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Bargain Breaks -Last Minute Easter Deals!

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Pól Ó Conghaile

Pól O Conghaile is an award-winning journalist and author.
Based in Dublin, he has written for Conde Nast, Observer/Guardian, all major Irish broadsheets, Cara Magazine and The Globe and Mail, amongst other publications. Pól specialises in travel and features, contributes widely to national radio and TV, and was voted Irish Travel Journalist of the Year in 2003, 2004 and 2008.

Pól is the author of That's My Baby! (Poolbeg; €12.99) and Bar Secrets Dublin (Shopping Secrets; €7.99). In 2009, he was the updating writer on Concierge.com's Dublin guide, and worked on the 'Day in the Life' series with the Irish Independent. In 2005, he co-founded and edited the online travel magazine, explore.ie.

As well as his published work, Pól is a regular contributor to shows on RTE Radio One, Today FM, 2FM, Newstalk FM and TV3. With travel experience that has taken him from Emo to Ethiopia, he also works with several high-profile public and private clients, and is available as a commentator, consultant and copywriter.

In 2008, Pól travelled to Mozambique with photographer and filmaker Kim Haughton. Their short film, 'The Stolen Generation', documents the lives of a family who have lost their parents to HIV/AIDS, and won Best Documentary at the inaugral Corona Fastnet Short Film Festival.
Travel: Easter Breaks

We're looking at value for money holidays around the 32 counties of Ireland!


These breaks come under the headings: Adventure, Family, Couples, Seniors

An Adventure Holiday: Surfing in Clare

Surfing is one of the fastest growing sports in Ireland, and April is an ideal time to hit the waves - not too cold, good surf, not too crowded. Most schools nowadays are doing lessons (including board and wetsuit hire) for around €25, with child and family rates. Get up, fall down, get wet. It's fun.

Where:

In Clare, the sickle-shaped strand at Lahinch is best for beginners, and down the road at Spanish Point you'll find brown-sugar sands for all ages. Beyond that, child-friendly attractions range from Craggaunowen to Bunratty Castle and Moher Hill Farm to dolphin-watch boats on the estuary.

Where to Stay:

Carrygerry House (061 360500; carrygerry.ie) is a family-friendly country house in Newmarket on Fergus, with two nights B&B from €149, including one dinner or 2 nights B&B, €99 per person sharing (www.justgo.ie )

Old Ground Hotel in Ennis (flynnhotels.com; 065 682-8127) has 2B&B and 1 dinner for €280 in total, in a family room.

Moore Bay Holiday Homes: 1 week self-catering, €250: sleeps 5 so - €50 each for one week accommodation in 4 star holiday home. (www.justgo.ie )

A Family Break: Explore Donegal

Chocolate Buffet, Co. Donegal

Nothing puts pay to Lent quite like a chocolate fix. And a chocolate fix is exactly what you'll get if you visit Lough Eske Castle, Donegal's only five-star hotel, this Easter. Its Chocolate Buffet is a collection of decadent desserts (think specialty cakes, ice-cream, cookies and delicate truffles) available every Sunday from April 4th. There's no need to pick and choose either - a flat €12 allows you to eat as much as you like, though we can't be responsible for any Wonkaesque after effects.

Details: 074 972-5100; solislougheskecastle.ie. €12/€6.


The Slieve League peninsula is one of Ireland's great hidden gems, kind of like an under-the-radar version of the Ring of Kerry (i.e. minus the tour buses). Highlights include Donegal town, Killybegs, Fintra Beach, the Gaeltacht and the Slieve League cliffs themselves - plummeting 600m into the Atlantic.


Donegal Bay Waterbus: Take a boat trip of Donegal bay, the islands and seal colony. Cruise some of the historic areas including views of Donegal Abbey, Magherbeg Abbey, Ballyboyle, Hassans, th e famine causeway at Saint Ernan's...

(www.donegalbaywaterbus.com 074 97236666; it's an 80 min cruise and it costs €15/€5, though should be booked in advance)

Where to Stay:

Harvey's Point (074 972-2208; harveyspoint.com) as a 4-star.

Ard Na Breatha (ardnabreatha.com) was Georgina Campbell's guesthouse of the year last year (it has 3B&B plus one dinner from €139pps).

The Mill Park Hotel in Donegal town (millparkhotel.com) has 3B&B and 1D from €109pp spring offer.

A Couples Getaway: Westport, Co. Mayo

Where:-

Overlooking Clew Bay, in the shadow of Croagh Patrick, Westport's chemistry lies in a spectacular setting with a continental buzz and lively streets.

Events:-

Easter Walking Festival (April 3-6), includes two days walking, 3 nights accommodation and one dinner for €260pps. Walks are moderate/easy or hard/strenuous on both days.

Eat out at Quay Cottage (098 26412; quaycottage.com), Kirstin and Peter MacDonagh's charming seafood restaurant. It's pricey in a mid-range sort of way, but a quality evening out.

Walk - moseying around the cheerful streets and shopfronts is a time-honoured Westport activity - one of the few planned towns in Ireland, Westport was designed in the 18th century by James Wyatt. The Mall is pretty, so too the river, and all roads lead to Matt Molloy's pub.

Nearby, you can go fishing in Clew Bay, climb Croagh Patrick, surf at any number of beaches, or try a blast from the past and visit The Céide Fields (tel: 96 43325) and Knock Shrine (tel: 094 88100).

Westport House and Country Estate (098 25430; www.westporthouse.ie) is an 18th-century historic home where Killary Adventure takes up residency in summer.

Where to Stay:-

Knockranny House Hotel & Spa (tel: 098 28600; www.khh.ie ) is a relatively recent, and certainly plush, addition to Westport's accommodation repertoire. 4-star, with fine dining at La Fougère. Midweek, it has 2B&B + 1D from €159pp (add a spa treatment for €189pp). Same for €179pp weekends.

Castlecourt Hotel Resort (098 55088; castlecourthotel.ie) has 2B&B plus 1D midweek for €100pps, or €199pps on weekends (based on next week).

Harbour Mill apartments (theharbourmill.com has three nights in a 1-bed courtyard suite from €236 at weekends. Would suit a couple, views of Croagh Patrick, also have a sauna/steamroom.

For more information on Pól:
poloconghaile.com
twitter.com/poloconghaile
poloconghaile.com/blog

Bargain hunting Tips:-

For last minute deals in Ireland: www.justgo.ie

Irelandhotels.com (IHF booking website, with special offers)
Go for 2 B&B plus 1 dinner deals (i.e. as all-inclusive as possible)

Easter Days Out:-

Racing Home for Easter, Co. Cork

Fancy egging on some gee-gees this Easter? If so, head to Mallow for the three-day (April 3-5) Easter festival at the Cork Racecourse. Jump racing is scheduled for Saturday, with a mixed card on Sunday and Monday. As well as the racing, however, the racecourse is laying on kid's activities, a charity cycle, a battle of the bands, food and craft fair and live music events. Ladies have an excuse to break out the Easter bonnets too, in the Best Dressed Ladies Competition - first prize: €2,010.

Details: 022 50207; corkracecourse.ie. €15/€9; €30 for a three-day ticket.


Samhlaíocht Arts Festival, Co. Kerry

Tralee's annual arts shindig - a smorgasbord of street theatre, photography, poetry and dance - takes place over the Easter weekend (April 3-5). This year's theme is 'Legends', and culminates in the Easter Arts Parade, a sea of coloured costumes spilling from all over the Kingdom and ending in a fireworks extravaganza. If there are kids in tow, check out the Bumble Bee Festival, where the youngsters can create 3-D pictures, make a wormery, model clay and even learn circus skills.

Details: 066 712-9934; samhlaiocht.com. Children's workshops cost €5.

W5, Belfast

Ever rolled eggs down a hill? W5, Belfast's interactive discovery centre for kids, will take that Easter tradition and raise it one rocket car and a treacherously-sloped obstacle course. If that doesn't distract you, the alien invasion taking place elsewhere in the building will. Your task? Hatch one of the alien eggheads and race it across the W5 Egg Racing Galaxy (taking care to avoid the swirling black hole vortex). We're not sure what to make of it all either, but it sure beats roast lamb.

Details: +44 (0)28 9046 7700; w5online.co.uk. €8.24/€5.88.

Birr Castle, Co. Offaly

If you can stand the egg-citement, get down to Birr Castle this Easter Saturday, where a hunt for hand-painted eggs is scheduled to get underway. Afterwards, kids swap their haul with the Easter Bunny, and receive chocolate eggs and other sweets in return.

Details: 057 912-0336; birrcastle.com. Tickets cost €9/€7.

Aillwee Cave, Co. Clare

Ireland's best-known showcave is running a treasure trail for children on both Easter Sunday and Monday. Each child gets a Treasure Trail Map, scampers off to solve the puzzles, and claim their eggs on completion. Afterwards, check out the chicks at the Birds of Prey Centre.

Admission: 065 707-7036; aillweecave.com. Family tickets from €39.

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