Travel Weekly's Ireland E-letter: Dec. 4, 2003

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) 44-286 638-7231.

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.

Comments
JDS Travel News JDS Viewpoints JDS Africa/MI