Belfast, and Northern Ireland more widely, has its fair share of haunted buildings and areas, all with their own chilling stories. If watching scary movies and telling spooky tales simply won’t cut it this Halloween, why not visit somewhere from this spooky selection of places if you’re brave enough?
1. Crom Estate, Fermanagh
Situated on the shoreline of Upper Lough Erne, Crom is a 2,000 acre demesne with fantastic views and surrounded by woodland. While on the surface, the National Trust area may seem very peaceful, it has had plenty of ghostly tales and sightings along those seemingly tranquil shores.
Take part in the Crom ghost walk which will take you through old castle ruins where you’ll encounter one of the oldest yew trees in Ireland, aged between 400 and 1000 years. Then you’ll continue along the loughside where spectral lights have been witnessed above theatres of Lough Erne. You’ll also pass the walled garden and go through the grounds of Crom Estate. At least if you don’t witness any eerie spectral lights you’ll have some lovely views to take in.
2. Crumlin Rd Gaol, Belfast
Perhaps the most well known haunted place in Northern Ireland, Crumlin Rd Gaol’s history dates back to 1845 and it certainly packed in plenty of harrowing events during its time. 17 men were executed within its walls over its 150 year history. Many people have experienced strange sightings, noises and unexplained happenings. Take part in their paranormal tour that will take you through the execution chamber, the condemned man’s cell, the tunnel and the flogging room. You’ll have the chance to use ghost hunting equipment as part of your very own ghost hunt. Simply not for the faint hearted!
3. Springhill House, Derry-Londonderry
With Derry-Londonderry being named the best Halloween destination in the world, a trip over here this Halloween is well worth it. It also contains the the home of Ireland’s best documented ghost, Olivia at Springhill House. Springhill is a beautiful 17th century ‘Plantation’ home with plenty to explore inside and outside in the surrounding Beech walk and Sawpit hill walk.
Once home to the Lennox-Connyngham family their dark past haunts the walls of the old house. George Lennox-Connyngham, the father of the family, after receiving news that he was to be court marshalled for abandoning his army duties to return home to his sick daughters, one of whom later died, committed suicide in the “blue room.” Olivia, the ghost who haunts the house, is said to be seen repeating her too-late dash to save her husband.
4. Grace Neill’s, Donaghadee
Said to be the oldest pub in Ireland, Grace Neill’s has been around since 1611 although for over 400 years it was known as The Kings Arms. Grace Neill ran the inn for much of the 19th and 20th centuries and she is said to keep a watchful eye over the pub from beyond the grave with glasses and books moving around seemingly by themselves and lights being switched on and off.
Staff assure that Grace is benevolent however… Why not call into this historic pub this Halloween for a spot of lunch? It has had its fair share of famous customers ranging from poet John Keats to Tina Turner!
5. The Giant’s Ring, Belfast
Thought to date back as far as 2700BC, The Giant’s Ring is a seriously old, pre-Christian religious site in the Shaws Bridge area. Northern Ireland’s very own Neolithic graveyards it has been associated with a number of unsettling happenings.
People who have visited this area have reported being surrounded by a thick, impenetrable mist and that when trying to make their tracks away from the area, find themselves back at the Menhir, the small druidic alter that sits in the centre of the Giant’s Ring.
Seemingly gone are the days of dressing up in genuinely scary costumes at Halloween. Vampires have been swapped for super heroes, zombies ditched for cutesy fairies - when did Halloween lose its fright factor?
If you fancy putting the creepy back into Halloween & scaring all your friends try the frightful Target Dry alternative…
Our recently updated Outback’s long length style combined with waterproof and breathable qualities make it an excellent choice for staying perfectly dry & comfy whilst stalking the rainy streets in search of your next victim to scare this Halloween night.
Additional features such as underarm cape straps and protective shoulder cape really bring this inherently creepy Halloween look together. Don’t forget there’s also a hidden leg strap that can double up as a handy storage place for a multitude of chilling contraband…
Be sure to complete the look with a waterproof rain hat and trusty axe to really accentuate those “hip psychopath” vibes.
Dodge the last minute rush to the fancy dress store for feeble alternatives and avail of our speedy delivery this Halloween. After all while you’re waiting for your coat to arrive you can get plotting…
Embrace the true Halloween spirit and stick out from all the Harley Quinns and Supermen that will be out in their hundreds!
No one dreads the onset of September and the new season quite like kids do. Torn away from their games consoles, bikes and toys - September signals the end of those carefree summer days and the beginning of a new school year. And of course, lots of homework.
Make that back to school transition a little bit easier for your little ones and welcome in the new season with some fun Autumn activities to get up to together.
Put Together a Basket of Autumnal Treasures
This will involve you and your little explorers getting out and scavenging for Autumnal bits and pieces such as pinecones, acorns, conkers and colourful leaves. What better way to get excited about the new season than bringing a bit of it into your home? Read about how to preserve Autumn leaves here.
Your basket of Autumnal treasures will be perfect for decorating the fireplace. Not to mention a memory of a day out exploring the Autumn landscape together!
Knit Some Thick Socks Together
Autumn is all about being cosy and nothing says cosy quite like a pair of thick, knit socks for cosy evenings spent curled up on the sofa. Use an easy to follow knitting guide such as this one and you and your little one could knit together. Or if they’re too young to try their hand at knitting just yet, knit a pair for your little snuggler yourself.
Brew an Autumn Inspired Beverage
No need to trek out to Starbucks for a pumpkin spice latte, you can make wonderful Autumn beverages right in the comfort of your own home.
Ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg are all quintessentially Autumn inspired spices that when added to teas and coffees make delicious Autumn-y hot drinks. There’s also plenty of Autumn inspired herbal teas.
Perhaps your little one would prefer something sweeter? If so why not make non-alcoholic hot apple cider? Find the perfect Autumn inspired beverage for you and all the family to cuddle up on the couch with when the evenings are cold.
Go Berry Picking
Autumn is the season when berries are ripe and out in abundance. It's also the perfect excuse to get outside exploring with your little adventurer. Take a tupperware box to store your berries in until your home. Don’t forget to admire the Autumnal colours out in force! How many conkers can you spot together?
Bake Ginger Bread Cookies
When the weather starts to get chilly, the gentle spice of ginger is the perfect treat to warm yourself up with. Baking ginger bread cookies is a fun activity for you and your child to do together, and one that won’t take too much convincing no doubt! Why not add an extra Autumnal flair by making the cookies leaf shaped like these ones?
We are over a full week into August now and the end of summer is in sight. For many I am sure it passed by so quickly you barely feel like you had a chance to properly enjoy it! The very typically British lack of sunshine no doubt had a lot to do with that.
Well, sun or no sun, we’ve put together a few tips to help you make the most of summer’s final month and perhaps it won’t feel like you’re waving goodbye to summer far too soon…
Start a Summer Scrapbook
In our technology driven culture, print photos are very much beginning to feel like a thing of the past. As long as the photos are up on Facebook or Instagram that’s all that seems to matter nowadays.
However, there is no denying that having physical copies of your memories to treasure still holds a charm that doesn’t quite match a few likes on Instagram. What better way to preserve summer 2015 than through a scrapbook of your favourite days out, holiday photos ad time spent with loved ones? Keep all the small trinkets, receipts and tickets collected over summer especially to stick into it.
A Day Out Somewhere New
If you feel like this summer has passed by you in a blur and you haven’t got to do half the things you had planned, remember that it isn’t too late. Make the most of the last days of summer by making new memories. Why not have a day out somewhere you’ve always wanted to go with your loved ones? All you have to do is make time for it…
Whether those good intentions of sitting out in your garden reading in the sun all summer long worked out for you or not, you can still make your garden into your own little retreat.
If you can get a rare dry day, make the most of it by getting out into the garden and making it sorted for the final days of summer and start of Autumn? Soon enough it will be too cold to even entertain the idea of stepping into the garden.
Try planting flowers such as poppies, cornflowers and Larkspur as they will provide earlier flowers for next year. There are also plenty of hardy fruit and veg you can plant such as radishes, salad leaves and fast maturing carrots.
A Long Evening Walk
A very simple but effective way of making time for yourself to unwind after a long day but also to enjoy the final summer days no matter how un-summery they might be.
How will you be making the most of the final days of summer? Tweet us!
Well it's properly summer now and even though the weather has been a tad unreliable, I'm embracing barbecue season - we are well known for our indoor/outdoor BBQ's in this part of the world and never do we allow a bit of rain to change our plans!
We are all comfortable with throwing meat and fish on the barbecue but I'm always being asked for ideas about sides to serve that are just a bit more interesting (and filling) than a green salad and some coleslaw. What's great about a barbecue is that it encourages everyone to eat more in the way of salads... thereby cancelling out all the unhealthiness of sausages (and prosecco). Everyone's plate is a riot of colour - the rainbow of nutrition we're supposed to eat every day...is it any wonder we usually feel so much more healthy and full of energy during the summer months?
So before I tell you my favourite dessert to serve at a barbecue, here are some of my sides recipes that the whole family will enjoy. Oh and the best bit is that they can all be prepared in advance and kept in lunch boxes to use for a couple of days afterwards too...
Puy Lentils & Roast Veg Salad
First up, a long time favourite of ours is this lentil salad. The balsamic and garlic in the dressing makes it so delicious... definitely a great way to get more pulses into your diet.
1 x bag of pre-cooked puy lentils (or you can cook from scratch also)
2 x peppers (any colour)
1 x red onion
3 x garlic cloves with skin on
Balsamic vinegar and Olive Oil
Sprig of Thyme
Simply roast off the onions, garlic and peppers in a large tin for 40 minutes at about 180 C (tossed in the olive oil with the thyme sprigs thrown in too).
Take out the thyme stalks and discard. Squeeze the soft garlic from inside the cloves into a bowl, discarding the papery skin. Mash this garlic with a few tablespoons of balsamic vinegar and add it and the roast onions/peppers to the lentils and mix.
Simple Thai Noodle Salad
Half a pack of vermicelli rice noodles (about 150g) - cooked to the instructions, drained and cooled
1 x garlic clove, crushed
4 x spring onions, chopped
2 x red chilli's, chopped
1 x handful of chopped fresh coriander
3 x tablespoons of Thai Fish Sauce
1 x tablespoon of Sesame Oil
Put everything into a bowl and mix well... and that's it!
Cous Cous Salad
This is one that the kids will eat so even though I'm not the biggest fan of cous-cous, I make it regularly
200ml vegetable stock
2 spring onions
1 red pepper
50g feta cheese, cubed (optional...I usually leave this on the side as the kids don't like it)
2 tbsp pesto
2 tbsp toasted pine nut
Pour the boiling stock over the cous-cous and leave it to soak for a few minutes, covered but off the heat. Add the other ingredients chopped up however you like them.
But what about the kids I hear you ask? I know it's a real struggle to get them to all eat salads like these.
I find I have more success with kids if I serve up 'help yourself' bowls of individual items like pickled beetroot, hard boiled eggs, sliced cucumber, carrot sticks etc. It's sometimes the mix of items all on one dish that puts kids off. Another tip is to insist that they're only allowed to have a sausage/burger if they chose at least 1 salad item....this has worked for me with my very fussy son who (very) reluctantly eats cucumber at a barbecue now.
Pesto Pasta Salad
One salad (I use the term loosely) that I do find all kids eat for me (not just mine), is a pesto salad so I always make up some of the prettier pasta pieces (bows or twists) with some fresh pesto - Lidl make the BEST fresh one - and a sprinkle of parmesan and chopped fresh basil.
Sticky Chocolate Bananas
My final attempt to get one of the 5 a day into the kids at a barbecue comes in the form of dessert. Obviously at this time of the year, summer fruits are more affordable and the kids will generally devour them but if you've a few bananas that have gone over-ripe in the fruit bowl, this next one is sure to go down a treat.
1 x over-ripe banana
1 x chocolate Flake bar - crushed
1 x shot of a orange liqueur (adults only!)
Pop the banana onto a rectangle of foil and turn up the edges to make a parcel - you can peel or leave the skin on...either way works. Cut a slit down the length of the banana and with chocolate. For the adults, pour in a shot of cointreau and for the kids, sprinkle on some marshmallows.
Seal up the top of your banana foil parcel and put it on a low/medium heat barbecue until the banana has cooked and the chocolate is melted. Ice cream is optional!
Happy barbecuing and fingers crossed for a fabulous summer 2016!