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Month: August 2017

What Not To Worry About #34

What Not To Worry About #34

Happy Tuesday! A little late with the post this week as my mind is consumed with the prospect of feeling the sun on my skin and the sand in between my toes. I have never felt more ready for a holiday especially since it felt like I woke up in a misty cloud this morning, the air thick with moisture even though it wasn’t even raining. And last night was the first time we had the heating on in months. Yes, I think Autumn might have arrived a little early.

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Despite the sad, sad weather we were determined to make the most of the weekend and finally get that afternoon of hiking that I’ve been talking about all summer. We arranged an afternoon climb up Cavehill with friends along with their 10 month old baby who they carried in a very impressive and very professional looking backpack thingy that I was supremely jealous of because he looked so darn cosy in it. Although I have been jabbering on about going hiking for ages and even included it in my summer bucket list,  I actually don’t own a pair of hiking boots (the pair I had from my uni days have scarpered during one of my million moves). I thought I would be grand in my gym trainers but I was oh so WRONG. After a few rain showers the grass was thoroughly muddy and so on our descent I was a victim of a perfect comedy slip (legs waaay up in the air) that left me covered in muck and a little bit of shame. I’ll be buying hiking boots for next summer for sure.

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Luckily, the rest of the weekend was a little less testing with a mountain of good things to celebrate. The first being my best friend Caoimhe getting engaged to her ‘boyfriend of a million years’ Simon which was just about the best news to hear. Caoimhe and I have been best buds since we were young cubs when we were borrowing each other’s Tammy Girl clothes and Collection 2000 make-up for the teenage disco. She has been there to listen to my worries and fears around the world, namely:

  • When I cried over my first love in the Gaeltacht (where we were supposed to be improving our Gaelic in Donegal but mostly ran after boys)
  • When we worried if we’ll actually pass our AS Levels while on our first girls holiday in Santa Ponsa
  • Holding my hand while I panicked on our first long-haul flight to San Francisco
  • When I was sick in SE Asia and made me eat food
  • When she reminded me of home while we lived in Australia
  • When she would let me talk for hours on walks around the Lagan river in Belfast

What memories we’ve made over the years and to see your friend beaming with happiness is all you can ask for, right?

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The second bit of celebrating happened on Sunday when I stood as godmother for Dara, the son of my friends Catherine and Phily. This is their third child and I find it amazing that I am even friends with people who have three children let alone being thought of as responsible enough to be a guardian in any shape or form. But it turns out I can actually pull this whole godmother thing off and I felt very grown up as I held him, proud as punch. It is on afternoons like that when I feel so glad to live close to home and be a part of such a happy event. Seeing families rallying together to welcome in their new little person, taking far too many photos and passing him around for cuddles while eating plenty of cake. It really was a good weekend.

Carrying on with this positivity, I have a few worries that I am letting go of this week…

People getting judge-y about how people should enjoy their engagement

I have never been engaged before but I’ve watched a few friends go through the experience and wondered how the hell they deal with all the pressure. All the questions and opinions even within the first few days must be a little overwhelming and it was no surprise to read this article which talks about the bucket-loads of anxiety some people might feel at first. People should just chill out and understand that everyone is different whether the couple stay engaged forever or book their wedding an hour after they get engaged. Just do what makes you happy!

My make-up bag

Ugh you do not want to go in there. I have brushes in there that haven’t been washed since I bought them (Lord knows when) and mascara so old it’s like cement. I recently read this post which taught me when I should be throwing things away instead of hoarding all of this crap that I know I will probably never use.

Worrying that I am a millennial or too old

Does a millennial have to born after 2000? Or do I belong to the most hated subset of the population? Either way I major LOL’d at this bit of internet gold.

An invisible hair on my face

Probably the most annoying thing to have on one’s face when one is trying to remain in a serious conversation with a coworker. No I don’t have a tick I just have a hair on my face which is driving me INSANE!!

Living ethically

I often worry about my impact on the environment and if I am truly doing everything I can do live as mindfully as possible which is why Mel Wiggins is my go-to gal for ideas on how to live a more ethical life. She has just started an e-course for families who are looking to improve the way they live socially and environmentally which you can find here. I think it’s amazing what she’s doing and if you’re looking for a way to begin a change but are unsure how then I couldn’t recommend this course more.

 

Have a lovely week and here’s to turning the heating on and closing the curtains the moment we get home!!

A Guide to the Midi-Pyrénées: Part Une

A Guide to the Midi-Pyrénées: Part Une

Growing up as one of three girls meant that family trips were anything but calm. Someone would be breathing too loudly in the car, someone would be sitting too closely to someone else or a mass riot would ensue if a sister was seen wearing another sister’s dress/shoes/anything that wasn’t their own.

Nowadays we’re mature adults, you might find it hard to believe that I ever broke her nose when we were kids. Twice. But those turbulent times are over and now we are more than capable of surviving a short holiday together especially when that holiday involves eating our way through the villages of southern France and taking lots and lots of pretty photos.

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So with that confidence in mind, we decided to take a quick trip last month to stay with our aunt and uncle who have spent the last 10 years converting an old barn in to the most beautiful chateaux by the Pyrénées (trés middle class, I know). As they are fairly rural we decided to hire a car and after an hour long process (why do I always get the employee who has just started the job the day before?) we finally hopped in to our beautiful Toyota Aygo that just about fit us along with our carry-on bags.

The French drive on the right hand side of the road which made for an interesting journey to our uncle’s house. It took a few attempts to leave the airport (and Shannon couldn’t even bring herself to look out the window when we eventually joined the motorway) but we made it in one piece to Maison de Donnelly in the late afternoon. After we were hugged and my uncle commented on the rental (“that’s some wee yoke there” – typical Irish man review), we were shown around their humble abode which wasn’t so humble and moved me to real-life tears. They have managed to create a home that is warm and still so full of character, each room decorated with gorgeous French vintage market finds at prices that made me shed even more tears. I immediately promised myself that I will be a regular pest of theirs for as long as they would have me.

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My aunt Bronagh is an incredible cook and once we were settled, we sat at a table overlooking the sunflower fields (am I making you sick yet?). The food was glorious and the wine even more so. We sat chatting until Shannon and I could barely speak with tiredness and so with heavy heads, we retreated to our beautiful bedroom to sleep in our beautiful beds. Turns out we are still kids at heart and we fell asleep in the same bed, talking until we couldn’t keep our eyes open any longer. 

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On our first morning I trotted down to the village to get croissants for breakfast because that is what one does in France. We planned our route for the day over our crumbs and then set off for Fanjeaux, a little hilltop village with views for miles. The rain decided to show up for the first hour or two but I was ferocious in my cheeriness that the rain would soon clear off. I’m one of those travellers that vehemently believes that rain should never dampen sprits but really all that it does is convince my fellow traveller that I’m a bit mental (picture me in the pouring rain with a manic smile screaming “WE ARE HAVING FUN, AREN’T WE?!).

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Fanjeaux is an old Cathar town with crumbling medieval walls surrounding the Dominican chapel. It was beautiful despite the drizzle with plenty of cobbled streets to get lost in (or do circles like we did). It was so quiet and felt a little eerie in places because we hardly saw a soul save for a few damp tourists. We didn’t stay too long as we didn’t have an umbrella but it’s a place I would love to go back to on a clear day.

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Luckily for everyone the skies cleared as we were headed to Limoux and as the clouds parted we could spy the Pyrénées in the distance. The valley between Fanjeaux and Limoux is covered in vineyards which makes it a little difficult to be the chief/only driver. The area is famous for a sparkling wine called Blanquette which is sold by the vineyards alongside the road or in all the local shops. If Shannon had have been driving I would have been making a pitstop at every vineyard but being the ever-responsible big sister I stuck to caffeine and saved the wine-tasting to the evenings when I could guzzle guilt-free back at the barn.

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As we approached Limoux we could see that it didn’t quite have the same charm as Fanjeaux. It was a little busier and there were plenty of roadworks which don’t really scream rustic tranquility. However there is a lovely square there which was perfect for soaking up the delayed sun rays and drinking the first coffee I have ever actually enjoyed. After years of trying to like coffee (and failing), it seems all it took was a mocha in Limoux to win me over. I feel more grown up than ever now.

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After a charcuterie feast which was mainly eaten by moi, Shannon and I dawdled back to our car crossing over a very pretty bridge with fantastic views across the river. On our way we dodged a few lengthy gazes from French men who we soon discovered were unashamedly comfortable with staring. Oh how different they are to the typical Irish fella who would look anywhere but the woman he is interested in for fear of coming on too strong…

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Back in the wee Aygo we made our way to Mirepoix with a quick stop off in Luc-sur-Aude. Oh my, this drive was so spectacular. Trees seem to line the entrance of every town in the Languedoc but this road was truly special. Mountains seemed to appear out of nowhere with sheer cliffs towering over the winding roads. Shannon and I had our noses to the windshield as we gazed upwards in awe, not speaking save for tutting to ourselves like old women.

We pulled in to Luc-sur-Aude to give our necks a break and again were so surprised at how quiet the little village was. We walked through the streets wondering where the people were or if there was some apocalypse we hadn’t heard about as we ascended up a hill to check out the view. There were vineyards for miles surrounded by mountains and despite my attempt at taking a photo of the view, I couldn’t do it justice.

 

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The late afternoon sun was burning above us as we headed up the mountains towards the fairytale town of Mirepoix. Our ears popped as we snaked up the hills and we pulled over to drink in even more beautiful views. The roads were so quiet and when we sat overlooking the valleys below all we could hear were the cicadas buzzing in the heat. 

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We got to Mirepoix in the evening and as we hopped out of our car and walked towards the main square, we looked at each other with immediate glee, silently agreeing that we had definitely saved the best place to last. The town looked like something straight out of a Disney movie set and I half expected people to burst in to song at any moment. Shannon and I grew up on these movies and you can imagine how giddy we were to see such a place in real life. We strolled through the market stalls and circled the old town walls before picking a spot in the square where we could soak all of the colours in. We sat with the golden light on our faces, barely speaking a word but feeling incredibly content with ourselves.

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Drunk on the day we just had, we headed back to the barn for another feast until the sky. Desperate not to finish the day just yet, we dandered down to the village to watch the locals play bowls (or boules if you want to get technical) and drank coffee while the stars came out. Finally shattered, we fell in to our beds, thoroughly satisfied that sisters really do make the best travelling companion. Even if their driving might terrify us.

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Stay tuned for another French post coming soon…

What Not To Worry About #33

What Not To Worry About #33

Happy Tuesday friends!! I hope this week has started off well despite the extremely autumn-y weather we have been having. It really feels like summer is falling through our fingertips now although there is a part of me that’s looking forward to lighting the fire again and seeing the colours beginning to change. I am an Autumn baby after all!

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The past weekend was spent down in Armagh catching up with old friends over a few pints and some blues music. Armagh has been hosting the 7 Hills Blues Fest for a few years now and it’s been such a great success in a town that has been encouraging more and more local festivals. It’s always good to return to my hometown but it’s even better when there’s an excuse to dance until the wee hours!

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But in even bigger news, I have been asked to be godmother for my friends’ wee bairn! It is official: I am actually a responsible adult. Catherine and Phily welcomed Dara in to the world last Monday and I got the chance to hold the wee bundle on Saturday. He is beautiful and I was so chuffed to be asked – does this mean I am a proper grown up now??

Despite the positive things that are happening in my own world, there are still a few worries that I am letting go of this week. Here are a few of them…

Not doing enough of what I love

I love being outside and throughout the summer I had hoped to get hiking the mountains near home. Unfortunately the weekends have ran away from me and so I have been living vicariously through this woman who is my new hero.

Not being successful

I wrote a piece last week about the things that shouldn’t define us and I also read this blog post by the ever-fantastic Sara Tasker who spoke about how being successful shouldn’t always be monetary. It really is a great post that definitely helped me see things from a different perspective.

Not living closer to the water

I live within a few miles of the nearest beach so I really shouldn’t complain much but after living in Australia, I really miss getting my feet sandy every day. Lately I have been making more of an effort to catch the sunset on the beach closest to me and after reading this article, I understand more than ever how being by the water is food for the soul.

Planning holiday outfits

We’re off to Bali next week and I am already trying to break each day down to outfits and then subcategorising down to:

  • cute ‘aren’t I so bohemian’ beach outfits
  • sophisticated ‘look at me in this flowy dress’ dinner outfits
  • dressy ‘we’re going out-out tonight’ outfits
  • demure ‘I am a respectful lady’ temple outfits

It’ll be a miracle if I am able to whittle all of these potential looks in to one suitcase!

Not sleepwalking when we’re on holiday

I used to sleepwalk a lot when I was a child (which thoroughly freaked out my parents) but it doesn’t happen quite as much as I’ve gotten older. However it seems to happen when I am in a new place and I remember waking up when I was inter-railing trying to get out on to a balcony in Krakow – not good! If you have any sleepwalkers in your life then reading this article might help you handle them a little better. Here’s hoping I don’t go off on any midnight danders in Bali!

 

Have a great week!

10 Things That You Should Not Let Define You

10 Things That You Should Not Let Define You

I’ll be turning 29 next month which has started a very contemplative phase I like to call the ‘pre-birthday freak-out phase’. It’s around this time that I start questioning where I am, the person I am and the person I want to become.  I know it’s all extremely deep and self-absorbed but I think these are important questions to ask ourselves every once in a while even when you’re not entering the last year of your twenties and flippin’ the feck out.

Self-identity is a can of worms that I am not qualified to open but I thought I would share something that I have come to understand during this haze of panic:

Most of us want to be the best person we can be

Right? We all want to be remembered as being kind/generous/successful people but in the quest for this achievement we can lose sight of what truly defines us. We allow ourselves to become focused on circumstances that we believe to be a crucial part of who are when in fact they are only the stepping stone to being that person. We are always changing as people through the experiences we have but we can’t benefit from these lessons if we are unable to see past our situation.

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I have been guilty of this recently. By nearing 30 I have wondered if I am where I thought I would be by this age. As a teenager I had no concept of time and predicted I would be earning a heck of a lot more, be married, own my own home with maybe a wee bairn on the way. I haven’t achieved any of that but should I let that define whether I am successful or not? Absolutely not.

I honestly believe it is my actions and treatment of others that define who I am. I believe it is the love that consumes me for my family and friends that defines me. I believe it is every experience, heartbreak or euphoric, that defines me. I believe it is the people who I have met and the stories I have heard that defines me. I am made up of all these things and will continue to be made up of more as I grow older and love more.

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Here are the things that I am choosing to not let define me and hopefully you won’t let define you either…

Your Job

As a doe-eyed university student I dreamed of becoming a hugely successful wildlife conservationist and travelling the world as David Attenborough’s understudy (I dreamed big!). Of course I could still become a conservationist if my heart desired but my career has led me down a different path that I am OK with. I am working in the financial world now, an industry I would have turned my nose up as a young environmentalist but I have chosen this career because I know it will help me progress to where I want to go. You might not like your current job or you might be a little disappointed that you’re not where you thought you would be instead focus on where this experience will get you to. I don’t allow my job or how much I earn to define me because I have a whole life outside of work that I believe contributes to who I am too.

Your Marital Status

I am a part of a group of friends who are slowly getting married off one by one and I have been beyond happy watching them commit themselves to the people they love. However, I hate the feeling that people wonder when ‘I’m next’ because it’s as if the happiness of my own relationship is then questioned because we aren’t yet married. We shouldn’t use any relationship as a measure of success, married or otherwise, because it will only lead to an unhealthy dependency on using another person to define who we are. We are all individuals and should always treat ourselves as such when considering our own worth.

Your Age

I know a few of you reading might scoff at me panicking about turning 30 but I think we are all victims of allowing our age to define us. Our age can stop us from making decisions that might change our lives because we either believe we are either too old or too young to accomplish them. We might feel we are too young to question our peers in the workplace and not worthy of the respect we deserve based on our merit. We might feel we are too old to leave a toxic relationship because it will mean we need to start all over again. Your age isn’t you. Those big bold choices in life are what define us and age should never be a barrier to that.

Your Appearance

Honestly the amount of times I have stood in front of a mirror and felt disgusted is too many times to admit but it has happened. I have scrolled through Instagram wondering why I have this pouch that will refuse to leave or why my legs are like wee stumps instead of remembering that the pouch isn’t really all that big and my legs are actually quite toned. Our appearance might be the first thing that people see but the impressions we make go beyond what we see in the mirror. When someone greets you they are looking for the kindness in your eyes, the warmth in your smile or how easy you are to talk to. Your features do not define you.

Your Health

This one may not be specific to some people but I had to include it because it’s relevant to the perception I can have of myself. Having Cystic Fibrosis means that I often feel like I have little control over my life and therefore people’s perceptions of me. I hate that I might be thought of as ‘sick’ because I don’t want my illness to define who I am or what others think of me. I am so much more than a girl who has a bad cough! And you too shouldn’t let your own health define the expectations you have of yourself. So what if you might not be a good runner? You might be better suited to yoga or a gentle swim. Ease up on the pressure and remember that just because you might not be able to run a mile in few minutes doesn’t make you capable of other great things.

Your ‘Stuff

Social media now means that instead of just reading about celebrities in magazines we now have full access to their daily lives. Product after product is being churned out to ‘influence’ us to buy while trends move so fast that sought after items are often outdated by the time we can afford to buy them. We have been a consumer society for a long time now but the pressure is getting a bit ridiculous and we shouldn’t think that buying nice things means we truly successful. I honestly believe our hard-earned money should be spent on experiences because those moments are what should define who we are and are what we will remember when we’re reminiscing in our rocking chairs (when we’re unfashionable no matter what we buy!).

How Many Friends You Have

When I was younger I tended to measure my worth by how busy my social calendar was. I loved having loads of friend and a weekend jam packed with plans which in the end left me feeling exhausted. Now that I’m approaching 30 that need to fill time isn’t quite as potent because I have decided that quality is more better than quantity when it comes to friendships. I have a small group of people around me who I adore and by putting my energy in to those relationships I am left feeling a lot more fulfilled (and I also have more time to myself which I love!). The same goes with social media too. For a while there I definitely felt under pressure to have as many followers as possible and would feel disappointed when I didn’t see the numbers increase the way I wanted. I have come to realise that you need your tribe online just as much as you do in the ‘real world’ and it doesn’t matter if you have 100 or 1 million followers, as long as you have good people engaging with you then that’s what really is rewarding.

What You Consider as Smart

My little sister Shannon is, without a doubt, the funniest person I know. She is so quick-witted that even the smartest people can’t keep up with her! Having such a quick mind means she’s always intuitive and has real common sense and yet despite all of this obvious intelligence, Shannon would never consider herself as ‘smart’. Growing up in western society taught us that intelligence is often measured by success in academia which means that we have a distorted view on what constitutes as smart. Being smart doesn’t mean you can answer all the questions in University Challenge (I have a mini Mexican wave if I get one answer!), have a degree or listen to classical music. You might have a brain for business (like my Dad who is dyslexic) or you might have a true talent with numbers. Don’t define yourself by how many books you’ve read but rather how you use the talents you know you do have.

Your Mistakes

Oh Jaysus, how often I have punished myself for the stupid things I have done or said. I have tortured myself thinking that people’s opinions of me have changed forever on the basis of a single act of stupidity especially as a reckless youth. I have started to discover though that people actually forget mistakes a lot quicker than you do and it’s how you recover from these mistakes that define you the most. Don’t worry that people will always attach your mistake to because they won’t.

Your Race/Religion/Sexuality

Growing up in Northern Ireland, people often used religion to identify themselves and even today there can still be an ‘us’ and ‘them’ language used by many. I was brought up as Catholic and my boyfriend was brought up as Protestant and although neither of us would describe ourselves as religious, it was still a bit of an adjustment for a few family members. In a perfect world we would all be viewed as the same but of course racial tensions are stronger than ever, sectarianism in NI still exists and LGBT members of the community still lack the rights that all humans should have. Despite this we should not let our race/religion/sexuality define who we are. We are more than just a label and if we are united in encouraging that mindset then maybe one day we can live in a society that starts seeing the person behind the label.

 

Have you any thoughts on this? Is there anything in your life that you refuse to let define you?? 

 

What Not To Worry About #32

What Not To Worry About #32

Happy Monday folks!

A new week is here and I am clinging on to this so-called summer with dear life. The sun has almost certainly been taking too many breaks behind the clouds and in the midst of an overcast-induced temper tantrum, Andrew and I impulsively booked flights for a holiday in less than 3 weeks. Yes, we are jetting off to freakin’ BALI people!! I am beyond excited and every day since I have woken up with butterflies just thinking of palm trees and crystal clear waters to swim in.

I promise I won’t torture you with too much gloating because I know a lot of you have already been and gone on your main trip of the year and are more than likely experiencing a very real case of the post-holiday blues. For this I would prescribe a weekend break in the autumn. Book it now so you have something, anything to keep you going until our Indian Summer arrives (she better). In the meantime try and enjoy the fact that it’s still warm enough to hear lawn mowers on a Saturday (my favourite summer sound) and there are still a few festivals happening to keep us occupied even if the rain clouds do decide to break.

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Bali-madness aside, things have been pretty dandy in all other areas and I am determined to ride this wave of positivity for as long as I can because I know life ain’t always this easy. I tend to be not so great at letting myself enjoy the good times because there’s always that bitch on my back telling me that something is going to come along and screw the whole thing up (is this an Irish thing??). That bitch has been fairly mute recently and man it’s nice to get some peace. I am happy with work, happy with Andrew lecturing me on his newest philosophies (his newest one is that we are living in a simulation – no joke), happy with my friendships and happy with my car that has no exhaust or working driver’s window.

With this lucky streak in mind I have decided to add a few things to the list of things I won’t be worrying about. Check it out:

How wonderfully united Northern Ireland really can be
Belfast Pride took place on Saturday and the city was tarted up in exactly the way it should be for the festivities. Rainbow flags were adorned on buildings and business, balloons and glitter filled the streets. Gay marriage isn’t legal here yet and the fight will continue until it is but seeing a city so united in and inclusive of all people was so uplifting. Plenty of hope here!

Being a fridge control freak
I accidentally chucked out a slice of pizza that Andrew had been saving for his evening snack last night and almost died. I tend to gut out the fridge on a Sunday and just wasn’t thinking of the consequences of my actions apparently. The man barely spoke to me for a good hour afterwards and I quickly learned that no matter how old the pizza is YOU DO NOT THROW IT OUT BEFORE CONSULTATION. EVER.
People who don’t leave back shopping trolleys

I saw a friend post a Facebook status about this and couldn’t have agreed more. And then this article came in to my life and blew my mind. Return your trolleys people!

Never feeling at home
As a person who has lived in a fair few places since leaving my childhood home at 18, I struggle with the concept of home. I could dedicate a whole post to this but until then I give you this article. This piece of writing warmed my heart so much so that it felt like home in itself. And she talks about tea which is just about perfect for me.

Not having my own home
We rent our wee house and although it suits us for where we are right now, there are times that I would just love to rip everything out and renovate it as my own. It’s so difficult to add personality to house that you can’t necessarily to do too much to especially when you have a lemon-coloured bath suite (barf) but when I do have my own house I want it to look a little like this one.

Have a great week!!

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Local Favourites: Dunluce Castle & Mussenden Temple

Local Favourites: Dunluce Castle & Mussenden Temple

I think there are a few things that come to mind when foreigners think of Ireland (according to Hollywood anyway):

  1. Rain. Lots of rain.
  2. Green fields as far as the eye can see.
  3. Old men drinking Guinness
  4. A random person playing the fiddle in the pub
  5. Castle ruins dotted everywhere

We Irish might roll our eyes at this glamourisation of our wee isle especially when a plastic poncho-covered American tourist insists on defining themselves as Irish or asks where the best pint of Guinness is (I usually direct them to the Harp Bar or The Duke of York). But the fact is that most of the expectations of Ireland are usually about right. It does rain here. A lot. And most aul fellas in a pub probably will be propped up by a pint of the black stuff. And we really are lucky enough to have hundreds of castle ruins scattered across our hills and rugged coastlines.

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But having so much history close to home can be a hindrance here because we can overlook these beautiful castles on our doorstep just because they are familiar. I grew up in Armagh, the ancient capital of Ireland and my childhood home was about a mile or two away from a burial ground that dates back thousands of years. I only just visited this site again for the first time since primary school and felt so ashamed that I’d forgotten about such an important piece of my history.

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I lived abroad for about 6 years and I think coming back to live in Ireland awoke me to just how many fascinating sites there are here that I haven’t even been to. I have been determined to rectify this since and so on a Saturday morning a few weeks ago I set off with a begrudging boyfriend to explore the ruins of Dunluce Castle and Mussenden Temple.

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You might not know the names of these coastal monuments but you will recognise them especially if you’re a Game of Thrones fan. It’s difficult to find a place along this part of the Irish coastline that hasn’t been filmed for the series yet which is evident by the throngs of tour buses that descend on these shores in the summer hoping to catch a glimpse of a set now famous around the world.

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Our first stop was Dunluce Castle, probably one of the most famous ruins in the North. The castle hangs precariously off the cliffs of Antrim as if carved out of the cliffs themselves but even in its decay it still casts a foreboding figure on the jagged coastline. The castle was first built just over 500 years ago by the McQuillan clan but was seized by the MacDonnell’s from Scotland in the 1550’s who later swore loyalty to Elizabeth I and became the Earls of Antrim. Today its ruins bear a reminder of a time when every piece of land was a prize to be won with consequences more violent than any Game of Thrones episode (GOT fans might recognise the castle as the home of the Greyjoy’s). But who needs TV eh?

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When we arrived at the castle the sun was uncharacteristically beaming down which meant there were even more tourists than usual. To avoid competing for a good shot of the ruins amongst the crowds, I wandered down the road to a nearby field and clambered over the gate. I might have been trespassing (I looked for signs, I swear) but the field was empty of animals and I was able to get uninterrupted views of the castle with the waves crashing against the cliffs beneath.

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After the castle we drove a few miles along the coast to Whitepark Bay to Bothy, a wee timber gem that looks like a homestead plucked from the American Midwest. I had heard a few things about this joint before but I had no idea just how charmed I would be by the food and the people there. There is a real warm welcome upon entering mixed in with a laid-back atmosphere that feels border-line Californian. We were there on a summer’s day so the doors were thrown open to allow the sea breeze to cool the place down while the back was opened up for the sun worshipper’s to eat outside.

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Andrew and I both ordered chicken melts with tobacco onions which we devoured within a few minutes and we spent the next half hour bathing in the afternoon heat not wanting to move at all. We noticed a pizza oven outside too so I would imagine this would be a great spot for a summer’s evening and a few drinks if you didn’t have far to travel. As well as that there’s also a wee stove inside too so it would be super cosy for a winter’s day – they’ve got it all covered here!!

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After being suitably fed and feeling super relaxed we hopped back in the car and headed towards Mussenden Temple which was about a half hour away. The temple forms part of the Downhill Demesne and although it has aged much better than the manor, it is perhaps built at an even more precipitous position than Dunluce – we Irish love our dramatics don’t we?! It was built in 1785 and was to be used as a summer library in memory of the Earl’s cousin Frideswide Mussenden. Imagine cosying up to a book with almost 360 views of the ferocious Atlantic – you wouldn’t leave! These days you can actually hire the temple out as a wedding venue which would be an absolute dream location for anyone – booklover or not.

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On our way to the temple we actually picked up a hitchhiker – Robin from Toulouse – who was hitchhiking his way along the Irish coast with a tent and not much else. We brought him as far as Limavady but took him along to Mussenden which he wasn’t aware even existed. It was so lovely to discover the temple alongside a foreigner because I felt like I was experiencing it as a tourist on holiday. With the sun warming my back and standing on the cliff edge admiring the views out towards Scotland, I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else. How lucky we are to have all of this on our doorstep.

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