Kirsty Holmes

Posted by Kirsty Holmes on 23rd Oct 2019 -- Read Time: 5 minutes

Ireland: what’s the craic?

As you may know, Success Tours is part of the Albatross Group, a multi-award winning collection of group tourism businesses. One of the benefits of being part of the Group is that their team of contractors work hard to secure competitive hotel rates for us. We’re really excited to be adding some excellent sample itineraries in Ireland to the website, so we interviewed Janine Cuff, the Contract Manager for Ireland, who is an expert on all things Irish! If you and your group are interested in a visit to the Emerald Isle, read on…

Thanks for your time, Janine – can you tell us a little about your role, and how this involves Ireland?

I’m part of the Contracting Team for the Albatross Group, and a destination specialist for Ireland. This means that I’m responsible for sourcing accommodation in Ireland and negotiating the rates, as well as creating interesting and varied tour itineraries. I visit Ireland a minimum of five times a year (although it’s often more!) for a variety of reasons: for research, to attend Irish travel trade events, for contracting purposes, or to attend familiarisation trips.

Which areas of Ireland are your favourite? Which attractions there are you particularly fond of?

Oh that’s tough, I really do love the whole of Ireland! Generally though, I prefer the less touristy places. If I had to choose, I’d probably say coastal Cork – completely understated, the scenery there is stunning. Also County Donegal – it’s very traditional and feels very much like ‘old Ireland’, and the coastal drive to the oceanfront mountain of Slieve League is absolutely sensational. As for specific attractions, I never get bored of seeing the Cliffs of Moher; also, one of my favourites is actually the Foynes Flying Boat and Maritime Museum in Limerick. The village of Foynes briefly became a centre for world aviation in the 1930s and 40s thanks to its position on Ireland’s western seaboard, and many transatlantic flights were begun or ended here. The museum is unique and fascinating, truly a little gem.

What is it that you love about Ireland?

First and foremost, it’s the people. Every time I visit, I find the Irish so welcoming. Without a doubt it is also the food – the quality of the cuisine there is fantastic, and it puts local produce in the spotlight. I find that the Irish are very gifted in creating wonderful meals from the best food resources available locally. I love that music can be heard everywhere: it’s so important to life there. So in summary, as they say in Ireland, it’s the all-round good craic!

What is travelling in Ireland like?

Well, that’s another thing I love about Ireland – it’s a small country, so it’s easy to explore. In more recent years the road systems across Ireland have been developed, which has made driving around the Emerald Isle easier. Generally, the roads are really well kept, which makes touring much more enjoyable. Beyond these practicalities though, the joy of travelling in Ireland is the scenery. For example, it has the Wild Atlantic Way, which is the longest continuous coastal route in the world, linking Ireland’s most northerly and most southerly points. This scenic route is quite simply beautiful at every turn. Less dramatic, but equally as pretty, are the lakes and rolling hills of the Irish Midlands.

The quality of accommodation in Ireland also makes travelling there a pleasure. Many hotels are of an excellent standard, with a 3-star establishment really being more like a 4-star. Within this strong range of hotel product, many of them are family run businesses, and I think this passion and individuality really shines through in the service you get.

What attractions would you suggest to someone who has not visited Ireland before?

Lullymore Heritage Park is a great one. Found in County Kildare, it gives a really interesting account of how modern Irish life has developed since early man lived in the bogs and peatlands. Another fantastic attraction is EPIC: The Irish Emigration Museum, which traces the influence of the Irish people all across the world and is found in Dublin.

Can you tell us about your most recent trip to Ireland?

In September I travelled much of Ireland’s Ancient East region as part of a group on a research trip, for an overview of what this area has to offer. After flying in to Cork, we visited the sparkling House of Waterford Crystal, as well as sampling the food and accommodation at a couple of Treacys hotels (Enniscorthy and Waterford). Treacys offer a taste of Ireland with fantastic hospitality, food and entertainment.

The next day, we visited the dramatic Kilkenny Castle, before moving on to the Smithwick’s Experience – this was a really special brewery tour (and tasting) which also incorporated a lot of interesting history. We enjoyed a fantastic lunch at the homely Malzard’s Pub. Not only was the food delicious, but we had a very merry time at this authentic and traditional establishment: we were introduced to the sport of hurling, enjoyed some local musicians, and heard the tales of local storytellers. Later in the afternoon we visited the Dunbrody Famine Ship – an interesting and harrowing account of emigration during the Great Irish Famine.

Day three saw us head to the Irish National Stud, a hugely important thoroughbred breeding centre which also has a pretty Japanese garden, before stopping at Lullymore (mentioned above). We enjoyed lunch at the Hamlet Court Hotel – I can only describe the experience as being sprinkled with Hamlet magic! – before heading to Dundalk to stay in the fabulous, family-run Ballymascanlon Hotel.

On day four, we enjoyed a walking tour of the stunning medieval village of Carlingford, and enjoyed the beautiful scenery on a ferry journey across the Carlingford Lough. In the afternoon, we visited Slane Castle and learnt the interesting history of the rock concerts that have been held here, whilst exploring the historic house – where nothing was roped off! It had a real wow factor. It also has a whiskey distillery on site, which we toured.

On our final day, before departing we stopped at two grand properties: the Georgian Newbridge House, and the medieval Malahide Castle.

As you can see, the advantage of Ireland’s compact size is that you really can see a lot in just a few days. Our trip sums up my favourite things about Ireland: good food and drink, interesting places, great music and warm, welcoming people.