JIM BYERS PHOTO
Check out some of the world’s largest sea cliffs in Slieve League on the Wild Atlantic Way in Ireland.
Jump into Ireland and drive the new coastal route, called the Wild Atlantic Way .
Or check out the seacoast, the mountains and the villages of New Hampshire, a surprisingly diverse spot that’s easy to get to.
The folks from both destinations brought their displays to Toronto this week to show travel folks some of what’s new and what’s on offer for 2014. And both made some great points.
For Ireland, one of the big stories this year is the Wild Atlantic Way, a 2,500 km long drive along Ireland’s western seaboard. It’s billed as the “longest defined coastal drive in the world,” which is saying something.
The path stretches from Donegal in the north to Cork in the south, passing through areas such as Connemara, Kerry and Galway Bay. I had the good fortune to visit Galway a few years ago and absolutely loved it. They close off much of the central city to cars, making the winding streets perfect for strolling. The shops were lovely and the food wonderful and the pubs, naturally, out of this world. I particularly liked The King’s Head.
The hotels are quite cool, too. We stayed at a very colourful, modern spot called The G that my wife still talks about three or four years later.
There’s more to talk about than the Wild Atlantic Way, of course. The city of Waterford, home to famous Waterford crystal, is celebrating its 1,100 th anniversary this year. Which makes it even older than Mississauga.
JIM BYERS PHOTO
The pubs of Galway are just one of the great things to see on a drive along the Wild Atlantic Way in Ireland.
Fans of the TV show Game of Thrones are flocking to Northern Ireland to see where the series is shot, while Limerick is Ireland’s official city of culture for 2014. I didn’t get to Limerick but I loved Donegal and the cliffs of Slieve League (that’s in the top photo on my blog), as well as Dublin and Belfast (great pubs and architecture and cool hotels) and Adare Manor and Ashford Castle and so many other spots we visited.
The Irish tourism folks are hoping to get more year-round tourists instead of packing so many of us Canadians into summertime trips. I was there in April when I visited and it was delightful; with sunny weather and almost no rain and nice temperatures around 15 degrees or so. You never quite know what the weather will be like in that part of the world, so I highly recommend going in the spring or fall to take advantage of cheaper prices and fewer tourists.
It’s also easier than ever to get to Ireland from Canada. On April 14, Irish airline Aer Lingus will make its first flight to Canada in more than 30 years. They’re starting daily flights from Toronto to Dublin (and back, which is convenient) in peak summer season, and up to four flights a week the rest of the year.
Air Canada is expanding its Toronto to Dublin service from seasonal to year-round as of May 1 on its new leisure carrier, Rouge.
In addition, Air Transat service from Toronto to Dublin and Shannon and Montreal to Dublin resumes this month. And WestJet makes its first-ever foray across the ocean with its inaugural flights from St. John’s to Dublin on June 15.
A record 134,000 Canadians visited Ireland last year, an 11 per cent increase over 2012. I can tell you the Irish people are as great as they’re cracked up to be; very welcoming and fun and engaging and delightful. It’s a truly magnificent destination with lots to offer. And I didn’t even have time to play golf!
Visit the Ireland tourism website for more information.
JOE HAMED/NEW HAMPSHIRE DIVISION OF TRAVEL AND TOURISM DEVELOPMENT
Beautiful barns, rivers and lakes are a great attraction in New Hampshire.
NEW HAMPSHIRE BECKONS, TOO
The folks from New Hampshire have a few things to crow about, too. It’s a great destination that’s an easy drive from Toronto. You can fly to Boston or Burlington, Vermont and drive from there or take a train, at least from Boston you can. Easier, I think, is to drive to Montreal and turn right. You’ll hit the New Hampshire border soon after leaving Montreal and find lovely, small towns and towering mountains and gorgeous streams and lakes.
Not only that, New Hampshire has a fine stretch of coastline on the Atlantic and a pretty town in Portsmouth, where they claim to have more restaurants per capita than any place in the U.S. (Mind you, I heard the same thing last week about Scottsdale, Arizona.)
Mt. Washington is the highest point in the U.S. northeast and one of the windiest spots on earth, with a fun drive to the top of the mountain. It’s also a great fall destination for leaf peepers and a wonderful ski destination. New Hampshire also has a series of lodges, or huts, for folks hiking the world-renowned Appalachian Trail.
There are a ton of great golf courses in the state, several designed by Donald Ross. And there are gorgeous lakes with far fewer people than you’ll find in Ontario’s lake country.
Shopping also is huge. I can personally attest to the great outlet stores in Conway, NH. Not only do they have incredible prices, but there’s no sales tax in New Hampshire! That alone makes up for the exchange difference between the Canadian and U.S. dollars.
One thing I loved about my New Hampshire lunch, other than the great food at Tappo in the Distillery District, was the tourism board’s sense of humour. Not only did they talk about lakes and shopping and the seacoast, but they had the good sense to tell reporters that New Hampshire is home to the following:
– The world’s largest meatball
– The most lit jack o’lanterns at one time
– The windiest spot in the continental U.S.
– The place where Tupperware was invented
– The home of the oldest country store in the U.S.
– The state with the most Groucho Marx masks, and
– The first state with a credit union; founded by a Canadian doncha know.
Doesn’t that make you want to go?