Adventure, Countries, Ireland

A walk through old Ireland

My Dear Old Mum was always at her freest when she was in her beloved Donegal taking a walk through old Ireland.

And, of course, being a popular native of Ireland’s northernmost county she would be noticed even in the wilds of the Monian Road, Glenfin.

Mary Huoney (and forgive the spelling as I never did get to grips with all those fadas) revelled in spotting Mum skipping on the stony path.

Donegal life

One-horse town: Glenfin

It is the uninhibited nature of Donegal life which marks it out as special.

If you are lucky enough to have spent childhood days in the Irish valley of the River Finn you will have rich memories of…

Ned and his donkey, old Eddie (my grandpa) with the twinkling eye, the racing paper and the pipe filled with spearmint tobacco.

And Johnny and Cundie Nora and their horse and cart.

The best folk

Next stop America

You could (and should) experience it all on a four-night walking and hiking holiday in Donegal with TD Active Holidays.

Glencolmkille Folk Village will take you back to an Ireland of the history books and themed Irish pubs.

But this is not Oirish but authentic and worth walking through.

Mount Errigal rises like an ancient Celtic sentinel from the Finn Valley inviting you on to climb it.

Park life

Take it all in: Glenveagh National Park

Glenveagh National Park is 16,000 hectares of walking harmony with nature, the Derryveagh Mountains, the Poisoned Glen (intriguing) and Errigal.

And if it’s a range of cliffs you like then it’s the old pilgrims trek to Slieve League you’ll be wanting.

And you know how much I love an oul’ pilgrims walk… be it Santiago or Rome.

Last port

Adventurous: St Brendan

Reflect too on being at the very edge of Europe.

And imagine St Brendan the Navigator setting out to discover America.

TD active Holidays (that’s our pals Travel Department) is offering a four-day break, departing August 19, from €659pp.

With Donegal Town as your base..

Department shopping

Green shoots: From a trek

You’ll get three guided walking days in Donegal with packed lunches thrown in.

Trust me you’ll be glad you’ve taken your walk through old Ireland.

And if you see an old Irish woman skipping along the road tell her I say: ‘Hi’.


Countries, Europe, Ireland, UK

My Father’s Day

What’s captured my Dad’s attention has been lost in the mists of time as has he and Dinky the Donegal dog.

But Shovlin’s Guest House is still there on the Portnoo beach.

Daddy’s laddie

And my Mum, my Auntie and myself were back there a few years ago. And, yes, I needed my drink that night.

Donegal, my Mum’s heartland, was where my Dad looked most relaxed, away from the phone and his work.

Donegal for ever

Donegal links: Portnoo.

So, it’s good to know that he chose to spend eternity up near Ballybofey… with my Mum’s family.

Being a late child and having formed a bond with my Irish cousins my parents farmed me over there for summer holidays when I was 12.

So my holiday memories consisted mainly of playing on the beach while they sunbathed.

Golfing buddies

But there were vacations abroad, usually alternating years with going to see my grandparents in Donegal.

Let us back: Ibiza

Ibiza beezer

One year the family split with my brother staying home with my Dad and me, my Mum and my other brother going to Ibiza

My mum must have sold it to my Dad because we went back as a full family where waiter Pepe made a fuss of me.

And where I got to have a half of glass of red wine with my dinner.

Life on the beach: In the Balearics

I obviously took to the taste.

The Balearic Islands were the go-to package holiday destination for Seventies families.

Menorca corker

And we broadened our horizons to take in the Balearics’ second biggest island, Menorca

Where I got to have wine poured into my mouth from a porron out on a boat trip… a bit of a theme going here.

My early Bakearic Adventures has instilled a love of those islands in me, and I never pass up the opportunity to visit.

Let us back in the sea: Majorca

Magic Majorca

The last occasion being Majorca, with work on a stop-off from a cruise ship and on a family holiday.

It wasn’t always plain sailing though and our trip to Portugal almost didn’t happen.

When we got to the airport and we found out that Dad’s passport had expired.

Gentler days then, and I don’t know how, but he managed to get it renewed and we got on the flight.

And, yes, I’ve been going back to Portugal regularly since… and Secret Portugal.

I’m not judging you Dad over our passport with my details in it. I’ve had more than my fair share of scrapes in airports myself.

I guess the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree.


Countries, Food & Wine, Ireland

Hungry and Thursday – The Irish pub worth every €9 a pint

The worst thing is I didn’t even balk when I read of the €9 Irish pint… I know Temple Bar well Raising the Bar.

This though is the fall-out from the Irish Government plan to get their greatest asset, their pubs, reopened.

Punters will be allowed back in but will only get their favourite pint of plain (that’s Guinness to you and me) if they sit down for a meal.

The Irish drinker

Yes, it’s not the Irish pub experience you might have heard of, the heaving mass of humanity packed in like sardines.

Grannie’s Little Girl

But, in truth, Irish pubs have adapted more than any other country across my five decades.

And the Irish have often been leading while others have merely followed.

Remember it was the Irish who were the first country in the world to ban smoking in pubs.

And they said that wouldn’t work!

Mother’s pride

Irish pubs may be different from the one my Mum was brought up in with her Daddy, Masssey (or Mammy) and five sisters and four brothers in Co. Donegal.

I’m keeping my eye on you

No Sky TV, no jukebox… instead a haze of smoke, a sing-song and a roaring fire.

And a counter where you could buy every grocery or hardware item you might need in an Irish hamlet (or downland).

The roaring fire is still there at my mum’s hotel/bar, the Ramblers Inn in Brockagh, and welcome from Con who doffs his hat to my Mum’s family with a noticeboard of pictures from her childhood.

And puts out a giant teapot, doorstep sandwiches and home-made brack cake.

And some fuel for the fire

The last time we visited was on the eve of Arthur’s Day, a national branded exercise which ran from 2009-2013

And drew thousands to pubs around the country with live entertainment.

It was quiet the day we dropped in on my Mum’s old pub with the only other customer propped up on a barstool, Guinness in hand.

Boys and the blackstuff

I asked him what he’d be doing for Arthur’s Day when Con piped in… ‘Same as every other day, eh?’

Irish Country pubs is what people come here for.

It doesn’t have to be so different post-Covid.

Just order your pint, loaf of bread, cheese, milk, needle and thread, peat briquettes and kindling.

See, and

And where is your favourite Country pub. Tell me and we’ll share the love.

America, Countries, Europe, Ireland, UK

A big Squeezy for Mother’s Day

I kid my Dear Old Mum that she IS Nan, the Catherine Tait character who is as sweet as pie one minute and then lays into that person the next.

I came up with the nickname ‘Squeezy’ Teasy (short for Teresa) for her after one incident.

She had let one young family through in the ice cream queue in the local park.

Only to then turn on them a second later. I knew it was coming when she raised her hand to give me a squeeze on the shoulder.

And on this occasion she was regaling that woman from the poorer side of the park and their accent… ‘Brendan, stay away from the wahhhhter!’

We’ve had our moments, me and Mum and on this Mother’s Day when I’m not allowed in to see her at her Nursing Home…

Here are some of our adventures…

Home for the holidays

Ireland: My mother’s homestead and more adventures than clumps of peat in her beloved Donegal

Of course she always gets bold when she’s back among her own people.

Like the time we were staying in our go-to hotel Jackson’s In Ballybofey.

And my Mum turned to my cousin and said: ‘I have four brothers and three sons and James (my Sunday name) is the most selfish of the lot.

All within earshot of me… me who had brought her all the way up from my home in Co. Wicklow

Star in stripes

America: The Oo Es of Eh was always the Promised Land for my Mum.

Whose aforementioned four brothers had emigrated there in the late Fifties.

She only abandoned me when I was just 13 for three weeks so she could go out to see them.

Never mind that she cooked three weeks of meals for us… the cleaning woman who came in to look after us while Dad was at work made off with half of them.

We went back, Mum and me, together ten years ago for my cousin’s wedding in New York… and

Where she insisted on paying for every meal (a very Irish trait) and treating me like a wee boy) – see above.

We had promised to get down to see Fave Cousin in Washington, and I did… Easy DC. Mum had been there before and the National Guard remembered her!!!

Viva Espana

Spain: One year it was Ireland the next it was Spain, that was how it was with summer holidays as a kid.

My Mum is more than likely Black Irish, a descendant of Spanish Armada sailors who were washed up and intermingled with the locals.

And she liked little better than tanning herself on a Spanish beach.

When she wasn’t trying to stop my elder brother teaching me to swim by throwing me in the deep end.

And, of course, it has left me with a lifelong love of Spain… visit

And walk this way A pilgrim’s prayer and A walk through the ages… Tenerife with and

Scotland the motherland

Scotland: And she has been repeating her desire to come home to Ireland, and that Scotland isn’t her place despite being 70 years away.

There’s been a lifetime of experiences from her rearing me in Scotland where I’ve now returned to to live.

But as I’ve relocated to Scotland’s Golf Coast then here’s one from when I took her to the Open at St Andrews.

And my Mum sent a randomer into the Portaloos because I was taking too much time.

I got my own back by giving her the slip at the Swilcan Burn when I rushed with the crowd to the apron of the 18th to see Tiger Woods sink the winning putt.

See and My Sporting Weekend – Golf and social distancing


And remember…#DontCancelPostpone.

Countries, Europe, Ireland, UK

Thirteen years an Irishman – My five Irish homes

Growing up in Scotland to an Irish mother, and father with Irish roots, I was tagged Irish, or at least Irish-Scots.

Even after 13 years in Ireland I’m still seen as Scottish. I don’t know why, was it the accent, the kilt…?

But, in truth, I will always have two homes.

So, on the day we move out of the home we have filled for 13 and a half hours here are my five Irish homes:

Herself at her favourite Glendalough

Co. Wicklow: The Son and Heir and Daddy’s Little Girl both agree that growing up by the sea in Greystones was a privilege.

And you can ALWAYS get a coffee or hot chocolate. Some happily queue for veggies’ heaven Happy Pear

Me? I prefer the eccentric Tomasso and Caffe Delle Stelle

Greystones is framed by Bray Head and the town harbour. Great cliff walk and train ride through the Brunel tunnel.

Also Glendalough, the Meeting of the Waters, Avoca. the inspiration for Ballykissangel, and the spectacular Powerscourt with its waterfalls.

Visit, and when we stayed… Flowerscourt.

Brill in Belfast City

Belfast boys

Belfast: The aforementioned Son and Heir has relocated to Belfast, another excuse to go up north, as if I needed any.

Myself and the Scary One have obviously been up to see him.

And also the Game of Thrones door, the tapestry in the Ulster Museum and the Titanic Museum

We stayed and can recommend the

While when I get the chance to zip up there for, say The Open at Royal Portrush, with Discover Northern Ireland, or Van Morrison at the Europa and staying at the Grand Central Hotel

Also check out and Belfast Chilled.

Monaghan country life

Rolling hills

Teamwork? I find the destination and I leave Herself to organise us getting there, so is it my fault if I give her the wrong dates?

So when we turned up in Monaghan one week early we had to rely on the kindness of the townfolk… Justin Asian Street Food, Monaghan County Museum and Brehon Brewery.

We did make our high tea meeting a couple of weeks later at Castle Leslie where Paul and Heather Mills got married. Let It Be!

Visit and read Monaghan’s country roads.

Donegal land of my mother

Double trouble

I’ve been going to Donegal all my life… to visit my grandparents, my auntie, and doing an annual pilgrimage with my Mum since.

We always stay in the hotel in the nearest town to her Brockagh homestead, Jackson’s in Ballybofey where the Irish Coffee was born.

My mum was the first intake of the Brockagh school which is now home to the patriot Isaac Butt Heritage Centre

Where photos of her and her family is up on the boards.

While we also love to visit Portnoo with its deserted island and The Flight of the Earls Memorial and Doon Well holy site in Rathmullan.


My rare oul’ times in Dublin

Flagging it up: Temple Bar

Twelve and a half years of it I spent in a soulless, friendless office… but thankfully my pal Nicky runs the iconic InterContinental next door… The InterCon… what a Ledge!

Temple Bar is where the tourists come but you can pick and choose and get away from it all at the Gibson Hotel

I’ve spent many of the best days of my life in Dublin…

Mary’s Bar and Hardware Shop off Grafton Street is the pick of my pubs although I’d be shot if I didn’t mention The Workshop Gastro Pub

Chapter One does the best steaks while Chai Yo Teppanyaki the best Chinese while Wendy Wu Tours the best Chinese New Year spread.

Raising the bar: with Herself

You want museums? Yes, there are the obvious attractions, the Book of Kells in Trinity College Dublin and Dublin Castle.

But I give you The Little Museum of Dublin, the Hugh Lane Gallery with Francis Bacon’s recreated studio.

And Kilmainham Jail where the 1916 leaders were executed including the gangrenous Scot James Connollly, strapped to his chair.

And for more on Dublin, visit and