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Thursday, 20 July 2017

A guide to Marbella

How can i get to Marbella?
Marbella is located on the coast of southern Spain just 40 minutes from Malaga airport.
You can reach Marbella from Malaga airport by:
  • Taxi - Taxis from Malaga airport usually cost €60-70 euro's one way, before setting off agree a price or ask the taxi driver to turn on the meter to avoid any surprises when you reach your destination
  • Bus- Either book privately for pick up from the airport or catch the public bus from Malaga bus station, buses run from the airport to Malaga bus station regularly
  • Train - The train goes as far as Fuengirola where you can hop off to explore then catch a taxi or bus for the remainder of your journey

Where should i stay in Marbella?
Hotel El Fuerte Hotel
The Hotel El Fuerte Marbella is a charming family hotel in the centre of Marbella with sea views. This is the perfect base for a trip to Marbella, it is very central so you can walk from the hotel to the old town, main street, etc and there is a private walkway from the hotel pool directly to the beach.

The hotel has been a long standing favourite with visitors from Germany, United States and the UK for many years and many of the long standing staff make every guest feel very welcome.

The hotel has recently undergone a complete renovation yet managed to keep it's Spanish charm.

Sultan Club Hotel
The Sultan Club Hotel Marbella is a family friendly hotel that is located just a couple of minutes walk from the beach. The hotel offers spacious rooms and apartments so it is perfect for families or groups.
The apartment rooms comes with fully kitted out kitchens, living room and huge bedrooms with plenty of storage space. There is a supermarket at the corner of the pathway outside which is handy for stocking up the fridge. There is an indoor pool, beautiful outdoor pool, pool bar, onsite spa, restaurant, bar and room service available too.

The rooms are very clean and comfortable, room Rates are very reasonable compared to most hotels in the area.  Rooms start at £140 per night and you can book online here

Marbella Club Hotel
If you are looking for somewhere a little bit extra special look no further than the luxurious Hotel Marbella Club Golf & Spa located on the beachfront. Marbella Club Hotel is one of the leading hotels of the world and was originally the private residence of Prince Alfonso von Hohenlohe, the founder of the hotel. Back in it's hey day the hotel hosted flamboyant parties for guests such as Sean Connery and Audrey Hepburn.

It has retained it's old school glamour whilst being maintained immaculately and offers all the modern amenities you could ask for.

When you arrive at the gates you will find the main entrance, restaurant and hotel bar on the left. The  suites and private villas line the pathway on route towards the private beach, pool and bar.

The hotel offers fabulous suites and private cottages starting at £490 per night. Book Online here

Where are the best places to eat in Marbella?
La Cuisine - The Old Town Marbella
La Cuisine is situated in the centre of Marbella old town. The food is very reasonably priced for the standard, most dishes are made with locally sourced ingredients and come in large portion sizes so if your visiting in the evening and you are not too hungry skip the starter. The menu offers a great selection of fresh seafood and other classics such as lasagne but I would recommend the duck, the restaurant has served the same duck dish for years and it never disappoints!
There is no need to book unless you are visiting in a large group, if you would like to book online contact the restaurant through here 

Hong Kong de Marbella - On the beach Front

Affordable, delicious and great views. Hong Kong de Marbella is a family run restaurant situated on the beach front near the fountains, the restaurant has a great lively atmosphere and the staff are very attentive. Hong Kong de Marbella offers both indoor and outdoor seating which give you great views of the beach whilst you enjoy your meal.
The menu includes all the classics but also some great set menu options, the quality of the food itself is second to none. The restaurant decor is not glamorous but the food is 5 stars.

Valparaiso - Mijas

A bit out of town but worth the trip, The Valparaiso restaurant in Mijas gives you the rare opportunity to experience old school glamour that Marbella used to offer.
The restaurant walls are adorned with celebrities that have visited over the years such as David Beckham and Sean Connery. On arrival the the owner Raffaele and his staff give you a warm greeting and seat you in the terrace garden for a drink whilst you wait on your table. Raffaele is very passionate about his restaurant and is there on most nights.
In the summer months the dining area is outdoors high in the hills which offer fabulous views over Mijas. There is entertainment on most evenings so even after the meal is finished you feel inclined to stay a bit longer to enjoy the music.
The staff are very accommodating and there is no request to big, they can even create off the menu items but the existing menu offers a wide selection of dishes to choose.
Book a table online here

Arco Tapas Bar - The Old Town Marbella
Dishes at Arco Tapas in the heart of Old Town start at €4.50.  They offer a wide range of tapas such as calamari, buffalo mozzarella and Iberian ham as well as daily specials such as mini burgers and prawn & chorizo skewers. Everything is made fresh daily using local ingredients.

Where are the best places to shop in Marbella?
Marbella High Street
Along the main high street you will find Spanish fashion chains such as Zara, Bershka, Pull & Bear and Mango. The clothes in Spanish high streets stores such as Zara tend to be much cheaper here  than countries outside of Spain so it is a great opportunity to grab a few bargains.

The Old Town
The old town is full of clothing boutiques, jewellers, shoe shops and homeware boutiques.
It is a good chance to find some unique pieces but shop around before making a purchase as some of the shops have similar items but if they have a more prime location they inflate the prices. - You will find a lot of linen boutiques, leather shops and art gallery in this area.

El Corte Ingles
El Corte Ingles is a large Spanish department store chain that house not only Spanish high street retailer but high end brands and small independents. There are two located close to the centre of Marbella, one is a five minute drive from Marbella towards Malaga (Recommended) or there is another in Puerto Banus.

Puerto Banus 
The Puerto Banus Marina is lined with some of the world's most luxurious retailers from Chanel, Gucci and Louis Vuitton. Towards the bottom of the Marina near Sinatras bar there are a few independent boutiques that offer unique finds for reasonable prices.

What is there to see and do in Marbella?
Boat Trips
There is a boat trip that has been running from the Marbella marina directly to Puerto Banus marina since the early 90's and the same guy still sells the tickets!
It's a fun alternative to a taxi ride and offers great views of the golden mile from the sea.
Onboard you can enjoy the views whilst enjoying a drink from the bar, it usually takes 20-30minutes to reach Puerto Banus. They do return trips up until around 10pm. To purchase tickets visit the kiosk at the entrance of the marina in Marbella.
Horse Riding
Enjoy a day trip out of town in the country horse riding followed by lunch with the 'Horse Riding Marbella' group. Trips start at €30 for a basic river ride up to two day trips €275 (This price includes food and accommodation.)
Book Online here

Food Tours
Fancy tasting all the local favourites and learn about the history of the area at the same time? Spend the evening with your very own tour guide who will bring you on a whistle stop tour of all the best tapas places in Marbella. Prices start at €100, book online here


Tuesday, 18 July 2017

A guide to Giants Causeway

Where is the Giants Causeway?
Giants Causeway is located on the tip of Northern Ireland outside a small town called Bushmills  in Country Antrim. On a clear day you can see Scotland from the causeway rocks!
Check out a full panoramic view here ... yes it definitely is one for your bucket list.

What is the Giants Causeway?
Many people argue that the Giants Causeway in Northern Ireland is the eighth wonder of the world.
40,000 basalt steps create a startling and stunning landscape along the coast of the country. There are several explanations for the formation, you can choose which one to go with...
a) It was formed 50 million years ago by a volcanic eruption or you could believe the more exciting story that a Giant had something to do with it.
b) Legend says that an Irish giant named Finn McCool built it to bring his girlfriend over from Scotland
c)It was man made through hard labour

How can I get there?
The Giants Causeway is only two miles from Bush mills County Antrim which is 1hr 15minutes away from Belfast city centre

Rent a car
You can rent a car and drive up through the beautiful 'Causeway coastal route' to reach the giants causeway or avail of one of the many tour operators that can take you there.

You can catch a bus from the Europa bus station in Belfast city centre however the journey takes over 3 hours so for the sake of a few pounds it is definitely worth investing in a private bus tour.
The official Belfast sightseeing tour  offer day trips to the Giants causeway and also stop at other points of interest on the way so is probably your best option if you want to see as much as you can in a short space of time. Book online here 

When is the best time to visit?
Before reaching the Giants Causeway itself you will need to pass through a visitor centre which does get very busy in the afternoon so it is best to visit as early as possible to avoid the crowds. The centre is open from dawn to dusk, usually 9am to 7pm.

How much does it cost for entry?

Adults - £10.50
Children - £5.25
Family £26.25

Are there other things to see and do in the area?

Game of Thrones Tours
If you are a fan of the HBO series Game of Thrones you cannot visit Northern Ireland without going on the official tour. Once you have your cloak and sword you will be taken to the secretive spots of natural beauty were the series was filmed.

From Belfast there are two tours available.

The Iron Islands
Departs Belfast at 08:00. Visit Cushendun Caves, where Melisandre gave birth to a dark spirit, Renly’s camp in the Stormlands, Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, the Iron Islands beach where Theon dedicated his faith to the ‘Drowned God’, the Giant’s Causeway, photo stops at Dunluce castle and the Dark Hedges.

The Belfast Winterfell Tour
Departs Belfast at 09:00. Ferry trip to Strangford. Morning trek at Old Castle Ward, aka Winterfell and Audley’s Castle, aka Walder Frey’s Twins. Inch Abbey, where Robb became King in the North. Afternoon trek in Tollymore Forest to the wildling pit and the bridge where the Starks found the direwolf pups.

Book Online here 

Dunluce Castle
Dunluce castle is situated just outside Bushmills village and is a must visit when you are in the area.
The 17th century castle is connected to the mainland by a foot bridge, the walk offers stunning views of the County Antrim coastline.

Dark Hedges
The dark hedges is a tunnel of atmospheric trees which were brought to fame in the HBO series Game Of Thrones. There are no access fees, it's basically a case of parking up along the roadside and walking down to view the trees. The area does get busy at lunchtime but if you go early in the morning you can more than likely have the whole road to yourself and plenty of opportunities to take some great photos without other tourists in the background.

Causeway Coast Foodie Tour 

This a unique opportunity to learn and enjoy local produce from the area. The Causeway Coast Foodie Tour group offer three different tours.

The Whiskey Lads cask & Sea -£250 per person
The tour begins with breakfast onboard fired up over whiskey barrel chipping followed by stops at two of the worlds best scotch distillers 'Ardbeg Distillery' and 'Laphraoig' where you will learn all about the history of whisky making and sample the produce along the way.

Coast and country tour - £55 per person
A tour across some of the coasts hidden culinary gems. There are five stops on the tour where you will have the chance to sample local delicacies from the area.

Catch and sea tour - Recommended - £50 per person
This tour offers the rare opportunity to catch your own breakfast at first light and enjoy the amazing views over Rathlin Island.

Find out more about Causeway coast foodie tours and book online here 

Where can I stay?
Bushmils Inn Hotel is nearby, cosy and also has a fantastic bar & restaurant.
Rooms start at £200 which is a bit expensive however it is close to all the action and they have been voted one of the UK's top 25 hotels in 2016 & 2017.
To view rates and book online visit their website.

Galgorm resort is a relaxing haven located 45 minutes from the Giants Causeway. The resort offers a world class spa and dining experience to make your trip to Northern Ireland extra special.
Rooms start at £375.00, book online directly with the hotel here.


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