Travel Weekly's Ireland E-letter: April 15, 2004

E.U. PUTS CORK IN IT: The European Union named the City of Cork the European Capital of Culture for 2005. Among some 40 projects planned for the year-long cultural celebration is Relocations, a summer outdoor theater program; a series of childhood and youth events set for July 2005, designated the Month of Childhood; and Oceans to City, Ireland's largest ever rowing race, in which competitors will race from the coast to the city center. Cork will also get a new arts space, the Eighteen Turns, Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2001, designed by architect Daniel Libeskind. A final program and calendar of events for Cork 2005 should be ready by October. Although there's no word yet on U.S. tour operator tie-ins or related product, visit www.cork2005.ie for updates.

THE 411 ON K250: Killarney, meanwhile, fetes its 250th birthday this year and next with 18 months of events for Killarney 250, which kicked off on St. Patrick's Day. "K250" activities include street entertainment; traditional Irish sports, theater and music; exhibitions, including a walking festival and tours in May; a ship regatta in July; and a Christmas festival and historic car rally in December. Activities in 2005 will focus on Christian heritage, visual arts, gardening, films, tourism and folklore. For more information, visit www.killarney250.com, e-mail [email protected], or call Jerry O'Grady or Susan O'Mahony at (011) 353 643-6622.

STILL A ROSE: The name may have changed, but the game remains the same at the former Sceptre Ireland, now doing business as Sceptre Tours. The new moniker and tag line -- "Sceptre Tours ... Only Ireland" -- is "a new advertising spin" and not a sign that the Ireland-only firm will offer destinations other than the Emerald Isle, said vp Chris Accomando.

ON YOUR OWN: Regarding products, Sceptre Tours is offering a Hotel Hopper Week that gives travelers the freedom to explore Ireland at their own pace, using open hotel vouchers. The Hotel Hopper Week includes roundtrip airfare, a first night pre-booked at either the Shannon or Dublin Great Southern Hotel; five nights' open-voucher hotel accommodations; free Irish coffee reception; full Irish breakfast daily; and weekly rental car or chauffeur. Pricing starts at $639 per person, net. For more information, call (800) 221-0924 or visit www.sceptretours.com.

THAT'S THE SPIRIT: CIE Tours Int'l added the six-night, budget Irish Spirit tour to its group offerings. The tour--which takes in Cashel, Blarney, the Ring of Kerry, the Cliffs of Moher, the Burren and Connemara--offers three two-night hotel stays in first-class properties in Dublin, Killarney and Galway. Departures are available weekly on Saturdays and most Wednesdays through Dec. 11; land-only pricing starts at $699 per person. CIE is also pushing its six-night London Experience--priced from $1,108, for departures May 6 to Dec. 9--as the perfect add-on to an Irish holiday. Accommodations are at the Irish-owned, four-star Jurys Kensington Hotel in London. For more information from CIE--which pays 10% on land and varying commissions on air--call (800) 243-8687 or visit www.cietours.com.

NEW FACES: The 58-room Mount Juliet Conrad resort--a Conrad Hotels property set on a 1,500-acre estate in Thomastown, Co. Kilkenny, Ireland--has a new general manager. Antony Treston, formerly of the Conrad Centennial Singapore, succeeded former general manager Andrew Phelan. For more information on Mount Juliet--which hosts the World Golf Championships-American Express Championship Sept. 30 to Oct. 3--visit www.mountjuliet.com.

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