Category: travel

A Weekend in Donegal

SOLIS LOUGH ESKE

After a very last minute ‘we should go away this weekend’ thought early last week, I popped onto LastMinute and found a deal for Solis Lough Eske Castle & Spa for one night. The technical staycation was an alluring idea allowing for a quick two and a half hour drive and the avoidance of any airport hassles that come along with normal vacations. The castle was as it was advertised, peaceful and beautiful with amazing customer service.

We took a lovely nature walk after lunch down to Lough Eske. There’s a makeshift boardwalk that stretches for about a quarter of a mile along the edge of the lake. The sun was ever so slowly setting which made for some mysterious looking photos, haha.

Hughie’s favourite part was the five star restaurant where we tried ox tail and pork cheek. He nearly had to roll me back to the room. I couldn’t even finish my wine I was so full (and that says a lot). Missing dessert in a Michelin award winning restaurant wasn’t an option for me, so we shared the chocolate sphere which is melted by chocolate sauce to then expose the a Bailey’s filling accompanied by cookies and cream ice cream that Hughie ordered. It was all so dreamy.

I didn’t bring my phone into the room with the pool and sauna room (obviously) so I don’t have pictures of it. However, it’s attached to their spa where they give massages, facials and all the other lovely pampering girls dream of. We just stuck to a quick swim and the sauna which are included with the stay.

DONEGAL TOWN 

A ten minute drive away is Donegal town, sharing similar village vibes to Newport, Mayo with a big centre that then splits off into three different directions. Both are lovely bustling town centres worth visiting. If you visit both, you’ll understand what I mean about the town centre. In the Diamond of Donegal town, you’re a step away from shops, the beautiful church and Donegal castle which is where we stopped into.

DONEGAL CASTLE

The castle costs five euro per adult. You’re given an information sheet about the history of the castle when you enter and then let to roam on your own. If you like history, there’s a little museum set up on the top floor. I was more so there for the exploration and taking photos. To be honest, I can’t stand tours. I need to do my own thing.

I’ve been exploring and photographing Irish castles and ruins since I was 15 and won’t be stopping anytime soon! I was definitely impressed with Donegal Castle.

I visited Donegal last year for a drive along the coast and mountains. It’s breathtaking scenery makes it a standout county. Probably one of the prettiest I’ve seen! And I’ve been to the majority of the 32 counties. Waterford, Leitrim and Carlow might be the only ones left awaiting me.

Hope you enjoy Donegal if you visit!

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4 Places to Stop Outside Belfast (Co. Down)

There’s a lot to see in Northern Ireland. Taking it all in is an ongoing adventure I force my boyfriend into exploring alongside me at least once a month (bless him – he secretly likes going though). I love cruising around with the radio on knowing I’m going somewhere to just roam about and take photos and be in nature in Ireland. I’ve said it before, it’s soul fuel for me!

We have ticked plenty of charming places off the list at this stage and yet there’s still so many to see. We have gone to MOST of the big touristy destinations. The one lacking being the Carrick-a-rede rope bridge (a couple posts back though you’ll see we were in the village where it’s located which is a VERY worth a visit).

This past weekend my original idea was something pretty close to Belfast. So we picked the Bangor area. We stayed in a little seaside B&B there last December and really enjoyed our time but didn’t explore the surroundings which is something a little different and definitely not as popular. There’s some seriously cool homes out that way that I enjoyed pointing at and imagining life in. I also felt particularly lucky that I saw at least twenty gorgeous dogs throughout the day. Not joking when I say I got even luckier with eight of them being sausage dogs!!! One of my absolute favourite breeds.

Places in/near Bangor

Helen’s Bay – We drove along Helen’s Bay on the main road right by it and it was pretty! But it’s also apparently a lovely beach to walk. I’ll have to go back.

Bangor Harbour – Right in the town and extending outwards, there’s a walking path for yourself and your favourite furry companion, a playground for kids, and if head into the town centre, some really great bars and restaurants.

Crawfordsburn Village – A very classy unique little village composed of a main street that’s lined with some of the nicest cars I’ve seen. If you’ve been to Cape Cod I’d compare Crawfordsburn as the small scale Chatham of Northern Ireland except no ocean. It’s tiny and there’s not much to do but it’s really really pretty and totally unlike any place I’ve seen in all of Ireland. I wish I had taken a photo of it but give it a Google if you’re interested!

Crawfordsburn Country Park – We came here kind of by accident. While driving I spotted a little sign where it looked like people were going for walks and I suggested we go there on our way back. When trying to find it, Google Maps took us here and we rolled with it. And I’m so glad we did because the foliage in the forest was spectacular. It made for some colourful shots. However, I don’t believe my Canon or even iPhone could do the vibrancy justice. It was so bright and beautiful!

So, if you like day trips and you’re in NI maybe seeking somewhere a little different, here ya go! (:

Let me know on Instagram where some of your favourite lesser known spots are!

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A Place in Northern Ireland You Have To See: Ballintoy Harbour

If you saw my Instagram post about my day trip this afternoon you’re already aware (although you might wish you weren’t) of my hilarious pun of how we were blown away with the views in Ballintoy. It’s a beautiful spot I actually hadn’t heard of until recently. It might ring more bells to those in NI when I say it’s where the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge is located. We didn’t visit that today though because it was quite windy and I don’t think we could handle being violently swayed back and worth.

Once you enter Ballintoy village, keep going straight through until you see a sign for the harbour. This will lead you down an incredibly narrow Irish road that’ll make you want to never drive again. There’s a parking lot and a cafe with bathrooms. And beautiful scenery.

Some brave tourists (including myself and Hughie) made it up onto the higher cliff parts. The wind and waves were insane. It was a really bad day not to have a bobble/ponytail holder/whatever you call it where you are, on my wrist to keep my hair out of my face. After climbing up, I was immediately shocked at A) how many people were up there with small children and B) how no one had been swept off. Probably one of the scariest/most spontaneous things I’ve done. For some this is nothing. But when I got sprayed by a wave, I was like right, let’s go. It was nonetheless, exhilarating and fun. Hughie’s fascination with the sea foam flying around ended when it wacked him in the face. It was hysterical.

*Boots are Michael Kors from four years ago (haha, they lasted!) and the chunky coat-igan as I call it, is from Primark two winters ago. I wear stuff until I can’t anymore.

Afterwards, we drove into the village and walked to the Fullerton Arm Bar which to my delightful surprise was DOG FRIENDLY. I was over the moon to be greeted by a pug, a very rotund Bichon and a King Charles spaniel. The food was amazing and it was a lovely cosy (and clean) pub. Finished the day out beautifully! 😋

Definitely a spot you need to see if you’re around NI.

Have you been to Ballintoy?

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Amazing Irish Road Trip: Causeway Coastal Route

The Causeway Coastal Route is an incredible stretch of beauty along the north coast of Antrim. There are various loops to pick from for your scenic drive and we did the Carnlough to Ballintoy one. We did veer off a couple of times so I think we covered some extra ground.

If you follow me on Instagram you know I have placed this route up there on my favourite Irish drives list with Connemara National Park. A different kind of beauty but just as gorgeous. Absolutely amazing on a sunny day. We were so lucky with the weather.

We drove and drove and drove. Well Hughie did and I sat there and pointed out the window at pretty things (thanks Hughie😉).

After awhile we decided to stop in Ballycastle and grabbed food. I have a friend from here and she said it won best seaside town so I had been looking forward to seeing it for a little while. It’s a charming town with a lot of great things for small kids like trampolines and a playground with some serious views. We ate at the Marine Hotel’s restaurant and it was lovely! Two happy bellies. You can see below it was a windy day and my denim jacket prevented some Marilyn Monroe moments.

Ballycastle

*dress is from the tall section of Boohoo. Denim jacket, I’m not sure sorry! 🙁

Very very very worth seeing! I wish we had more photos! I focused more on footage of this trip that I’m not really sure what to do with. Have an amazing time if you decide to go! Let me know how if you like it😊

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Hidden Gems in Northern Ireland

Thanks to my lovely followers for NI suggestions. Without your suggestions I wouldn’t have stumbled upon some really lovely places.

Basically, one person suggested the Gobbins. So I gave it a quick Google and thought ‘yeah looks great’ and we got in the car in the afternoon and went. To our surprise, it’s a three and half hour intense hike along the cliffs that require boots and helmets and bus to and fro the information centre. Do your research, guys!! However, and ever-so fortunately, the woman at the information desk directed me to a few more casual spots that my flip flops could handle.

Portmuck Harbour

Twenty minutes away from the Gobbins is Portmuck Harbour. A pretty little place hidden at the bottom of a very teeny tiny narrow Irish road that opens into a parking lot set right near the sea. There’s some stairs that lead up to a point where you can grab some nice photo ops. I love some of these photos so much and will probably cherish them forever. I had a really great day.

Skenaghan Point – Brown’s Bay Beach

And the second spot only less than ten minutes away is Skenaghan Point, Browns Bay in Islandmagee. It actually is right near the actual Gobbins walking path. One day I will do the Gobbins! But it certainly wasn’t that day in that new ASOS top. We went up a little path to the right of the water and you could stay on path but somehow we veered off into a field of sheep who scurried away from us as we walked up towards the cliff’s end. Stunning views and a lovely little walk. One of those spots that makes me go, “Ahhh I love this country.”

So! Those are two spots I hadn’t heard of, no one suggested, and no tourists really seem to go. Hope you enjoy if you visit!

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Game of Thrones Locations to See in Antrim

Heya!

If you know me you know I don’t watch the wildly popular show, Game of Thrones. However, I’m a big supporter of it bringing a lot of tourism to Northern Ireland. It’s given a lot of well deserved recognition to Belfast and some of Northern Ireland’s areas of outstanding natural scenery which previously (in my eyes) were overlooked for Irish vacation destinations.

So while I’ve been a big fan of Belfast and the county of Derry, I only got to visit some of the Antrim GOT spots this week. I am not embarrassed to admit I’m an absolute tourist and my inner American pops out when it comes to castles and ruins. I LOVE them. I studied the sociology behind it and could go into it for hours as to why Americans have such romantic notions of Ireland’s landscape but I’ll just leave at the fact I am one of them and I’m in no way ashamed. Ireland’s beauty and history is a marvel to me.

So! With that said, we went to Dunluce Castle and the Dark Hedges. Right near the Causeway, which we have already visited within the last year so we didn’t go again. However we drove right past it and through Bushmills.

DUNLUCE CASTLE

Dunluce is an hour outside Belfast and well worth a visit. I believe it was £8 for our tickets (I’m still using my student card, it’s valid until September. Even past then, I’ll keep using it). It’s mainly ruins but a pretty vast amount and it’s fun to just explore. Maybe this is only fun to me and other castle loving freaks. It’s a beautiful backdrop for photos since it’s right on a cliff in the countryside and overlooking the sea. You can learn about the background and history of Dunluce through posted signs around the grounds and a pamphlet given to you at the information desk. Parking is available right there and is free. There’s a little cafe too for a nibble if needs be.

THE DARK HEDGES

The Dark Hedges are around 25 minutes away from the Giant’s Causeway. They too are in the middle of the countryside in Ballymoney and pop up pretty randomly. One side of the road is a large estate and modern farm house and the other is the hedges which was full of people walking the length of them. They’re surrounded by open fields, making them all the more intense looking. Apparently this is where they ride horses up and down in GOT. Sorry for my lack of knowledge regarding the show and its relation to these spaces.

I enjoyed both spots! It’s nice to make a little day out of it. You can see more GOT scenic spots here.

Hope you go!

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Monaco Photo Diary

It’s been a week since I got back from the south of France and luckily the sun has followed me back to Belfast so I’m still feeling the whole ‘holiday-mode’ vibe. As I said in my last blogpost, the Saturday was spent travelling to Monaco from Toulon, exploring Monaco, and travelling back. The train was only two and a half hours and the views out our windows were pretty spectacular so there was always something to see.

Monaco itself was absolutely stunning. Definitely a place to put on the list if you haven’t considered it before. Ever since I saw the Disney channel movie ‘Monte Carlo’ with Selena Gomez, I’d dreamed of going! That was at least ten years ago. To be honest I never thought I’d make it there until I was way older because it’s known for being so pricey, but the way to do it is to make it a day trip. You can see it all in a day because it’s small enough and super walkable (just bring sneakers/runners for all the hills). Nice is only 25 minutes away by train and it is definitely cheaper to stay there. Food and drinks were only about 20% more than the south of France prices which isn’t too bad considering the cheapest apartment we saw advertised in Monaco goes for 6 million euro and the restaurants have iPads for menus…yes, absolutely absurd, I know.

Two cups of coffee plus a crepe was €12. The next place we ate we got huge portions including big drinks for about €60 all together I think. I spent about another €12 on postcards and magnets for friends and family.

The views are unbelievable and make for an incredible backdrop. There’s a photo opportunity pretty much everywhere. So here are all of the photos from Monte Carlo/Monaco! They speak for themselves. It was the highlight of the trip?

*Dress: Zara.

Sunglasses: Oliver Peoples.

Handbag: Charming Charlie.

Sandals: River Island.

Hope you enjoyed!

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Four Days in the South of France

Bonjour (;

France, you’re as beautiful as ever! What an unreal place between the natural scenery, rustic architecture, cuisine, culture…Basically everything is amazing and I’m constantly amused in France. French architecture has a lot of charm with it’s bright colours and a ‘hasn’t been touched in years’ aesthetic so I’m always happy just roaming about taking it all in. If you have followed me from the start of Redhead American, I was in the north of France last summer with a good friend from home. I loved it then and I love it more now! Also on that trip, there was the laughable confusion that I believed I was in the south of France when I was actually in the north…ALWAYS do your research, folks!! Seriously if I can suggest anything from my brief year of traveling Europe, get out Google and take some time to digest your destination’s map and acquire some useful background to where you’re going.

We flew into Nice in the south of France and took a train for two hours that went through Cannes and some other towns over to Toulon where we stayed in the town centre. It was so fabulous and our accommodation had two balconies with some pretty sweet views! It’s safe to say I was spoiled this trip with some seriously stunning sights. The reason I was there actually was because I was invited to join my boyfriend and some of his family there for the Grand Prix in Le Castellet, near Marseille. Kinda unrelated to what I was just saying but, but I love saying ‘le’ and I love how everyone that goes to France tries to speak French in a French accent. It’s great craic and you feel super European.

I went to the race track on Sunday for the big qualifying day. It was unlike anything I’ve done before! The race track was massive (to me anyway, I have no idea about car racing and what’s normal) and the amount of people that showed baffled me as well! I’m really glad I got the experience and can say it’s something I’ve actually attended. Lots of fast cars, interesting accents and sun. It’s my understanding that Lewis Hamilton won. I was more excited by the fact he’s dated Nicole Scherzinger. I am such a girl.

*bikini from Missguided. Sunglasses are Oliver Peoples. Outfit info on Instagram.

So that was Sunday. I’ll go backwards here. On Saturday, my boyfriend and I got up early and took a train to Monaco, a place I have always, always wanted to visit. It was back past Nice so the journey took about two and a half hours. We were pretty much glued to the windows for the duration of it because of the views. France really is a natural beauty, especially along the coast. Monaco, a principality of France, is going to be a separate post! So I’ll stop talking about it now.

Friday was sleeping in after a lot of wine on Thursday and then exploring outside our doorstep, Toulon. We also went swimming at the beach where a French woman thought I was a wimp for saying the water was cold and splashed me until I was soaked. It helped me get in though!

The ironic thing that commonly happens to me on most foreign trips is that we somehow ended up in an Irish bar. Surprised? If you’re Irish and reading this, probably not haha! Now Toulon isn’t a place I can say I’ve actually heard of before this trip. Like at all. And I have no idea why not because it’s pretty special. Sometimes I haven’t heard of towns or small cities in Europe simply because my American education’s geography didn’t cover them growing up. I had heard of Nice when I was in high school I think. Then obviously more when I moved to Ireland. It’s a lovely spot from the brief time I spent traveling through it. But Toulon deserves so much more hype! Every corner of it is gorgeous. Very consistently pretty as I was saying on the trip. Everyone was quite friendly that I talked to there which wasn’t the case in Monaco.. Food and drink was delicious as to be expected. Hmmm, what obvious travel bases haven’t I covered here? I guess if there’s any questions you have please comment them or find me on social media to ask and I’ll be happy to reply. You’ll find I’m fairly brief in my writing although this is a denser post than usual. I don’t fancy writing ridiculously descriptive paragraphs, I think it’s easiest for everyone to just have initial impressions said then and there and said like you’re having a conversation!

I am an actual wheel of cheese after that trip and my body may as well be 50% wine. No regrets though. I lived in sundresses and summery clothes and only got a minimal sunburn which I consider impressive for how much I was prancing about in 27C weather. It was pretty awesome. The photos we took there are such sweet memories for the future (:

What’s your favourite part of France? I think mine might be the south!

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National Botanic Gardens of Ireland

Hello (:

If you’re exploring Dublin, here’s an idea. Check out the National Botanic Gardens.

When Dom of Maiden Moose Photography found me on Instagram and got in touch about a photoshoot I said yes! And after some planning, she suggested the National Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin (Dublin 9) and I immediately said definitely. It was always a place I was interested in going and I’m so glad we did! It was so impressive. And there’s a plant for everyone! I’m a big flower gal and the beds of colourful flowers of all different kinds would make anyone happy (unless you hate flowers?).

I’ll let the photos do most of the talking!

My personal favourites were the really leafy greenhouses! They’re so beautiful and make you feel somewhere tropical. Hughie seemed to enjoy the fuzzy looking cacti. As well as other prickly plants you shouldn’t touch but he did…

I love Maiden Moose’s black and white shots. They are such creative souls and you can tell just by talking to them!

Dom and her husband Eben moved to Dublin six months ago from South Africa and love travel, photography and storytelling. They were very warm and friendly and it was brilliant shooting with them. It had been a good while since my modelling days (back when I was like 16 haha) so I was out of my comfort zone shooting with someone I didn’t know but Dom made it me more comfortable by being so lovely and easy to communicate with. I cannot recommend her and Eben enough, they really are talented! You can find their social media and check out their artistic photography here:

Maiden Moose Website

MM Facebook

MM Instagram

MM Pinterest

I’m so looking forward to seeing the Belfast Botanic Gardens next week with a friend! Dublin’s amazed me!

Have you been to the National Botanic Gardens? 

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36 Hours in Düsseldorf, Germany

Hiya,

I’m back on my grind this week for blogging content and can’t wait to share stuff coming up! Wahoo! However, this post is long overdue. I was in Germany at the beginning of this month for the very first time! I have been saying I’d do go there while I was in Ireland since I was like 18 and finally got around to it! The chance to visit came about because my boyfriend is working on a short term contract in Düsseldorf which is a small cosmopolitan city in the west of Germany.

For the majority of the trip, I was totally on my own which was challenging. I flew over on my own and that was totally fine. But figuring out public transport was DIFFICULT. I have 0 German so thank goodness a majority of Germans speak English. A guy sent me on the wrong train, leaving the city, to which a woman on it kindly got off with me and put me on the correct train and told me to get off in five stops. Maybe that man who misdirected me was confused, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. The woman who helped me was SO kind, I couldn’t believe it. Five stops later, I thought I was getting off at what was city centre. It wasn’t but at least I was somewhere within the city haha. City centre was a stop before apparently but didn’t look anything like the centre of a city?!? I walked for about an hour and a half with Google Maps leading me astray multiple times. I felt hopeless as my phone’s battery drained. EVENTUALLY, I found the hotel later on and dropped my stuff and was very relieved! We stayed at the Nikko Hotel which I’d recommend, very modern!

After wandering for ages, I camped out in a park for awhile as an attempt to chill out. I took this selfie there under a tree to document the sunshine and moment of being wicked lost in a foreign country. Pre-sunburn selfie. It was super hot outside.

At the evening, I reunited with Hughie for dinner and drinks. I didn’t try any local German cuisine. Actually, the city didn’t feel very touristy. A German lady asked me what cultural experiences I had there and I wasn’t able to formulate anything. I’d like to see other parts of Germany in different areas to compare! Hamburg and Munich are high on my list of destinations to explore. We got Italian food the first night and Japanese the next. There is a large Japanese influence in Dusseldorf which you spot in the shops and restaurants! I would also like to take this moment to thank Hughie for being a great Instagram husband. He took all the photos. Except for this one of him obviously!

So, overall it was challenging but a great experience that put me out of my comfort zone. I’d recommend the city as a weekend away as there’s not loads to see so two days is just right. It’s small and walkable with a nice easy going vibe. There are plenty of high end shops along the Rhine River (which I adoringly gazed at from the outside) and it is a fashionable city in general! War World II actually destroyed most of this area so there’s a lot of new architecture mixed in with the old.

Along the river I found a little tourist stand which was the only one I saw while I was there. I bought a few postcards and magnets for friends and family. I’ve been putting together a little collection of them from everywhere I go. Can’t wait to stick the magnets on our new apartment’s fridge this week 😀

On my way back to the airport, I approached a German woman on the street to ask whether she thought I should take the train or bus to the airport and she actually brought me all the way to the train station (about fifteen minutes) and made sure I was getting on the right one…I’m absolutely amazed at how helpful and kindhearted German people were there…Seriously, they made everything a million times easier for me and I am very thankful!

It was an interesting 36 hours for me haha! Dusseldorf is a lovely spot. Especially with all the sunshine!

Have you been?

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