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Home and Away

Friday, 7 May 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'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,

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.
Breaks at Home


The sunny-southeast is coming into its own at this time of year.


Blue flag beaches like Curracloe and Rosslare are easily accessible to visitors (Curracloe is where the opening scenes for Saving Private Ryan were filmed).

For budding twitchers, the Wildfowl Reserve is the closest point to the continent for birds migrating from a southerly direction.

Johnstown Castle Estate (053 917-5347) dates from Norman times and is today owned by Teagasc - hence the presence of the Irish Agricultural Museum (053 917-1247;; €6/€4). It's a great place for a stroll or a picnic, with strutting peacocks and 50 acres of ornamental grounds. The walled gardens open May 1st (€6 per car).

The Hook Peninsula is also well worth a mosey... from the replica famine ship Dunbrody (051 425239; to the old Hook Lighthouse (051 397502; and the JFK homestead (051 388264;

The Wexford Strawberry Festival takes place on June 24.

Where to stay

White's of Wexford ( has 2BB+1d from €109pps midweek.

Killiane Castle (053 915-8885; is a farmstead combining a castle, farmhouse and apartments. Guests can walk the beech and oak grove, play the new pitch and putt course, or even milk the cows. It has B&B from €45pp. B&B in a family room (sleeping four) is €150 per night. Self-catering apartments start at €300 per week.

Kelly's Hotel in Rosslare (053 913-2114; Rates at Kelly's currently start at €520pp for four nights midweek, including all meals and events. Its' a fab family hotel, if a little pricey.


May is the ideal time to grab the keys to the Kingdom - before the tour buses take over.


Killarney National Park is full of jaw-dropping views. Moll's Gap, Ladies' View, Torc Waterfall and Muckross House arrive in quick succession, with visitors clambering over themselves to grab the photo ops. It's Ireland as America imagines it to be. And it's free...

Skellig Michael is Ireland's Machu Picchu. A World Heritage Site, the outcrop and its beehive huts can be reached by boat from Portmagee. If the weather isn't favourable, try the Skellig Experience (066 947-6306;; €5/€3) instead. It's an interpretive centre, looking at the monks' lives, the seabirds, lighthouses and underwater life of the Skelligs.

Skelligs Trips (087 1209924; has B&B from €35pps and boat trips to Skelligs from €40, with a combined rate for the two at €70.

Kenmare, Killarney, Killorglin are all great towns for a mosey and a bite.

Crag Cave is thought to be over one million years old, and full of stalactites and stalagmites, but it also has an adventure centre for kids - Crazy Cave - next door. Contact (066 714-1244;, with rates around €10 for both.

Where to stay:

Skelligs Trips (087 1209924; has B&B from €35pps and boat trips to Skelligs from €40, with a combined rate for the two at €70.

Inverary Farm (064 664-4224; has B&B from €35pps. It's right next to the Gap of Dunloe, with smashing views over the Killarney Lakes. Good home cooking too.

In Killarney, 4-star Randles Court Clarion Hotel has 2B&B +1D from €159pps on an early bird summer offer (book now for travel in June-Sept).

Killarney Lake Hotel ( has 1B&B + 1D from €84pps.

Breaks Away

The Algarve, Portugal

The Algarve is a family-favourite for years. It's stuffed full of seafood, rocky outcrops, whitewashed villages and all the sugar-sandy beaches you could wish for. The climate is tantalising, the beaches clean, English is widely-spoken and high-chairs, kids' menus are widely available.

Hot Spots

Spots to note include Alvor (a more intimate version of neighbouring Praia de Rocha, close-knit and friendly, with a lovely harbour and several beaches)
Abulfeira (a lovely daytrip), Lagos (probably the best balance of authenticity and tourist traps).


Praia du Vao has scale (not too big, not too small); history (my Mum and Dad came on an early holiday almost a decade ago); it had personality (pliable sand, shallow caves, clear seas) and, of course, as with all the best beaches, we came back instinctively at sunset.


The Algarve has a smashing range of water parks, ranging from Aqualand (€18.50/€15; to Zoomarine (€23/€14;, which are a great option if you're after a breather from the beach. Bring sunscreen though, and use it.

Getting there

Falcon (1850 94 61 64; has 7 nights all-inclusive at the 3-star Holiday Village Algarve, Balaia, for 2 adults & 2 children from €1,436. Based on May 20 departures.

Topflight ( has 7 nights at 3-star Club Praia d'Oura from €369pp departing May 23. That jumps up to €479pp the following week.

Where to stay:

Prague, Czech Republic

It had a reputation for boozy weekends away, but Prague has grown up, and re-emerged as one of the finest (and most beautiful) city-break destinations in Europe.


Charles Bridge ranks alongside Florence's Ponte Vecchio and Budapest's Chain Bridge as the grandest in Europe, and it's at once home to canoodling lovers, cartoonists, souvenir stalls, meandering tourists and every digital camera known to mankind. It's free.

Prague Castle (and St Vitus's Cathedral), the thronged Old Town Square (with its famous astronomical clock), the ghastly TV Tower, the dubious Museum of Medieval Torture Instruments (Križovnické nám), the family-friendly Museum of Children's Drawings (

A more subtle spot is Prague's Jewish Quarter, located between the Old Town Square and Vltava River. This is a brilliantly atmospheric bundle of restaurants, antique shops and historical monuments - not to mention the childhood stomping ground of Franz Kafka.

To Kafka, Prague was "a dear little mother with claws", and there is a Kafka Museum here also.

The Communist era, naturally, remains an integral part of the city - and Prague's Museum of Communism provides the excuse to explore it. It contains an amateurish hodgepodge of busts, propaganda and mock-up of an interrogation room.
You can also see Wenceslas Square, site of demonstrations in the Velvet Revolution, and the Vaclav Havel Library.

Finally, you can make like a local and picnic on Petrin Hill. its grassy slopes distinguished by a one-fifth size replica Eifel Tower. Visitors can walk the 327m peak, or take a Victorian funicular from Malá Strana - both are rewarded by superb vistas over the city.

Getting There:
Aer Lingus ( and Ryanair ( fly direct to Prague from Dublin.

Where to Stay: has a 3 night package (flights, 3-star hotel) from €320pps.

Travel Boutique ( has a 2-night package (flights, 5-star hotel) from €450pp.

Club Travel ( has 2 nights in a 3-star from €353pp, for May 14-16.

May Bank Holiday Events

Cos Cos Sean Nos Festival
7th - 9th May
Rathcormac, Sligo

To follow on from our successful previous festivals, the Cos Cos Sean-Nós Festival 2010 will be something extra special. Bringing together some of the country's finest Sean-Nós dancers, musicians, singers, poets and storytellers. It will run over 3 days - May 7th - 9th 2010 in Rathcormac, Sligo.

Everyone is welcome so why not join us. Visiting musicians also very welcome!

Events include: 2010 Cos Cos Sean Nos Festival Children's Art Competition and Pre Festival Bunting Tea Party Wednesday May 5th 2010

Phoenix Arts Festival

8th - 9th May
Tullamore, co. Offally

Tullamore celebrates the 225th anniversary of the Great Hot Air Balloon Fire which ultimately led to the rejuvenation of the town's fortunes, rising from the ashes and becoming a central role in the Midland's economy. The events which unfolded on May 10th 1785 are widely recognised as the World's first aviation disaster, when a hot air balloon crashed and the resultant fire caused the destruction of over 100 houses.

The Phoenix Arts Festival 2010 is the 10th year of an evolving annual programme of colourful spectacles, creativity and family events which this year is centred in the spacious surrounds of the excellent Tullamore Town Park amenity.
Armagh Apple Blossom Festival

7th - 8th May
Manor Estate, Loughgall, Co. Armagh

Armagh is known as the Orchard County. Towards the north of the county every hillside is covered almost exclusively with rows of Bramley apples. In early May during the Apple Blossom event the hillsides are in full bloom with white and pink blossom that last for only a short while.

Apple Blossom Activities:
. Special Cookery Demonstration with Dorina Allen (TV Chef)
. Friday, 7th @ 7pm
. Saturday, 8th @ 11am
. Saturday, 8th @ 3pm
. Guided Walks
. Bramley Apple
. Produce to sample and buy,
. Farmers Market
. Family Fun Activities.

Admission: Dorina Allen: £15.00 (Tickets available at Armagh Tourist Information Centre, tel: 028 3752 1800)
Entry to Activities: £3, children free (Entry to all activities free when you purchase a Dorina Allen Ticket)

Other activities for the website:

Dublin Dance Festival
8th - 23rd May

Baltimore Fiddle Fair
6th - 9th May
Baltimore, Co. Cork