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Escape to Castlewellan...

Last week I bundled the kids into the car and took an optimistic chance on the weather in an effort to get out of the house, do a bit of exploring and get the children off their electronic devices for a while!

The destination was Castlewellan Forest Park. I spent many happy days there in my childhood. I thought it would be good to revisit with my own children and make some new memories.

After a relatively pleasant car journey (given that there were three demanding children in the back), we arrived. First stop (not unsurprisingly) was the outdoor playground. Located on a hill, I was able to take in the views over Castlewellan with the Mourne Mountains as the perfect backdrop, while the children were swinging, climbing, running and making a lot of noise! This area also overlooks the Peace Maze but sadly it is currently closed due to distancing guidelines.

After a picnic lunch on the grass (there are lots of benches dotted around but we were happy by the playground), we set off for a walk around the lake. It takes about an hour and a half although, with a few additional stops so the little feet could have a rest or have a snack, it took us slightly longer. The lake and surrounding woodlands offer stunning photo opportunities so I wasn't complaining.

The forest park is home to LIFE Adventure Centre and the place was buzzing with mountain bikers and people kayaking or canoeing on the lake or exploring the hiking trails. You can hire kayaks, canoes and bikes from LIFE. They have a quick book facility on their website which is handy. I'm dying to try one of their e-bikes. Two reasons: 1) I'm not the fittest and 2) I've heard from lots of people how much fun they are. With all the kids in tow, I'd have to leave the e-bike for another day.

LIFE also offer guided experiences (bouldering, coasteering and hillwalking) and fully instructed experiences (archery and laser clay pigeon shooting). Visit for more details.

After our walk I said a quick hello to Jodie at LIFE, grabbed a coffee at the coffee dock and got the kids back into the car. The coffee hatch sells snacks, drinks and a selection of hot food which is convenient. Toilet facilities are located by the car park - very important when going anywhere with children.

Before I headed home, I had one other stop to make. I was off to Escape Glamping to check out the site.

Glamping is very popular and there are lots of sites popping up all over Northern Ireland so it was good to see what makes this site unique.

Escape Glamping is located 5 minutes from the rear entrance of Castlewellan Forest Park and 5 minutes from the main town. Castlewellan has lots of shops, bars and restaurants as well as a great service station for anything you need.

The first thing I noticed about the site after parking , is that it is all fenced off with only one entrance/ exit. As a parent, this is particularly important and reassured me that safety is paramount here. The owners- James and Tanya- are absolutely lovely and happy to show me around (adhering at all times to social distancing measures). I observed rigorous cleaning procedures while I was there- all the facilities are pristine and I was left in no doubt about the effort the team are making to maintain guest safety during these times.

The site is perfect for families and this year it has been very popular with family 'bubbles.' Each bell tent is a good distance away from the other to allow for privacy and each has its own BBQ. Bedding, plates and cutlery are all provided so you can travel light! Tents feel spacious but cosy and sleep up to 4 guests. Each one has the cutest stove inside which gives out plenty of heat so you will never feel chilly.

There is a communal area with tables and chairs (all adhering to distancing guidelines) and the outside kitchen and washing up station even has USB ports so you don't need to worry about how you will upload all the great pics you take during your stay. (Winner for me as I am ALWAYS on my socials).

There is a tent specifically set up for a couples' glamping trip for any of you romantic glampers out there. AND you can even bring your dog!!

Based on a minimum 2 night stay, prices start at £65 per night for a double for two guests (bargain). Additional guests and/or dog(s) subject to surcharge. Watch out for their NEW glamping pods.... coming soon. Check Staycations NI or visit for more details.


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