Monday, July 24, 2017

Lismore Castle Gardens, Co. Waterford ♥

Yesterday we travelled to somewhere we've never been before - the beautiful Lismore Castle Gardens in Co. Waterford.

I had decided I wanted to visit there when I had passed the sign on the way to Ardmore during the week, where we had visited Ardmore Open Farm and enjoyed lots of salty air and ice-creams in Ardmore village itself.

So yesterday, as Jacek had the day off work, we bundled everyone into the car and off we went. It took about an hour to get to Lismore itself and we faffed around for a bit trying to find out where to park the car. There's no signage to leave you know where to park if you're visiting the castle - none that we could see anyway, so we parked in a public carpark (we thankfully had free parking) which is right next to the castle and right next to a lovely playground which the boys really enjoyed. Travelling with young kids it's always important that there's a play area in/or by the places we visit.

The castle itself is closed off to the public, but that was fine as it was a lovely sunny day and I was in search of some gorgeous flowers anyway, but just bare that in mind if you're wanting to visit an actual castle (Blarney Castle is one I'd recommend if you're wanting to actually go inside a castle).

There are two parts to the castle gardens - the lower gardens which offer lots of grassy areas, trees, the lily pond, play area and a rope swing by a yew tree avenue and the upper gardens which have an apple orchard, fruit gardens, lots of gorgeous flowerbeds and areas which you can walk through as well as the gallery bathrooms and refreshments.

Whilst the castle gardens are mostly accessible for buggies, the upper gardens can only be reached by going up a flight of stairs - so take this into account if you're visiting. Luckily Jacek and myself were able to lift the buggy up the stairs (albeit with things falling out of the basket underneath it!) and the steps which are also in various parts of the upper gardens.

The gardens are absolutely beautiful and with the castle overlooking them, it makes for a very picturesque setting. They're laid out beautifully too, with pathways to walk along and things to look at all around.

Our first stop were the lower gardens, where Tyler swiftly found the rope swing. This was gorgeous in itself, tied to a tree under the branches of other trees which draped down to the ground.

It was also right next to an avenue of yew trees and it was all very beautiful.

I let go of all my inhibitions and couldn't resist having a go on the swing, with both of my boys on my lap too. I think you can see from the picture above that we all loved it!

We were all sad to leave the swing, but off we went along the path, we passed a little door on the way which we told Tyler fairies lived in. He knocked on the door but sadly no fairies were home...

From there we went on to the lily pond, which was lovely surrounded by pink daisies. The boys stopped by it to look for fish in the water.

Jacek and the boys then went to the play area whilst I photographed some of the flowers in the garden. I was told that there was a rope swing down there and Tyler was mad to go on it - I don't blame him after the fun of the rope swing!

We made our way up the stairs to the upper gardens and I'm glad the buggy mishap didn't put us off because they were so worth the trouble - they are stunning!

We walked through the apple orchard, both our apple loving boys slightly disappointed that the apples weren't quite ready to eat yet.

I loved all the tall grass there and Beau had a great time sitting amongst it playing peekaboo. I have to admit, at this point Tyler was getting bored. He kept wanting to go back down to the play area in the lower gardens, but with promises that we'd go to the playground before we went home he struggled on.

Tyler and Jacek went off for a look around whilst Beau and I stayed by the flower beds. These are done really nicely with stepping stones to walk through them. Beau had a great time crawling through them all and squeezing past the flowers - who knew it could be so fun!

When I saw the poppy meadow I was in Heaven. I love poppies and for me they're such a symbol of summer. So we spent a lot of time sitting by them and I couldn't help but take lots of pictures of them. Tyler and Beau had great fun crawling around and doing roly polys on the grass strip between the poppies and with the view of the castle in the background, it was just a perfect place to be.

The upper gardens are perfect for flower lovers like me, with lots of roses, hydrangea bushes and other gorgeous blooms to look at.

The church steeple and the castle in the background make for such a lovely view too and there's lots of grassy areas for the kids to enjoy.

There are refreshments available from the gallery café and this is where the toilets are too - with baby changing facilities in the ladies toilets. We had brought a picnic with us and it was lovely to see a basket of picnic blankets on offer for people to use. This was such a great thing to see and we enjoyed our picnic with one of the big blankets - never remembering to bring our own!

There's lots of little areas to explore, sit and discover in the upper gardens, which makes it a lot of fun for kids and adults alike.

The highlights of our visit were -
The rope swing
The poppy meadow
Picnic blankets for us to borrow for our picnic

It was a shame about -
The stairs to get to the upper gardens. It would have been fine if we had Beau in a carrier or with older children of walking age though.

Our visit to Lismore Castle Gardens was €20 for a family ticket (Beau was free), which I think is actually quite a lot to visit a garden - take into account that Fota Gardens are free entry with only €3 to pay for parking. However, I do think Lismore Castle Gardens are well worth the visit if like me, you love flowers and your family are outdoor lovers too.

I'm so glad we went to Lismore, our visit to the castle gardens were well worth the drive and I'm already looking forward to going back next summer.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

{The Ordinary Moments} Salty Air & Ice-Cream Dreams in Ardmore, Co. Waterford ♥

My newly found confidence in driving my car has led to a week of adventure and fun for the boys and I. After almost ten years of having a full driving license I finally felt brave enough to drive to another county by myself - with two small children in tow of course.

On Thursday, in a typical Fiona spur of the moment type plan, I decided to take the boys to Ardmore Open Farm, Co Waterford, which you can read my thoughts on here. That morning my friend Louise, who also blogs at Tattooed Lady With A Baby, had messaged me asking if the boys and I wanted to meet up - her son Luke is Tyler's best friend, so I told her about my road trip plans and asked if she'd like to come along.

Honestly, even with us left feeling underwhelmed with the open farm, it couldn't have turned out to be a more perfect day.

Again, spur of the moment, we decided to take a drive down to the beautiful little village of Ardmore itself for a walk on the beach and an ice-cream. After all, it was sunny and we weren't ready to return home just yet, needing something positive to make the 30 mile trip from home worth it.

We parked up our cars and took the boys to the playground, where they had an absolute ball. Beau took delight in the baby swing, whilst Tyler and Luke played on the bigger structures.

Luckily Ardmore is blessed with a fantastic, big playground which caters for all ages and it's just across the road from the beach too. I think the boys may have enjoyed the playground more than the farm!

After the boys had burnt off some energy we went across to Ballyquin Strand, which is a gorgeous beach, set into the bay and surrounded by stunning clear blue waters.

The boys had an absolute ball on the beach, with Tyler wading up to his waist as soon as we got there - I had to take his clothes off and let him splash about in his undies as we had no togs or towel with us.

Beau also wanted a slice of the action and not content with just sitting in the sand, he also wanted to sit in the water and splash about, so I also had to take off his clothes and let him splash about in his vest and nappy!

We were so unprepared for this impromptu padding sessions, but my goodness did the boys have an amazing time. If you can't strip off and go splashing about in the water in your undies and nappy when you're four and one then when can you?

At that moment, watching my boys play with their friend and having such a fantastic time in the water, childhood was summed up perfectly for me.

They hadn't a care in the world and were having such a fun time and even though the water wasn't the warmest, they couldn't help going in again time after time.

After a quick clean up and reclothing (luckily Louise had brought a hand towel with her, I really need to make a kit for my car though with towels, a change of clothes, etc. for all these impromptu adventures we seem to keep having) we went to Beachcombers for an ice-cream.

This little shop is what they call 'Instagram-worthy' with it's pink walls with blue trim and the most amazing looking ice-creams.

I couldn't help but take a picture of mine and Louise's cones - strawberry and candyfloss ice-cream in a Smarties coated cone. Perfection!

We had an amazing time in Ardmore and I'm already dying to get back there. It's the perfect little seaside spot for summer visits, offering lots of fun, salty air, delicious ice-cream and happy children by the bucketful. What could be more perfect for a summers day?

It's days like this that childhood summer memories are made of.

Ardmore Open Farm, Co. Waterford | Review ♥

Today I did something I've never done before - I drove to another county all by myself! You might be thinking that I'm a newly qualified driver and God love me, but no, I've had a full license for almost ten years... for shame. Now that I've done it once though - and on my own with two young kids, there's no stopping me now and I'm already planning our next inter-county outing.

Today's adventure took us to beautiful Co. Waterford and to Ardmore, a gorgeous little village nestled into a very scenic bay. We had passed Ardmore Open Farm on our visits to Ardmore before but had never gone in and with Tyler requesting to visit a farm again after our lovely visit to Leahy's Open Farm earlier in the week, I thought it was high time we gave it a go.

Ardmore Open Farm opens at eleven, and having got there around half eleven I was surprised to see the car park quite empty - although I was pleased that we might be able to enjoy the place without crowds of people.

My lovely friend and fellow blogger Louise from Tattooed Lady With A Baby and her son Luke came with us - he's Tyler's best friend and I'm so glad I had someone to go around the farm with because honestly, we were both left feeling rather underwhelmed with the experience.

Admittedly, I found myself having high expectations for Ardmore Open Farm to be great after our visit to Leahy's Open Farm because honestly, how different can open farms really be? The answer is very. Taking into account that Ardmore Open Farm is €1 more expensive than Leahy's and that this day out was costing me the best of €20 (Beau was free to enter as he's under two), I was expecting a lot for my money, because I think €20 is quite expensive in the grand scheme of things.

The first thing that hit me about about Ardmore Open Farm is the lack of beauty around the farm itself. There's a gorgeous view of the bay and the coast from the farm, but the farm itself is very much just a farm with paddocks for the animals and a pathway to walk around.

There's no scenery, no seating areas or little sections to explore along the walk around the farm, it's literally just the paddocks, the animals and the paths - which is great for kids who are really into animals, bad for kids who like to have a play then see the animals, then play some more, so on and so forth (this is Tyler by the way).

I did love seeing Tyler take an interest in some of the animals though. Usually he only wants to go and play when we visit these kinds of places and although he was itching to go to the playground as soon as he saw it, he did take some time to pet the animals and we even found his animal twin in this alpaca!

There's a large selection of animals on the farm from Clydesdale horses to peacocks, prairie dogs (who we couldn't actually spot) to Shetland ponies and it was lovely to see them all up close - the Shetland ponies were especially lovely, the little one had a curl to it's mane which reminded me of my boys hair!

We finished our walk around the farm animals quite quickly and then the boys had a bit of a play on the peddle tractors, before venturing into the maze - which we couldn't find the way out of so we just had to go back the way we came in - don't judge us!

From there we went to see the birds of prey and the parrot. The snowy owl was especially beautiful and there was also a little barn owl who was tucked away inside his house. The duck pond was closed off during our visit.

The kids were disappointed to see that the barrel ride wasn't in operation when we arrived. I read that it only began at 2p.m. and having completed our walk around the farm less than an hour after we arrived, I knew we wouldn't be there for it to begin at two... I thought this was such a shame and it would have been great for this to be running whilst we were actually at the farm, we did pay €9.95 per ticket after all. However, the price of the barrel ride isn't in the ticket price and is €2 extra per ride - something to take into account if you're visiting.

There's also a zip line and go carts on the farm which is great to see, as these other activities are really helpful to keep the kids busy and entertained when the walk around the animals is done. Our boys didn't go on these however, they were just looking to go to the playground.

There's a little playground at the front of the farm and the boys had great fun playing there whilst Beau had a go on the baby swing.

It was blowing a gale so we retreated inside to eat our lunch. I had packed a picnic having been less than impressed at the food in Leahy's earlier in the week. I did order a scone with jam and cream though and this was €2.50 which I think is quite reasonable.

There's an indoor play area at Ardmore Open Farm - a big section for older kids and a smaller section for babies and toddlers. I was pleased to see this as I don't want Beau to be missing out when his big brother is playing.

After our lunch we left the farm, we had seen everything it offered within the hour for the time we were there (it seemed as though the activities such as petting the animals and the barrel ride happened much later in the day, which isn't very fair when we're all paying the same ticket price) and we weren't going to hang around just for the barrel ride.

Although Ardmore Open Farm wins when it comes to the variety of animals it offers for visitors to see (which you can probably argue is the whole point of an open farm anyway), I much preferred Leahy's Open Farm for the experience, there was just a whole lot more to do there and the place is much more scenic.

It's safe to say that Louise and I were quite disappointed with Ardmore Open Farm. It was lovely to see the animals, but I guess we were just hoping for a whole lot more to do and a better experience - perhaps if we had arrived later in the day when the activities were taking place we might have had a better time, but in reality, these activities should be happening throughout the day to give everyone the experience, not just those who arrive at the right time. We had driven 30 miles from Cork just to go to the farm and we were surprised that we saw it all in under an hour.

The highlights of our visit were -
Seeing all the animals upclose
The beautiful view of the coast below

It was a shame about -
The barrel ride not running while we were there
Not having more experiences available for the kids
How quickly it took us to make our way around the farm

We decided to take a trip to the beach down in Ardmore itself and treat the boys to an ice-cream to make our trip to Co. Waterford worthwhile and we actually had such a lovely time down there. I'll be sharing some pictures and thoughts from our time down there in another post.

I did read a lot of positive reviews on the Ardmore Open Farm Facebook page though, so maybe it's just us who were left feeling underwhelmed. As I said, it's a great place if your kids are really into animals. It's a shame to say we won't be returning anytime soon but we will definitely be visiting Ardmore village itself again someday.

*This is not a collaborative post and I paid for our visit.

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