Netflix Stream Team – current favourites – Part 1, the adults

Netflix Stream Team – current favourites – Part 1, the adults

Things have been a little crazy around here of late, so we are happy to embrace the darker colder days, a roaring fire and, of course, some Netflix. Want to know what we have been watching? Well, here is what the adults have been enjoying, and next week we’ll share the children’s choices.

My favourites…

I have just finished the first series of Netflix’s Grace and Frankie. I liked it from the beginning but quickly got to really love it! It is the perfect blend of warm-hearted humour, with the kind of characters you grow to love very quickly. It was my perfect “wind down” TV viewing and I can’t wait for the next series. In the meantime though, I am happy to rewatch some of my favourite episodes, like the one where Frankie and Grace go out for a night out together, and each gets to choose the clothes the other wears!

Grace and Frankie

Image credit: Melissa Moseley – © 2015 Netflix

I also watched The Duchess, staring Kiera Knightly. I’ll admit, I am not always a bit fan but I did really enjoy this one, and, as a mother, I could really relate to certain parts, although thankfully I live in a much more gender-balanced world!

When I have the control and tv all to myself and feel like an extra special treat I love to watch an episode of Chef’s table! There is no part of this series that I do not love! The food, the chefs, their life stories, the attention to detail, the ups and downs. The passion of each chef really comes through in this excellent documentary.

The male perspective…

My husband has a string of recommendations, none of which I have seen, so I think I need a day of complete catching up!

Firstly, he really loved Narcos, I did see a bit of it but decided it wasn’t for me but I have heard great things about it and he assures me that it was really well made and a great insight into what really went on.

He enjoys quirky, more alternative movies and so his current top three are Horns, Spring and What we do in the Shadows. Horns stars Daniel Radcliff, who finds himself with a dead girlfriend, a town out for blood (his) and two even more disturbing facts…. firstly, he is growing horns and secondly, people seem obliged to tell him the absolute truth. Some things are better not said, and, people sharing their inner thought with you is not always a welcome event. As you can imagine, this can make for very humorous viewing… on the darker side of mainstream!


Spring is another very alternative film, somewhat slow moving but with an interesting plot and ultimately, a love story, coming from a very unusual angle. He says it certainly keeps you interested!

What we do in the shadows is apparently a very funny portrayal of a group of vampires trying to deal with modern life from banal domestic squabbles to feeding problems and the real issues with eternal life. If you like a quirky film, this one is for you.

On a more sombre note he says Beasts of no nation is rough but compelling. Sometimes it is good to take your head out of the sand for a while.


A united front…

Of course, sometimes we do sit down together, as “real” grown-ups and, on the odd occasion, we get to see a whole movie, start to finish, no interruptions, children miraculously asleep. On such occasions, we have managed to watch…

The Help! I loved the book and the movie definitely did not disappoint, both of us thoroughly enjoyed it! A big, fat ten out of ten! With a lovely ‘feel good’ factor ending! The only down-side to the movie is that you will NEVER want to eat chocolate cake again!

If you enjoy nature programmes, as we do, and want one with amazing camera shots and imagery, then you can’t go wrong with Hidden Kingdom. I would love to see a documentary on the making of it, to see how they managed all those amazing shots! Take a look…

Another (black) comedy that we really enjoyed (and all this makes me realise how ‘alternative our viewing is’) was A long way down. Definitely one to watch.

So that should keep you going for a while… now I’m off to hide the remote so I can get first dibs tonight!


Disclosure: As a member of the Netflix Stream Team I have received a years subscription to Netflix, free of charge, and an Apple TV, for streaming purposes. As part of Netflix Stream Team I will be posting monthly updates on what we are watching and what is on offer.  All opinions expressed will be my own.


Netflix Stream Team – some hidden gems

Netflix Stream Team – some hidden gems

Netflix is great is you want a series you can get your teeth stuck into or mainstream movies to sit back and enjoy but I always find it extra special when we stumble across some hidden gems. I thought you might be interested in hearing about some of these “off the beaten track” finds.

Here are our top three recent finds…

Safety not guaranteed:

A quirky delight of off-beat humour and fantastic acting; A movie about time travel, or is it? You’ll just have to watch it right to the end!


Winter bones:

A movie on the dark side but with some great characters. A very young Jennifer Lawrence plays the lead role and leaves is in no doubt as to why she became a household name.


On the way to school

This is a very touching documentary that shows how some societies see education as the gem it really can be and the obstacles that some children will go to, to receive it. Although it was a stark reminder of how good we have it I found the documentary had an overall feel good factor, due to the happiness of the children featured and their ability to see the positive in their situations.

Have you any hidden gems to share?

Disclosure: As a member of the Netflix Stream Team I have received a years subscription to Netflix, free of charge, and an Apple TV, for streaming purposes. As part of Netflix Stream Team I will be posting monthly updates on what we are watching and what is on offer.  All opinions expressed will be my own.

One boy, one beast, many adventures – Netflix Dream Works Dragons

One boy, one beast, many adventures – Netflix Dream Works Dragons

There is lots of excitement in the house today; and we are not talking about the start of the Summer holidays, we are talking about the arrival of the all new action packed series … Dream Works Dragons: Race to the Edge! … released on Netlfix, today, Friday 26th June.

The popcorn is bought, the couch is booked and the whole family plan to start the holidays off in style tonight. And there will be the newest member of the family squeezing in too… this little guy.

My youngest is a huge fan of toothless so imagine his excitement when a package arrived from Netlfix this week containing his all-time favourite dragon, along with his trusted side kick – Hiccup! My only worry is that dragon and small boy will be asleep before they even get to watch their favourite series – such is the level of action that the two adventurers have already clocked up.

First off, toothless is a flying dragon, as we all know, so small boy enlisted a little help from science to get his friend airborne… Newton stated that every action has an equal and opposite reaction and that is what both boy and dragon counted on with this little stunt!


Did it work? Well, it certainly got toothless flying right across the room but eventually the pair decided that they needed more height and distance and turned their attention to rocket power. They constructed a stomp rocket and the fearless dragon was taped to the rocket, secure and ready for launch. Test flights gave good results in the corridor until Mum decided that it was an experiment best brought outdoors. Boy and dragon were very happy with the flight distances that this little adventure achieved.

toothless catapult

Happy, but not completely sated, they decided that distance was good but they wanted a little more height… time to bring in the big guns and launch a bigger rocket. At this stage they were wisely persuaded that the fearless dragon should, at least, be wearing better safety gear… so they built him a helmet!


Onwards and upwards, toothless was strapped in place and all set for launch.


5, 4, 3, 2, 1…


What goes up, must come down!


A successful flight, awesome heights, and a relatively soft landing (if you are made of hard plastic and wearing that, oh so important tinfoil helmet). Maybe they didn’t make it into the stratosphere but the dragon certainly earned his wings… and a good night’s sleep!

Check out the action packed new series on Netflix for more great adventures…

And if you have any little adventurers in your home that are rocket crazy here is how to make these rockets…


You will need:

an empty 2L plastic bottle, paper, insulation tape, a 1/2 inch PVC pipe, a length of rubber tubing;

What to do… tape one end of the rubber tubing to the neck of the bottle and tape the other end to one end of the PVC pipe. Next make the body of the rocket by wrapping a piece of paper around the PVC pipe and secure it with tape at the overlap. Remove the rocket from the pipe. Cut four triangles of paper and attach to the body of  the rocket near one end; these are the rocket fins. Make a nose (cone shape) for the other end of the rocket and attach it with tape.  You are now ready to launch your rocket. (Best to do this outside!).
Sit your paper rocket over the PVC pipe and place the 2L bottle on the ground on its side. Stomp on the bottle and watch your rocket shoot off!
You will need:
An empty 2 L plastic bottle, paper, a ball pump needle, a bottle cork, a foot pump
What to do… using the paper make three fins and a nose cone for the bottle rocket, the base of the bottle is where you fit the cone, attach the fins around the side of the rocket. Push the ball pump needle through the cork until it comes out the other side; Fill the bottle rocket one third full with water and plug the neck of the bottle with the cork. Attach the food pump to the ball pump needle and, either hold the bottle rocket or secure it vertically on the ground (we used an adapted funnel). Start pumping until…. your rocket launches with a big whoosh of water and flies into the air!
Disclosure: I received the toy as part of the Netflix Stream Team; All opinions expressed in this post are my own.
Netflix Stream Team – the SciFi edition

Netflix Stream Team – the SciFi edition

I’ll admit I’m not a big fan of Tom Cruise (to put it mildly) so I resisted for a while when Oblivion came up on my Netflix profile; eventually curiosity got the better of me though and, once I got over the Tom Cruise bit (which took about 20 minutes), I actually quite enjoyed the movie.


One of the few remaining drone repairmen assigned to Earth, its surface devastated after decades of war with the alien Scavs, discovers a crashed spacecraft with contents that bring into question everything he believed about the war, and may even put the fate of mankind in his hands.

I find that SciFis are often just a repeat of a similar theme, but this one had an original story and that’s what I liked about it. Worth watching, and, if you actually like Mr. Top Gun then you’d have a BIG bonus!

Then there is The 4400 and Heroes… they definitely have what it takes to lure you in until you are hooked and tempted to watch them back to back. Both with a common theme, people with special powers, how we love them and fear them all at the same time. I love the concept of real life superheroes and the humanness of how they are ultimately seen as a threat. I would recommend them, but be warned… the 4800 series was never finished… I discovered this at series three (of five) and pulled out cold turkey style. I couldn’t take the possibility of being left hanging in mid-air, in the middle of some crisis, with the lives or well being of characters I had grown to love and loath sitting in the balance. No doubt I missed some excellent episodes by pulling out when I did. I have been reliable informed that Heroes has an actual ending!

The 4400
The 4400

And of course I have spotted that Netflix has Alphas, another great series along the same theme and another one likely to draw you in. I saw some of these episodes before we had Netflix so I’m delighted to see that I can jump right back in there, and with the control of pause, rewind and back to back episodes. Netflix… I love you!

Netflix, you know me well. I have just spotted a new SciFi type series appearing on my time line. It will be released on 5th June but your ruse worked, I watched the trailer, it’s one big juicy carrot! When I saw that Sense8 is created by the people behind The Matrix there was no more convincing needed… the date is in my diary.

Here is the trailer in case you are as easily tempted as I am…

Disclosure: As a member of the Netflix Stream Team I have received a years subscription to Netflix, free of charge, and an Apple TV, for streaming purposes. As part of Netflix Stream Team I will be posting monthly updates on what we are watching and what is on offer.  All opinions expressed will be my own.

The Irish Parenting Blog Awards – the event, the fun, the celebration

The Irish Parenting Blog Awards – the event, the fun, the celebration

I had a rare night out… I even went all the way to Dublin for it and it was so worth it. I got together with a fantastic group of bloggers, some I had met before, some I knew only virtually. We all descended on the Odessa for the Inaugural Glenisk Irish Parenting Blog Awards.

Photo courtesy of Sandra at
Photo credit – Sandra of A Modern Mommy’s World

There was great food accompanied by flowing wine and even more flowing conversation and some fun games and entertainment between courses to keep us all amused. It was all so enjoyable it was easy to forget that the awards were still to come. For that part we moved up to the roof top bar, a perfect location for the intimate and entertaining awards ceremony to continue. Sylda from Mind the Baby was the MC for the night (a natural), ably assisted by Lisa from, and then there was Deborah (At the Clothes Line) providing the atmospheric music.

The winners for each category were announced swiftly, with intermittent bouts of side splitting entertainment. For example, there was a highly amusing Netflix blogger quiz (House of Blogs)… two teams of three bloggers pitting their wits and knowledge against each other on some bizarre details from the wealth of IPB member’s blogs. Other laughs were of the unscheduled type, like when Deb from Fat Deb Slim read out the tongue in cheek acceptance speech prepared by the lovely Emily from Blog the Nest.

The finalists in each category were all very talented bloggers, all deserving winners and all so delighted whether they were the winner or the one congratulating. I was a finalist in the Best Special Interest Category, among such amazing blogs as Adopting my own son, Looking for Blue skies, Dairy Free kids and Minis and Mum. With such talent I was genuinely shocked when I was announced as the winner. Needless to say my “acceptance speech” lacked any finesse, humour or coherence what so ever. But what I lacked in words I said with a smile, a very big one. That smile is yet to fade. As all bloggers will testify, to realise anyone is even reading your blog is a compliment in itself, to have your writing acknowledged among peers that you so greatly admire is true delight.

The Smile (photo credit: Laura of Raising Elves)
The Smile (photo credit: Laura of Raising Elves)

The night was a wonderful success, all credit to the amazing work of the organising committee and the fantastic sponsors. Glenisk were the overall sponsors of the event, and I had a wonderful dinner companion in the lovely Nicola Watson representing Netflix.  Super Hands Baby sign were the sponsors of the category my blog was in. The possibility of opening a dialogue with your child before they have learned to talk is an idea that fascinates me.

I wish I had been aware of baby signing when my children were young. I love the idea of being able to communicate with your little one before they begin to speak. I imagine it can help to strengthen bonds and ease frustration but, what struck me when I first hear about it was that it may alter the time frame of the child’s earliest memory. This is a topic I am curious about and have researched and written on before. I wonder will future studies show that people who used baby sign in their infancy report earlier memories than those that don’t. One factor reported to influence when our earliest memories are finally anchored is our ability to have words or means to describe these early events.

One final mention about the awards night… the beautiful teapot trophies that each winner got to take home were created by fellow Irish Parenting Blogger, Patricia, from Colorines Wonderful. My lovely teapot was christened the moment I arrived home, with my five year old declaring it was time for tea.

The celebratory cup of tea
The celebratory cup of tea


Check out all the wonderful award winners here and thanks for all the nominations and votes. I’m still smiling 🙂

A day of laughter with Netflix and the Unbreakable Kimmy Smidth

A day of laughter with Netflix and the Unbreakable Kimmy Smidth

Most days around here are pretty much the same thing… meals, school runs, homework, housework, a bit of work fitted in between pick ups and after school activities. Last Wednesday was a little different… last Wednesday I made it all the way to London and back for pampering, socializing and a lot of laughter, all thanks to Netflix and the launch of their new comedy series “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”.

I would be the first to say that motherhood is a very rewarding thing, but that doesn’t mean to say that it is always easy. Some days you just feel like you are being pulled in so many directions. It seems that Netflix are well aware of how mums sometimes feel, which is why they treated us to cocktails, canapés, massages and nail painting. In the midst of all that we got to sit in the lovely viewing cinema of the Soho Hotel and relax with laughter as we viewed the first three episodes of the all new Netflix original comedy series… The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.

After living in a cult for fifteen years, Kimmy (Ellie Kemper – The Office) decides to reclaim her life and start over in New York City. Armed with just a backpack, light-up sneakers, and a couple of way-past-due library books, she’s ready to take on a world she didn’t even think existed anymore. Wide-eyed but resilient, nothing is going to stand in her way.  She quickly finds a new job (working for30 Rock’s Jane Krakowski), a new roommate (Tituss Burgess – 30 Rock), and a new beginning.

The series premieres today on Netflix so pour yourself a drink and grab a bowl of popcorn, I’m afraid the massages and cocktails have been left in London :).

Disclosure: As a member of the Netflix Stream Team I have received a years subscription to Netflix, free of charge, and an Apple TV, for streaming purposes. I was brought to London for the premier of The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. All opinions expressed are my own.


Netflix Stream Team – some current family favourites and a look at a new release

Netflix Stream Team – some current family favourites and a look at a new release

We had no internet for 11 days.

11 long days! (Feel free to pause for a moment to take in the gravity of the situation.)

It was a stressful time! The children seemed nonplushed by the whole thing until they realised something… no internet means no Netflix. Suddenly they shared my distress. They were 11 tense days but thankfully we sorted the problem and we are all back in the land of WiFi.

The children jumped straight back in to some of their favourites…

The youngest member of the family kept threatening to come down with the latest bug that is going around his school so every day he came home really tired, and I expected he was under the weather, I allowed his a little bit of Netflix until his siblings came home. He just loves Bernard and when he is not chuckling along to his antics he is learning about science and nature from Wild Kratts (two zoologists travelling the world saving animals from all kinds of perils)…. I wonder where he got those kind of interests from?


All three children have been delighted with two recent Netflix releases… All Hail King Julien and Puss in Boots. It is great to get so many options that they all agree on considering the age range is from five to 11.


We had a busy midterm break (even though the children only had two days off school), there were very active days especially as their cousins came to stay. Their days were filled with adventures, real and imagined, all embraced with equal commitment. Netflix came in handy for some chilling out at the end of such busy days. They felt like they had their own home cinema as they kicked back with some popcorn and enjoyed such movies as Arthur and the Invisibles and Spy kids. They also got to re watch an old favourite Lemony Snicket: Unfortunate Events (a movie the whole family enjoyed).

The adults were not completely left out either, we got our Netflix fix too, getting hooked into a series called Heroes. We had to pause our viewing for the whole internet less period (did I mention how stressful that was?) and were really happy to resume when all was fixed. To add to the delight we had to buy a new tv (the old one we had was verging on antique and died around the same time as the internet). Every cloud has a silver lining though and we managed to get a great deal on a new SMART TV that streams Netflix directly now (no more fiddling with wii remotes).


Speaking of life without the internet (OK, I promise, I won’t mention it again!) there is a new comedy series launching on Netflix on 6th March… Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt;

After living in a cult for fifteen years, Kimmy (Ellie Kemper – The Office/Bridesmaids) decides to reclaim her life and start over in New York City.  Armed with just a backpack, light-up sneakers, and a couple of way-past-due library books, she’s ready to take on a world she didn’t even think existed anymore. Wide-eyed but resilient, nothing is going to stand in her way.  She quickly finds a new job (working for 30 Rock’s Jane Krakowski), a new roommate (Tituss Burgess – 30 Rock), and a new beginning.

I have to admit that I find comedy great for unwinding after a long day. I am really looking forward to this series for a belly full of laughs to undo any stresses of the day that has gone by. And of course, laughter is the best medicine, there is even plenty of science to prove it!

Disclosure: As a member of the Netflix Stream Team I have received a years subscription to Netflix, free of charge, and an Apple TV, for streaming purposes. As part of Netflix Stream Team I will be posting monthly updates on what we are watching and what is on offer.  All opinions expressed will be my own.



A great Netflix giveaway and some facts about the Madagascar Ring Tailed Lemur

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas around here and already I am looking forward to the Christmas unwind! Lots of food, lots of family time, roaring fires and plenty of chilling in front of the TV. With the knowledge that Netflix will be releasing a new kids series on 19th December I think we have a least some of the viewing sorted! I am looking forward to this new series myself actually as the star of the show is non other than King Julien… the lovably, all singing, all dancing lemur from the movie Madagascar!

King Julien is here to party, and no one can stop him from ruling with an iron fist … in the air, wavin’ like he just doesn’t care!   All Hail King Julien brings the wild world of Madagascar to a totally original, totally hilarious and totally insane television series in which the king takes on the craziest adventures the jungle has to offer. With a new cast of fantastic, colourful characters joins King Julien himself, along with his second-in-command Maurice, and the eternally devoted Mort. It’s a riot of colour — not to mention a laugh riot!!

To celebrate the release of “All Hail King Julian” Netflix will be hosting a coronation party at the Odeon Cinema at The Point Village on Sunday, 14th December. And YOU could be going too as Netflix are giving my lucky readers a chance to win tickets for a family of four to the “All Hail King Julien” Premiere and a 1 Year Netflix subscription. Woohoo… don’t you just love Christmas?

To enter just scroll to the end of this post and follow the instructions BUT be quick as the competition closes at 12 pm on Sunday 7th December.

While you wait to see if you are the lucky winner you can brush up on your lemur facts with this little infographic…


And here is how you win just click on the link below…. Good Luck!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The competition is only open to Irish residents.


Disclosure: As a member of the Netflix Stream Team I have received a years subscription to Netflix, free of charge, and an Apple TV, for streaming purposes. As part of Netflix Stream Team I will be posting monthly updates on what we are watching and what is on offer.  All opinions expressed will be my own.

Netflix stream team – our top five science and nature recommendations

Netflix stream team – our top five science and nature recommendations

It is Science Week in Ireland this week and to mark the occasion I thought I would share out top five science and nature picks from Netflix.

Our Netflix Science and Nature picks
Our Netflix Science and Nature picks

1. The Human planet (BBC Production)

We are loving this documentary series covering the life, habitat and customs of a diverse number of tribes and cultures;from the tree dwelling Korowai tribe of Papua New Guinea to the Bajau people of Indonesia who live their entire lives on boats on the water.

2. Africa 

Anything with Sir David Attenborough is worth watching and this series is yet another gem. There are some wonderful and “never before” scenes covering the night life of the rhinos (who knew that males are known to adorn themselves with antlers to impress the “ladies” down by the local watering hole) and a spectacular fight between two male giraffes.

3. Mission Blue (Netflix original)

An eye opening documentary with some wonderful under water footage with an honest and startling look at human impact on our oceans.

Oceanographer and eco-activist Sylvia Earle’s urgent mission to expose the dire condition of Earth’s oceans is captured in this documentary directed by Fisher Stevens, Academy Award-winning producer of “The Cove,” and Academy Award nominee Bob Nixon. Earle explains that the condition of our oceans, rapidly dying due to pollution, over-fishing, and acidification, is an ecological catastrophe soon to have a devastating impact on all life on Earth.

Mission Blue
Mission Blue

Sylia Earle is an articulate and inspiring woman ….

“If you take something apart to see how it works, always remember to keep all the pieces so you can put it back together again; when we take the ocean apart we are loosing the pieces … we will be unable to put it back together!”

“If we continue as ‘business as usual’ we are in real trouble”

“no ocean – no life”

4. The life of Mammals

Another documentary featuring Sir David Attenborough, this time looking at mammals, from the well known to the bizzare, including two of my favourites (and previously mentioned here on this blog)… the only two monotremes (egg laying mammals)… the Echidna and the duck billed platypus.

5. Virunga

This is brand new, just streaming on Netflix since Friday 7th November. We have this bookmarked as our Friday night Netflix treat!

Virunga on Netflix

 Netflix is teaming up with Leonardo DiCaprio to release the documentary Virunga.   The film from director Orlando von Einsiedel centres on the conflict between park rangers striving to protect endangered gorillas from poachers and industry encroaching on their habitats in Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The film follows an embattled team of park rangers at Virunga National Park, home to the last of the planet’s 800 mountain gorillas, as they work to fend off encroaching forces of industry, poaching, corruption and war. The award-winning film debuted at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival, earning a nomination as Best Documentary Feature, and was named Audience Favourite at Hot Docs Film Festival and Best of Fest at AFI Docs, among other awards.

So there are just five of our current favourites but there are so many more to choose from, we will be back with more very soon. And of course the best thing is that it doesn’t have to be Science Week to watch them… you can watch these documentaries any time you want!!!

Disclosure: As a member of the Netflix Stream Team I have received a years subscription to Netflix, free of charge, and an Apple TV, for streaming purposes. As part of Netflix Stream Team I will be posting monthly updates on what we are watching and what is on offer.  All opinions expressed will be my own.

The Carlow Walking Festival – a family review (Part 2)

The Carlow Walking Festival – a family review (Part 2)

The second half of our Carlow Walking Festival experience involved a family cycle along the tow paths of the river Barrow. Despite the activities of the previous day we were up and out of bed early in anticipation of the day ahead.

We collected the bikes from the Waterside Bike & Hike in Graiguenamanagh. A family run business, we found Brian and his wife extremely friendly and helpful, making sure that the bikes were correctly adjusted for each of us before we headed off. They have a good range of good quality bikes for all ages including tow along bikes for adult and child and child seats. They also provide all helmets, hi viz vest and any other equipment required, ideal for the tourist or traveller who doesn’t want to be bringing all those things with them.

Bike and Tree

From the moment we set off I could tell it was going to be a good day, the scenery was stunning for the entire journey. The children were delighted with the freedom to cycle under their own steam and the adults were pleased with the safety element…. no traffic to worry about, so we could let the kids off.

Green Road 1

Every corner we turned seemed to fill our eyes with yet another glorious scene. There is always something special about being surrounded by water, trees and nature… this path had them all in abundance.

Green Road 2

The adult-child tandem bike was perfect for our youngest, he got to cycle when he wanted, or just sit back and enjoy the ride. My husband tells me you could really feel the benefit when he did pedal, but it didn’t happen all that often!

Green Road Start

Just a few minutes into our journey we came across our first lock and we all jumped off our bikes to explore. To the children’s delight a barge came along just as we did, so they got to help work the gates. As well as being a great novelty for the kids it was a wonderful way for them to really understand how the system works.

Helping with the lock

It was a pity to see part of the trail lined with Himalayan balsam. This non native species is a vigorously invasive plant that has spread from cultivated gardens into our natural landscapes. The plant, in its native environment is used to arid and difficult conditions and has adapted to such a harsh habitat by producing thousands of seeds, in the hope that a small few will prosper. Unfortunately, in the Irish climate all the seeds have a high success rate and the plant spreads rapidly.

We showed the children how the plant disperses its seeds, the seed pods become dry and taught until they pop under the slightest pressure, flinging the seeds into the air. We thought it was so cool we even took a video, although I think Sir David Attenborough may have made  a slightly better version.

We were delighted to spot a red squirrel along the path, it was on the other side of the river but we watched it travel through the trees for quite some time before it disappeared from view. The red squirrel is a native species but its population and distribution are on the decline since the grey squirrel was introduced. The grey squirrel is larger and has taken over much of the red squirrels habitat so seeing one on our cycle was a real delight. The red squirrel is more active than its grey cousin, needing to consume about 5% of its body weight in food every day to maintain its high metabolism. The presence of the red squirrel showed the local woodland was obviously healthy and well maintained as it supported the red squirrel’s diet and there was obviously no invasion from the grey squirrel in the area.

Brian had told us that once we reached the fourth lock we were nearly at the Mullichin cafe where a welcome respite was on offer. I have to admit we all speeded up once we reached the lock, the thoughts of some well deserved cakes were a great incentive.

St Mullin's lock

The Mullichin cafe is located about four miles down the green road and is a real oasis in an already fertile spot. Situated beside the river Barrow it has plenty of space outdoors to enjoy both the beautiful food and scenery.

St. Mullins Outside

Even in October there were people enjoying the outdoor seating, I imagine this is a thriving spot in the Summer months.

St. Mullins

Once again there was a sign to detail the flora and fauna to be found in the area. The children pointed out everything they had seen.

St Mullin's Sign

We were told the food was good in the Mullichin and it definitely didn’t disappoint. The kids tucked into hot chocolates and a variety of cakes. There was even a gluten free option which I decided to have along with my cappuccino and it was delicious. The staff of the cafe were exceptionally friendly and easy going and the interior was bright and inviting. There was even a play area of small children. We had a great chat with the owners, who were on site and hands on. They took a few minutes to answer our questions and filled us in on some local lore and information.

St Mullin's Refuel

With our tummies full of the lovely baked delights we started our return journey.

Return Cycle

But there is always time for another bit of lock exploring!

St Mullins Lock 2

We loved this “tree top house” we came across along the route. The children said it looked like the best tree house ever.

Tree Top House

Even the odd shower didn’t dampen our spirits and there was plenty of trees around to provide a natural shelter. I was dry and smug while I took this photo of the rest of the family running for shelter.


I was really taken by the beautiful bridge in Graiguenamanagh and loved this view as we rounded the corner at our journey’s end.

The Bridge

Would we go back again? Most definitely! Next time we might consider an Ecology Bike Tour with Waterside Bike & Hike. Talking to Brian before we set off we could tell he was an expert on the local flora and fauna, it would be great to tap into all that knowledge on one of the guided tours as he knows just where to stop to spot such elusive locals as otters or a kingfisher. Travelling to any new area is always enriched when you get to know more about the local history too.

The tow path of the Barrow river also stretches upriver as far as the grand canal in Co. Kildare so there is so much more to explore. The safety element was a big plus for me, with so many traffic free miles of path on offer. You really couldn’t pick a more picturesque area for a cycle and once again we were struck by the friendly and helpful nature of Brian and his wife at the Waterside and all the staff at the Mullichain cafe. You may go for the scenery, the food and the outdoor activities but you will stay for the banter, the craic and the genuine friendliness of the people you meet there.

There were plenty of other activities over the festival weekend, not least of all… plenty of walking, as the name suggests. If you want to check out what else was on and what other people though you can read Dee Sewell’s review of the walks she attended over on her Greenside Up blog. Una Halpin of Wildways Adventures lead a walk and also took her son on another, she wrote about both here.

Disclaimer:  I was invited on the blog tour of the Carlow Walking Festival by Green and Vibrant. I was provided with accommodation and activities for the purposes of review but received no other compensation for this post. All views expressed are my own, or that of my family.