by Judy Enright
Special to the BIR
Want to know where to go when you visit Ireland? Well, check out recommendations from some of the Irish who voted for the best place to vacation in Ireland. The Irish Times newspaper recently announced 25 locations shortlisted by their panel of judges from 1,400 nominations submitted since March. The judges, most of whom are in some aspect of tourism, will choose an overall winner.
The top 25 included four islands (Achill, Inis Meain, Inishbofin and Valentia), the River Shannon, two picturesque West Cork spots (the Beara peninsula and Gougane Barra Lake), a few beaches (Caherdaniel and Derrynane in Kerry, Dunmore East in Co. Waterford, Gweedore in Donegal, Rosslare Strand in Co. Wexford, and Strandhill in Sligo) and, of course, Dingle and Dublin City, perennial favorites for tourists.
Also listed were Cork and Londonderry. The gourmet capital of Ireland – Kinsale – made the list too as did: Killarney; Loop Head peninsula, Co. Clare; Louisburgh in Mayo; Boyle in Roscommon and Ballyvaughan in Co. Clare, at the edge of the spectacular Burren.
In addition to Derry City, Cushendall in Antrim and the Lakelands of Co. Fermanagh, got the nod for Northern Ireland.
It would be difficult indeed to sort through that list and pick a favorite since there are so many beautiful, fun places to experience on this island. No doubt, travelers will find their own favorite places.
It’s hard to say whether it’s Tourism Ireland’s advertising of The Gathering 2013 or just the realization that Ireland is a fabulous place to vacation, but recent figures show that there was a 40 percent increase in overseas visitors this year for St. Patrick’s Day. Research showed that one in four (26 percent) came from the US and about one in three (29 percent) came from Britain, France, and Germany. Euro spent by holidaymakers during March events more than doubled since three years ago.
Tourism pundits say Ireland is again “in vogue” with Americans and that visitor numbers from North America are up 17 percent. Recent surveys have shown that Ireland is more competitive now pricewise than it has been in more than a decade and that’s never bad! “Every little helps,” as they say at Tesco.
AT THE DOCK
If you are in the area, do stop by The Dock Gallery in Carrick-on-Shannon, Co. Leitrim, for a brilliant art show called “Emerging Artists” featuring the work of Zofia Malanowska, Hilton Miller, Renata Mooney and Benita Stoney. Admission is free and the show runs through June 14, Tuesday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The artists all had careers before focusing on their art. Zofia is “over 97” and does embroidery, Renata and Benita are painters. The exhibit is dedicated to Hilton, a painter who died in 2012, “and to all artists who emerge later in their lives.”
For more information visit thedock.ie or email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Interesting to see that 5-star Glenlo Abbey Hotel, on about 140 acres outside Galway City, is on the market. No price is listed.
The hotel, where First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton stayed May 11 and 12, 1999, is in receivership as are so many other properties in Ireland due to the economy. Mrs. Clinton received an Honorary Doctorate in Law from National University of Ireland – Galway and was made a Freeman of the City of Galway, an honor previously bestowed on US Presidents John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan.
Also for sale with its contents was Costelloe Lodge, a 10,000 square-foot luxurious villa on about 12 acres at the confluence of the Casla river and the coast in Rossaveal, Co. Galway. Costelloe was formerly the estate of J. Bruce Ismay, chairman of the White Star Line, owners of the Titanic.
Ismay was on the Titanic’s maiden voyage but survived because of his decision to step into the small lifeboat reserved for women and children. He was officially exonerated later but was much vilified on both sides of the Atlantic and retreated to Costelloe Lodge with his family where he died in 1937. His widow stayed for a few more years before returning to London.
Costelloe Lodge was famed for salmon fishing and Ismay is said to have taken 300 salmon in a single season in the late 1920s.
We read in an April 3 edition of The Irish Times that Samoa Air has become the first to charge passengers based on how much they weigh plus their baggage. New rates range from about $1 to $4.16 per kilogram (1 kilogram is 2.2 pounds.)
The airline’s website says this is a “world first” and is the fairest system for paying to carry anything by air. “The world is now aware that charging by weight is the fairest way of paying for carriage, whether it’s people, baggage, freight or anything … we might want to take or consign by air. At Samoa Air, we will do our best to ensure that every passenger is afforded the same level of comfort and travel throughout their flying experience. We want to bring back Air Travel as an enjoyable experience, where you, and your baggage will always travel together. No more excess fees are charged and no more discrimination, because as we know: a kilo is a kilo is a kilo.”
Samoa Air flies Britten Norman (BN2A) series and Cessna (172) aircraft, “both of which have a proven track record with reliability and safety and are well suited to flight conditions experienced in Samoa and the South Pacific.”
Hopefully, Aer Lingus will not get onto this idea or more than a few of us will be packing a whole lot lighter and seriously dieting well in advance of our flights.
BURREN FOOD TRAIL
There’s much to recommend the Burren but the latest plus is the Burren Food Trail, organized by the Burren and Cliffs of Moher Geopark and the Burren Ecotourism Network.
Some of the participants include the wonderful St. Tola organic goat cheese and The Burren Smokehouse. Every Monday until the end of October, they and 20 other area food producers will stage an event celebrating the region’s landscape, produce and traditions.
Lots of highlights are planned including stargazing and barbecue at the Cliffs of Moher and food safaris. For more information, visit burrenecotourism.com/food-dining.
There was also a dining event recently at the Mulranny Park Hotel, Co. Mayo, to celebrate the Greenway Gourmet Trail’s second birthday. The hotel is a former Great Southern (only the façade was preserved in renovations) and was a pivotal spot along the Great Western Railway that ran from 1895 to 1937 from Westport to Achill Island. The hotel closed in 1990, about 60 years after the railway, but was purchased and completely renovated in 2003.
In July, 2010, thanks to great cooperation from landowners along the 42km trail, The Great Western Greenway opened. The trail is the longest of its kind in Ireland and immediately became immensely popular with runners, walkers, cyclists, and now with “foodies.”
The Gourmet Greenway was organized by the Mulranny Park Hotel to encourage visitors to explore local food and learn how that food is produced. For more information visit mulrannyparkhotel.ie/gourmet-greenway.
EVENTS -From now through the end of August, you can tour the amazing Doolin Cave and also take in a show called “Sense of Ireland in Song and Story” with Gerry Howard and Kate Daly. In conjunction with Tourism Ireland’s Gathering, the shows are offered June 6, 13, 20 and 27, and weekly in July and August. For more information, visit doolincave.ie.
Ballinrobe’s races are on and Tuesday, June 25, is Ladies Day at the Co. Mayo track. Races are also set for July 22 and 23, August 12 and 27 and Sept. 24. For more, visit ballinroberacecourse.ie.
Looking for a night out in the Shannon area? How about a Medieval banquet at Bunratty (reservations required for all) Dunguaire Castle in Kinvara or Knappogue near Quin. There’s also a traditional Irish night at the corn barn in Bunratty Folk Park at 7 (reservations also required.) Also check out the Irish House Party in Dublin for a good night out.
Enjoy Ireland whenever and wherever you go. For the best deals on air and land packages, visit your favorite travel agent or shop online.