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.

Coastal Escape Package

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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Bluespoon Restaurant, Andaz Amsterdam Prinsengracht

Bluespoon, Andaz Amsterdam

I recently visited the beautiful city of Amsterdam and just couldn’t turn down the opportunity to finally try the Bluespoon restaurant at the Andaz Amsterdam Hotel. Bluespoon is a European bistro that uses only local products, building on flavours from France and Belgium illustrated as rustic and simple food made with tender love and care. It is beautifully located on a street right beside one of the many Canals the city is famous for…

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On entering the hotel you are met with a beautiful scent and a wonderful atmosphere enhanced by the design of the hotel and the huge art installations…

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As we were early we were led to a table in the bar by our lovely waitress Finya, to enjoy just a few of the fabulous cocktails on offer…

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Vespa Martini, NYC Whiskey Sour and a couple of signature creation Graphity’s (there were two of us…)

After which we were led through to the Bluespoon for dinner and what a dinner it was. Unsure what to have, the selection is small but varied and undoubtedly all the dishes are a must have… We therefore let our brilliant waitress Samantha decide for us and it was probably the best decision we made all weekend. The Chateaubriand to share with a taster of starters – why not.

First Course: Taster of Steak tartare, Shrimp and Prawn Salad, Squash and Yellow Beetroot Salad with Feta and Mussels.

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Main Course: Chateaubriand with Ratatouille, roasted vegetable and the smoothest and tastiest mash potato to ever grace my fork with a triple sauce selection including our favourite the baileys sauce…

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And as if that wasn’t enough… I hate to admit it but we had to take a break. A chance to savour all those flavours and enjoy the atmosphere of the restaurant and talk a little with Samantha, who seemed to know a lot about the city so offered some great advice on where to go next.

She wouldn’t let us go however until we had eaten our entire desert.

Desert: A trio (of course) of the best Apple Crumble in the world, homemade Strawberry Ice Cream and a deliciously light Ginger Crème Brulee.

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Doing the job we do it is safe to say we get to eat in some fantastic places but the entire package at the Andaz Amsterdam is great. The Bluespoon Restaurant continues the hotel’s homage to the elegantly outlandish. The chef brings a French-style culinary flair to local Dutch ingredients, placing a locavore’s emphasis on provenance and seasonality to produce delicious dishes as above. The service impeccable, the staff knowledgeable, polite and smiles all round and the food delicious and prompt. You will not be disappointed if you choose to stay at the Andaz and dine at the Bluespoon, what a great experience.

www.amsterdam.prinsengracht.andaz.hyatt.com

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Corfu – The Land of Durrell & Doughnuts

Corfu – The Land of Durrell & Doughnuts

It was an absolute treat to re-visit Corfu a couple of months ago, not only to spend a bit more time discovering  the place but to head back and see how one of the islands most beautiful hotels was looking. MarBella Corfu has has benefited from a huge amount of investment over recent years and the renovations and upgrades across the property have been you can see for yourself here.

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Days begun with an early morning, pre breakfast dip – whenever I am travelling, I’ll always try and get a quick swim in to start the day…

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And we certainly didn’t go hungry…or thirsty…

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During the trip I got to experience Aerial Yoga for the first time. This is when you are suspended, weightless a few feet above the ground in a safe and comfortable yoga hammock and guided through various stretches and poses. Effie (the beautiful, calm and zen instructor) effortlessly spun and twirled showing us exactly what’s possible. I managed a few different poses before finding that you can simply cocoon yourself in the hammock and happily lie, swinging from the tree which was extremely relaxing and soporific…

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Exploring Corfu was made easy with a fantastic guide from Ichons – a company that offers a selection of superb walking and gourmet tours. Views from the New Fortress are exceptional and not to be missed and we happily ambled for hours through the cobbled streets of Corfu old town finding beautiful old churches and monuments.

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One thing we did discover (and something that made me very happy) was a little café called Stasi Meli (close to the Town Hall) where they served THE best Loukoumades – Greek style doughnuts. They either came smothered in honey sprinkled with pistachio or stuffed with chocolate and smothered in more chocolate. The perfect pit stop after a morning exploring…

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Corfu Sailing Club’s Restaurant located inside the old fortress is a great spot for lunch. Grab a table right by the water’s edge and choose from a great selection of Mediterranean and Greek cuisine. We went for a lovely wander afterwards to a new park dedicated to the legendary author Gerald Durrell (of My Family and Other Animals fame) and his brother Lawrence. If you can, I highly recommend trying to see some of Corfu from the water and hiring a boat – the coastline is stunning and guests staying at MarBella Corfu can get picked up straight from the beach. Oh…and if you have time, the Spa at the hotel offers some great massages using natural Greek products from Apivita to ensure you’re left looking and feeling like a Greek God/Goddess!

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One thing we did discover (and something that made me very happy) was a little café called Stasi Meli (close to the Town Hall) where they served THE best Loukoumades – Greek style doughnuts. They either came smothered in honey sprinkled with pistachio or stuffed with chocolate and smothered in more chocolate. The perfect pit stop after a morning exploring…

Corfu Sailing Club’s Restaurant located inside the old fortress is a great spot for lunch. Grab a table right by the water’s edge and choose from a great selection of Mediterranean and Greek cuisine. We went for a lovely wander afterwards to a new park dedicated to the legendary author Gerald Durrell (of My Family and Other Animals fame) and his brother Lawrence. If you can, I highly recommend trying to see some of Corfu from the water and hiring a boat – the coastline is stunning and guests staying at MarBella Corfu can get picked up straight from the beach. Oh…and if you have time, the Spa at the hotel offers some great massages using natural Greek products from Apivita to ensure you’re left looking and feeling like a Greek God/Goddess!

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Take Me Back…To Peligoni

 

The Peligoni Club, Zakynthos, Greece

The Peligoni Club, Zakynthos, Greece

The Peligoni Club, located on Zakynthos, Greece is a members club where guests can relax, socialise and make the most of the spa, pool, restaurant and bars as well as the incredible water sports centre. They specialise in offering boutique villa holidays with a portfolio of over 50 stunning properties dotted around the area. Recently we took a group of journalists out to experience The Club for themselves and to try out some of what Peligoni has to offer.

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The view from our villa, Assimi

We were met by excited Peligoni staff at the airport and given directions for our hire car to our villa about 45 minutes away. We stayed in a beautiful brand new villa called Assimi with a stunning infinity pool and 180 degree panoramic view. Apparently it’s the only villa available that boasts views of both the sunrise and sunset.

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The sun decks and sailing centre at The Peligoni Club

The Club was our daily base for activity which over the course of the few days we were there included tennis, hiking, sailing, snorkelling, boat rides and much more. The food here is outstanding and each day we enjoyed dishes such as the must try PeliBurger and a range of fresh seafood and of course no menu would be complete without a whopping huge steak to dive into.

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 Just one of the delicious dishes we enjoyed from Peligoni’s fantastic menu

Part of the reason we were there was to launch a new watersport at The Club. Subwing chose Peligoni to be the first official Subwing centre because of their passion for watersports, the excellent facilities and of course calm and very clear waters around the island. We all had a go and it was by far one of the most exciting things I’ve ever done. It gives you the sense of flying underwater as you are towed behind a boat. You have to go out to Peligoni and try it!

Video of the Peligoni and Subwing press trip

As with all press trips the weekend was over far too quickly and we had to return to England however we all took away some great memories, fantastic experiences and all keen to return to The Peligoni Club as soon as possible. I’m going back in September…

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‘The Know’ Q&A Sessions – Alan Wright – BBC Presenter & After Dinner Speaker

We like to know what’s going on in the world of travel and getting all the inside information from the people who live and breathe it….. So we thought we would ask those we know, who are DEFINITELY in THE KNOW.

Look out for a series of Q&A’s from some of the brightest and best which will include travel tips and their personal recommendations on where next to add to your bucket list.

First up is Alan Wright, BBC Presenter & after dinner speaker.

With a career spanning 25 years, Alan Wright enjoyed huge success as a BBC Radio and TV Presenter, alongside which he was also able to indulge a passion of his, after dinner speaking.  He has appeared all over the UK, and abroad, and was named UK After Dinner Speaker of the Year, 2009. Between working on a new musical ‘King Pit’ alongside composers Stuart Brayson and Sir Tim Rice and releasing a new novel later this year

His career has allowed him to enjoy extensive travel and today he shares his thoughts and travel tips with us.

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Pictures courtesy of Alan Wright

1)      What do you consider your greatest achievement to date?

Helping to set up the new Durham County Cricket Ground in the early 90s when I was Chief Exec there – from a green field, literally, to an international Ashes ground!

2)      Share one “lifehack” you use to make life easier?

Internalise a comedy script of what is going on around you instead of getting annoyed about things you can’t change.

 3)      What piece of advice would you pass on to your 18 year old self?

Enjoy being 18! It doesn’t last very long.

4)      Why did you choose your career?

Love meeting people and seeing the world.

5)      What would be your desert island luxury?

A guitar. And could I  have the Telegraph crossword every day too?

6)      Most inspirational place you have visited?

Egypt. Just to breathe in what went before at the Pyramids and up and down the Nile.

7)      Top Travel Tip?

Learn a few words of the local language – always helps. And talk to strangers – there are some fascinating stories to hear.

8)     Dream Travel Destination?

Back to Cuba. A few cold beers while soaking up the local great music.

9)      Favourite holiday read? 

Going through the John Updike classics (again). A mesmerising master of words who sets the standard.

10)   Share your favourite holiday snapshot

View from one of my favourite hotels in the whole world – Saffire on the coast of Tasmania, from the lounge looking towards Wineglass Bay.

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Find out more about Alan Wright at his website HERE

Corfu’s leading luxury hotel, MarBella Corfu has teamed up with Classic Collection Holidays to bring guests an evening of laughter and commentary with Alan Wright himself between 29th August – 5th September 2014.

Classic Collection Holidays (0800 294 9318; www.classic-collection.co.uk) offers 7 nights at MarBella Corfu from £1,169 on a half board basis. Price based on 2 adults sharing a superior garden view room and includes return flights with EasyJet and private transfers. Departs 29 August 2014.

 

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Northern Ireland Part 1 – Belfast City

Ireland is a place I had always been meaning to go to, but whenever holidays came around I ended up plumping for somewhere I presumed would be a little warmer. Therefore I was extremely excited to actually be going to Belfast for my first taste of world renowned Irish charm and hospitality (which after this trip will definitely not be my last…!)

2014-05-30 13.17.57We were greeted off the plane by balmy temperatures which raised our spirits even higher as we set off around Belfast on a black cab tour! In the safe hands of our extremely enthusiastic and knowledgeable tour guide  we were educated on the extremely sensitive political situation, whilst also introduced to the growth and beauty of Belfast and how far it has come in recent years. The Belfast black cab tour was great for a first timer such as myself as it gave a great overview into the cultural, historical and social aspects of Belfast and as the tour was given by a local, an authentic insight into the evolution of Belfast.2014-05-30 14.07.12

Our tour left us at the extremely impressive Titanic Belfast, an imposing modern structure, looming large against the dramatic docklands backdrop. Having seen the movie Titanic, I obviously already considered myself an expert….just shows how wrong you can be.

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On the interactive ride through the construction of the Titanic

This building is crammed with information at every turn, from interactive games and installations, a ride through the inner workings of the ship, to full blown recreations of the various classes of cabins and rooms which would have been available on the ship.

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Modern Architecture at Titanic Belfast

Set over multiple floors, you could spend days in here. I would probably recommend making 2 visits if you have time due to the sheer volume of information available. (There is a café should you become overwhelmed/need a piece of cake to refuel!)

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 The Europa Hotel, Belfast

With our mental hunger satiated it was time to move on to our stomachs. We were able to indulge in a fabulous lunch at The Europa Hotel, situated in the heart of Belfast, this is the place to stay for convenience and luxury when visiting for work or pleasure. Due to its prime location, The Europa Hotel is a short distance from many of Belfast’s top visitor attractions including the Ulster Museum, Grand Opera House, City Hall and of course Titanic Belfast. In addition to the friendly staff and beautiful surrounds, we were absolutely spoilt for choice with the amazing menu, however everyone agreed that Guiness and ‘Causeway Chips’ were a must…..as you can see, we weren’t disappointed….

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For further information on Titanic Belfast have a look HERE or click over to Tourism Ireland HERE for all the information you need to book your trip to Ireland.

Hastings Hotels hastingshotels.com (0289047 1066) offers nightly rates at The Europa Hotel from £55 per person( based on two sharing) on a b&b basis.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Ballygally Castle Hotel, Hastings Hotels, Northern Ireland, The Culloden Estate & Spa, The Europa, United Kingdom | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment