Sunday, 4 March 2018

Happy Birthday Daddy

Well, today is your birthday, March 5th, four days before your favourite daughter's birthday, Róise, the dog.
In many ways you are like most fathers of my generation, sometimes quiet, often just listening to me talking at you.

However, you have so many qualities that make you MY daddy.
For as long as I can remember I have asked you for help or advice. At school, it was help with history and geography homework and as I've grown up and gone to university it has evolved into exam and career advice. Despite my never ending talking, I do listen to you and value your advice.
Another thing that I cherish about you is your life experience. Not just because you are older than me and quite possibly wiser, but because you have done so much in your life, travelled and lived in so many places and encountered people from all over the world from so many walks of life. I often talk about the places you've been, reciting stories (you may have told more than once!), often even on dates!

You aren't one to compliment often but when you do, whether it's about something I've designed for work or written for college, a new dress or jacket I'm wearing, I'm always chuffed to hear you compliment it.
Your fantastically sharp and mad sense of humour never fail to make me smile. Your daily dose of hilarious responses in the family WhatsApp group make me laugh out loud! I hope your sense of humour and quick wit are things I have inherited, even just a fraction of.
There is something so nice, and that makes me feel like a child again when I hug you and mammy goodnight every night when I'm home from Dublin. At almost 22 years old I love that it is something we've always done in our household. You might not read us bedtime stories, make sure we've brushed our teeth or brush our hair (much more gently than mammy did!) anymore but a hug goodnight is something I always love about being home.

I think it might be fair to say we are quite similar people personality wise. People often think we look quite alike too (minus the beard!). The former is both a good and a bad thing. We sometimes argue about stupid things (our common stubbornness comes into play here).
However, I still love you to the moon and back and look up to you now, and always (and not just because you're 6’3”).
Happy Birthday Daddy!

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Discover Donegal

County Donegal is a region bordering the Atlantic Ocean in northwestern Ireland. It is made up of castles, rugged coastline and mountains such as the quartzite Mount Errigal.
There is so much beauty in Donegal, that looks untouched in the rugged landscape.
Donegal has been named as no.1 on the Cool List for 2017 by The National Geographic:
"With a weather-nibbled coast spotted with sea stacks, Blue Flag beaches and offshore islands, Donegal is a land that feels undiscovered. Last summer, scenes for Star Wars: Episode VIII were filmed on the Inishowen Peninsula. But this area of Ireland is also expecting 2017 to be a big year; there’s an array of reasons to visit, from surfing beaches in Magheraroarty and Ballyhiernan Bay to Horn Head — a driving, walking or cycling loop that squeezes the 1,600-mile Wild Atlantic Way into a 4.5-mile nutshell." National Geographic
Here is a list of some of the most spectacular thins to do, in no particular order; 

No. 1 Slieve League -

Standing at the top of the magnificent Slieve League Cliffs, it feels like you’re at the very edge of the world.
(Credit: Irish Central)
They are the highest accessible seacliffs in Europe reaching a height of 1,972 feet/601 meters, is almost twice as high as the Eiffel Tower in Paris and nearly three times the height of the more famous Cliffs of Moher in County Clare.
From the top, you can look out across Donegal Bay all the way to County Sligo and beyond. There are a number of lakes on the way to the summit, and at the base, there is a small beach of pure white sand. The beach is only approachable by boat. To the right-hand side of the beach, there is a fairly large cave where seals sometimes take time out of the water to shade themselves at the edge of the cave or sun themselves on the beach.
(Credit: @instaireland)

No.2 Glenveagh National Park and Castle -

Glenveagh (from Irish Gleann Bheatha, meaning 'glen of the birches') is the second largest national park in Ireland. Glenveagh National Park, once a private estate, encompasses forests, lakes and bogland in the Derryveagh Mountains.
Glenveagh National Park is a remote and hauntingly beautiful wilderness of rugged mountains, pristine lakes, tumbling waterfalls and enchanted native oak woodland in the heart of the Derryveagh Mountains in the north-west of County Donegal.
At the centre of the Park on the edge of Lough Veagh is Glenveagh Castle, a late 19th-century castellated mansion, built as a hunting lodge.
(Credit: Ireland's Hidden Gems)
The park is home to the largest herd of red deer in Ireland and the formerly extirpated golden eagle was reintroduced into the park in 2000.
From beautiful lakeside walks, hikes and cycling trails there is so much to do and see in Glenveagh. Visit the beautiful and vibrant gardens before stopping by the cafe for some tasty homemade treats!

No. 3 Fanad Lighthouse -

Standing between idyllic Lough Swilly and sandy Mulroy Bay, Fanad Head Lighthouse has been voted one of the most beautiful lighthouses in the world. Building commenced in 1815.  The light was first lit on St. Patrick’s day 17th March 1817.
Fanad Head lies on the north coast of County Donegal between Lough Swilly and Mulroy Bay. Its claims to fame include one of the world’s most beautiful lighthouses and the famous Flight of the Earls, which took place here in 1607. To reach the headland, travel along Knockalla Coast Road, a route with some seriously stunning panoramas. Along the way, you’ll take in views of the Inishowen Peninsula and the Atlantic Ocean, and as the road ascends, you’ll look down upon Portsalon and Ballymastocker Bay. From this vantage point, it’s easy to see why the beach was once voted the second most beautiful in the world.
(credit: @deirbhileuna)
"Join us on one of our popular and unforgettable Fanad Lighthouse Tours. An amazing journey of discovery awaits you on Donegal’s Wild Atlantic Way. Learn about the light and aids to navigation past and present. Step back in time and hear stories about light-keepers in days gone by and climb to the top of the tower for spectacular views of land and sea." -  Fanad Lighthouse visitor centre
(Credit: Shane Ray - Flickr)

No. 4 Griannán of Aileach -

The Grianan of Aileach (Irish: Grianán Ailigh) is a hill fort atop the 244 metres (801 ft) high Greenan Mountain at Inishowen in County Donegal, Ireland. The main structure is a stone ringfort, thought to have been built by the Northern Uí Néill, in the sixth or seventh century AD; although there is evidence that the site had been in use before the fort was built. It has been identified as the seat of the Kingdom of Ailech and one of the royal sites of Gaelic Ireland.
The view from Aileach is breathtaking. The glistening waters of Lough Foyle and Lough Swilly are clear, as is the form of the entire peninsula. A windy and exposed place, Grianán has been a silent witness to the history of Ireland.

No. 5 Ard's Friary & Lucky Shell beach -

Ards Friary is quite simply a stunningly beautiful place to visit.
The peace and serenity of Ards Friary are not to be missed. It is located adjoining Ards Forest Park, and the walks through the Friary grounds extend into the Forest Park, allowing you to wander and explore for miles! The coastal walk from the Shell beach at Ards Friary round into the Forest Park offers some of the most beautiful views in the country.
fixedw_large_4x (1).jpg
(Credit: Jason Harron -
There are several beaches along the walk, the most beautiful being Lucky Shell beach. When we get some sunshine this beach looks like the Mediterranean, with turquoise blue water and sailboats anchored by the shore.
Tucked between 2 headlands with a backdrop of Ards forest, the beach is sheltered and the sea here is safe for swimming. Famous for its beautiful shells, you will find it impossible not to go home with a few in your pocket.

(Credit Hive Mind - Flickr)
There is so much to do and see in Donegal, and with bus routes from all over Ireland, its a trip worth doing!

Friday, 15 December 2017

A day of Christmas festivities in Dublin

We’ve got a busy and very festive day ahead of us, so let’s get a tasty breakfast! Beanhive is the perfect spot to start the day, with amazing Irish fry-ups and tasty treats for breakfast. Their coffee is amazing, and the attention to detail of the latte art is incredible!

The first stop on the festive trail is the Mansion House to see the Live Crib. With real animals and a depiction of the Nativity scene, it’s a lovely Christmas attraction to visit.
The Lord Mayor of Dublin, Oisín Quinn hosts the Live Animal Crib outside the historic Dublin Mansion House, his home, on Dawson Street.

Now for a chilly walk to St. Stephen’s Green, be sure to be wrapped up well, as Winter has well and truly hit Dublin!

For some beautiful Christmas lights and decorations, take a trip to St. Stephen’s Green shopping centre. Pick up a few last-minute gifts maybe.

"The Dandelion Market, well known as the site of U2's earliest gigs and its array of stalls selling punk badges, clothes and posters was situated in the area the shopping centre now resides in. 

The market, which closed in 1981, is commemorated with a plaque, while Sinnotts Bar on South King Street is the only part of the original site that remains. Work began on the St. Stephen's Green Shopping Centre in 1985, with the whole project taking three years to complete. The centre officially opened its doors on 8 November 1988."

As the sun begins to set, the Christmas lights on Grafton street begin to twinkle and add to the cosy festive atmosphere of Dublin’s city centre.

Grafton Street is more of a window shopping street for most students, but with amazing window displays in Brown Thomas, it’s a must-see.

It might be time for a hot chocolate now as the moon appears, and the temperature begins to drop. The newly refurbished Bewley’s Cafe is the perfect spot for an indulgent hot chocolate and maybe even another Irish Christmas favourite, a mince pie!

Bewley’s Grafton Street, one of Dublin’s most iconic and celebrated landmarks, has reopened its doors. Following a multi-million- euro refurbishment, the much-loved café has been restored to create a bigger, brighter and better-than-ever customer experience.

Ensuring you feel well and truly snuggled in the Christmas spirit, buskers and carol singers can be found all the way from Grafton street, across the bridge to O’Connell Street, weaving their way down the inevitably busy Henry Street and Mary Street as people gather the last few gifts.

Now that you have made it across the bridge, you will find lots more twinkling lights saying, ‘Nollaig Shona Duit’, meaning Merry Christmas to you, in Irish (Gaeilge).

"Nollaig Shona Duit"
(NO-Lig HU-na ditch).
However, if you were to be addressing the same greeting to two or more persons, you would say:
"Nollaig Shona Daoibh"
(NO-Lig HU-na DEEV)
This literally means "You have a Happy Christmas."

A Christmas tradition between Henry Street and Moore Street are the independent stalls, selling Christmas jumpers, lights, handmade gifts and everything in between.
Year-round the markets can be found on Moore Street selling veg and flowers.

"The famous Moore Street open-air fruit and vegetable market is Dublin's oldest food market. The market there is considered to be a famous landmark on the northside of the city. "

It is time to go back across the bridge, this time to Temple Bar, 
"Temple Bar is a busy riverside neighbourhood, spread over cobbled pedestrian lanes. Crowded pubs host live folk music and DJ sets, and diners pack restaurants serving Asian, American and Irish cuisine. Quirky boutiques stock clothes and crafts by local designers. The National Photographic Archive highlights Ireland’s past, while the Project Arts Centre and Temple Bar Gallery + Studios show contemporary art.         

There is an abundance of choice when it comes to making dinner plans in Temple Bar, everything from burgers in Bunsen to pizza or pasta in Milano's or just classic Irish 'pub grub' in The Porterhouse

As the day draws to a close there is time for a few more Christmas adventures. For a true taste of an Irish Christmas the Panto (Pantomime; Pantomime is a type of musical comedy stage production designed for family entertainment.)
The Gaiety Panto is always a great night, a lighthearted, entertaining way to end your day.

If you'd prefer to continue exploring, a night at Dublin Zoo's Wild Lights show might be what you're looking for! 

Wild Lights is a must-see experience for family, friends and couples this festive season, where they will embark on an enchanted trail and discover a dazzling array of beautifully crafted, giant colourful lanterns inspired by wildlife.
Visitors will be treated to an awe-inspiring display of lanterns which includes a pride of lions, orangutans, tigers, giraffes, monkeys and much more!

 For the final touch on the perfect festive day in Dublin, a nice festive mulled wine or hot chocolate at The Hole In The Wall pub is the place to go. Located outside a small entrance to Phoenix Park on Black Horse Avenue, the 400-year-old pub always has the most amazing Christmas decorations!

And that brings our day to an end!

Monday, 13 March 2017

From the hills of Donegal and back again...

Only in recent years have I grown to appreciate the beauty that surrounds me in my home county. Growing up, almost every weekend we would head off as a family to one of the many beautiful beaches, walks, mountains or cliffs in Donegal. Eventually I grew bored of what I saw to be just a walk, the same walk we had done maybe fifty times or more. I failed to notice the magnificent scenery that I took for granted, the budding trees in Spring or the sweet scented flowers in Summer. 

Particularly in the past year and a half while I have been living in Dublin I have come to miss those family walks, for the company and breathtaking beauty that was only a stone's throw away. I have been very fortunate to have such spectacular surroundings in which to develop my photography skills. It was easy to take a beautiful picture but having learnt how to properly use my camera I am now able to do my surroundings some sort of justice in showcasing its beauty to those not fortunate to live in Donegal.
Ard's Friary is the place we go for walks most often as its only a ten minute drive. There are several beaches along the walk, the most beautiful being Lucky Shell beach. When we get some sunshine this beach looks like the Mediterranean, with turquoise blue water and sail boats anchored by the shore.
Rathmullan is the beach we go for a walk on if we've gone for lunch in Rathmullan town. It isn't one of my favourite beaches just because you can't swim there and it is often quite busy. However the view from the shore is spectacular and Spring has truly sprung in Donegal this past weekend.
Glenvaegh is a spectacularly beautiful place, there are many different walks and hikes to go on where you are surrounded my hills, a lake and a castle. No matter what season it is Glenvaegh never loses its charm and beauty.

Having been named as no.1 on the Cool List for 2017 by The National Geographic:
With a weather-nibbled coast spotted with sea stacks, Blue Flag beaches and offshore islands, Donegal is a land that feels undiscovered. Last summer, scenes for Star Wars: Episode VIII were filmed on the Inishowen Peninsula. But this area of Ireland is also expecting 2017 to be a big year; there’s an array of reasons to visit, from surfing beaches in Magheraroarty and Ballyhiernan Bay to Horn Head — a driving, walking or cycling loop that squeezes the 1,600-mile Wild Atlantic Way into a 4.5-mile nutshell.'

I think its safe to see its a place to see, despite how far it may seem from Dublin, Galway and Cork, it will be worth it, I promise!