I am So I’ve found my Marbles Mum

Marbles…

Just when I thought I was in danger of losing my last few, Himself whisked me off to the lovely Shandon Hotel & Spa in Dunfanaghy. We didn’t bother with the spa this time, just focused on some R&R… and finally got to try out their new restaurant, Marbles.

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I’ll keep this short and sweet.

It is Fablis.

Located upstairs from the bar, the restaurant is a lovely size. Tastefully decorated in silver and purple hues, it is fresh and comfortable. We gave our room number and were greeted by name. Simple but classy. And little touches like Cole & Mason table accessories and a traditional and classy cutlery setting let us know that this was a cut above before we’d even seen the menu.

The Menu is extensive without being overwhelming. A lovely variety of starters with all allergens and required info available. There is a choice of every meat for main which is something I find becoming rare in good restaurants.

We ordered a bottle of still water and a bottle of wine. Natalia was our server and when I asked for number 18, she instantly replied “The Malbec.” This is the kind of thing that makes Mammy happy. Having worked in restaurants for years, I always appreciate when staff not only do their job well, but show that they take it seriously. Instantly impressed.

We were offered the Shandon’s famous “Guinness Bread” and then served little prawn bites as Chef’s Amuse Bouche while we waited for our starters.

I opted for Pork Belly. Beautifully presented and perfectly cooked. I love the warmed grapes and puree on the plate. All flavours complimented. He had the fishcake and was equally impressed.

Then they served us a little passion fruit sorbet which was gorgeous.

I had the duck for my main course. It was very tasty and served with a little tarte tatin on top. Himself had the slow cooked beef which melted in the mouth. Sides were veg and creamed potatoes and the portions were plenty.

We asked if we could wait a while before ordering dessert and there was no problem at all. Is there anything worse than feeling rushed along in a restaurant? We weren’t at a window seat for our meal, but when one beside us became free, there was no issue in moving to it to enjoy the sunset. The pinks and purples inside suddenly made sense. The sky was the exact same colour and the whole effect was beautiful.

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My dress matched the decor perfectly!

The dessert menu posed a huge problem for me. I love a good cheese board when I’m eating out, and am rarely tempted by a sweet, but this menu was to die for. There is a trio of Creme Brulee which looked amazing. And yet, I always have cheese. Torn. Torn I tell you!

I stuck with the cheese and it was gorgeous. My one (and only) tiny criticism was that I asked for no nuts on the cheese board. (Sometimes walnuts etc are sprinkled on the plate.) The cheese board arrived, looking fab and with all of my favourites on it, but without crackers. The crackers served see, are homemade and have hazelnuts through them, and quite rightly, the chef couldn’t serve them to me.

Now, my intolerence is specific to coconut and almond, so I was able to have some sent out and I simply removed the hazelnuts. But I would suggest that even having some water biscuits or plain crackers on standby would be a clever move which would allow Nutty ones like myself to enjoy the cheese. The cheeseboard however was divine and I ate every bite of it (yes all by myself!). I shall be back for those Brulee!

Himself had the lemon tart, which I have on good authority was lovely. (Him doesn’t share desserts!) We then moved out to the adjoining bar to finish our drinks and relax some more.

The menu is simply priced at €40 per head. I LOVE THIS. Especially if out in a large group. No nit-picking at the splitting of the bill. It was worth every penny and I can’t wait to return.

Mammy gives Marbles a deserved 5 stars.

It books up quite quickly Ladybelles, so if you plan to visit over the summer months, it might do no harm to book in advance.

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(As always, my review is honest and true. We were paying guests in the Shandon and in Marbles and I am under no obligation to post this piece.)

I am Stunning Hotel Right on our Doorstep Mum – Roe Park Resort

Last weekend, we visited the Roe Park Resort in nearby Limavady in Northern Ireland. We were invited to stay overnight to relax and enjoy some family time…and relax and enjoy we did.

Limavady is only a 35 minute drive from Donegal and Roe Park is easily found. The driveway up to the resort is stunning. Long and lined with trees, it winds up through part of their golf course as it approaches the main building.

There’s lots of parking and the hotel is immediately impressive. The main courtyard is beautiful, well kept (and well lit at night), flanked by the two onsite restaurants and golf centre. Signpost ensure that the hotel reception is easily found. The receptionists were friendly and efficient and more than lovely to our two girls.

The hotel is clean and shiny and welcoming. The foyer is huge and tastefully decorated. I loved the decor in the O’ Cahan’s Bar, which had myths and legends scripted in beautiful font. Chandeliers and interesting wall decor (images, photographs etc) created a perfect balance of glamour and comfort. This is one of the parts of the hotel I would enjoy spending time in when we visit again (without the little ladies!).

We checked in to our family suite. Room 9 was, in a word, HUGE. This is the BIGGEST family room we have ever stayed in. (and trust me, we’ve tried many!) It was warm, clean and so well appointed. two single beds and a huge double bed, a large TV and a massive bathroom.

The room also had a small toilet room which Mini-Me claimed as “My very own toilet!”. A clever and welcome feature in a family room.

Although it was on the ground floor, the curtains allowed privacy throughout our stay. The room looked onto the golfcourse and driveway up to the hotel and so it was quite private anyway. There was a dinner dance in the hotel that night and yet we would never have known. The rooms are well situated for families.

The shower was fab and there were plenty towels, facecloths and toiletries. Mammy and Daddy had robes and slippers left on the bed too. (I do love me a fluffy robe. A hotel is not a hotel, without a fluffy robe!)

We were incredibly impressed by the little welcome gifts the management had left for us; a plate of strawberries, raspberries and chocolates, little toiletries for the girls, 4 x swimming hats (which I ALWAYS forget!) and bubbles for all of us! Four champagne flutes with a bottle of very lovely champers for us and a bottle of chilled Shloer for the girls.

Oh how grown up Mini-Me felt when Daddy poured for us to do a wee Cheers. Lovely touch.

After the girls had danced around the room and rearranged the furniture, we got ready to visit the pool in the Health Club. I’m a bad Mammy you know. Swimming is not something that makes it onto my To-Do list, I’m afraid. And so how excited the girls were about going swimming. The leisure centre is beautiful; large, clean and luxurious.

The pool is lovely, with separate Jacuzzi and kids pool. There is also a section of the main pool which has bubbles if you want them. Princess LOVED this.

Daddy and I took it in turns to try out the Steam Room and Sauna. The steam room is THE BEST we have EVER been in. It was like walking into a tub of Vicks Menthol! Wow!

The spa looks beautiful and it is award winning. Another thing for Mammy to look forward to on our next visit.

The changing rooms are well stocked and have lovely little stools in front of the mirrors with hairdryers. There was a little trouble with the lockers but I found one that worked and as we were leaving, the receptionist was on the ball informing maintenance of the issue, so I doubt it was an issue for very long in fairness. As with reception, the spa staff were lovely; very helpful and attentive to the girls.

We were booked in to The Coach House Brasserie for dinner at 5.30pm. Having spent a little too long in the pool, we rang to ask if we could change our booking until 6pm. No bother whatsoever. Dinner was fab. Roe Park’s website tells you that the “Brasserie provides a more casual alternative to the fine dining experience of Greens Restaurant.” Well, if the exuberant and busy atmosphere is more relaxed, the food is certainly more than fine! It was delicious.

Service was super. Staff were attentive (and patient with my little FussyBoots!). The wine list is extensive and well priced. The Menu caters for everyone and the atmosphere was perfect. I love when I can see into a kitchen and hear the Chefs. Having worked in hospitality for years, it reaffirms my belief that a good kitchen has nothing to hide. The energy coming from that Hatch was brilliant and Mini-Me was in awe watching the kitchen staff working.

My starter was garlic mushroom. The Him opted for the Carrot and Coriander soup.

His main was the Cock & Bull. Mine was the Hake on couscous… yum. The fish was so fresh. The Salt and Chilli fries are worth trying if you like a little spice. We opted for Entreflores wine. It was excellent.

The kids’ menu was extensive too and there was no problem when we asked them to bring bread for them and to bring their food as soon as it was ready. Their desserts were just class. Little sundaes of Icecream, smarties and chocolate sauce. Mini-Me ordered a “Big one”. One wink at the waitress and she was talking Mammy’s language. Two small sundaes arrived with one little scoop extra on hers to make her feel bigger!

But MY dessert ticked all the boxes. I went for the Cheese Board. Oh my Word! It was AMAZING. I’ll let the picture speak for itself. And yes, I did indeed eat it ALL.

All by myself!

Back to the room we went. The two Dollies were shattered but of course when we got back, there was a second lease of life. We tried our usual trick of putting them to bed and hiding in the bathroom for 5 minutes but Princess was having none of it. Eventually, we climbed into bed with them until they slept…and then we all woke up ten hours later! Heavy blackout curtains ensured a sleep in until 8am (yay!). Heaven!

Daddy popped over to the gym for an hour while I sipped coffee in bed and the girls watched telly. (Mini-Me made the beds. I can’t get her to do this at home, but at Roe Park? Not a bother!)

The Him described the gym as “one of the better hotel gyms and well stocked”. This I can tell you is a compliment.

We went down for breakfast, this time to Green’s. Again, a busy and efficient restaurant set up with friendly staff and an excellent variety of EVERYTHING we love about hotel breakfasts. I loved that the tables had little booklets of suppliers and all produce was local. Fresh fruit, good coffee, breads and toast and muffins and cheese and cereals and porridge and an extensive hot food section… I could go on but you get the picture.

We packed up our mahoosive room and checked out with the ever so lovely and friendly Deirdre.

After a busy January and having had a lot going on, we didn’t quite realise how much we needed this little bit of family time until we got to Roe Park. Sometimes, the only way to relax and switch off is to actually go somewhere. With all the best of intentions, a quiet weekend at home is never that is it? No.

We certainly switched off here. When you visit Roe Park, the only option is to spend time together and focus on each other. It’s quiet and comfortable, but also has wifi and good entertainment options on the TVs in the rooms. Had we stayed for 2 nights, Mammy and Daddy would have taken it in turns to make use of the Spa. Daddy probably would have tried a round of golf too. But for an overnight break, it was perfect.

And Limavady really is the perfect springboard from which to explore the Causeway Coast. We left Roe Park and headed towards nearby Portstewart, Portrush and the Giant’s Causeway. It really was a lovely weekend.

Criticisms?

Honestly, if I had any, I would write them. That’s how I am. Other than there being no milk on the breakfast tables, I have nothing to suggest at all. (And that is me being pedantic! There was plenty of milk, I was just lazy!)

The hotel is ideal for a family getaway. It’s soooooo close to Donegal so no long car journey which is always a winner with kids.

Our youngest is still quite young and so when we do stay in a hotel, it tends to be an early night for everyone, but considering the pace of the life we lead, it’s more than welcome. If you are looking for a break close to home with something to offer for all ages, Roe Park is perfect.

Myself and The Him will certainly be returning very soon without the kids. There’s a bar and a spa and another Award Winning restaurant waiting for us to try.

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Thank you to the management and staff at Roe Park for a wonderful weekend in a beautiful hotel, right on our doorsteps.

The S-Mum xx

(The S-Mum, The Him and The two Dollies were invited guests of Roe Park Resort. However all opinions and observations are my own, and are as ever honest and based on our experiences.)

Keep an eye on the hotel’s platforms for offers and events:

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.  

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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 Sportswear Mum

I always KNEW that Michael-of-the-Murphy would propose to me one day…

Well, it wasn’t as much a “proposal” as a proposition…

OK, HE didn’t call me himself, but one of his people did so it’s kind of the same thing no?

And it was more of an invitation than a proposal, but hey!  Perspective eh?

              Michael Murphy Sports and Leisure at Station Roundabout, Letterkenny

The lovely people at Michael Murphy Sports and Leisure in Letterkenny saw my post on Instagram about how my gym gear isn’t quite “cutting the mustard” or “hiding the hiney” when this Mammy drops it like it’s “squat”.  They invited me to come in and try on some of their Ladieswear in the store.  I’m already a customer so I agreed to pop in on Saturday morning.

Now, I have always bought my trainers here, but I must admit that I often sauntered straight to the footwear section, not quite paying attention to the training gear. I got quite the shock when I saw the full wall of Elle Sportswear. And when Laura began to show much how much of the store is actually dedicated to female clothing, I was impressed.

They even have it displayed with your needs in mind; so gym gear is on one wall, running wear on another, with leisure wear and hoodies beside these. Everything is positioned according to colours and brands, making mix and match very easy.

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“What are you looking for?” Laura asks me.

I tell her I need bottoms that won’t stretch to see-through in the gym. Whatever about The Him seeing that view, my gym buddies do NOT need to. (Note to everyone. Leggings in the gym do NOT work.)

I am also looking for some nice leisurewear that will be comfortable but still dressy.  You all know that I live in my trackies at the weekend. I wanted something that will look good in the gym or out and about, but also if we decide to go for lunch on a “Sunday Funday”.

She asked me my size in shoes and clothes and off she popped. 5 minutes later, the changing room is full of matching outfits. There’s even room for a buggy in the changing room Mammies, so you can easily try on a few bits with Michael of the Murphy keeping an eye on your minions. 🙂

 

I loved ALL of the gear. I don’t usually go for patterns, but was pleasantly surprised at these.

I came away with the very sassiful and sexiful ELLE top and bottoms and a gorgeous pair of PUMA runners, which I test drove in Glenveagh on Sunday.  The outfit was cozy and comfy and the shoes surprised me. (I wouldn’t have usually gone for that style, but I love them. I’ll be bringing them with me to traipse around London on school tour next weekend.)

I went BACK for the blue outfit during the week and am waiting for payday to get the ELLE jumper.  🙂  I may have to limit my visits…

Laura was so professional and so very honest, which I LOVE in a shop. Don’t tell me lies to get me to buy.

So yes Ladies.  If you thought Michael Murphys was just about GAA, GOLF and Menfolk, think again.  These Ladybelles know their fashion and I can’t wait to see the new stock. Laura’s face lit up as she was explaining what’s coming in over the Autumn. I look forward to seeing it.

Thanks Laura!

And Michael-of-the-Murphy?  Yes, my answer is YES!

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The Kiddy section is amazing too!

You can shop online at here

#michaelmurphysportsandleisure  #collab #sp #Ellesports #puma #gymmum

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 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 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.

http://www.w5online.co.uk/

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.

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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

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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.)

I am So Floating Mum

Yesterday, I found a new favourite thing to do!
Yesterday, I went Floating.

“The Float Room” in the Finn Valley Centre, Stranorlar is recently established and going from strength to strength.

I’ve been meaning to try floating for ages now, having heard great reports, so I was delighted when Gary invited myself and the Hubby over to try out the floating chamber.

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I didn’t really know what to expect.  We arrived to a warm welcome from proprietor Gary Ramsay, who brought us through to the floating suite.  The room is spacious, well appointed and clean; a bathroom and shower adjoins the changing room.

In the centre of the room was a big white door.  The door looks like a fridge from a space ship, but inside is a little cocoon of blue loveliness.
Gary guided us through the process with simple instructions.

Once everything had been explained, he left us to it.  What I really enjoyed about the experience was that you are left alone.  You are completely in charge of your own experience.  When in a spa, you’re always aware that the therapist will return in just a few minutes.  Here, unless you need a member of staff, you are free to enjoy the experience at your own pace.  (there is of course an emergency button should you need assistance.  It’s never been pressed!)

The chamber is beautiful.  The blue lights are soothing and calming.  The ceiling has colour-changing LED lights which are a sensory treat. When you enter the bath, music plays for the first 15 minutes.  This is followed by 30 minutes of quiet and then the music gently returns when there is 15 minutes of your session left.  It is a clever system as you can allow yourself to forget time completely.
The bath itself is huge.  Two people can comfortably share the chamber. The water isn’t overly deep and is toasty warm, and once you lie into it, you do indeed float!  With over a tonne of Epsom salts in the tub, you are fully unable to sink. (I swim like a concrete block, so this was a very new experience for me!)

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The most difficult part of the experience is actually relaxing!  It took me quite a while to fully surrender to the water.  I had to fully focus on relaxing certain muscles.  My neck was automatically keeping my head above water, but when you consciously force it to relax, it’s incredible.

The lights on the ceiling can be controlled manually.  We chose to turn them off.  I think that when I go again, I’ll keep the music on throughout.  I enjoyed the silence of course, but the music was relaxing and added that spa-like feel to the experience.

At the end of the session, when the filter begins to clean the chamber, you begin to spin gently as if on a whirlpool.  This was weird, but fun!  I think that with a few more sessions, I’d get better at relaxing and get further benefit from the experience.

As a couple, we don’t often get a full hour of uninterrupted conversation. I thought that we’d have a chance to talk, but obviously when you’re floating, your ears are under water, so there was no chatting! There are neck cushions that can be used however if you do want to chat with your floating partner.  Goggles and earplugs are also available in the changing room.

The one piece of advice that I wish I’d paid more attention to, was to keep my hands away from my eyes!
Epsom salts + contact lenses = ouchee! But a dry towel beside the chamber door soon sorted that.

The shower room and changing room are fully equipped with robes, towels and toiletries.  There is a powerful hairdryer and a basket of everything you might have forgotten!  Bottles of water and “sucky sweets” were welcome after the float.

I have to say, by bedtime, my back and shoulders had the ache of having had a good massage.  I slept like a baby last night.

So all in all, the experience was a lovely one. It was different.  It was relaxing.  It was very enjoyable.
I would happily go back on my own, or with himself.  If nothing else, it meant that I knew that he had had a full hour of relaxation without his phone beeping!
I can fully understand why Floating can benefit everyone.  It is proven to have immense benefits for pregnancy and Gary tells me that he has a number of clients to who bring their autistic children along as a form of relaxation.

Gary will be at my Bump and Beyond event on April 3rd so will answer any questions.  Or if you can’t wait until then, call him on 0894428691 or email him on info@thefloatroom.ie

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I am So-floating Mum 😆

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