The buzzword in travel at the moment is "staycation" and with finances the way they are for many people, that holiday in the sun might prove to be more elusive than expected this year.
Monday, 21 May 2012
Luckily, Northern Ireland has plenty of places to explore and it's easy to find many activities to keep all age-groups entertained.
The Ards Peninsula is a popular area for visitors from far and wide. From Donaghadee and Newtownards at the northern end to Portaferry at the southern end, the loughside and coastal routes on the peninsula have some spectacular scenery on display.
The National Trust property, Mountstewart, is a stunning estate and is well worth a stop off. The house is magnificent and holds all sorts of historic artefacts. The gardens are also spectacular.
My kids love the walk around the lake to feed the ducks. There are many different events held in the grounds over the summer including Jazz concerts and Food Festivals.
The peninsula has many accommodation options to suit all budgets, one of the best known is the Portaferry Hotel. This small hotel sits on the shorefront of the town, with unfettered views of the Lough.
The Hotel had some refurbishment recently and whilst it retains its old fashioned charm, in some ways, it is bang up to date. The refurbishment brought with it a new Chef who has brought an international touch to the kitchen.
The hotel caters for all tastes, with a great bar meal menu available. However, the magic happens in the restaurant, where the new tasting menu includes Lamb, Scallop, Quail and many new variations on traditional meals. The chef is supported by a great team of waiters who tend to your every need.
Portaferry itself is a lively town in the summer months, it's five pubs offer a range of entertainment and each has their own 'niche' in the market. Fiddlers Green is the home of traditional music and many impromptu performances are held throughout the week. Just along the shorefront from the hotel another pub, The Slip, as well as having a very quirky interior, is home to the biggest pints on the peninsula...you'll see what I mean when you visit.
Of course, the town is also well known for being the home of Exploris, the Northern Ireland Aquarium. There, you can get up close and personal with many of the species that live in or around Strangford Lough. The Seal Sanctuary acts as a hospital & nursery to the many baby seals which get into difficulty around our coastline.
The short ferry journey across to Strangford allows for some more scenic views, and the village of Strangford has a number of speciality shops and cafes to explore. Just outside the village, the National Trust property at Castle Ward is another destination worth visiting. There are a variety of outdoor pursuits and activities available including cycling, orienteering and canoeing.
Back on the peninsula, you can also stop at Cloughey beach, which is huge, and great for a walk. It also has stunning views across to the Isle of Man. It would be remiss of me not to mention Donaghadee (given that I live there!) The famous harbour and lighthouse are seen on countless postcards and a firm favourite amongst visitors to the area.
You can find a wealth of information about the area at visitstrangfordlough.co.uk