The latest travel news with Tom Breathnach.
Ready, steady, staycation! After three months of exploring the natural wonders on our doorsteps, creating herb gardens on our kitchen sills and convincing ourselves that virtual tours are indeed time worth spending, we’re finally set to travel for Ireland’s much-awaited tourism season.
From June 29, the nation’s reboot continues with gusto as businesses from hotels and B&Bs to caravan parks and AirBnbs await the great national exodus to their check-in desks. And while not leaving Cork for extending periods of time is typically viewed as a badge of honour, I for one, cannot wait to cross those county borders - and rediscover Ireland.
The staycation has traditionally suffered a loaded connotation in Ireland. Growing up in the 80’s, holidaying at home often implied you lacked the savoir faire (or heaven forbid the means) of those neighbours of yours packing-off to Brittany on the ferry. But that’s now changed. In light of the Covid-19 pandemic, 2020 sees us being forced to examine our travel habits, for not just this summer, but for the future, too.
In a world becoming increasingly focused on cutting carbon and supporting local in industries like food and fashion, it may soon even become more socially acceptable to holiday on the island as off it. Yes indeed, Ardmore could be the new Algarve.
Numbers, however, will play a big part in the 2020 staycation. According to Fáilte Ireland, the nation welcomed 10.8 million tourists from overseas in 2019 but this year, that will reduce to a trickle. It will mean a different complexion — and indeed soundtrack — to our holiday experience this year; there’ll be fewer American accents around the streets of Killarney and fewer Germans navigating the River Shannon.
Some sectors (like whiskey tastings, salmon smokehouses and indeed Bunratty banquets) may face more turbulence, but lower numbers will also mean a welcome relief to some or our more tourist-choked attractions and beauty points across the country. The Ring of Kerry and Cliffs of Moher and may just be able to breathe again.
For me, like many, this summer will be about the new, the undiscovered, those previously unticked Irish bucket list destinations, and there’s no better time to experience them than now. I’ve a coast-to-coast hankering for everything from camping on the Blasket Islands to puffin-watching on the Saltees. But wherever, I’ll end up, it will crucially mean supporting the local businesses, little- and-large, who have remained open to support and colour our own Irish summer staycation. I’ve a feeling that summer 2020 may be on the best yet.
The traditional Irish B&B faces changes and challenges in 2020 but Roseville House in Youghal is already ahead of the curve. Secluded garden suites here enjoy the comfort of private access, while owners Richie Foley and Caroline Frazer have developed an ‘in-room dining’ model by upgrading larder cupboards with an array of Irish-produced snacks, granola, cereals and fresh milk, allowing guests to enjoy breakfast in their their own room. Fancy a full Irish? You can still get hot options room-serviced to your door, too.
The gorgeous Moher Cottage café and gift shop in Liscannor in County Clare ramped up their online store during the lockdown period, offering their loyal guests artisan Burren crafts and treats (homemade fudge by owner Caitríona Considine is a definite basket-add tip). Now back open, it’s an itinerary must-stop when en route to the Burren and Cliffs of Moher Geopark.
The food-truck turned café model is an emerging trend in Ireland. The latest (literally this past week) is Grálinn, run by duo Matteo Griscti and Dee Kelly, who share a pedigree in pop-up catering and have made the post-lockdown break from Dublin to their new café in Fethard-on-Sea, County Wexford. Expect to enjoy baked goods with luscious locavore ingredients which only set to compliment this increasingly eclectic nook of the Sunny Southeast.
The Cliff Group have been innovating their model during lockdown from online stores to luxury breakfast meal kits, but with the reopening, all eyes are on their private use Residences, not least their new Cliff Beach House in Ardmore, County Waterford. Rates from €550 per night buy a six- bedroom coastal haven straight from Architectural Digest with highlights including a baby grand piano and floor-to-ceiling windows which offer the ultimate in-out flow to those Celtic Sea views.