IN SAINTS' STEPS: Hidden Ireland Tours, Mobile,
Ala., is paying agents 10% on bookings of its first annual St.
Patrick's Walking Festival tour in Co. Kerry, to run March 14 to
20. Priced at $1,900 per person, land only, double occupancy, the
deal includes six nights' accommodation at the five-star Aghadoe
Heights Hotel outside Killarney. Also included are three meals
daily; presentations; all transportation; and full escort by Con
Moriarty and other walking guides. The single supplement is $250.
Moriarty will lead a variety of daily walks and hikes to
accommodate all ability levels through the McGillycuddy Reeks, Gap
of Dunloe, Black Valley, Dingle Peninsula and other Kerry sites. To
book, call Binky Oswalt at (888) 246-9026; for more, visit www.hiddenirelandtours.com.
ST. PAT'S SPECIAL: CIE Tours International
scheduled a one-week fully escorted Irish Heritage trip March 11 to
18 to coincide with Dublin's St. Patrick's Festival. Priced at
$1,228 per person, double, the deal includes roundtrip air from
Baltimore, Boston or New York (Kennedy); first-class accommodations
for six nights; breakfast daily; five dinners; a welcome drink;
escorted sightseeing; and all government taxes and hotel service
charges. Land-only rates are available from $869. Timed to be in
Dublin for the March 17 parade, the itinerary also takes in the
Clare coast, the Cliffs of Moher, Killarney, the Ring of Kerry,
Waterford and Kilkenny. CIE also offers a March 12 to 19 tour with
March 17 spent in Waterford and Kilkenny; one-day extensions to
Galway, Connemara and Clonmacnoise can be added on for $139 per
person. CIE Tours pays 10% on land, but commission on air varies.
Contact CIE Tours International at (800) CIE-TOUR or www.cietours.com.
ULSTER EATS: Northern Ireland's first cookery
school opened on the Belle Isle Estate in Enniskillen, Co.
Fermanagh. The new Belle Isle School of Cookery offers cooking and
wine appreciation classes year-round, with accommodations in the
eight-room Belle Isle Castle, eight self-catering apartments or
three estate cottages on site. Agents booking a cookery stay for
clients might consider service fees, though, as the school does not
pay commission. For more, visit www.irishcookeryschool.com or call (011) 44-286
GETTING BIGGER: The Johnstown House Hotel in
Enfield, Co. Meath, joined the now five-hotel-strong, Galway-based
Sweeney Hotel Group, following its purchase by group part-owner
John Sweeney. The two-year-old property will undergo a $9.6 million
expansion to add 40 new guestrooms and a large spa and leisure
center by the end of 2004. The chain also operates the Schoolhouse
Hotel in Dublin, the Westwood House Hotel in Galway, the Holiday
Inn Killarney and the Clifden Station House Hotel in Clifden,
capital of Connemara. The properties pay varying levels of
commission. For more information, visit www.sweeneyhotels.com.
EIRE LINKS: Cork got more connected to Ireland,
Britain and Europe this year with the debut of local regional
airline Jetmagic, which serves 11 Old World airports, including
Belfast, from the southern Irish city. The carrier's most recent
move: thrice-daily weekday flights from Cork to London City, with
one flight daily on Saturday and Sunday. For more, visit www.jetmagic.com.
EVENTS ON TAP: Ireland's renowned for throwing
a party -- take Dublin's St. Patrick's Festival and Londonderry's
Halloween fete -- but 2004 and 2005 look set to be standout years.
A sampling of celebrations in the works includes:
• Rejoyce Dublin 2004: Bloomsday, celebrating the Dublin adventures
of the Leopold Bloom character from James Joyce's literary
masterpiece Ulysses, takes over the Irish capital each June 16, but
next year's centenary of the fictional trek will be a five-month
arts and events blowout from April through August. One highlight
will be a mass Bloomsday breakfast June 13, with food, drink and
entertainment for about 10,000 on O'Connell Street. See www.rejoycedublin2004.com.
• Killarney 250: The highly popular town of Killarney fetes its
250th birthday in 2004 and 2005 with 18 months of events kicking
off on St. Patrick's Day next year. "K250" activities include
street entertainment, traditional Irish sports, theater and music,
and exhibitions. See www.killarney250.com for more.
• Belfast Festival at Queen's: From late October to mid-November,
the Northern Ireland capital becomes a mecca for the arts and
entertainment. Highlights this year included performances by rocker
Bob Geldof and comedian Dave Gorman. Visit www.belfastfestival.com.