Once upon a time, if you wanted to book a holiday you started by looking at brochures or adverts in the local papers. I can remember as a child looking at columns of adverts in the Sunday papers for guest houses in Bute, Arran, Cornwall; anywhere you might want to go, but not abroad – that was for the truly adventurous. You chose from the places on offer and wrote to the establishment to book your room, perhaps enclosing a postal order as a deposit. In due course, a reply would arrive confirming the booking, or if there was no space left perhaps suggesting another establishment that could accommodate you. All very calm, very personal.
Travelling further afield meant employing a travel agent. Thoma Cook was the big player, and many folk travelled all over the world courtesy of their kind and competent ministrations. There was a sense of a safety net when a travel agent was used. If things went wrong, help was at hand. And they would get you home.
These days we are more likely to book our holidays ourselves over the internet, happily planning trips based on what other travellers have reported. I have done this a few times now, and I thought you might find my travel tales entertaining as we share a plate of pancakes and homemade lemon curd (recipe to follow!)
Last year we (husband and I) decided to tour Donegal. Although of Irish descent, we have travelled little in the Emerald Isle. It was time to rectify this omission, and with the help of Airbnb, we did.
For those of you who have not heard of the Airbnb phenomenon, it allows people with a spare room to rent it out to travellers who want to experience the real country, and meet the real people of the country in which they are travelling. In practice, although some of the accommodation on offer is simply the spare room others use Airbnb as a way of marketing their existing Bed and Breakfast business. We have experienced both.
What we liked about Airbnb was that there were reviews of the properties written by those who had stayed there! So we knew (sort of) what we were going to find. Of course, it doesn’t aways work that way – but it is a good idea:-)
We set off, full of high hopes, singing ‘We’re all going on a summer holiday’, streamers flapping out of the windows, balloons fluttering …..you get the idea. The sun shone, the roads were quiet, and we were determined to enjoy our well-earned break. After a calm sea crossing, we docked at Belfast and the adventure truly began.
If you have never driven across Ulster to Lough Foyle you have missed one of the loveliest roads. Moving from rolling farm land to mountain bleakness over the course of a 2 hour drive, it is a beautiful journey.
At Limavady (the birthplace of The Londonderry Air – O Danny Boy) we decided to take the ferry from Magiligan Point over to Greencastle. This short sail across the mouth of the Foyle was accompanied by dolphins – what luck!
Our first overnight stop was at Malin Head; a great rock of a place, windblown and remote. They have a lighthouse there, and a memorial to the first Telegraph Office. This was where the news of the Titanic’s sinking was first received. All good stuff…
Our accommodation was in a modest modern house, and was “the spare bedroom”! Our delightful host sent us off to the nearest restaurant for excellent food. Returning later, we sat in the living room, drinking tea with the family. Chatting away I became convinced I had met our host before. Gentle enquiry revealed that yes, we had met! 10 years previously we had worked together for a few weeks! It is amazing how much growing a beard changes a man’s appearance. The night wore on with gossip about shared acquaintances. What a way to start a holiday:-)
Next day we wandered on around the Wild Atlantic Way . It is difficult to really describe the scenery. Rocks and fields. Precipitous gradients. Roads so narrow that there is scarcely space for the wheels of the car. Lots of lovely new houses, but no people! Few places to have a cup of tea (a flask was essential). The sun shone, the sky was blue with scattered clouds, and all was well – until we arrived at our next place of rest.
(to be continued)