BRITISH AIRWAYS LAUNCHES MENTORING FLIGHT OPPORTUNITY

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 19: A presentation is given to BA Loyalty programme winners from small and medium businesses at British Airways Vanguard House on August 19, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Ian Gavan/Getty Images for British Airways)

A presentation is given to BA Loyalty programme winners from small and medium businesses at British Airways Vanguard House on August 19, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Ian Gavan/Getty Images for British Airways)

As airline research reveals the real value of mentoring, plus differences in how the sexes approach it

As part of British Airways’ re-launch of its On Business loyalty programme for businesses, the airline is set to host a mentoring flight on October 20 to Austin, Texas – the heartland of innovation in the USA – for three lucky business owners in Northern Ireland.

On the flight, the winners will have mentoring sessions with Josh Baer and Steve Welch from the Austin-based Capital Factory, known as the center of gravity for start-ups in the United States. Josh and Steve are both experienced entrepreneurs and mentoring experts that have helped hundreds of businesses develop and grow.

The winners will have their undivided attention for the duration of the ten hour flight to discuss and solve a business challenge they’re facing.

The flight comes as the airline releases research conducted with 175 of its top customers in to the value of mentoring.

The top findings revealed:

  • 97 per cent said mentoring added real value and 82 per cent agreed it helped boost their business.
  • 53 per cent of men said they were a mentor, compared to 39 per cent of women
  • 20 per cent of women will organise mentoring for themselves versus just 8 per cent of men
  • 84 per cent of women want mentoring for career development and improving performance at work versus 71 per cent of men
  • 8 per cent more men than women want mentoring to help them run a business and 4 per cent more want it to help them build relationships
  • 83 per cent conducted their mentoring face-to-face
  • The top names that people wanted to be mentored by included Barak Obama, Warren Buffet, Alex Ferguson, Joanna Lumley, Tim Cook and the Dalai Lama

Business owners interested in making the most of this mentoring opportunity can go to www.ba.com/flywithleaders to submit a pitch to explain why working with the Capital Factory would help transform their company.

Andrew Crawley, British Airways’ chief commercial officer, said: “British Airways’ On Business loyalty programme benefits both the company and the individual, by enabling the business to save money on flights and the flyer to collect Avios and tier points.

“The British Airways’ Mentoring Flight will give a lucky group of specially selected SMEs the once in a lifetime opportunity to receive brilliant business support through two amazing mentors from one of the world’s best business incubators, the Capital Factory.

“Based in one of the fastest growing cities in the US, with an unrivalled reputation for helping businesses start up and grow, there’s no better placed organization to mentor SMEs than the Capital Factory.“

Joshua Baer, the founder and executive director of Capital Factory, said: “I’m really looking forward to meeting the winners of British Airways’ competition on the flight. Mentoring at 35,000ft will be a new experience for me, but all that dedicated quiet time on the flight will definitely deliver results.

“There has never been a better time to connect the number one start-up city in the U.S. with the number one start-up city in Europe and sinceBritish Airways established a direct flight between Austin and London we are seeing more Austin companies doing business across the pond and vice-versa.

“Meeting face-to-face is a really important part of that but budgets are tight for start-ups, so making your finances go further and work harder by joining schemes like On Business makes perfect sense.”

On Business has saved firms £34m on travelling to do business face-to-face and the re-vamped programme will now enable travellers to choose between an immediate discount of at least five discount on selected flights or On Business points that can be used towards future trips and upgrades.

On Business members can enjoy:

  • The flexibility to choose between earning points on flights or having a cash discount
  • More flights to collect and redeem on, by flying on British Airways, American Airlines and Iberia. There will also be more reward flights available. Customers who are members of the British Airways Executive Club and Iberia Plus can also earn Avios from their flights
  • A new three-tiered programme, with each tier related to the amount spent on flights in a year, rather than distance travelled. The higher the tier, the greater the points towards reward flights.
  • A simplified earn and spend, so customers can now earn on the money they spend on each flight rather than the number of sectors flown.
  • Discounts on ba.com/ib.com/aa.com, with exclusive news and member-only offers to boost points and savings

 

Companie

s can join On Business for free and read more about the programme on: www.ba.com/onbusiness

Coronation Street cast members Katie McGlynn (aka Sinead Tinker), Bruno Langley (Todd Grimshaw), Sair Khan (Alya Nazir) and Mikey North (Gary Windass) got the Club Class treatment from Irish Ferries chef Ronnie Crosbie when they visited the cruise ferry Ulysses recently to give their support to the popular ‘Soaps Tour’ being organised by the ferry company in partnership with Maynooth-based Celtic Horizon Tours.

Coronation Street cast members Katie McGlynn (aka Sinead Tinker), Bruno Langley (Todd Grimshaw), Sair Khan (Alya Nazir) and Mikey North (Gary Windass) got the Club Class treatment from Irish Ferries chef Ronnie Crosbie when they visited the cruise ferry Ulysses recently to give their support to the popular ‘Soaps Tour’ being organised by the ferry company in partnership with Maynooth-based Celtic Horizon Tours.

CORRIE CAST DROPS IN ON IRISH FERRIES ‘SOAPS TOUR’ 
Coronation Street cast members Katie McGlynn (aka Sinead Tinker), Bruno Langley (Todd Grimshaw), Sair Khan (Alya Nazir) and Mikey North (Gary Windass) got the Club Class treatment from Irish Ferries chef Ronnie Crosbie when they visited the cruise ferry Ulysses recently to give their support to the popular ‘Soaps Tour’ being organised by the ferry company in partnership with Maynooth-based Celtic Horizon Tours.

Attracting over 3,000 passengers since its inception last April, the popular tour brings fans on a guided visit to the sets used in both Coronation Street and Emmerdale productions.

Seen as an ideal birthday, anniversary or get-away gift for Corrie fans and lovers of the English countryside, the €239 package includes return coach pick-up and ferry crossing, coupled with two nights bed and breakfast at a three star Manchester hotel. The tour continues until October next.

 

For further information and bookings visit: http://www.irishferries.com/uk-en/celtic-horizon-soaps-tour/

FOOD FOR THOUGHT!

According to a leading financial institution, after rent, students spend most of their money on food so as thousands of students across Northern Ireland digest their results, ferry company Stena Line is planning ahead by offering one lucky learner the chance to win the contents of a fridge crammed with delicious snacks and brain-boosting food.  Not only that, with Stena Line, students travel for free with every car and driver fare – which start from as little as £79 single.  That means the driver can fill all available seats in the car with students at no extra cost (for travel between 14th August – 31st October, book by 30th Sept).  Hungry for the fridge full of food is student, James Stewart, but his Mum, Anya, already feels like a winner as she gets to fill her car full of students for free.  For more information on Stena Line’s students go free fare or for details of how you can win a fridge full of food, log onto www.stenaline.co.uk.

According to a leading financial institution, after rent, students spend most of their money on food so as thousands of students across Northern Ireland digest their results, ferry company Stena Line is planning ahead by offering one lucky learner the chance to win the contents of a fridge crammed with delicious snacks and brain-boosting food. Not only that, with Stena Line, students travel for free with every car and driver fare – which start from as little as £79 single. That means the driver can fill all available seats in the car with students at no extra cost (for travel between 14th August – 31st October, book by 30th Sept). Hungry for the fridge full of food is student, James Stewart, but his Mum, Anya, already feels like a winner as she gets to fill her car full of students for free. For more information on Stena Line’s students go free fare or for details of how you can win a fridge full of food, log onto www.stenaline.co.uk.

Survey reveals STEW-dents spend most of their money on … food

According to a leading financial institution, after rent, students spend most of their money on food followed by eating out, utility bills, alcohol and clothes.

So as thousands of students across Northern Ireland digest their results, Stena Line has come up with a delicious way to help them stretch their budgets which will also get the thumbs up from the bank of Mum and Dad – the jam-packed contents of a fridge*.

Marc Casey, Route Marketing Manager Irish Sea North, Stena Line, said: “With 3rd level education so expensive these days we think it’s only fair that students can save a few pounds. Not only that, with Stena Line, students travel for free with every car and driver fare – which start from as little as £79 single.

That means the driver can fill all available seats in the car with students at no extra cost (for travel between 14th August – 31st October, book by 30th Sept).
“It’s also essential that students look after themselves so they have the best chance of success, which is where a good diet comes in.”

A study conducted by Northumbria University in England proved that students performed better on simple math tests by drinking dark chocolate shakes and if students eat the right foods they can also improve memory, alertness and focus. Marc continued: “To help students in Northern Ireland graduate with flying colours, we are offering them the chance to win the contents of a fridge, packed with healthy, brain boosting foods, as well as some student favourites.

This will offer Mum and Dad peace of mind as they won’t need to worry about their hard working kids eating well plus they save money getting their kids to and from college or university, when they travel with Stena Line. “And don’t forget that transporting things like TVs, lots of heavy books, clothes, guitars, games consoles, costs zero as Stena Line don’t charge for excess baggage.”

To win the contents of a fridge, visit Stena Line’s website and guess the amount of money it has taken to stock the fridge full of favourite student snacks and IQ boosting nosh. “The student who wins will have a fridge full of food to enjoy and more money to spend on books, travel or clothes”, continued Marc. Don’t worry if you’re not a winner as Stena Line has listed some brain boosting food tips to help students succeed:

·Stay alert with vitamin E filled almonds which offer a better alternative than a chocolate bar or sugar-filled energy drink plus you can avoid the ‘crash’ often associated with sugar rich snacks. All animal by products such as fish, meats, dairy, and eggs are packed with protein.

· Improve your focus and reach for a berry snack instead of a coffee. Studies have shown that blueberries in particular are able to increase concentration and memory for up to five hours.

· A good memory is every student’s friend so help to boost it by eating cold water fatty fish, such as salmon. This is said to not only help you to improve memory retention, but can also protect you from diseases such as dementia as they contain high levels of essential fatty acids.

 

Stena Line is planning to take hundreds of new and returning students back to their chosen campuses via their Belfast to Liverpool and Cairnryan routes, but where in the UK is the most economical place to be a student? According to the same report, Edinburgh (4), Dundee (6) and Glasgow (9) all feature in the top 10 cheapest cities to be a student with Liverpool taking the number 13 place.

Book now and take a car full of students for free at www.stenaline.co.uk and guarantee a great travel deal today. *Students will win vouchers to the value of the contents of the fridge

The Grand Canal-Barrow Line, County Kildare.

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Ireland has many inland waterways and a lot of us have never really discovered just how beautiful they can be. So I decided recently to take a trip from Rathangan to Sallins along the Grand Canal- Barrow Line in County Kildare.

 

I booked my traditional barge with www.Canalways.ie in Rathangan near Kildare. Canalways philosophy is to provide pure escapism from the normal hum drum of life, its all about slowing down who you are and embracing a much quieter pace of life, well down to about 4 miles an hour, the gentle ticking of a diesel engine as you potter along a little used canal.

 

A trip along this canal is about having no set time to be somewhere, no set time to do anything, if you want to stop you can and just tie up to the river bank and watch the crane flies and listen to the birds.

There is no need for Wi-Fi here as the beautiful countryside provides all the images and videos you will ever need. Kingfisher and Herron line the banks of the canal as though to welcome you past their home, mallards and wagtails and swifts greet you with a cheerful song as you glide along under them. It’s a truly magical place.

My barge, “River Dancer” was a traditionally built canal barge and it boasted

2 double berths, one fixed, with sprung mattress (a rare find), in the stern cabin and the dinette at the front converted into a double or two single berths.

 

IMG_3309IMG_3300There is a central bathroom and galley. If you need it, there is conventional central heating and a cosy turf-burning stove for those spring and autumn cruises. Barges are by nature a narrow boat and they are compact, but trust me great fun too.

 

It’s certainly a luxury boat for two and compact boat for 4 adults. No licence is required to cruise on the Inland waterways of Ireland and although previous boating experience is helpful, it’s not essential. If you are a complete novice then you might want to stay on the Grand Canal, as it is known for still water and ease of navigation.

If you feel like more of a challenge and this is more for the boating enthusiast, The Barrow River is more challenging, with fluctuating water levels and currents, unguarded weirs, it does require boat-handling skills.

 

Karin the owner will give all newcomers to the barges a short course in boat handling before you leave and you will feel right at ease.

 

Slow down your life

I can guarantee that after half a day on a barge you will feel like a different person, you will have chilled out, calmed down and what once was a worry to you will be a distant memory. This part of Ireland is serene, blissfully quiet and beautifully green, and as you progress up the canal you will notice the river reeds bow to you as though they were Chinese soldiers bowing to a visiting dignitary.

IMG_3303

IMG_3294 IMG_3293River dancer was very easy to handle, despite the fact steering is done from the rear you will be surprised how easy it is to get used to this type of steering set up. The boats are steered by a tiller at the stern and unlike driving a car the tiller operates in the opposite direction to the way you want to go; push to the right to make the boat swing to the left and visa versa. This might sound confusing but you soon get the hang of it. While driving you are standing outside enjoying the elements. Many hirers state that they have never slept as well as when on a barge due to all the fresh air or maybe the Guinness!

Each boat comes with an RYA booklet on board  ” Practical Course in Inland Cruising”, this is your essential reference book and contains all you need to know about barging.

www.Canalways.ie offers a personal service to all of its customers. And the owner is passionate about people having a great time. Canalways was set up by Karin Klinkenbergh and Michael Hoey who got their inspiration from an Irish T.V. Documentary Series about taking an original Barge, ‘45M’, laden with a cargo of beer and bricks along the Grand Canal, from Dublin to Limerick.They both wanted to re-capture that unique way of life, as travelling by barge portrayed and offers this experience to others…hence Canalways was ‘born’.

 

Humble Beginnings

From very humble beginnings Canalways has grown and now attracts people from far-flung corners of the world; Alexander in New Zealand, Harjavalta in Finland, Seattle in North America…all coming to enjoy life drifting along Ireland’s Inland Waterways.

Later Karin discovered that her paternal Great Grandparents owned a Barge company in Doordrecht, Holland, so she has Canal Water in her blood and its clear this was her true inspiration.

 

Taking a barge is not only a great way to relax but it’s a great place from which to paint, watch wildlife, take some amazing pictures or simply lie back and relax and let your worries float away. You see being on a barge let’s you select the pace and speed of your journey, you would be mad

to go a full throttle, as you will miss so much.  For me I was able to sit at the bow and watch thousands of fish swim by as I just sat in the sunshine and watched the world pass me by.

It’s a great place for contemplation of the heart and sole and its especially good for couples, well so long as you get on. When you get on board take off your watch, turn off the phone and just relax as you listen to the ripples of water kiss the side of the barge as you gently meander up the canal. One thing many people fear are the canal locks, they can be daunting if you don’t know what you are doing but in your guide book you will have the numbers of the lock keepers and they will “keep you on the right track”.

They will give you all the right advice to keep you safe and once you have mastered your first lock then you will look forward to the rest with excitement and fun. It’s hard to believe the engineering of a lock has not changed in over 200 years and nothing has been designed to compete with it.

All in all a traditional barge on the Grand Canal- Barrow Line in County Kildare is a real treat of a holiday and if you ge the opportunity take it with both hands. I truly loved it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cheap Caravaning, I think not !

silvercove-holidaypark Whoever said caravanning was a cheap holiday is, in my humble opinion not exactly telling it as it is.

Recently I tried out a Caravan holiday at Silvercove Caravan Park in Kilkeel. Kilkeel is a popular tourist spot and there are a number of Caravan parks for both Statics and Touring vans. Statics are what we normally refer to, as Mobile Homes and touring vans are the traditional type of van that is towed behind a car etc.

Silvercove is known as a static caravan park and some of the caravan owners have been visiting there for years. Butchers, bakers and well not so many candlestick markers but they all love the atmosphere and that’s why they keep coming back and back. Small play park on site shop, recycling centre, activities over the summer, it’s really a place that is hard to beat, so if you are considering a static van or just want to visit check out: www.facebook.com/silvercoveholidaypark

Fsilvercove,park,kilkeelor those people who have a few more pounds in their pocket than me, they can spend as much as £30,000 for the latest three-bedroom offering with all the mod cons and £1500 a year site fees. Now that’s not what I call a cheap holiday.

But the peace and tranquillity you get is well worth the spend. And just a little reminder, if you take out a Static Caravan at Silvercove, your first year’s fees will be waived.

Another wonderful event site managers Fiona and Darwin organise is the most improved pitch or site, this event encourages the site residents to improve their pitches with decking, flowers and general appearance etc and improves the surroundings for all the guests, winners then get reduced fees for next year too.

The high price of a home from home is not just as bad for the touring caravan, but they still can cost a pretty bob or two. Touring caravans come with single or double wheel configuration, most cars can tow a single wheel config and jeep, 4×4, and large vehicles can pull the double wheel types.

IMG_3354Although I have a jeep type vehicle I had a single wheel type caravan with me.  My van, an Elddis Typhoon, is not new but she is just fine for me. Cooker, fridge, shower and on-board loo, mean you can be self-contained, wherever you go.

 

I dream of something like the Elddis Crusader Storm, 4 berth and it comes in at £25,494 on the road, including a delivery charge of over £400. There is admittedly a lot of Vat included in that price which goes straight to David Cameron and the likes.

 

3542-JUY_5506_10cmsThe Crusader Storm is a twin-axle model with transverse fixed bed and luxurious end bathroom to the rear. A superb and spacious option for couples and families alike. But at that sort of money it’s a tad well a long way out of my range but I continue to dream.

 

Beautiful Friday evening.

I arrived Silvercove on a beautiful Friday evening in July, probably the only one we have had this July! I towed my van down to Kilkeel as the GI Jive festival was on and set it up at my pitch, dropped the stabilising legs and hey presto I was sorted.

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Silvercove superb toilet facilities

No hotel fees for me, I had everything I needed. Electric hooked up and mains water connected and I was in my element. I don’t use a TV in my caravan and I’m going to keep it that way, as you may be surprised to learn that there is an awful lot of good radio out there to listen to.

When using a touring caravan most of us have a cassette chemical toilet, but when visiting touring sites like Silvercove. The toilet and shower blocks are oh so important!

Generally your entrance fee covers the toilets and showers or site fees and they do save you a lot of bother. So Caravaners will know the best sites to use because of the great facilities on offer. Silvercove was I’m glad to say excellent. Their toilet facilities were warm, exceptionally clean and the showers had piping hot water and clean shower curtains. This site even had an up-to-date cleaning schedule on the rear of the door. So full marks to Silvercove.

IMG_2829As I sat in my touring caravan on this tranquil site yards from the beech at Killkeel, I watched kids play quietly in the play park and families enjoyed each others company as they talked from their bespoke decking and were gently lit by their solar powered butterfly lights.

There is little doubt that when you visit a caravan park, you do leave the normal world behind and enter a place of tranquillity and harmonious holidaying. A site like Silvercove really does embrace core values of acceptable behaviour. Kids must be indoors by 11-30pm, no crazy parties, no outside ‘flegs”, just good old-fashioned friendliness, where everyone gets on and has a great time.

I can tell you that my time spent at Silvercove was superb, I loved it and I for one will be back again and again, well if the managers have a pitch for me?

 

Contact  www.milnholidayparks.com
or www.facebook.com/silvercoveholidaypark
Tel 028 4176 3136

 

A TRUE CALEDONIAN DISCOVERY

DSC_0157There are few places on earth that hold on to a story like the Loch Ness Monster, which apparently lives in one of the deepest and longest lochs in Scotland.

As someone who loves boats, I thought that the month of June 2015 would be a great time to try and see if I could find this elusive creature for myself along with some other fascinating wildlife along the Great Glen. Living as I do in Northern Ireland I had to get across the pond to Scotland. And this time I chose to use the Belfast Stena Line Belfast service.

 

 

The Stena Line Belfast to Cairnryan service offers a direct link from Northern Ireland to Scotland on the Stena Superfast VII and Stena Superfast VIII from as little as £10*day return for foot passengers or for single car and driver from £79 (when you book 60 days in advance based on an economy crossing for a car and driver)The crossing time is approximately 2 hrs 15 mins with a choice of up to six sailings a day.

Experience the various lounges and Taste restaurant onboard the ships as well as the Curious George kids play area and POD Lounge with iPads and Xboxes so you can stay connected throughout your journey. Customers can upgrade to the luxurious Stena Plus lounge while onboard and indulge in a wide selection of complimentary snacks and beverages or indulge in the Pure Nordic Spa where you can make the most of the only Jacuzzi and sauna on the Irish Sea from £10 per person.

Copyright Frank Lose

Copyright Frank Lose

Those looking to book a Superfast Suite cabin for their crossing can do so from £20 per cabin.  Upgrade to Stena Plus from £12 per person single.

To make a booking, click on www.stenaline.co.uk, call Stena Line on 08447 70 70 70, or visit your local travel agent.

*£10 day return including coach transfers to Glasgow, available on selected dates from January to December. For the lowest fares, passengers should travel off peak, Tuesday –Thursday and book online at least 60 days before departure.

 

 

Loch ness is one of the largest Lochs, which divides the north of Scotland in a diagonal line from Fort IMG_2612William to Inverness. There is little doubt Loch Ness or “Ness” as it’s known, is indeed long, 23 miles long and it is pretty deep too, for in places it drops to some 600 feet.  

Dark peaty water makes visibility somewhat problematic, well except for the creatures that lurk in the deep.

 

Rather than hire a little boat, I felt something more substantial would be far more appropriate, just in case “Nessy” decided to pay me a visit. I decided therefore to take a wildlife tour along the Loch with Caledonian Discovery. Www.caledonian-discovery.co.uk.

Caledonian-discovery run a number of cruises and boats up and down the Loch, and there are a plethora of trips to choose from. There are

DSC_0179walking cruises where you can walk the 70 odd miles of the great glen, wildlife cruises where a botanist and wildlife expert will answer your questions, and more importantly point out the Buzzards, Eagles, Ospreys and Feral mountain goats, show you some amazing flora and fauna that are native only to this part of the world and teach you about the geology of the area.

If that sounds all to classroom botany classy for you don’t worry its hands on out in the great outdoors. If you feel less active then fear not there are plenty of other trips you can consider. Canoeing, wild Loch swimming, cycling, dingy sailing or simply sitting on deck in the glorious sunshine and soaking up the amazing surroundings.

IMG_2611I joined my Caledonian-discovery cruise at Fort Augustus and for my first day I was intrigued to see the majesty of 5 locks which dropped our craft, a 45 meter Belgium built barge over 40 feet and into the mouth of Loch Ness, which was our mooring overnight before our cruise along the first part of Loch Ness.

Dinner on the Ross Crana is served in the capacious dining room and is taken with the crew; this gives everybody an opportunity to discuss the day’s activities and sightings and an opportunity for Martin the Captain, to discuss the day just finished, and agree the itinerary for tomorrow.

Agreement

IMG_3240On many cruises the captain decides the ports to visit and the passengers go along with that. This cruise is inherently passenger led and far more customer focused. The Skipper tells us what’s ahead on the route and gives the passengers the opportunity to choose their preferred activities.

If it’s canoeing, sailing, walking, cycling or even swimming you will be accommodated. And that is the beauty of this well planned and thought out cruise.

No matter what your activity, you will have a seamless transfer to shore, sea, Loch or boat all carried out by the very experienced crew. Silently a motor rib will be alongside the Ross Crana and canoes will appear ready to be boarded.
DSC_0093On my second morning were treated to great Scottish porridge or delightful kedgeree delightfully cooked and prepared by “Tree” our expert chef. Who then produced what can only be described as a smorgasbord of delights. If you want to know what it contained then you have to book a cruise. See www.caledonian-discovery.co.uk 

After breakfast we set sail at a hearty 4 miles an hour along what is known as the rough side of Loch Ness to spot some wildlife.

Nick Picozzi our resident wildlife expert pointed out common buzzard, osprey, kite, feral mountain goat and a few other creatures to boot. We then moored across the right hand side of Loch ness in a little mooring known as Foyers. Nick then led the ramble up the side of Loch Ness to a waterfall known as the “Falls of Foyers”.

DSC_0185After a delightful lunch prepared and served by what should be the Michelin Star “Tree”, we were treated to a gentle cruise down the Loch spotting wildlife in abundance.
Three hours and lots of sunshine later we moored at Doughgarragh on the upper side of the Loch.

Here we were treated to another wildlife walk from Nick who pointed out unseasonably late bluebell and various plants that I could not even spell, let alone pronounce. More buzzard, osprey and cormorant and we were fast becoming potentials to replace David Attenborough.

Another sumptuous dinner from “Tree” fresh Sole with a green dill salsa Verdi, roasted sweet potato cubes and a sticky toffee pudding to die for, we were just able to add some delightful red wine and a selection of cheese. Surly after all this open air and sunshine it was time for bed. Indeed it was.

 

Cabins
gallery-12 gallery-11Accommodation on board was superb our compact cabins were expertly designed to maximise space, a full sized power shower was a real treat.

A double bed and single above provided great sleeping facilities and there was even room for the suitcase too!

 

 

IMG_2612The following morning we were off to Inverness and after a bite of lunch at the locks at Inverness we were to head for the salt water of the Moray Firth and the Beauly Firth.

 

Now we were in the briny sea and again the weather had astounded most on board, including Gwen our antipidiean fellow traveller. She was finding it warm enough to remove her thermal layers.

 

For the rest of us the factor 50 was out for the amazing weather we were experiencing. So much so that an excess of 22 degrees caught a lot of us by surprise.

Mooring in the Beauly firth just of the coast from Moniak Castle was areal treat. The Ros Cranna sat astride the tide like a dressage horse in competition.

After another fantastic dinner of Aberdeen Angus beef slow cooked in local ale and “clooty” a Scottish suet pudding, we were set up for a great nights sleep.

But before we retired into our soothing water bed for the night, Martin our captain gave us a debrief on the day’s events and Nick covered the wildlife events of the day.

IMG_2686Thursday morning saw us travel out of the Beauly Firth and under the Kessock bridge as we went in hunt of seal, dolphin, porpoise and more bird life.

We were not disappointed and true to form dolphin made an appearance near to the coast of Fort George and enthralled us with their blow holes and acrobatics. After an hour or two sitting in the splendid sunshine we moored for dinner and were treated to a specular blessing of the haggis.

If you want to know more I suggest you book. Just remember Caledonian Discovery holiday let you wind down into ‘Highland time’. Where you can take in the spectacular scenery of the Caledonian Canal and the beautiful inland lochs of Loch Ness, Loch Oich and Loch Lochy.

 

This is a unique holiday barges experience of the finest quality. ‘Fingal of Caledonia’ and ‘Ros Crana’, will be your Scottish Highland home for the week, whilst their friendly skippers and attentive crews look after you. Its a soft adventure for people of all ages, so come and relax into the gentle world of life afloat.

Belfast’s “The Wee Tram”

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Belfast’s Wee Tram

The-Wee-Tram-logoPractically every city you visit there is a we train that runs tourists around the interesting parts. And for years I have always wondered why Norn Ireland does not have one. And I assumed quite rightly that the road service would be dead against it. For example in any other city I have been to, Taxi’s are allowed to use the bus lanes, nope not here in Belfast the only taxis that are, are Black Taxis, but I hear you scream private hire taxis do the same job. They do but the idiots in our local authorities, (who pay thugs to have bonfires on the 12th July) refuse to allow private hire Taxis to use the bus lanes, its ridiculous.

Well someone has taken on the authorities and finally won, and all I can say is well done Chris Bennett for your fortitude and determination. Chris has finally managed to get a wee tram service up and running in Belfast.

The Wee Tram is a brand-new hop-on-hop-off tour of the Titanic Quarter.  Visit the birthplace of Titanic… where you can experience the story of the shipyard… get close to giants… and rest yer wee legs!

BELUM.Y.W.10.46.44In 1912, Titanic’s builders were transported to and from the shipyard by frequent, pollution-free, electrically-powered trams. And now, in the emerging and inspiring surroundings of the Titanic Quarter, the tram is back!

 

Wee Tram passengers travel in carriages purpose-built to echo the outlines, proportions and colour schemes of the 1912 tram cars – and just like the originals, electricity provides the motive power.

 

Passengers can even echo the past themselves by wearing their very own Edwardian ‘duncher’ (the yardman’s flat cap)!

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The tram route is a ‘figure-of-eight’ continuous loop with its centre at the iconic Titanic Belfast, the world’s largest Titanic visitor attraction.

 

The route also brings you up close and personal with historic Titanic landmarks – the Drawing Offices where she was designed, the Slipways where she was built and launched, and the Thompson Dock where she was fitted-out and stood on dry ground for the last time.

 

The route also visits the host of creative new enterprises and initiatives in the area such as the Movie Studios located in an old shipyard shed, T13 Urban Sports Park, the Odyssey Arena and Pavillion, Northern Ireland Science Park and Public Records Office of Northern Ireland.

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The story of the Titanic Quarter comes to life on board. You’ll hear amazing stories of the shipyard, with photography, video material and local knowledge on screens in each tram carriage.

 

Now running daily 11am – 6pm, The Wee Tram leaves Titanic Belfast every half hour.

Tickets are valid for two days of unlimited hop-on-hop-off travel and cost £6 (adult), £5 (concession – children, students, seniors) and £20 (family – up to 2 adults/4 children).

Visitors with a valid Titanic Belfast ticket get a special discounted rate of £5 (adult), £4 (concession) and £18 (family)!

 

Simply hop on at any one of the eight stops all across Titanic Quarter, and buy tickets on board via cash or card.

 

Children must be supervised by an adult at all times. The tram is wheelchair-accessible and has rain covers, making it a great wet-weather day out!

 

For more information check out www.theweetram.com

What do the Brits think?

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LES CASTELS 2015 CUSTOMER SURVEY

1st July 2015…Les Castels, the group of premier four and five star camping sites in France has recently completed its 2015 customer survey with some ‘topical’ results as far as the British guests are concerned. As the British make up the largest number of guests to Les Castels, even more visitors than the French, the results are always closely scrutinised and the participation of more than 1,000 respondees this year, much appreciated. British, French, Dutch and German clients were questioned and the response rate was 70%.

image002It is clear to note that for the majority of clients of all nationalities the profile of Les Castels sites is just what they are looking for – a minimum four star rating, not too big a site – 250 pitches tops, and a lovely setting. Of course budget plays a part but the clients tend to expect paying the sort of rate Les Castels propose and therefore this is not an issue. Nearly all received their information about Les Castels form friends or via the Internet.

The Brits love glamping and the majority use their own tents for this, whereas if they decide to rent somewhere they plump for a mobile home or a chalet – in contrast to the Germans and French who prefer to ‘glamp’ in a mobile home.

The Brits, not surprisingly, prefer to holiday in the summer but they do take a number of holidays annually – on average three a year, like the Germans, which is high compared to the French and Dutch. Brits also book well in advance so that they are not disappointed.
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The other big difference for the Brits, they love their own space but also like to have a mixture of nationalities on site. In contrast the French prefer to pitch their tent or caravan next other French people

What are the clients looking for on a site? Only the French think that entertainment for adults or children is essential – it was not a motive to book for a Brit – facilities are – yes, but not the shows and games put on by the on-site staff. Even then the Brits were more concerned with the shower blocks etc than other services whereas essential for the Dutch and Germans is fresh baked bread every day and for the French – free WIFi!

And where do the Brits prefer to go to in France for their Les Castels holiday? Well, first choice is the Loire, closely followed by Aquitaine and Brittany.

This contrasts with the French, Germans and Dutch who plump for the southern regions first and foremost – Provence and the Riviera, Languedoc – Roussillon with the Germans the most adventurous in wanting to try a different site each year.

And best of all 99% of respondees of ALL nationalities say they will stay with Les Castels again.
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Created in 1959 Les Castels is a collection of 42 four and five star camping sites across France and is the leading provider of glamping sites.
Characterised by their outstanding sites near areas of cultural interest and outstanding natural beauty.
As a ‘Camping Qualité’ Award winner, Les Castels offers a wide choice of accommodation with everything from chalets and mobile homes to tree houses, gypsy caravans, houses on stilts and apartments and also operates a loyalty card programme for repeat customers – ‘Carte Castellissime’.

The facilities and entertainment varies from site to site, no two are alike, however one thing unifies the group as a whole is the Les Castels environmental approach. As outdoor accommodation specialists they are entirely committed to sustainable development. The accommodation is blended into the landscape as far as is possible, using light, mobile installations such as tents and caravans.

The sites are committed to supporting ongoing environmental conservation initiatives in France and two sites that have been awarded the European Ecolabel Award with 20 receiving the Green Key Award.

For more information please visit www.les-castels.com

STENA LINE ANNOUNCED AS SPONSORS OF THE TALL SHIPS VOLUNTEERS

Leading ferry company Stena

Stena Line are the official sponsors of the Tall Ships volunteers 2015 and pictured at the announcement are (L-R) Lyndsay Malone (Volunteer), Francisco Lorumbe (Volunteer), Mark Casey (Marketing Manager, Stena Line), Jo Glancy (Volunteer), Eleanor Lewis (Volunteer) and Wendy Osborne OBE (Chief Executive, Volunteer Now). To celebrate, Stena Line will be hosting a special marquee and will offer customers special deals and a prize draw.
The Tall Ships is set to be one of the most exciting maritime events of the year and over 535 volunteers have been recruited to undertake ship-specific liaison roles as well as event management, media support, customer servicing and volunteer support.

LEADING ferry company Stena Line are the official sponsors of the Tall Ships volunteers 2015.  The Tall Ships is set to be one of the most exciting maritime events of the year and over 535 volunteers have been recruited to undertake ship-specific liaison roles as well as event management, media support, customer servicing and volunteer support.

 

Marc Casey, Stena Line’s Route Marketing Manager Irish Sea North, said:  “We are proud to be sponsors of the volunteers at this year’s Tall Ships festival. It is set to be an actioned pack four days and with fantastic events and activities planned for all of the family the thousands of people expected will keep our volunteers busy.

 

“As a way of celebrating the event, Stena Line will host a marquee from July 2nd-5th and we encourage people to come and visit us as we will be running a draw to give away fantastic prizes including two Apple iPads and two Apple watches as well as return ferry crossings. Kids will be kept entertained with face painters, balloon modellers and special Maritime entertainers.

 

“Another great reason to pop along to the Stena Line marquee is that staff will be handing out leaflets that offer people the chance to avail of a fantastic deal. Between 2 – 7 July*, customers can book a return journey for one car plus two for only £199 on sailings between Belfast and Cairnryan and Belfast and Liverpool.

 

“Don’t worry if you would like to book an extra person as additional adults can travel for only £50 return whilst children are an extra £20 and infants are free of charge. If you would like some extra luxury on your journey you can book a Stena Plus lounge cabin or Superfast suite and receive a 50% reduction,” added Marc.

From 2 – 5 July 2015, over 50 tall ships from across the globe will anchor in Belfast for the start of The Tall Ships 2015 Race.  Here is a small selection of what’s planned:

 

  • The Red ArrowsThe amazing Red Arrows will do a fly past preceding the Tall Ships parade in their Hawk T1 jets, followed by an aerial display close to the stunning, Carrick Castle. Flypast will be at 11am over Titanic Belfast, followed by a full display at Carrickfergus.
  • There are many fun workshops during the festival including – World’s Smallest Kite-making Workshop where you can learn how to make a kite in your favourite colours before launching it to the breeze.  The Percussion Boat Workshop, will allow you to get hands-on and experiment with a variety of electronic and junk percussion.  The Living History Viking Workshop will provide craft displays from the Viking period and an exciting interactive experience that brings the past to life.
  • The Ulster Aviation Society’s ‘Sky Meets the Sea’ exhibit will celebrate Northern Ireland’s strong aviation link with the sea.  You can climb aboard a full-sized replica Spitfire for a photo, and enjoy other fascinating items from their huge collection.  The exhibition will take place throughout the Tall Ships Belfast event.
  • The main stage at the Odyssey Arena will feature musical performances from various artists including, The Nooks, Saffyre, the Down and Out String Band and the Broken String Band.  Plus sixteen year-old ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ pop star, Bailey McConnell, who has just finished his debut US tour.
  • The Dock Market has over 30 stalls to enjoy, packed with locally handmade products with everything from gourmet waffles and award-winning burgers to melt-in-your-mouth cupcakes and fresh bakes. There will also be stalls showcasing the very best of Belfast’s art, photography, craft and fashion so you can buy a memento for loved ones.
  • Vintage Teas and Music on SS Nomadic – Thurs 2 July – Sat 4 July, 12-4pm and Sun 5 July, 11am-4pm.   Enjoy vintage afternoon teas with period music on Titanic’s original tender ship, SS Nomadic.
  • In conjunction with the Ulster Scots Agency, Scottish Maritime Museum presents a replica 1934 canvas canoe and ‘the Vennel’, a 22ft St Ayles Skiff on display. You can see demonstrations on oar making or learn the techniques of boat building.
  • End on a high with the Tall Ships Parade of Sail when the Northern Ireland shoreline will come alive as the magnificent flotilla of ships sails out of Belfast around 12 noon. Sunday 5 July from 11am will be the best date to view the vessels ‘en masse’.

Terms and conditions: *Available on selected sailings. Travel to be completed by 17th December. Cannot be used in conjunction with any other offers. Subject to availability.

Some of the ships signed up so far for The LIDL Belfast Maritime Titanic Festival 2015 include:

 

  • Lord Nelson is owned by the charity Jubilee Sailing Trust. Lord Nelson, named after the famous British Admiral is the first of their two vessels, both of which are the only tall ships in the world that have been purpose-designed and built to enable able-bodied and physically disabled people to sail side by side and share the adventure and experience of tall ship sailing as equals.
  • Guayas is a beautiful three-masted barque. She was built in Bilbao, Spain and is named after the river on which the Ecuadorian Naval School is situated. Guayas is one of the biggest ships coming to Belfast at 79.5 metres long.
  • Sorlandet is owned and administrated by a non-profit foundation and the Sorlandet’s High protector is HRH Crown Princess Mette-Marit of Norway. Sorlandet is 56 metres long.

Santa Maria Manuela is a four masted gaff schooner initially launched in 1937, built by Companhia Uniao Fabril, in Lisbon. She began operating in cod fishing and was one of the most beautiful vessels of the so famous Portuguese White Fleet. She is 68 metres long

 

HASTINGS HOTELS UNVEILS GRAND PLANS FOR NEW HOTEL

Sir William Hastings, Chairman of Hastings Hotels today unveiled the plans for the latest addition to the leading hotel chain’s portfolio which will see a £30M investment and the creation of over 150 new jobs for Belfast.  The new hotel, which will be called the Belfast Grand Central Hotel, will boast 200 bedrooms, a restaurant and bar, 18 serviced apartments and a range of superbly appointed office accommodation when it opens in 2018.

Sir William Hastings, Chairman of Hastings Hotels today unveiled the plans for the latest addition to the leading hotel chain’s portfolio which will see a £30M investment and the creation of over 150 new jobs for Belfast. The new hotel, which will be called the Belfast Grand Central Hotel, will boast 200 bedrooms, a restaurant and bar, 18 serviced apartments and a range of superbly appointed office accommodation when it opens in 2018.

Hastings Hotels, Northern Ireland’s leading hotel chain, today unveiled its plans for the latest addition to its portfolio which will see a £30M investment and the creation of over 150 new jobs for Belfast.

 

Last month Hastings Hotels announced the purchase of Windsor House, one of the tallest buildings in Ireland, which it will transform into a 200 bedroom hotel, subject to planning permission.

 

Sir William Hastings Chairman of Hastings Hotels said: “We are delighted to unveil the plans for what will be the seventh hotel in our portfolio in Northern Ireland.

 

“This acquisition represents our biggest single investment to date of £30M and upon completion in 2018 the hotel will operate at the upper end of the 4-star market offering 200 bedrooms, a restaurant and bar, 18 serviced apartments and a range of superbly appointed office accommodation. The hotel will create over 150 new jobs.

 

“This project is a huge undertaking for Hastings Hotels and it is has only been made possible by the strength of our existing hotels portfolio and the quality of our staff and management. It will bring the number of bedrooms in our group to over 1,000 making us the largest privately owned hotel chain on the island of Ireland,” Sir William said.

 

“I am also thrilled to announce that our new hotel will be called the Belfast Grand Central Hotel. The original Grand Central, which also boasted 200 bedrooms, was built in 1893 and was the thriving hub of Victorian Belfast as well as the finest hotel in Ireland. Winston Churchill, the King of Belgium, Al Jolson, Mario Lanza and the Beatles were all guests who enjoyed its luxurious hospitality.  I am extremely proud to be able to pay tribute to this much loved property of the past by naming Belfast’s newest hotel after it.

 

“Today I can also reveal the new branding for our new hotel, which incorporates the Seahorse. The Seahorse, part of Belfast’s Coat of Arms, celebrates the City’s Maritime history.  Old photos from the Glory Days of the Grand Central show the Seahorse motif featuring on menus and plates. Our new interpretation of this classic Belfast emblem is a permanent reminder of the new Grand Central’s connection with its elegant past.

 

“The Belfast Grand Central Hotel will fulfil the requirement for much needed city centre accommodation in Belfast. Tourism in Northern Ireland continues to thrive and it is the ideal time to extend our portfolio of hotels with more high profile events coming to the city as well as an increase in business tourism which will be helped by the expansion of the Belfast Waterfront next year,” Sir William added.

 

Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister Jonathan Bell said: “I have been very impressed by Hastings Hotels vision for its new city centre hotel. This is great news for Belfast and for Northern Ireland, as the group’s continued investment is a massive vote of confidence in our tourism sector. The new hotel will add considerably to the local accommodation offering and allow Northern Ireland to capitalise further on the growing international business conference market.”

 

Belfast Lord Mayor Cllr Arder Carson said: “This is great news for the city. One of our major objectives is to double the current tourism revenue by 2020 and developments such as this one by the Hastings Hotels Group are a huge step forward towards achieving that goal.”

 

“Hastings Hotels is well known for its dedication to supporting the local economy and we have appointed WDR & RT Taggart Architects in Belfast to design the building, and once planning has been approved, we look forward to working with other local firms to build and furnish the hotel to the high standards for which our group is renowned,” Sir William concluded.