Northern Ireland’s scenic Causeway Coast offers windswept golden beaches, ruined castles perched on rocky cliffs and of course what most visitors come to see, the Giant’s Causeway (or is it the Game of Thrones locations?) While I enjoyed all of these, what most impressed me most was the quality of the food. I found artisan producers creating new and interesting products and restaurants dedicated to using the best and freshest local ingredients. And the seafood, oh the seafood! So let me take you on a tour of some the restaurants and dishes I enjoyed in between visiting the Giant’s Causeway, Carrick-A-Rede rope bridge and Mussenden Temple. In Northern Ireland’s 2016 Year of Food and Drink there’s plenty here to make your mouth water.
1. The best of Irish cooking at The Bushmills Inn
I loved eating my way through the menu at the Bushmills Inn where I stayed while exploring Northern Ireland’s Causeway Coast. If you want to feel the warmth of Irish hospitality, not to mention the peat fire that burns summer and winter at the entrance, this is the place for you.
The hotel started as a coaching inn and the oldest part of the building that fronts the main road now houses the Gas Bar. Lit by gas lamps the bar has a traditional feel, with red walls and subdued lighting casting a rosy glow. It’s especially atmospheric on a Saturday or Wednesday night when they have an Irish band sitting in the corner, playing all the folk favourites.
Breakfast was served in the oldest part of the restaurant where I sat in one of the wooden booths and enjoyed the thick, juicy slices of Irish smoked salmon with scrambled eggs served on crested china plates.
I was even more impressed when I had dinner in the newer part of the restaurant which is glazed on one side, creating a lighter feel. The hotel is committed to using local produce and the suppliers are listed at the end of the menu, right down to the farm that produces the herbs. Having heard that the beef here was outstanding I chose the Braised Belted Beef with a mustard crust with vegetables and champ, which was meltingly soft having been cooked very slowly ‘sous vide’.
My friend’s Kerry Hill Lamb was also getting oohs and ahs of approval. The dishes were at once sophisticated yet totally Irish and beautifully presented. They have an Innkeeper’s Choice section of the menu that changes regularly and a decent vegetarian selection too. This is the place to treat yourself for a special dinner and a taste of traditional Irish cooking at it’s best.
The Bushmills Inn, 9 Dunluce Road, Bushmills. I ate: Braised Belted Galloway Beef £18.50 and Forest Berry creme brûlée £5.95
2. Seafood on the beach at Harry’s Shack
I’d heard so many great things about Harry’s Shack at Portstewart that I was determined to have lunch there and managed to fit it in between a visit to Mussenden temple and Dunluce castle. (I was on an excellent day tour run by Glenara Elite Travel) This is the sort of beach cafe you find on every other beach in Cornwall although a surprising rarity in Northern Ireland considering the number of unspoiled, golden beaches. I half expected to find Jamie Oliver popping in for lunch with the family.
The ‘Shack’ is an overgrown garden shed set just above the beach, with space to eat outside on picnic tables and plenty of light flooding in. I’d heard that the fish here was outstanding so was surprised that there were so many meaty crowd-pleasers: Beach burger and chips, chicken terrine, Irish chicken and mushroom pie. I certainly wasn’t complaining when my pan fried fish arrived with capers and cockles in a pool of buttery sauce with a bowl of mash to soak it up.
My friend’s fish and chips also looked very good, with the chips in the obligatory metal pail and mushy peas on the side. I was tempted by the cakes on the counter but settled on a single salted caramel macaron to have with my coffee. Harry’s shack is definitely a place I’d head back to. It manages to be both family friendly and please serious food lovers of all ages. Rustic beach style with simple food done very well. Why aren’t all restaurants like this?
Harry’s Shack, 118 Strand Road, Portstewart. We ate: Pan fried fish £15, Fish & Chips £11.
3. A honeycomb ice cream at Ballantoy Harbour
I’d probably have missed Ballantoy harbour, had I not visited as part of my tour with Glenara Elite Travel. It’s as picturesque a place as they come and was used as a Game of Thrones setting for the port of Pyke in the Iron Islands (OK, I admit I had to look that up). Because the road down to the harbour is steep and narrow you won’t find any larger coach parties down there, although I suspect it’s still packed in summer.
As we arrived in the late afternoon, the small tea room on the harbour was closing but we just managed to buy a locally made ice cream to eat at the golden hour. I chose honeycomb flavour which is a local favourite although not much to do with honey, but studded with the kind of burnt sugar honeycomb you find in a Crunchie bar. If you ever get to the Ballycastle Auld Lammas Fair this kind of honeycomb is a local speciality and sold along with Dulse seaweed (but not eaten together!)
4. A lively Saturday night at Ramore in Portrush
Ramore in Portrush is the foodie spot on the Causeway coast where you head for good food and good times at the weekend, a place to put on your high heels and have a laugh. The tall white building overlooks the harbour with the Coast Pizzaria on the ground floor and The Mermaid on the top floor with a sophisticated driftwood and deckchair stripe theme. Ramore has spread sideways to the Harbour Bar next door while the Neptune and Prawn serving Asian inspired dishes is just across the road. None of them is bookable except the Mermaid, which is where I found myself sitting at the cocktail bar for dinner on a Saturday night feeling like a fish out of water amidst the perfectly groomed hair and fashionably bright lipstick.
Things looked up once my Hendricks Southside cocktail with gin, cucumber, mint and elderflower arrived. At least I was in a great spot for people-watching as the cocktails were mixed and shaken before my eyes, expresso martinis decorated with a carefully placed coffee bean, mint and ice being crushed for the Mojitos.
By the time my starter of roast scallops with black pudding and curry cream arrived I was definitely converted. This could possibly be the prettiest dish I’d seen in a long while, with the richness of the scallops and sauce being offset by the sweet sharpness of the redcurrents scattered across the plate.
The roast hake was perfectly cooked, balanced on top of a broth with vegetables and new potatoes but I should have known better than to order the floating brandy snap for desert. Here I had to admit defeat and could only nibble bits of the plate size brandy snap, scrape off a taste of the four different ice creams beneath and try a little of each of the three sauces that came with it. The clatter of glasses and chatter of friends was overwhelming but perfect if you want to party on a Saturday night and probably a little calmer at other times.
Ramore Restaurants, The Harbour, Portrush. I ate in The Mermaid: my cocktail £6.95, starter £5.95, fish £14.95, desert £4.95
5. A drop of Bushmills Whiskey
Of course on the Causeway Coast it’s difficult to get by without a drop of whiskey from the famous Bushmills Whiskey Distillery in Bushmills where I was staying. I’d recommend doing the tour which gives an excellent insight into how the whiskey is made, even though you are walking through a not-particularly-attractive commercial production plant. The fun bit comes at the end when you get to taste a generous slug of the Bushmills whiskey which is included in your ticket. You can take your time sipping it in the cosy cafe area and buy your favourite in the shop, including a personalised bottle of the 12 year old which they sell exclusively at the distillery.
If you are interested in trying a few different whiskeys, you can have a mini tasting of 3 of the whiskeys (£7.50) and chat to the bar staff about the different flavours, or better still book for the tutored tasting which takes place every day at 3pm. You can book for this on its own (£15) or combine with a 2pm distillery tour (£20) and you get to sit at the table in the cafe next to the old copper still and taste your way through 5 of the finest whiskeys, (including the 21 year old which sells for over £100 per bottle).
One of the distillery staff will tell you about each whiskey which are different ages, but also matured in different oak casks that have contained bourbon whiskey, port or madeira, each taking a different flavour from the casks. My favourite was the Bushmills 16 year old with flavours of honey, almonds and vanilla matured on port casks (I looked that up from the tasting sheet but it was delicious). Be sure to arrange someone to drive you back to your hotel after the tasting or better still book in just down the road at the Bushmills Inn so you can walk (stagger?) back and spend the rest of the afternoon snoozing in front of the peat fire.
Bushmills Distillery Tour, 2 Distillery Road, Bushmills. Tour: Adults £7.50 including a taste of one whiskey |Tasting 3 whiskeys after the tour £7.50 | Tutored tasting of 5 whiskeys £15 or £20 including the tour (takes place daily at 3pm and must be booked in advance)
6. A fine Sunday lunch at The French Rooms in Bushmills
While visitors will enjoy the Irish charm of Bushmills Inn, it’s also fun to have a change from oak panelling and peat fires. Practically next door and in complete contrast is the light and airy French Rooms in Bushmills which I tried for Sunday lunch. With a gift shop and deli at the front and a cafe at the back it feels like you’ve stepped into a market for deceptively expensive brocante and vintage finds in Aix-en-Provence.
From the Sunday lunch menu I chose the roll of pork stuffed with apples and raisins, with prettily presented side dishes of carrots, peas with lettuce and both mashed and roast potatoes (always a choice of potatoes in Ireland). In between courses I discovered that there was a lovely, light conservatory room at the back, giving out to a charming courtyard garden.
There is a French connection to the area in the French Hugonots who settled here in the 17th century in search of religious freedom and brought with them their skills in the manufacture of linen, using locally grown flax. This is definitely a place I’d love to return to linger over a coffee with cakes or have a light lunch with a friend.
The French Rooms, 45 Main Street, Bushmills. Open Wednesday to Sunday We ate: Sunday lunch 2 courses £13.65 3 courses £16.65
7. Italian inspiration at Bartali Wine Bar at Portballintrae
On a quiet Sunday evening I ate at Bartali Wine bar overlooking the bay at Portballintrae which was just a short drive from Bushmills. The long whitewashed building with a slate roof looked as if it had been converted from an ancient barn or fisherman’s boathouse, but in fact was only built around 10 years ago. Inside the wooden booths, brick arches and Victorian fireplace might have been from an old pub, but there was also a young, trendy feel to the place, with an emphasis on local produce and craft ales.
The staff were friendly and knowledgeable and told me that this restaurant and its sister restaurants in Belfast are named after Italian champion cyclists, this being the namesake of Gino Bartali, the others being Coppi (named after Fausto Coppi) and il Pirata (named after Marco Pantani) which serve cichetti bar snacks and rustic Italian cuisine. I enjoyed my market fish; sea bream with cabbage, pancetta and gnocchi which had just the right blend of Irish and Italian. I’d recommend Bartalis for lunch after a walk on Portballintrae beach as well as a relaxed dinner and it has a family friendly conservatory too.
Bartali wine bar, 6B Seaport Avenue, Portballintrae. I ate: Market fish £13.50, Passionfruit Panacotta with white chocolate £4.50. They do a set menu 3 courses or 2 courses + glass of wine for £15
8. Meeting the goats at Broughgammon Farm
As I left Bushmills for my drive past the Glens of Antrim I stopped at Broughgammon Farm near Ballycastle. The family that runs the farm are friends and I was meeting up with Becky Cole, who with her husband Charlie has started a business to rear billy goats for meat which they sell at farmer’s markets around Ireland. They run butchery and cookery courses on the farm, have a small farm shop selling their meat and other local products and Becky also has a blog about seasonal living on the farm at Terriers and Tweeds.
Becky told me how they had found their niche after realising that most goats are reared for their milk and the billy goats are slaughtered at birth. For a sustainable approach they buy the male kids and rear them to make cabrito goat meat cuts and sell the famous ‘billyburgers’ at farmer’s markets and country shows, recently branching out into free range rose veal and wild game.
Becky took me to see the goats in their barn where they were full of fun and mischief, nibbling my hand and checking me out with an inquisitive gaze. There’s a whole scene of artisan food producers like Becky and Charlie in Northern Ireland which you can look out for at local markets and in farm shops and delis.
Broughgammon Farm, 50 Straid Road, Ballycastle, BT546NP. The farm shop is open Weds-Sun 10am-5pm closed 1-2 for lunch. Check out the meat boxes that can be delivered anywhere in the UK and the events calendar will tell you at which markets you can find the billy-burgers.
9. The Central Bar in Ballycastle
I’d already visited Ballycastle when I took the ferry across to Rathlin Island but decided to stop there again for lunch before driving down the Glens coast back to Belfast Airport. On a Monday lunchtime many of the shops and restaurants were closed but I settled into a table in front of the fire at The Central Bar, an attractive stone building on the main road through town.
Without looking at the menu I knew I had to order the seafood chowder which had been recommended by Caroline Redmond who runs food tours in Ballycastle. It was a delicious creamy soup with chunks of vegetables, fish and prawns from Mortons fishmonger down at the harbour. On the side were three different breads which are cooked on the premises; a treacle and fennel seed, Guiness wheaten bread and a tomato focaccia. The lunch was a real treat and all I needed to set me up for the drive along the Glens coastal route. The Central Bar uses fresh local ingredients cooked to order and there was something to please everyone from Italian pizza, local seafood, steaks, curry and chicken dishes.
Central Wine Bar, 12 Ann Street, Ballycastle. I ate: Seafood Chowder £9.95.
While you’re in Ballycastle
Ballycastle is one of the main towns on the Causeway Coast and there’s a thriving food scene going on here. I had plenty of recommendations although unfortunately when I visited on a Monday many were closed. Check out the following and let me know what you think;
Morton’s Fish and Chips – Look out for the kiosk beside the Ballycastle harbour which is renowned for the best fish and chips in the area. The family own their own fishing boats and also have a fishmonger selling the fresh fish next door so you can be sure that the fish is ultra-fresh and cooked to order. The locals travel miles to buy their fish and chips here and sit eating it with a view of the harbour. Open weekdays 3pm-8pm, weekends 12-9pm Freshly battered cod from £4.00
Ballycastle Food Markets – There’s a regular food market in Ballycastle where you’ll find plenty of different local artizan food producers. Check out the Naturally North Coast and Glens website for more details.
Caroline Redmond offers food tours in Ballycastle which visit many of the foodie stops mentioned. She also does walking tours of the Causeway coast so check out her Facebook page or contact her by email: [email protected] The Ballycastle walking food tours cost £25
Thyme and Co, 5 Quay Road, Ballycastle – a pretty and airy cafe that uses a lot of local produce. Perfect for breakfast, brunch or a light lunch of Mediterranean tarts and aromatic soups served with crusty breads. Open daily 8.30-4.30 Closed Sunday and Monday
Ursa Minor Bakehouse, 56 Castle Street, Ballycastle, is the place that everyone mentioned to me for bread and cakes and they have a small café too. They make their bread with organic ingredients using traditional methods and supply many local cafes such as Thyme and Co and Harry’s Shack.
The North Coast Smokehouse isn’t open to the public but look out for their smoked fish at markets and local cafes like Thyme and Co and their smoked sea salt at delis and food shops – I also saw it on sale at Belfast airport. Their website has details of stockists.
Causeway Coast Foodie Tours are run by Wendy Gallagher – you can take one of her 6 hour Coast and Country tours by coach to visit a range of different food producers along the Causeway Coast for tastings and food demonstrations. The tours start and end in Colraine and cost £55. Email: [email protected]
Cushendun and Cushendell as you drive down the Glens coast
On my drive south from Ballycastle I passed through the coastal villages of Cushendun and Cushendell. Unfortunately most places were closed on the Monday but I was recommended the following for a place to eat;
Cushendun is a pretty village is managed by the National Trust and has a long beach, picturesque old stone bridge and a shop where you could easily buy a picnic if the weather is fine. Mary McBrides (2 Main Street) is a tiny whitewashed bar right by the bridge and serves good lunches with a fish restaurant upstairs.
Cushendall is a larger village with several cafes and restaurants with the beach a short drive from the centre. I was recommended the fish restaurant above Jonny Joe’s bar – Upstairs @ Joes (23 Mill Street) where they also run a cookery school and Harry’s Restaurant (10-12 Mill Street) which is just across the road, both of which serve local fish and seafood.
10. Afternoon tea at the Glenarm Castle Tea Rooms
My final stop before I reluctantly returned to Belfast airport was the tea room at Glenarm castle which is just off the coastal road and makes a great refreshment stop. You can visit the tearooms even if you don’t want to visit the walled garden and they serve brunch, sandwiches and soup for lunch and tea and cakes. I just had time for a slice of Lady Grey and orange tea loaf washed down with raspberry fruit tea.
The tearoom looks as if it was once a garden building and is all painted wood and pine tables with pretty garden flowers on each table. I wish I’d had time to visit the walled garden which I could glimpse through the archway and just popped out to take a photo before continuing my drive, with the majestic glens and glacial valleys on one side and the sea on the other.
Glenarm Castle: Garden admission £5. I tried herbal tea £1.85 and cake £2.65. They serve a traditional afternoon tea for £10.95 per person.
A golden bonus from Broighter Gold
Everywhere I went I kept spotting bottles of Broighter Gold who produce cold pressed golden rapeseed oil on their farm at Limavady. They also sell a range of salad oils infused with flavours like basil, lemon and chilli and to celebrate Northern Ireland’s 2016 Year of Food and Drink have created a special edition that contains 23 carat flakes of gold for a bit of extra sparkle.
It’s fashionable to use olive oil with abandon in our cooking but this rapeseed oil made me stop and wonder why, when there are delicious and healthy local products like this that are part of our own farming landscape.
I loved my foodie tour of Northern Ireland’s Causeway Coast exploring local artisan products, fabulous seafood and outstanding quality meat, all served up in huge portions with a healthy dollop of friendly Irish charm. I hope your mouth is watering too!
Have you any favourite foodie spots from Northern Ireland’s Causeway Coast? Do leave me your recommendations in the comments
More things to enjoy in Ireland
Visitor Information for visiting Ireland’s Causeway Coast
Heather stayed at The Bushmills Inn in Bushmills which is a luxury 4 star hotel that is close to all the major things to see such as The Giant’s Causeway and the Bushmills Whiskey Distillery. The hotel has a traditional Irish warmth with excellent food and friendly service and the peat fire is always burning to welcome you. If you’re lucky you may find your own country’s flag flying from the tower to greet you!
For guided tours I recommend Glenara Elite Travel who operate tours in a comfortable mini-bus that enables you to easily see all the attractions of the Causeway Coast in one day. They run regular day tours that cost £35 per person.
My extremely knowledgeable guide for the Giant’s Causeway and other local attractions was Mark Rodgers of Dalriada Kingdom Tours who fed me with local tales of fishing families and mythical giants.
Caroline Redmond offers food tours in Ballycastle at North Coast Walking Tours and Wendy Gallagher runs Coast and Country food tours at Causeway Coast Foodie Tours. Thanks to both for their food recommendations.
Thanks to the Causeway and Glens Tourism Board for hosting my stay on Northern Ireland’s Causeway Coast.
Stepping out onto the white painted balcony I breathed in the warm Caribbean air, edged with the freshness of morning. Below me the pool area was still, except for the murmur of running water. Over the tops of the palm trees a cruise ship was moored in the bay at Port Zante, with the green slopes of Mount Liamuiga rising beyond. This was Ocean Terrace Inn in St Kitts where I stayed recently, a stylish 4 star hotel that is looking fresh and bright after its recent renovation. Read on for my review.
Where are we staying?
On checking in I was shown to my bedroom, in one of the lower hotel buildings built on the hillside. Thank goodness for the helpful young man who carried my bag across the terraces and down all the steps. There are around 50 rooms here, mostly in the modern buildings around the pool that were built in the 1960s and have recently gone through a full renovation.
In my bedroom I found bags of space, with two queen beds just for all for little old me, cool tiled floors and cheerful yellow, red and green scheme that reminded me of the colours of the St Kitts flag. By the window was a cushioned built in seat and out on the white painted balcony, a couple of wicker chairs and a table to sit overlooking the pool area.
I wondered whether my room was exceptional in its size but when I had a look around some of the others, I found they were just as spacious, with dark, plantation style wood, fresh colours and contemporary style.
My bed was extra comfy, the ice bucket filled ready, with a percolator and ground coffee should I need to make some in the morning. The air conditioning kept everything comfortable, although having just left the chilly UK, I was more interested in feeling the warmth of a Caribbean than in shutting the heat out.
My huge bathroom with separate bath and shower incorporated a dressing and wardrobe area, with open hanging space, shelves and a small safe (although disappointingly not large enough for my laptop). The iron and ironing board was most welcome since the clothes in my case were looking a bit sad and crumpled.
My view of the Pool area
One of the favourite things from my two night stay at Ocean Terrace Inn was the view from my balcony over the landscaped pool area towards the bay and the island’s capital of Basseterre. There was often a cruise ship in port and I can see why the hotel is a popular choice for cruise guests and crew to come and spend the day by the pool.
The hotel is built on several different levels with most of the rooms overlooking the pool area. In some places the water was shallow for children to splash about, in others deeper for swimming. Everything was beautifully landscaped with local stone planted with palms, shrubs, and purple flowering bougainvillea, as well as a swim up poolside bar.
The jaunty turquoise sun loungers matched the turquoise of the pool with orange and white cotton sunshades completing the colourful scene. Even though I was out sightseeing most days so didn’t get much sun lounger time, I found the a walk around the pool and gardens before breakfast with the sound of the cascades and waterfalls very soothing.
Around the hotel
From the pool and surrounding garden area, steps led up to two tiled terraces for guests to sit outside. Wooden pavilions and green sunshades offered protection from the heat of the sun and colourful seating provided a relaxing place to sit, with flowering shrubs and palms to soften the tiling.
Continuing to the upper level, the reception and main hotel entrance adjoins the quiet residential road where a taxi will drop you off and opposite was the Verandah restaurant with more attractive planting and a water feature at the entrance.
Breakfast and Sunday Brunch
On my arrival I enjoyed a late lunch in the Verandah restaurant, at the end of the Sunday Brunch buffet which is quite a tradition on St Kitts. Sunday is very much family time on St Kitts when everyone will go to church in the morning and than relax with a big family lunch at home. Those who prefer not to cook will treat themselves to leisurely Sunday Brunch at one of the local hotels or restaurants around the island, so this is a popular weekend event.
Those who aren’t having an extended Sunday brunch will probably be found at the beach just liming (that’s the St Kitts version of relaxing and chilling out with your friends). I arrived at the end of the buffet when most guests had left but enjoyed the excellent spread of salads, and hot dishes both local favourites and international dishes.
The bright and airy Verandah restaurant, with traditional dark wood flooring and colourful paintings, is also where you’ll also have breakfast. Rather than sit inside, I preferred a table on the terrace with a view over the bay. My only quibble was that the clear plastic blinds were rolled down masking the view, due I think to catering for American tastes to keep everything fully air conditioned.
I didn’t get the chance to eat at Verandah in the evening, but their Carib-Asian menu using local island produce infused with an Asian flavour looked delicious. I also enjoyed my breakfast from the a la carte menu, and decided to order the bush tea which I’d heard about, made of local herbs like basil and lemon grass with an inbelievably fragrant aroma.
If you are from the UK or Europe where a breakfast buffet in normally included in your room rate, you should be aware that the hotel follows the American approach of breakfast being charged separately. You can either select from the a la carte menu or choose in advance to book breakfast under a set price meal plan. ($15 Continental buffet breakfast, $20 Full breakfast). Depending on how you book, be sure to check whether a breakfast package is included.
Dinner at Fisherman’s Wharf
During the stay I tried the Fisherman’s Wharf restaurant which belongs to the hotel, although it’s just across the road at the bottom of the hill (the security guard will let you out through the gate by the pool). The restaurant is set right by the water with an open verandah and a beautiful view over the lights of Basseterre and the port.
As the name suggests, Fisherman’s Wharf is all about the seafood, a highlight of St Kitts since it’s all locally caught and the fishing boats offload their catch along the seafront nearby. Typical island dishes are on the menu with starters of conch chowder or coconut crusted shrimp and for a main course Grilled Mahi-Mahi with a citrus salsa or Lemongrass scented grilled snapper.
Of course I couldn’t go without trying the lobster with ginger lemon butter sauce which was delicious, but if you are looking for meat dishes there are also several options such as steak, ribs or ginger chicken with passionfruit sauce. The restaurant is open evenings only from 6.30pm to 10.30pm Monday to Saturday, closed Sundays.
Are we being served?
From the reception staff to the guy who carried my bags down all those flights of stairs, to the waitresses in the restaurant, I found all the staff at OTI were friendly and enthusiastic, falling over themselves to be helpful. I’d heard that investment in staff training was part of the refurbishment programme and re-opening and it certainly showed in the positive attitude of everyone I met at the hotel.
Are we in the digital age?
The free wifi worked very well for me, both in my room and in the restaurant and reception areas – not bad considering the hotel is spread over a number of different buildings. You can also keep up with hotel news and happenings on the social media channels on Twitter @OceanTerraceInn on Facebook and on Instagram
Ocean Terrace Inn is set on the hillside, on the edge of the island capital of Basseterre, overlooking the bay towards the north of the island. It’s a pleasant 10 minute walk along the sea front into town or to the cruise port of Port Zante where there are plenty of shops catering for tourists. The location is ideal for those who want to be located close to Basseterre, but have a base to see the rest of St Kitts, since you’re a 15 minute drive from the beaches of the south east peninsula or the historic sites of the northern-east part of the island.
Who is Ocean Terrace Inn best for?
The hotel will suit leisure or business travellers looking a relaxing base for visiting Basseterre and the rest of St Kitts. The friendly atmosphere and medium size will suit couples, solo travellers and groups of friends as well as families with school age children. Because the hotel is built on multiple levels, visitors with mobility issues or with very young children may find it difficult to manage all the steps. The hotel is a short taxi ride from the airport, so would be a good choice for those who want to explore Basseterre and the surrounding area at the beginning of their holiday, perhaps combined with a stay at another hotel by the beach for a few days after that.
To Book Ocean Terrace Inn
Book your stay at Ocean Terrace Inn on their website at OceanTerraceInn.com and follow their social media channels on Twitter @OceanTerraceInn on Facebook and on Instagram. To compare prices and book for hotels on St Kitts use my Hotels Combined Booking comparison page.
Good to know
- There is no shop on site or close by so you might need to get any local items in Basseterre (10 mins walk) or walk along the seafront to the shops in the cruise shop, Port Zante (10-15 mins walk) if you need tourist items.
- If you’re visiting St Kitts on a cruise, the hotel can also sell you a day pass for use of the pool area and other facilities.
- The hotel offers a free daily shuttle service to the beaches on the south-west peninsula of the island.
- If you are there on a Sunday, be aware that shops will be closed and everything very quiet in Basseterre as this is considered a day of rest when Kittitians like to go to church and spend time with their family.
- If you want a change from eating in the hotel’s Verandah or Fisherman’s Wharf restaurant, there’s also Serendipity next door serving both Caribbean and International cuisine, with a view over the bay.
What to see in Basseterre
Your stay at Ocean Terrace Inn is the ideal opportunity to visit the island’s capital of Basseterre and some of the other things nearby. Here’s what we recommend;
- Wander around the streets of Basseterre, especially Fort Street and Bank Street to get the feel for the relaxed island capital of St Kitts. If you are looking for something in paricular don’t hesitate to ask for help from any of the locals, the Kittitians are known for their friendliness.
- Check out the green Victorian-style clock at the Circus roundabout, modelled on London’s Picadilly Circus and have lunch as Ballahoo with an open terrace that overlooks the Circus.
- Pop in to the National Museum close to the Circus. While the displays are rather old fashioned, there’s plenty of fascinating information about the island’s history.
- Walk through the shady and green Independence square that was once Basseterre’s slave market, noticing the doors to the cellars in the houses around the square where the slaves slept.
- Visit the Gallery Cafe on the north side of Independence square, featuring the work of local artists with a charming cafe serving home made cakes, fresh juices and coffee which you can enjoy in the shady courtyard garden.
- If you need tourist souvenirs, you’ll find plenty of choice at Port Zante, including a craft market. The covered Pelican Mall has more small shops and also offers free wifi.
- At lunchtime, especially on Fridays and Saturdays, check out the vendors along the Bay Road and in the steets of Basseterre selling all kinds of delicious street-food and local food specialities.
- Take a short taxi ride to Ital Creations close the airport, a small organic farm with a food trailer selling delicious vegetarian and vegan dishes at lunchtime as well as fruit smoothies and juices.
- The closest beach is a 10 minute drive away at Frigate Bay, normally quiet during the day but a popular place for locals, expats and visitors to enjoy a drink and a meal in the evening when all the beach shacks and restaurants are open on “The Strip” – we enjoyed the relaxed sports bar style and excellent local dishes at Boozies.
- If you’d like to explore further afield, there are plenty of beautiful spots on St Kitts – read about the 10 perfect postcard shots of St Kitts.
Have you visited St Kitts and if so, what did you enjoy?
Visitor Information for St Kitts
To plan your visit to St Kitts check out the tourism board website at www.stkittstourism.kn or follow their social media channels: Twitter @StKittsTourism | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | Pinterest |
British Airways flies to St Kitts from London Gatwick twice a week on Saturdays and Wednesdays with the flight going on to nearby Antigua. There are regular ferries every day to Nevis, with a journey time of 45 minutes from Basseterre, making it easy to plan a combined stay on both islands.
To start and end your holiday on St Kitts in style, the YU Lounge offers a private terminal at the airport. A private car will meet you from the plane and whisk you to the luxurious lounge where snacks and drinks are available. While you are waiting your luggage will be picked up and you’ll be cleared through security by the YU Lounge staff.
Thanks to Ocean Terrace Inn who hosted Heather’s 2 night hotel stay and to the St Kitts tourism board who provided Heather’s visit to St Kitts.
Read more about St Kitts
Ah, the smell of Athens in springtime, the aroma of eucalyptus warmed by sunshine with a whiff of cigarette smoke curling through the air. The freshness of winter lingers, the dust and heat of summer is yet to come, the sun warm enough to relax in a pavement cafes of Plaka to watch the world go by.
I was visiting Athens for a weekend break with my parents and sister who lives in Greece, staying at the 5 star Electra Palace Hotel, in the Plaka district at the foot of the Acropolis. It suited us perfectly for our weekend stay, since we could walk easily to most of the ancient sites and have a haven of calm and luxury to return to at the end of each day.
I hope you enjoy the video below about Electra Palace Hotel
The Electra Palace Hotel is one of a family-owned group of five Electra Hotels celebrating 50 years since the first Electra Hotel opened in Athens. The group includes the Electra and Electra Palace in Athens, as well as hotels in Crete, Thessaloniki, Rhodes and the soon to be opened luxury lifestyle Electra Metropolis in Athens. We could feel the slick professionalism that you get with a major hotel chain but perhaps with a little more personal touch from being a smaller hotel group.
Our 5th Floor Bedroom
Our bedroom on the fifth floor was classic and elegant with Italian style wooden furniture and muted blue, gold and cream in the colour scheme with red woollen patterned rugs on the floor. The lighting fittings were of heavy brass with cream shades and a large gilt mirror on the wall above the desk.
Outside the French windows we found a balcony where we could sit on wicker chairs at the marble table separated from our neighbours by olive plants and admire the view of the Acropolis across the rooftops. We had all the conveniences: a kettle to make tea and coffee, a fridge and mini bar, a large safe with room for my laptop and towelling robes and slippers for lounging around after a bath.
The bathroom was in similar classical design, with pale blue marble edged with mosaic tiles and a bath with powerful shower above. In the recess of the ceiling was painted a blue sky with white fluffy clouds to remind us we were in a land where the sun always shines.
One of the delights of a luxury hotel is to be spoiled by the toiletries and Korres is one of my favourite Greek brands, known for its natural products. We tested out the citrus shower gel and body lotion as well as the handy shampoo and conditioner with aloe to smooth away the frizz.
Breakfast in the Motivo Restaurant
In the large Motivo restaurant on the ground floor we relaxed over breakfast, finding our favourite table by the window with a view of the garden. The decor was again classic with comfortable green upholstered chairs, wooden parquet floors and sparkling square chandeliers.
We tried a wide selection of breads including the Greek sesame rings that are found on every street corner, as well as a spread of cereals, yoghurt and fruit, cold meats, cheeses and hot dishes like scrambled egg, bacon, beans and mushrooms. There seemed to be something to suit every taste of the international guests, including a range of healthy choice yoghurts, cheeses and meats and even a machine where you could make your own waffles and douse them in maple syrup. Apparently the hotel is a popular choice for American guests.
Motivo Garden Terrace Restaurant
Leading off the reception and adjoining the ground floor restaurant was a courtyard garden that became my favourite place to sit in the sun with a coffee. The tables were laid at lunchtime and the flowering pots under the large palm tree made a welcome retreat from the narrow streets outside the hotel.
The Pool Terrace with a view of the Acropolis
Up on the 5th floor we got another perspective on Athens from the rooftop pool terrace. In summer the sun loungers are laid out and the pool bar is open so you can relax in the heart of the city with that Acropolis view that any self respecting hotel in Athens with a roof terrace aims to offer.
Dinner in the Electra Roof garden restaurant
Adjoining the pool terace was the Roof garden restaurant with a wall of windows to make the most of those Acropolis views. In summer they open all the windows and you can dine outside too, which would be perfect for a romantic dinner.
The food is a fusion of Mediterranean dishes that incorporate Greek produce and fresh flavours. Our dinner managed to strike just the right note, balancing elegant dining with familiar tastes so that everyone found something to enjoy. To start my father tried the ravioli which was stuffed with pumpkin, ricotta cheese and smoked ham drizzled with basil oil.
I ordered the veal fillet which was juicy and tender, served with polenta and a flavoursome tarragon sauce, while my sister had the lamb chop with gnocchi and wild mushrooms. Finally we tried a light but delicious desert of poached apple with halva mousse on a bed of crumbs made from dehydrated chocolate and milk.
I’d recommend this restaurant for a very enjoyable dining experience, with delicious food and friendly and professional service, especially once the weather makes it warm enough to eat outside.
Starters €10-18, Pasta €14-17, Main Course €19-26, Deserts €8-9. With a nice wine our bill was around €40 per head.
The Pool and Spa
After walking around the Acropolis all morning, I felt I deserved a relaxing afternoon and headed downstairs to try out the hotel spa. There’s an attractive small pool with a jacuzzi at one end which is open to guests from 8am to 9pm and to children with their parents up to 3pm. There’s a small gym and a spa which is best reserved in advance so the staff can prepare it for you, since there is room for three people.
After changing into my robe and slippers I was shown into the treatment room for my relaxing massage followed by a facial. The spa uses products by a Greek company called O.live which is based in Crete and uses organic products based on olive oil infused with essential oils of lavender, eucalyptus and mandarin. As my back was massaged I drifted away to the sounds of the sea washing on the pebble beach and the wind blowing through the pine trees, transporting me to Greek summer holidays past and future.
Next my face was cleansed using a gentle chamomile cleanser, with an exfoliation treatment and face mask with green argyle followed by a massage with calendula anti-aging cream. By the end my skin truly felt glowing and soft and I relaxed on the loungers outside the treatment room drinking green tea with honey and breathing in the steam of hot water with eucalyptus to revive me after the treatment.
If you’d like to try a spa treatment, all guests are offered a voucher for a complimentary 15 minute massage on arrival, or you may see the therapists as you come out of breakfast to arrange an appointment.
Massages are from €60 including the Ancient Greek massage with relaxing hot towels to remove tension and the Cretan massage that uses oil mixed with raki to sooth tired muscles. Facial massage starts at €25 with a full facial €65. I’d also recommend the lovely O.live products that are on sale in the spa using different fragrances such as lavender for calming, green tea to revitalise and mandarin to energise. If you’re a fan of Jo Malone perfumes as I am you’ll love the O.live mandarin, lime and basil that’s just like the Jo Malone signature fragrance.
Are we being served?
All our party agreed that the Electra Palace Hotel had a lovely atmosphere of calm and professionalism combined with friendly and attentive service. The cool, spacious lobby with marble floors and chandeliers felt like an oasis as you stepped off the street after navigating the narrow streets of Plaka or the bustle of Syntagma square. The staff always greeted us with a warm smile, helped us with directions and restaurant reservations and were quick to offer help with bags and taxis, so we felt very well looked after, which was especially important for my parents who are in their 70s.
Are we in the digital age?
It’s so nice to find an upscale hotel that offers good free wifi for all its guests and at Electra Palace Hotel I had no problems at all staying connected. The free standard service was pretty good and the passwords were easy to remember and only required logging in again every few hours. If you need faster internet access for business, this is available at an extra charge. You can follow the hotel news on their Twitter, Facebook and Instagram channels too.
Location is a major reason for staying at Electra Palace Hotel as it is set in the heart of the old town Plaka district, with atmospheric bars and pavement cafes. You’re just a 10 minute walk from the Acropolis museum in one direction and from Syntagma square in the other so it’s an excellent base to see the sites on foot. All the nearby streets are full of bars, cafes and restaurants so it’s easy to find places to eat and enjoy the evening nightlife.
Who is Electra Palace Hotel best for?
Most of the other guests at Electra Palace Hotel were aged 40+ with a few families with school age children. We heard that many of the guests are from the USA, UK and Greece as well as a broad range of other nationalities and the hotel had a cosmopolitan, international feel. Because of the location close to all the sites, Electra Palace Hotel is an ideal base if you are visiting Athens for a short break and want to make the most of your stay. If you are looking for a luxurious hotel with classic and elegant decor and friendly service, this is the hotel for you. Double rooms for a weekend stay in spring for 2 people including breakfast are from £150 per night and in peak season from £200 per night.
Have you stayed in the Plaka district or at the Electra Palace Hotel? If so do let me know what you enjoyed in the comments.
The taxi from Athens airport takes about 30 minutes outside the rush hour and costs €40-45. Alternatively you can get the metro from the airport to Acropolis station which again takes 30 minutes and costs around €8, then walk 10 minutes to the hotel.
Good to know
From summer 2016 there will be a new hotel in the Electra family, the Electra Metropolis. Located close by the Electra Palace Hotel the Metropolis will be a 5 star luxury lifestyle hotel, with modern design and style. With high speed internet everywhere, smart TVs and smartphone gadgetry, this will be the place for those who like to stay connected while travelling in style.
Thanks to Electra Palace Hotel who hosted Heather’s hotel stay in Athens