Travel Weekly's Ireland E-Letter: March 13, 2003

HIT THE ROADS: Monday will mark the start of Ireland's rambling season. It's kicked off by the Saint Patrick's Day Walk, which starts from Raholp, east of Downpatrick in Northern Ireland. Walking counts among Ireland's most popular outdoor activities. Well-known routes--from the Waymarked Way in the north to the Wicklow Way in the south--guided walks, special-interest tours and scenic paths are some of the options open to walkers of all levels. And, the Mourne Int'l Walking Festival will take place June 27 to 29 in Warrenpoint, County Down. Tourism Ireland can provide agents with a list of U.S. operators offering walking-based tours to the country. For example, the seven-night Great Walks of Ireland tour from Cross Country Int'l Vacations, which costs from $1,350 to $1,550 year-round, wends through Galway, Connemara or the western islands with bed-and-breakfast stays; most meals; an experienced guide and all taxes. Agent pay is 10%. For more on Irish walking, contact Tourism Ireland at (800) 669-9967 or visit www.irelandvacations.com.

SCEPTRE IRELAND celebrates St. Patrick's Day by putting its Emerald Package to Ireland on sale for $399 when booked by March 17 for travel Nov. 1 to Dec. 16. The deal includes round-trip airfare from Boston, Baltimore, New York or Washington (with other departure cities available and priced accordingly); six-night accommodations (one night in a hotel and the other five at any of Ireland's farmhouse bed & breakfasts); rental car with unlimited mileage; full Irish breakfast daily; an "Irish Coffee Reception;" and sales tax, VAT and hotel service charges. Sceptre Ireland pays 15% on land and 8% for air. For more information or to book, call (800) 221-0924 or visit www.sceptreireland.com.

ROYAL TREATMENT: The Castle Hotel in Macroom, run by the Buckley family for 50 years, spent $5.5 million overhauling the property, 25 miles outside Cork in the "spectacular southwest." The renovation features new guestrooms and suites, the new "Dan Buckley's Bar," and an expanded foyer and reception area. They complement the Castle's Continental-style "Next Door Cafe," conference and banqueting suites, and fitness center featuring a 50-foot pool, kiddie pool, steam room and gym. Nestled between Blarney and Killarney, Macroom offers guided walks, game fishing and golfing opportunities. The Castle Hotel is offering a "Two For The Price of One Weekend Break," which includes two nights' bed and breakfast for two people, plus one dinner, for about $200, through May 31 (excluding holiday weekends).The Castle does not pay commission on specials, but does offer 10% pay on rack rates, which range from about $107-$160 per night, per room, for double rooms, to $130-$190 for "family rooms," which accommodate two adults and up to three children. All rates include breakfast. To book or for more info, visit www.castlehotel.ie, e-mail [email protected] or call (011) 353-264-1074.

IRISH BUYS: US Airways Vacations is offering a limited-time sale on Ireland bookings through March 17. Rates start at $499 for three-night stays, including roundtrip airfare to Dublin or Shannon, accommodations with the Discover Travel and Tours Bed and Breakfast package, hotel taxes and daily breakfast; rates vary by departure city/airport. Three-night sample rates include $499 from Baltimore, Boston and Washington (Dulles or National); and $599 from Chicago, Los Angeles, New York (LaGuardia), Newark, Philadelphia and San Francisco. Rates are per person, double occupancy, and are valid for travel May 4 through June 9, and Sept. 3 through Oct. 27. Base commission is 10%, with overrides for members of US Airways Vacations' Preferred Partnership Program. Agents can book through VAX Vacation Access at www.vaxvacationaccess.com, through the GDSs or by calling (800)455-0123.

GAELIC GETAWAY: CIE Tours Int'l has jumped on the bandwagon with a pan-Celtic, 11-night itinerary combining the best of Ulster with nearby and always-popular Scotland. The air-inclusive "Scottish & Irish Delights" takes in Glasgow, Edinburgh and other cities in Scotland, and Dublin, Omagh, Derry and Belfast, among other towns, in Ireland. Activities include a Loch Ness cruise, distillery and city tours, a visit to Giant's Causeway, a viewing of the Edinburgh Military Tattoo and a night at the theater in Dublin. Admission is included to a host of attractions, including Edinburgh Castle, St. Patrick Centre, Trinity College and Ulster American Folk Park. Prices start at $2,220 per person -- including airfare from Baltimore, Boston or New York (Kennedy) -- for Friday departures May 2 until Oct. 10; land-only packages are available from $1,681. Rates also include accommodations with private bath; full breakfast daily; nine dinners, including a cabaret in Edinburg and pre-theater meal in Dublin; escorted motorcoach sightseeing; and all taxes, service and baggage fees. CIE pays agents a minimum of 10% on both land and air; call (800) CIE-TOUR or visit www.cietours.com.

CORRECTION: The departure time for Aer Lingus's flight EI118 from Baltimore/Washington airport to Shannon, Ireland -- set to resume March 30 -- is 8:10 p.m. The incorrect time appeared in the March 6 E-letter.

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