“I didn’t know there was so much green in the whole galaxy” – Take a trip to Takadona (after lockdown, of course!)

2015 was a great year for Star Wars fans. It was the year that Episode VII: The Force Awakens, was released, the first Star Wars movie since the release of The Revenge of the Sith in 2005, and heralded the first of the final trilogy for the franchise.

It certainly didn’t disappoint. A beautifully shot production, providing an emotional introduction to the next generation of protagonists and villains. It also gave us more stunning locations to admire, and two of these were shot right here in the UK: The Lake District (the second largest of the UK’s National Parks); and Puzzlewood (a quirky, and much smaller natural treasure located in the Forest of Dean). We visited both of these in the Summers of 2017 and 2018 respectively.

The Lake District, England a.k.a. Takodana

The Lake District is not a stranger to the silver screen, having been the setting for a number of movies in the past, including 28 Days Later, but it can now boast being part of the Star Wars universe standing in the forest planet Takodana, (which is located in the Western Reaches of the Empire, in the Mid-Rim). After legendary duo Han Solo and Chewbacca are re-united with the Millennium Falcon, they set off with Rey, Finn and BB-8 in search of the knowledgeable Maz Kanata, who will certainly help them return BB-8 safely to the Resistance.

FACTOID: Did you spot that Anakin Skywalker has a statue if Maz in his bedroom in Episode I: The Phantom Menace? Interesting, I hear you say, and likely a nod to Maz’s ancient connection with the Jedi and how she originally came to be in possession of Anakin’s lightsabre…).

The main setting for the planet, and specifically for Maz’s castle, is around Derwentwater and Thirlmere, two of the many large lakes that make up the Lake District. As the Millennium Falcon enters the atmosphere, the ship finds itself over Borrowdale and Derwentwater (which has been digitally enhanced to make the lake appear even larger than its original form), and we can see views of the large fell, Skiddaw in the background.

You can visit Colin Bell’s blog for more specific identification of the Takodano landscape as it is quite difficult to work out the precise locations due to the CGI modifications made to the original landscape.

The arrival above Maz’s Castle shows Walla Crag on the left hand side, with Maz’s Castle in the distance, opposite the spectacular fells of Catbells and Maiden Moor. From this direction, the scene has been modified to make it more “alien” but it is still very recognisable for those who frequent the area.

The main town attached to Derwentwater is Keswick, a lovely market town with its very own pencil factory (which is really cool)!!

To get the view from Maz’s Castle, we ventured out beyond Keswick, to the opposite side of Derwentwater, near Friars Crag, where you get the sense that you are near the ancient watering-hole.

Whilst we were unable to find any exact locations (which were quite possibly not even filmed here), we think this was near the vicinity where some of the shots comprising the Stormtroopers vs X-Wing showdown we’re supposed to have happened. It was truly stunning area of the lake to visit, and incredibly quiet compared with the hustle and bustle of Keswick. It is certainly worth the hike along the water’s edge if you have the time…

Even though finding the precise locations from the movie was difficult in practice, it is easy to see why the location scouts chose the Lake District to represent Takodana. We are looking forward to being able to return here after the lockdown craziness ends!

Puzzlewood, Forest of Dean a.k.a Takodana forest

After discovering Maz’s collection of mysterious artefacts deep within the castle, Rey finds herself in a strange woodland, adjacent to where the Millennium Falcon was parked up. Now this is no-where near the Lake District, but instead, was filmed at Puzzlewood, located in the Forest of Dean in Southern England.

Puzzlewood is as amazing and quirky as it sounds, and is one of the most unusual places I have ever been to within the UK. It was a real joy to explore this ancient woodland and to explore the unusual rock formations covered with moss and ferns. Lucasfilm could not have chosen a better location for the lightsabre spar between Rey and Kylo Ren, which culminated in Rey being captured by Ren for questioning over the map of Luke Skywalker’s whereabouts, as even without any added lighting or enhancements, there was something quite surreal about this place.

Get yourself to a UK spaceport

So if you want to visit Takodana, you will need to schedule two separate trips, one to the North, and one to the South of the United Kingdom. Both are very much worth the effort, even if you’re not a Star Wars fan.

Let’s explore the galaxy together

We would love to visit more Star Wars locations (particularly Endor (Redwood National Park), and so far we have visited Kashyyyk (Episode III), Phang Nga Bay, Thailand (also the location for Saramanga’s lair in James Bond), and Tatooine (Episode IV), Death Valley National Park, California.

MAY THE FORCE BE WITH YOU, ALWAYS!

Hogwarts Birthday Feast

I was looking through my blog posts earlier looking to find some pictures from previous Harry Potter themed parties we have hosted (in readiness for our Harry Potter Halloween 2020 dinner party), only to discover that I had not uploaded a post from the party we organised for our god-daughter back in 2019.

It was great to have another excuse to try out some different recipes, and always good to be able to re-use previous decorations. We are very fortunate that our dining room just lends itself perfectly for re-creating a Hogwarts banquet. Here are some snapshots from the party:

The cake

I also relished the chance to try and make a cute cake for the occasion, and I was pleasantly surprised by how well it turned out, thanks for plenty of inspiration from Pinterest.

The decor

As you can see, no real effort here, as we already had all of the decorations from our Christmas party. The ceiling candles were a great purchase from Amazon, and we keep the tacks in the beams for easy installation. The only issue is that the batteries drain very quickly, and it is a little bit of a faff having to replace every one before use! The banners and letter set were from Primark, and so relatively inexpensive.

The food

We opted for a colourful buffet of sweet treats and savoury snacks. The Slytherin snake breadsticks were another easy bake, using a packet of pizza dough, and the pasties were also simple to make using bought rolled puff pastry filled with a mix of tinned pumpkin puree and some grated cheese.

Hope this has given you some ideas of how easily you can re-create your own Hogwarts feast, and I am certainly looking forward to our Halloween re-creation:)

Star Wars Day 2020 – May the 4th be with you!

As you will know, the England household always celebrates Star Wars Day, and 2020 was a particularly unusual one for everyone, as we were all stuck at home for lockdown. Whilst the usual UK bank holiday was moved from May 4th to May 8th due to the VE Day Celebrations (75 years), we decided to make the most of being at home, by spending the entire weekend celebrating all things Star Wars!

It all started a week earlier with the kicking off of our Star Wars Movie Marathon, which also included the finale of Season 1 of The Mandalorian.  We watched in the following order, which is based on the so-called machete order:

Episode IV: A New Hope; Rogue One; Episode V: Empire Strikes Back; Episode I: The Phantom Menace; Episode II: Attack of the Clones; Episode III: Revenge of the Sith; Solo; Episode VI: Return of the Jedi; Season finale of The Mandalorian; Episode VII: The Force Awakens; Episode VIII: The Last Jedi & Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker. 

I also decided to try out some of the recipes from the Galaxy’s Edge Cook-book (Black Spire Outpost) I received for Christmas, and I was particularly impressed with the quality of these recipes.  Unlike some other Star Wars themed cook-books I have used in the past, all of the recipes were well thought-out and described, and all tasted delicious!

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Huttese Slime Pods

OK so these were not the most appetising to look at (very much like our old foe, Jabba the Hutt), but they were fantastic. Very rich sauce, which was made from blended avocado, pine-nuts and parmesan. A pinch of paprika added for some extra spice & colour (we couldn’t forget about Salacious Crumb now, could we?!).

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Dagobah Slug Slingers

I was delighted to find a tequila recipe in the book, and this one included a rosemary and ginger syrup, which I made using some fresh rosemary from the garden. Highly recommended if you are partial to a cheeky Margarita.

Ronto Wrap

This recipe was delicious, and I was very pleased with our home-made herb flat-bread, and how it went with the flavoursome bbq ground pork. We weren’t able to buy enough avocado’s to make our own guacamole (lockdown prevented the purchase of more than 2 of any one item), but managed to find some pre-made stuff, which was pretty good nonetheless.  We also made some baked yellow peppers, which were cooked along with some capers.  We will definitely make this again!

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Qui-Gon’s Gin & Tonic

We’ve had this bottle for a few years, having made the labels using very un-sophisticated tools on Microsoft Word! Always love these classy Hendricks bottles!img_7949

Xizor Salad

Very easy to make, and incredibly tasty – can’t beat a simple salad with blue cheese dressing. Next time I’d put in a little more blue colouring…  On  May the 4th itself, we also made one of our favourite pasta meals  (sweet chilli prawn & cream), but boiled the pasta in blue food colouring to give it a more alien look!

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Lava Rolls & Bantha Milk

Having managed to find a really old packet of dried yeast in the pantry (expiry date Summer 2018!!!), we decided to give the lava rolls a try, and they turned out pretty well! Despite their looks, they were very tasty, and made fantastic marmite on toast, which we enjoyed for breakfast along with a glass of Tatooine’s classic Bantha Milk.

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Batuu Cola

Thanks to my good friend Clare, for getting me a bottle of the Disneyland Galaxy’s Edge Coca-Cola – would have loved to have been able to get a load of these in.

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Droid Snacks

I was lucky enough to get these super-cute droid Le Creuset dishes at Christmas time, along with the absolutely amazing Han Solo Carbonite roasting dish.  I just need to find an R2D2 version…

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Wookie Cookies & Baby Yoda biscuits

9d017f00-9f69-4b18-bbaf-a746478653d8To make the chewbacca cookies, use a regular gingerbread man cookie-cutter but flatten the neck to make the head less round.  Then just use a fork to give the biscuit “hair”. To make the ammo belt, I used melted chocolate and silver balls.  For the gingerbread, I used the Hummingbird Bakery recipe. 

 

For the Baby Yoda biscuits, I used a Christmas Angel cookie-cutter. I should have straightened the wings slightly, but it is a pretty good “quick-fix” until they release an official cutter. I used the vanilla biscuit recipe from the London-based Biscuiteers.

I managed to get some biscuits shipped out to friends and family in time for the special day, and fortunately they all arrived in one piece!

Bye bye Death Star

Since lockdown started, me and my work colleagues have been tasked with re-creating our favourite movies at home. With Star Wars Day upon us, it was too good an opportunity to miss, and so we re-created our own version of the Episode IV Rebel victory against the Empire.  This involved making a Luke Skywalker X-Wing helmet out of hard hat we had in the shed, and casting our gorgeous little Starbuck to play Chewie alongside Han Solo in the Millennium Falcon. 

Although we weren’t able to share the day with any friends or family, it was so good to have something to distract us during this very strange and unprecedented time. I am very grateful for all of the joy that Star Wars brings to my life.

MAY THE FORCE BE WITH YOU, ALWAYS!img_7986

Six Nations 2020 Suspended: Covid-19

Welsh shirt dusted off, tickets in hand, we were looking forward to the 2020 Six Nations Championship climax weekend when normality was set aside and the new social distancing world order took hold.

On the afternoon of Friday 13th March, the Wales v Scotland game, to be held at the Principality Stadium (Cardiff) the following day, was postponed, officially the last scheduled sporting event in the World (that’s how much the Welsh love their rugby!) to be played, after all other fixtures having been cancelled in the wake of the escalating Covid-19 situation. Covid-19 had played its hand, and won.

This was a turning point for us, and marked the beginning of a series of social distancing measures being imposed by the UK Government and culminated in a full “lockdown” taking effect on the 24th March. Almost one month later, our national stadium had been transformed into the second largest field hospital in the UK, and re-named the Dragon Heart hospital. Many rugby heroes, most notably from the Women’s game, are hanging up their boots, and are taking up key-worker roles at the NHS and other emergency services, and we thank them for keeping us all safe in these unprecedented times.

https://www.google.co.uk/amp/s/www.bbc.co.uk/news/amp/uk-wales-52353529

The tournament ended with a three way contest for the men, and England sitting clearly at the top of the Women’s table. We were expecting a thrilling Super Saturday!

The 2020 cohort of biscuits are now safely packaged away, but with no vaccine expected for months at the earliest, no one is really sure when, and indeed, if, the 2020 tournament will be resumed before 2021.

To avoid the 2020 fixtures being lost in the Covid-19 drama, I have summarised where we got to, right before Super Saturday was suspended.

Round 1, Round Up

Men

Women

Round 2, Round Up

Men

Women

Round 3, Round Up

Men

Women

Round 4, Round Up

Men

Women

Round 5, Round Up “Super Saturday”

So, we are all eagerly waiting to see how the World copes with Covid-19, and we are all keeping our fingers crossed that we can resume some degree of normality as soon as possible.

#StaySafe #StayHome

#GingerBreadOfHeaven #SixBiscuits

Take a trip to Westeros & Essos: Northern Ireland Road Trip 2019

This is a must for any Game of Thrones fan!

A visit to Northern Ireland quickly reveals why it was an obvious choice for filming the epic Game of Thrones show, with such incredibly diverse landscapes suitable for locations across both Westeros & Essos.

Whist the Dark Hedges was a particularly hectic place to visit (but you can avoid the crowds by visiting early in the morning), most areas are tranquil, with very few tourists to hamper your view. Driving around is also very easy, with the longest drive between locations under 2.5 hours, and only tractor-traffic to navigate. Purchasing National Trust membership for your trip is certainly worth it, as you will pretty much make back your money during this trip alone.

When pulling together our itinerary for our GoT Territory road trip last Summer, we relied heavily on the information provided by Discover Northern Ireland (including their App), who have compiled some excellent trips based around the ten Game of Thrones doors that have been spread across the territory.   These doors tell the story of Season 6 of the series, and were created using 18th century beech trees that fell from the Dark Hedges (aka the King’s Road) in a storm in 2016.  We were so pleased we managed to see them all! img_0174

As we found this approach the best way to make the most of our visit, and helped us to cram in as many locations as possible in the time that we had, I have replicated the approach here, and provided an overview of the places to visit by reference to the 10 Doors of Thrones.  For those of you wanting more details, I have attached a link to a PDF with our full itinerary. I have used information about many locations taken from the Northern Ireland Game of Thrones Territory Filming Location booklet and the Journey of Doors Passport. These are readily available within Northern Ireland, or you can download copies in advance of your trip.

At many locations, information signs are available providing background to the relevant filming sequences, but sadly, many of these were no longer in situ when we visited, and hopefully these will be replaced in the future.

DOOR 1 – The Cuan, 6-12 The Square, Strangford BT30 7ND

Opening title sequence of GoT – Westeros Geography & reminder of the context of Season 5 warring Houses.

We based ourselves for the first 3 days of our trip at the camping site at Castle Ward (located on the shore of Strangford Lough), having spent our arrival night at The Cuan following a last minute change to our ferry schedule. The GoT cast stayed at the Cuan during filming.

We opted for a premium pod, which is a “glamping” option. It had power and bed couches and a fantastic location in the forest above Strangford Lough. We were lucky to have had great weather for most of our trip, and so I cannot comment on what this experience would have been like had it been raining!

Staying at The Cuan would have been an excellent choice for our trip, but they didn’t have availability for our trip.

Most of the Season 1 Winterfell scenes are set within the Castle Ward National Trust property (Strangford, Downpatrick BT30 7BA).

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Audley Castle & Field (Accessible via a cycle tour from Castel Ward) – GoT: Robb Stark’s Camp, Oxcross (Battle of Oxcross): Where Robb Stark first meets Talisa

Locations around Castle Ward – GoT: Ned’s picnic, Baelor’s battlefield, The Twins, Where Brienne confronts Stark Men with Jamie, Winterfell Castle

You can also take a short drive into the Riverlands from Castle Ward.   We visited Inch Abbey before breakfast one morning and it was stunning, and no-one else around to disturb the silence. You can see Downpatrick Cathedral from this spot.

Inch Abbey, Inch Abbey Road, Downpatrick BT30 9AT – GoT: Rob Stark’s camp, The Riverlands

Quolie River is at the end of 31 Quay Road (off Strangford Road) – Hoster Tully’s funeral at Riverrun

Places to eat:  The Lobster Pot, Strangford & The Cuan. The Game of Thrones Banquet at The Cuan is highly recommended for a full Game of Thrones experience.  The attention to detail was incredible, and we had a lovely evening.  The food was excellent!

We also had fish & chips one evening from the Cuan’s own chippy to make the most of the fine weather we had during our trip.

DOOR 2 – Fiddler’s Green, 10 Church Street BT22 1LS

Shows the conflicts between Houses of Bolton and Greyjoy.  The Kracken and Flayed Man take centre stage.

To get to the pub, and to visit nearby Quintin’s Castle and Ballyquintin Point, you will need to take the small ferry across from Strangford across the lough to Portaferry. Strangford is a very small town, which has a very interesting small castle.  The ferry terminal is right around the corner from The Cuan.  You will need the car to visit the sights from Portaferry, but if you are just looking to head to the pub, then you can ride as a passenger instead.

Quintin’s Castle & Bay, NT car park, Kearney Road, BT22 1QF – GoT: Stokeworth: Where Jaime speaks with Bronn and Lollys.

DOOR 3 – Percy French Inn, Newcastle BT33 0AH – At the foot of the Mourne Mountains

Depiction of an exodus of ships from the Iron Islands and foreshadowing of the Battle of the Bastards

The scenic backdrop here is incredible!  Mountains and forests dominate the landscape. We had a drink and snack at the Percy French Inn.   This was probably our least favourite door location, mainly because the Percy French is less “traditional” than all of the other pubs we visited.

We only stopped briefly at Leitrim Lodge and we didn’t have time to do any hiking.   If we came here again, we would certainly like to spend a few days in the Mourne Mountains hiking and exploring the wilderness.

Tollymore Forest is a huge public park and we wished we had set aside more time to stay here.  We joined part of a Game of Thrones tour here, which lasted just over an hour.  The park was used to film a number of notable GoT scenes, including the opening scene where the Black Watch deserter witnesses the horror of the White Walkers, and the place where the Starks found the Direwolves.  We had an excellent guide, Eric, who has been an extra on both GoT and on Vikings.  It was a pleasure talking to him during the tour.  We have since spotted him on the latest season of Vikings!

Tollymore Forest, Bryansford Road, Newcastle, BT33 0PR – GoT: Lands around & North of Winterfell: Wildling pit where the Night’s Watch find dismembered bodies in the opening scene.  Bridge where the Starks discover the Direwolf pups.

Leitrim Lodge, Mourne Mountains, Leitrim Lodge Car Park 114 Leitrim Road BT34 5XX – GoT: North of Winterfell

DOOR 4 – Blakes of the Hollow, 6 Church Street Enniskillen BT74 7EJ

Focus on Dragons show the rising dominance of the Targaryen’s, but also touches of the falcon of House Arryn

This is the most remote of all of the doors, and we had to make a specific effort to travel the 2.5 hours from Ballintoy to visit, but it was one of the most interesting pubs in terms of décor.  It is worth stopping at Pollnagllum Cave to see the filming location for Hollow Hill.  The cave is up an unpaved and winding track, but we saw a lovely deer in the road when we visited.  We visited the cave first, and stopped at the pub for an excellent sandwich before heading back to Ballintoy.  They do have a good restaurant onsite too if you had a little more time.

Pollnagllum Cave, Enniskillen BT74 5BF – GoT: Hollow Hill

DOOR 5 – Owens Bar, 50 Main Street Limavady, BT49 0EU

It’s all about the Night King and his army of walkers!

We spent quite a lot of our time in this coastal area (it was about 30 minutes’ drive from Ballintoy), particularly as the weather was so nice, we wanted to spend extra time at the lovely expansive beaches.  The Portstewart area would be another great place to base yourself for a trip and there are plenty of good restaurants and places to eat here.  We had a good lunch at Harry’s Shack, Portstewart Sands which is right on the beach with free parking on the beach for National Trust members.

Binevenagh, Limvady, Manannan Mac Lir Sea God statue: Gortmore View Point BT49 0FJ. Short hike from the car park. Also take a picture from the bottom of the cliffs. BT49 0JG – GoT: Dothraki Grasslands, North of Mereen, Essos.

Portstewart Sands, 116 Strand Road, Port Stewart BT55 7PG  – GoT: Coast of Dorne

Mussenden Temple – Downhill Demesne & Beach (NT) – National Trust property. Castlerock, Coleraine BT51 4RP). Parking is permitted on Downhill Beach. – GoT: Dragonstone

Places to eat: Harry’s Shack, Portstewart Sands. Free parking on the beach for NT members.

DOOR 6 – Fullerton Arms, 22 Main St, Ballintoy BT54 6LX

Drogon takes centre stage here, and the Dothraki stallion signifies their willingness to follow Daenerys across the Narrow Sea.

For leg 2 of our trip, we spent 5 nights at the Fullerton Arms in the small village of Ballintoy.  This proved a great central location for exploring the Causeway Coast, and was a fantastic B&B with recently renovated rooms.  You can do this trip from Belfast, but by splitting our trip between Belfast, Ballintoy and Castle Ward, it saved on us having long journeys each day and gave us more time to spend at these areas and to discover hidden gems that we might otherwise have missed.

Ballintoy Harbour, County Antrim – GoT: Lordsport Harbour, Pyke & Dragonstone Beach

Carrick a rede bridge (National Trust ), 119 Whitepark Road BT54 6LS – GoT: Pyke

Dunlace Castle, 87 Dunlace Road, Bushmills BT57 8UY  – GoT: Pyke

Dunerick Castle, not a GoT location, but a very romantic ruin img_0137Larrybane quarry, used as overflow car park for Carrick a rede bridge – GoT: The Stormlands & Nagga’s Hill, Old Wyk & Dragonstone Cliffs

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Giant’s Causeway, 44 Causeway Road, Bushmills (Visitor Centre is National Trust – not GoT location but a must visit.  No need to pay to visit, only pay to use the car park)img_0112

Places to eat: For a special treat, eat at the Bushmills Inn. For food near the Giant’s Causeway, you can get a huge bowl of chowder at the Smuggler’s Inn. The Fullerton Arms specialises in Strangford Lough Mussels. The Jawbox version which incorporated tumeric was fantastic. We had a heart breakfast at Bothy Coffee just near White sands Bay.  If you are in Ballycastle, grab a sourdough at the Ursa Minor Bakery.

DOOR 7 – Dark Hedges Estate, 141 Ballinlea Road, BT53 8px

The recently deceased three eyed raven & references to the fallen trees.

As mentioned at the start, the Dark Hedges was the most crowded of locations we visited.  Having driven past the spot on our way to Bushmills Distillery, we noticed that the parking situation was awful, with large 50 seater coaches everywhere and parked on the Dark Hedges road itself.  We didn’t even bother to stop, and so decided to stop there another day early in the morning.  We arrived at just after 7am one morning, and it was perfect.  No-one else was there and we got some incredible pictures.

The door itself used to be in the Gracehill House, but is now in the hotel next to Gracehill House. There is no atmosphere here and was not somewhere where you’d want to have a drink and so we literally just went in to get a photo and passport stamp, and made our way back to Bushmills for dinner.

Dark Hedges, Bregagh Rd, Stranocum, Ballymoney BT53 8PX – GoT: The Kingsroad, North of Kings Landing

DOOR 8 – Mary McBrides Bar , 2 Main st, Cushendun BT44 0PH

Chronicles Arya’s journey to Braavos.

All of the areas near Cushendun were relatively close to Ballintoy.  Cushendon itself is the location of the famous cave where Melisandre gave birth to the shadow monster, and where in Season 8, Euron fought with Jaime.

We were again surprised by the diversity in the landscapes within this coastal region, which was surrounded by lush forested hills.  The coastline is incredible dramatic, and a boat trip is a must to fully appreciate its stark beauty.  We used Abhainn Cruise company for our sea safari and I would certainly recommend their trip! We had the boat to ourselves, and our captain took us to Rathlin Island for a lunch time stop, around the imposing basalt cliffs of Fair Head, and into the quiet cove of Murlough Bay.  We raised a glass of rum to Tirion as we took in the fine view.

After our sea safari, we returned by car to above Murlough Bay, and ventured down the narrow and steep single track to enable us to walk into Murlough Bay.  This was one of the most beautiful places we had ever visited, and it was so peaceful with very few people around.img_0239

Unfortunately, we were unable to get to Galboly, as the area was closed for filming, but we had a great day at Glenariff forest park where we walked the “Waterfall Walk” and stopped at Carnlough Harbour to see the place where Arya emerged from the water at Braavos.

It is definitely worth heading up to the top of Fair Head, as the views are spectacular!

Cushenden Caves, Ballymena BT44 0PG – GoT: Melisandre’s Cave, Stormlands & Jaime’s clash with Euron Greyjoy at Kings Landing

Slavers Bay & Rathlin Island Cruise (Abhainn Cruise) – GoT: Slavers Bay Essos, Dragonstone

Fair Head, Hikes available. Car park off the A2 signposted £2 – GoT: Dragonstone

Above Murlough Bay & Walk to Murlough Bay, via Torr Scenic Road – GoT: Renly’s camp, The Stormlands & Slavers Bay

Carnlough Harbour, BT44 0HQ – GoT: Braavos

Glenariff Forest Park, Glenariff BT44 0RG

The Hidden Village of Galboly, The Glens of Antrim (20 minutes from Glenariff. Route goes up to the right – parking along the road – 2 hours until 2pm) Closed for filming when we visitedGoT: The Arryn lands

Steensons, Seaview Hall, New Road, Glenarm Ballymena BT44 0AA – GoT: Jewellery makers for the show

Places to eat: Mary McBrides, Ice cream at Morelli’s Carnlough, Laragh Lodge, within Glenariff Park.

DOOR 9 – Ballycally Castle Hotel, Coast Road, Ballygalley, Larne BT402QZ

Echoes the Battle of the Bastards, and the heavy cost of victory for the Starks

We visited these locations on our way from Ballintoy back to Belfast, where we spent our last 2 nights of our trip. It is a very remote area, and plenty of fantastic landscapes (including an ancient volcano and an ancient bronze age burial site) to visit, and it is easy to see why this area was selected as a filming location for so many parts of the show.

Slemish Mountain, Shillanavogy Valley, Carnstroan Lane (Slemish Car Park) – GoT: Dothraki Sea, East of Pentos

Sallagh Braes, (24 minutes from Slemish) (Linford Car Park.) – GoT: The Riverlands, The Hound and Brother Ray the Septor’s Settlement

Linford Barrows, Not GoT, but fantastic bronze age burial site. Access from Linford Car Park img_0168Cairncastle, unnamed road, Larne BT40 2NF, not far from Ballygally – GoT: North of Winterfell, The Neck (on the road to Moat Cailin), North of Harrenhall

Loughareema Lake (The Vanishing Lake), just off the A2, Ballycastle BT54 6WL. Not a GoT location, but is a fascinating geological feature whereby the water of the lake seeps into the peat and disappears. There was no water in sight when we visited, but other times would see this as a large lake.

Places to eat: Ballygally Hotel.  Ancient castle with rumours of hauntings! A good place to stop for a bowl of Chowder.

Door 10 – Dark Horse, 30-34 Hill Street Belfast

Depicts the events in King’s Landing as Season 6 concludes

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We only had two days in Belfast, but we managed to see most of what we wanted to see. We were disappointed that the Tapestry of Thrones had recently ended at the Ulster Museum, but it was fantastic to visit the GOT Exhibition where we met Andrew, from the GoT documentary, The Last Watch, who was our guide, and to see the decimated King’s Landing set from the car park.  We will be back soon when the studios are opened up to the public.

We chose to stay at the Titanic Hotel, which is housed in the old Harland & Wolf Drawing Rooms. It was a gorgeous hotel, and right next to the Titanic experience.  The bar was exquisite, and we enjoyed a couple of White Walker cocktails during our visit.  It is about 20 minutes into the centre of Belfast, but perfectly fine if you don’t mind the walk.  It was an excellent location for us, as we could park easily beneath the hotel and it was close to the ferry terminal for our trip home.

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We would recommend stopping at St George’s Market for some food (where we met up with one of my old Uni friends and his gorgeous family), or watch some sport at Lavery’s (where we stopped to watch the England v Wales Rugby game, as James couldn’t possibly wait for a replay).  The Titanic experience is also a must for any trip to Belfast.img_9854

The Glass of Thrones

If you are in Belfast, then you must try and find the 6 Glass of Thrones windows dotted around the city.  You can find a route online and it is about a 1.8k walking trail through Belfast.

  1. The Stark – City Hall
  2. The Lannister – The ICC
  3. The Baratheon – Lagan Weir
  4. The Targaryen – The Odyssey
  5. The White Walker – The Titanic
  6. The Iron Throne – Titanic Slipways

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Places to eat: The Dark Horse (try a “fifteen” bar, which is a tray bake made from digestive biscuits and marshmallows), The Yardbird Chicken, The Titanic Hotel Drawing Rooms, The Crown Gin Palace (gorgeously ornate bar and good traditional Irish food served upstairs), Bert’s Jazz Bar at the Merchant Hotel.

Other GoT locations – Lough Neah

On our way from the Downpatrick area up to the coastal region, we went via Lough Neah, and stopped at a few GoT locations on the way. Lough Neah is the largest lough in the UK.  The Antrim Castle Gardens were worth a visit, and we wished we had more time to explore the gardens.  We also stopped at Seamus Heaney’s Home Place, which is a must for literary geeks. This was a great place to stop for a light lunch.

Deerpark Bridge, Antrim Castle Gardens, Randalstown Road, Antrim BT41 4LH – GoT: Jaime & Brienne’s bridge

img_0067Toome Canal, 10 Railway Road, BT41 3TD – GoT: Old Valyrian Canal, Essos

Lough Neah – GoT: The Summer Sea img_0098

Shane’s Castle, BT41 4NE – GoT: Set for Winterfell – Moneyglass Estate – Closed for filming when we visited

Places to eat: Seamus Heaney’s Home Place, 45 Main Street, Bellaghy, Magherafelt BT45 8HT

Such a fantastic place – we will be back!

 

MORE INFORMATION

For full itinerary, see below:

Also, more information available at:

http://www.discovernorthernireland.com

http://www.nationialtrust.org.uk

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#RWC2019 GingerBreadOfHeaven On Tour – Japan Trip Highlights

All his bags are packed and he’s ready to go!

JRFU biscuit is incredibly excited about his imminent trip to Japan, and Japan’s win against Ireland has certainly whetted his appetite for some rugby. First South Africa in #RWC2015 & now we have a sequel to the Miracle in Brighton courtesy of the incredible defeat of Ireland! Biscuit will be backing the Brave Blossoms to reach the Quarters!!

#GiantSlayers

#WALvFJI

Very jealous that mum & dad are in Japan for the Rugby World Cup!

But the JRFU gingerbread man is with them having the time of his life! Here he is enjoying #WALvFJI at RWC Oita.

Hopefully he will be at #WALvURU on Sunday… #typhoonhagibis

#WALvURU

He made it! Very fortunate not to be caught up in the Typhoon. Thought very much with those impacted.

Another great rugby day out for the JRFU gingerbread man as he accompanied my parents to the #WALvURU match at Kumamoto.

He’s off on the bullet train tomorrow, and is looking forward to supporting both Wales & England at the quarter finals next weekend:)

P.s. He is so proud of the incredible performance by his fellow #Braveblossoms earlier in #JPNvSCO – what an end to the pool stage!

Sightseeing

Japan biscuit travelled on the Bullet Train from Kyoto to Fukuoka via Hiroshima. He got to visit the Kyoto Tower and found himself in a traditional British Pub.

He also got to sample some sake and posed with a traditional umbrella in Japan. It wouldn’t be Japan without some Manga too! Cultured little fellow.

After some fab sightseeing, he was all ready for the Quarter Finals!

Thanks to mum and dad for humouring me by taking lots of pictures of him on his travels 🙂

Quarter Finals

QF1 #ENGvAUS

Awesome result for England!

Japan biscuit was very pleased with his prime spot in RWC Oita stadium to witness the epic smash!

Let’s hope it’s a win for Wales tomorrow… Enjoy little dude!

QF2 #WALvFRA (and biscuit’s last day in Japan)

What. A. Game!

Japan biscuit has been a good luck charm for Wales & England this tournament. It’s 4/4 games for him as he now heads back to Wales… thanks mum and dad for taking him along for the ride.

Return Home

JRFU gingerbread man has returned home bearing gifts from his travels in Japan. Some great souvenirs from the matches he attended as well as some Japanese classics!

A big thank you / arigatou Japan for looking after him and making it such an incredible experience for him! Very jealous indeed!

#RWC2019 Final Round-Up – Crunch Time!!

20 teams and 7 weeks later, we are now left with four biscuits standing. New Zealand face Wales in the bronze medal final, and England face two-time champions South Africa in the final.

Friday 1st November Bronze Medal Final Kick-Off 9am GMT

#NZLvWAL FT40-17

Wales has a colossal task ahead of them, as they faced the All Blacks in the third place play off. Wales had not beaten the All Blacks since 1953, and so the odds were against them, but hopes were high that the team could do it for Gats in his last game in charge of Wales after an amazing 12 years.

The game started at pace, New Zealand scoring two quick tries, and Wales had to dig deep to try and defend against an angry All Blacks pack.

But it may have been a game too far for the Welsh, as the All Blacks cantered forward to claim the Bronze medal.

But it’s been an incredible journey and congratulations to Josh Adams who ended the tournament as the top try scorer with a total of 7 tries! We also say goodbye and thank you to Warren Garland, whose tenure over Wales comes to an end after 12 amazing years!

Llongyfarchiadau Cymru a #DiolchWarren

Saturday 2nd November Final Kick-Off 9am GMT

Let’s get ready to C-R-U-M-B-L-E!!!!!!!! Here we go, game 48/48, the finale of an amazing 7 weeks of rugby…

#ENGvRSA FT 12-32

Absolutely gutted for England, but an incredible performance by RSA to win the Webb Ellis Cup for the third time.

After such a sublime performance a week earlier against the All Blacks, England were refused room to play and were blocked by the Boks’ colossal defence only managing inches beyond the gain line. The strength and clinical superiority of the Springboks at the set piece left England scrambled and mauled in the scrum, helped in part by the early exit of Kyle Sinkler after a head injury in the first 3 minutes. The reliable boot of Pollard kept the scoreboard ticking away from England, and England’s hopes of a second World Cup were dashed by a two try flourish courtesy of Makazole Mapimpi and Cheslin Kolbe.

It was a historic moment, as Siya Kolisi became the first South African captain to lift the Webb Ellis Cup. For Kolisi, the journey to this moment has been unbelievable, and looks to give hope to millions in the townships of South Africa.

It wasn’t England’s day but what a tournament for them nonetheless. We had a good morning cheering Eddie’s men in the RWC Final despite the result.

Job well done for Siya Kolisi and the Springboks – worthy RWC2019 champions.

Arigatou Japan

And that’s a wrap! It’s been a mesmerising tournament, and the Japanese have embraced the fans and the sport in a way that no other host nation has done before. It’s been a championship of contrasts: incredible highs and terrible tragedies, but through it all, the rugby community has brought nations together for the better.

Very sad that the tournament has come to an end, but a huge “Thank you” to Japan. For everything.

#GingerBreadOfHeaven

#RWC2019 Semi-Finals Round-Up

Another incredible weekend at the #RWC2019 – Here is your Gingerbread of Heaven Semi Finals Round Up…

Saturday 26 October, kick off 9am BST (Yokohama)

#ENGvNZL FT19-7

WOW! Just wow!! Incredible performance by England who crushed the All Blacks in a thrilling world cup semi-final! Whilst there was no question that England could defeat New Zealand today, I am pretty confident no-one could have foreseen such a resounding victory for Eddie’s men. New Zealand were unashamedly out-played. Out-classed. Both physically (and more importantly) psychologically; Farrell’s defiant stand-off against the Haka rattling the All Blacks to their core well before Nigel Owens blew the first whistle.

This was arguably England’s finest ever performance against the All Blacks, but it will mean nothing unless England continue their colossal charge into the final 90 minutes of the tournament.

So… we found our ourselves half way to an historic all Northern Hemisphere final. Could Wales oblige in their battle with the Boks?

Sunday 27 October, Kick off 9am GMT (Yokohama)

#WALvRSA FT16-19

Absolutely gutted for Wales, but very proud of their efforts today.

It is often a game of fine margins, and it doesn’t get much closer than this. It was a brutally intense game from start to finish, and Wales just couldn’t pry itself away from the iron arm-wrestle of the Springboks and into a more expansive performance that could have set up the greatest RWC final clash of all time. But it wasn’t to be Wales’ day, and RSA pipped the win, giving them the chance to win the Webb Ellis Cup for a third time.

Well done to RSA who face England in the final next weekend.

It’s been an incredible journey for Warren Gatland and the Welsh team over the past 12 years, and there is still time to make history against the All Blacks on Friday! Diolch Cymru!

Nid oedd hi’n ddiwrnod Cymru heddiw ond rydym ni i gyd yn prowd iawn a ymdrechi’r tim dros y twrnament. Diolch Gatland, Alun Wyn Jones a gweddill y bois. Pob lwc yn erbyn y crysau duon Dydd Gwener. De Africa sy’n mynd ymlaen i wynebu Lloegr yn y gem terfynnol

And then there were 2…

The RWC2019  finalists are confirmed: An England vs Boks showdown in Yokohama on Saturday, 9am GMT.

Wales take on #AllBlacks for the 3rd place playoff on Friday, 9am GMT.

#CarryThemHome #WearTheRose  #GingerBreadOfHeaven

#RWC2019 Quarter Final Knock Outs – Round Up

A cracking weekend of knock-out rugby where eight teams battled for a place in the Semi Finals.

Saturday 19th October

#ENGvAUS FT40-16

KO 8:15am (Oita Stadium)

#CRUSHED

England Rugby smash the Wallabies in an epic Quarter Final in #RWCOita !

England progress to their first semi final since 2007. Well done England!! Congrats to Kyle Sinkler who gets his first RWC try and to Jonny May on scoring two tries on his fiftieth cap.

Good luck to Ireland who are up next against the All Blacks…

#WearTheRose #CarryThemHome

#NZLvIRE FT46-14

KO 11:15am (Tokyo Stadium)

It was ultimately a heavy defeat for IRE as they failed to conjure the magic of their two previous performances against the All Blacks. The RWC Semi Finals continue to elude them. There was no question that the better team won, and the All Blacks were ruthlessly clinical. We have probably seen the tournament’s best team, and it will take a monumental performance to beat the New Zealand rugby wizards.

It would have been incredible had the result been different, as today we say goodbye to Rory Best and Joe Schmidt. Two great figures of World Rugby who have achieved so much for IrishRugby whatever the result today. Really pleased to see them appreciated by the Tokyo crowd.

We now have our first RWC2019 semi final contenders confirmed for next weekend… #ENGvNZL

Sunday 20th October

#WALvFRA FT 20-19

KO 8:15am (Oita Stadium)

Phew! Never in my life have I been so relieved to hear the final gong sounding! Wales have, by the skin of their teeth, held off a tenacious French team to secure a place in the #RWC2019 semi finals!

Unfortunately, the cliche rang true, as France decided to show up and play the rugby we all know they can. It was looking like Wales could be having a de ja vu moment in the first half where Moriarty was left off with a yellow card for a dangerous tackle. But Wales were thrown a lifeline early in the second, as, in a moment of madness, Vahaamahina launched a reckless elbow into Wainwright’s head, which saw him exiled, quite rightly, from the field, and has since announced his retirement from the game.

But even with a weakened opposition, Wales felt the pressure and only just managed to limp over the line. Like the Semi Final in 2011, the best team probably lost today, but Wales will be pleased they shook off that 2011 loss with a result today.

It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t inspiring rugby, and there’s a lot to do if Wales want a shot in the final.

#JPNvRSA FT

KO 11:15am (Tokyo Stadium)

It was not the fairy tale ending we were all hoping for, and Japan couldn’t break the Boks to reproduce that miraculous 2015 win. Japan gave it their all against a monstrous South African side who didn’t give the hosts any space to score the spectacular tries we have all grown accustomed to.

RSA progress to face WAL next weekend & will be a tough opposition.

Japan have played with such passion & integrity over the past 21 days & we can look forward to plenty more from them on the World Rugby stage.

Arigatou Japan, you have been amazing!

Semi Finals

And then there were four…

For the first time since 1991, we have two home nations in the Semi Finals, so plenty to cheer for next weekend. Don’t miss the Wales game on Sunday as the clocks go forward an hour to GMT.

Saturday 26 October

#ENGvNZL Kick off 09:00 BST

International Stadium Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture, Yokohama City

Sunday 27 October

#WALvRSA Kick off 09:00 GMT

International Stadium Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture, Yokohama City

#GingerBreadOfHeaven