Countries, UK

Walk on for National Walking Month

It’s on our doorstep and it’s free, so walk on for National Walking Month.

And you’ll almost certainly tred in the footsteps of some history makers and shapers.

Now once our doorstep was Greystones outside Bray Walk in Co. Wicklow and above the rail track built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

While in the other direction lies Kilcoole which saw its share of skirmishes during Oliver Cromwell’s invasion and in the 1798 Rebellion.

History, of course, is all around us, and the early morning call to arms and legs and hiking now involves passing one of Scotland’s great battlefields.

Pans history

Proper Charlie: Bonnie Prince Charlie

Prestonpans in East Lothian was the first battle of the Jacobite Rebellion in 1745.

When the forces of Bonnie Prince Charlie saw off the troops of sitting king George.

And but for the crossroads of history there would now be a different Scottish king being crowned this weekend.

Although there are many who would say a plague on all their royal houses.

Which dynasty you supported, and would die for, and which religion was high up on the priority list of The Covenanters nearly 100 years before.

Hills and thrills

Greyfriars Jimmy: And Bobby

And you’ll see their sacrifice for yourself above the Flotterstone Inn in the Pentland Hills near Edinburgh on the Covenanters Walk.

A bit of background here, the Covenanters were a movement of radical Protestants who did not like the direction the kings of the time were following and signed up to challenge that in the Covenant in Greyfriars Kirk, Edinburgh.

Of course, they did their fighting in the pulpit and places like the Pentlands, up in the hills.

Making a Covenant with nature

Dear John: The Covenanter’s Grave

Where one John Carphin fought at Rullion Green, Collinton, was wounded and sheltered in a former shepherd’s cottage at nearby Blackhill.

Shepherd Adam Sanderson carried his body to Black Hill at NT 0789 5219 for your map fans.

There the distant hill of Cairn Table, a little south of Muirkirk, is visible, and most importantly that meant the Ayrshire Hills, his home county.

And here was you thinking that a walk in the hills was just a way of getting exercise and getting out from your Scary One’s feet.

Well, it’s not, so we’ll be getting a walk on for National Walking Month.

Yes, we’ll get back to doing the pilgrimages we love, on the Camino and the Francigena and also in the Pyrenees, Tenerife and Tirol and the Swiss Alps.

But also on our doorstep, the John Muir Way, the Pentlands, and when in Ireland in our beloved Dublin Mountains and Wicklow Way.




Everyone’s for tennis

It’s the hottest ticket in town at the start of the English summer when it’s everyone for tennis.

And although you might not associate the Irish with the All-England Club the same might have been said for the Scots before Andy and Jamie Murray started sweeping up and Judy extended her sideboard.

But back in the Ninenties (OK the 1990s) the Irish ruled the hallowed turf of London SW19.

Green, set and match

Still going strong: Andy Murray

With Willoughby Hamilton from Kildare winning the men’s singles in 1890, Bray’s Joshua Pim from my old stomping ground of Wicklow winning in 1893 and 1894  and Kerry‘s Harold Mahony taking the title in 1896.

While Tipperary‘s Lena Rice was Ladies’ champion in 1890 and Pim and the Dubliner Frank Stoker picking up the men’s doubles title taht year too.

Now we can’t promise Irish tennis fans will see the shamrock around. either the pot with the pineapple or the plate.

But we can vouch for a smashing offer flagged up by our friends at the Irish Travel Agents Association.

Prowse about that

Ya dancer: Novak Djokovic

Travel agent Keith Prowse is offering a hospitality with hotel and hospitality packages available throughout the Wimbledon fortnight.

With a choice of Centre Court or No.1 Court tickets.

Just the ticket and you’ll be seated just yards from your tennis heroes.

Packages available throughout the tournament include accommodation and a day at The Championships on Centre Court or Court No.1.

With Hospitality in The Treehouse Hospitality area or The Lawn.

The tennis tour

Serene: Serena Williams, queen of the Centre Court

The Wimbledon Tour packages includes:

  • Return flight from Belfast, Cork, Dublin or Shannon to London
  • One-night in 4*hotel Wellington Hotel or 5* Tower Suites with breakfast
  • London underground travelcard for the day you attend Wimbledon
  • Shuttle bus transfers from Southfields Underground Station to your hospitality area, traffic depending
  • An official reserved seat at the Championships on Centre Court or No.1 Court
  • Hospitality in The Lawn or Rosewater Pavilion

Yes, everyone’s for tennis and Keith Prowse will ensure there are plenty of Irish Oles…

And Guinness alongside the Pimms on Murray Mound and Henman Hill.


Countries, Ireland

Art of the Dublin DART

When you’ve spent whole days on the train going in and out to Dublin then you learn to appreciate the art of the Dublin DART.

It’s there outside the window, of course, Greystones in County Wicklow with its new pier and brightly-coloured houses that acted as beacons for fishermen.

The tunnel under Bray Head, designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, which brings you out parallel to the promenade.


Dun Laoghaire, with its pier where locals and holidaymakers still perambulate and the Forty Foot sea swimming area which Leopold Bloom visits in James Joyce‘s Ulysses.

The millionaires playground that is Killiney and Dalkey which doubles for the Bay of Naples in movie sets and where the likes of Bono and Enya live.

And into Sandymount and Ballsbridge and Lansdowne Road in D4, the South Dublin postcode where movers and shakers going back to WB Yeats live.

Touch down at Lansdowne Road

Ireland’s call: Against Scotland at the Aviva

Now go and play and watch rugby at the stadium on the aforementioned street, now corporatised as the Aviva.

And there I would stop and make my way to Embassy House, on the verge of Embassy Park where you would often see Dublin’s high society walk their dogs.

On the occasions I would hop the DART to get into Dublin city centre (I preferred to walk) I would take in the Grand Canal Dock, home to the Bord Gais Energy Theatre, among the modern office buildings.

Pearse de resistance

Picture gallery: But go to the National Gallery instead

And either stop off at Pearse Station, a spit away from Trinity College and the Irish government buildings and the National Gallery

The home to Titians, Rembrandts, Brueghel (Younger and Elder), Vermeer, Picasso et Monet, among others.

And naturally the best of Irish – John Lavery, Paul Henry, Louis le Brocquy and William Orpen.

And a separate wing to Jack B Yeats, WB’s brother (see it all comes around).

Thrill of Tara

Green machine: The DART

You’ll know you’re in the centre of the centre of the city when you alight at Tara Street where cousins’ pub The Workshop still has the Kennedys livery on it and now a wonderful squirrel mural.

Take in the bridges across the Liffey and amble along one of the finest statued streets anywhere, O’Connell Street, with the Great Liberator Daniel O’Connell at the head.

And ‘King’ Charles Stewart Parnell at the foot. With the likes of a fist-pumping ‘man of the people’ Jim Larkin and other Irish heroes along the way.

By which time you will be venturing into North Dublin territory… and any self-respecting South Dubliner or someone who works there doesn’t venture further than that.

Malahide of your life

The North Dublin crew: My Irish family

And nor did I, except to see my relatives who live out in the North Dublin suburbs of Portmarnock or Malahide, while the Howth peninsula too has its charms

Now should you be a fan of Adrian Dunbar, and if not, Jesus, Mary and Joseph and his Little Donkey why not?…

Then you will have seen him in my old Greystones stomping ground on the DART platform.

And, of course ,this is one trigger (as if I need one) to go off track with my erstwhile DART journey.

Take a LEAP

Adrian’s. Greystones: On the platform

That, and the fact that I will be fetching out my LEAP card to travel again on it in a whistlestop trip to Dublin in a week and a half.

And that Iarnrod Eireann, who still keep in touch (I must owe some money or have a violation pending) have sent some info on what you can see from the DART to out on the water.

With stickers to draw young and old celebrating Dublin Bay Biosphere.

And, yes, that’s the art of the Dublin DART… so get out and enjoy.




Countries, Ireland

Once upon a time in fairytale Wicklow

I’d always tell everyone of its magical qualities and it seems the message has got back to the good people at Disney+ so without further ado… once upon a time in fairytale Wicklow.

The Garden county of Ireland where I flourished for 13 years and my children bloomed into adults is the backdrop.

Every Irishman’s home: The oul’ castle in Co. Wicklow

For the musical comedy Disenchanted, starring Amy Adams, the sequel to the box office hit Enchanted.

Bobby Ewing, no less (or his alter ego Patrick Dempsey at least), and Maya Rudolph, James Marsden, Jayma Mays and Idina Menzel all talk up the county.

In a Tourism Ireland short video which is going around the world.

A corner of New York State

Forty fields of green: Greystones in County Wicklow

In Disenchanted, Enniskerry represents ‘Monroeville’, a fictional suburban town in upstate New York.

Monrroeville is then magically transformed into ‘Monrolasia’, a fantasy and magic-filled version of the town.

And what’s even better is that an 1850s period house in Greystones was the location for Robert (Patrick Dempsey) and Giselle’s (Amy Adams) ‘Monroeville’ home.

With timing being everything we must have just missed out then in offering the homestead we lived in.

In our days in the beautiful town of Greystones.

You might have seen Adrian Dunbar extol about in his most recent travelogue.

The Power of Ireland

Roll back the years: Enniskerry

Filming also took place at the Powerscourt Waterfall and Powerscourt Estate.

And, of course, that is a favourite romantic getaway for the great and the good, and obviously ourselves.

A word from the sponsors

Twirl power: With Patrick Duffy

Speaking about Ireland, Patrick, who plays Robert, said: ‘It’s just breathtakingly beautiful.

‘You see the woods and the fields.

‘and the architecture of all of that is very magical. It really lends itself to a fairy-tale life.’

While Maya Rudolph, who plays Malvina, added: ‘I feel like I got in on a little secret of such an incredible place and I’ve just fallen in love.

‘It feels like a fairy-tale.’

All roads lead to… Greystones

And my old pal Niall Gibbons, Chief Executive of Tourism Ireland, naturally was delighted to bring the Hollywood cast to Wicklow.

He said: ‘The fact that ‘Disenchanted’ was filmed here is a fantastic coup for Irish tourism.

‘Following the success of ‘Enchanted’, this highly anticipated film is a great way to bring Ireland.

‘And, in particular Wicklow, to the attention of viewers around the world.

‘We are delighted to share this behind-the-scenes video with our fans and followers on social media, celebrating the film’s connections with Ireland.’




Countries, Ireland

Higgins atop the world in Wicklow

They say the best things come in small packages and piccolo President Michael D Higgins is atop the world in Wicklow.

President Higgins may be only 5ft 4ins but he is astride his country in a way other major heads of state can only dream.

And he stood on the mountaintop today, or as close as you get to a mountain, in my own stomping ground of Co. Wicklow.

Beyond the Trees

A round of applause: For Michael D Higgins

He was there to open ‘Beyond the Trees Avondale’, combining a 2,300ft Treetop Walk with a 12 storey-high Viewing Tower.

Michael D is hugely popular in Ireland and is already into his second term of elected office which will take him to 2025.

The octogenarian academic and patron of the arts and Irish culture would have been in his element in Avondale, home of the King of Ireland.

And you thought Ireland fully broke ties with the monarchy back in 1948 by pulling out of the Commonwealth.

While they had in reality left Britain 100 years ago this December when they became a republic.

The King of Ireland

The King and I:  Parnell back in day

Well, Avondale and Wicklow’s finest, the 19th-century titan, Charles Stewart Parnell, will forever be the King of Ireland.

I’ll be heading ‘home’ for a whistle-stop tour of Dublin and Wicklow next week and hopefully return to Rathdrum and Avondale.

As well as being the birthplace of Parnell, a word too on Samuel Hayes who inherited the estate in 1770 and how he saved Ireland’s forests.

And a historic footnote here that they were once destroyed to build ships for Nelson’s war with Napoleon.

Treeman Hayes

Garden of Ireland: Avondale

Back to Hayes and he is the author of Ireland’s first book about trees.

And he set about creating a forest park at Avondale, which is often thought of as the birthplace of Irish forestry.

Coming full circle, following his death, Avondale was inherited by Parnell’s cousin, Sir John, great grandfather of Charles Stewart Parnell.

At Beyond the Trees you will enter through the new Seed Café into the Walled Garden.

It also houses a Coillte Pavilion, an immersive exhibition.

Walk this way

Architectural delight: The tower

At the end of the Walled Garden, visitors enter the Treetop Walk.

And they’ll begin the journey on the elevated boardwalk, which is up to 75ft above the forest floor at its highest point.

Some numbers too on Avondale’s Forest Arboretum, it features 300-year-old trees planted by Hayes.

The Treetop Walk culminates in the journey to the top of the Viewing Tower, reaching 124ft into the sky.

Slide rule

Child’s play: Watch your step

Did we say too that there was a slide down?

And you can whoosh your way quickly back down via a 295ft slide, providing an exhilarating end to your experience.

Beyond the Trees Avondale is a Coillte, Fáilte Ireland and EAK Ireland production.

And Wicklow, the Garden of Ireland, is a divine production.

So I’d urge you to join President Michael D Higgins atop the world in Avondale, Wicklow, only an hour 20 minutes south.

And the experience will be further enhanced in the Autumn with restoration work and the reopening of Avondale House



America, Countries, Ireland

Mother’s Day Mother’s Way and New York

It was inevitable. Mother’s Day Mother’s Way and New York and The Happy Wanderer knew just how to play me.

The bould Teasy had taken me as her Plus One to my cousin Eddie’s wedding in the Big Apple.

Where she would preen her feathers and not just those on her hat.

The Irish Diaspora, of which I am of the Scottish variety, know well the awe in which the American wave is held.

And growing up in the Grey Glasgow of the Seventies New York City and my relatives were always held up as the idyll.

Alongside, of course, my Mum’s homeland of Ireland.

Broadway Mammy

This year’s blond: With ‘The Donald’ in New York

I’m in a New York State of Mind today after my old friends from Click&Go flagged up their NY offer to give your Mum for Mother’s Day.

To stay for three nights £619pp in the 4* Row NYC Hotel in the heart of Broadway in May with return flights Dublin to NY.

Give my regards to Row NYC: Broadway

My wee Mammy will be right at home too as she is the biggest diva of them all.

The rule of Mum

Double trouble: And two of my Irish Mammy

But some ground rules this time…

As a seasoned travel professional I know my way around an airport (OK, she doesn’t know the truth so indulge me).

And when your relatives offer to put you up don’t think for them or look a gift horse in the mouth.

It’s an Irish thing! As is demanding to pay the dinner bill.

And I’m reminded of the Irish advert where two oul’ ones batter the hell out of each other for the right to pay.

Shop till you drop

Shopped out: And the only time she’s quiet

Shopping too with any woman is a Herculean ordeal.

And in NY where that means Macy’s then my modus operandi is get in, get out.

Particularly as you can get lost in there.

And there’s no use denying that you had any part in choosing The Scary One’s souvenir.

BTW she still uses the candy pink Guess handbag.

While there’s no talking to a woman who insists on wearing her stilettos on the hop-on, hop-off Manhattan bus.

An Irish homecoming

Donegal calling: At Ballybofey’s Jackson’s Hotel

And as I alluded to The Diva is even more empowered in her homestead of Ireland and her village of Brockagh, Co. Donegal.

Where she was wont to stride down the road with her sisters in her fur coat back on their return to the Bogs of Donegal back in the day.

And all of us, the next generation, revert to (or are reverted to) childhood when our parents have been around. 

A Ballyhoo

Green, green, grass of Ireland: And two peas in a pod

Such as in our old stomping ground of Jackson’s Hotel in Ballybofey.

When in the hotel where here, not Shannon, was where Irish Coffee originated she shared this gem with my Dublin cousin Monica…

‘I’ve four brothers, a husband and three sons and James (my Sunday name) is the most selfish man of them all.’

And this after I’d taken time off and driven her all the way up from Greystones in Co. Wicklow!

Silly old woman had forgotten.

That with her hearing aid in she was speaking louder and I could hear her.

Happy Mother’s Day for Sunday, ye mad thing. 

And for context think Catherine Tate’s alter ego Nan from Nan The Movie.

Meanwhile I’ll daydream about Mother’s Day Mother’s Way and New York.

And much, much more.




America, Countries, Europe, Ireland

It’s EaZzzzzy with Holidos and Don’ts

A redeye and no Aircoach… fear not it’s EaZzzzzy with Holidos and Don’ts.

Your globetrotting Bandanaman is hotfooting it over to his spiritual homeland of Ireland tomorrow morning.

But such are the vagaries of North Berwick, 15 miles east of Edinburgh, that there is no aircoach from outside my door.

As there was 24-7 in Greystones, Co. Wicklow.

Hubba bubba: Dublin Airport

And so I have the options of a £75 taxi from Castle Murty, asking The Scary One to give me an early morning lift.

Or grabbing the last train (hopefully it’s on as the slightest puddle causes cancellations).

And bunking for the night at the airport… I’ve ruled out the £100 hotel rates.

So the Holidos and Donts.

A site for sore eyes

It helps if you’re in any of the airports flagged up by the excellent Sleeping in Airports site.

And you’ll notice that most of their followers’ recommendations are in stopover airports in Asia.

But there are some old faves too in Europe and America.

Best for a layover

On the right track: Turkish Airlines Business Class

In Istanbul’s award-winning Turkish Airlines Business Class lounge sure but also in their rest rooms with privacy walls while they also have shower rooms.

But also in Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam where they have designated rest zones and plenty of amenities including a casino, fitness facilities, a library and a museum.

Denver too gets a shout-out probably because I spent longer there than anywhere… eight hours after being dropped off after my Wild West odyssey in Colorado.

And you’ll become an expert in putting with their 18-hole green on the balcony… and an arts aficionado with their excellent gallery.

Check it out: Munich check-in at Oktoberfest

Oh, and as for the rest the massages come highly recommended.

Munich Airport falls into the same category, and what it lacks for in ease for getting from one gate to the next when you misread your ticket it makes up for with helpful staff.

Arriving there just before the Oktoberfest you’ll find the staff dressed in Bavarian lederhosens.

And if you’re lucky then you’ll get the same Bertha who changed my ticket for a later one when I’d missed my original forwarding flight to Athens.

Dublin’s lair city

Dressed to thrill: At Dublin Airport

Now that I’ve had my accommodation taken care of by my friends in Ireland who are running the international travel network I won’t have to worry about kipping in Dublin Airport.

But there’s a sleeping pod with my name on it which I’ve bagsied in the past and no doubt will again.

And just to make sure your layover goes well a few tips.

*Lock your bags when you’re asleep and keep them wrapped around your shoulders.

*Put the alarm clock on your mobile to make sure you don’t miss the flight.

*And make sure you’re next to a plug socket just in case your mobile which has your boarding pass and Covid details and locator form on it is charged up.

See it’s EaZzzzzy with Holidos and Don’ts.