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A Family day to remember!

On Sunday 2nd April this year, I took my family on a day out to the Redcastle Hotel for the Family Adventure Package at Redcastle’s Sunday Carvery. The offer included Sunday Carvery Lunch and an Adventure Experience with Inish Adventures, which was to be offshore kayaking. Myself and my husband have been eager to try and engage in more family activities for quite a while now. It’s been kind of a New Year’s Resolution that had never got past the planning stage so when I saw this offer fromRedcastle, I thought this could be ideal.Our day out turned out to be one of the best we have had as a family in a long time.

Firstly, the journey from Letterkenny was a glorious drive with spectacular scenery for the entire route. Then, the majestic setting of the  Redcastle Hotel, and in particular, the dining area suite is simply breath-taking, with its floor to ceiling windows covering almost half of the room with a spectacular view of Lough Foyle. The package offers a choice of taking the activity before or after Sunday Lunch and we decided to eat first and then I volunteered my husband to take the older boys on the hour long activity while I planned to take a drive and explore the peninsula.

From the moment we entered the dining area, we couldn’t have been made more welcome and nothing was too much trouble for the friendly staff. We are always conscious of the challenge that four children including two toddlers can be to waiting staff and our dining experience was helped and smoothed along by their professional assistance and child friendly manner.

Sunday Carvery Lunch itself consisted of a self-service buffet style all-you-can-eat offering of every conceivable type starter that makes the mouth water and children’s eyes bulge! 

Convincing our boys to maintain a level of self-restraint was the biggest challenge here with a view to a main course. It was a good idea from their dad to first walk them through to the main dining area to show them the Carvery being served up by the chef and the mouth-watering self-service dessert stand beautifully laid out on a traditional style wooden Sweet Trolley. Mealtime passed off messily enough as can be imagined when two high chairs are on the go at one table, but staff stepped in on occasion with a smile and helpful wipe away when needed, ensuring that the entire family were relaxed and able to enjoy the sumptuous food on offer. A choice of kids menu or half sized adult fare was also available which we find extremely helpful in satisfying various tastes.

After lunch, it was on to the kayaking. The boys and their dad met with the two instructors from Inish Adventures who were very professional in their approach to water safety but equally eager for the lads to enjoy their experience of kayaking. Being their first time on the water, the instructors were very reassuring and quickly had them fitted for their wetsuits, helmets and life jackets, and got them onto the water, after a demonstration and induction. It was decided that the boys would use double kayaks with my seven year old accompanying one instructor with my eleven year old and his dad in another, and the second instructor accompanying them in a single kayak. From the hotel there were some great viewing points and I ended up watching from the shore with the little ones for the entire hour which passed really quickly.

The guys kayaked up along the coastline to a pre-arranged spot where they landed on a little beach to take a break before returning to the hotel’s pier. The boys loved it and their dad reported that the time on the water flew by with both lads having great craic, racing each other and calling over and back. 

All in all, it turned out to be a great family day were we got to enjoy each other’s company without a computer screen in sight which is an achievement in this day and age.

Launch of 2017 Donegal Garden Trail

Founded in 2006, the Donegal Garden Trail first opening their gates to the public in the summer of 2007 and the members recently launched their 2017 Donegal Garden Trail Brochure.

The Garden Trail is an association of public and private gardens who's owners are very committed and enthusiastic. Their primary aim is to promote garden visiting as a collective effort in County Donegal, encouraging garden visiting as an educational and leisure activity. Many of the private gardens also collect donations for charities.

Members of the Donegal Garden Trail at the 2017 Launch in Buffers Tearooms at Oakfield Park

The member gardens have an inclusive approach, not rating or judging their gardens, but two of their members will visit new prospective gardens and determine two simple criteria: is the garden safe and is there sufficient horticultural interest to provide the public with an interesting and enjoyable visit.

2017 sees the number of gardens on the Donegal Garden trail at 22 diverse and enticing gardens over the length and breadth of the county. Each Garden has it's own dedicated section on the Donegal Garden Trail Website. Click on any Garden below to go directly to their web link:

  1. Nora’s Rose Garden, Ballybofey 
  2. Backleas Gardens, Stranorlar
  3. Beltany View, Raphoe
  4. Ros Ban Garden, Raphoe
  5. Oakfield Park, Raphoe
  6. White House Garden, Castlefinn
  7. Mrs Jessie Mahaffy’s Garden, Lifford
  8. Dunmore House & Gardens, Carrigans
  9. Foxrock Garden, Greencastle
  10. Glenella House & Garden, Milford
  11. Rathmullan House, Rathmullan
  12. Greenfort Garden, Kerrykeel
  13. Carrablagh House, Portsalon
  14. St. Colomb's Gardens, Churchill
  15. Glenveagh Castle Gardens, Churchill
  16. Cluain na dTor Tropical Garden, Falcarragh
  17. Summy Garden, Portnoo
  18. Cille Garden, Kilcar
  19. Bruckless House & Garden, Bruckless
  20. Lower Cranny Garden, Inver
  21. Sea View Garden, Mountcharles
  22. Salthill Garden, Mountcharles

Visitors to all the gardens on the Donegal Garden Trail will discover a long established tradition of ornamental horticulture which began in monastic and castle gardens and continued in cottage and country houses. Today, the gardens are the continuation of that rich tradition. Children are especially welcome but should be carefully supervised due to streams, rivers or ponds.

Open days and times are listed on each garden's section on the website but many owners are happy to open outside of these times (do phone ahead to make sure). The Donegal Garden Trail has also linked up with Garden Supply Centres and Hospitality Providers all over the county for you to enjoy.

For full details visit the website at www.DonegalGardenTrails.com and you can also give the Donegal Garden Trail Facebook  a like here to keep up to date with all their events.