Last week the Best of Scotland Holidays’ team visited Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland for a GB Coach and Group Familiarisation Trip and Workshops. It was a busy, but fun-filled few days for us. Find out what we got up to in our diary below!
Day 1: Thursday 12th September
10:30 – On the morning of our arrival we visited Hillsborough Castle. The castle that was once a grand family home for generations of the Marquesses of Downshire is steeped in political and social history. Now, it’s the official home of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, and a royal residence. This is where Her Majesty The Queen stays, as do other members of the Royal Family when visiting Northern Ireland. The Castle has been going through extensive development of its gardens and grounds and recently opened more of its grounds than ever before to visitors and guests.
11:40 – Following our Castle visit, we departed Hillsborough and headed for Armagh in the early afternoon, where we had afternoon tea in the Lord Mayor’s Chamber, Council Offices and Palace Demesnes.
13:45 – While in Armagh we also got a tour of Vicars Hill, Armagh Robinson Library and the Church of Ireland Crypt – three of Armagh City’s most iconic visitor experiences. Vicars Hill, built in 1772 as the Diocesan Registry to hold records for the Church of Ireland Diocese, is a Grade A listed building which has been restored and formally opened to the public in March 2011.
When you push open the great Georgian door of Armagh Robinson Library and climb the stairs, you will step back into the eighteenth Century! Archbishop Robinson founded this Library in the heart of the City of Armagh in 1771. His aim was to share his own collection of books and fine art with the general public.
The crypt underlies the east end of the St Patrick’s Church of Ireland Cathedral. Its thick stone pillars are the foundations of the choir of Archbishop O’Scanlon’s Cathedral. It measures 60ft by 20ft, with walls two metres thick. It contains the tombs of Archbishop Robinson, the two Archbishops Beresford, and those of two Armagh landed families, the Caulfeilds of Charlemont and the McGeough-Bonds of The Argory.
15:15 – It was on to the Navan Centre and Fort next, a place where myth and reality meet. It is one of Ireland’s most famous and important archaeological sites, the legendary Emain Macha. Have you ever wondered about the past? How did people live their lives 2,000 years ago? What were their homes like? How did they survive? What were their daily tasks? Here, Living History characters bring these questions to life.
16:30 – We check into Armagh City Hotel and quickly settle in before transferring to Armagh Cider Company for a tour and dining experience. Armagh Cider Company are very pleased to be able to say that all their products are made ‘from blossom to bottle’ on the home farm at Ballinteggart.
20:30 – Our first day is almost over as we end the Armagh Cider Company tour and dining experience with some after dinner entertainment with Armagh Rhymers before heading back to our hotel for our first overnight stay.
Day 2: Friday 13th September
08:30 – It was an early rise for the team as we departed Armagh and headed to Bakehouse, a small family business passionate about the fantastic local food and beautiful countryside. Bakehouse offers cookery classes based on traditional Irish food using local produce such as Lough Neagh Eel, blackberries and sloes.
11:30 – En route to Derry/Londonderry!
14:00 – Once in Derry/Londonderry, we took part in a two-hour coach and group workshop session at Waterfoot Hotel, where we had the chance to dress up as our favourite Game of Thrones characters. The workshop ended with some drinks hosted by the Waterfoot Hotel.
18:00 – We departed the Waterfoot Hotel and checked in at Holiday Inn Express Hotel for the night and quickly freshened up before it was time to make our way to Guild Hall for a networking dinner and entertainment. It was only a short walk from our hotel to Guild Hall Square!
Day 3: Saturday 14th September
09:00 – It’s time to leave our hotel. But we don’t leave Derry just yet. We take part in the Walking Tour of the Walls. The tour celebrates Walls 400 and includes the Derry Girls Mural and locations. The final stop on the whistle stop tour of the city is at the newly refurbished craft village, where we pop into the new ‘Cottage’ to sample soda and local breads. Finally, we hop on the Derry City Sightseeing bus tour to visit the Bogside before a quick site visit to the refurbished City Hotel.
12:00 – Our Derry/Londonderry experience ended with a beer-tasting and tapas in Walled City Brewery and we depart for Fanad Head Lighthouse for a visit and tour.
15:00 – We arrive at Fanad Head Lighthouse which is situated on the northern coast of the Fanad Peninsula in North Donegal. The Lighthouse is a signature discovery point on the Wild Atlantic Way. The light is 39 metres above sea level and there are 79 steps in the tower. Fanad Lighthouse now offers guests the opportunity to stay in their newly refurbished self-catering cottages.
17:00 – After our visit and tour of the Lighthouse, we move on to Letterkenny and check into our hotel for the night, the Radisson Blu, where we eat dinner. It was an early one for us this night.
Day 4: Sunday 15th September
08:30 – Rest early, rise early as they say! The BOSH team depart the Radisson Blu Hotel for a visit to Glenveagh National Park and Glenveagh Castle. The park is set in some 16,500 hectares of County Donegal mountains, lakes, glens and woods, with a large herd of red deer. Glenveagh Castle is a 19th Century, castellated mansion built between 1867 and 1873. Surrounded by the famous Glenveagh Gardens, its construction in a remote mountain setting was inspired by the Victorian idyll of a romantic highland retreat.
11:00 – After spending a couple of hours at Glenveagh, we make our way to Leo’s Tavern in Crolly. Leo’s Tavern is situated in North West, Ireland in the beautiful and picturesque County Donegal, in the village of Meenaleck. Situated along the Wild Atlantic Way, between the popular tourist destination of Mount Errigal and the Atlantic Ocean, Leos Tavern is renowned for its music being the family home of world-famous musical talents Enya, Clannad and Moya Brennan. Here we have lunch and Irish coffee whilst listening to some Irish traditional music.
15:00 – It’s onto Sileve League Cliffs next. Slieve League Cliffs, situated on the south west coast of County Donegal, are said to be the one of the highest and finest marine cliffs in Europe. There are terrific views of the Atlantic Ocean, the Sligo Mountains and Donegal Bay as you walk towards the terrifyingly high top of Sliabh League, where the cliff face of Bunglas rises over 600m above the raging ocean.
16:30 – We depart the cliffs and it’s a bit of a journey to our next stop, but we reach the Landmark Hotel in Carrick on Shannon in just under three hours.
19:30 – At the hotel, we listen to a Product Update Presentation by Failte Ireland Business Development Team, followed by dinner in the Landmark Hotel’s restaurant and stay over for the night.
Day 5: Monday 16th September
08:30 – It’s a full day of workshops for us at the Landmark Hotel! Across the two workshops we took part in whilst in Ireland, we had meetings with over 50 suppliers, from hotels to sightseeing attractions and transport companies who we look forward to following up!
16:45 – We leave Carrick on Shannon for Dublin and arrive at the Lansdowne Hotel where we enjoyed a dinner and traditional Irish music and dance with the Irish House Party at the hotel till late before heading off to spend our final night at Mespil Hotel in Dublin.
Day 6: Tuesday 17th September
AM – Just like that, our trip is over. We check out of Mespil Hotel and transfer to Dublin Airport to head home to Scotland.
The BOSH team are next headed to the Bonnie Badger in Gullane, a small hotel/restaurant owned by Scottish Chef, Tom Kitchin.