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A Different View

Make the most of the gems on your own doorstep

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A Different View with Dave O’Connell

The clear skies and soaring temperatures would have ensured that nobody needed much convincing to holiday close to home over the past week or two – but too often we tend to overlook the gems on our own doorstep.

Recently our brood took a few days to visit our nearest neighbours to the immediate north – and a few days in Mayo was all it took to lift the spirits.

Westport is little more than an hour away, but it is one hell of a tourist hotspot – a spotlessly clean town with a huge choice of hotels, pubs and restaurants, and the world of amenities and facilities within a stone’s throw.

It’s a short hop to Louisburg or Newport – ancestral home of Princess Grace – or Clare Island, adopted home of the Saw Doctors, and the drive up through Maam and Leenane would justify the whole experience on its own.

But this is not just about enjoying the local natural amenities – it’s the fact that forward-thinking hoteliers are working so hard to capitalise on that by finally waking up to the sort of promotion and marketing that the rest of Europe has been at for a generation.

For too long, our tourism industry was reasonably content to sit back and simply point to this legendary Irish welcome, as though a nod in a visitor’s direction made high prices and poor services more palatable.

But no longer – now there are hotel packages with amenities built in, so that the family gets to make the most of their stay.

There is also a greater sense of community and cooperation, in that all of these amenities don’t have to belong to the hotel you’re actually staying in – this is a more holistic approach to holiday-making that ensures you are spoilt for choice.

We stayed in the Castlecourt Hotel in the heart of Westport, where a family room is what it should be – a comfortable place for everyone to retire to after a long day, as opposed to an ordinary room with a couple of fold-out beds that wouldn’t suit a three year old, let alone a pair of rapidly growing teenagers.

Without leaving the hotel, you had the pool and leisure complex as well as the ubiquitous spa, while outside the door you were two minutes from the famous Matt Molloy’s pub, one of the finest hostelries in Ireland.

If ours were younger, they’d probably have enjoyed the Kid’s Club, but the friendly staff at the Castlecourt weren’t proprietorial about their guests – they were only too happy to suggest a myriad of things to do within easy reach.

Indeed they’ve put together a range of attractions at discounted prices for guests – and a rep from each of these providers comes to the hotel every morning to help you make your choices.

Westport House is an obvious starting point, what with everything from its Adventure Island high ropes to its Pirate Adventure Park or even its pitch and putt – but more and more, the big attraction right through the heart of Mayo is the Greenway.

You only have to look at the amount of cyclists around town to see what a success story this has been – and again, they do their best to make sure it’s all manageable; you don’t have to cycle back because they’ll collect you; you can hire a bike, and there are plenty of things to do en route.

But for years the biggest impediment to holidaying at home was the price – if you go to the sunspots, the food and drink was cheaper and you’d get a package holiday for the price of a night in an Irish hotel.

That’s not the case anymore – the Castlecourt, for example, does a three night break for two adults and two children, which includes evening meals in a superlative restaurant, for just over €550.

That may not appear cheap but equally, when you break it down, it’s around €50 each per night for a four star hotel in the heart of one of Ireland’s most popular tourist hotspots.

The specially priced family passes for Westport House and all of its facilities worked out at less than half the normal price, and there was also a cut off the Greenway prices so that you felt you were getting bang for your buck every step of the way.

Little wonder then that the place was packed, as was their sister hotel, the Westport Plaza, next door – but then Westport has been to the forefront of tourism in this country for longer than most.

That’s not to say we don’t have visionary tourism providers in our own midst, because we do – it was just that this was service with a smile and at a price that doesn’t clean out your pocket.

And that’s what holidays, home or away, should be all about.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

One person’s useless tat is another’s stuff of dreams

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Dave O'Connell

A Different View with Dave O’Connell

The world is divided into two kinds of people; those who like to live in a world of clean, white lines and minimal clutter – and those of us who just love accumulating stuff.

Stuff covers a multitude, which – depending on your perspective – might be alternatively defined as either the souvenirs or detritus of your life.

Books, match programmes, concert ticket stubs, seashells, Dinky cars, beer mats…it’s all stuff that one person wants to treasure and the other, invariably, wants to throw straight out in the bin.

And it’s at the core of a fair percentage of domestic differences too – ‘it’s my stuff’; ‘don’t move my stuff’; ‘your stuff is taking over the house’ – because, for every hoarder, there’s an aspiring Marie Kondo who wants to take minimalism to new heights.

Attics are invariably full of stuff that hasn’t seen the light of day in years; old cardboard boxes of childhood toys, suitcases packed with dusty photo albums, boxes of video cassettes for which there is no longer a VCR; clothes that you didn’t want but also didn’t want to throw out – and it’s only a matter of time before they’re back in fashion and you’ll have shed the three stone it would take to close the zipper.

Overall, it’s the kind of stuff that you hoped you’d get back to and wallow in nostalgia, years after you consigned it to the darkest recesses of the eaves.

Those who abhor clutter have a different approach, working on the basis that – if you have stuff stored in a box and you don’t open that box for three years – you don’t need that stuff anymore.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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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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Connacht Tribune

Sense of belonging that brings it all back home

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Dave O'Connell

A Different View with Dave O’Connell

It was a chat with a ‘Galwegian in exile’ that brought it all home to me; although now domiciled in the capital for more years than he’d lived in the west, he was delighted to bring his Dublin-born daughter to the All-Ireland Football Final wearing her maroon jersey.

To be honest, she’d probably have gone to Croke Park dressed as Elsa from Frozen because it was just a day out – but Daddy couldn’t have been prouder if his eleven-year-old came on for Damien Comer with five minutes to go.

The sense of place is understandable when it comes to ourselves as born-and-bred Galwegians, because while you can change where you live as often as you like, even if you wanted to, you can never change where you’re from.

But trying to impose your own geographical heritage on the next generation is alternatively seen as understandable and a little selfish at the same time.

It’s a topic for discussion in our own house on occasion because while the two lads grew up in Galway, they were in fact born in Dublin – and if they want to pull my chain, all they have to do is remind of that fact.

My reply is a tired and stock one, to the effect that although Jesus was born in a stable, nobody ever suggested that made him a horse.

The more serious point is that you are shaped by your formative years rather than the maternity hospital of your arrival – and those years were spent in Galway.

Galway is their point of reference for sport and music and school friends and nights out and pubs and college – and almost everything else that really matters.

For more, read this week’s Connacht 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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Connacht Tribune

Gaeltacht days – and a rite of passage to remember forever

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Dave O'Connell

A Different View with Dave O’Connell

A scholarship to Irish College wasn’t so much a backhanded compliment as an inverted acknowledgement of your grasp of the language – in other words you got one because you were bordering on useless, or to put it more diplomatically you’d benefit more than the rest from a couple of weeks of immersion in your native tongue.

Only it then transpired that the experience of three weeks in the Gaeltacht taught you that going there had a small bit to do with learning Irish for sure – but a whole lot to do with growing up, or at least beginning that blossoming process.

And you would do all this in an atmosphere as alien to your small teenage self as free elections are to the people of Russia; céilís, cispheil, comhra agus craic – as well as an Irish language version of the Streets of London written and taught to us by Art Ó Dufaigh that still lives in the memory bank, even longer than Ralph McTell’s original.

The truth, when you get there, is the realisation that three weeks in the Gaeltacht is a little like a week at the Galway Races or the Rose of Tralee; just as the horses or the Roses are ostensibly the reason for going, they’re really just the hook to get you there.

And so it is that you go to the Gaeltacht to learn the language but you come home having learned so much more.

My Gaeltacht summer was at the tail end of the seventies with three weeks in Beal a’ Dangan and céilís in Nestor’s Hall, brought there in a bus by a young man called Máirtín Tom Sheáinín who would go on to enjoy a stellar career as a broadcaster – particularly presenting Comhrá – but was back then a knacky driver with a dream, traversing windy roads in pitch darkness.

For more, read this week’s Connacht 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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