Family Holidays in Ireland that won’t break the bank*


*This Blog has been written and provided by An Post Insurance. #ad*

It’s looking like 2021 is to be another staycation year for most families in Ireland, but where can you get the best bang for your buck?  An Post Insurance are taking a look at some wallet-friendly destination ideas to see more of wonderful Ireland this summer. 

Day Trip to Dublin

The capital has so much to offer when it comes to family entertainment for all ages. If a hotel stay is out of the budget, there are plenty of options for a day trip or two. 

Dublin Zoo attracts over one million visitors per year and is suitable for every animal fan, young and old. It’s a fun day out, as well as a great opportunity to learn more about the world’s wildlife.

EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum is another very interesting place to visit and learn more about Irish history and heritage. Check out their website here to see what they have coming up.

There are also some great free options such as the National Museum and National Gallery.  The Natural History Museum is currently closed for works but hopefully it’ll reopen in the not-too-distant future.

Athlone

Located at the very heart of the country on the River Shannon, Athlone offers some excellent adventures. 

For water lovers, Baysports is home to Ireland’s largest inflatable water park. Hours of endless fun can be enjoyed by all age groups. Other water activities include kayak rental, pedal boat hire, rafting, dragon boat racing, boat trips and sailing and powerboat rental/courses.

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For history buffs, Athlone Castle teaches us about the Williamite Wars that brought soldiers from Europe to fight on the site, culminating with the Great Siege of Athlone in 1691.

If you’re more inclined to stay dry on the water, try a cruise on the Viking Ship with Viking Tours. The whole family can enjoy a leisurely cruise on the Shannon while they hear about Viking hoards, high kings and big battles in this 21-metre long replica of a Viking Knarr, the longest serving passenger ship in both Ireland and the UK. There’s something to spark the imagination for every passenger, young and old.

Strandhill - Sligo 

The home of W.B. Yates, Sligo has a lot to offer, from breath-taking beaches to guided mountain biking. 

Strandhill has numerous fun activities for any visitor. Strandhill Surf School can look after your family’s surfing needs from beginners to the more experienced surfers.  Paddle boarding is also on offer if surfing is not on the agenda.  

After all the physical adventures it’s time to refuel the body with some nice local food. Located right beside the Strandhill Surf School, The Strand Bar offers a wide range of homemade dishes with an emphasis on fresh, locally-sourced ingredients.

Perhaps save some room for dessert and enjoy a nice treat from Mammy Johnston's Ice Cream Parlour. A family-run business for nearly 100 years, they’re renowned in Sligo and across Ireland for their amazing ice cream – it’s well worth a visit. 

The VOYA Seaweed Baths are a great way to rejuvenate those aching legs after a fun-filled day exploring Strandhill. 


Cork

Fota Wildlife Park  is part of the Zoological Society of Ireland.  Home to thousands of animals from monkeys to zebras, there’s sure to be something for everyone, with plenty of opportunities for fun and learning too. The park is located in the east of Cork City on 100 acres and hosts an impressive 460,000 visitors each year.

If you travel to the west of lovely Cork, you could go for a spot of mammal watching  on the “Voyager” with Visit Whale Watch West Cork.  You and your family can be on the lookout for dolphins, seals, basking sharks, minke whales and the great fin whales. Make sure to take warm clothes, snacks and even sunscreen, just in case. 

Kilkenny

Castlecomer Discovery Park has a wide range of fun, challenging and exhilarating activities for all age groups. From adventure games to discover-and-play activities, there’s lots to do, regardless of the weather. Check them out here to see what adventures await you and your family. 

Kilkenny also has the National Reptile Zoo  full of amazing creatures, with over 50 exhibits as well as a coffee shop, souvenir shop and a play area for the kiddies.  There’s plenty to keep the whole family entertained and educated.

Belfast

Belfast is full of fun things to do for all the family. Visit Belfast has lots of excellent ideas to keep everyone entertained, such as immersing yourselves in the famous TV show with Game of Thrones Sightseeing Tours or learning all about the trials and tribulations of the Titanic in Titanic Belfast.  

For something a little different, why not try Vertigo Titanic Park? Ages 4 to 94 can enjoy flying without wings in the only indoor skydiving centre in Ireland.   If flying is out of your comfort zone, perhaps bouncing is in order… they also have a huge inflatable world full of fun. They even have an adults-only session for the big kids in your group.


No matter what destination or adventures you and your family decide on, make sure you check out the venue’s availability and protocols in place so you’re fully prepared to have a safe, fun, and memorable holiday this summer.


An Post Insurance offers great value car insurance that can help get you to your fun filled family holiday. Get a quote now.

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Berkshire Dating Ideas*





*This is a collaborative post*


Throughout this pandemic, virtual dating has been the saving grace for singletons everywhere. Whether looking for love or just to casually date, online dating has been the go-to and has grown in popularity. It allows singles to chat to people from all over the world - people that they would never have crossed paths with otherwise. Many dating apps also match individuals up according to compatibility which means singles are more likely to find the perfect match. Indeed as I've mentioned in a previous post, a Stanford sociologist carried out research which determined that couples are actually now more likely to meet their partner online and have longer lasting relationships. Virtual dating will no doubt continue to trend but now that the UK is set to get back to some sense of normality come the 19th July, 'in person' dates can also be a thing again! Hurrah! 


In previous dating posts I've shared date ideas for various different areas across the UK. In this post I'm going to focus on ideas for those based in or around the Berkshire area. If you happen to live in Berkshire and haven't stumbled across the Berkshire Dating website then definitely take a look. 

Ascot 


I didn't actually realise that the famous Ascot Racecourse is situated in Berkshire. I personally think there's something very classy and romantic about a date at the races, just picture Richard Gere and Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. If you fancy a memorable day at the races then check out the official Ascot website for a list of upcoming racedays and events.

Windsor Castle


Windsor is home to the world's oldest and largest occupied castle. It has been home to 39 monarchs so if you love history or have a fascination with royalty then this date idea is for you. I'd love to take the guided tour of the State Rooms and then wander the Palace Garden. Tickets aren't the cheapest but this would be a truly special date. 

Romantic Meal


If you're Berkshire Dating and your idea of a perfect date is a romantic meal for two then check out the many pubs and restaurants on offer in the area. The Muddy Stiletto website lists some of the best and I've got my eye on the three Michelin star restaurantThe Waterside Inn, which features French cuisine and a gorgeous river view. 

Reading Festival



The hugely popular music festival is usually held every year on the August bank holiday. Last year it was cancelled due to Covid but this year it looks set to go ahead. If music is your thing and you don't mind the crowds then this festival is quite the experience featuring music from the following genres; Rock, alternative, indie, punk and metal.  

For more date ideas in the area, check out 'Things to Do in Berkshire' on Tripadvisor. There is some 700 plus suggestions to browse through. 

Have fun planning your 'in person' dates and don't forget to stay safe. Until next time!



*Header photo source Pexels. Second photo source Pexels. Third photo source Pexels. Fourth photo source Pexels. Fifth photo source Pexels.

4 Things You Can Do To Strengthen And Progress Your Relationship


Whether you're married or dating, being in a relationship is something beautiful. However, it's not always perfect or easy; every relationship has its ups and downs. Although it's said that love is the foundation of a happy and lasting relationship, it's never enough. Sometimes, you may feel like a lot is going on with life when moving in many directions, which can be overwhelming. However, despite everything, you must maintain your relationship by making time for your partner to strengthen and progress it in the following ways.                                                            

Show gratitude

Many are the times you go about your daily activities without giving much thought to them. After getting into a routine with your partner, say making breakfast, cleaning, doing laundry, and dropping off kids, it’s easy to forget to show gratitude. Instead of taking each other's efforts for granted, practice saying "thank you"; this is how you let each other know that you acknowledge, notice, and pay attention to every kind gesture they show. Also, remember to say why you're grateful by leaving a note, verbally or via a text.

Go on regular dates

Relationships require that you both put in the work, time, and effort to strengthen and progress it; it's just like exercising. After being in a relationship for a long time, it's easy to go for weeks or months without having a date night. Eventually, life happens, everyone gets busy, and soon it becomes an unhappy relationship.

Start making plans to spend quality time together; find interesting restaurants to have dinner once in a while, and reserve a table after work or during the weekend. This way, you can strengthen your bond and even progress to going through James Allen Review to plan your engagement.

Learn to ask for forgiveness and to forgive

No one is perfect, not even your partner. Sometimes, they will wrong you, or you will do something hurtful to them. Part of strengthening your relationship is knowing how to communicate when you feel wronged instead of holding grudges.

Despite loving your partner, some things they do or say will cause you hurt and pain and make you feel unappreciated and unloved. However, the act of forgiveness can free you from pain, lower anxiety, stress, depression, and blood pressure, and allow you to progress your relationship. Similarly, if you're in the wrong, apologize and ask for forgiveness instead of trying to cover it up or playing the blame game.

Support each other

The purpose of being in a relationship is not only companionship but support. Aim at growing together in your different ways by being supportive of each other's goals. Some of the ways you can do that are sharing responsibilities at home, having each other's backs, and defending each other when confronted in public instead of putting them down. Additionally, be supportive of each other's efforts to better your lives, be it career-wise or in fields like fitness and health.

A relationship is a beautiful union when you're in it with the right person, for the right intentions, and the long haul. However, it only works if you're both ready to strengthen and improve it. Choose the perfect engagement ring for your partner and live the rest of your life supporting and loving one another.




Germany As A Tourist Destination*



*This is a collaborative post*


Germany as a country has so much to offer visitors, from great hospitality, world renowned beers and some of the most stunning scenery you could ever hope to find as well as modern cosmopolitan cities steeped in history and culture. I’d recommend it to anyone.


Whether you’re looking for a great place to go skiing, or for an outdoor trek in gorgeous mountain ranges, or perhaps taking in one of the hundreds of magnificent castles which dot the landscape. There’s something for everyone. Below are a few places which I think might be of interest to anyone considering a jaunt over to Germany sometime. There’s so much to see and do, but here is just a list of a few places of interest that I think anyone visiting the country might want to think about incorporating into their stay.


Oktoberfest



Oktoberfest is the largest VolksFest (beer festival and travelling funfair) in the world. It is held in the Bavarian city of Munich annually and has been held since its origination in 1810. Locally it is called d’Wiesn, after the colloquial name for the fairgrounds,‘Theresienwiese’. People of all ages enjoy the festival and if you like beer, it has to be on your ‘beering bucket-list’. I’ve not met anyone who went who didn’t have an absolute blast.



In 2013, the 16 day long festival saw 7.7 million litres of beer served. Visitors can also enjoy the various amusements, stalls and games too. It would be a sin not to mention the fact that all kinds of traditional German and Bavarian foods will be available.


It is a great experience, and a brilliant and fun way to experience some of the traditions and cultural delights that Germany, but also Bavaria in particular have to offer.


Hopefully, post Covid things will one day resume to some semblance of normality. When it does thousands upon thousands of visitors will descend on the city to join in with the festivities. Most of these people will be using Ebooking and similar methods in order to book their tickets for hotels and travel arrangements etc; it is therefore advisable to make sure you leave plenty of time and book in advance, in order to secure accommodation which suits your requirements.



Bavarian Alps



The Bavarian Alps is perhaps the most visually stunning region of Germany for me, it’s mountain ranges capped with snow are second to none in terms of their splendor. For anyone who likes walking, camping, exploring, skiing, mountaineering, abseiling, etc you should definitely try and stay here for some time at some point in life.


The scenery is absolutely stunning, so much so that King Ludwig II built two of his dream castles, namely Neuschwanstein and Linderhof respectively, hidden away in the Bavarian mountains. You can take an excursion from Munich which takes in both castles for around $65. Please see the image below for what you can expect from these

breathtaking architectural gems.




I love a good castle! We are lucky enough to have our own landscape dotted with all manner of stately homes and castles, but I think the castles in Germany are beautiful, and very much akin to something from fairy-tales.



The Berlin Wall



Obviously located in the capital city, much like any other European capital it is steeped in places of interest, as well as a beautiful display of architecture through the ages. It is also very cosmopolitan and so all the modern delights one would expect are on offer. A vibrant nightlife (under usual circumstances of course), fantastic Art galleries and museums. However, I think anyone visiting Berlin ought to make time in their itinerary, if at all possible, to go and see the wall, to learn about it, and to absorb it.



Again I’m sure most of you are familiar with the wall, probably one of the most famous walls in the world alongside the Wailing Wall in Israel and the Great Wall of China. Here is some more info for anyone who would like to refresh, but it is an eerie experience, and it does us good to learn about and learn from some of history’s most poignant and tragic teachings. And the infamous ‘Checkpoint Charlie’, where many people lost their lives in their desperate attempts to escape from Soviet controlled East Berlin to West Berlin.


Although a poignant and sombre experience it is also a tale of hope, survival, love, and a people’s fight for freedom.


While in Berlin I would also check out the Charlottenburg Palace, it is a real gem!





*Header photo source PexelsSecond photo source Pixabay. Third photo source Pixabay. Fourth photo source PexelsFifth photo source Pexels.  


3 Tips For Saving For Your Mortgage Deposit



Although some might say that renting is their preferred choice, renting a house isn’t always the cheapest option – in fact, it can often be a lot more expensive than having a mortgage. The stumbling block comes in the form of the large deposit – usually around ten percent of the property’s value – buyers need before a mortgage lender will consider them. With that in mind, and with the deposit being the one element of buying a house that many people struggle with, here are some ways you can save up that ten percent a little more easily than you might have thought. 

Monthly Standing Order

When you know you want to buy a house, the first thing to do is to speak to a mortgage provider. When you do this, you’ll find out how much you can borrow on your current salary, and that means you will know how much you need to save up for a deposit. The figure might seem huge to start with, but don’t worry; if you break it down into more manageable sums, it all becomes a lot easier. 

 

Work out how much you need to put aside per month so be able to save up the deposit in the time frame you have given yourself, be it a year, five years, or perhaps longer. If the figure you are left with isn’t enough to live on, then you’ll need to save for longer so that you don’t get into any financial difficulties. Then set up a standing order for that amount. If the money is moved automatically, ideally on the same day you’re paid, then you won’t miss it, and as you see it building up in your savings account, you’ll be pleased with the progress you’re making. 

 

Pay Less Rent 

Initially, the idea of paying less rent might seem like a strange thing to do – after all, your landlord isn’t going to be too happy with you if you start giving them less money each month. But what we mean by paying less rent is that if you want to buy a property, you might have to move out of the current rental property you’re living in, and either move back in with your parents or find a cheaper place to rent. When you do this, you will be saving money on your monthly outgoings, and you can use that saved money (along with anything else you can afford to put to one side) to save up for your deposit. 

 

Remember, you’re going to have to move anyway when you finally buy the house of your dreams, so you shouldn’t be too attached to your rental property. Moving isn’t going to be too much of a hardship, and when you think of the reason and the ultimate goal you have, you’ll know it’s worth it. 

 

Look For Government Schemes 

The government has considered how hard it is for people to get on the property ladder, and of course, it’s in their best interests for there to be more homeowners than renters (think of the stamp duty tax, for example). With this in mind, they have come up with a variety of different schemes to help people; look into these schemes because you might find that you don’t need quite as high a deposit as you thought, allowing you to buy a property a lot sooner than you anticipated. 

 *Photo source Kindel Media from Pexels


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