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The first in this summer’s “suggested day trips”

Belfast, Northern Ireland (part 1)

Ferry tickets vary in prices throughout the year and in general, it’s cheaper to book in advance. TIP: I booked on St Patrick’s Day and got my ticket for £5 pp. Look out for special deals in newspapers too. They will email you reservation details and a booking number. There is no need to print this off as long as you can quote the number when you check in but beware that phone signals at both ferry ports seemed intermittent and emails are generally stored in the cloud! You may also be asked for ID so take a passport or your photo driving licence.

Stena Line operate six sailings per day to Belfast on the Superfast VII and the Superfast VIII. The sailings that I use are either the 7.30am or the 10.30am sailing. As a foot passenger you need to be at the terminal a minimum of 30 minutes prior to sailing which means leaving Balkissock by either 6.30am or 9.30am respectively.

An 8am breakfast will give you plenty of time to make the later sailing but, not surprisingly, I’m not up to cook breakfast at 5am for the earlier sailing. If pre-arranged, I will provide a lighter breakfast of cereal, fruit, toast, tea or coffee at 6am or email me for a bespoke package.

The sailings are approx. 2hrs 15 mins and there’s lots to do on-board to keep you occupied including a small cinema which normally screens a children’s film, a shop, games machines, several eating outlets, outdoor area (for smokers) and loads of sofas and comfy chairs to sit and chill and relax.

Jump on a bus at Belfast port and for £2.00pp you’ll be in the city centre in approx. 15 mins. TIP: don’t forget to ask the driver where to catch the bus to return to the port later in the day! You can also get a return ticket at a slightly reduced price.

What can I do in Belfast?

Tip: if it’s your first visit I’d suggest visiting the Visit Northern Ireland Tourist Office opposite the City Hall just around the corner from the bus drop-off point. It’s a treasure trove of leaflets and souvenirs.

A guided tour of Belfast on the open top bus:

There are two different tour operators and my daughter, her partner and myself used the “City Sightseeing Hop On – Hop Off” bus. The cost was £12.50 (adult), £10.50 (concession), £6.00 (child) £31.00 (family: 2 adults & up to 3 children).

The lady doing the commentary was very witty and it was an enjoyable 90 minute bus ride. You can jump off at any of the stops to look around or visit the attractions and then catch a later bus to continue the tour.

Belfast

Stops on the tour included the Titanic Exhibition and the Parliament buildings (TIP: be careful of timings if getting off at the Parliament buildings as busses are not allowed into the grounds after 3.30pm). 

Titanic Exhibition Belfast

The tour included information about the troubled recent history of Northern Ireland, of division and renewal and the bus drove past the Peace Wall and through the areas of the city that saw the worst of the Troubles.

Belfast mural

 

Belfast City Hall:

Free entry.

View the beautiful stained glass windows depicting events in Belfast’s history and it’s links around the world.

Stained glass window

Guided tours are available although we couldn’t get booked on to one the day we visited.

Belfast City Hall

TIP: If you’re going to do a blog … get a much better photo of the outside of the building!!

Belfast City Hall

The return journey:

I generally get either the 3.30pm or the 7.30pm ferry to return to Cairnryan. The latter arrives at 9.45pm and taking into account disembarking and driving, I’m back home about 10.30pm.

Please note that there is a very long walk from check-in, along the gangways and onto the ferry. I would imagine that Stenaline have someone to assist you if you’re infirm or use a wheelchair but I didn’t think to check.

Cars can be left in the Stena Line car park at a cost of £5.00 per day. TIP: pay for your parking on-board on the return journey to save you waiting in queues at the terminal.

I’m planning on visiting Belfast again later in August with my grandson and we’ll take the other bus tour which will take us to Belfast Zoo and we’re planning on visiting the Titanic Exhibition too.

My husband is heading there with friends in September and I suspect that Game of Thrones will be on the agenda!

So … watch out for Belfast the sequel!!

All prices were correct April 2017.

Cordelia @ Balkissock Lodge B&B (c)

All rights reserved.

The Irish Sea ferry ports are only a 25 minute drive from Balkissock Lodge B&B

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No Smoking

I don’t often have a rant … and rarely about guests … but this weekend has tested me to my limits.

 

I’ve had many guests over the years who are smokers including members of my own family. They smoke outside, sometimes in the garden but usually out in the car park and to be fair, I can’t speak for the guests, but my own family even go outside to smoke in their own homes!

Smoking B&B guests are warmly welcomed.  I even provide a bucket of water or sand to put out cigarette ends and there’s a huge brolly at the door in case it’s raining … but I will not tolerate smoking in the bedrooms. Apart from it being against the law [Smoking, Health and Social Care (Scotland) Act 2005], the room smells of smoke for weeks and weeks and weeks afterwards because no matter how many times the room is cleaned, the smell, to a non-smoker, lingers.

Not only is it embarrassing to smokers who chose to both flout the law and disregard the “no smoking” signs in my home to be told to leave immediately but I also know that future guests in the room can, despite my apologies, vent their disgust at the smell on review pages which can be extremely damaging to business and reputation.

So please, if you smoke, you’ll be made extremely welcome but please adhere to the “no smoking” anywhere in the building policy, thank you.

I’m off now to wash the ceiling and walls in the bathroom that was smoked in, in an attempt to clear the smell … despite the fact that I’m banned from standing on ladders and chairs due to sciatica!

Cordelia @ Balkissock Lodge B&B 2017 (c)

Smoke free accommodation available

New Photos

I’ve just discovered that I can randomise the photos at the top of my blog!!

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What do you think of the selection and would you like to suggest any changes?

Cordelia

Balkissock Lodge B&B 2017 (c)

All rights reserved

See the food and views for yourself

Book before the end of April and take advantage of my three nights for the price of two this summer. 


Yes, you did read that right! I’d rather fill the bookings diary with happy customers booking direct rather than them paying full price via the OTAs. 

Book direct from the link on the Tariff page and enter the promo code: easter17. I can’t set it up to deduct automatically but I will deduct the cost of the free night before you pay your bill. 


You could be enjoying a cheap short break this summer with a great selection and choice for breakfast. 


I use local produce when available. 


Don’t forget to order your evening meals too if you’d like to eat in.  The Visit Scotland hotel inspector said that she thoroughly enjoyed her salmon platter last week!


Cordelia

Balkissock Lodge B&B

Chair: Ayrshire Bed & Breakfast Association

Vegan Banana Cake

I was expecting guests today one of which is vegan. I always bake bread for guests for their breakfast and try to make home-made cake or biscuits for when they arrive but although I’ve made countless vegetarian dishes, vegan cake was a completely new experience for me.

Vegan banana cake
I researched a few recipes and decided to base my recipe on this one that I found on the internet.

Vegan Banana Cake Recipe:

Makes 8-10 small buns or 6-8 large muffins

Ingredients:

  • 150g  Self Raising (SR) Flour
  • 1 teaspoon (5g) of baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1.25g) of salt*
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5g) cinnamon
  • 100g demerara sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of light olive oil
  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 2 tablespoons of water
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) of vanilla essence**

Method:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 170C (350F) and place paper cases into bun/muffin tins.
  2. In one bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt together.
  3. In a second bowl, mash the banana using a knife then mix in the sugar and oil. Add the water and vanilla essence and mix well.
  4. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients (mine resembled a stiff rather than runny mixture).
  5. Divide the mixture into paper cases.
  6. Place the bun/muffin tins into the pre-heated oven and bake for approx 20-25 mins (small buns) or 35-40 mins (muffins).
  7. Remove from oven when cooked and allow to cool on a wire rack.

 

* I’m using Himalayan pink salt now and loving it!

** I make my own vanilla essence so used more but added less water.

 

They went awfully quickly!

I’ll add photos next time I make some … which won’t be very long!!

Let me know how you get on if you try out the recipe.

Cordelia (C) 2017

Sample the vegan banana cake for yourself

I’ve been a committee member of the Ayrshire Bed & Breakfast Association for some time now and I was delighted to hear that our AGM this year was to be at the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum in Alloway, Ayr.

Robert Burns Birthplace Museum

Our Chair Person has stepped down from the role and I was thrilled and delighted to be nominated and accepted as the new Chair Person for the group.

Ayrshire B&B Association

We are a group of 50 B&Bs located across Ayrshire and Arran that work collaboratively to promote the area. If you’re visiting, why not take a look at our website here and if you own a B&B in the area and would like to join please contact me for details. We enjoy our meetings at a variety of attractions throughout the region and we have always been highly appreciative of the hospitality shown to us. We recently had a wonderful afternoon tea at Glenapp Castle and are looking forward to what 2017 can bring!

 

Ayrshire B&B at Glenapp Castle

Guest speakers at our AGM included Craig Stewart owner of Freetobook, the online booking system that I, and many in the B&B industry use. His input regarding finance was generally agreed to be invaluable.

AB&BA also produce a Restaurant brochure that lists a variety of places to dine throughout the region. Addition to the brochure is limited and all eateries are personally recommended by AB&BA members and their guests.

Why not make your next holiday destination the beautiful rural South West of Scotland?

Cordelia

Silver Daisy Gifts

For those of you who don’t know … I’m slightly addicted to crafting!

Silver Daisy at Ayrshire B&B

It started out harmless enough by making gifts for family and friends and then it began to expand into a whole range of gifts.

Silver Daisy at Ayrshire B&B

The full range is on the Silver Daisy page of this blog.

Silver Daisy Earrings

You’ll also find lots of images on Instagram.

2017 calendars Ayrshire B&B

I’ve arranged an ‘at home’ on Saturday 17th December 2016, 12-4pm for friends and locals to visit, have a browse and a cuppa and hopefully buy a few stocking fillers.

fabric hearts from Silver Daisy

I’m thinking of opening an Etsy shop too although I really don’t know a lot about Etsy, Folksy, etc.

Green and Orange Fabric Tea Caddies

I hope that you’ve enjoyed looking!

knitted blue wool baby jumper

Cordelia

All rights reserved (c) 2016

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