Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Home’ Category

I cannot believe it is almost 2 months since we went on our little trip, and I’ve yet to share part 2 with you!!

I apologise.

Day 2 of our stay at Groomsport was wet.  It rained, and it rained well.  Thankfully we had done all the outdoor stuff the day before!

On the agenda for day 2 was the Titanic Centre.  Many guests who have stayed with us, and been to the Titanic Centre had described the experience. However, it was still not quite what I was expecting.  Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with the visit, but I just had a completely different idea about it in my head.

Titanic Centre

Titanic Centre, Belfast

I had expected to see dusty old drawing rooms, which I did, but only on film.  Even though it was late November, the centre was really quite crowded.

If you do visit, make sure to go across the road and visit the Titanic’s sister ship, the Nomadic.  It is the last White Star Line ship still ‘alive’.

As the rain continued to pour down we decided we’d go visit Queen’s University.  I had heard it was beautiful, but had never been.  And, I must say, even on a terrible wet November day, it is a beautiful building.  We had a wander around, checked out their wonderful silver museum section, admired those who have been awarded honorary degrees… spotted Brian O’Driscoll in among them.

Queen’s University, Belfast

There was time for a quick tea/coffee stop at The Pocket… a quirky little coffee shop across the road from Queen’s.

Then it was time to head back to Groomsport to visit their local pub.

For our final day, I was all excited to be going to St. George’s Market.  It was another dreadful day weather-wise but our spirits were high with the thought of all the lovely food we were going to be able to indulge in.  We had invited Laura and Matt for dinner, so we headed off to the market with a vague idea that we would just buy lots of gorgeous food to share.

How disappointed we were!  The market was abuzz, but most of the food stalls were of the take-away variety.  Neither of us are great ‘walk around eating food’ people.  We are more the sit down, be served and chat type.

There were some nice non-food stalls, but overall we were disappointed.

As we were leaving we did come across a mostly-organic vegetable stall… so suddenly dinner became steaks with organic salad and potatoes.  Good, but not what we had planned!!

Despite the last minute change to the menu we had a wonderful evening with friends sharing food, drinking nice wine, and finishing off with some delicious local cheeses.

A nice way to end our wee break.

Read Full Post »

For the first time in 5 years we had the chance to get away for a few days.  Besides doing bed and breakfast, it is the animals that are the greatest tie for us, most especially the dogs.  They are about us all day, every day, so if we go away we need to organise ‘company’ for them.

This year, friends, who had come into our lives as b and b guests, volunteered to come house-sit for us.  Other friends offered us a place to stay… so with a bit of juggling it finally all came together and we headed to Northern Ireland.  I thought I’d share with you how we planned (using that term very loosely) our days away.

We had three full days staying in Groomsport – a village located outside of Belfast. We were overlooking the beach.  Even in November this was wonderful!

Our view every morning

We had broad ideas of the things we’d like to do… me : Giant’s Causeway and Carrig a Rede Bridge; Alfie:  Bushmill’s and the Titanic Centre.

Our approach was this… we choose 3 things for each day, a mix of indoor and outdoor activities .. and then stay flexible as weather and time/daylight especially comes into play in November.

Our first day, Thursday, was bright and windy so we headed straight to the Giant’s Causeway.  We took the self-guided audio tour which is well worth it for the myths and legends that the guide was telling.  The views are spectacular.  It is quite a walk down to the Causeway.  Let me say, the columns are way way smaller than all those photos you’ve seen lead you to believe!

The columns are smaller than I expected!

We climbed to Finn McCool’s organ, and then even tackled the 162 Shepherd’s Steps.  Well worth the climb for the views.  I swear you could just about make out Scotland across the water.

Causeway View from Top

In total we spent about 2.5 hours at the Causeway.

As it started to spit rain we decided to head back into Bushmills about 2 miles away to visit the distillery.  This was where we got our first indication of the ‘currency’ charges.  Most visitor centres in Northern Ireland add an extra 30% onto the charge when you are using a ‘euro’ Visa card.  That was a shock!

We still did the tour, which is definitely worth doing (btw no photos allowed in there).  However, we didn’t buy any whiskey as weirdly we can buy it cheaper back at home!!!!

When we came out from tour, rain had stopped so a short drive over to Carrig A Rede bridge.  However, luck was not on our side.  As I say it was a bright and windy day… but the wind meant that the bridge was closed.  It was also at this point that we made the discovery that it gets darker earlier up North!  I know makes common sense, but hadn’t thought about it before we left.  There was at least half an hour in the difference!

While there was still a little bit of light left in the day we continued along the coastal route heading back towards Belfast.  Quite a spectacular route.

More details of our trip coming later.

Read Full Post »

I am starting this blog post without any idea of whether I will be able to offer a solution.

Over this past summer, guests have recounted so many bad dealings with car rental companies here.  As the car rental company is generally the first point of contact for an incoming tourist, the fact that this proves to be a nightmare reflects badly on us all.

Here are just a sample of the issues.

US guests having booked ahead and believing that they have paid everything in advance, arrive and are being charged €3 – 5,000 on their credit card as an extra security.  Similarly, US guests booking with a credit card that includes Collision Damage Waiver (CDW), on arrival being told that the cover isn’t ‘specific enough’ and are charged again – often doubling the cost of rental.  Here’s an American article which goes into great detail as to which credit cards offer best coverage (9 Best Credit Cards for Car Rental Insurance Coverage [2019]).

Then there was the German guest who booked and paid for his 10 day car rental prior to travelling.  Then got into Dublin and the rental company refused to accept his ‘old style’ driving licence.  It was valid and in date, but it was just the ‘old style’.  This guest ended up walking away from the pre-paid rental and forking out a substantial amount to another rental company that would accept his old style licence.

As I said at the start I’m not sure I can even offer a solution to all this mess.

From what research I’ve done, here is what I’ve discovered.

  • Often it is cheaper to hire a car away from the airport… even just travelling from Dublin Airport to Swords (4 miles away) can reduce your rental costs! (A taxi driver told me that it is a €10 journey from Airport to Swords).
  • If you are searching for a car rental company from outside Ireland…. it can often be cheaper to go for a .ie website rather than .com
  • With regard to the CDW issue, I have found that you can buy an annual policy for c. €60.00.  Now I don’t know if all car rental companies will accept such a policy, but it is perhaps worth asking them.

Of course, one of the biggest hurdles with all of the above, is that it is virtually impossible to speak to a ‘human’ when renting a car.

To me, the simple solution with regard to the CDW being included by your credit card company would seem that the car rental companies and credit card companies should perhaps ‘talk’ to each other and clarify the matter.  Or is that just too simplistic a resolution!!!

One solution, that I can offer, when we were travelling a number of years back and needed to hire a car, we too had a nightmare experience as we don’t use a credit card.  Car rental companies won’t accept debit cards!  We eventually found a company called Indigo based in the UK.  They now have an Irish office.  They organised our car for us, with one of the rental companies who had refused us when we approached them.  AND, the rate we were charged on our debit card, was lower than that quoted to us directly by the rental firm.  AND, we actually got to speak to a human to arrange our car hire.  Give them a call if you are travelling … they may be able to assist you.

I have spoken to Failte Ireland (our national Tourism Board) about this whole debacle.  I’m not sure what, if any, influence they can exert over rental companies.

Would love to hear if others have had negative experiences with car rental companies?  Or perhaps someone else has a solution?

 

Read Full Post »

How have you all been?  Has your summer been good?

We’ve had a crazy busy time here in Redwood. In May, and even into June, I was convinced that we would have a very quiet bed and breakfast season.  BUT suddenly it all kicked off, bookings came rushing in.  And while it was all a bit manic for a time, we are extremely grateful to all who came and stayed.

It was fun to meet so many wonderful people.

Our guests came from all corners of the world.  This year we had our first guests from Norway, Romania and Finland.  We love hearing about the home lives of folks, and why they make the decision to come to Ireland.

Earlier in the year we had been contemplating renovating an old farmhand cottage, but in the end decided that that there was too much red tape and expenditure.  Instead we’ve converted what used to be my ‘study’ and is now what we refer to as the Library Room.  This has been the most popular room of this season.  It also means that we can now accommodate six people at once.

The Library Room

We’ve had some ‘hairy’ and some funny moments over the past few months.

  • Lots of guests had to be roped into sheepherding duties. We’ve the two greatest escape artists ever this year, no matter which field we put them in they find a way out.  We do our best to provide an ‘authentic’ experience!
  • There were the guests who requested an early book in… then never showed up at all ….. not a happy camper that day.
  • Then guests who arrived with their cocker spaniel … without warning us! Thankfully, I was outside on their arrival and was able to (almost) roar at them to put dog on lead before he spotted the hens!
  • The guests who did so much shopping on their trip, they needed an extra suitcase… we were able to donate a suitcase to the cause!  Did you know charity shops won’t take suitcases???
  • Lots of guests have given us unexpected gifts…. homegrown chillies from their garden in Canada, a beautiful plate from Cincinnati, wine, maple syrup… I reckon they know us well even before they arrive!
  • I got quite a few opportunities to practice my French.
  • We had our first ‘kosher’ guests… we like challenges.
  • We had many boys and girls who were willing to throw sticks endlessly and tire Ross out… can they come back soon, please, he needs more running about??
  • We had the guest who asked if there were sheets on the bed???
  • And the one who brought his own toilet paper???

As the season slows down, we still have bookings between now and Christmas, and even have had a booking for next year (from a guest that stayed this year)!

Fingers and toes crossed for a good 2020.

Maybe you might decide to come stay in 2020?

Read Full Post »

We had an interesting conversation recently with BnB guests.

Our guests were travelling for business which they do a lot to the more rural parts of Ireland.  This means that they stay in many Bed and Breakfast establishments, as hotels are often not an option.

The highlight of their stay here…. cotton sheets, real coffee and wild flowers in the bedrooms!

They told us that normally they get poly sheets and instant coffee!  This, of course, makes me think that the tea would probably be TEA BAGS!!!!!

Good grief… what is happening out there?

We don’t get away too often, but seriously, this just brought me back to 1980’s B&Bs.

We’ve never joined any of the B&B associations, or gone for any accolades.  Since starting this journey we’ve just gone with our own instinct and how we’d like to be treated.  Sometimes, of course, it does mean a lot of work.  I know not everyone is into ironing sheets (and towels), but I LOVE freshly ironed sheets on my bed, so why wouldn’t a guest like that?  Ironing sheets also gives me an excuse to indulge in my guilty pleasure…… watching quiz shows/cookery programmes on TV.

Another guest also commented recently that our orange juice was the best.  Guys, I just squeeze fresh oranges… not difficult at all.

What has been your best, or indeed, worst B&B experience?  Or is there something that you would love to see Bed & Breakfasts provide?

Read Full Post »

The Field

Once we decided to scale back on the number of pigs we keep, we wondered what to do with our ‘larger’ field.  It had been well ‘rotovated’ by the pigs over the years!

Our dream would be to have a beautiful meadow in there, but when we started researching the cost it was going to be astronomically high!  One guy suggested we use Round-up to clear the field first and then pay him thousands to come and spread meadow seed.  Now, here, we’ve been here almost 16 years and never used any chemicals and that was his best suggestion.  That is not going to happen.

Buttercup

Eventually we got to speak to a guy who made such wonderful sense!  Don’t you love when you meet someone who understands what you’re at?

His suggestion was to just let the field lie for a year, and to take photographs once a month, of what is growing there.  He believes that the pigs will have disturbed some dormant old seeds and plants, and the fact that we hadn’t used chemicals should mean there will be a lovely selection of wild herbs and flowers growing there.

I’ve decided to use the blog as my recording device, so here is a selection of the early May flowers.

Seems to be related to the ‘pea’ family?

 

Some of these I recognise…. others I don’t…. feel free to enlighten me!

We will do another tour during June, and keep you posted with what is growing in the field!

Read Full Post »

The B&B season that is.  For us here at Oldfarm, it officially kicked off for 2019 a couple of weeks back, and we’ve just been through a couple of busy weekends.  And, of course, are looking forward to many more busy days and nights.

In the period between Christmas and the beginning of March we took time to re-evaluate at various levels.

We tried out new recipes.  As we had dinner ourselves, or shared with others, if a new dish received approval, it was always followed with ‘could we serve this to guests’?   Lots of new dishes have been added to the repertoire.  We’ve added Keto-friendly recipes, vegetarian and even mastered a few new vegan options. There have even been a few dairy, nut and gluten free desserts added to the mix.  I may even share a few recipes on here.

We have worked hard on your behalf!

Another task that was undertaken during the ‘quiet’ months, was a bit of a revamp. We’ve added a ‘new’ room to the mix.  What used to be my study, is now available as the Library Room, and I must admit I love the look of it.  It has received a major thumbs up from those who’ve already stayed there.

Libraryroom

The Library Room

The twin room (should we think of a more special name for this room?) has also had a bit of a make over.  We hope you like the look.

Twinroom

Twin room

All this revamping means that we can now accommodate 6 people.

In other behind the scenes news…. planting season has also arrived, so we are feverishly working in the tunnel and outside in the garden, to guarantee fresh produce for your visit.

So, I guess, the question is…. when are you coming to visit?  Just in case you want to come… you can book directly (with no hidden fees) right here.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »