Growing up we heard repeatedly on the world news about Northern Ireland — but not in a good way. The strife tearing Northern Ireland apart regularly made international headlines until the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. Recently Belfast and the Antrim Coast has been chosen to be among the top 10 regions to visit for 2018 by Lonely Planet. Spending a weekend in Belfast and taking a Northern Ireland roadtrip along the the Antrim Coast ensures that you don’t miss all of the best spots in this beautiful part of the world. From Belfast to the Giant’s Causeway, this area has so much to see and do with activities ranging from history, culture to hiking and coastal walks.
Discovering the delights of the Antrim Coast’s Causeway Coastal Route on a Northern Ireland Roadtrip along with a weekend in Belfast
What is County Antrim?
Most of Belfast, the capitol of Northern Ireland, is in County Antrim, one of the 6 counties that make up Northern Ireland. Antrim, therefore, has the benefit of Northern Ireland’s main airport, Belfast International Airport. Transportation links are great making a weekend in Belfast from London and other European cities completely feasible.
This majestic tree alley was used as the Dark Hedges in Game of Thrones
County Antrim is actually one of the 2 counties on the island of Ireland that has a Protestant majority. It’s also the most populated county in Northern Ireland with most people located in and around Belfast. It’s located on the northeastern corner of the island of Ireland.
Fun Fact – The northeastern tip of Torr Head in County Antrim is only 12 miles from the coast of Scotland!
Famous people from County Antrim have been writer C.S. Lewis, actor Liam Neeson and musician Van Morrison. Six American presidents had families originated that from County Antrim including Andrew Jackson and Theodore Roosevelt.
The Giants Causeway in County Antrim in Northern Ireland.
Lonely Planet has acknowledged that Northern Ireland has changed dramatically for the better in the last 20 years. County Antrom’s promoted as a tourist area by such a prestigious organisation is great news for a region reinventing itself. Other regions on the Lonely Planet Top 10 regions list for 2108 are Alaska, the Slovenian Alps, Languedoc-Roussillon in France, Bahia in Brazil, Los Haitises National Park in the Dominican Republic, the Kii Peninsula in Japan, the Aeolian Islands of the coast of Sicily, Southern USA and Lahaul and Spiti in India.
Tips for Visiting Belfast and the Antrim Coast
Who better to ask for advice on visiting Belfast and the Antrim Coast than travel bloggers who have been there? Below are the recommendations and travel tips for Northern Ireland from eleven fellow travel bloggers.
Northern Ireland Roadtrip
Northern Ireland, part of the United Kingdom, occupies much of the north shore of the Irish coast. Visiting Northern Ireland is an opportunity to experience nature as well as the unfortunate historical period known as the Troubles.
Any visit to Northern Ireland starts in the capital: Belfast. This city is largely divided – representative of the deep divisions in society. From 1968-1998, the conflict boiled over into intense violence (if not an outright civil war).
These days, the violence is over, the rhetoric is calmer and the street murals have become internationally famous (particularly in the Shankill Road and Falls Road neighborhoods). A new era has taken hold in Belfast and “The Peace” is firm.
Despite the sometimes heated rhetoric, Northern Ireland is a beautiful country (or, more accurately, it is a Constituent Country of the UK) and there is a bucolic calmness in the countryside.
The best way to experience this natural beauty is a drive of the Causeway Coast on the Causeway Coastal Route. This rough stretch of coastline delivers abandoned castles, smooth Irish whiskey distilleries and lots of unique locations which have become famous as film locations for the Game of Thrones.
But the Causeway Coast is best known for the other-worldy geological features of the Giant’s Causeway – a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Antrim Coast is extremely beautiful!
With so much to offer, it’s not surprising that Belfast and the Antrim Coast are one of the top travel destinations for 2018.
– Lance and Laura Longwell write at Travel Addicts and on social media at
A mural to Bobby Sands in Belfast (Photo credit: Lance and Laura Longwell)
A Weekend in Belfast
Belfast is a city which has enjoyed a renaissance in recent years. No longer a place of struggle, it combines a historic city centre with a lively cultural scene that makes it a great short break visit. A weekend in Belfast is a short yet fun way to check out Northern Ireland.
Check out lively St. George’s Market (Fri/Sat/Sun only), with its many arts and crafts stalls and wide selection of food and drink. Pay a visit to Belfast City Hall, where the stained glass windows tell the story of the Troubles of the 20th Century in a powerful way. Entry to both is free.
Wander the streets just outside the city centre to see the many murals recording the struggles, or take a Black Cab tour, in which a local person, either Catholic or Protestant at random, will tell their tale from their own perspective in an intelligent and informative way.
Cross the river to a great view of Samson and Goliath, the two huge yellow cranes of the Harland and Wolff shipbuilding company which are a symbol of the city. And, don’t miss the splendid Titanic Museum, where you can lose yourself for several hours in the history of the ill-fated ship. But, remember, it was fine when it left Belfast …
– by Jill Bowdery at Reading the Book and on social media at
Belfast (Photo credit: Jill Bowdery)
Belfast Titanic Experience
If you are a fan of the epic romantic movie Titanic” then you cannot miss a visit to the city of Belfast in Northern Ireland. Belfast is the home of the popular RMS Titanic Experience.
The city of Belfast is also home some of interesting historical monuments like city hall, churches and castles. Walk through the ornate interiors fo the Belfast City Hall or marvel at the architecture of one of the beautiful churches or take a tour of the only Victorian era prison, Crumlin Road Gaol. Belfast has no dearth for architectural wonders.
Belfast also makes for a great base to explore the lush and picturesque countryside of Northern Ireland like the Antrim coast and the Giants Causeway and also explore the all-time favourite “Game of Thrones” shooting locations.
The Titanic Belfast Experience (Photo credit: Rashmi and Chalukya)
Belfast and the Causeway Coastal Route
It is easy to see why the stunning Causeway Coastal Route along the north coast of Northern Ireland is regularly chosen as one of the world’s best road trips.
The sheer variety of things to do and see along this relatively short Causeway coastal route is incredible. From the unmissable sights of Dunluce Castle, the Giant’s Causeway and the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge to a plethora of Game of Thrones filming locations such as the Dark Hedges, Ballintoy Harbour and Downhill Strand there is something for everyone.
Start in the historic city of Belfast, once overlooked but, today, the reminders of its troubled past are one of its biggest draws and a must see on any visit to Northern Ireland.
Step back in time with a trip to Rathlin Island located just off the Northern Ireland coast where less than 100 people currently reside. Due to its remote location most of the island has remained untouched for many years.
Fun Fact – Robert the Bruce (of Braveheart fame) hid out in a cave in Rathlin Island while plotting to get Scotland back from the English.
Test your head for heights at the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge and relax over some tasty whiskey in the Bushmills distillery.
Enjoy stunning views across the ocean from the Fairhead cliffs or stroll with the local cows on White Park Bay beach.
Thrill seekers you can also try some of the best coasteering in Ireland from Portrush.
For anyone planning a Northern Ireland roadtrip and looking for Giant’s Causeway accommodation, we recommend the Roe Park Resort hotel or the Causeway Hotel conveniently located right at the entrance to the Giant’s Causeway visitors centre.
– by Elaine & David at The Whole World is a Playground and on social media at
The Causal Coastway Route (Photo Credit: Elaine & Dave)
A Giant’s Causeway Tour
I still have vivid memories of our time in Northern Ireland, back in 2011.
Londonderry and its city walls were something we could have checked out longer and better if we weren’t dying to go on a Giant’s Causeway tour and visit three gems located so close to each other by the sea.
Those were The Old Bushmills Distillery, Dunluce castle, and the pixellated Giant’s Causeway. All of them great on their own, we arrived at the last one a bit late after shooting the sunset at the castle. Knowing that half an hour wasn’t going to cut it, we headed back to the Causeway next day. It’s eventually possible to take a picture among the loads of tourists that populate the spot in the mornings without getting that much of a headache.
– Inma Gregorio at A World To Travel You and on social media at
Giants Causeway (Photo credit: Inma Gregorio)
A Weekend in Belfast and More of the Antrim Coast
I’ve lived in Belfast for 5 months and if the weather didn’t agree with me, I’m really glad I had the opportunity to discover this part of the world!
If you want a real taste of Northern Ireland, a long weekend is preferable. A weekend in Belfast is sufficient.
If you’re into political history, I recommend starting with a guided walking tour to learn about the “Troubles” and how it shaped the city.
Don’t hesitate to finish by popping into one or several pubs (check out The Garrick, it has trad music sessions) or one of the more high-end cocktail bars. The culinary scene is pretty surprising too, and very vegan-friendly.
You shouldn’t leave Belfast without visiting the Titanic Museum and strolling around University Quarter (Queens University is gorgeous).
If you have more time after your weekend in Belfast and would like to discover the rest of Northern Ireland, I would recommend one of the Game of Thones tours
. You don’t even have to watch the show, but you’ll get to see gorgeous places, including the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge
and the Giants Causeway
. Otherwise take a train in the city center and make your way to one of the beautiful beaches, you won’t regret it!
A ruined castle on the Antrim Coast Road, Northern Ireland (Photo credit: Lance and Laura Longwell)
Belfast and A Northern Ireland Roadtrip
Just days after returning from Northern Ireland
, Lonely Planet announced it as the best region to visit in 2018. I have to say – I totally understand why!
I was only in Belfast and Northern Ireland for a few days but I instantly fell in love and am already planning a trip back. Belfast is a fascinating and ever-changing city where you can visit the place where the Titanic was built along with the huge museum completely devoted to it and you can explore the Peace Wall and brush up on the devastating and troubling history that has plagued this city.
In Derry, you can walk the only fully intact city walls still standing in Ireland.
My favorite part though was driving the Causeway Coastal Route and taking in one of the most stunning coastlines I’ve ever seen along the Antrim Coast. Along the Antrim coast, you can see ruined castles, the only UNESCO site in Northern Ireland (Giant’s Causeway) and even find some secret spots along the way. I definitely recommend adding this region to your future travel plans!
– by Ashley Hubbard from A Southern Gypsy and on social media at
The coast along the Causeway (Photo credit: Ashley Hubbard)
A Northern Ireland Roadtrip
I don’t often declare a destination ‘one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen’ but this is what I thought when I visited Northern Ireland earlier this year.
We travelled around for several days and we were surprised to see how stunning and varied the area is.
If you love nature, Northern Ireland has amazing coastal walks: The Giant’s Causeway is the most famous stretch of coast, but it is just one of the many locations where imposing cliffs plunge into the crystal clear waters of the Malin sea.
We loved the famous Carrick-a-Rede hike (we were glad to discover it is easily accessible even with kids) and the stunning Dunluce castle, a few kilometres farther down the same road.
For culture lovers, the place is generous with castles and historical homes and if you enjoy city life, Belfast and Derry/Londonderry are dynamic and vibrant both during the day and at night.
We visited Northern Ireland by car and found the perfect base near Belfast. We chose the Hilton Templepatrick hotel (good quality and family friendly) and took day trips from there to the Antrim Coast and the Dark Hedges, famous filming location of Game of Thrones.
By Marta Correale from www.learningescapes.net and on social media at
The view at Carrick A Rede (Photo credit: Marta Correale)
Belfast to Giant’s Causeway
Whatever you might be looking for in a vacation—stunning scenery, fascinating history, or just a great place to enjoy a pint or two—Northern Ireland delivers something for every interest.
Starting with the famous Antrim coast, Giant’s Causeway is a magnificent collection of 40,000 stones that formed more than 50 million years ago. Watching the cold North Atlantic Ocean lapping against the one-of-a-kind rock formation will certainly connect you to just how impressive and complex this planet truly is!
Enjoying Northern Ireland from the coast is an experience you can’t miss, but don’t forget to appreciate it from a higher vantage point, too. Take in the view from more than 100 feet in the air by crossing the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, which spans 70 feet and provides a terrific perspective of Northern Ireland’s gorgeous landscape.
After exploring the great outdoors, no trip to Northern Ireland is complete without a stop in Belfast. The city is famous for its Black Cab Tours, but if you’re short on time you can appreciate its history from The Crown, a popular bar that has served Belfast’s locals and visitors for more than 100 years. It’s the perfect place to reflect on Northern Ireland’s incredible culture—and why it’s a great fit as one of the 2018 top regions to visit!
by Stephanie Hubka at Road Unraveled and on social media at
Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge (Photo credit: Stephanie Hubka)
County Antrim and the Antrim Coast
County Antrim is not only home to one of Northern Ireland’s most beautiful coast lines, but also boasts of sceneries that exceeds any expectations. The scenic view of the Antrim coast is a balance between the blueness of Atlantic Ocean and the lushness of the green surroundings, that almost every direction you turn, beauty is a guaranteed promise.
Giant’s Causeway is one of the famous stops in County Antrim, known for its otherworldly rock formations from volcanic eruptions thousands of years ago. It felt like being in different worlds all at once– like a crossover between Game of Thrones, Jurassic Park, and an outer space movie.
Speaking of Game of Thrones, County Antrim is known for holding different locations from the popular TV series including Ballintoy Village and The Dark Hedges.
Another gorgeous spot that shouldn’t be missed in the area is the Carrick-A-Rede rope bridge near the town of Ballintoy. Whether you’re afraid of heights or not, the view, even without crossing the iconic bridge, is so stunning. The walk along the coast is nothing short of spectacular and no Northern Ireland expedition is complete without this experience.
– by Erica Villas at Girl Unspotted and on social media at
Fields in County Antrim (Photo credit: Erica Villas)
The Antrim Coast on a Northern Ireland Roadtrip
If you visit Northern Ireland be sure and (local dialect ;)) take a day to drive the Coast Road in County Antrim, Northern Ireland.
The Causeway Costal Route has been touted as one of the best tourist scenic drives in the world! It’s easy to find; just hug the coast as you circumnavigate Northern Ireland.
The best part in my opinion is the stretch heading half an hour north from Belfast: the Antrim Coast Road. This begins at the Black Arch in Larne and continues for an hour up to Ballycastle.
From Ballycastle you are just another 20 minutes drive from some of Northern Ireland’s most famous attractions: the Giant’s Causeway, Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge and the Old Bushmill’s Distillery (Ireland’s oldest working distillery).
Although tempting to get to these exciting attractions as quickly as possible, take the extra hour to enjoy this scenic route instead! It’s only two hours total driving time as compared to driving just one hour from Belfast directly over the inland route.
– by Erin Hardie at Downbubble Travels and on social media at
Giants Causeway Know Before You Go – Coastal Route County Antrim (Photo credit: Erin Hardie
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As an American expat raising half-British children in England, I was curious about the list of Britain’s ultimate happy places on vacation when I saw it. After all, was I doing a good enough job making sure they felt British? I was pretty sure I was doing a good job on making them feel American but ideally I want them to appreciate all their cultural heritages. I have to agree with some of these choices for the best-loved British getaways in the UK. As for the places I haven’t visited, I will have to check them out (for thoroughness in research of course!).
What the British love most about vacations in Britain
The 30 Best Things To Do in Britain
Our score for the best things to do in Britain came in 10 out of 30 and that was stretching the very specific listing somewhat.
For example, we didn’t have a Cornish pasty in St Ives but we did have one in Padstow which is still Cornwall. In my books, that counts as a win! By the way, you have to have a Cornish pasty in Cornwall because the pastys they sell elsewhere in Britain are simply not as good.
We have also walked our dog on the Norfolk beaches, if not specifically Holkham Bay. We have watched the surfers in North Devon and Cornwall although my kids refused to surf themselves. Not even in a wetsuit were they going into that cold Atlantic water. Their American genetic half says surfing is a warm water activity best suited for California and Hawaii.
Surfers in North Devon. Note the full wetsuit.
Taking an open top bus tour in London is a great way to see the city. I was lucky enough to have my experience in an old-fashioned Victorian omnibus.
Two things we have done exactly as specified are climbing Saint Michael’s Mount in Cornwall and looking for dinosaur fossils on the Jurassic Coast.
Many of these must-do items were in Devon and Cornwall which my kid love. We’ve spent lots of time there also because that’s where my husband grew up and still has some family. We have also spent lots of time in parts of England and Wales which are easy weekend driving distance of London.
Beautiful Lynmouth in Exmoor National Park in Devon
The Most Popular Getaways in the UK
We have, however, explored 2 out of the 4 most popular holiday destinations in Britain. A cool 50% score on getaways in the UK! Yay, us!
What have I learned from checking out the most popular holiday destinations in Britain? I really need to travel to the north of Britain more. The south of the U.K. is just such an easy short break for us as a family.
We love taking our dog on holiday which is pretty easy if we stay in the UK
Now that my son is really getting into hiking and camping, I’m sure we will visit the Lake District soon. I’ve been to the Scottish Highlands years ago but have never taken the children.
If Onlys For A British Summer
We would do more road trips in the United Kingdom, if only I was guaranteed of sunshine. I agree with the people who say that there is no place like Britain if you could guarantee the weather.
A British summer’s day is glorious! There is hardly any humidity, no pesky bugs and no pervasive smell of mosquito repellent. The daylight hours stretch from early morning until late into the evening.
A beautiful day in London
Unfortunately though you don’t know what time of the year that British sumer will happen or how long it will last. Having lived in Britain for too many years to count, I have seen British summer happen as early as April and as late in September.
In 2017, we had great weather in June and it rained way too much in August. In early October, it felt like spring again with everyone ditching their coats. It’s like Mother Nature just spins a giant British Summer Wheel every year and it lands where it lands.
I’m not sure I agree with the costings on how much a holiday abroad costs versus holidays in the UK. Sure, you can avoid the cost of air plane tickets. If you take a flight on low cost airlines though, a plane ticket abroad can work out as cheap as the cost of fuel for driving. And, you get guaranteed sunshine especially in places like the South of France or Spain.
The real savings though would be on accommodation, especially in London, if you avoided the hotels. In London, you have serviced apartments available through companies like SACO. I’m all for living like a local but I’ve had mixed experiences on AirBnB so I prefer using companies that have strict quality control measures in place. In the British countryside we have rented houses (or borrowed friends’ second homes) and that has saved us a lot of money.
Must Do Activities on a British Vacation
We have done 9/10 must do activities on a British. A cool 90%! Now, that a score that the sleeping Tiger Mom in me feels more comfortable relating.
We have enjoyed the pleasures of a good pub lunch, eating a cream tea and relaxing on a deck chair.
A proper Devon cream tea with fresh clotted cream.
The only thing we haven’t done is go paddling. Sorry that water is too cold even on a nice hot day for me to take the risk of getting wet. The kids can do that one alone.
If you’ve been to Britain, how many of these quintessentially British things have you experienced?
I was happy to provide SACO my opinions on this research and this post is in a collaboration with them. All opinions, of course, remain my own.
What makes the British happy on holiday
Although my husband grew up in Devon, he did not know the North Devon coast very well. I had heard the surfing culture was strong and of course there was the lure of Exmoor national park. In terms of luxury hotels in North Devon, we were immediately drawn to the Saunton Sands Hotel for its location by the sea, proximity to gorgeous Saunton Sands beach and family-friendly reputation. All of these things were as advertised! We had a fabulous weekend break in the UK and the weather even cooperated for the most part.
Surfing lessons at Saunton Beach for children
Saunton Sands Hotel is a four-star Devon hotel by the sea. The hotel is part of the family-owned chain of Brend Hotels which own 11 hotels in Devon and Cornwall.
Saunton Sands Beach
Saunton Sands Beach is a glorious swathe of white sand beach with waves perfect for playing, surfing and boogie boarding. The beach has as small cafe which serves food as well as a small store with souvenirs and necessities you may have forgotten. There are sand-friendly wheelchairs available for the use of less-abled visitors.
We saw surfers at Saunton Sands beach from the early morning until after sunset. These surfers were hardcore! You can arrange lessons with the schools on the beach through Saunton Sands Hotel. We saw many hotel guests with their surfing gear ready for a day at the beach.
A sign showing the path from the hotel to the beach
You should note that Saunton Sands beach is a dog-friendly Devon beach all-year round. Very popular with dog owners, my kids were in their element with all the adorable dogs playing in the sand and water. I found the dogs well-behaved. The Saunton Sands Hotel though does not allow dogs to stay.
The Saunton Sands Hotel Review
Saunton Sands Hotel is that rare hotel that does everything right – not only were the rooms great, the hotel has an excellent location and load of amenities. It’s a renovated Art Deco hotel in Devon which really looked like it could have come straight out of an Agatha Christie novel.
The beautiful Art Deco hotel was built in the 1930’s.
The Hotel Room
We had an adjoining family room which had a layout that we appreciated. There was a queen bed leading to a hallway with a bathroom and another bedroom with twin beds. Both bedrooms had doors. The hallway had a generous closet so that we could have the clothes near the bathroom.
Many other family rooms in hotels we have stayed at prefer a duplex family room layout. Usually the adults’ room is upstairs and doorless. The kids sleep in the studio part downstairs which is usually where the bathroom is located. If you want to check in on the kids at night or use the toilet, you have to sneak downstairs quietly.
Although the hotel building is art deco, the decor itself is fairly neutral with only the occasional art deco touch.
The rooms themselves are a good size with the usual seating area and tea and coffee facilities. There is a small refrigerator if you wanted to store anything. My kids loved the bluetooth speaker for their music.
I loved that there were flat screen televisions in both rooms so that I didn’t have to watch what they were watching. I could even close the bedroom door so that I didn’t have to hear them arguing on what they were going to watch!
We found the beds very comfortable. I’m a stickler for mattresses and even I was impressed. There were bathrobes provided for the adults but not the kids (such a hard life!).
Saunton Sands Hotel Amenities
We really enjoyed that the hotel had so many amenities. With so much to do to keep them entertained, my kids didn’t even bother with their iPads for the whole weekend. I actually managed to catch up with some reading on my kindle with the great (free) wifi.
Beach hotels in Devon with a pool are a luxury, especially hotels with both an indoor and an outdoor pool. The indoor pool is a Godsend especially when its raining outside and the kids need to let off steam. One end of the indoor pool has a separated shallow kiddie pool which is perfect for babies and toddlers.
Along one end of the pool, there is a small sauna and a ping pong table. We spent a few hours lazing by the pool mixed in with some competitive ping pong.
The Saunton Sands Hotel Spa
Despite my love of spas, I did not have a chance to use the Saunton Sands Hotel Spa. There was so much to do at the hotel and the area, I decided I would rather hang out with the family then indulge in some spa time. Yes, I am a saint. And you know those activities have to be fun!
Saunton Sands Hotel has a small gym and and a room with a large snooker table. My husband loves snooker and he’s been teaching our kids to play. My daughter has taken to it with the enthusiasm of a true pool shark.
The making of a snooker shark (even though she needs a stool to reach the table)
Next to the large lawned area overlooking the beach, there is a small playground and a putting green.
Although it look really cute, Saunton Sands hotel has a children’s creche which my kids did not use. The hotel offers 2 hours free supervised care for children for under 8’s.
The path down to the beach also goes from the front of the hotel. It is wheelchair friendly (and Saunton Sands beach has sand-accessible wheelchairs for disabled guests).
Easy access to the beach is a big plus point.
Saunton Sands Weddings
The hotel is a popular wedding venue and we ogled a charming Saunton Sands wedding on the Saturday. The wedding party went down to the beach for photos and the reception was in the ballroom adjacent to the hotel lounge.
My daughter is at that age where she loves all things wedding for their glam romantic factor.
Unlike other hotels we’ve stayed in where there was a wedding, we were not disturbed by the wedding celebration. The music did not filter up to the rooms and the lounge/bar areas were not overtaken by wedding guests. In addition, the hotel kitchen seemed perfectly capable of running the food at the wedding reception without inconveniencing or delaying dinner guests.
Saunton Sands Food and Drink
The restaurants and bar are along the beachfront side of the hotel. We did see people enjoying drinks on the terrace but it really was too chilly for a meal outside.
After (barely) winning their snooker match, my husband treated my daughter to a Shirley Temple at the bar area. There are comfy couches where you can sit and hang out. The non-alcoholic drinks were a big hit with my kids. We liked having lounge areas where we could sit which wasn’t in the hotel room.
Saunton Sands Restaurant
The restaurant serves a large buffet style breakfast with both cold and hot options. It has the traditional English breakfast options as well as yogurts, fruits and heart-healthier options.
In the evening, the restaurant menu for dinner has a good selection of surf and turf which caters to the tastes of the multi-generational guests. You have old British favourites like fish and chips as well as freshly caught fish and seafood and a selection of steaks. I thought the Lundy lobster bisque with freshly caught lobster on toast was divine.
The fine dining aspect is nice without being snooty. The ingredients are locally sourced and the food excellent.
The lobster bisque made with local Lundy lobster was my favourite dish.
If you have younger children, the Saunton Sands restaurant does a children’s dinner in the late afternoon until 6:30. Our children ate dinner with us and chose off the regular Saunton Sands restaurant menu options. My son had fish and chips and my daughter ate macaroni and cheese.
Why The Saunton Sands Hotel Devon?
For family-friendly weekend breaks in the UK all year round, or a longer holiday in North Devon, the Saunton Sands Hotel is a fabulous hotel which will provide an enjoyable escape for everyone in the family, no matter the age. A couple of things to note:
- This hotel is great for the less-abled members of your family. Not only is the hotel accessible for the less mobile, so is Saunton Sands beach. I would definitely add Saunton Sands hotel to my list of luxury hotels with disabled facilities in Europe (even if you argue that Britain isn’t part of Europe despite its geographical location). This hotel is a wonderful example of the great British seaside holiday of yore.
Isn’t the view of the bay glorious? photo credit: Saunton Sands Hotel
- Saunton Sands is a really good base for a multi-generational holiday in terms of North Devon accommodation. I spoke to one family group that was celebrating the grandparents’ golden wedding anniversary. There are so many activities in the area that everyone will find something to enjoy. Next door to the Saunton Sands Hotel, for example, is the Saunton Sands public golf course. Teenagers and sporty types will enjoy the great surfing at Saunton beach. Children will love playing at the beach.
Colorful beach huts at Saunton Sands Beach
- Saunton Sands Hotel is located near many of the fun things to do in North Devon. The Gnome Reserve (which my children loved) was a 45 minute drive from the hotel. In nearby Appledore, on the other side of the bay, there was a book festival on the weekend we visited. Another great beach by Appledore is Westward Ho! which has a sheltered bay good for beginner surfers. For sheer cutesy charm, the cobble stone streets of the nearby town of Clovelly are hard to beat. Nearby Ilfracombe has boutiques, art galleries and a giant statue in the harbor by British artist, Damien Hirst.
Westward Ho! has an even bigger sand beach than Saunton Beach.
Want a second opinion on the Saunton Sands Hotel Devon? The reviews for Saunton Sands Hotel on TripAdvisor are great as well.
My stay was courtesy of the Saunton Sands Hotel. All words and opinions are my own. This site also generates income via partnerships with carefully-curated travel and lifestyle brands and/or purchases made through links to them. More information may be found on our Disclosure Policy.
What would you do with 4 acres in North Devon? Artist Anne Atkins created a gnome reserve with more than 2000 garden gnomes – a veritable gnome village if you will. And, an adjoining wildflower trail (free space for the gnomes to frolic?). One of the quirkiest places to visit in North Devon, this gnome world makes a great family day out. Sort of like the Elf Garden in Iceland, my kids thoroughly enjoyed their time. We met a few families who were return visitors so clearly this gnome world in Devon is a popular attraction.
Family Days Out in North Devon: A Gnome Reserve Not To Miss
The Gnome reserve and wildflower trail is a quirky quintessentially English experience. For a child, it’s a world of romping in forests and magical mystery adventures that Enid Blyton would recognise. For an adult, the gnome world is English eccentricity in all of its random yet harmless outrageousness.
Founded in 1979 by trained artist Ann Atkins, the Gnome Reserve and wildflower garden is a charming place tucked away in a corner of North Devon. Ann mans the visitor centre and her family operate the gnome village and wildflower centre. She seems to be about 80 years old so she clearly is enjoying her work if she’s still doing it almost 4 decades later.
Gnome Ann painting her gnomes and pixies
The Gnome Reserve has a lot of appearances on television and in books. We’re talking more than 70 times! Ann’s art and prints are located in collections around the world.
Not only does Ann create the gnomes, Ann paints magical scenes of fairies and pixies that are sold in the gift shop. Of course, my daughter got a painting for her room and my son got a gnome with an Arsenal shirt for his favourite football team.
The English gnome football team (and they actually win trophies!)
This visitor attraction will be part of the 25,000 people who visit annually. Like my kids, these are also the same sort of people who have seen Gnomeo and Juliet several times.
The Gnome reserve has a small visitor centre which has a gift store where you can watch Anne Atkins work on her projects in between tending to her visitors.
You can also see displays of some antique gnomes and grab some snacks to tide you over after walking four whole acres. British snacks of course involve cream tea, sandwiches and Ribena.
The royal family gnomes. Is it wrong that they actually look better than the real ones??
Did you know that the world’s most expensive garden gnome is insured for 1 million pounds and is stored in a bank vault? Try and snicker at that if you will.
Be prepared to don a gnome hat to visit the gnomes. It’s only polite to fit in with the locals.
Sheltered among the trees, the 2000+ gnomes are busy going about their business whether it’s fishing or practicing for the London Olympics. Amidst the gnomes, you get other cute creatures such as bunnies.
The gnomes have a case of invading bunnies
Fishing for stones makes for a nice interactive activity. Of course, my kids made it a competition to see who could get the most stones.
When you join the gnome world, you got to learn to fish.
Ann has so many gnomes her collection has entered the Guinness Book of World Records.
A Gnome World Gallery
Who knew gnomes could do everything that a person can do? My daughter decided her favourite gnome was the one practicing yoga and my son’s favourite was the one doing karate.
A game of gnome chess
A friendly game of gnome football
Nothing gnomes like better than fishing
A very British gnome wedding
Just hanging with the gnomies
I have to be honest I expected more flowers in the wildflower trail sort of like a wildflower meadow. It could have been the season, but the wildflowers we saw were more plants that were clearly labelled.
The wildflower field is full of butterflies.
In fact, there were more than 200+ types of British wildflowers which are all labelled. I have heard of many of the plants but had never seen them in real life. Or, if I did I didn’t know what they were!
For example, you hear about spearmint all the time as a chewing gum flavour but it was interesting to see (and to smell) the real plant.
A wildflower quiz kept the kids attention well.
A quiz to fill out on the wildflower walk
Visiting The Gnome Reserve Devon
The Gnome Reserve Devon is located in West Putford, near Bradworthy (a few miles from Closely) and near the border with Cornwall. It is open 7 days a week from March through October. Check out the Gnome Reserve Devon for costs and times.
Dogs are allowed in the reserve on leads. The narrow paths could be difficult with wheelchairs but fine with baby buggies.
We stayed at the Saunton Sands Hotel, a great family-friendly four-star hotel, approximately 45 minutes away by car from the gnome reserve.
What do you think? Would you or your family enjoy a visit to the world’s first Gnome Reserve?
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There aren’t many options for decent food, never mind good food, in the area between Waterloo and London Bridge. Located pretty much adjacent to Southwark station, Thai Silk stands out as a culinary beacon in this wilderness. Thai Silk is that rare beast – an affordable yet authentic Thai restaurant in London. With great food and service, this restaurant is a local Southwark treasure and attracts a neighbourhood crowd.
Authentic and affordable Thai cuisine near the Tate Modern Museum and the Imperial War Museum.
Authentic Thai Restaurant in London
We found the food appropriately spiced and tasty. We tried the Thai street food dishes which Thai Silk have recently started. The dishes include Thai sausages, crispy dried pork, Thai sour spare ribs and an assortment of salads.
Thai sour spare ribs
Minced Pork Cakes are part of the Thai street food menu.
By the way, when the menu says hot, they mean hot as in authentic Thai cuisine levels of hot and spicy. I found out the eye-wateringly hard way! My husband thought it was fine though.
Black bean and prawns
My standout favourite dish was the panaeng gae (lamb shank cooked in a rich red curry). Wow! The curry had layers of flavour and the lamb just melted in your mouth. The manager told us that we were not the only ones who love this dish. Thai tourists come to his restaurant for a taste of home.
Lamb shank in rich red curry sauce (photo credit: Thai Silk)
There is a good value lunch special of a starter and a main course served with rice or noodles. Alternatively, an early bird dinner before 7pm offers a similar deal but with an extra vegetable dish.
We did not take our children to lunch with us at Thai Silk. In the spirit of experimentation (and gluttony) we tried out a few dishes on the menu on their behalf. For example, we sampled the chicken satay and the pork noodles and decided our children would have liked them.
The Chicken Sate was grilled to perfection with a mild peanut sauce.
Thai Silk Bar, Lounge and Karaoke
More than just a restaurant, Thai Silk is a place to gather and make memories. The restaurant has got a great outdoor space with lots of tables. I can see this outdoor patio being a major summer hangout when the weather is good. In addition, there is a bar and lounge area with a DJ every Friday night.
The stylish bar area at Thai Silk Southwark in London
In addition, there are karaoke rooms upstairs with over a 100,000 songs in multiple languages. After a few drinks, who knows you may want to challenge yourself beyond Katy Perry and find yourself wanting to sing out the latest Thai hit song!
Thai Silk Southwark
Bought by the Royal China group, there had been initial plans to change Thai Silk into another Royal China outpost. Luckily the new owners realised they had a neighbourhood gem on their hands and kept the restaurant as is. They did bring in some of their staff from the Royal China in Marylebone to oversee the place.
If you are going to the fabulous Tate Modern Museum, you will get off at the Southwark tube stop. This restaurant is conveniently located right near the tube. Other nearby attractions are the Contemporary Applied Arts space (showcasing British craft), the Millennium Bridge, Imperial War Museums and the Imperial War Museums. By the way, my children loved the Imperial War Museums.
Thai Silk is located at 94-95 Isabella Street, London SE1 8DA. It is open for lunch and dinner, drinks and private functions.
I received a complimentary lunch at Thai Silk in exchange for this review. As always, this post and my opinions are my own.
You can spot the Magical Lantern Festival held at Chiswick House in London from several roads away. The bright colours in this Chinese light festival mark the inky sky over sleepy Chiswick in a striking gash much like a neon highlighter on paper.
The Chinese lantern festival marked to end of the Chinese New Year celebrations has come to London.
The Magical Lantern Festival
Although the Magical Lantern Festival in Chiswick is in its second year, this Chinese light festival took several years to plan. I could easily see why because the festival is very large and elaborate. It is part of the celebration of the Chinese New Year in 2017 which is the Year of the Rooster.
The Lantern Festival is traditionally held at the end of Chinese of New Year.
The theme this year is the Silk Road which were ancient trade routes that criss-crossed from China to Europe. The Silk Road only got its name in the 19th century because it sounded romantic and the first merchandise traded was silk. For thousand of years, these routes had no name but plenty of trading activity. As a byproduct of trading activity, the Silk Road brought ancient cultures in touch with each other.
Merchants and camels on the silk road.
The Magical Lantern Festival is on in London in January and February. I felt sorry for its neighbours – that’s a long time to have your night sky lit up in day-glo colours. Prior to its arrival in London, the Magical Lantern Festival spent time in other British cities.he Chinese Lantern Festival
History of The Chinese Lantern Festival
Chinese lantern festivals date back a couple of thousands of years. During the Western Han Dynasty (206BC to 25 AD), the festival was being celebrated with lanterns in temples. When the devout Buddhist Emperor Hanmingdi heard that Buddhist monks light lanterns to Buddha on the 15th day of the first month of the Chinese Lunar calendar, he ordered this practice countrywide. Later doing the Tang Dynasty, the use of lanterns spread to the palaces and streets.
The elaborate palaces of the Tang Dynasty.
When is the Chinese Lantern Festival?
The Chinese Lantern Festival starts on the 15th day of the first month of the Chinese Lunar Calendar. In 2017 and 2018, the exact date will be February 11th and March 2nd, respectively. The Chinese Lantern Festival ends the biggest Chinese festival, Chinese New Year (aka China’s Spring Festival).
What do you do at the Chinese Lantern Festival?
Participating in the Chinese Lantern Festival does not require much exertion. Basically, you go around and admire all the lanterns. Lanterns come in many shapes and sizes and themes. Lighting a lantern is a prayer for a smooth future ahead with all the best for the family.
How’s this for an elaborate lantern?
There are other ways to appreciate this Chinese light festival other than just admiring the pretty lanterns. Often the lanterns have riddles which people try to solve. If you solve the riddle, you give your answer to the owner. If your answer is right, then the owner will give you a small prize. Lion dances are another custom done during lantern festivals. The lion dance is a traditional folk dance which is used to ward off evil. Of course, it wouldn’t be a Chinese festival unless there was food involved. The traditional food eaten during the Lantern Festival are little rice dumplings called Yuanxiao.
A celebration of Chinese food
Where are the Major Lantern Festivals in China?
The biggest Lantern Festival in China is held in Quinhai in Nanjing which is supported by the local government who want it to be as big as the Harbin Ice Festival. The Quinhai festival is so famous it even gets a mention in an ancient Chinese novel, [easyazon_link identifier=”0385093799″ locale=”US” tag=”jg20-20″]The Dream of the Red Chamber[/easyazon_link], considered one of the world’s classic books.
There are other major lantern festivals as well, including the major cities of Beijing and Shanghai. During the Cultural Revolution, lantern festivals were banned.
Red is a lucky color for the Chinese.
Magical Lantern Festival Photo Gallery
We went to the Magical Lantern Festival in Chiswick even though the temperatures were freezing. Although we spent an hour to walk around, we would have taken even longer if we hadn’t been losing sensation in our limbs! Luckily, the festival organisers had vendors selling gourmet marshmallows to toast as well as hot drinks which helped us out. We also munched on hot churros for warmth (or that’s our excuse!).
Toasting gourmet marshmallows over a fire to keep warm.
I know the Magical Lantern Festival touts the ice rink, the food vendors and the fun fair as activities for its visitors. On our visit, many people were foregoing these pleasures because it was just too cold.
What would a Chinese festival be without a cute panda?
A magical walkway of lighted lanterns
Swans are a popular symbol of love worldwide.
We thought this elephant was too cute.
Wonders along the Silk Road included dolphins?
I have no idea what fashion in Paris has to do with anything. Maybe the use of silks in fashion?
Have you been to a Chinese lantern festival? I’d love to hear what you think.