Countries, Ireland, UK

Hospitable Hugh’s invitation

Ireland’s fáilte is famous the world over and history records especially one Hospitable’s Hugh’s invitation in Fermanagh.

Hugh Maguire replied to his English visitor thus in 1539: ‘Your sheriff shall be welcome, but let me know his eric, that if my people should cut off his head I may levy it upon the country.’

That English visitor being Queen Elizabeth.

Poster boys and girls: With the Travel Circuit in Dublin

Perhaps best not look too closely then at her Tripadvisor entry or whether Eric ever did stay.

Thankfully Elizabeth’s modern namesake is now a friend to all Ireland following her historic trip in 2011.

Castle and keep

King (or queen) of the castle: Enniskillen

As are Hibernophiles from all across ‘the other island’.

All something to soak up then on your trip to Hugh’s fortress, Enniskillen Castle, and on your boat trip around the island town.

Where you truly will be afforded the best hospitality, and all at the best prices.

For only £20.75 per adult, £14.25 per child, with the Island Town and Castle Pass which guarantees hours of fun!

Going underground

Cave rave: Marble Arch Caves

A little-known fact here too and one worth telling all those Brexiteers as they try to wrestle with hard and soft borders.

The Marble Arch Caves is where trace the Owenbrean River runs free under Northern Ireland and the Republic.

Tickets are £12 per adult and £6 per child for a 75-minute tour.

C’Mahon round to our place

To the Fermanagh born: Mahon’s Hotel

These days, of course, the hospitality has moved on from Hugh’s castle to…

The family orientated Mahon’s Hotel situated in the quaint town of Irvinestown.

Walking options, golfing and water activities are all within reach with breaks starting at only £95 per night.

A different kinda lodge

Water view: The Killyevlin Lodges

Now not all lodges in Northern Ireland are so welcoming…

As the Killyhevlin Lakeside Hotel & Lodges which has a September Saver offer with prices at £175 per night.

The best resort

You’ll Erne your R&R: With a little watersports

If resorts are more your thing then make your way to the 5* Lough Erne Resort.

Nestled on a 600-acre peninsula, it boasts spectacular views of the Fermanagh Lakelands and the world-renowned Faldo Course.

Enjoy the best available B&B rate with £70 Complimentary Credits from £149.

So get yourself out to Fermanagh Lakelands… and that’s me saying it, not Hospital Hugh’s invitation.

Countries, Ireland

Boing, boing for the Boyne

Happy (or unhappy depending on whose side you’re on) 12th July, so for the day that’s in it let’s go Boing, boing for the Boyne.

And for those of you who don’t make the Battle of the Boyne the centrepiece of their existence a quick recap.

The battle was fought between Protestant Dutch King William of Orange, the new monarch of the UK and the deposed Catholic King James II in 1688.

Never mind that it was really fought on July 1.

And was moved forward when the Gregorian Calendar was adopted.

Or that the Pope, for political reasons, supported Protestant William against the French-backed James.

Red alert

Red alert: How Carson skewed the argument

This is the holiest of holy days for Northern Irish protestants.

And they spend all year honing their marching and musical skills.

And building skyscraper-sized bonfires on which they burn effigies of Il Papa (well, there is an energy crisis).

So, it’s party and holiday time in Northern Ireland for Edward Carson and his protestant sons and daughters.

While the Catholic population flee to Donegal across the border.

But what of the Boyne itself?

Well with the special logic that is uniquely Irish, the battlefield is in the southern Republic.

It’s in the South

Soldiers are we? And they fought in Ireland

The Boyne has been meandering peacefully through Co. Meath, 30 miles north of Dublin these past 332 years.

With the blood of 2000, Irish, Scots, English and foreign mercenaries (there were 12 nationalities in all) long since washed away.

What remains is the Battle of the Boyne visitor centre.

Now over I3 and a half years living in Ireland I passed the Boyne on countless numbers of occasions.

But I have yet to venture in.

The centre that is, not the river!

But I have vowed to, and will.

And, of course, I will give the Orangemen a thought today when I fly over the site on my Ryanair flit to Dublin.

Us bonny fechters

Hello, hello: Billy boy

Should you be in the vicinity of the Boyne, or are heading either up to Belfast, or down to Dublin, pop in.

Times have changed and you’ll be made to feel very welcome with free self-guided tours.

It’s fun too to imagine being actually on the battlefield and indeed your ancestors very well may have been.

Us Murtys and McNultys (Ma’s name) for example got everywhere which is probably where this peripatetic gene stems.

I found my great-uncles in the cemeteries and memorials of Flanders.

And in the building wall in Barbados.

Whose side are you on?

House about that: Boyne history

I dare say too that we were at the Boyne but on whose side?

My Dear Old Dad might spin in his grave up in Donegal at the result.

The good folks at the Boyne help us all to find out the truth about our ancestors.

So today I’ll be weaing some orange (hell, I like the colour and the Dutch, and who says I’m not allowed?).

And I’ll be going boing, boing for the Boyne.




America, Caribbean, Countries, Europe, Ireland

Five republics to escape the Platinum Jubilee

And continuin our series, and because we’re not all pliant subjects, here are five republics to escape the Platinum Jubilee.

There are 159 republic in the world and only 43 sovereignty ikstates with monarchies. Go figure.

Vive La Republique

The new Emperor: Emmanuel Macron


France: Mais oui, there were republics before the French, only they shout Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité a little louder.

So much so that the French are onto their fifth since We the First in 1792, followed we should remember by Emperor Napoleon.

And there is more than a touch of the regal about the French President’s official residence, the Élysée Palace in Paree.

The Battle Hymn

Mr President: Issy Conway, George Washington and the Pres’s right-hand man

America: And some 16 years before the then-royalist French helped the colonies form mthe Republic.

George Washington and his Vice-President John Adams had discussed how the new Pres should be addressed.

Adams had leant towards His Excellence but Washington insisted on just Mr President.

And he rejected his pal jGeneral Lafayette’s idea to erect an ornate monument in DC to him complete with horses.

Instead he had an obelisk, the Washington Monument installed instead. Pure class.

Italy’s republics

The holy of holies. At the end of the Francigena in Rome

Rome: Now La Citta Eterna is credited as the cradle of Republics although Athens might have something to say about that.

We all associate Classical Rome, of course, with the Caesars, but the Republic ran Rome’s affairs from 509BC to 27BC.

While the lyCaesars looked down from their plinths from 46BC-476AD.

YNow I was more a Latin student than a maths expert but that seems roughly the same and the Republic won out in the end.

The Irish Republic

On a pedestal: With Charles Stewart Parnell in Co. Wicklow

Ireland: And because the Free State didn’t scream self-determination (OK, it was a bit more complicated) they became a republic in 1949.

They had formed an ya constitution in 1937 with an elected non-executive president before breaking with the crown in 1949.

After a fractured relationship in the 60-odd years after the Irish brought back the Queen… but only for a visit in 2011.

Barbados, the new Republic

Barbados: And on November 30, 2021, Barbados took the momentous decision to replace the uQueen with a Bajan, President Sandra Mason.

Y the After 396 years, although Barbados had taken the first step with independence in 1966… and I even saw the seal in the Archive Offices.

The date, November 30, was arbitrary but in my wee country it is our national day, named for St Andrew, our patron saint.

Just returned from a third visit to Barbados I reacquainted myself with our joint heritage which includes a region of the island called Scotland. I

We sang Scots and Soca songs, ceilidhed and jumped and toasted the Barbados republic with rum and whisky.

My reason for going, well I didn’t need one, but it was to celebrate the renewal of the Barbados Celtic Festival.

And thought dreamily of a Scotland having their day one day.


Countries, Cruising, Ireland, UK

P&O no no, Stena’s who to know

We’re loath to diss operators here but there’s no defending torpedoing of staff… it’s P&O no no Stena’s who to know.

Like many of the Fiftysomething Irish-Scots variety I knew my way around a ship long before I stepped on a plane.

And Townsend Thoresen from Cairnryan to Larne were as familiar a transport provider to me as the 44 bus across Glasgow to school.

P&O took over TT in 1987 by which time I had disembarked to England and started flying to Ireland.

A different ship

Land ahoy: But one more for the road

And with Ryanair emerging to fly us at budget prices ferries were reserved for family holidays and house moves.

When Stena had emerged as the protectors of la famille Murty from Scotland to Ireland and back.

Now ships have certainly upgraded from the Seventies when I would run the toy cars on deck which I had bought from the ship shop.

I have been fortunate enough to be hosted by Stena in dock in Dublin, viewed their cabins and cinema hubs, bars and restaurants.

Treat your staff well

Child’s play: Better than running toy cars

I pride myself on the courtesy I was taught by my parents never to look down on staff.

If only the same could be said for P&O.

Stena offers a sample three-day return from Cairnryan to Belfast from £119.

Alas, The Scary One insisted our last Stena trip to Scotland was a single!

If you tolerate this

Big kid: And I’m not getting off

So, if you want to protest against P&O, and in the words of Manic Street Preachers…

‘If you tolerate this, then your children will be next.’

Film on the sea: All the entertainment

Then sail with our go-to ferry company, you won’t be disappointed.

So from us it’s P&O no no Stena’s who to know.





Africa, America, Countries, Ireland, UK

A town called Patrick

Happy St Patrick’s Day everyone and here off pat around the world we celebrate you if you’re from a town called Patrick.

And there are surprisingly few too.

There are only eight Patricks across three countries.

McCool kid

My cup of TT: The Isle of Man

And even more startlingly none are in the country where St Patrick is most celebrated, Ireland.

But in an island in the Irish Sea, all right, the Isle of Man.

Patrick (population 1,576) is in fact more of a parish, in the west of the isle, than a town.

The Isle of Man, of course, is a well-trodden soil for the Irish…

Mighty craic

Giant helpings: Finn McCool

And the craic there is always 80.

Of course it was invented when Irish giant Finn McCool was chasing a Scottish giant across Ulster.

He picked up a handful of earth and chucked it at him…

The sod created the Isle of Man and the crater he left behind is now Lough Neagh.

Moving on, and such was the footprint that the Irish have left on the USA that you won’t be surprised to see some Patricks there.

Off Pat in the USA

Doll’s house: In Mississippi

And so you’ll see a Patrick in Mississippi, Nevada, Arkansas, South Carolina, Kentucky and Texas.

Whisper it but the Patrick commemorated isn’t our snake-chasing saint.

The Nevada one is an American soldier Patrick McCarran, who bought the land and also begat a US senator.

The Texas a postmaster Patrick Gallagher.

Both obvs Irish-American.

Flagging it up: Lesotho

Now we can only imagine Patrick and its region St Patrick (see we got one) in Lesotho is the Irish missionary influence in Africa.

The land-locked mountainous country is completely encircled by South Africa.

But it is timely to mention that it resisted the interference of South Africa and continues to do so.e

Even if it that means a continuing water dispute.

Water of the good life

Ruby do: With Ruby in Barbados

Of course, today is more about the Guinness than the water.

And so if you’re a Patrick, come from a place called Patrick, or a region St Patrick’s.

As in the region north-west of Sir Grantley Adams Airport, Barbados.

Then you’ve got an extra reason to celebrate today on St Patrick’s Day.

We celebrate you if you’re from a town called Patrick.

Countries, Ireland

Dublin hub from hub for Ukrainians

It was a home from home in my 13 years in Ireland which is why I’m flagging up a Dublin hub from hub for Ukrainians.

Ireland has been as good as its word as the land of a hundred thousand welcomes the refugees from war.

And Ukrainian families arriving in Ireland are immediately made to feel at home with the biggest Failte.

Nappy days

Child’s play: And Dublin Airport helps out.

Dublin Airport has given over room in its old terminal for facilities and provisions for its new guests.

More than 2,500 Ukrainian refugees have already arrived, with children comprising a third of that number.

And the kindly Irish have filled it with toys, baby food and nappies.

All very necessary with two-thirds of the entrants children, with the menfolk staying behind to fight for their homeland.

20,000 welcomes

Ukrainians welcome: Ireland’s famous fáilte

Of course there are the pressing matters to of accommodation, public services and medical care and that is also being processed without fuss.

In all Ireland is set to welcome in 20,000 and upwards in Ukrainean refugees.

And that is more than commendable for a population of 4million.

That neutral Ireland is so welcoming should come as little surprise to those with long memories of world wars.

And for those of us who lived a decade and a half in Ireland.

Operation Shamrock

You’re Irish now: The German refugees

Operation Shamrock was a joint Save the German Children Society and Irish Red Cross initiative after the Second World War.

And 500 children were fostered out to Irish families for three years with 50 staying or returning from Germany.

Danke: The German gift

Tourists ambling through St Stephen’s Green in the centre of Dublin, or indeed on their lunch hour probably miss the memorial.

The Three Faites fountain which was donated by the West German government.

There is another more living, breathing legacy of Operation Shamrock in Glencree.

Centre for peace and reconciliation 

Reunion: Of the German children

The clearing house for those children in the verdant hills of Co. Wicklow.

Where there is an exhibition from that time at the Glencree Centre for Peace and Reconciliation.

While you can also visit 134 graves of mainly German Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine forces nearby.

All of which proves that no matter whether our countries are on the frontline or not we cannot and should not stand on the sidelines.

Charity begins at hub

Ole ole ole: The Green Army

And as we continue with normal life and the Irish and their friends pass through Dublin Airport this week in their numbers.

For St Paddy’s Day and later with money from their Cheltenham winnings they will fill those charity boxes.

At a Dublin hub from hub for Ukrainians.


America, Asia, Countries, Europe, Ireland, UK

Happy Euro Year

It was the perfect start to 2002, we were being given money… so where are we now as we mark Happy Euro Year 20 years on?

And what has it meant for those of us whose every instinct is to travel?

The truth is that for millions of millennials in Europe they won’t have travelled with anything else.

While for everyone who travels under a British passport we’ve always been told to look at it as board game money.

I say that, though ex-pats, of which I was one for 13 years living abroad have had to adjust quickly.

It usually starts when you’re buying booze in the supermarket.

And it’s only when you stop baulking and having to make mental adjustments at the price of a bottle of wine.

It’s more than a tenner… that you’ve truly assimilated.

Europhile, Eurosceptic

I’m in the money: Euro millions


So as this day is designated Happy Euro Day, was the Euro a good idea and is it right that Britain stayed with the pound?

Like everything there is the economical argument and then the emotional one.

And whenever that arises the emotional always prevails.

In countries too that have come over to the Euro there is still a sentimental attachment to the old currency.

Now if you’re a Fortysomething, Fiftysomething or later then you’ll probably remember well the frank, Deutschmark, peseta, escudo, lira or drachma.

And if you’re like my Dear Old Dad then you’ve probably got a box somewhere with all that old coinage.

A careful man, I imagine that he thought he might have use for them again if the Euro experiment failed.

Dinar time

Anyone want an old note: Foreign currency

So what do we miss about our old foreign money?

Well, it was the only time in our lives that we could really feel like a millionaire…

When we got our hands on lira.

The trouble was working out that it cost thousands to buy groceries.

And if you did try the lingo a queue would quickly form as you’re asking the teller how much you’d get for your few pounds.

Of course more of the world is outside of the Eurozone than in it.

Now I’m not about to go all numismatic on you but I do have a Jordanian dinar stuck on the side of my bookcase. And old Turkey notes too.

A souvenir of my Istanbul adventures with Turkish Airways, and with G Adventures trip to the Middle East.

But in truth just some money of such little value that I couldn’t get rid of it.

Any old money

Saddam it: What are you doing here?

Airports do take your old money in those glass boxes in the terminal.

And the descendants of the Nabataeans too in Petra where a trader tried to flog us notes from Iran with Saddam Hussein’s face on them.

Now doubtless there would have been many who would exchange dinar for Hussein.

But they had more than the look of a Monopoly note with Saddam’s face drawn on.

Working for the Yankee dollar

By George: Issy, Jimmy and the First Prez

There are some notes which are gladly accepted wherever you go and they’ll grab your hand off in the Caribbean for the Yankee dollar.

And there are 39 currencies around the world pegged to the dollar.

As a guide your yellow reggae bus in Barbados cost half of the Bajan dollar, $1, when I rocked it there a few years ago.

In the States itself you can buy Confederacy money at fairs in the Deep South on your road trip.

But the real money is in the Union dollar.

Money to burn: And the US here I come

And the more Benjamins (Franklin), or $100s, you have in your pocket the luckier you are.

Conversely, the $1 note is named for the Greatest American of them all, George Washington.

So be careful when you’re tipping.

Me? I always make sure I keep a fistful of dollars with me!

Happy Euro Day everyone or whatever currency you deal in… just, maybe avoid Saddam notes though.




Countries, Ireland

Liam Neeson promoting Ireland and he will find you

I have a very particular set of skills I have acquired over a very long career. Not me (well, yes me) but another superstar.. Liam Neeson promoting Ireland and he will find you.

The big Ballymena man has that distinction which all the greats possess…

You can instantly recognise that it is him as soon as you hear his voice.

And he also possesses the gravitas and charisma which means that he can act as an ambassador both for his native Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Heck, he sees it the way he feels it, very Bryan Mills, as an Irishman and he wants to promote the island on which he was born and which developed him.

Because for as much as we on these islands know about the challenges and divisions that the two parts of the island of Ireland have had.

The rest of the world doesn’t want to make a traveller’s distinction.

They want to visit them both… and why not?

Taken star Liam has lent his voice to a new giant-screen documentary film.

It’s called Ireland which is produced by McGillivray Freeman Films and is sponsored by Tourism Ireland.

And it will go on release in select IMAX and giant-screen theatres across the US in February. 

This is your pilot Liam talking

In another’s tongue it might sound cliched to talk of emerald islands and paradise but when it comes from Liam Neeson.

The Neesonathon celebrates the island’s rich history, culture, arts and music, as well as Ireland’s spectacular scenery.

It takes its American audience across Ireland.

Following writer Manchán Magan and others on an action-packed journey from Dublin to Belfast.

And from Kilkenny to Cong.

Viewers will see breath-taking footage of places like the Cliffs of Moher, the Giant’s Causeway and the Skellig Islands.

Ireland’s call

The Big Man and big-time Ireland rugby fan said: There is a movement in Ireland to reconnect with our heritage, to rediscover what it means to be Irish.

“And I am delighted to help bring the joy and diversity of all that Ireland has to offer.

“Both the old and the new, to IMAX and giant-screen audiences worldwide.

‘As viewers experience Ireland’s great beauty and humanity on the world’s largest screens, they will fall in love all over again.’


A previous film produced by MacGillivray Freeman Films for Brand USA (destination marketing organisation for the US), called Natural Parks Adventure, was seen by around 8 million people in IMAX and giant-screen theatres.

And a sneak preview

And for those who want to get a flick of the vid and drown in Liam’s voice here’s a taster.

So here it is Liam Neeson promoting Ireland and he will find you.