There’s no place like home, especially when that is Northern Ireland.

TV and celebrity stylist, Clémentine MacNeice embraced the giant spirt of Northern Ireland recently to enjoy a whirlwind trip of Belfast and County Down, as well as a homecoming to her native Armagh, sharing her enjoyment of Northern Ireland’s world class hospitality, shopping, culture and craft with her 72k Instagram followers.

Clémentine, who hails from the Orchard County, but now lives just two hours away in Dublin, spent three days here with her fiancé, Jamie Lynch.

With Christmas on the horizon, we asked Clémentine for a roundup of her festive favourites...

  • Belfast’s legendary Christmas Market runs from 20 November to 23 December 2021, be sure to have it on your festive bucket list!
  • Blow off the cobwebs with a leisurely stroll along Lady's Mile at Ardress House, a National Trust estate in Armagh.
  • The Hole in Wall Pub in Armagh City is perfect for a cosy Christmas cider.  
  • Tracey's Farmhouse Kitchen will be running a series of festive events including a delicious dessert making workshop, ‘Sweet Christmas’.
     

Back to her trip north of the border... They had the chance to meet a few of our amazing experience providers and take part in activities such as stand-up paddle boarding, forest bathing, bread making and walking tours which showcased historic Armagh city centre and Belfast’s energetic street art scene.

Clementine said: “There’s no place like home. We had a very special day in Armagh, and I can’t believe how much I have learned about my lovely home county.

“Thanks to Donna Fox for a great walking tour of the city, Ann Ward for her forest bathing experience and thanks to Killeavy Castle for having us – this hotel is a hidden gem and Armagh’s best kept secret – trust me!”

We were delighted to put together this packed itinerary for Clémentine and now you can follow in her footsteps and make the most of a staycation in Belfast, Down and Armagh.

Day One

City Centre hospitality

Clémentine and Jamie checked in to the Grand Central Hotel which prides itself on being an ode to Belfast. Set in the Linen Quarter, at the very heart of Belfast, this is the ideal location for exploring the city and its surrounding countryside. Vibrant and contemporary, its beautiful interiors and striking exterior combine to make a stay at the Grand Central an unforgettable treat.

Belfast’s shopping mecca

Clémentine and Jamie enjoyed a shopping trip at Victoria Square. The city-central shopping mecca is the A-Z of shopping and home to many designer and luxury brands. Its unique Dome provides 360-degree views across the city to the famous Harland & Wolff Cranes, Belfast City Hall and Stormont Parliament Buildings.

Unique craft and gift shops

The couple enjoyed experiencing the best of Belfast’s craft makers and some of the more unique gifts available. They visited Craft NI’s headquarters in Royal Avenue before visiting the quirky Born and Bred where you can find some of Belfast’s best gifts and then it was on to The Unique Art Shop, home to the emerging talent of Ulster University students.

Northern Ireland on a plate

James St. is one of Belfast’s leading restaurants with chef Niall McKenna at the helm. Clémentine and Jamie enjoyed lunch with Niall showcasing the very best of Northern Ireland’s world class produce.

In the picture

If you spend any time in Belfast you’ll know that it’s walls are covered in art. But recently, alongside this, something transformative has been bubbling. Street artists from across the globe have joined a new breed of Belfast based street artist to leave their mark on the city, and in particular in the Cathedral Quarter where the annual festival Hit the North takes place. The Belfast Street Art tour usually takes place every Sunday at noon

Fine Dining

Tucked away between Waring Street & Exchange Place in the historic back streets of the Cathedral Quarter, The Muddlers Club has been named after the secret society that met there over 200 years ago. Head chef and owner Gareth McCaughey hand-picked the best home grown produce to ensure the quality of each dish served for Clémentine and Jamie.

Day Two

Best foot forward

It was a homecoming for Clémentine as she returned to the city of Saints & Scholars to experience Donna Fox Tours – Private Walking Tour of Armagh City. Armagh is one of the oldest settlements in Ireland, the spiritual capital of the island in the midst of the Orchard County. The landscape abounds with trees, rivers, lakes and farms which can be viewed from the top of many of the hills known as Drumlins. 

Giants of literature

The couple stepped back into the eighteenth Century at Armagh Robinson Library and No 5 Vicars' Hill. You can make your way through the beautiful Georgian front door and up an elegant staircase. The walls are lined with rare and beautiful books from floor to ceiling, including a first edition of Gulliver’s Travels which contains handwritten notes from the author, Dean Jonathan Swift.

Light lunch

Just next door to the Robinson Library is The Gathering Rooms café, where Clémentine enjoyed some light refreshments. It’s designed and led by a project team made up of young people with autism. The vision for the project is to create an autism-friendly space where young people with autism can train in work and social skills, get help and advice when they need it and a place where everyone is welcome to enjoy their delicious refreshments.

Hotel & Spa

Described by Clémentine as a ‘hidden gem’, Killeavy Castle Estate is the perfect antidote to the modern fast paced world. As the centrepiece of 350 acres of mixed farm and woodland in County Armagh’s stunning Slieve Gullion, it’s the ideal place to escape, retreat, relax and unwind. The luxurious spa is open and fully operational with covid safety measures in place. 

Immerse in nature

Slieve Gullion Mountain is the perfect haven to deepen your spiritual connection with nature. This sacred mountain is a mythological sleeping giant where Clémentine and Jamie were given advice from Xhale’s Ann Ward on how to rest, reconnect and re-energise. Holistic tour guide, Ann supported their forest immersion through guided mindfulness meditation. Forest Bathing is a wellness practice which originated in Japan in the 1980’s as a stress prevention intervention.

Day Three

Nature’s stress reliever

Although they admitted to ending up in the water a lot, Clémentine and Jamie really enjoyed their Stand-up paddle boarding and yoga session with Rory Martin of Strangford Lough Activity Centre. The group paddled to an island on Strangford Lough where they performed yoga to help maximise their connection with the outdoors.

Traditional baking

Clémentine said if she could bottle the smell of Tracey’s home with the bread and baking, she would. The couple loved their visit to Tracey’s Farmhouse Kitchen where they learned how to make bread using traditional Irish recipes Clémentine even said she would love to move in and loved getting to know Tracey! 

Good spirits

Hinch Distillery is inspired by the distilling traditions and skills exchanged over the centuries during the ebb and flow of Gaelic peoples across the Irish Sea. County Down has a strong distilling history and from the late 18th to the early 20th century was home to seven Irish Whiskey producing distilleries. Hinch Distillery is intensely proud to be part of the continuing story of County Down and welcomed Clémentine and Jamie for a tasting.

Clémentine and Jamie embraced Northern Ireland’s giant spirit safe in the knowledge that the majority of the places they visited had the ‘We’re Good to Go’ mark which lets visitors know that the business adheres to government and public health guidance.

If you are following in Clémentine's footsteps, we would encourage you to sign our Visitor Pledge. Tourism Northern Ireland is inviting people to #MakeAGiantDifference and join the movement to take care of Northern Ireland by signing the new Visitor Pledge

You can Embrace a Giant Spirit in Northern Ireland with a whole host of activities to explore, its only a small step to a giant adventure!