This week we have a new writer on the team.
Adam Jacot de Boinod worked on the first series of QI, the BBC programme compared by Stephen Fry.
He is the author of The Meaning of Tingo and Other Extraordinary Words from around the World, published by Penguin Books.


Two Pitons, Copyright “Saint Lucia Tourist Board”

Adam has kindly offered to supply some of his experiences of some beautiful and excotic destinations and this is his first offering for us.


St Lucia is steeped in history after it was fought over and colonised by the English and the French. These days America adds her custom to this heady mix of influences. Aboriginal traits also persist with the Arawak tradition of carving out the bark of a gommier tree to use as a canoe dating as far back as 200AD.


St. Lucians are a sociable lot descending on each other as neighbours over the Christmas period, They even repaint their house as an act of hospitality. Interiors are typically white while the exterior tend to be brightly coloured.

I decided to work my way up the island by road and by boat.

More than anywhere St. Lucia is best visited by being on the move. The thing to do is to change hotels every few days. For all its beauty and fecundity, the island can be quite restrictive especially if you want to stretch a leg as the beaches are small and the hillsides are steep.
Each cove (which the French called anse) is a hideaway and hotels vie to offer the most romantic setting.
St. Lucia wins the award for ‘Honeymoon island of the Caribbean’ year after year.



Courtesy of Sugar Beach, A Viceroy Resort

I descended steeply down from hills still stricken with their trees deracinated from the storm. Starting from the international airport in the south I reached the Viceroy Sugar Beach (www.viceroyhotelsandresorts.com/en/sugarbeach). This American hotel has surely secured the choice location of the island. It’s between the famous twin peaks of Gros and Petit Piton These upright, precipitous mountains reach over two thousand feet in height and are the consequence of an historic earthquake balancing its neighbouring sea with equal depth. They gave me a sense of being grounded with their majestic presence dwarfing all below. I needed to see them panoramically. From the sea as well as the land. At different angles they alternate between one being a pyramid and the other a multi-faceted shape.


At the hotel the Guyanese imported white sand works perfectly and the ‘New English’ style of the villas’ all-white interiors reinforced a sense of light, purity and space. Off to the Tet Nature Trail for a delightful wander amongst all the wonder of such a fertile island. Providence has given her pineapples, mangos, papaya, bananas, guava and plums to name a few. Sometimes they’re even growing all side by side. It’s so amazing to see all these fruits as real vegetation rather than wrapped produce. For me almonds, coffee and chocolate are the most exciting of all.


Onwards and upwards I went past two quaint looking fishing villages. At one, called Canaries, I watched chickens crossing the street and local laundry being transported on ladies’ heads and then washed in the stream in which the children splashed, sprayed and swam.


The next village along is Anse La Raye. Across the island there are specific weekly fixtures. On Friday there is a ‘Fish Friday’ evening where cooked versions of the fresh catch is offered up from the stalls specially set up along the main street beside the seafront at Anse la Reye. You can then follow it up with a ‘Jump Up’ street party in Gros Islet and then, the next day, there is ‘Fish Saturday’ in Dennery.


Onto Capella Marigot Bay (www.capellahotels.com/saintlucia)

This hotel’s location couldn’t be more idyllic as it overlooks its marina. Here I got a strong sense of the nautical character of St. Lucia as I looked around at premier yachts berthed from all over the world. The bay is known as ‘hurricane hole’ from its position on the west side of the island. It’s surrounded by mountains and experiences minimal tidal changes. Yachties tinker with their equipment and there’s a serenity in this secluded and secure haven. A serenity reflected in the philosophy of the hotel.

Copyright St James’s Morgan Bay

Copyright St James’s Morgan Bay


As I moved up the island the vegetation changes and the sand gets whiter. Next came St. James’s Morgan Bay (www.morganbayresort.com). The rooms have double balconies and it is beautifully set within the sound of lapping waves and has views of the sea offering stunning sunsets. It’s for those preferring organised entertainment. There’s a spoiling range of six restaurants and always somewhere open to eat. Le Jardin is for the fine diners while the Bamboo has fabulous seafood salads. They lent me a sailing catamaran and off I went after one lesson. How liberating! And with their rescue service how reassuring!




Copyright Cap Maison

Next and on past Castries the capital and onto Cap Maison (www.capmaison.com). This classy boutique villa resort has a Mediterranean feel. Spanish meets Moroccan. Walking beneath crenellated roofs, past trickling fountains, under vaulted brick corridors and through inner courtyards with birds twittering, I half expected to be responding to peeling church bells. It is located on the northernmost tip in Cap Estate, a highly exclusive area.


I took a trip to Pigeon Island. It is like a miniature version of the Pitons with her two humped hills. It was joined up to the mainland in the 1960s by a causeway that is now a picturesque tree-lined avenue. It’s the best spot for snorkeling and is great for hiking as I climbed up the proudly kept nature reserve to its natural look out point.


I returned back down the Atlantic coast to the accompaniment of the brightest rainbow I had ever witnessed. A magnificent send off to such a colourful island. The calm after the Matthew storm!



Adam travelled courtesy of The Holiday Place. The Holiday Place are offering holidays to St Lucia from from £719 per person, saving up to £500 per person.
Including flights and accommodation on a bed & breakfast basis.
To book call 020 7644 1770 or visit http://holidayplace.co.uk/holiday/caribbean-and-costa-rica/st-lucia

The Holiday Place has been creating award-winning experiences for over 30 years’.
Their holidays range from luxurious to adventurous and cater for all budgets and requirements.
Adam is grateful also to Gatwick Express (www.gatwickexpress.com)
and St Lucia Tourist Board (www.saintluciauk.org)


Cognac: The Liquor of the Gods

The town of Cognac and the capital of cognac production, has great historical significance with the Chateau des Valois (now the property of Maison Otard) being the birthplace of King François I. So visitors to Cognac can enjoy both a touch of history alongside a cognac journey when they visit, experiencing either the Kings Way (with a trail through the tiny streets of the old town) or the Belle Epoque route (highlighting the 19th century urban development).
En route, visitors will encounter the Charente River, the gardens of the town hall, the museums, the Récollet Convent and the François I Square.
Cognac was an important trading port for salt and local wine distribution long before the discovery of the double distillation process that produced the famous drink however it is now synonymous with the eponymous spirit of course.

There is a local saying, all cognac is brandy but not all brandies are cognac. 
Cognac, termed “the liquor of the gods” by Victor Hugo, owes its character to the warm, humid climate in this part of Western France. Otard, Camus, Hennessy, Martell, Rémy- Martin, Meukow and Courvoisier can all be found here and each offers guided tours of their cellars and vineyards.
The vineyards of Cognac constitute the 2nd largest area of production in France after Bordeaux and cover an area of 80,000 hectares.
It would be heresy to leave Cognac without a visit to a cellar for a tasting!
94aaf0dd-7efc-44c5-9177-e14ff6353f4dTours of Martell, the oldest Cognac House – Launched in 1715, Martell celebrated its 300th anniversary last year with various new experiences for the public including a celebration of the art and  history of the brand. This theme is continued in 2016 with an exceptional opportunity to delve into the company archives as well as have a tasting of the exclusive tercentenary cognac.

Alternatively, there’s the Martell Discovery Tour where visitors walk around their historic cellars followed by a tasting of Martell VSOP or the gourmet version, the Martell Prestige Tour with a Cordon Bleu tasting included.


New tours at Hennessy – In May 2016, Hennessy opened a new series of tours that are unique in Cognac.
Following in the footsteps of eight generations of the Hennessy family and the Fillioux family of Master Blenders, visitors are immersed in
an elegant, creative universe designed in stylish contemporary colours. Based on the stages of the cognac production process, this new journey plays with the senses, creating surprises and evoking emotions.

Visitors go behind the scenes and learn all the secrets of this multi-faceted and firmly contemporary brand.  All tours start with a solar-powered boat trip on the River Charente to understand its significance to the growth of the brand before returning to the Hennessy warehouse.


  • The Signature tour includes the complete circuit of the Maison Hennessy followed by a tasting of the VS and VSOP varieties
  • The X.O.Symbole tour adds a particular emphasis on the 1870 creation of XO, its different aromas and ways of tasting
  • The Exception tour offers the basic circuit followed by a visit to the Paradise warehouse where the eau-de-vie that is used in certain varieties is aged.
  • 262232d9-a7ea-4a72-b9f1-766693fe2648The tasting at the termination of the tour includes XO and Paradise cognacs accompanied by savouries created by David Fransoret himself, Chef of the Château de Bagnolet and owner of Maison Hennessy
  • Lastly there is the Hennessy à la carte programme that includes a vineyard trip, visit of the Peu Distillery, coopers (barrel makers) and a tasting designed to better understand the process of ageing and the art of assembling an eau-de-vie.








Where to rest your head|

Le François Premier  enjoys a great location in the centre of town and is housed in a Napoleon III building.  Completely renovated in 2012, Le Francois Premier has just 21 rooms and 4 suites, decorated with a contemp:rary feel inspired by the local colours of Cognac. Rooms start at €165 for a double, subject to change.
Le Ligaro in Jarnac is so named after the owners youngest three children – Liam (LI), Gabrielle (GA) and Rose Anna (RO).  Located within an historic building, the rooms are renowned for their comfortable beds, restful interiors and luxurious touches. Rates, which are subject to change, start at around €139 per room per night rising to €169 for the unique Tower Room. Round in shape, this unique accommodation is built in a stone tower that is part of the old town walls of Jarnac and enjoys a garden view with a private entrance.
0faf25ca-6b13-4f83-b5f3-fd99756f1f2bQuais des Pontis is located on the site of a former factory on the banks of the Charente. Offering a variety of accommodation options from gorgeously appointed Romany-styled caravans (€89), to a romantic cabin on the river (€95) to a suite in a gite (€120) there’s something here to suit every taste (rates subject to change).
Where to dine:
  • Le restaurant du Château in Jarnac is the gastronomic hub of Le Ligaro hotel, just a few steps away. Flavoursome and delicious unpretentious food is served in convivial surroundings under the toque of young chef, Ludovic Merle who comes from a family of restaurateurs.


  • La Ribaudière in Bourg-Charente near to Cognac on the banks of the Charente is a stunning contemporary-styled Michelin starred restaurant, run by chef Thierry Verrat with his son Julien. Chef Verrat sees himself as an ambassador through his recipes of the very best produce that the area and indeed France has to offer.
  • Conserverie Fleuriet in Rouillac is based in a restored house and gardens where Françoise has dedicated her life to her passion for gardening and cooking resulting in delicious vinegars, preserves and soups with copious useful recipes to boot. Try her vinegar with a baseline of Pineau des Charentes.
  • La Cognathèque in Cognac has a tasting workshop which lasts about two and a half hours where you can learn about the history of cognac, how it is made, the grape varietes etc. The shop had the largest selection of cognacs in the world (400 cognacs and 50 Pineaux des Charentes).
  • L’Epicerie de la Ribaudière in Bourg-Charente is conveniently situated opposite Thierry Verrat’s restaurant and sells a selection of local produce sourced by the chef.
    Time to shop:
    u=27ec26b9f83e4568087043d80&id=60217118fe&e=2521129983″ target=”_blank” class=””>Conserverie Fleuriet in Rouillac is based in a restored house and gardens where Françoise has dedicated her life to her passion for gardening and cooking resulting in delicious vinegars, preserves and soups with copious useful recipes to boot. Try her vinegar with a baseline of Pineau des Charentes.
  • La Cognathèque in Cognac has a tasting workshop which lasts about two and a half hours where you can learn about the history of cognac, how it is made, the grape varietes etc. The shop had the largest selection of cognacs in the world (400 cognacs and 50 Pineaux des Charentes). 
  • L’Epicerie de la Ribaudière in Bourg-Charente is conveniently situated opposite Thierry Verrat’s restaurant and sells a selection of local produce sourced by the chef.


How to Spend Your time 

The Musee des Arts du Cognac’ is the perfect place to understand the world of cognac with its history and humble beginnings through its development to one of the world’s most recognised alcoholic beverages.

The Espace Découverte en Pays du Cognac Country  is a very useful stopping point for visitors wishing to have an interactive look at the area and its attractions before actually physically visiting them. Emphasis is placed on the River Charente and its role in the development of the cognac business.

Visiting a cognac house:  Most houses have tours such as Hennessy, Martell, Otard, Courvoisier, Rémy Martin and Meukow…Camus even allows visitors to learn how to make cognac in a special workshop.

Photo-credits: Francoise Roch / Destination Poitou-Charentes / Martinelli  / Sue Lowry / Region_ALPC / Julia Hasse / Stéphane CHARBEAU / Christophe Mariot / Quais des Pontis / Le restaurant du Château / Conserverie Fleuriet / Saison d’ Or & Co


copy-of-copy-of-aw-dundas003-2With boats travelling at a maximum speed of 4mph and over 3,000 miles of navigable peaceful inland waterways to explore across Britain, canal boat holidays really are the fastest way to slow down.

From rural retreats to vibrant city centres, canal boat holiday-makers can use their boat as a floating holiday home and base to explore.

Drifters Waterway Holidays (drifters.co.uk, tel 0844 984 0322) offers over 580 boats for hire from 45 locations across England, Scotland and Wales.  2017 hire prices start at £442 for a short break (three or four nights) on a boat for four, £680 for a week.


Here are Drifters’ Top 10 canal boat holidays for 2017:

  1. Take the ‘Stairway to Heaven’ at Hatton…next Spring, a brand new eight-berth narrowboat will be joining the Drifters’ fleet on the Grand Union Canal at Braunston, in the heart of the canal network.  The 69ft long ‘Blackdown’, which is being built in the hire boat base’s dry dock over the winter, will have three bedrooms (with either two single berths or a fixed double), plus two bathrooms and a saloon area with a dining area that can be made up into a double bed.  On a week’s break, boaters can cruise the popular Warwickshire Ring, which takes 52 hours, passes through 93 locks and includes sections of the Coventry, Oxford, Grand Union and Birmingham & Fazeley Canals, plus the Hatton Flight of 21 locks, also known as ‘The Stairway to Heaven’.  ****2017 prices on ‘Blackdown’ start at £812 for a short break, £1,160 for a week.  Price includes diesel, gas, cancellation protection, car parking, tuition, bed linen, buoyancy aids and first pet.  Second pet is charged at £25.


  1. Go shooting star-gazing in the Breacon Beacons…isolated from the main canal network, the beautiful Monmouth & Brecon Canal runs through the Brecon Beacons National Park.  Stretching 35 miles from Brecon to Cwmbran, this peaceful waterway, with very few locks, offers canal boat holiday-makers incredible mountain views and some of the darkest night skies in Britain, perfect for star-gazing.  Watch out for the Lyrids Meteor Shower predicted for 22-23 April, the Eta Aquarids 6-7 May, the Delta Aquarids 28-29 July, Perseids 12-13 August, Draconids 7 Octobeavoncliffe-aqueduct-1234_img0066hr1r and the Orionids 21-22 October.  On a short break from Drifters’ base at Goytre Wharf, near Abergavenny, boaters can cruise lock-free to Llangynidr and back, passing through Georgian Crickhowell, with its fascinating 13th century castle, and the village of Govilon, with its popular Lion Inn.  On a week’s holiday, continue on to the Georgian town of Brecon, passing through Talybont-on-Usk with walks to the waterfalls at Blaen y Glyn.  ****2017 canal boat hire prices from Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Goytre Wharf start at £589 for a short break on a boat for four people, £899 for a week.  Prices include damage waiver, gas, parking, tuition, towels, bedding and first pet.  Fuel is extra, circa £10-15 per day.  A fuel deposit of £50 is taken for short breaks, £90 for a week’s hire.


  1. Celebrate 80 years of The Hobbit with a journey through Tolkein country…published 21 September 1937 to wide critical acclaim, the popularity of J R R Tolkein’s ‘The Hobbit’ endures, not least amongst the canal boat community where dozens of boats bear the names of Tolkein created characters.  Tolkein spent much of his childhood exploring the village of Sarehole (now Hall Green), Moseley Bog, the Malvern Hills, and nearby Bromsgrove, Alcester and Alvechurch.  From Drifters’ canal boat holiday base on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal at Alvechurch, narrowboat holiday-makers can travel through some of the landscapes that inspired Tolkein’s masterpiece.  On a short break, travel lock-free to the village of Lapworth and back.  On a week’s holiday, cruise the Stourport Ring, including a section of the River Severn and the cathedral City of Worcester. ****2017 short break prices on a boat for four start at £520, weekly hire from £800.  Prices include damage waiver, gas, parking, tuition, towels, bedding and first pet.  Fuel is extra, circa £10-15 per day.  A fuel deposit of £50 is taken for short breaks, £90 for a week’s hire.


  1. Visit the land of castles & float across ‘The Stream in the Sky’…from Drifters’ base at Chirk on the beautiful Llangollen Canal in North Wales, the awesome World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct can be reached on a short break.  Standing at over 38 metres high above the Dee Valley, this incredible structure consists of a cast iron trough supported on iron arched ribs, carried on 19 hollow pillars.  Each span is 16-metres wide.  With not even a hand rail on the south side of the aqueduct to obscure the stunning views of the valley below, canal boaters literally feel like they are floating above the earth.  From Chirk, home to the National Trust’s 900-year old Chirk Castle, canal boat holiday-makers can head west to travel across the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and then on to the pretty town of Llangollen, with its fascinating Steam Railway and Horsehoe Falls. The journey covers eight miles with no locks, making it nice and easy for beginners. ****2017 short break prices from Chirk start at £669 on a boat for four people, £729 for a week.  Price includes damage waiver, tuition, gas, bedlinen, towels and parking.  Pets are extra, charged at £30 each.  Cancellation Protection costs between £40 and £75, depending on the holiday cost.  Diesel is charged on return based on amount used, circa £10-15 per day.


  1. crt_1426-sowerby183Explore 428 million years of history at Dudley Tunnel…from our Tardebigge base on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, it’s an eight-hour (three-lock) journey to the Black Country Living Museum, where there’s now a connecting bridge to the Dudley Canal Tunnel & Limestone Mines.   Here visitors can explore the Dudley Canal & Tunnel Trust’s award-winning new visitor centre and board a trip boat to explore the spectacular limestone tunnels under Castle Hill, which date back 428 million years to the Silurian age. ****2017 short break prices on a boat for four from Tardebigge start at £455, or £685 for a week.  Price includes boat hire, damage waiver, gas, car parking, tuition, buoyancy aids, bed linen, towels and first pet.  Second pet is charged at £25 for a short break, £35 for a week.  Fuel is extra – a £50 fuel deposit is payable for a short break, £90 for a week.


  1. Enjoy stunning Peak District views on the Macclesfield Canal…on a week’s break from our Peak District base on the Trent & Mersey Canal, narrowboat holiday-makers can travel along the beautiful Green Flag awarded Macclesfield Canal.  Skirting the edge of the Peak District, and passing through the small towns of Congleton, Macclesfield and Marple, this 26-mile long waterway is dotted with Victorian mills and warehouses.  Making Whaley Bridge the turning point, the journey, which travels 80 miles through 26 locks, can be done with around five hours cruising each day.  ***2017 weekly breaks from Drifters’ Peak District base currently start at £1,099 on a boat for four people.  Price includes damage waiver, tuition, gas, bedlinen, towels and parking.  Pets are extra, charged at £30 each, and diesel used is charged for on return, circa £10-15 per day.


  1. ponty_wide_with_boatsBumble along to Brighouse for Pennine Walks…on a short break (three or four nights) from Drifters’ base at Sowerby Bridge, canal boat holiday-makers can travel to Brighouse and Shepley Bridge and back along the leafy Calder & Hebble Navigation.  Famous for its Brighouse and Rastick Brass Band, historic Brighouse offers glorious Pennines walks, food and craft markets, a variety of places to eat and independent shops. Travelling on to Shepley Bridge with its waterside Ship Inn, boaters pass through the village of Mirfield, with medieval stocks and ducking stool, plus Dumb Steeple, thought to have been a landmark to guide travellers on their way across the moor.  The journey travels 22 miles through 32 locks and takes around 16 hours.  ***2017 short break prices from Sowerby Bridge start at £415 for a boat for two people.  Prices include damage waiver, pre-holiday information, comprehensive instruction, fuel, gas, parking, buoyancy aids, bed linen and first pet.  Second pet is charged at £25.


  1. Visit beautiful Bath afloat…on a short break from Drifters’ base at Hilperton near Trowbridge in Wiltshire, boaters can travel along the scenic Kennet & Avon Canal, reaching Bath Top Lock in six hours, with just one lock to pass through – a journey perfect for narrowboat holiday beginners.  Along the way, boaters pass through the historic town of Bradford on Avon, with its mesmerising medieval Tithe Barn and choice of independent shops and restaurants.  From moorings at Syndey Wharf, just below Bath Top Lock, it’s a 15-minute walk into the centre of Bath, a World Heritage Status City famous for its stunning Georgian architecture and fascinating Roman Baths. ****2017 canal boat hire prices from Drifters’ Hilperton base start at £589 for a short break on a boat for four people.  Prices include damage waiver, gas, parking, tuition, towels, bedding and first pet.  Fuel is extra, circa £10-15 per day.  A fuel deposit of £50 is taken for short breaks, £90 for a week’s hire.


  1. Go ghost hunting at the Palace of Linlithgow…From Drifters’ base at Falkirk, at the junction of the Union and Forth & Clyde canals, on a short break (three or four nights) narrowboat holiday-makers can travel through the Scottish Lowlands to Linlithgow and back.  The journey starts with trip through the iconic Falkirk Wheel, the world’s first and only rotating boat lift, which uses the same power it takes to boil eight kettles to smoothly lift boats 100ft from the Forth & Clyde Canal to the Union Canal above.  Once at Linlithgow, boaters can visit the 12th-century Palace of Linlithgow to hunt the ruins for the ghost of Mary Queen of Scots’ mother and enjoy a meal at the award-winning Four Marys pub. ****2017 short break prices from Drifters’ base at Falkirk start at £520 on a boat for four people.  Prices include a £50 compulsory non-refundable damage waiver, tuition, linen, gas, car parking, buoyancy aids and VAT.  Fuel is extra, circa £15 per day.  A fuel deposit of £50 is taken for short breaks, £90 for a week’s hire.


  1. Potter along to the ‘chocolate box’ pretty village of Stoke Bruerne…on a week’s break from Drifters’ base at Stockton on the Grand Union Canal in Warwickshire, canal boat holiday-makers can cruise gently through the Warwickshire and Northamptonshire countryside to the canalside village of Stoke Bruerne, taking in a number of delightful villages with traditional pubs along the way, and journeying through the 2,813-metre long Blisworth Tunnel, the third longest on the network.  Once in Stoke Bruerne, visitors can enjoy a choice of canalside pubs and eateries, woodland walks and browsing the intriguing waterway history collections at the Canal Museum.  The round-trip travels 60 miles, passing through 44 locks and takes around 38 hours. ****2017 prices from Stockton start at £860 for a week on a boat for four people.  Price includes boat hire, damage waiver, gas, car parking, tuition, buoyancy aids, bed linen, towels and first pet.  Second pet is £25 for a short break, £35 for a week.  Fuel is extra – a £50 deposit is taken for a short break, £90 for a week.

Aer Lingus’ Inaugural Flight from Dublin to Hartford Takes Off

Aer Lingus Cabin Crew at the gate reception to celebrate Aer Lingus’ inaugural flight to Hartford Connecticut which took to the skies this week from Dublin airport.

Aer Lingus Cabin Crew at the gate reception to celebrate Aer Lingus’ inaugural flight to Hartford Connecticut which took to the skies this week from Dublin airport.

New transatlantic service creates access to New England from Ireland, 
the UK and Continental Europe


Aer Lingus’ inaugural flight EI131 to Hartford, Connecticut took off on a Boeing 757, named St. Brendan, registration EI-LBT, this week from Dublin airport at 2.40pm.

The airline now offers a year-round service from Dublin direct to Hartford, Connecticut, in the heart of New England. Aer Lingus is the national airline of Ireland, founded in 1936. It is Ireland’s only 4-Star airline having received a 4-Star rating from Skytrax, the international air transport rating organisation, in July 2016. Aer Lingus now joins a select group of only 40 airlines worldwide that also boast a 4-Star guest experience and is the only 4-Star airline connecting Ireland and North America.

Aer Lingus operate 62 aircraft on routes to destinations in the UK, Europe and North America and carry 12 million customers per annum.

Their primary mission is ‘To Connect Ireland to The World’ by providing customers with convenience, choice, comfort, value and seamless transfer options – making Aer Lingus the smart choice. We serve a combination of leisure and business travellers with a quality core product that can be augmented through benefit driven a la carte paid options.

Aer Lingus serves central airport locations, enhancing connectivity options for our passengers. Our home base is Dublin Airport. Our guests can choose from ten North American destinations with more than 100 onward connections across the U.S and Canada, available with our partner airlines.

Dublin Airport is the only major airport in Europe to offer U.S preclearance, which enables passengers to save time on arrival in the U.S by completing all the necessary immigration and customs checks prior to departure.

The new Aer Lingus service not only creates a direct connection between Connecticut and Ireland, it further establishes Dublin as the natural transatlantic gateway to Europe for those travelling from North America.

Via Dublin, North American travellers can avail of onward connections to 28 UK and European airports including London, Madrid, Barcelona, Edinburgh, Amsterdam, Paris, Bristol and Berlin, plus many more.

Hartford is the capital of Connecticut and is often referred to as the ‘insurance capital of the world’. Housing many insurance company headquarters, insurance remains the region’s major industry. Hartford and the Connecticut region are also popular as tourist destinations with many interesting visitor attractions.

Hartford is home to the Mark Twain House where the author wrote his most famous works. Close by in Newhaven, Connecticut is Yale University – one of the most prestigious American, Ivy League universities.

The Hartford launch is the third of three new Aer Lingus transatlantic routes to commence this year, marking the single largest expansion of Aer Lingus’ transatlantic network since the airline commenced transatlantic flying in 1958.

A direct new service to Los Angeles, California began in May and on 1st September a new daily service commenced from Dublin to Newark, New Jersey.

The growth plan underpins Aer Lingus’ successful strategy of expanding its Dublin Airport base into a major European transatlantic gateway. The convenience of U.S Customs and Border Protection services at Dublin has enhanced the continued growth of Aer Lingus’ Dublin operation as a connecting gateway. Three new transatlantic aircraft have joined the Aer Lingus fleet this year and as previously announced two new Airbus A330s will be delivered in 2017.

Stephen Kavanagh, Chief Executive Officer, Aer Lingus, said: “We are delighted to commence a direct service between our Dublin gateway and Bradley International Airport, Hartford and to offer a convenient connecting service from major cities across Britain and Europe. Whether travelling for business or pleasure we aim to deliver the quality service and competitive prices that have earned us our Skytrax 4-Star airline status. I’d like to take the opportunity to thank all the state representatives, business and community leaders who have supported Aer Lingus to date and we look forward to making this route a success for all involved.”

Vincent Harrison, Dublin Airport Managing Director said: “We are delighted to welcome Aer Lingus’ new service to Hartford, which adds another North American destination to the airline’s extensive Dublin Airport route network. Hartford is the sixth new transatlantic route that Aer Lingus has launched at Dublin over the past five years and we look forward to continuing to work closely with them to promote this new service.”

Services available to customers on transatlantic flights include Pre-clearance U.S. immigration and customs at Dublin and Shannon airports, connections to onward destinations in the U.S. with airline partners, hi-speed internet access, an extensive in-flight entertainment selection, gourmet meals including premium economy options and award winning cabin service.

Fares from Dublin to Hartford start from €219 each way for travel between November 2016 and March 2017.

For more information and to book flights to Hartford, visit www.aerlingus.com 

Charente-Maritime – The Great Chefs larder

IMG_3180The Charente-Maritime area of France can really be described as a chef’s dream kitchen with a cupboard full of specialist ingredients. Situated in the heart of the French Atlantic coast, the Charente-Maritime destination is the premier tourist destination in France for French travellers.

The Charente-Maritime offers the visitor a lovely choice of coastal destinations such as Royan or the Ile de Ré, city breaks to Saintes or La Rochelle and beautiful countryside such as the Marais Poitevin or Cognac Country.

Charente-Maritime has more wellness centres (six) than any other French ‘department’ and a number of UNESCO World Heritage sites.  It is a gastronomic destination of note – oysters, mussels, sea salt, pineau des Charentes, and is easily accessible by road, rail or air from the UK.

It boasts a Mediterranean climate of around 300 sunshine days a year as well as a whole host of events taking place throughout the year. For more information visit www.france-atlantic.com

Here in Ireland we have many amazing chefs and local producers and as all the ‘greats’ will tell you the best way to produce fantastic dishes is the equality of the ingredients you make them with.

And its to this area of France I go, to list some amazing food. It’s not just a great place to get good food but it’s a fantastic place to stay too. Famed for the oysters grown off the shores of this area on France’s Atlantic Coastline, there’s also salt, sea urchins and potatoes from the Ile de Ré, saffron from the Marais-Poitevin and the “hens with the golden eggs” from Marans, among many other gourmet delights.

The excellence of the products from this region has lead to a number of official certifications:

  • 2 AOC (appellation d’origine controlee) Cognac and  Pineau des Charentes 
  • 2 AOP (appellation d’origine protégée) Butter Charentes-Poitou, potatoes of Ré
  • 2 IGP (indication geographique protegée) Wine from Pays Charentais and oysters from Marennes Oléron 
  • Label Rouge (red label) for the moules de filières (mussels)

My good friends at the Charente-Maritime tourist board have picked some highlights for you:
3da77405-9408-4c5d-badd-3b5ae5740e23Treasures from the Atlantic – The varied oysters of the Charente-Maritime each have a unique flavour no matter the variety – ‘affinée en claire’ or ‘pleine mer’.

This is due in no small part due to the diversity of the cultivators who devotedly nurture these shellfish to maturity, intent on retaining the very best flavours.

Their taste is very delicate and perfumed due to the exceptional cultivation in a unique ecosystem only found on Oléron Island and in the Marennes basin, where the fresh waters of the Seudre River meets the sea.

This dedication shown by the farmers of Marennes Oléron has led to them being awarded the ‘Label Rouge’ (Red Label) for the ‘fine claire verte’ variety.  Bestowed in 1989, these oysters are the only ones in France to have been given this honour.


For those who want to learn more about oyster cultivation, then head for the unmissable Oyster City. In parts fun and educational, visitors will find out everything they’ve ever wanted to know about the oyster, how to open them, how to prepare them and finally, how to eat them.

c41ac15b-a295-45ea-b7eb-50eb160362e5I am maybe not wrong when I say many people in Ireland do not eat Urchins, but I can assure you they are a delicious seafood and widely underrated.

The production of sea urchins has taken place in La Flotte on the Ile de Ré since 2006.

These creatures Sea are used as a bio-indicator of the presence of clean, clear water as without it, they would not survive.   Fortunately, the water quality on the island is exceptional and its so good for the urchins that only eat a certain type of seaweed which is found here all year round.

The methods used to raise them were started by Pierre Le Gall in 1980. The exceptional well-being of the animals means that a top quality product is available all year round.



4667f00f-99ac-4f27-ac7a-09e5c3930166The Hens with the Golden Eggs –

The Maran Egg is also known as the ‘extra red egg’ because of the deep red-brown colour of the shell.  The egg is typically large (70 grams as a minimum) from a regional hen, also prized for its tasty meat at the entrance to the Marais Poitevin. Locally known as the ‘hens with the golden eggs’, they lay between 230 – 240 a year.


Not only are the eggs attractive, they are also delicious and especially good when boiled rather than used in an omelette.  The Marans hens are the result of crossing a black hen of the Vendée with hens from the UK brought over by English sailors towards the end of the Middle Ages.

There was a second cross in the nineteenth century when a Chinese hen, a particularly effective layer called a Langshan, was imported in 1876. This new variety of bird was introduced to the world in 1914 at a national exhibition held in La Rochelle and was called the ‘country hen’.


Les Cagouilles or Petits Gris

44fa73be-c87c-4aa0-a274-53bb8b1af62bIf there is one dish that some people find difficult to eat it’s the snail. In Charente Maritime they have a special word for snails Les Cagouilles or Petits Gris.  They are bred between April and September and used in various ways.  Snail caviar, which originated from this area, looks like little balls of white pearls and now graces the tables of France’s elite restaurants.

Jean–Philippe Rousseau and his two associates from Mons is renowned as one of the top producers.  Charente – Maritime is the premier department in France for snail breeding – also known as heliculture – and there is even a brotherhood of snail producers.  400 tons are produced each year.  In France as a whole, 45,000 tons of snails are eaten every year.




72488575-c1f1-454b-a500-4a93d5dd55ceSpicy Saffron – If salt is king in Charente-Maritime, saffron is not far behind it with the production of this spicy plant having taken place for during the last twenty years.

Saffron is grown between Marennes and Surgères it’s manually harvested in October and November.   Saffron sets the taste-buds going – especially in Indian, Spanish or North African dishes – but it is also good in a butter sauce on mussels, with prawns, pasta or otherwise in crème brulée or butter biscuits.



The King of Salt

7d36131a-6f68-479d-b60c-300a34ccb18eIt was the monks that first worked the salt beds of the Ile de Ré and Oléron.  From the Middle ages to the nineteenth century, salt provided prosperity for the area.  The Ile de Ré was the powerhouse of production having more than a thousand salt workers and 25,000 tons of salt harvested annually. 20% of the island was taken up with this activity.


Today, the industry is enjoying a revival with around a hundred young workers proud to be in an environmentally friendly and long-standing business.  The sea salt is collected between June and September and the fleur de sel (that pure top layer) is prized in French kitchens for its unique flavour.

Either fine or in rock form, salt from the islands are often flavoured with thyme, basil or fennel.  With varying meteorological conditions these days (you can’t harvest when it rains), production is between 1000 and 2,500 tons a year.



Samphire is very fashionable at the moment, a popularity that has spread far beyond the borders of the Charente-Maritime where is grows on the salty marshes.

It is also found along the side of the oyster beds and grows for four months in summer in salty, dry conditions.

It is a plant rich in minerals and thus very good for the health. It can be eaten raw – particularly good in salads, pickled like gherkins or cooked and served with meat or fish.



Photo credit thanks to:  Alison Boissard CMT / Oursin © PhotoPin / Stéphane Morand / Ile d’Oléron / Salicorne © PhotoPin /

48 Hours in Dublin

dublin_bus_open_top_tour_bus_largeAs a frequent visitor to Dublin for work purposes, I have never thought of it as a tourist destination, I take the train down attend a meeting or two and train home. I see hotels, tourists and attractions but never give it a second thought. Well until last week.

For this trip I took my accommodation with me and booked a pitch at Camac Caravan park just off the N7.

Camac is a great spot because the red sightseeing bus stops there in the morning and evening every day, meaning you can take in the sights and not have to bother with parking.

My first morning I had slept, and missed the red sightseeing bus so I hopped on the Dublin Bus no 69 down to fleet street just close to temple bar. When I got off the normal bus I hoped on the Dublin Bus sightseeing tour (www.dublinsightseeing.ie).
This hop on hop off tour is ideal for visiting Dublin. It visits all the major tourist spots in Dublin and for me the first port of call was the amazing Dublin Zoo

Photo by kind permission of Dublin Zoo

Dublin Zoo is much more than a fun-filled, stimulating day out for all the family, it’s a place to learn about wild animals, especially those which are endangered.

The Zoo is a registered charity and by visiting you will help maintain Dublin Zoo, improve the Zoo and contribute to conservation programmes.


Located in the Phoenix Park Dublin Zoo is Ireland’s most popular family attraction, and welcomes over one million visitors a year.

As one of the world’s oldest, yet popular zoos, the 28-hectare park in the heart of Dublin is home to some 400 animals in safe environment where education and conservation combine for an exciting and unforgettable experience!

I had only planned to spend an hour or so there but it was so fascinating I spent a whole day. For me the Orangutan stole the show. These highly intelligent animal were just fascinating to watch. Be warned though when they climb the ropes to cross over the walkway they are likely to relieve themselves, yes on top of you.

I have never laughed as much when I saw them taking a pee over a group of visitors.

Dublin zoo is not just a place to cage in animals it’s a sanctuary for conservation and without the Zoo a number of species would be lost forever. Entry start at around €17 with group and family tickets available. See www.dublinzoo.ie.


My first day was supposed to be a host of visiting but I was so taken by the Zoo, I spent the day there.

img_5074After the Zoo I went down to the temple bar district to while away a few hours enjoying the “Craic”. The temple bar area is jam packed with amazing traditional bars and eating establishments. Probably a throw back to 795AD when the Vikings populated the area it continues to be one of the most popular areas in Dublin today.

Back out on the bus to Camac for some alfresco dining in extremely pleasant temperatures for mid September. Next morning I was up bright and early to get into town for more city sights.


Day Two

First port of call was Dublin city hall, which houses a wonderful and little known exhibition of the history of Dublin. The City Hall which was built by the Guild of Merchants and originally known as the Royal Exchange is a magnificent example of the Georgian architecture for which Dublin is world-renowned.


dublin_city_hall___historic_building_attractions_dublin__ireland___virtual_visit_toursDublin City Hall was built between 1769 and 1779 purchased by Dublin Corporation in 1851.
The circular entrance hall or Rotunda where the merchants strolled and discussed business is now available for the solemnisation of civil ceremonies and can also be hired for corporate and private functions.
In the vaults lies the Story of the Capital multi-media exhibition where visitors learn about Dublin’s evolution from Viking to modern times.

Treasures of the city such as the great sword and mace of Dublin and the Lord Mayor’s chains come together with video, medieval manuscripts, interactive computer displays and period costumes, to tell the story of the capital city.  Admission to Dublin City Hall is free for 2016. This is well worth a visit.


Kilmainham Gaol


Kilmainham Gaol

After the city hall I grabbed a sandwich and was off to Kilmainham Gaol. Kilmainham Gaol opened in 1796 as the new County Gaol for Dublin. It closed its doors in 1924. Today the building symbolises the tradition of militant and constitutional nationalism from the rebellion of 1798 to the Irish Civil War of 1922-23.

Leaders of the rebellions of 1798, 1803, 1848,1867 and 1916 were detained and in some cases executed there. Many members of the Irish Republican movement during the Anglo-Irish War (1919-21) were also detained in Kilmainham Gaol, guarded by British troops. Names such as Henry Joy McCracken, Robert Emmet, Anne Devlin, Charles Stewart Parnell and the leaders of 1916 will always be associated with the building. It should not be forgotten however that, as a county gaol, Kilmainham held thousands of ordinary men, women and children. Their crimes ranged from petty offences such as stealing food to more serious crimes such as murder or rape. Convicts from many parts of Ireland were held here for long periods waiting to be transported to Australia. Kilmainham Gaol Museum is operated and managed by the Office of Public Works.

It matters not what side of the political divided you may come from this is a must see attraction. Just like Crumlin Road in Belfast the Gaol this wonderful museum evokes the memories of all those who passed through its gates. Such as the 5yr old who did 15 days for stealing bread to some of the founders of the Irish state who met their end in front of a firing squad. It is hard to get tickets if you turn up so please book on line to avoid disappointment see: http://kilmainhamgaolmuseum.ie/.

After Kilmainham I was off to the Irish National Gallery.
img_5073In June 1852 William Dargan, the father of the Irish rail network, approached the Royal Dublin Society (RDS) with an offer to underwrite a spectacular exhibition on Leinster Lawn in Dublin, the home of the RDS since 1815.  He wished to imitate the great exhibition that had taken place at Crystal Palace in London the previous year.  Just eleven months later, on the 12th May, the exhibition was opened in an astonishing series of pavilions for which the architect, John Benson, received a knighthood. The enthusiastic response of the visiting crowds demonstrated an active interest for art as well the desire for the establishment of a permanent public collection that would also be a fitting tribute to the generosity of Dargan.

If you like art then this is the place for you. Inside you will see a restricted (due to refurbishment) amount of art but it is still a must do. Monet to Yeats, the National Gallery collection holds some 15,000 works of art dating from the 13th to the 20th century.


I was coming to the end of my 48 hour Dublin city visit, and I had not even stepped foot in St Stephen’s Green, O’Connell street, Grafton St, the Guinness brewery any churches or cathedrals which means one thing.


I have to come back and return I shall do.


Campingaz Party Grill 600

img_4217Before going on my Caravan holiday in France recently, I knew that I required a BBQ as outdoor cooking was going to be the norm for me whilst in Brittany.

I checked a number of providers of outdoor cooking equipment.

As a boy scout I was aware of the Campingaz brand, as I had used their products previously. I was looking for a lightweight easy to assemble BBQ. I then discovered the Campingaz party grill and boy was this a compact BBQ.

img_4224When it arrived the BBQ was literally packed inside itself, the extendable legs, were inside the main body of the BBQ as were the detachable cooking options, i.e a typical BBQ rack and a griddle and non stick grill pan as well.
Using the BBQ was a dream, it assembled in minutes and was really easy to use. I connected it to my caravan with a push fit connection and within a minute or so I was ready to cook. I found that the temperature gauge was an added bonus and if you wanted to you could cook a chicken or a roast or even bake bread in the grill as it becomes an oven too.img_4216

All in all this BBQ grill is a super device, it packs up neatly (once cool), it comes with a handy carry bag, is super easy to use and is extremely well priced.

So if you are considering a BBQ for your camping or caravanning needs consider the Campingaz party grill you won’t be disappointed.


Coleman TWIST+ 300 LED lantern

When caravanning many people do two types, off and on grid. Off grid is for the more extreme vanners who brave the weather with no EHU or electric hook up.

26650I suppose its seen by some as the more traditional way of vanning without the modern convenience of the 240v supply. Being a green vanner I use solar power a lot and this is where the Coleman twist LED lantern comes into its own. Multipurpose and strong, this weather resistant TWIST+ 300 Lithium Ion Rechargeable Lantern doubles as a charging unit and a light source. It is USB compatible and with a bright 300-lumen output, you can stay out of the dark and remain connected for longer.

This is an ingenious product that holds an amazing amount of charge for your mobile device and provides outstanding brightness from a low drain ultra bright LED.

All in all this means if your camping or vaning and you have little or no power left pug in you phone or tablet to the Coleman twist-light and you will have a charging facility right at your fingertips.

Cleverly Coleman have introduced a patent-pending BatteryLock™ technology to prevent battery drain, the TWIST+ 300 lantern is the ultimate sturdy and reliable campsite lighting companion, and it proves extremely invaluable on my caravanning trips worldwide. Needless to say charger and USB cable is included.


Hillsborough Fort

Hillsborough Fort

THIS September is set to be jam-packed with exciting events taking place all over Northern Ireland, thanks to . With over 340 events to choose from, all completely FREE!, it will come as no surprise that there is something taking place in every county. Organised by the Historic Environment Division of the Department for Communities, under the banner of ‘Love Heritage NI’, EHOD provides a great chance for people to experience the magic of Northern Ireland’s heritage and historical background.

Rachel Quigg, Tourism Northern Ireland’s Communications and Destination PR Officer said: “Northern Ireland is set to become a hive of activity on September 10 and 11 when European Heritage Open Days unlock the doors to the past and present, allowing the public free entry to lots of different and fun places “Families won’t be stuck for something to do, there is something for everyone and to suit all ages, from quizzes and treasure hunts to food and craft markets, walking tours and much, much more! “Why not try something completely new and visit a property that is not normally open to the public such as family owned and maintained Ennish Scutch Mill in Dungannon, Rocklands House in Carrickfergus and Killymoon Castle in Cookstown”, concluded Rachel.

Tourism Northern Ireland have listed just some of the fantastic things to see and do over EHOD:
Family Events
PoguesPogue’s Entry Historical Cottage (Antrim), Saturday 10th & Sunday 11th September, 10am – 5pm. This is the childhood home of Dr. Alexander Irvine, author of ‘My Lady of the Chimney Corner’, which has been preserved to give a rare insight into how many Irish working-class families lived in the latter half of the nineteenth century. With living history and craft displays, European Heritage Open Days bring the cottage alive.

Navan Centre & Fort (Armagh), Saturday 10th & Sunday 11th September, 10am – 4pm. Enjoy a flavour of the historic Navan Centre & Fort which is one of Ireland’s most important historic monuments. Get an introduction to Navan and visit an Iron Age dwelling where you will meet Living HistBangor Castleory characters as they recreate Celtic Life. Take a guided tour to the base of the Fort. Tour lasts 45mins. Tour are available at 10.00am & 12.00noon.
Booking required. To book call (028) 37 529644.

City Hall Children’s Puzzle Challenge (Belfast), Saturday 10th & Sunday 11th September, 10am – 5pm. Do your little ones enjoy quizzes and treasure hunts? Why not come along to City Hall and try our children’s fact finding mission. Explore the City Hall grounds and gardens and discover the heritage of Belfast, its individuals and industrial past. Pick up your challenge sheet at City Hall reception and return once completed to claim your prize. This activity is suitable for ages 5 – 12 years.

Northern Ireland War Memorial, Saturday 10th & 11th Sunday, 10:30am – 4:30pm. Northern Ireland War Memorial, an accredited museum in the Cathedral Quarter of Belfast, is a ‘must see’ for those with an interest in Northern Ireland’s role in the Second World War. Call in to discover how local communities rescued, nursed and gave shelter to 100,000 families made homeless by the Belfast Blitz, 75 years ago. Try on uniforms to step into the shoes of an Air Raid Warden, a Home Guard Soldier and a Red Cross Nurse. Sample foods made with recipes by the Women’s Voluntary Service as they served 70,000 meals in the aftermath of the Blitz.

Downpatrick RailwayDownpatrick & Co. Down Railway (Downpatrick), Saturday 10th & Sunday 11th September, 12pm – 5pm. The Downpatrick and Co Down Railway is Ireland’s only full size heritage railway, running vintage steam and diesel trains between Downpatrick and Inch Abbey. This is a working railway museum with exhibits relating to industrial and transport heritage with free guided tours of the Carriage Viewing Gallery and Co Down Railway Museum. The model train layout, buffet car and shop will also be open. A free steam train ride will be available at 5pm (fares payable on trains between 2-4pm).

Enniskillen Library (Enniskillen), Friday 9th September 3.30pm. Storyteller, Liz Weir will celebrate local heritage by telling traditional stories with a strong sense of place. Her stories will take attendees on journeys from castles to fairy forts and from Loughs to ancient sites.

Marble Arch CavesMarble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark (Fermanagh), Saturday 10th & Sunday 11th September, 10am – 4.30pm. A number of interactive activities for all the family will be on offer at the Marble Arch Caves Visitors Centre to help celebrate European Heritage Open Days 2016 including fossil making, fossil treasure hunt and a variety of arts and crafts activities.

Green Lane Museum (Limavady), Saturday 10th & Sunday 11th September, 1pm-4.30pm. Green Lane Museum has a fantastic collection of objects relating to rural life around Limavady from the 19th century onwards. Come and join in for an afternoon of paper crafting and quilling which promises to be full of fun and creativity. Suitable for ages 6+.

Film Events
Screening of ‘The Frankenstein Chronicles’
Where: Campbell College, Belfast
When: Saturday 8pm
This screening will take place in the stunning surroundings of Campbell College’s Central Hall where The Frankenstein Chronicles was filmed. This room doubled as the Houses of Parliament in this magnificent production. In the film, Inspector John Marlott, played by Sean Bean investigates a series of crimes in 19th century London, which may have been committed by a scientist intent on re-animating the dead. Rated PG.
Booking required: https://belfastfilmfestival.org/films

Screening of ‘Road’
Where: Ballymoney Town Hall
When: Sunday, 8pm
Narrated by Liam Neeson, and produced by Belfast’s DoubleBand Films, this feature documentary tells the extraordinary and dramatic story of two sets of brothers from Northern Ireland who have dominated road racing for over thirty years; Robert and Joey Dunlop. Visit the Dunlop memorial gardens while you are there. Rated PG.
Booking essential: https://belfastfilmfestival.org/films

Screening of ‘We’re doomed! The Dad’s Army Story’
Where: Crumlin Road Gaol, Belfast
When: Sunday, 2pm
This is the dramatised story of how the legendary writers of Dad’s Army, Jimmy Perry and David Croft, overcame every obstacle thrown at them – from a cast of uniquely challenging personalities to fierce opposition to the idea within the highest ranks of the BBC – to create one of the most beloved and successful sitcoms of all time. The drama features an incredible cast including Paul Ritter, Richard Dormer and Shane Ritchie. Rated PG.
Booking required: https://belfastfilmfestival.org/films

The Truth CommissionerScreening of ‘The Truth Commissioner’
Where: The Guildhall, Derry~Londonderry
When: Sunday, 2pm
This screening will take place in The Guildhall, which was used as the interior of the Truth Commission hearing room in the film. Set in post-Troubles Northern Ireland, The Truth Commissioner follows the fictional story of Henry Stanfield who has just been appointed as Truth Commissioner to Northern Ireland. The story revolves around the lives of three men who are directly or indirectly involved in the disappearance, 20 years earlier, of the 15 year old Connor Roche. Bloody and inconvenient truths about those running the country are uncovered; truths which none of those in power are prepared to reveal. Rated PG.
For booking: https://belfastfilmfestival.org/films

Screening of ‘Made in Belfast’
Where: Queens Film Theatre
When: Sunday, 3pm
QFT invites you to a free screening of the debut feature of writer/director/actor Paul Kennedy. Made in Belfast is a wry, observant tale of forgiveness and redemption with a distinctive Belfast flavour. Successful author Jack (Ciarán McMenamin) returns home to Belfast after an 8-year self-imposed exile. He finds a city that has moved on and some unfinished emotional business that clearly hasn’t. Rated PG.
Booking required: www.queensfilmtheatre.com

Not Normally Open to the Public

Single Brethren House
Open Day at Ballealy Cottage (Randalstown), Sunday 11th September, 10am – 4pm. Visitors have the opportunity to see the conservation work of Irish Landmark in this self-guided tour of the restored gamekeeper’s lodge.
The conservation of this property has won the Environment and Heritage Service Award and is now available as holiday accommodation.

Single Brethren House (Ballymeana), Saturday 10th September, 12:30pm-5pm.
This five bay, four storey house of squared basalt was built in 1819 on the site of a previous dwelling.
It provided accommodation for the single men as well as for a school and a bank.
Once community housing for the settlement, it is now in private ownership.

Derrymore House (Armagh) Saturday 10th September, 2pm – 5.30pm.
An elegant 18th-century thatched cottage in a pleasant parkland.
Part of the Ring of Gullion way-marked walking trail, the demesne has fine elevated views and is perfect for family walks.

Rocklands HouseRocklands House (Carrickfergus), Saturday 10th September, 10am-4pm.
Built in the 1820s for the Inspecting Commander of the Coastguards, Rocklands House is now owned by the older people’s charity Abbeyfield & Wesley.
This is a unique opportunity to see inside the ground floor of this Georgian building and find out a little of its history and its use today.

BHCBelfast Harbour Commissioners (Belfast), Saturday 10th & Sunday 11th September, 1pm – 5pm. This is an Italianate design by George Smith, built in 1852 containing many artworks, sculptures and stained glass windows.
The second phase of 1895 contains the splendid public rooms.
The modern office block was added in 1970.

Hillsborough Fort (Hillsborough), Saturday 10th September, 10am-5pm & Sunday 11th September, 1pm-5pm.
Hillsborough Fort is an Artillery fort built in 1650 by Colonel Arthur Hill – the Hill family built the village of Hillsborough starting with the fort.
It was remodelled in the 18th Century for feasts and entertainment and currently hosts an exhibition of photographs and artefacts from the area.

Bangor CastleBangor Castle (Bangor), Sunday 11th September, 12pm – 4.30pm. This is a large Victorian mansion built for Hon. Robert Edward Ward, the local landlord, to designs by William Burn in a Jacobean / Elizabethan revival style. Completed in 1852, the interior includes decorative plasterwork and joinery, particularly in the current council chamber which was once a grand music salon as well as a beautiful art collection.
The castle has served as council offices since 1952. Access by guided tour only which begin every 30 mins from 12 noon.

Light ShipLightship Petrel (Newtownards), Sunday 11th September, 1pm – 5.30pm. Petrel is a retired Commissioners of Irish Lights, Light Vessel built in Dublin 1911 which was registered by ‘National Historic ships UK in 2014. Since 1968 Petrel has been in the ownership and use of Down Cruising Club as the club headquarters. The ship is a well known landmark and this event is an opportunity to invite the public on board to view the ship and be guided on board and hear the history from our knowledgeable guides.
Booking required. To book call (07549847147).

Ennish Scutch Mill (Dungannon), Saturday 10th September, 10am – 5pm, Sunday 11th September, 2pm – 4pm.
This is a fully working traditional scutch mill and mill buildings which is family owned and maintained.
Tours on the hour.

Woodbank HouseWoodbank House (Garvagh) Saturday 10th September, 11am – 4pm. Woodbank House is a Georgian house set on the outskirts of Garvagh. The original house is said to date from 1745 with the current house structure dating from 1822. It is very much a family home which still has the original front door and decorative side-lights and Georgian fan-light, 6/6 sash windows, staircase and servants’ kitchen in the basement.
Hourly guided tours given by the owner. Booking required. To book email clyde@btinternet.com

Killymoon Castle (Cookstown), Sunday 11th September, 2pm & 3.30pm (tours). Killymoon Castle was built for James Stewart in 1671. After a fire the castle was designed by the famous London architect John Nash and in 1830 was rebuilt incorporating the earlier building.
The castle was Nash’s first Irish design and was to cost £80,000.
Recently the castle has had a huge restoration.
Booking required. To book call (028) 90 823238

If you would like further information regarding these events or would like to extend your stay and book a short break visit http://www.discovernorthernireland.com/loveheritageni/EHOD.aspx, http://www.facebook.com/discovernorthernireland or http://www.twitter.com/DiscoverNI.

La Garangeoire, It just gets Better

My final part of my three part series on French caravan sites covers the La Garangeoire in Pays de la Loire which is located in the in the hart of the Vendée Bocage in a little village called Saint Julien des Landes.


This is a superb site features 60 pitches, including 181 equipped with chalet or mobile-home and some tent /caravan pitches with private bathroom and showers. As I have mentioned before shower blocks are important to campers and caravaners. However on this site I booked a private bathroom with shower / wc and dishwashing facilities. Now trust me this is something special.


IMG_4489Private Facilities


Having private facilities like this at your own site means no long walks in the middle of the night to the loo or to the showers and to add to that the facilities are even heated. This is clearly glamping at its best. It’s hard to explain what a tremendous difference the private bathroom makes to your pitch if it’s a tent or caravan paying that little extra is really going to make a massive difference to your camping experience.



We all know that holidays are special as they are supposed to be the release valve for the years work so it is important that what ever you do and wherever you go you time should be a relaxing as possible. The staff at La Garangeoire will do their utmost to make your holiday as pleasant as possible. Multilingual receptionists and bar staff are always on hand to give you the best information and advice about activities in and around the campsite and other tourists locations.  Need a doctor, a mechanic, a visit to the vet? They will help you making an appointment and point you in the right direction. The “service and maintenance” team ensure that an incident, or a technical problem, is resolved in less than an hour.


If it all goes wrong!

It’s fair to say that many companies make amazing claims about their services but the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Not that I wanted to but I had a very serious incident that pushed their staff assistance to the limit. During a visit to a pine forest in another part of France, I didn’t realise I had been infected by a Pine processionary moth – (Thaumetopoea pityocampa)


This little blighter can cause a very severe reaction and swelling. And after I had arrived at La Garangeoire, my leg started to swell.


The reception staff pointed me in the direction of the local Doctor and made an appointment for me. I got some antibiotics and looked forward to my quick recovery. Sadly the leg kept on swelling and it caused such a problem a vein burst.

What was a swollen leg, turned into a life-threatening situation very quickly and I was loosing a large amount of blood. A difficult situation at any time but this was midnight. A kind caravaner called reception staff and it was the owner of the campsite who was with me in minutes. An ambulance was called and the staff and my amazing wife applied a tourniquet and saved my life.

The staff at La Garangeoire could not have been more helpful and they did everything to assist us before my repatriation back to Ireland, and I owe them a lot of thanks.


IMG_4498La Garangeoire has it all and here you have the opportunity to play your favourite sport or discover new activities such as angling in one of their 4 lakes, tennis, football, basket & volley ball, horse or pony riding, canoeing, crazy-golf, trampolines, pedal karting and so much more…

There is a spa, yoga, relaxation classes, and a fitness centre to burn off all that cheese and wine, beauty care and a heated swimming pool.


Not only does La Garangeoire have all those facilities but they also have two bars, supermarket with fresh bread every morning and some amazing entertainment.


The evenings at La Garangeoire pass by, and none are the same !

Every summer night there is something to do!During the summer season, there is a wide range of entertainment that will deliver music that is sure to please everyone. Covers of famous rock bands, French songs, jazz, rhythm & blues, African drums and if you’re a musician, don’t hesitate to bring your instrument!

There is also a piano where you will be encouraged to participate.

le lacIf that sounds to lively, then you can learn the secrets of wine tasting and discover French wines with a specialist. Every week during the high season La Garangeoire run a family fun evening. A bit like a fair, they offer lots of outdoor games:  giant wooden games, face painting, rodeo or mechanic surf simulator, duck fishing etc

and in July and August they have “night swimming” every Tuesday evening.

From end of May to the beginning of September, a mini disco is also organised every week and of course the very popular quiz where countries genrally pit their wits in family event for our British and Irish guests. Every week we have a quiz about the culture and knowledge… and in English!


Like all the Le Castel campsites I visited the attention to detail was superb and you are guaranteed a great camping experience. And for the “Connected Kids” there are 5 free WIFI areas.

All in all La Garangeoire is an amazing site and one, which I will be returning too without a doubt.

Visit http://www.les-castels.com/.

colours for guidelinesHow To Get there.

If you want to go and try some of the exciting places I have visited then get yourself onto www.aferry.co.uk and book yourself a great deal.

With exceptional prices too.





 NORTHERN IRELAND boasts some of the most magnificent gardens in Europe that are perfect for family days away, inquisitive horticulturalists and lazy summer picnics.  To celebrate our great green spaces Tourism Northern Ireland has created a green-fingered list of stunning gardens to visit and exciting events to attend.


Tourism NI’s Communications & Destination PR Officer Rachel Quigg explained why everyone should experience some of the beautiful gardens that NI has to offer:

“During the summer months, there is no better time to get together with friends and family and spend some time outdoors. From grand ornamental gardens to charming walled gardens, award-winning rose gardens and woodland meadows, there are a wide range of magical open green spaces all over NI just waiting to be explored.

“So whether you are a gardening enthusiast or just love to be outdoors there will be a garden to suit the experience you are looking for,” Rachel added.


Must See Gardens


Benvarden Garden in Ballymoney Co Antrim, is a beautiful walled garden which dates back to the 18th century and includes a woodland pond and a small stream with a waterfall. The garden is one of the finest and best maintained in Northern Ireland and visitors can take in the stables, coach houses, cart houses and tea room which is converted from a former stable. How to get there Head to Ballybogey and it’s on the Ballymoney/Portrush road. On B67, 7 miles east of Coleraine, signposted.


Bangor Castle Walled Garden

Bangor Castle Walled Garden

Bangor Castle Walled Garden was officially opened as a visitor attraction in April 2009. The gardens have four distinct sections which are the kitchen garden, the herb and topiary garden, the swamp garden and the flower garden so there is plenty for visitors to uncover and explore.


Antrim Castle Gardens are renowned as a historical gem and are the perfect way to spend a day out for a leisurely stroll with friends or family. Visitors to the gardens can explore many beautiful features such as the Large Parterre, Her Ladyship’s Pleasure Garden and Yew Tree Pond.  After a walk around the gardens why not stop for a rest at the Garden Coffee Shop where you can sample a treat from the menu before visiting the nearby shop which has a unique range of goods.



Lisburn Castle Gardens

Lisburn Castle Gardens

Lisburn Castle Gardens was once the site of Lisburn Castle, a 17th century fortified manor house. The upper 19th century gardens and the 17th century terraces have recently been restored by Lisburn City Council with aid from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the gardens main features include mature trees and many historic monuments.


Seaforde Gardens in Co Down is the perfect destination for families as it hosts a Tropical Butterfly House which has a large flight area with hundreds of free-flying exotic butterflies as well as reptiles and insects available to view behind glass.  The Tropical Butterfly House is set in beautiful grounds with avenues of mature trees, a maze set in the middle of an old walled garden and many tropical plants.


Glenarm Castle Gardens in Co. Antrim is part of the Antrim Garden Trail and is one of Ireland’s oldest walled gardens dating back from the 18th century.  This stunning garden is a centre of horticultural excellence with water features, fruit and vegetable gardens and colourful displays of flowers.


Florence Court is a truly welcoming home. The house, formerly the home of the Cole family, Earls of Enniskillen, is surrounded by a large area of parkland, garden and woodland, with breathtaking views to Benaughlin and the Cuilcagh Mountains.

Florence Court

in Enniskillen, Co.Fermanagh is set against a dramatic backdrop of mountains and forests. Visitors can discover the many serene and beautiful areas such as the Pleasure Grounds and the Walled Garden within this magnificent demesne where garden lovers will also find the famous Florence Court Yew. Other interesting features include a saw mill, original ice house and charming summer house.


Rowallane Garden in Saintfield, Co Down is an enchanting garden enclosed within a demesne landscape. The garden reflects the beautiful natural landscape of the surrounding area with spectacular displays of shrubs and several areas managed as

wildflower meadows.


Castle Ward in Strangford Co Down has 40 acres of parkland and contains many beautiful historical garden features such as the Temple Water, the Sunken Garden and the Irish Yew Trees. The grounds at Castle Ward are perfect for those with an interest in garden history and keen gardeners will revel in the trails, stunning vistas and a picturesque farmyard as well as woodland, lakeside and parkland walks with breath-taking view points.


Mount Stewart

Mount Stewart

Mount Stewart in Newtownards, Co Down is one of the most popular gardens in Northern Ireland. Visitors can enjoy formal gardens of clipped topiary, impressive colour schemes and a picturesque lake surrounded by beautiful areas of woodland.


Garden lovers should keep an eye out for the Ulster Gardens Scheme which sees a number of private gardens open each year to raise funds to support work in the gardens cared for by the National Trust in Northern Ireland. Some gardens open for one or two days every few years whilst others make their gardens available throughout the summer months ‘by appointment’.


For information on which gardens are open, go to



Green Fingered Events

Orchid Walk, Belfast, July 31. Enjoy a beautiful walk along the western shore of Lough Beg which is just one of a handful of sites in NI that is home to a rare type of orchid known as Irish Lady’s Tresses. Walkers are sure to be delighted at the delicate scents and stunning scenery.


Kids Mini-beasts Nature Trail, August 6. Join local naturalist ‘Woody’ for a creative exploration of Killynether Wood in Newtownards, Co Down and look out for the mini–beasts that make the parkland their home and find out more about the flora and fauna.


Creatures of the Night Picnic, August 10. Enjoy a picnic with a difference at the Ring of Gullion and find out what goes bump in the night. Families can watch mammal expert David Tosh as he tries to catch bats with his nets as well as listen out for them with special bat detectors. Those that are lucky enough may even see an elusive pine marten or a fox.


Edible Geology Bus Tour, August 16. This fun event will be hosted in Mullaghbane, Co Armagh and attendees will join geologist Kirstin Lemon and accompany her on an edible geology tour of key sites in the Ring of Gullion. There will be lots of home baked delights on offer, all in the form of different geological features!


For further information on things to see and do in Northern Ireland click on www.discovernorthernireland.com