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Luxury ship sails back into Cill Chiaráin on ultimate maritime tour

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Connemara’s Cill Chiaráin Bay played host on Thursday to a very special group of visitors who are enjoying the ultimate tour of Ireland’s coastline – at up to €15,000 a pop.

They are on board the Orion, one of the National Geographic Society’s fleet of expedition ships, which is returning to the west, having sailed into Cill Chiaráin Bay with a different group last week as part of their two, eight-day circumnavigation tours of the “endlessly magnificent” coast of Ireland.

BY JOHN CARLOS

The Society operates hundreds of similar trips each year to 60 destinations in the world spanning the seven continents.

The ship is a fully stabilized vessel equipped with an ice-reinforced hull, enabling it to navigate polar ice as well as the smaller harbours of Europe.

“The expeditions aim to fulfil the Society’s mission to inspire people to care about the planet by providing meaningful opportunities to explore it,” according to the Society.

Living accommodation aboard the Orion.

Living accommodation aboard the Orion.

The state-of-the-art Orion, named presumably after the constellation group of stars, is the newest addition to the National Geographic’s fleet.

Boasting exquisite lounge and dining areas and sumptuous bedrooms, the vessel can accommodate 102 guests in 53 spacious cabins, all with ocean views.

Costing between €7,000 and €15,000 per person sharing, the proceeds “support the Society’s efforts to increase global understanding through exploration, education and scientific research”.

There is an outdoor café, state-of-the-art lecture theatre, and a library. Meals are served in an informal setting, offering international cuisine inspired by their ports of call, and guests will sample some of the local fare while touring Ireland.

For the more energetic, there are fitness and spa treatment rooms; a whirlpool, hot tub and plunge pool. There is also a full-time doctor and a wellness specialist on board.

Sophisticated video equipment, snorkelling and diving gear and a dive-master are provided. And a National Geographic photographer and photography instructor are also available to guests.

The ship operates an ‘open bridge’ policy encouraging guests to meet the captain and officers.

The Orion meets strict specifications for environmental protection, and their on-board waste management systems meet the stringent Antarctic operational standards enabling them to travel to the most pristine environments.

Plenty of scope for socialising on board the Orion.

Plenty of scope for socialising on board the Orion.

A host of advanced design features and technology ensures sustainable marine environmental practices.

Fourteen Zodiac inflatable rafts ensure quick disembarkation and offer the ideal transport for up-close exploration.

And for those who prefer to stay dry, the Orion is equipped with a glass-bottom Zodiac that enables remarkably clear observations undersea.

Each Ireland expedition is coordinated by Con Moriarty’s Hidden Ireland Tours, Kerry, under the guidance of Director of Operations, Ann Curran.

The Orion sails south from Dublin visiting various points of interest along the coast, including Ballycotton and Kinsale.

Then, heading up along the Wild Atlantic Way, they visit Skellig Michael, Dingle; the Aran Islands; Cliffs of Moher; Connemara; Donegal; Derry and The Giant’s Causeway, Antrim.

In Connemara, they are brought on cultural tours of the region, which can include a spot of fishing, courtesy of the Lough Inagh Hotel.

The Orion returned to Cill Chiaráin Bay on Wednesday, mooring opposite Cnoc Leitir Caladh with a new group of guests.

They called into Cill Chiaráin village on Thursday, where they met some of the locals.

They also pursued outdoor activities like hill walking, cycling, and cultural tours, and later in the evening, attend a night of traditional music in Tigh Cadhain’s bar and bistro.

The National Geographic tour leaves Ireland next week and will most likely return next summer.

CITY TRIBUNE

Former hotel won’t be ring-fenced for college

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No designation....Corrib Great Southern during demolition.

The site of the former Corrib Great Southern will no longer be ring-fenced for educational purposes if a clause removed in a draft of the next development plan is eventually adopted.

A motion by Mayor Colette Connolly proposed earmarking one-third of the six-acre Dublin Road site for educational use as well as research or collaborative ventures between third level colleges and industry.

Mayor Connolly said her proposal reinstates the text of the current plan reserving a portion of any planned development for education.

Galway Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT) was supportive of the motion, the Independent councillor she told a planning meeting convened to collate a draft of the plan.

Councillor Declan McDonell (Ind) said GMIT had recently purchased the home of the Galwegians Rugby Club at Glenina for €9 million and were progressing developments at the Cluain Mhuire site and a proposed Centre of Excellence for Health, Sport, and Marine Science at Murrough.

The former hotel had been offered to GMIT for €3.75m by NAMA (National Asset Management Agency) but they had to pass because they could not come up with the money.

“So I fail to see how they could come up with the money to buy two acres for educational purposes – therefore we could be left with a derelict site for years,” he warned.

Cllr Noel Larkin (Ind) told the meeting he was in favour of an expanding GMIT but agreed the site which only recently saw the demolition of a major eyesore could be left derelict for another decade if developers were hamstrung by what could be built.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Multi-storey car park proposal still on the table

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No multi-storey...the existing Dyke Road car park.

A proposal to remove from the Draft City Development Plan an objective to replace the existing car park at Dyke Road with a multi-storey alternative has been voted down by councillors.

Those opposing the motion argued that regardless of improved public transport and cycle networks, there would always be a requirement for parking in the city centre.

The motion, proposed by Cllr Niall Murphy (Green) and seconded by Mayor Colette Connolly (Ind), sought to take out a line in the plan which stated the replacement of the 550-space car park with a multi-storey “would enable more efficient use of the land”.

This forms part of the planned redevelopment of the area which is to be led by the Land Development Agency (LDA) and is mooted to include residential units, retail space and potentially a hotel.

Cllr Murphy said as improved public transport came on stream, the requirement for parking in the centre of the city should reduce, with the long-awaited Park and Ride rollout the ‘preferred option’.

“It is prejudicial to state [in the development plan] that some of that area will be used by multi-storey parking – that should be decided as part of our negotiations with the LDA,” said Cllr Murphy.

Cllr Donal Lyons (Ind) opposed the motion and said long-term parking, such as that currently provided for on the Dyke Road, should be maintained as there would be a continued demand for it.

“We need a certain amount of parking for people working in town. Park and Ride will not be available for all, like those who come in on the Headford Road and the Tuam Road,” he said.

Cllr Terry O’Flaherty agreed and said workers from areas such as Annaghdown and Corrandulla had no access to public transport and required their car to get to work.

Cllr Frank Fahy (FG) said the population of the city was set to double in the coming years and even by maintaining the existing number of spaces in Dyke Road, the Council would be in effect halving the overall availability.

“People need to get to town and not everybody can hop on a bike – not everybody has that luxury,” he said.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

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CITY TRIBUNE

Galway’s vacant homes and shops

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Councillor Níall McNelis (Lab)

There were in excess of 1,100 vacant commercial and residential properties in Galway City in 2020, a new report has found – a ‘staggering figure’ which one local representative described as ‘frightening’.

The Northern and Western Regional Assembly’s (NWRA) report on Regional Vacancy and Dereliction has revealed a worsening problem in the city – highlighting a 15% increase in the level of commercial vacancy since 2015 and a 5% increase in the number of empty homes.

Some 690 commercial properties were lying idle in the city in September 2020 – many of which could be used to increase the housing stock according to the report.

The West has more than double the national average of vacant commercial space, something that is “undermining the economic, social and cultural wellbeing of the region while exasperating attempts to deliver sustainable settlement patterns”.

“Many of our towns and villages continue to experience high vacancy and dereliction rates along their main streets, with these empty residential and commercial properties providing extensive opportunities to improve housing supply, ensure our residents live closer to key public services and workplaces,” states the report.

A further 444 residential units were also vacant, despite the city experiencing a homelessness crisis and a severe shortage of housing.

Local Councillor Níall McNelis (Lab) said these figures were ‘staggering’ – particularly as the situation is likely to have worsened due to the impact of Covid-19 on businesses.

“A lot of these commercial units would probably be better used as residential units and I believe that is something local government could sort out – if it was given the power to do so.

“Instead, national government has far too much of a hold on it. It would require national legislation but I think we need to look at taxing vacant units if no effort is being made to fill them,” said Cllr McNelis.

There were several cases where ‘very large investors’ had bought up these properties for ‘half nothing’ and left them to rot while there were people in the city crying out for living space, he continued.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from

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