Marie Louise McConville: Thanks to the Dalriada Festival I have fallen back in love with the great outdoors

The Dalriada Festival at Glenarm Castle was a fantastic family-orientated outdoor festival. Photo by Paul Faith
Marie Louise McConville

I've never been one for the great outdoors.

Despite many, many years in St Teresa's brigins and guides, which involved camping and outdoor activities almost every weekend, I'm now more of an indoor kind of gal.

When it comes to the kids, I much prefer soft play and more recently the cinema however I know this approach is perhaps not the most adventurous for James and Abbie.

So, in a bid to broaden mine and their horizons I decided last weekend that our little family would enjoy a day out at a festival - an outdoor festival.

Packing our picnic to go, I was actually hyperventilating as I was imagining massive queues, alcohol fuelled fracas and slippery, muddy car park (why had I suggested this?)

However, off we went armed with copious amounts of hand sanitiser and wipes.

In the end, I don't know what I had been so worried about because arriving at the Dalriada Festival at Glenarm Castle what we were met with was a well-organised, fully family-orientated festival.

The kids were absolutely spoiled for choice deciding what to do first - from the Tractor Ted bouncy castle to the carousel swings.

They could even practice welly throwing, meet the Fire Service and get into the appliance and wear the helmet, and laugh hysterically as the ‘mummies and daddies' who took part in the Wife Carrying Championships - fair play.

There was wrestling, dancing, magic, comedy and live music on the various stages.

The kids even enjoyed the craft village, and the food court - where we enjoyed our picnic.

We had time for some ice cream before we got the amazing chance to meet Cat Boy and Owlette from the official PJ Masks who were doing walkabouts all day.

Abbie happily posed beside the kids cartoon characters while James - the actual PJ Masks fan - went into meltdown.

As we headed back to the car, with two very happy and tired kids, I noticed a camp site beside the car park filled with tents and mobile homes.

In that instance, Darren and I turned to each other and suggested next year we come for both days of the event and camp and I wholeheartedly agreed.

This great event changed my mind about outdoor fun and we look forward to returning for more family frolics in 2019.


Finally there was some simply marvellous news from the land of movies this week.

Turns out, all the prayers, intentions, lit candles and persistent phone calls and e-mails were worth it because my favourite show Downton Abbey is to be made into a movie and I'm delighted.

What's more, the original cast including Maggie Smith has signed up - yay.

Filming is reportedly to begin this summer and the script has been written by the wonderful show creator, Julian Fellowes.

While no plot spoilers have been released, I know this movie will be brilliant.

Popcorn at the ready - bring it on.



The school holidays are in full swing, so do you fancy winning tickets to see a magical show which combines storytelling, music and lots of laughs?

The Snail and The Whale, which is inspired by the book by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler, will be arriving at The Lyric Theatre in Belfast next month, where it will run from August 22 -26.

The show tells the story of a tiny snail who longs to see the world – so she hitches a lift on the tail of a humpback whale.

Together they go on an amazing journey, experiencing sharks and penguins, icebergs and volcanoes.

But when the whale gets beached, how will the tiny snail save him?

Further information about the show is available at

I have two pairs of tickets to give away to The Snail and The Whale at The Lyric Theatre on Thursday, August 23 at 2pm.

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

Closing date for entries is 12 noon on Tuesday, July 24, 2018.

(Q) Who wrote The Snail and The Whale?

Normal Irish News Rules Apply


The winners of the Shoreline Music Fest are Cathy Doyle, from Cookstown, Dolores Rodgers, from Annalong, and Paula Feenan, from Tempo.

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