secretsofsmum, or instagram @the.s.mum and on twitter.
Contact me on secretsofsmum16@gmail.com

(Please note: S-Mum received No Renumeration for reviewing this hotel.  I do so simply to help other parents to decide if such a family break would suit them.  These simply are our experiences.)