Travel with Tom Breathnach: questions and answers on travel in 2021

Tom Breathnach answers your travel questions of the week.
Travel with Tom Breathnach: questions and answers on travel in 2021

All the travel questions you have, answered by our expert.

I've just booked a family trip to Lake Garda in Italy for September. I went through a travel agent for peace of mind… but am I mad to book so soon?

You’re not! As long as you’ve booked wisely, that is. Two concerns are at play for yourself and many other holiday-makers right now: firstly, the likelihood of your holiday actually going ahead due to any pandemic plot twist, and, secondly, the security behind your payment. If you've booked through a bonded travel agent, your money is protected and they’ll do the donkey work in the event of any booking changes. Just don’t forget if your flights fly and you opt to stay at home due to tetchy feet, you may lose out with flight refunds at least.

The other issue is the million euro question of when we’ll travel overseas again. The ITAA (Irish Travel Agents Association) announced this week that it has only seen a trickle of international holiday bookings this year, suggesting that the market is still extremely cautious to take the plunge. But Stephen Donnelly’s projections this week that four million of us may receive our double jabs by the end of September may offer the consumer a little more clarity in terms of holiday scheduling. In your case, it’s a borderline timeline but with an efficient rollout, you may still see Lake Garda this autumn. Buon viaggio!

Lake Garda: Could still be on the cards for a getaway this autumn... or summer?

Lake Garda: Could still be on the cards for a getaway this autumn... or summer?

I'm getting married this summer and my fiancée and I are looking for an Irish mini-moon destination before we can hopefully fly abroad. Any suggestions for a pair of active foodies?

Congratulations! Many Irish couples gravitate towards justly popular luxury properties such as The Europe in Killarney or Ashford Castle in Co Mayo. But for something completely different, how about celebrating in Ireland’s lakeland county of… Cavan? Hear me out, Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands is likely to trend as new tourism turf this year as repeat staycationers seek destinations off the beaten track. And Cavan, with its 365 loughs, could make the ideal location for romantic lakeland wilderness vibes.

Newly opened Cabu lodges, nestled on the shores of Lough Oughter, offer pure rustic luxury with design-led interiors that look straight off a “cabin porn” book. On-site activities from kayaking to hot-tubs cater to all weather conditions too. For a second base, head to the county’s panhandle to stay and dine at the holy grail of Cavan cuisine: Neven Maguire’s renowned McNean Townhouse & Restaurant. The Prestige Menu here is one of Ireland’s great culinary experiences — but if you can’t treat yourself during a mini-moon, when can you?!

Cavan: A surprise destination for an Irish honeymoon?

Cavan: A surprise destination for an Irish honeymoon?

My husband and I are hoping to take the ferry to France this summer before travelling south to Spain. Any suggestions on how we can enjoy the wine regions without driving too much?

Like airlines, ferry companies have stepped up with more flexible booking and cancellation policies this year, allowing passengers to book with a little more confidence. When you do finally land, it’s 10hrs between Brittany and northern Spain, so I’d choose three wine regions to focus on during your stay; perhaps start by exploring the Loire Valley before driving south to Bordeaux and, finally, the Rioja region. Once at each of your bases, park up and either cycle the region's fantastic winery routes either by renting bikes or by bringing your own. Brittany Ferries is currently offering fares from Cork to Roscoff/Rosslare to Cherbourg and then returning from Bilboa to Rosslare from €900 for two adults, including a cabin.

We’re a couple looking for a summer staycation that’s low on crowds and something different to touring the Wild Atlantic Way?

You’ve probably considered this… but could I convince you to don your nautical stripes for a Shannon cruise? Had Ireland not such a spectacular coastline, our wildest waterway would be like the M50 each summer, flooded with holidaymakers. But cruising still suffers some PR misconceptions that it requires experience (it doesn’t) and that it’s expensive (it doesn’t have to be). Cruising also stacks up against many international holiday experiences and while, in poor weather, the Shannon can still make for cosy adventuring, in fine weather, the river is an Irish water wonderland.

Thanks to a buoyant staycation market last summer, rates are competitive too. Carrickcraft offers a four-night rental rate from its Banagher or Carrick-on-Shannon marinas for €610. That’s based on an entry-level vessel that comfortably sleeps two adults — or four, at a squeeze, if you convert the lounge. Don’t fear cabin fever either. The Shannon region is watermarked with awesome attractions from Clonmacnoise and Holy Island to Wineport Lodge on Lough Ree, the trendy Shed Distillery in Drumshanbo, and the Luan Gallery in Athlone. Add in some water-skiing in Lough Derg and you’ve all the pre-reqs to ebb and flow between adventure and chill.

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