Conceived, as a saucy seaside stopover the Hotel in Brighton the Pelirocco has become the by-word for those seeking a great getaway laced with a real touch of Rock ‘n’ Roll.

Brighton is a melting pot of hedonism, seaside culture, the pier, the pavilion, the lanes and of course gay bars and it’s been famous for all those things for years. Located only 40 miles from London is a relatively short drive in distance but a long way in time and culture. And right at the centre of all of this is the famous Hotel Pelirocco.

Mick Habeshaw Robinson and Jane Slater founded the hotel in 2000.
It grew from a discontent with hotel experiences on offer at the time.
Stuck between the ostentatious option of the Grand and the faded chintz of the Brighton B&B the Hotel Pelirocco sought to satisfy the middle ground with an outrageous alternative hotel and it was the forerunner of themed hotels around United Kingdom.

Attracting high-profile sponsorship from Sony PlayStation through to Asian Dub foundation, this unique hotel embraced collaboration, working with a range of artists designers and sponsors Stoli vodka Kraken rum Jamie Reid as well as playing homage to icons from both British and International subculture, Betty Paige, Diana Daws, Yoyo Kusama and Lee Scratch Perry.

Renowned for its friendly and relaxed customer service, guests and visitors are welcomed back again and again by familiar faces that have been with the Pelirocco team for years.

The Pelirocco has designed all of its rooms to be unique and each year a new one is created, I hear a Japanese love room is nearing completion very soon.


There are a host of unique rooms. The quadrophenia room, rock and roll room, Bowery Room, the Nookie Room and a Star Wars themed offering, in fact too many to list here.







The hotel however does not sit on their laurels, there is a constant demand and occupancy rates are well up in the 80% region as customers return again and again. In fact a couple brought their 15 yr. old daughter, as the Pelirocco was their honeymoon hotel.

But don’t think it’s just a hotel room as the Pelirocco offers so much more.

They bring on young musical talent, and hold comedy nights and jamming sessions nearly all the time, the bar has a 24-hour licence but mostly it shuts between 3 and 4 am. Breakfast is a welcomed wonderful affair and its fair to say they do get through quite a few full English breakfasts there too.

When you enter the hotel through the hall its looks a bit odd with the walls covered with memorabilia, records, posters, pictures and lots of other advertising artefacts literally all over the walls. But don’t be put off the hotel is spotlessly clean and a super place to stay.

Having stayed once, i’m hooked.

Check out





Nottingham is located 30 miles (48 km) south of Sheffield and about 3 hours from London. Nottingham is famous for a few things, Sherwood Forrest, Robin Hood and Raleigh bikes. It was granted a city charter in 189 and its population now equals that of Northern Ireland. So last weekend I decided to pop over there to see what this famous city has to offer. I drove from Larne across to Cairnryan on the speedy P&O route, which gets you from shore to shore in just two hours. A few hours later I was arriving into Nottingham.

Hart’s Hotel

I stayed at Harts Hotel in the city centre. Harts is  a contemporary 4 star boutique hotel with stunning views over Nottingham from its bedrooms and secluded gardens. Some people may see boutique hotels as minimalist but I can assure you that my experience of Harts was, this was a really stunning and well-equipped hotel. Beautifully furnished and it comes with an award winning restaurant.

Hart’s is a busy 80 seater restaurant which has for a number of years claimed the title of Nottingham’s most successful up-market eatery. Hart’s aims to provide a thoroughly professional blend of skilled service and modern British cooking in a stylish and comfortable interior. Having eaten in Hart’s I can advise it is a stunning place to eat where your taste buds will be taken on a journey of delight.
My room was beautifully quiet and housekeeping was immaculate. The views of Nottingham were stunning and if you are looking for a wonderful hotel to stay at do consider Harts


Getting around Nottingham was really east as it boasts an award-winning public transport system, including the largest publicly owned bus network in England. It is also served by the modern Nottingham Express Transit tram system.
This city was also named ‘Home of English Sport’ as it has the National Ice Centre, Holme Pierrepont National Watersports Centre, and Trent Bridge international cricket ground, which are all based in or around the city.

So if you are sporty you will not be lost for choice.

 Nottingham Is Well Read Too

On 11 December 2015, Nottingham was named a Unesco City of Literature, joining Norwich, Melbourne, Prague and Barcelona as one of only a handful in the world.[15] The title reflects Nottingham’s literary heritage, with Lord Byron, DH Lawrence and Alan Sillitoe having links to the city.


Lots to do

My first evening was spent at a £1-00 comedy night at The Canalhouse, Nottingham. (

This is no ordinary English pub. Originally it was a boathouse and if you walk inside you will see exactly what I mean, but ill let you discover the surprise. The Comedy night was £1-00 in and there were 7 comedians on stage, a great night was had and there were lots of laughs. Interesting to note that in this bar they serve Northern Irish measures so you are sure for a great value night. Also the main bar serves some wonderful real ale. Apart from the great venues super prices and amazingly cheap comedy nights there food is super too.


Robin Hood

The real Robin hood Ezekiel Bone

After my comedy evening it was back to Hart’s for some sleep and an early start, as I was to meet Nottingham’s real hero. Ezekial Bone, of Nottingham Tours. Just type Nottingham tours into Google and you will find him. This man is a legend in his own lifetime. He makes Professor Stephen Hawkin’s appear stupid, for his knowledge is amazing. There is nothing he does not know about Nottingham or its most famous son Robin Hood. In fact some say they are one and the same.

Ezekial, or if you know him well you may call him Ade, will take you on a bespoke walking tour of Nottingham, calling in at the Malt Cross, Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem, England’s oldest pub, which is built into caves beneath Nottingham Castle.

He will walk you down streets that will make your skin crawl or frighten the life out of you for this man is not only a tour guide, he is a “master story teller” and should be nominated as Nottingham’s Ambassador.

He promotes Nottingham with a passion rarely seen these days. His life is and has been dedicated to promoting this rich and diverse city. I know travel journalists bang on about doing tours of cities, but folks tour guides are generally local and they can tell you more about the history of their town in an hour than you will ever learn in a year of reading travel guides. After a wonderful tour of Nottingham Robin Hood and I arrived at ‘Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem’, England’s oldest pub for a swift pint of ale and some fine English fish and chips.

One highlight of the tour was when Ade had stopped in the lace district of the town, he was describing the history of the city in great detail, and from high up in a building, I heard a man shouting down at us. I thought he was going to tell off the guide, in fact so good was Ade’s historic account of the town, the gentleman aloft worked for the historical society and told him what a fabulous job he was doing and said he wished there were more people like him.

Now if that’s not an accolade nothing is!

Check out And remember he is not limited to walking tours of Nottingham; he does a blood and guts tour, a lace tour, a magic lantern tour of Nottingham Theatre Royal, which has been acclaimed as ‘A wonderfully theatrical tour!’ by Gyles Brandreth. So please consider booking a tour with Ade you will not regret it.


Englands oldest Pub

Ye Olde Trip To Jerusalem is ranked as one of the best pubs to visit in England. Built into the rocks that Nottingham Castle stands on it boasts a wealth of history and enchanting features.

Many people believe the pub is named ‘Ye Olde Trip To Jerusalem’ because people made a trip to Jerusalem from there. In fact the word “trip” does not mean a journey in this case. An old meaning for ‘trip’ is a stop on a journey, like being tripped up, so the inn’s name means a stop or rest on the way to Jerusalem. So if in Nottingham why not follow in the pilgrims tradition and pop in on your way past the pub for a quick pint or a nibble? The pub is famous for its caves carved out of the soft sandstone rock against which the building is set and its landlord Karl. The larger ground level caverns are now used as the pub’s rear drinking rooms. There is also a network of caves beneath the building, originally used as a brewery. They appear to date from around the time of the construction of the castle (1068 AD).

The cursed galleon is a small wooden model of a ship in one the upstairs lounge. It is claimed that people who have cleaned it have all met a mysterious death. Landlords have refused to allow anyone to dust the ship over the years, allowing inches of thick grime to build up on it. The galleon is now encased in glass.

The pub also houses an antique chair; it is claimed that a woman who sits in the chair will increase her chances of becoming pregnant. So many people have sat on the chair in the hope of it bringing them pregnancy that is now is too weak to withstand the huge demand… It is now on display in the upstairs lounge.

Karl the landlord has been nominated as a tourism superstar in a Daily Mirror competition so please give him a few votes from the emerald isle, voting page is: Voting is live until the end of March.



They do a mean burger

If you are into burgers, I mean real burgers, the American type then head for Annies Burger Shack near the lace district. Born and raised in Rhode Island in New England Annie grew up down the road from where the first ever diners started.
She moved to Nottingham in 1994 and started Annie’s Burger Shack in 2009. All I can say is WOW, amazing, there are real American burgers just how you like the. Do not miss this famous and fabulous eating-house. Crammed every night of the week it’s a firm favourite with the locals and now I know why.
As Annie says “We are not about fast food, we are for the experience… so enjoy your surroundings, enjoy your time in the historical Lace Market, and its beautiful architecture which, funnily enough, reminds me of home”.




When traveling across to the mainland I have been a frequent user of the Belfast to Cairnryan route, and I have despite living relatively close to Larne, forgotten that P&O do actually provide the shortest fastest crossing to Scotland.

So last weekend I decided to remind myself how good the journey can be. And I was surprised what I found and it was all very good.

P&O Ferries operate the most frequent crossings between Northern Ireland and Scotland and with more sailings to choose from and lots to do on board. And it is easy to forget that travelling to Scotland has never been easier and quicker than with P&O Ferries!

There have been quite a few developments too, for example there has been new seating added and a very reliable Wi-Fi that actually works. There are also new food menus, improved kids play areas and so much more. So you’ll get where you want, when you want, on a newly improved P&O ferry.


Flexibility to travel

With up to seven P&O Ferries sailings a day, no baggage restrictions and a journey time of just two hours, the Larne to Cairnryan route makes getting to Scotland even more convenient, and before you know it you heading into Lough Ryan, and that’s it quick and simple. In total  its a two hour crossing.

WI_FI that works

Wi-fi at sea as for a long time been a bit of a hit and miss affair, and I do have experience of logging on and being connected, but just not being able to actually get anywhere on the web because the signal was so poor and finally I just gave up. P&O Ferries offers a free Wi-Fi service that really works well. A high quality and dependable Wi-Fi connection on-board ferry sailings between Larne and Cairnryan is available to all passengers free of charge. So on this route you and your kids can be connected and peace will reign. In fact it was so good I was able to update apps on my Ipad and browse at the same time, so take it from me that is good.



On Board experience

If you’re feeling peckish, the new on-board catering menu offers a variety of meals, to include a vegetarian option and a specially designed children’s menu full of tasty favourites, as well as a great range of light snacks to suit all times of travel. Customers can also upgrade to enjoy Club Lounge with a range of complimentary newspapers and magazines, refreshments and Wi-Fi. It costs £12 per person if booked in advance and £14 per person if booked on board.

I used this facility and if you want to have a little more peace and a quiet space with all those goodies, £12 is a very small price to pay for a peaceful lounge that adds a little more luxury to your crossing. Keypad entry system keeps the club lounge an upper class area for those who have paid for the privilege. And it’s a small price to pay for a bespoke executive lounge on this great crossing.

Great Staff

Its obvious the staff are aware that for some passengers it may be their first time sailing with P&O and they go out of their way to make you fell as welcome and as comfortable as possible. Smiles from all the staff, greeting every passenger they see and a warm welcome is just what you want and its just what you get.

On-board, there is a shop offering a wide range of souvenirs, books, toys and games and for those tempted there are perfumes to snap up at up to 40% off its high street prices. Or simply sit back and relax in the lounge with lots of seating areas. Or visit the cinema.

For young sailors there’s plenty to keep them happy with the newly decorated kids play area and game zone. The children’s entertainment room has a play area and a video screen playing all their favourite shows and the arcade room will keep the older ones happy.

Road networks that suits easy connections.

With the completion of the newly improved A8, the main road network linking Belfast and other major gateways to the Port of Larne, it makes it even easier for passengers sailing across the Irish Sea to Scotland. The new link to larne is fast and efficient and long gone are the long delays behind an articulated lorry on a single track road to Larne.

P&O’s great value fares start from £74 each way from Larne to Cairnryan for a car and driver.

For further information on all sailings and the latest P&O Ferries offers please visit or call 0800 130 0030.          



Upbeat holidaymakers are busting Blue Monday myth

  • Blue Monday won’t get us down as just 5% expect to feel blue next week!
  • We’re waving goodbye to the gloom of 2016 and taking steps for a positive for 2017
  • Jet2holidays forecasts record booking numbers over weekend and into Blue Monday


This Monday (January 16) is widely regarded as the most depressing day of the year, but new research from leading package holiday specialist Jet2holidays suggests that holidaymakers in Northern Ireland are taking it in their stride this year by throwing off the memory of a gloomy 2016 and taking steps to have a happy and action-packed 2017.


With a quarter (24%) of people in Northern Ireland questioned saying they are glad to see the back of 2016, just 5% expect to feel down on Blue Monday.  Instead, 59% report that far from feeling blue, they are approaching the day feeling happy for the year ahead, as they move on from the gloom of last year and make positive changes for a happier and healthier year.  Over a third (36%) of those surveyed in Northern Ireland claim that they’ve never even heard of Blue Monday. 


Figures show that as well as getting fit, taking up new hobbies, and eating well this month, 60% of people will waste no time in booking a holiday, with 10% even jetting off somewhere in January.  This is backed up by Jet2holidays data, with the company expecting record-breaking booking numbers over the weekend and into Monday.


The survey of 2,000 adults, shows that over a third (35%) of people are booking beach holidays in January –with Majorca, Spain and the Canary Islands the favourites for people flying from Belfast International according to Jet2holidays. What’s more, it seems our sense of adventure is stronger than ever in 2017, with more than half of local holidaymakers (52%) planning to experience new destinations.


TV psychologist Honey Langcaster-James commented: “The start of January is traditionally seen as a fresh start with new ambitions set and life-affirming initiatives started. Unfortunately, the winter weather, the long period between pay cheques and the return to the daily grindstone has previously meant that by mid-January people tend not to feel as positive as they did.


“However, this research suggests that we are more resilient and motivated than ever to take action to make our own happiness.  Starting a new hobby, getting fit and planning things to look forward to such as trying a new holiday destination is a great way of shunning those January blues.”


Planning a holiday is cited as the fifth most popular activity to do in January, which is supported by Jet2holidays bookings. The company is predicting a fourfold increase on normal booking volumes, a significant increase on peak periods last year. In response, the company has increased capacity in its call centre and online and social media teams.


Zoe Towers, Head of Product at Jet2holidays added: “This time of year has always been a popular time for bookings, but this year we’re expecting a surge of bookings over the weekend and into Monday. We’ve prepared for this demand by increasing the number of customer support staff, both in our call centres as well as in our online and social teams to help with enquiries.


“This year seems to be a year of exploration for people in Northern Ireland, as they get to well-known hotspots as well as new destinations. With this appetite to get out, do things and see the world it means that the phrase ‘Blue Monday’ feels a bit wide of the mark this year, and this research certainly shows that.


For more information and to book please visit

 A Few Facts about

  1. is a leading leisure airline providing friendly low fares to 67 exciting sun, city and ski destinations across Europe.  It operates from nine UK airports: Belfast International, Birmingham, East Midlands, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds Bradford, London Stansted, Manchester and Newcastle.
  2. prides itself on offering award winning customer service, friendly flight times, allocated seating, a generous 22kg baggage allowance and 0% credit card, debit card and AMEX fees.
  3. is the 4th largest registered airline in the UK and currently operates a fleet of 59 aircraft (as of 2nd November 2016). By August 2017 the fleet size will be 74.
  4. In September 2016, took delivery of a brand new Boeing 737-800 aircraft. This is the first of 34 new aircraft to be delivered before early 2019.
  5. is the only UK airline to be awarded with Which? ‘Recommended Provider’ status in its annual Airline Survey (December 2016) and has scooped a host of prestigious awards, with the most recent ones including: UK’s Top Airline as voted for by Trip Advisor users, UK’s Most Loved Airline as voted for by users of Skytrax, Airline of the Year award at the Glasgow Airport Awards 2016, Best Holiday Airline at the Scottish Passenger Agents Association Awards 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 & 2016, Best Short Haul Airline at the Globe Travel Awards 2012, 2013 & 2014 and Best Airline at the Group Leisure Awards 2012, 2013, 2014 & 2016.
  6. It is a subsidiary of Dart Group PLC, an aviation services and distribution group.
  7. For further information visit


About Jet2holidays

  1. Jet2holidays provides great value package holidays you can trust to more than 40 top sun destinations across the Mediterranean, Canary Islands and Europe.
  2. Jet2holidays wraps everything up in one great package.  Customers have a choice of thousands of 2-5 star hotels, with flights, an industry leading 22kg baggage allowance and airport transfers included. 
  3. Infants go free on all holidays and all holidays can be secured with a low £60 per person deposit and 0% credit card, debit card and AMEX fees.
  4. With a UK based call centre, and the option to book online or over the phone, Jet2holidays customers also benefit from 24 hour assistance in resort.
  5. Jet2holidays is ATOL protected and is a subsidiary of Dart Group PLC, an aviation services and distribution group.
  6. Jet2holidays has won a range of awards, with the most recent ones including:  Best Overall Operator and Best Mainstream Short Haul Tour Operator at the Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association Awards 2015 and 2016, and Best Package Tour Operator and Best Internet Booking System at the Northern Ireland Travel & Tourism Awards 2016.
  7. For further information visit  Travel agents can visit the dedicated trade site

 About Jet2CityBreaks

  1. Jet2CityBreaks is Jet2’s dedicated city breaks product launched in May 2015.
  2. Jet2CityBreaks provides flights and handpicked hotels in more than 26 of Europe’s most popular cities, all secured with a low £60 per person deposit.
  3. All Jet2CityBreaks are ATOL protected.
  4. Jet2CityBreaks won Best European Short Break Provider at the Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association Awards 2016.
  5. For further information visit



Feather Down, creator of the best-loved family glamping holiday in the UK and abroad, announces the launch of the 2017 season.
This season, it introduces flexible arrival days, new farms, seasonal activities and an exclusive offer for customers aged 55 and above.


Feather Down offers more possibilities for arrival dates – such as any weekday for a two-night minimum stay – on selected farms. Furthermore, it is now offering up to a £35 discount for customers aged 55 years and above who are looking for a relaxed glamping holiday with their spouse and (grand) children


The 10 Person Tent has been upgraded too.

It now has a covered entry and a bigger stove and dining table, as well as a large outdoor kitchen. Feather Down also offers a new type of Canvas Frills Lodge, with wooden entry doors (instead of the traditional canvas slit with ropes). Customers can find this new type of Canvas Frills Lodge at East Shilvinghampton, in Dorset (England).


New locations for 2017

New farms have been added to the Feather Down family. Customers can expand their glamping adventure abroad with new farms in the UK as well as in Ireland, France, The Netherlands and Germany.
Fancy a glamping adventure in Scotland, in the middle of the Highlands? Then you might want to plan a trip to Feather Down’s brand new location close to one of the most popular UK holiday destinations.

Loch Ness.

There is also now a unique Feather Down Collection location in Ireland. Discover Loop Head Collection, a seaside glamping retreat that offers yoga classes and hosts small-scale festivals throughout the year. Furthermore, Feather Down has also opened two new farms on the other side of the pond. Grange du Bost is an organic farm in the Dordogne, France, which produces eggs, honey, walnuts, cereal and more.
La Grange is run by an English couple, so communication will be as easy as at home. Or enjoy a glamping stay at Hof Viehbrook in Germany, near the Baltic Sea. Here visitors can cuddle with the farm animals and enjoy the delicious local cuisine.

An introduction to Glamping

Glamping is a blend of ‘glamorous’ and ‘camping’. If one thinks about camping, the first things that come to mind are a tent, air mattresses, a gas cooker and communal showers. Feather Down thought ‘We can do better!’


The Feather Down glamping concept combines the cosy feeling of camping with the luxury of a cottage. No stress about setting up tents, leaky air mattresses or scurrying across the camping site with a roll of toilet paper; instead the pure luxury of high-quality mattresses, a well-equipped kitchen, and a private shower and toilet.

Feather Down, Glamping Pioneers


European leader in glamping holidays, Feather Down, once again offers its luxurious accommodations at the most beautiful locations in the UK and abroad. Holidays with Feather Down are about getting back to the simple life, without electricity and Wi-Fi. The concept was born about 10 years ago in the Netherlands, and Feather Down now has thousands of customers from all over the UK and Europe; in the Netherlands, Germany, France, Belgium and the US.

An original holiday for families that is all about total relaxation.




A Feather Down tent is spacious and comfortable. The interior evokes the idyllic country life of times gone by. The Feather Down tents are equipped for up to 6 people (maximum 5 adults and 1 child up to 12 years), although there is a group tent that sleeps 10 people. Feather Down also offers an entirely wooden Log Cabin. In each of Feather Down’s accommodations there is a stove, toilet and fully equipped kitchen. Customers do not have to bring anything from home – everything will be provided.

10 Person Tent and new Canvas Frills Lodge


The 10 Person Tent has been upgraded. It now has a covered entry and a bigger stove and dining table, as well as a large outdoor kitchen. Furthermore, Feather Down now offers a new type of Canvas Frills Lodge, with wooden entry doors (instead of the traditional canvas slit with ropes). Customers can find this new type of Canvas Frills Lodge at East Shilvinghampton, in Dorset (England).

Seasonal Activities!

On Feather Down farms, there are different activities for every season.

They will kick off with their annual Easter Weekend, with a complimentary breakfast basket and Easter egg hunting activities with the children.


Find all of their seasonal activities here.

A special time away spent in close proximity to nature will remain etched in the memory of young and old. A unique family holiday glamping experience… It is no surprise that the average satisfaction rating of Feather Down customers is 9.5 / 10!



We all like a bargain, and for many travellers, I suppose we want ease of use and a one-stop shop for our travel needs. I was checking out the web recently and I came across a website that featured just those things and then I started to delve a little deeper into the site.

What I found was extremely interesting. is a global ferry comparison site that offers a quick and easy way to search, compare and book thousands of scheduled ferry crossings worldwide.

This one stop site represents 189 ferry companies (and the Eurotunnel), 2377 ferry routes and around 674 ferry ports, connecting travellers by sea to over 229 countries and Islands.


The Direct Ferries network covers virtually every ferry route around the world and it continues to grow.

Whether it’s a family break across the continent, Greek island hopping or an intrepid adventure across Asia, for anyone planning a ferry holiday, Direct Ferries is the essential planning tool.

Featuring literally thousands of ferry crossings and the very best ferry deals all in one place, Direct Ferries’ site and mobile app puts an end to hours of researching ferry travel options or navigating through non-English sites.

There is a comprehensive list of ports and detailed information on routes and destinations, allowing travellers to find the cheapest and most direct ferry crossing. The special offers page lists the best local deals for customers with a localised site depending where in the world you are.

Amazing Deals

For example, for bookings made before the end of January 2017, Direct Ferries is offering customers up to a 20% discount and a free flexi-ticket upgrade for ferry travel between Northern Ireland and the UK for travel throughout the year on certain routes.

It’s not just about the deals

The route and port finder makes it easy to find out which operators sail on which routes by looking at a country or by port in the drop down list.

Reaching customers across multiple-platforms, not only does Direct Ferries offer unrivalled access to the best global ferry deals, it also offers a range of supporting products including vehicle breakdown cover on certain routes, train tickets and accommodation.

Combination tickets

Train and ferry combined tickets, ideal for travelling between Northern Ireland and the UK mainland are available on the site and there’s a dedicated information page for this route. There’s also a mini cruise section for travel in Amsterdam, Bruges, Rotterdam and Copenhagen.

By partnering with accommodation provider,, visitors to the site also have the widest choice of accommodation at the best available prices. Whether stopping overnight on the way to or from the ferry port, or looking for accommodation for the duration of the holiday, there are hotels included for every port and destination.

And the Direct Ferries site isn’t just for future travel planning; the same flexibility and excellent value can be found via the mobile app.

In fact, in 2016 Direct Ferries found that in the UK and Europe, customers were opting to book on the go using their app rather than on their desktops.

Founded in 1999, Direct Ferries is a global company with offices across the world. Present in numerous markets, the company has developed a localised product for ferry travellers in the UK, across Europe, the USA, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and China and more whilst the website available in 25 languages.

The company continues to grow rapidly and in 2016 they reported a 35% increase in global bookings. The route with the biggest increase of booking traffic up by 440% globally was Singapore to the popular holiday resorts on Bintan Island whilst the Wellington to Picton route, connecting New Zealand’s North and South islands, was the second most popular route with an increase in global booking figures of over 400%.

For those in search of that welcome winter sun, another handy travel hack is a new route, launched on Direct Ferries’ site at the end of last year, for ferries to Sharm el Sheikh on the Red Sea Riviera. With the continued lack of flights to the region, holidaymakers can now fly into Hughada and hop on a ferry, arriving in Sharm el Sheikh in under 2.5 hours – a journey that would take over 10 hours if completed by road.

With such a huge reach of ferry routes available, the site has some unusual routes to inspire the wanderlust in everyone; how about travelling by ferry from Tahiti to Moorea Island for amazing landscape, or Japan to Russia for the exotic and for a handy travel hack, go visa-free to St Petersburg in Russia only by ferry from Stockholm, Tallin or Helsinki.

So if you are thinking of a new ferry route or one you have used before, consider

Copyright Frank Lose


The Wallawwa

This week our guest writer visits Sri Lanka, Adam Jacot de Boinod worked on the first series of the BBC panel game QI for Stephen Fry. He is a British author and avid travel writer. Enjoy the wonders of Sri Lanka

Of all the tropical islands I have visited, Sri Lanka has the most heady mix of exoticism. Kúpa-mandúka is their local phrase for one who never leaves his home, one ignorant of the world (literally, a frog in a well). But, for me, Sri Lanka was definitely somewhere I knew I would be enriched by and had to visit.


I was soon to relax at my first hotel, the Wallawwa ( Colombo features a number of iconic colonial-era hotels with its charm and romance of a bygone era.

The drawing room has ‘Fly BOAC to Ceylon’ vintage posters and plays ambient music, lending itself well to the breezy vibe. Set in five acres of tropical gardens, it really proved a secluded boutique bolthole.


Anantara resort

Next up and down to the coast at Tangalle and the new Anantara resort (
The verandahs look out to sea and all around the resort are little lobster basket lights giving off a spiders’ web effect. Lounge chairs are actually cemented into two lengthy infinity pools and out to sea fishermen brave the rocks. And it’s mercifully mosquito free. Peace haven or ‘piece of heaven?’ It’s certainly pampering and tranquil.


I felt a real delight in witnessing the source of my food as manual workers, up to their knees in mud in the paddy fields, left behind them immaculate rows of rice. And to taste their rice that evening made me appreciate my food all the more.

Beach Office



Close by is Amanwella ( I arrived first at the large, red-pebbled courtyard, then through a an orchard of frangipani trees that suggested a place for convalescence.
There’s a super-sized swimming pool, pleasingly green rather than the usual blue, thus blending into the natural habitat. It’s virtually Olympian length helps to echo the height of the trees that in turn are reflected in the water.



Kahanda Kanda

And up inland to Lake Koggolo and onto the Kahanda Kanda ( Fifteen minutes inland and five miles from Galle, this style-conscious hotel looks down from its prominent bluff over a dense twelve-acre tea plantation. As for the feel, it is decidedly colonial. There are old portraits, oil paintings of horse racing, block-print cotton furnishings, antique loo seats and four-poster beds. There are games boards on the verandah and sofas outdoors on the porches.





Maliga Kandy

My next treat was to be at the nearby Maliga Kandy ( It’s part of Hideaways Club Classic Collection portfolio with properties all around the world. It’s perfect for someone who doesn’t want to be restricted to one location or have the hazzle of maintenance. Meaning Mountain Palace, Maliga Kanda is perched on a hill. This large, purpose-built villa is surrounded by wildlife and it was here that I got the true sense of the Sri Lankan paradise many had told me about. There’s music in the jungle. Especially with the dawn chorus. Colourful birds abound, peacocks strut upon their stage while fireflies shine out like mini stars and I was soon a twitcher, straining to spot the cormorants, eagles, kingfishers, blue pigeons and grosbeaks.


I took the most wonderful of all walks down through the village where I felt all of the island’s innocence and timeless charm. Dogs sit out by day to protect the houses and lie on the road at night to enjoy the tarmac’s warmth. A row of houses awaits the sound of ‘Fur Elise’ that heralds the bread truck or was it for ice cream? A multi-coloured school bus goes by. Schoolgirls in their white uniforms have thick platted hair that descends beyond the top of their legs. A washerwoman by the stream thinks twice about agreeing to be photographed amongst her laundry. Elderly ladies parade in pairs beneath their vivid-coloured parasols. Old men stick their legs out at right angles on old colonial bicycles that cause them to adopt staunch, upright postures.


Sri Lankan Cuisine

I was next to experience the period charm of a bygone era, at the Amangalla Hotel ( And while clearly the supreme standard of an Aman hotel must have given the building quite some makeover, I sensed nonetheless the residual authenticity. It’s full of character with triangular stairwells, wonky tiles, and those Portuguese terracotta tiles that I much prefer to the red roofs of the more modern Sri Lankan structures. The Zaal (great hall) divides between somewhere to sit and somewhere to eat. It has its original polished teak floors and a grand piano that I sat down to play. What a sublime experience across such a long room under such an echo from the high roof. The thirty bedrooms and suites have been cleverly converted from their original cell dimensions into sections where the arches and gaps lend a sense of privacy. The baths are freestanding and the carpets are from seagrass. There are Pettagama chests and planter’s chairs and the four-postered beds with their Dutch blue bedspreads have neither canopy nor mosquito nets.


Transport has its own challenges even now with the right of way always open to question. So renting a car would not be my suggestion. Tuk-tuks are fun to take and breezy especially on the minor roads. While dishing out advice, I stress you just have to respect the midday intensity of the sun and likewise the savage currents of the Indian Ocean.



I was to spend my last night at the lovely boutique hotel called Maniumpathy ( It’s tucked away in its own little world . Built over 100 years ago and renovated 10 years ago it opened in 2015. The eight suites with artefacts and vintage furnishings are named after the members of a fifth generation Tamil family from Jaffna (where Manipay was a thriving and wealthy locality). The owner, Hallock, was a ‘mudhaili’ (self-made man). So it’s not strictly speaking a colonial house, rather a family home. It’s in a desirable residential district and bang in the city centre near the National Museum, and the railway and bus termini.


Unlike other popular tropical destinations, Sri Lanka remains relatively untouched and unspoilt. The war is finished, the tsunami is a decade past and the highways now connect the island efficiently. With tourism rates projected to explode over the next few years, now is the perfect time to visit.



Adam travelled with The Holiday Place that has a wide range of holidays to Sri Lanka from just £699, including flights, accommodation and transfers. Call 020 7644 1770 and let the experts tailor-make your holiday or visit to book.


With Christmas only a few days away and most of us having stopped work for the holidays, it’s time to indulge in some last minute Christmas shopping for friends, family and even a year end treat for ourselves.

Whether you’re looking for designer clothing or searching for unique souvenirs, Northern Ireland can tailor your shopping experience to ensure that you shop and drop in style this festive season.

Tourism Northern Ireland’s Destination PR Officer, Rachel Quigg, said: “From shopping centres and high streets filled with designer brands to village studios selling the wares of local craftspeople, Northern Ireland is a great place for shopping.”

“Don’t forget to finish your shopping trip with a sumptuous coffee, festive cocktail or delicious meal at one of Northern Ireland’s award-winning eateries. After all, a hard day’s work requires a reward.” added Rachel.

Tourism Northern Ireland has put together a list of key destinations to hit the shops in the lead up to Christmas Day:

Victoria Square, Belfast

This luxury shopping centre located in the heart of the city has over 60 stores, including a four-storey House of Fraser, an Apple Store and many designer names: Michael Kors, Reiss, Ted Baker, Kurt Geiger and L. K. Bennett to name a few. For something extra special, dine in the Ivory Restaurant and afterwards take the elevator up to the glass dome and experience 360° panoramic views of Belfast.


Castlecourt Shopping Centre, Belfast

Debenhams is the big draw at Castlecourt, where there are more than 80 high street stores.  Spend a few hours browsing and you can even get a professional makeover by the experts including MAC, Urban Decay and Yves Saint Laurent.  Additional stores in the centre include Dorothy Perkins, Burton, Jack & Jones, Schuh Kids, H. Samuel and Hawkin’s Bazaar.

St George’s Market, Belfast

Belfast’s historic St George’s Market is where much of the best local food produce is gathered under one roof – from fresh fish, fruit and vegetables to ‘Belfast baps’, Bailies Coffee and Ann Pantry’s award-winning black pudding potato bread. Named Best Market in the UK 2016 by the Observer newspaper, it is also great for clothes, vinyl, bric-a-brac and arts and crafts. The market takes place every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with a different theme each day.

Lisburn Road
South Belfast

Independent designer fashion and homeware boutiques are scattered along the Lisburn Road, interspersed with coffee shops and restaurants. Shop at Jo Jo Maman Bebe, Bedeck, MavenOliver Bonas, Velvet BoutiqueReal, Moda Shoes, and Hugo Thomas. Then relax with great food and drinks at Deane and Decano, The Albany, The Chelsea or Shu. 

Bloomfield Avenue, East Belfast

Looking for something unique and individual, look no further than Bloomfield Avenue for specialist boutique style. Spend time browsing for that special item in shops such as Siren, Peels Fashion Store, Harlequin, Annabelle Ladies Fashions and Arabesque shoe shop with its selection of Italian and Spanish shoes and handbags.   

Queen’s Quarter, Belfast

For something old school head to South Belfast’s Queen’s Quarter in South Belfast. Botanic Avenue has the Vibrant Yellow Submarine and the Rusty Zip and Viva Retro is in nearby Bradbury Place. After you’ve come across that special outfit, why not indulge in great food at French Village Patisserie or get lost in a whodunit at No Alibis, a specialist crime bookstore.

Belfast city centre also has some vintage and retro shops: Fresh GarbageVintage Magpie, Liberty Blue and Octopus Garden.

Abbeycentre Shopping Centre, County Antrim

With High Street names such as Next, Monsoon, Pandora and TK Maxx, the Abbeycentre and surrounding Valley Retail Park on the outskirts of Belfast is popular with locals. Take a break from shopping to sip a coffee at Costa or grab a bit to eat at Synge and Byrne.

Ballymena, County Antrim

The town of Ballymena has unique, independent shops with fashion at Primrose in Greenvale Street and the department stores McKillens in Church Street and family favourite Camerons in Broughshane Street. There are also two shopping centres in this bustling town centre – FairHill and Tower Centre.

Near Ballymena are Marmalade, known for its eclectic mix of well-known designer labels, and Pretty Woman Boutique in Kilrea for the latest designer fashion. There is also Junction One, located just off the M2 motorway, with its Next Clearance and M&S Outlet stores.

The Craft Village, Londonderry

Visit the Walled City of Derry’s Dickensian Craft Village for gifts created by some of the best craft producers in Ireland. The quaint winding lanes showcase a dazzling array of fine art and photography, exquisite accessories, millinery tweeds and knitwear and jewellery along with beautiful soaps, candles and ceramics. Aran knitwear designer Edel MacBride is based here, who has designed for Hilary Clinton and Sarah Jessica Parker.

Coleraine, County Londonderry

Here you will find a number of unique small shops:  Daisy Mae boutique in Belhouse Lane specialises in 1950’s vintage style reproduction clothing and accessories, Ken Young is known to provide the finest menswear in Ireland and Bishops Footwear is in the Diamond Centre amid other high street brands.

Magherafelt, County Londonderry

Spoilt Bella, Sarah-Jane and The Queen Bee are all to be found in Magherafelt’s Broad Street, where stylish fashion collections have been handpicked from Europe’s best designers.  Other shops include The Fashion House in Market Street and for glamourous ladies’ footwear and handbags a visit to Four Seasons Boutiquein Queen Street is not to be missed.

The Linen GreenCounty Tyrone

This fantastic designer shopping village in Moygashel is full to the brim with quality homewares and interiors shops, including AnthologieBedeck, Gareth McFarland Design Yard and Lavish. These sit alongside fashion stores The Lingerie Room, Storey, Panache Shoe Company and The Boudoir – which is home to the leading young fashion blog My Sister’s Closet, whose popular dresses can be found in store. Anyone with a sweet tooth will love The Loft Coffee Bar’s cakes and traybakes.

The Buttermarket, County Fermanagh

The Buttermarket in Enniskillen, found on the site of a 19th century dairy is full or art galleries and craft studios waiting to be browsed, showcasing pottery and ceramics to handmade jewellery, textiles and picture framing.  Your day can only be completed with a coffee and homemade fayre in Rebecca’s Café.

The Outlet Village, County Down

The Outlet at Banbridge hosts outlet stores offering up to 70% off their retail price, from Gap and Jaeger to LK Bennett and M&S. It sits alongside the main A1 Dublin to Belfast road, and now has an Omniplex Cinema on site.



If the kids are getting restless, then consider there are plenty of things to keep them occupied for a few more sleep until Santa Arrives

Tourism NI has put together a list of 10 exciting things to do in Northern Ireland next week (December 19 – December 25).


  • Around the World Christmas Winter Wonderland, Kool Kidz Childcare, Derry~Londonderry, until December 23. Enjoy a magical night out with the kids at Kool Kidz Childcare. With a fantastic synchronised light show, snow tunnel, market stalls, treasure hunts in a gingerbread forest and activity huts highlighting winter festivals of other cultures, it is a night not to be missed. Children must be accompanied by an adult.

  • Christmas at QFT, Queens Film Theatre, Belfast, until December 23.
    If you love sitting down with a hot drink and watching a classic festive film then you’re in for a treat this Christmas at QFT. From timeless classics such as ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’, ‘Meet me in St. Louis’ to modern favourite such as ‘Miracle on 34th Street’ and ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’ there is something for the whole family to enjoy.
  • Walled City Market, Guildhall Square, Derry~Londonderry, until December 23. The city’s Guildhall Square will welcome the very best of artisan traders, offering visitors a friendly shopping experience with a wide selection of speciality foods ranging from fresh fruit and vegetables to homemade jams and preserves, artisan breads, cakes, sweets and treats plus handmade crafted products.
  • Cairn Illumination Hikes, Slieve Gullion Forest Park, Co. Armagh, until December 22. Don your walking shoes and climb to the summit of Slieve Gullion, home to the highest surviving passage tomb in Ireland, known locally as ‘the Calliagh Berra’s House’ on a winter walk. The walk will be happening at dusk so it is recommended for experienced hill walkers. Appropriate clothing and sturdy footwear essential. To book call (028) 30 828594.
  • A Magical Christmas Experience, Titanic Belfast, Belfast, until December 23. Step back in time, join Father Christmas and explore Titanic Belfast’s traditional Christmas street scene from 18th December. Visit Ye Olde Picture House, peek through the toy shop window at the toys from a bygone era and check out the Post Office where Father Christmas has his elves hard at work! Hear a classic Christmas tale, challenge each other at one of our traditional games, or visit our old fashioned wardrobe and find the perfect outfit to transport you back in time. Booking essential.
  • Lady of the Lake Festive Sailings, Manor House Country Hotel, Co. Fermanagh, until December 23. Hop on board the Lady of the Lake cruiser for a special festive cruise with mulled wine on arrival. Enjoy the wintery landscape of the Fermanagh Lakelands as you cruise Lough Erne dining on a sumptuous four-course meal. Cost £27.50pp. Booking essential. To book call (028) 68 62 2200.
  • Cinderella, Grand Opera House, Belfast, until January 15. ‘He’s behind you!’ ‘Oh no he’s not!’ Panto season is back and what better way to celebrate that heading to the Grand Opera House for this year’s performance of Cinderella starring May McFettridge and singer Gareth Gates. Will Cinderella make it to the ball in time and meet Prince Charming? Booking essential.
  • Strabane Community Carol Service, The Alley Theatre, Co. Tyrone, December 20. Gather your family and friends and head to the Alley Theatre for a heart-warming festive evening of carol music. Enjoy music from St Joseph’s Brass Band and the wonderful harmonies from Strabane Chamber Choir and soloist Alyson Keys with readings from local clerics.
  • White Christmas with Cantilena, Market Place Theatre, Co. Armagh, December 21. We all dream of a White Christmas and Happy Holidays so join Armagh’s sensational a cappella group ‘Cantilena’ as they pour some festive spirit into the Christmas Celebrations and ring in the festive season in their own inimitable a cappella style. Booking essential.
  • Go West & Nik Kershaw

    Go West and Nik Kershaw, Belfast Waterfront, Belfast, December 22. The 80s are back! Two critically acclaimed legends of the era join forces in this major concert. With millions of album sales, and iconic hits from both artists such as, ‘We Close Our Eyes’, ‘Call Me’, ‘The King of Wishful Thinking’, ‘Wouldn’t It Be Good’, ‘The Riddle’, ‘I Won’t Let The Sunday Go Down’. This authentic 80’s double bill is a concert not to be missed!


Northern Ireland has a unique collection of irresistible places to stay including quirky B&Bs, luxurious spa hotels and hidden gem properties for the perfect short break and Tourism NI has selected the best offers of the week for you to choose from.


  • New Year’s Eve Package, Manor House Country Hotel, Co. Fermanagh, from £195pps.  Welcome 2017 in style with a luxurious break in FermanaghLocated in the heart of the Fermanagh Lakelands, the award-winning 4-star Manor House Country Hotel combines old world charm with modern hotel luxury. New Year Package includes two nights’ accommodation, full Irish breakfast each morning, pre-dinner drinks & canapes, New Year’s Eve Gala Dinner in the Grand Ballroom with live entertainment and complimentary use of the health suite. Valid 30 Dec – 1 Jan. Pre booking essential. To book 028 (68) 622200


  • New Year’s Eve Dinner, Corick House Hotel & Spa, Co. Tyrone, from £109pps. Nestled in the heart of the Clogher Valley, where style and elegance meet country hospitality, this idyllic four-star 17th Century hotel offers a haven of tranquillity. See in the New Year with family and friends with pre-dinner drinks and canapes while listening to a live harpist before dining on a four-course evening meal in the Carleton Restaurant followed by a piper bringing in the New Year.  Enjoy a fully cooked breakfast the following morning after spending the night in a deluxe room. Valid 30 Dec – 1 Jan. Pre booking essential. To book 028 (85) 548216


  • Dine, Dance and Stay, Kilmorey Arms, Co. Down, from £89pps.Nestled in the Kingdom of Mourne, an area of outstanding natural beauty; the three-star Kilmorey Arms Hotel is an ideal location for a short break away. Start the New Year as you mean to go on and treat yourself to a luxurious night away with that special someone. Package includes overnight accommodation, four-course evening meal with complimentary bottle of prosecco, live entertainment by the Lunar Eclipse Band and full Irish breakfast the next morning. Offer valid 31 Dec – 1 Jan. Pre booking essential.  To book call 028 (41) 762220


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