Derry Girls Afternoon Tea at the Everglades.

Last Monday night, I was invited to the Everglades Hotel in Derry to try their recently launched Derry Girls Afternoon Tea packages.

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Michelle joined us for tea!

So myself and Himself grabbed the opportunity to get a few hours alone and moved Granny in to mind the girls.

To celebrate the roaring success of Derry Girls, the Everglades Hotel team has put together a selection of special experiences giving fans of the hit show the chance to become a Derry Girl, dine like a Derry Girl and even visit some of the filming locations.

The afternoon tea is gorgeous. The sandwiches were made from lovely brown bread, (something that I usually have to ask for as most places still insist on serving white bread.)     Egg and onion hit the spot, with chicken caesar wrap bites.  The scones were warm, served with jam and fresh cream, and the treats ranged from lemon bread to little tartlets and mousse sylabubs.

There is SO much food, both hot and cold, and much of it is inspired by episodes of the show.  On top of the usual afternoon tea, there are cream horns, sausage rolls, hand cut chips and an incredibly tasty cocktail, inspired by the episode where Michelle has an accident with Sambuca.

 

The staff were incredibly friendly; chatty and pleasant without being too familiar. The hotel itself beautiful; spacious yet comfortable and decor is a mix of old fashioned class with modern twists.  I loved the mix of teals and golds with mahogony throughout the building.

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The hotel boasts a fantastic selection of dining options including The Grill Bistro which
offers a wonderful mix of traditional dishes with a twist made from the very best of
fresh local produce.

We were stuffed after the afternoon tea, and after having a few glasses of grapes in The Library Bar,  we simply ordered from the bar food menu at around 9pm.

Claire, who served us for the evening, was happy to let us order off either menu and we could have had food from the Bistro menu without leaving the comfy sofas we were perched on!

Our room for the evening was the Andrew Jackson Suite.

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It is GORGEOUS and huge.  Again, modern blues and teals mixed with mahogony and clever lighting, the suite was beautiful.  The bed was possibly the most comfortable bed in the world, it was literally like sleeping on a cloud.

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So much space

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The enormous bed

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Pure Luxury

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next morning, we had breakfast, which is ALWAYS my favourite part of any hotel stay.  It was self service and had everything you’d expect from a hotel breakfast. Lots of options for all tastes and catered for dietary requirements with a separarte section if you are gluten free.

The porridge station had a bottle of Irish Bush Whiskey, something I haven’t seen in a hotel in a long time, and on each table was a booklet of all of the local suppliers who provide the food.

 

There is a deep sense of pride among the staff in this hotel, about their locality and their food suppliers and their menus and decor, to the beaming pride that they have hosted the cast during filming.  They see Derry Girls as another reason to celebrate the beautiful city that neighbours us in Donegal and rightly so.

The duck is a constant motif in the Hastings Hotel Groups, with two little “Walled Citty Ducks” perched on our bath, but the highlight was the Michelle Duck that comes with the tea.

Detail is everything for the team at The Everglades. They certainly have their ducks in a row!

We were invited guests and enjoyed the Afternoon Tea with Bed and Breakfast courtety of the team at the hotel. I am under no obligation to write this review and as always, it is an honet reflection of my experience.  All other meals and drinks were bought by myself.

Check out their website or call them on 0287132 1066.

EXPERIENCE 1:
DERRY GIRLS AFTERNOON TEA – £30pp. Enjoy sandwiches, freshly baked scones &
breads and pastry assortment but with a Derry Girls twist – sausage roll baps, fresh
cream horns, cone of chips and cocktail. You’ll also get your very own Michelle, the
Derry Girls duck to take home with you.

EXPERIENCE 2:
BE A DERRY GIRL from only £80pps – with luxurious overnight accommodation and
breakfast the following morning, themed Derry Girls Afternoon Tea with cocktail and
your very own Michelle, the Derry Girls duck to take home with you.

EXPERIENCE 3:
DERRY GIRLS TOUR PACKAGE from only £95pps – with luxurious overnight
accommodation and breakfast the following morning, guided Derry Girls Walking Tour,
themed Derry Girls Afternoon Tea with cocktail and your very own Michelle, the Derry
Girls duck to take home with you.
The Everglades Hotel has worked with

I am Sunday Fundays in Donegal Mum


Spring

It’s here. Well it’s TRYING to be here.

And now that Mammy and Daddy are done with rehearsals, our weekly Sunday Fundays must commence! Up in the morning, dress for whatever the weather is doing (layers layers layers so it can change its mind 32 times in 4 hours as usual eh?!), into the car and go!

Adventures and fun cost money, and while there are of course hundreds of things you can do with your minions, here are 7 of my favourite things to do right here at home. They range from absolutely free to the not so free but no matter how often we do these things or go to these places, the girls always enjoy them and feel like they’ve been somewhere special.

In no particular order:

Glenveagh – Now those of you who follow my blog, know that Glenveagh National Park is a firm favourite in our little family.  We go there 2 or 3 times a month and myself and The Him love it just as much as the girls do.  It’s only a short drive from Letterkenny, has absolutely NO phone coverage and has THE most stunning landscape in the country.  NOWHERE beats Glenveagh for beauty. The best thing is that entry to the park is absolutely FREE. You can bring a picnic or try some of the insanely good cakes and food in the tearooms there.  We walk the 4k to the castle every and usually take the bus back up as Mini-Me’s legs aren’t quite able for 8K just yet! Bikes are available to hire from Grassroutes in the carpark too and you can get one of the little buggy-trailers for the minions.  The castle grounds are beautiful and while ours are too young to do the full bridal path, there is lots to occupy them (and their imaginations) in the gardens.  (Tell your minions that the gates with the stag heads are the Gates to Santa’s summer house.  Never gets old!)

The Beach – We are so blessed to have so many beautiful beaches on our doorsteps. Lisfannon Beach in Fahan is possibly my favourite place in the world.  It’s not only where I often escape for some sneaky Mam-me time, (seriously, some life changing decisions have been made on this beach), it’s also where I take the girls if we want to have some good old fashioned free fun.  It’s only 15 minutes from my house, but the girls feel like they’ve had such a treat, even if we only stop for a 20 minute run-about.  Over the summer, I keep a blanket and buckets in the car, so if we find ourselves nearby, it’s easy to stop here.  I also keep a bag with a change of clothes and a towel in the boot, just incase it’s warm enough for a paddle.  There’s loads of parking and in the summertime, there’s usually an ice-cream van in the carpark.

Nature Walks – Mini-Me loves these.  We live in the backend of beyond, so in fairness, even a play in the garden can be a learning curve, but if I really want to occupy them for an hour, I plop Princess in the buggy and off we go.  Mini-Me is beginning to recognise some of the tree types (reminding me  of things that I used to know!) and there’s a gate at the end of our farm where I once told her the fairy kingdom begins, so she loves to visit there.  She stands on the side of the road talking to the gate, but in her head, she’s on a serious adventure! Fun fun fun and FREE FREE FREE!

Parks – We love Ballymacool Park.  Just outside the town, it’s peaceful and quiet, even when busy.  It’s easy to park, has lovely trails for walking and beautiful views. The little playpark is wonderful; clean and full of playthings for kids of all ages.  The best thing about this little area is that it’s fully fenced off, and so no matter what direction Princess runs in, she’s safe (and enclosed!).  

Ards Forest Park  –  Simply pay €5 to park and go get lost in the woods before strolling back along the most beautiful beach. The play park is gorgeous, there’s a coffee shop and there’s even a stretch of boardwalk. Very beautiful and lots of scope for stories and imagination in the forest.  The Fairies live there you know.  And the Grufallo comes on holidays sometimes so keep your eyes peeled for footprints. 🙂

Soft Play – Some days, Soft play is the only answer isn’t it? Especially with the summer weather we get here! The most exciting thing about going to soft play, is going to soft play with OTHER minions.  It’s win:win; A catch up for the mums, excitement (and a guaranteed successful bedtime) for the kids.  Arena 7 and Century Play are wonderful and have different features that the kids love, AND they all serve good coffee.  Keep an eye on their pages for deals and rates.

 

Oakfield Park  –  Again, we LOVE Oakfield Park. It’s only 10 minutes from where we live and great for famiy Sunday-fundays, but also for random afternoons over the holidays. There is a charge to get in of course, but what I love about this place is that every year when they reopen, something new and wonderful has been added to the park. They add to the facility constantly.  The new Buffers Tea rooms are lovely, but you can also bring a picnic along with you. We bought the annual pass this year and it’s great value if you use the park often. The park is stunning, so well kept and beautifully presented.  There’s a play park and the Fairy tree is a favourite of Mini-Me’s.  The steam train is a real novelty. 

 

So there you go.  These are just my top 7 go-to days out and activities in and around Letterkenny, all year round. I’m sure you could all add your own to this list.

Here’s to a fun Sunday Fundays and some sort of Springtime weather!

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.

Now!

The Shandon Spa​.

Oh!

      My!

          Word!

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 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.)