Marie Louise McConville: New farm park a great spot for staycation families

James and Abbie enjoying playtime with Fudge the rabbit at Mount Panther Farm Park in Co Down
Marie Louise McConville

Summer - it's a great time of year, isn't it?

It gives us all a great excuse to book a few days off work to spend time with family and friends and if we're lucky, catch a few rays also.

Of course, for most of us it doesn't take much for us to embrace this time of year. One glimpse of the sun and we strip off, set up a beer garden in the driveway and run a marathon to catch the ice-cream man before he leaves the cul-de-sac.

Many of you will probably have already jetted off for the annual summer break or are planning to do so soon in the coming weeks.

Our plan for this summer had been to stay at home and just enjoy little short breaks here and there because I didn't want to travel too far with the kids at such young ages.

So far, we have enjoyed trips all over and last week it was the turn of good old Newcastle in Co Down to play host to the McConvilles, thanks to my mum and dad's generous loan of their gorgeous caravan.

What's not to love about this seaside treasure? It's the perfect setting for young families with a beautiful beach and promenade, countless ice-cream shops, amusements, the famous Swans, tasty eateries and play parks all on hand.

And this year we found a new, exciting attraction had opened and we are so glad we gave it a go because it was simply brilliant.

Mount Panther Farm Park, located on the Dundrum Road on the road to Newcastle, only opened at Easter so if you haven't yet given it a go, then jump to it.

Now I should start by saying I am NO fan of animals of any description. I wish them no harm but I do not like any kind of animal coming anywhere near me, especially dogs.

My issue now as a parent is trying to control this fear while Abbie and James are present because I do not want to pass this anxiety on to them.

So from the off, I knew a trip to a farm park would be difficult to me and I would have to work hard to suppress my feelings of panic, however, I need not have worried as this new visitor attraction was simply brilliant, well organised, well planned out and it had really thought of everything for families.

On arrival, we made our way to a building which was home to countless cute animals and while I silently hyperventilated, Abbie and James just came alive as they talked to the little rabbits, piglets and lemurs.

Both then got the chance to have a cuddle with cute rabbits Fudge and Snow. The kids were in their element, especially James, who just adores Peter Rabbit.

As I stood back, pretending to be busy taking photos despite Abbie asking me to pet the rabbit, I was in awe at how wonderful the staff were with the children, their patience and attitude were really to be applauded.

The kids then spent time with little piglets Curly and Whirly before they got the chance to hold and pet a snake (I'm having a panic attack). Darren also loved the Bearded Dragon.

Abbie was taken with the brightly coloured birds and Darren was just so impressed with the hawk.

It was then time to visit another area where the kids got to feed the adult pigs and and we just fell in love with little Bambi, the baby goat. There were also ponies and llamas and chickens.

As well as the animals, there was a brilliant outdoor play area and a gigantic air pillow, which Abbie spent hours bouncing on with the other kids before she was taken through the forest on a barrel ride.

Even when the rain came on we were able to use indoor facilities including a bouncy castle, inflatable slide, go-karts and a massive sand pit.

We had a ball and I must say, even as someone who is not a fan of animals, I just loved it.

I am so glad we gave Mount Panther Farm Park a go, it really was a great day out and it wasn't over priced.

Darren and I had really enjoyed watching the kids have so much fun, their smiles said it all, and it was great to see their confidence around animals blooming.

Mount Panther Farm Park will definitely be a highlight of summer 2017.


The holidays are in full flow and if you're looking for some entertainment for the kids how about tickets to a fun family event?

BRICKLIVE is coming to Belfast next month and it's bringing its array of astounding creations of LEGO.

Described as heaven for any child who loves the world's most popular building blocks, BRICKLIVE is a family event offering hands-on and interactive fun.

The event includes a range of fantastic features including the popular brick pits with tonnes of bricks to play with, and the eye-popping feature builds, showcasing some of the most astonishing creations from LEGO.

BRICKLIVE is coming to the Titanic Exhibition Centre from August 3 to August 6.

Andy Smith, Director of Events at Multiplay, said: “We're fully committed to making this year's events the best ever, with more bricks, builders, creations and fans than ever before.''

Further information is available online at

I have three family tickets to give away to three lucky readers for BRICKLIVE on Thursday, August 3.

If you fancy winning a family ticket, simply email your name, address and telephone number – along with the answer to the question below – to

Closing date for entries is Tuesday, July 25, 2017

(Q) Where is BRICKLIVE coming to in Belfast?

Normal Irish News Rules Apply


What's Hot?

Gig - The fantastic Killers are returning to the SSE Arena in November for a one-off concert. Tickets for the concert - which I'm sure will be fab - go on sale today. #lovethekillers

New Doc - Actress Jodie Whittaker has been unveiled as the new Dr Who. I really liked Jodie in Broadchurch and think she is an interesting choice as the 13th Time Lord. Good luck to her and I hope fans give her a chance.

Remake - Will Smith is to play the genie in the new live action remake of Disney's Aladdin. I think he will be great in the role.

So Not!

Trouble - Teen heart throb Justin Bieber has reportedly had another brush with the law amid reports he was given a ticket for using his phone while driving.

Split - Jamie and Louise Redknapp have reportedly split after 19 years of marriage. The couple have two children together. Sad news

Hurt - Actress Martine McCutcheon has revealed she is still hurt and embarrassed by the way her abrupt departure from EastEnders was handled. The 41-year-old said she found out her character was to be axed while listening to the radio.



The winners of The Hudson Bar competition are M Scullion, from Maghera, Julia McCloy, from Omagh, and Conor Laverty, from Portadown


Easy Peasy Recipe

This week's Easy Peasy Recipe is Simple Ginger Snaps

You will need:

50g butter

50g brown sugar

50g golden syrup

113g plain flour

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 tsp ground ginger

To Make:

Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees Celsius/Gas Mark 4 and line a baking tray with greaseproof paper.

In a saucepan, add the butter, golden syrup and sugar. Hold over a gentle heat and stir until melted.

Sift the flour, ground ginger and bicarbonate of soda into the saucepan and stir into the syrup mixture until it forms a soft smooth dough

Take 1 teaspoon at a time of the dough, roll into a ball and place on the baking tray. Ensure they are laid out separate to each other.

Bake the biscuits in the oven for around 20 minutes

Remove and allow to cool before lifting off tray and serving

Do you have an Easy Peasy recipe you would like to share?

Are you the queen of quiches, magnificent at muffins or can you turn out some nice scones?

If so, then we want to hear from you.

You can send your name, address, contact number and recipe (plus photo if possible) to:

Easy Peasy Recipes,

Marie Louise McConville,

Irish News

113-117 Donegall Street,




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