Queen of the Castle 

Last Friday I wined and dined in a castle… with a ghost! 

After a very hectic work week my husband, Keith, and I escaped the hustle and bustle of Belfast for the scenic haven of Ballygally Castle for a gourmet evening of wine pairings courtesy of Woodford Bourne. The weather was atrocious and so once we got parked we were delighted to find a cosy refuge inside. From thrones at reception to a stunningly handcrafted Game of Thrones door, the medieval spirit was very much alive. 

The Game of Thrones door located in Ballygally Castle.

After a quick freshen up we headed to the Woodford Bourne drinks reception. Our first tipple was Prosecco Conti d’Arco NV which was matched with a selection of delightful canapés including a chilli egg combo that was served in an eggshell, goat’s cheese and beetroot cones and pâté on toast. As we tucked in we spoke to Fiona Brown of Duffy Rafferty Communications, and Norman McBride, general manager of Ballygally Castle about the Castle’s friendly ghost, Lady Isabella, whose ‘ghost room’ is located in the tower of the original building. 

Keith and I at the Woodford Bourne drinks reception at Ballygally Castle. Picture courtesy of Duffy Rafferty Communications. 

After we had worked our way through the canapés, we were invited into the stunning Kintyre Ballroom for the next stage of our food and wine journey. This room is an exquisite setting which enjoys panoramic coastal views. After we were seated, we were poured a glass of Moreau Rose D’Anjou. The knowledgeable and incredibly humorous Denis Broderick, Wine & Food Development Consultant with Woodford Bourne NI, was tasked with introducing each wine on the night. With such charisma, he really made each offering come to life prior to us sampling it. To complement the Moreau Rose D’Anjou we were served a warm and velvety celeriac velouté accompanied with Broighter Gold truffle oil with crispy guanciale flat bread. The soup was served in a dainty cup and saucer and packed a serious punch of flavour. 
Next up was a fresh and crisp glass of Marques de Riscal Rueda paired with a gorgeous concoction of Lemon Sole stuffed with Portavogie prawn mousse with a spelt and wild garlic risotto. I was surprised by how much I loved this course; I lapped up every last morsel. 

Before our main dish, we were served a beautifully presented Shortcrust Gin Granita. This was sweet and refreshing, the perfect palate cleanser. 

Next up was the course I was most excited about: trio of local beef which included Carnbrooke Cannon Fillet, Hannon Pulled Brisket Suet Pudding and Jacobs Ladder paired with a glass of Château de la Ligne which is produced from local business man Terry Cross’ French vineyard. This course did not disappoint,  the meat was tender, succulent and flavoursome whilst the wine was rich and elegant; even my husband, who is not a red wine drinker, thoroughly enjoyed this selection. 

Although I was quite full after the main, I can’t say no to dessert and my tastebuds thanked me once they sampled the next offering: Coco, Avocado and Red Quinoa Parfait matched with a glass of Torres Floralis Moscatel Oro. This was pure decadence and I savoured every mouthful. 

As if that was not enough, we had one final course: Fivemiletown Goats Cheese mousse with port jelly served with a glass of Churchill’s Reserve Port. This was a dish of contradictions matching the savoury with the sweet and all though I could not finish mine, there was lots of empty plates around me. 

The mouth-watering selection of food from the gourmet evening at Ballygally Castle.

By this stage I really was fit to burst and so I jumped at the chance to work off some of the food with a walk to the ‘ghost room’. As we ascended the spiral staircase there was definitely a noticeable drop in the temperature. The room, which retains its original setting, tells the fate of Lady Isabella and how she became the resident ghost of the Castle. This really is a fascinating room, and whilst it certainly gave me goosebumps, I thoroughly recommend a visit if you are a guest in the Castle. 

Lady Isabella’s ‘ghost room’ in Ballygally Castle.

After a fabulous mix of fine wines and scrumptious food, mixed with a bit of history, it was time to call it a night. 
The next morning when we woke up, the weather had not improved much but we decided to explore the rest of the grounds before we headed back to Belfast. After a photo session on the Thrones, it was time for the outdoors. With luscious gardens, a delightful foot bridge, a small island and a rumbling river of its own, Ballygally boasts a setting that is truly picturesque and unique. 

Pretending I’m a Queen for the day.

After we checked out we couldn’t resist a walk along the beach opposite the Castle. Although it was raining, it was impossible not to feel happy when soaking up such a stunning setting. With views of Scotland, this really is one of Northern Ireland’s breathtaking scenic spots. 

Has we headed the 40 minutes back to Belfast, I was delighted with our discovery of such a gem on our doorstep. When life gets too much, this is definitely the perfect place to escape all your stresses and I for one cannot wait for a return visit. 

Above (picture courtesy of Keith Burch) and below: the beach located opposite Ballygally Castle.

Posted: 10/03/2017

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