Five Places to Catch Some Autumn Sun

Five Places to Catch Some Autumn Sun

We’ve scoured the world and discovered the best places for you to top up your tan, enjoy the autumn heat and explore without the interruptions of the summer hubbub of tourists.

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 Crete, Greece

Greece is a favourite summer holiday destination and is the perfect autumn sun destination too.  Heading out in Autumn enables you to miss the summer rush of tourism. Enjoy the town during this tranquil tan and top up you summer tan to keep yourself sun kissed all winter round. Make sure to explore historic Crete, you may even encounter figures from Greek myths if you visit the ruins of Knossos. We recommend staying at of the exclusive hotel’s at Elounda SA Hotels & Resorts for the perfect base for your holiday. Make sure to try out their incredible Six Sense Spa.

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Dubrovnik, Croatia

Croatia is know well known for being one of the main locations for Game of thrones, with key Kings Landing scenes being filmed from Dubrovnik old town, but this is not the only reason to visit. Croatia is a sun blessed destination in Autumn, and averages at 25⁰C, perfect for exploring the coastline. WE recommend staying outside of the main town in one of the surrounding villages, such as Cavtat and traveling into Dubrovnik by water taxi. If you visit make sure to walk the old town walls and visit the fortress on the hillside just outside the town, which not only has great views but is also the scene of Joffery’s name-day in Game of Thrones. Plus the food and drink is super cheap!

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Accra, Ghana

No autumn sun list would be complete without an African destination. We recommend Accra, with an average temperature of 28⁰C in September, it’s the perfect place to escape the autumn chill and ensure your summer tan is continued until Christmas. We recommend soaking up the sun on Labadi Beach, which often has live reggae music performances on the weekends. The beach is not only beautiful but also provides the perfect opportunity to party with the Ghanaians! We suggest staying in the luxurious Kempinski Hotel Gold Coast City. With a beautiful infinity pool and world class fitness facilities this exclusive hotel is the perfect backdrop for any  Ghana-based adventures.

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 Tuscany, Italy

Autumn is a beautiful season to visit Tuscany, the intense heat of the peak summer month’s gives way to warm balmy evenings and is the ideal time to explore the Tuscan countryside as the olive oil and wine production begins. The weather provides the perfect setting to enjoy alfresco dinners and relax by the pool and is the BEST season for fresh figs, grapes, mushrooms, chestnuts, truffles, olive oil. The temperatures at this time of year are warm but not too hot, making it the perfect destination for sightseeing. We suggest staying with Tuscany Now & More who have an exquisite range of villas throughout Tuscany, perfectly located to take advantage of visits to fully functioning vineyards and olive harvesting in full swing. Excursions are available from any of the Tuscany Now & More villas and allow experts to showcase all that this stunning region has to offer. From foodie offerings such as truffle hunting and chestnut picking to taking in the autumn shades with a train ride through the countryside, this is the ideal time to explore.

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Zagori, Greece

For a sunny autumn getaway, try the Zagori region. If your looking for untouched nature, idyllic enclaves and wildlife this is truly a destination like no other. Take advantage of the stunning weather and explore the incredible Pindus Mountains, or enjoy kayaking in the Voidomatis River as well as canyoning, hand gliding and excursions to the Gamila Mountain Peaks and the Drakolimni Lake. The perfect temperature to admire the old arched stone bridges, the cobbled streets that converge at small picturesque squares, the incredible gorges and alpine altitude lakes, as well as the breath-taking views of the Vikos Gorge, the deepest gorge in the world. Visitors can also hike the Steps of Vradeto, an impressive 200 year old cobbled path with 1000 steps. The imposing rock towers of Astraka and the mythical Drakolimni Lake are also unique Hiking destinations. If you really want to live among nature we suggest staying at Aristi Mountain Resort & Villas, a hidden gem and member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, this resort provides the perfect base for exploring everything Zagori has to offer.

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The Top 10 Things to do in London

Are you ready to visit some of London’s best and worst kept secrets? We have the ultimate insider’s guide to the top things to see in London.

1. Be quintessentially British and See Shakespeare live at Shakespeare’s Globe

London theatre is renowned worldwide and rightly so being the home-city of Shakespeare. No trip to London is complete without a visit to Shakespeare’s Globe to see one of his masterpieces in action in his reconstructed theatre. This season be shocked by Macbeth, Enchanted by the forest of A Midsummer Night’s Dream or watch the shrew being tamed. You’ll be laughing so hard it hurts or sitting on the edge of you seat in fear.

If Shakespeare’s work doesn’t catch you fancy, take in the works of John Wolfson in the cosy candle-lit Sam Wannamaker Playhouse. A breathe-taking experience in original indoor theatre setting, you can nearly sit on the actors laps!

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2.Take to the streets and explore London’s Markets

Any trip to London is not complete without a trip to London’s iconic markets. Camden Market is one of London’s biggest street markets and has continued to grow since its inception in 1974 as a small craft market. Comprised of 4 distinct markets it sells everything from furniture and antiques to clothes and food. The market is well worth a visit as it is always a lively and busy venue.

Another must not miss is Petticoat Lane Market which is on every Sunday. The stalls mainly sell clothes and are a great chance to pick up a bargain. Ironically the Market is no longer found on Petticoat lane, due to Victorian prudishness the street was renamed Middlesex Street in 1846. It’s one of the oldest surviving markets in the UK. Make sure to visit this market on a Sunday when it takes over the surrounding streets!

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3. Catch the latest fitness trend: YogaBox

Catch the fitness bug on your visit to the capital and try out the new and exclusive Yogabox at either Bermondsey Square Hotel or La Suite West. With numbers limited to 14 per session, you get the chance to try out this new fitness craze with full attention from your instructors. Burn unwanted fat by boxing it out and cash in on the physical and restorative effects of Yoga, the ‘yin and yang of workouts’. Classes run on Thursdays at 18.15 and 19.30 at Bermondsey Square Hotel.

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4. Time for a political fix, see the Houses of Parliament

Have your political fix with a visit to the Palace of Westminster, the home of the UK parliament and the many political journalists.  Rebuilt in 1840, the houses of parliament are striking to view. Tour round the houses and see the four Great Prime Minsters cast in bronze in the lobby or visit parliament in session and watch the Prime ministers questions. Make sure you don’t miss hearing Big Ben Chime, possibly the loudest clock in London.  Don’t forget to rub Churchill’s foot for good luck and make sure to pick up a box of House of Commons mint creams, they’re delicious!

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5. See the UK’s best art in a Converted Power Station

The Tate Modern is another of London’s iconic landmarks, which is not only memorable but houses some of the best art of the century. Situated in Bankside Power Station, the Gallery is not only impressive but a testament to the design of Sir Giles Gilbert Scott. Admission to the main galleries is free with the special exhibitions being ticketed. This summer in London you can feast your eyes on the work of Georgina O’Keeffe, a pioneer of 20th Century art.

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6.Ready for some food? Try La suite West’s Afternoon tea

Unleash your inner foodie and experience a carefully crafted Vegan and free-from afternoon tea at La Suite West. The delicious afternoon tea has a range of designer sandwiches, followed by home-made scones served with Coconut cream and strawberries, with a final course of home-made pastries. The incredible restaurant provides a quintessentially British afternoon tea in a contemporary vegan alternative. The perfect place to kick-start the healthy wellness eating you’ve been meaning to.

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7. Forget Kew Gardens, try The Barbican’s Tropical Gardens

Take a Sunday afternoon to explore one of London’s best kept secrets, the Barbican’s Tropical Garden. Despite not being well known, the Conservatory is actually the second biggest in London and home to over 2,000 exotic species of plants and trees as well as tropical fish. Hidden from view on the rooftop of the Barbican centre, it is truly an exclusive experience which is only open to the public on Sunday’s from 12pm till 5pm. Forget Kew Gardens, and be charmed by this hidden gem instead.

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8.Have a drink in one of London’s best kept secret bars

When you’re parched from all your exploring of London, why not head to the British Film Institute to quench your thirst. Head to the well-known Benugo Bar, and prepare to put you detective hat on.  Head to the bookshelves at the back of the bar and if you’re lucky you may spot the secret door that leads to the BFI’s hidden bar, the Drawing Room. This top secret bar is visited by the few; making it the perfect way to continue seeing London’s best and worst kept secrets. Make sure to try one of thier clandestine cocktail whilst visiting.

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9.See the work of St Pauls designer, without going to St Pauls

The designer of St Pauls Cathedral also designed a number of smaller churches to be found in and around London. St Anne’s Limehouse was built between 1714-1727 and is a beautiful display of Nicholas Hawksmoor’s architecture.  Although it’s outside of central London it’s well worth a visit to see the grandeur of St Paul’s without the hustle and bustle of other tourists. If you visit make sure to find Hawksmoor’s distinctive pyramid that is hidden in the Church Grounds and is now a listed monument.

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10. Why not have a taste of London luxury with a spa visit to Ushvani

Visit Ushvani in Sloane Square for the ultimate afternoon of pampering and relaxation. The incredible spa transports visitors from the London hustle and bustle to exotic Asian tropics. Make sure to book in for the Nutmeg Flower Bath Ritual, their signature treatment designed to boost metabolism. If that doesn’t catch your fancy why not try their Papaya Sugar Cane Scrub, a great way to rejuvenate and nourish your skin.  We think it’s the best spa in London.

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The Gainsborough Bath Spa

Gainsborough Spa 10_e   Escaping London for the weekend is always a little slice of luxury, leaving work on a Friday with high expectations of the countryside or just leaving the big smoke to glimpse some elusive green fields or enjoy one of the U.K’s many understated yet beautiful towns and villages. Although jumping on the Eurostar or a budget Easyjet flight is now a regular occurrence in many instances, weekend jaunts within the UK are on the up and it’s clear why. In a society where time is money, Bath is a key example of a beautiful weekend destination which has been appreciated and enjoying by society for centuries.   With a travel time of less than 2 hours from London, Bath offers a haven of culture, wellbeing and tranquillity. A delightful city which you may have to share with the odd group of enthusiastic American tourists is perfectly sized for weekend wanderings.   The Gainsborough Bath Spa is one of the most recent 5* openings in Bath under the YTL Hotels banner. With a truly unique offering it recently won the coveted Tatler Spa Guide award for best new spa and we can really see why!   Made up of three beautiful historical buildings, each with a Grade II listed Georgian façade; the site of The Gainsborough Bath Spa is rich with history which has been carefully preserved throughout its recent renovations. The rooms are tastefully designed and a beautiful welcome awaited us with fresh fruit, chocolates and bubbles! The perfect way to start a relaxing weekend. Gainsborough Spa 3_e

The hotel is the first and only hotel in the UK to offer its visitors the opportunity to access and experience Bath’s famed natural thermal waters in its incredible spa. Upon entering the Spa Village, you are greeted by the aroma bar where one of the experienced therapists will guide you through various oils in order to create a pouch rich with essential oils to enhance your spa experience. Sitting in what feels like a beautiful apothecary, these small touches of luxury are what made our stay at The Gainsborough so unique.   On entering the main pool area where the private thermal waters are located, the light and architecture has stayed true to the Roman style where the ritual of bathing was a religious experience. The ‘Bath Circuit’ allows you to experience various rooms, including thermal pools, saunas, steam room and ice alcove. Said to boost circulation, tone skin and relax mind and body the circuit draws on centuries of knowledge – not forgetting the addition of a delicious chilli chocolate shot to stimulate blood flow!     Gainsborough Spa5

  The private thermal waters at The Gainsborough are only open to hotel guests at restricted hours throughout the day to ensure peace and privacy. Those lucky enough to experience a spa treatment during their stay, can also access the waters during the day. My personal recommendation would be the magnesium wrap. Cocooned in the warmth of this treatment I felt a deep sense of peace and relaxation which lasted and ensured I had an excellent night’s sleep. The 90 minute treatment flew by and my limbs felt soothed and restored. A key aspect on a weekend break is not only relaxation but also excellent food! Whilst exploring the city of Bath we came across some unique and individual shops including Charlotte Brunswick, a beautiful shop selling wonderful smelling (and tasting) chocolates perfect for a little extra indulgence or a gift or a loved one back home.   Bath     

After a long day of visiting the interesting museums of Bath and taking in the historic sites we were delighted to try another key gourmet experience within The Gainsborough. After being treated to a fabulous ‘tea inspired cocktail in the bar we dined at Johann Lafer at The Gainsborough. The combination of locally sourced English products with Asian flavours ensure that dinner was packed with innovative dishes and flavours.  bath2

Every aspect of the idyllic weekend break was fulfilled and for us it was the warmth and friendly nature of the staff at The Gainsborough which created a wonderful atmosphere within the hotel. An ancient site within a UNESCO World Heritage City, The Gainsborough Bath Spa offers an unbeatable combination of culture, history, luxury and relaxation.   Bath Spa Suite - Bed                                    

 www.thegainsboroughbathspa.co.uk

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 Nightly rates at The Gainsborough Bath Spa start from £285 on a room-only basis. 

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The Sun Siyam Iru Fushi

Stepping off the plane onto the island that was to be my home for the next few days evoked a mixture of emotions, relief after a long journey to the Maldives and complete awe at the spectacle in front of me. A myriad of every shade of blue imaginable was laid out! Looking at photos of holiday destinations, sunny skies and blue seas make a regular appearance, but let me tell you. The sea really is that colour!

We were lucky enough to stay at The Sun Siyam Iru Fushi, a stunning property located around a 40 minute sea plane ride from Male. One of the bigger resorts in the Maldives, it offers a fabulous range of gourmet, fun activities for children and most importantly one of the biggest spas in the Maldives.

Our accommodation for our time in the Noonu Atoll was spent in a Deluxe Beach Villa with pool, which offered direct access to the white sandy beaches. The room was spacious and luxurious offering a variety of day beds for snoozing and an outdoor very private bathroom with Jacuzzi. Behind the villa, a private plunge pool was located steps from the patio and a stunning round day bed with curtains for privacy was located on the beach just close enough to the villa for it not to be overlooked.

I would recommend this form of accommodation for families as the direct beach access is perfect for children, whereas the over water villas would be ideal for singles or couples.

The stand out feature for me during our time there was the staff, nothing was too much trouble. The sommelier gave excellent recommendations at the overwater wine cellar and staff whip around the whole island on buggies, ready to take you out to the dive centre, to enjoy a private dinner on the beach or to grab an ice cream from your very own ice cream parlour!

For the active ones, diving is not the only adrenaline kick, windsurfing, kite surfing, fly boarding amongst other activities are on offer if you get bored of relaxing.

A personal highlight was the Thalgo Spa, a serene and calm place of relaxation, I made several visits down the pebbled acupressure path. Offering an incredible selection of treatments featuring luxurious Thalgo products, I would highly recommend popping in to have one of the massages on arrival, it definitely helped kick start my holiday jet lag free!

The Sun Siyam Iru Fushi (www.thesunsiyam.com) offers Deluxe Beach Villas with Pool from USD$795/£520 per night.

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Park Hyatt Vienna

Having passed through Vienna once previously on a school ski trip, my lasting memory was more of Mozart chocolates and strudel, than history and culture. I knew a return journey was necessary to explore the city that is held in such high regard by so many. Steeped in history and boasting an incredibly varied list of the great and good who were born or lived in this magnificent city from the obvious… Strauss, Mozart, Klimt to the less obvious… Marie Antoinette and Niki Lauda.

 

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Arriving in Vienna, we had high expectations and were determined to pack in as much as possible in our short trip. Our expectations were immediately superseded in the form of our driver, who surprisingly ended up taking on the role of tour guide as we entered the city. We organised a private transfer from the airport to our hotel Park Hyatt Vienna and this turned out to be an excellent choice. During the relatively short drive in he gave us a brief introduction to Vienna and the sights around us. We soon realised that on every corner there was some kind of fantastic monument/historical site or stunning architecture and it was great to be able to ask questions and receive such in depth and interesting introduction to Vienna.

 

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Park Hyatt Vienna is situated in the ideal spot for shopping, culture and general sightseeing in Vienna. Located inside what was previously the imposing figure of the former Länderbank set in the oldest square of Vienna, the building known as Am Hof 2 has been painstakingly transformed into a stunning luxury hotel. From the moment you step inside, the time and effort which has been invested to create a modern luxurious environment whilst simultaneously preserving Viennese style and history and the bank’s original features is truly breath taking. Many of the original features were removed, restored and carefully replaced back into their original position. This care and attention to detail in the design of the hotel was to be replicated throughout our stay at Park Hyatt Vienna.

 

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We were lucky enough to be given a guided tour of the property, which was incredibly interesting and gave us a chance to see all the nooks and crannies that we definitely wouldn’t have fallen across, including the stunning meeting spaces, rich with warm mahoganies and dark leathers, the ideal space for a discreet business meeting in comfort and style. The largest function room was awash with light and surrounded by beautiful wood panelling and traditional design features, the main attraction being a delightful tapestry which took centre stage and complimented the structure and weight of this regal hall. We were also introduced to The Bank restaurant, which was my favourite of all the rooms at the hotel. Light and airy the previous cashiers hall has been brought to life with exotic marbles and beautiful crystal chandelier details and provided a glorious environment in which to relax and enjoy breakfast and a delightful evening meal.

 

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The Park Hyatt Vienna is known as the pearl of the Hyatt group and this is reflected in the mother of pearl through the property, from the tables in the bar area, to the intricate marble detail in the floor of our room to the Pearl Bar which can be entered via an inviting mirrored hallway which sweeps downwards, just crying out to be photographed! As a mother of pearl fan, I was totally in my element and took more photos than I have in any other hotel before. Our bedroom was no exception and after our tour we made our way up to relax and enjoy. Spacious and comfortable our room looked out onto one of the main luxury shopping districts, the perfect location. The high-tech bath and beautiful marbled floors were a delight to behold and the separate living and bedroom area is perfect for those visiting Vienna for work or play.

 

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After spending far too long exploring our room (and photographing all the mother of pearl) we ventured out into Vienna and found our way easily around the city, taking in a beautiful food market in one of the central park areas which was filled with tourists and locals alike enjoying the sunshine and the incredible array of meat, cheese and wine on offer! We didn’t try and cram in too much and enjoyed wandering the city, getting lost in the winding streets and taking in the incredible beauty of the architecture. Park Hyatt Vienna is minutes away from the key attractions including The Vienna Riding School, which offer daily shows and many of the incredible classical music concerts which take  place day and evening in the city. The concierge can assist in booking tickets and the process is effortless.

 

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Another key site for us was the state hall at the national library which is known to be the biggest baroque library in Europe. Absolutely mind-blowingly beautiful is the only way to describe this room, floor to ceiling books and the most divine frescoes by the court painter Daniel Gram. I would highly recommend it to anyone visiting Vienna.

 

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During our stay another highlight was the food, we definitely sampled a variety, from street food in the park, to small jazz cafes the local food was delightful. We were keen to try some of the traditional Viennese food and our favourite was The Bank restaurant in the hotel. We were guided by the knowledgeable hotel staff and tried a selection of regional cuisine, using  sustainable locally sourced products. Schnitzel and Veal came beautifully presented complimented by a beautiful sparkling Viennese wine. The highlight of the meal was Kaiserschmarrn (the emperors pancakes), of which we ate far too many.

 

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Unfortunately although we should definitely have got involved in the super high-tech gym to burn off all the Kaiserschamrnrn, it didn’t happen, so in the name of research I indulged and organised a treatment as a last hurrah to finish what was a truly beautiful weekend. Situated in the old bank vaults the Arany Spa offers a discreet yet beautiful hideaway in which to relax and retreat surrounded by healing crystals. The mother of pearl theme continues throughout the spa (to my delight) and the layout of the spa aims for maximum privacy and relaxation. After my delightful massage I was led to the relaxation area overlooking the pool, unfortunately with a flight to catch I didn’t get to spend as much time as I would have liked there. I could have happily sat, herbal tea in hand taking in the rich tones of gold and turquoise. For those who wish to take a little peace of heaven home with them, the spa also stocks the fabulous Cire Trudon candles, which again are one of my favourites and remind me of my trip and the Arany Spa to this day. I will definitely be returning and would advise one and all to choose The Park Hyatt Vienna as their go to hotel when in the city and I am not alone. Tyler Brûlé agrees.

 Nightly rates at Park Hyatt Vienna will start from EUR480/approx. £340 per room for two persons in a Park Room (King or Twin) excluding breakfast. For further information please visit www.vienna.park.hyatt.com or call +43 1 227401234

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The World of Westeros Descends on Ballygally Castle

 

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 Game of Thrones Inspired Afternoon Tea at Ballygally Castle

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Game of Thrones fans will be thrilled to hear that Ballygally Castle, part of the Hastings Hotels group in Northern Ireland, has launched a brand new Game of Thrones Afternoon Tea.

Fans can now indulge in their very own game of scones with tasty treats inspired by the fantasy lands of Winterfell, Iron Islands, Kings Landing or Stormlands, including Lannister egg Rolls,  Baratheon Bread, Little Finger Chicken Caesar wraps, Jon Snow Cakes and Dothraki Trifle with mini Dragon’s eggs before heading out to explore the region were the series was filmed.

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Game of Thrones is shot on location in Northern Ireland and is currently HBO’s premier production and one of the most popular and successful fantasy TV series ever made.  Filming of seasons 1-4 took place in the Titanic Studios in Belfast and across various locations throughout Northern Ireland including the Cushendun Caves, Murlough Bay, Ballintoy Harbour, Larrybane, Antrim plateau, Castle Ward, Inch Abbey and Downhill Strand.

General Manager of Ballygallly Castle, Norman McBride said:  “Our delicious afternoon tea just got better as we’ve added a little Game of Thrones magic to our selection of sumptuous edibles.  Game of Thrones is incredibly popular with both the people of Northern Ireland and many of our American visitors, as almost 80% of the show is filmed here, so we’re delighted to be giving fans of the hit TV series, and of delicious treats, a little taste of Westeros in the stunning setting of Ballygally Castle.”

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Not only is Ballygally Castle’s location star-studded but it is also historical, positioned at the beginning of the scenic Antrim Coast, near the foot of the famous nine Glens of Antrim, and the soon to re-open Gobbins Path, a famous and dramatic coastal walk originally built in the early 20th Century as one of the leading tourist attractions comprised of staircases along the cliff edges, dramatic tubular bridges and numerous tunnels. The hotel offers glorious views over Ballygally Bay and towards Scotland and also boasts 18 new deluxe coastal view bedrooms including six family rooms making it one of the largest hotels on the Causeway Coastal Route with 54 bedrooms.

Ballygally-Castle-Hotel-0304Fans will also feel regal in the midst of Steensons jewellers, the official jewellery supplier to Game of Thrones. Ballygally Castle is the only official supplier outside of the shop itself to sell their products. So if guests want to take a piece of Game of Thrones home with them this might be the best way. The hotel will also be offering medieval banquets for groups of 10-30 people booked in advance and can arrange Game of Thrones horse-riding and high end tours upon request. The Game of Thrones Afternoon Teas will immerse people into the dark and mysterious mood of the show and are available from 2 – 5pm Monday to Saturday and 3-5pm on Sundays for only £18 per person. Please allow for 24 hours’ notice for reservations.

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Hastings Hotels (www.hastingshotels.com, 028 2858 1066) is offering overnight stays on a B&B basis at Ballygally Castle including the Game of Thrones Afternoon Tea from £65pp based on 2 people sharing. Valid until end of June 2015 For further information or to book go to www.hastingshotels.com/ballygally-castle or call 028 2858 1066.

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‘This is independently operated by The Ballygally Castle Hotel.  It is not sponsored, endorsed, or affiliated with HBO or anyone else associated with Game of Thrones’.

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