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Portaferry, Northern Ireland

(41 Posts)
bea Tue 18-Jan-05 09:54:59

anyone know of the place? as i think we maybe heading there for easter, it looks lovely... and quite looking forward to going to belfast too, read the belfast on a budget thread... anymore things to do with a 3 yr old and year old in belfast? (whilst hubby at a conference..) places to eat and nappy change stops! appreciated!

hatmum Tue 18-Jan-05 10:15:13

I think that's where the NI Sea Life place is which our (similarly aged) children enjoyed over the summer though ds liked the 10min ferry ride the best from the whole day...

Grommit Tue 18-Jan-05 10:18:05

Bea - I am originally from Belfast and go back quite often. Portaferry is lovely - most beautiful scenery -there is a little aquarium there which dd enjoys. Belfast Zoo is also good and there is a big adventure playground nearby (by belfast castle). The Ulster Museum in Belfast is also very good - dd has always loved this too. Bangor is nice if you get good weather on the seafront there is a play area with a boating pond and cafe. There are lots of lovely beaches which the kids love as long as the weather is dry. Enjoy yourself!

bea Tue 18-Jan-05 11:04:12

Thanks hatmum... we're planning a ferry ride as one of the family excursions when dh is cone with the conference!!!

Grommit! very excited about portaferry now! how long do you think it will take to get from portaferry to belfast? as that's where dh's conference is! is belfast a walkable city (if you know what i mean?)?

any suggestions for eateries?
we're thinking of taking the ferry... know of any good deals travel agents do etc?

thanks again! getting excited now!!!

BearintheBigBlueHouse Tue 18-Jan-05 11:11:56

It is a 30-40 min drive from Belfast and it is really lovely. Taking the ferry over to Strangford and back is great fun - well I always thought it was when I was a kid and stil do. The food is great in the Narrows and also good (although pricier) in the Portaferry Hotel. The aquarium is great especially if they have any baby seals recuperating there.

Don't book the Seacat to Belfast (although I'm not sure its schedule starts as early as Easter) as they invariably cancel it leaving you to drive miles to get a ferry at either end. Flying to Belfast City Airport and hiring a car is dead easy these days and could turn out less hassle in the long run. Where are you staying in Portaferry - know a lovely s/c place just down the road from there.

bea Tue 18-Jan-05 11:28:57

Ooo!!! all this knowledge i love mumsnet for this...

Bear - we're hopefully staying at Barr Hall Barns at Portaferry (or just outside of...) do you know it... if you know of a 3 bedromed lovely sc please let me know as i've not booked anythiung for definite yet!!!

bea Tue 18-Jan-05 11:28:58

Ooo!!! all this knowledge i love mumsnet for this...

Bear - we're hopefully staying at Barr Hall Barns at Portaferry (or just outside of...) do you know it... if you know of a 3 bedromed lovely sc please let me know as i've not booked anythiung for definite yet!!!

BearintheBigBlueHouse Tue 18-Jan-05 11:38:00

we stayed there!!!!! busy with DS now but can post more later. v nice, you'll enjoy it.

Grommit Tue 18-Jan-05 11:44:51

Bea- agree you should fly to NI rather than take the Seacat or ferry. It is likely to be cheaper to Fly-drive - I usually get flights from Luton (Easyjet) for as little as £35 return.
I can't really advise on accommodation or restaurants in the Portaferry area.

butterflymum Tue 18-Jan-05 11:50:42

Hi bea

We live in Northern Ireland and like to spend short breaks in various local areas of interest. Last October we based ourselves on the Ards Peninsula and rented this fantastic property on the outskirts of a small coastal village called Ballywalter (if I remember, about 15 miles from Portaferry). We chose here as it was about halfway down the peninsula and meant we could choose to go back up towards Newtownards/Belfast on some days or down towards Portaferry on others, without feeling we were spending all our time in the car.

Our boys are 2, 5 and 7 yrs and they loved the whole Ards area. There is a beach and small play park just across from the property we stayed at as well as access to walks through the grounds of the mansion house where it is situated.

Things we packed into our 4/5 day break included:

Ruined Abbey at Greyabbey...boys loved scrambling around this.

Exploris (sea life centre at Portaferry)...small but very good...especially the hands-on tank. Didn't do the ferry this time as have had boys on it before, but still went down to watch it.

Ballycopeland Windmill.

Narrow Guage Railway at Drumawhey Junction.

Ark Open Farm...includes good picnic and play facilities.

Scrabo then short walk to top...great views.

This page from the local council site will give you loads of other details of places of interest and things to do/see. Also, the menu on the website has links to accomodation etc in area and, a 'what's on' section which tells you of anything interesting happening each month.

Phew, all of the above plus Belfast and it's various attractions to..methinks you should come for a month!

I have no doubt you will all enjoy your trip whatever you do...have a fantastic time.


butterflymum Tue 18-Jan-05 11:56:12

Just noticed you have now posted where you hope to stay...lovely. It was on our list of options in October, but we couldn't get booked then. Another place I can suggest is Barnwell Cottages . Friends of ours stayed at them and said they were excellent.

bea Tue 18-Jan-05 14:31:17

butterflymum, yes! i'd looked at barnwell and they were on my shortlist!... but the lodge was too small, we need three bedrooms!

can't wait to book now.. will be back later to pick more brains!!!!

BearintheBigBlueHouse Tue 18-Jan-05 20:30:57

Bea, we stayed in the Barn and the Cottage at Barr Hall Barns (3 of us - as we were then and 4 grandparents - as they were then) in June 2002. The accommodation was great - the Barn has a great big aga which will be great at Easter. Unfortunately the views are hampered slightly by the owners' house, but the setting is lovely - rright on the lough-side with easy walking to a pebbly beach with views of the Mournes across the lough. Truly God's own country - let me know if you want to know more.

bea Wed 19-Jan-05 08:16:58

Bear! Fantastic!!! i'm going to be stuck there for one day without the car... what do you think is do-able for walking around the area... rain or shine? with a 1 yr old in buggy and walking 3 year old...

thanks! all for your exciting recs!!! very very excited now and just have to clear it with hubbys work and then i'll go ahead and book!!!!

BearintheBigBlueHouse Wed 19-Jan-05 12:51:39

TBH Bea, there's not a great deal - beachcombing's your best bet or seal watching (they haul out on the rocks just opposite the bottom of the drive). I don't know how fit your 3yo is but the place is 5-10 mins by car out of Portaferry so it would be a fair walk to Exploris, esp if it decides to rain - the road is very open to the elements. You're right at the end of the Ards Peninsula and going back to Portaferry or beyond is really your only option if it's civilization you're after that day.

I know our 1yo is HUGELY dependent on regular naps (for that matter 3yo still is too) so it wouldn't work for us, but couldn't you take DP up to Belfast and do stuff there that day and then pick him up at the end of the day or go and meet him half way - he could sample the delights of Ulsterbus to get him back Portaferry direction???

I've been looking for our photos of Barr Hall, but they're really all of a delightfully chubby DD when she was 9months revelling in the adoration of her GPs with very little of the property on view, so not really much use to you, sorry. But we all loved it there and had a great holiday.

HTH, Bear

bea Wed 19-Jan-05 20:15:29

thanks again Bear... dh is away for a two day conference... so basically one day will be a belfast exploring day... and another will be hanging around and walks along the beach and watching lots of telly... (is there a video there!?) you're right about the nap thing as ds is best off having a morning nap and then an attempt at an afternoon nap...

many many thanks to you all for the info (esp Bear!) and am will report back once we've been!!!! (if dh ever clears it with work so i can go ahead and book!!! Grrr!

BearintheBigBlueHouse Wed 19-Jan-05 20:24:44

no worries. I'm pretty sure there is a video, but not a dvd. If you're going over Easter, remember NI is not so hot on having a Bank Hol on Good Friday but has an Easter Tuesday B/H instead - so things might be shut on the Tuesday unexpectedly.

Really hope you have a good time - I'm very jealous - if I ever win the lottery (got to do it first I guess), I'm buying a house on the loughshore just outside Portaferry so I can watch the ferry going in and out all day long, bliss.

bea Thu 20-Jan-05 09:27:54

i'm sorry but i'm on here again to pick all your brains re: travel... i did agree with you all and toy with he idea of going from luton airport to belfast on easyjet (we live in brum) but i can't help thinking it would be such a huge hassle... leaving the car and then lugging car seats onto airplane (how do you do hins) , not to mention not very sure whether ds would sit on my knee (how do you fasten them when taken off?)... and dd (a small 3yr old) does she get a seat or sit on our knee? - i've heard that some people use their car seats on the plane... not sure my maxi cosi priori would fit on an airplane... and if you don't take your car seat... how reliable is a hire car child seat (not very reliable i've read so far!), and then when we get to belfast we'd then have to hire a car etc... so is it all the hassle... as opposed to driving up to fleetwood and getting the ferry over to larne....?

now we come to ferries... i thought we would be able to get a crossing from liverpool to belfast... does this exist? don't want to travel to stranraer.... any thoughts all you well travelled mumsnetters.... ?

hope you can all understand my ramblings and looking forward to hearing from you all....

butterflymum Thu 20-Jan-05 10:25:01

Stena do a crossing from Fleetwood to Larne (pretty basic I believe - haven't tried it ourselves).

How far are you from Holyhead? Last summer we did Dublin to Holyhead with Stena and found it to be a very good option. The boat was excellent. The road from Dublin has been improved with the introduction of a Toll section on part of it.

butterflymum Thu 20-Jan-05 10:33:56

Forgot to say, I think Norse Merchant Ferries still do a Liverpool to Belfast route (crossing time 10 hours).

We find with the children (2, 5 and 7), it is better to have a longer road journey (whereby you can stop for breaks etc) and a shorter boat journey (especially if the weather is poor and crossing rough), hence decision last year to go Dublin/Holyhead (we could have gone Belfast/Stranraer but decided the overall road journey on this side (ie from County Antrim area to Dublin) was likely to be much less hassle than on the other side).

butterflymum Thu 20-Jan-05 10:42:32

Norse Merchant

bea Thu 20-Jan-05 11:03:31

fantastic Butterfly Mum! just what i was looking for, for some reason i could not for the life of me find a crossing frm liverpool to belfast last night, spent ages googling!... think this will be our option... many thanks again...

butterflymum Thu 20-Jan-05 11:22:33

Only too glad to be of help (forgot to say, the Holyhead Dublin crossing is only about 3hrs 15mins then about a 2 hour or so drive up to Portaferry (via Strangford side of the lough)).

Grommit Thu 20-Jan-05 11:32:49

Bea -don't go liverpool belfast - horrible ferry, very long crossing (overnight or all day) - complete nightmare with Children. Dublin Holyhead is better. Don't know Fleetwood - Larne

BearintheBigBlueHouse Thu 20-Jan-05 13:59:24

I'd still think twice about ferries - whichever way you go (although I agree that Holyhead - Dublin is definitely best) it's a long drive, a (possibly longish) trip across the Irish Sea in March (not always to be recommended) followed by another drive. We wouldn't do it again.

We've flown with car-seats and buggies several times (we were there at Christmas and are flying back next month). It's bulky at the airport but it's do-able. It's worth letting the airline know in advance how much clobber you've got. You check the car seats in at the Check In desk then take buggies to the plane door. Usually you get both back at the carousel. Your DS sits on your lap with a belt around him attached to your belt, DD has her own seat.

Have you checked FlyBe from Brum to Belfast City? Almost as cheap as Easyjet. But EasyJet fly to Belfast International which is 30-40 mins the wrong side (NW) of Belfast - Portaferry is SE of Belfast. You come out of Belfast City Airport and you're virtually on the road to Portaferry.

If you don't want to lug your seats, I know Europcar at the City Airport rents car-seats with its cars but we were child-free last time we rented from them, so I don't know how good the seats are- you could call them at the City Airport to check. Most of the car-rental companies there say they offer seats so you should be able to get something if you fly but don't want to bring your own.

I don't work for the Airport/Airlines/Car-Rental companies, honest - just passing on our experiences. We've concluded that flying to Belfast with the DCs might be 3 hours of stressful travelling, whereas travelling by ferry etc has meant up to 14.

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