Discover Mediterranean Montenegro this June

Nestled in the heart of the Mediterranean, Montenegro is a small country with increasing popularity as a holiday destination. Its allure is in its laid back way of life, beautiful natural landscape, a rich history and many activities that allow you to enjoy the world around you. Couple this with a fantastic climate during June and it becomes the perfect place to visit on your next holiday. Here’s my guide to the very best Montenegro has to offer.

Record-breaking landscape

Montenegro has the honour of being home to many of Europe’s natural wonders. Visit the Tara River Canyon, Europe’s deepest Canyon and you’ll be greeted with awe-inspiring scenery. Located within the Durmitor National Park, you’re greeted with waterfalls to admire, caves to explore and rapids that are just calling out to go rafting on.  Once you’ve explored the Canyon, there is much to see within the Park, including climbing Durmitor Mountain.If you like to get the heart racing, this is definitely the National Park for you.

Home to four national parks, Montenegro certainly has much to offer and each park has a lure of something unique. Biogradska Gora holds Europe’s last Virgin Forest and as such, is a place of great ecological significance.  It isn’t just in its parks that Montenegro offers its natural gems. Take a trip to Kotor Bay and to the Southernmost fjord in the world where you will fall in love with this stretch of beautiful cities, fantastic beaches and thriving nightlife. Along the coast of Montenegro, you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to beaches with over 110 sandy idylls to choose from. I would definitely recommend Sveti Stefan, a celebrity haunt back in the Sixties. At this dramatic stretch of coastline, you’ll find a sprawling, peaceful golden beach which is surrounded by beautiful old architecture. From here, make your way to Skadar Lake which is the largest bird reservation in Europe and arguably Montenegro’s finest gem.

Rich Historical culture

There are many varied sites scattered around Montenegro that give a glimpse into the country’s past. Kotor is home to the UNESCO listed Old Town and here you can walk along small, Venetian-inspired streets, through arches and within the city walls feeling as though you have travelled back in time. There are a number of boutique hotels here which have made the very most of this magnificent architecture and provide a unique experience.

You should also stop off at Perast in Boka Bay which is another old town that appeals to your sense of history with links to its prehistoric culture found in the caves above the town. Amongst the fine architecture, you’ll find many churches here which are all very special. You’re spoilt for choice but I would definitely recommend St Nicholas Church with its mix of the old and new churches and Our Lady of the Rosary which has arguably the most beautiful belfry you’ll see in Europe. You should also take a ride out into the bay to Our Lady of the Rocks,  which hosts some spectacular artwork upon its walls.

At your leisure

The way of life in Montenegro feels extremely laid back making it the perfect place to visit to relax. With its many beaches, you’re certain to find one that will make you sit back to enjoy the fine climate. If you do want to get the heart racing a little more, there are also many activities here to keep you occupied. The National Parks provide a great space to indulge in some activity, with hiking, biking, walking, skiing and rafting all available. Along the coast, you’re able to swim and it has great calm sea conditions for sailing. Windsurfing and kitesurfing are also available at Ada Bojana and Ulcinj’s Velika Plaza.

Once night draws in, many of the key towns come to life and the nightlife here is tremendous. For a fine meal, I would definitely head for Przno Harbour to sample some of the finest seafood you’ll ever taste, all freshly caught nearby. Kotor also has some fine restaurants, each with a beautifully unique view to compliment your meal. If you’re in search of a great night out, look no further than Budva, a popular tourist resort with a thriving nightlife with bars and clubs luring you out until dawn.

 

Spiritual destinations for your spring holiday

With spring in the air and new life breathing into the world after the chill of winter, April is the perfect time of year to take yourself off on a spiritual break. Good for the mind, body and soul, here’s my guide to the best destinations to indulge in your spiritual side.

The Vatican, Vatican City, Italy

Easter falls at the weekend of the end of March and start of April this year, making April the perfect month to visit this holy city. Visited by over 4 million people each year, the Vatican is the home of Roman Catholicism and the focus point for Easter celebrations. On Easter Sunday, thousands of people crowd into the square in front of St. Peter’s Basilica to hear the Pope say Mass. This is a free event but it can be hard to gain entrance so ensure you arrive early for the best chance.

The Vatican’s museums is closed to visitors over the Easter weekend so use this time to explore Rome and its many churches and historical sites. Easter Monday is a national holiday in Rome and there is a fantastic atmosphere in the air. End your day by watching a magnificent firework display over the Tiber River. Then take a trip to the Vatican to visit its many museums and iconic buildings where you must see the incredible Sistine Chapel and visit the Papal Tombs.

India

India certainly feels like one of the most spiritual destinations on earth and April is a fantastic month to visit. There are many Hindu festivals throughout the month including the Hindu New Year (11th April), Ramayana Week (11th-20th), Ramanavami (19th) or Hanuman Jayanti (25th). To get the best out of the Ramanavami celebrations, head for northern India to Rameshwaram. Here literally thousands of people bathe in the sea before heading off to the temple for worship. The temple is an important pilgrimage site for Hindus and dates back to the 12th Century.

For other spiritual sites, you are spoilt for choice in India. Visit Haridwar in the Himalayan Foothills, which is seen as the most sacred place in the country as well as one of its oldest cities. Here you have your pick of impressive temples and of course, the Ganges River which pilgrims bathe in to wash away their sins. Staying in the north, visit Rishikesh,  a favourite spiritual destination of the Sixties and home to many Yoga retreats. The south also has some fantastic, and very different, temples and spiritual sites to offer especially those in Madurai.  The Golden Temple in Amritsar welcomes over 50,000 visitors a day and is arguably the most sacred site in India for Sikhs.

Nepal

April is a great month to visit this most sacred of countries, with the temperatures starting to climb towards their eventual summer highs. Nepal is home to one of the most important sites for Buddhists with Lumbini famed as the birthplace of Buddha. A trip here is one of the main four pilgrimages for Buddhists and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The site itself is protected by monasteries which surround the area and these buildings are fascinating to visit. Lumbini hosts the Mayadevi Temple on the exact spot of Buddha’s birth as well as ancient ruins, the sacred Bodhi tree and shrines.

Nepal is famously home to the Himalayas and there is a special sacred site located near this iconic mountain range. Muktinath is a holy site for both Buddhists and Hindus and is also a fantastic site for mediation and relaxation. Located in the Mustang District, Muktinath is a place of great natural beauty combined with temples, shrines, pagodas and monasteries, all sitting at high altitude. If you’re looking to get away from it all, this is the place for you.

The best festivals and events in Australia in May 2013

Australia is a wonderful country to visit all year round, so it’s no wonder that it has millions of tourists who visit from all around the globe. While winters can get cold and wet in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra, the autumn is perfect for beautiful weather and fun events in all of the country’s major cities. Australia has always had a community based culture so it has no shortage of interesting festivals and events worth attending. Whether you’re in to fitness and sports like many Australians, or food and drink, there’s something for everyone.

If you’re in or heading to Australia this May, make sure to add these must-do activities and must-see events to your itinerary.

Noosa International Food and Wine Festival

Hosted in Noosa on Queensland’s beautiful Sunshine Coast, the Noosa International Food and Wine Festival is one of Australia’s most renowned events for foodies and wine connoisseurs. With food trails, celebrity chef demonstrations, and concerts complete with a beautiful glass of wine, there’s nothing that’s not to like about this festival – and plus, once you’re done, you can head down to the Gold Coast for some theme park fun.

The Sydney Morning Herald Half Marathon

An annual event that aims to raise money for more than 700 charities, the Sydney Morning Herald Half Marathon is the perfect excuse to hit the ground running – literally. Spanning 21.1km, the course starts at Sydney’s iconic St Mary’s Cathedral and winds through the Royal Botanic Gardens, Circular Quay, and Darling Harbour. It’s the perfect excuse to see Sydney and to run for a good cause, so what are you waiting for?

Melbourne International Coffee Expo

Everyone loves coffee, so what’s not to love about the Melbourne International Coffee Expo? Held for three days in May, MICE2013 will play host to the World Barista Championship, the World Brewers Cup, and a dedicated coffee trade show. With a ton of exhibitors and some of the best coffee you have ever tasted, this expo is definitely worth that flight to Melbourne, no matter where you are from in the world.

Rotary Team Challenge

If the Sydney Morning Herald Half Marathon is too easy for you, then it may be worth gathering some of your fittest friends and entering the Rotary Team Challenge in WA. Beginning in Northam, participants will cycle, run and walk 75km to Swan View Railway Station in Perth. With a track that navigates through the picturesque Mt Helena and the John Forrest National Park, you won’t be short of scenery; plus, all the money your team raises will go towards the MS Society of WA to help support those with multiple sclerosis. Just make sure you train hard at your local Fitness First health club before you take this challenge head on.

A guide to skiing at Meribel

The Meribel ski resort in France is arguably one of the most iconic ski resorts in Europe. Nestled amongst the Three Valleys, Meribel is perfect for both experienced and novice skiers where you’ll be skiing in one of the largest ski areas in the world. Here’s our guide to getting the very best of your trip to Meribel.

History

Meribel was originally founded in 1938 by Briton Peter Lindsay and it has retained an air of British influence to this day. The resort is extremely popular with British tourist who regularly flock to ski this exciting part of the Alps. In 1992, Meribel hosted events for the Winter Olympics and it is a site which is continuously evolving to suit the needs of the people who visit.

Great for Skiing

You’re spoilt for choice when you ski in Meribel with so much variety across their wide range of slopes. Meribel is a fantastic place to learn to ski or improve upon your skills if you’re a novice and whilst it’s perhaps not as challenging as other alpine resorts, it’s still enjoyable for the more experienced skier. Here you have the fantastic pistes, including Altiport which is perfect for the beginner and the Mont du Vallon which provides spectacular scenery. You’re also able to ski cross country and go off-piste, though it is advisable to either take a guide or book onto an off-piste group guide. More recently as snowboarding has increased in popularity, two snowparks have been added to Meribel, with The Moon Park marking itself as a favourite. Here you’ll find the area equipped with tables, rails and boxes as well as a skate ramp, so it’ll give you hours of fun. You can even record your time in the park and download once you’re finished, free of charge.

What else to see and do

If you want to take a break from the slopes, Meribel has lots to keep you entertained. To indulge in some culture, you can take a guided tour of the resort to learn more about it’s history and construction or visit the Musee De Allues to learn more about the valley. Within the resort you’ll find spas, fitness centres and swimming pool to help you to relax or if you want to get the heart racing, you can go on a horse sleigh ride, take off on a snowmobile or watch the ice hockey. There are many restaurants throughout the resort, offering fine cuisine as only the french can. To enjoy great food on the Mountainside, I would definitely recommend L’Allodis which also provides stunning scenery to accompany your divine meal or for a true gourmet feast, spoil yourself with a meal at Le Grand Coeur’s restaurant.  There are also many bars where you can drink and enjoy live music through the evening. I would recommend Dick’s Tea Bar for it’s great atmosphere and Jack’s Bar Meribel which also hosts stand up comedy. For those who want to burn the midnight oil, visit the Les Saints Peres club which stays open until 5am.

Travel Essentials

Though snowfall isn’t overly heavy during December, there is still good coverage to make the very most of Meribel and you have the added bonus of visiting before peak season kicks in from January. Winter season starts here from the middle of December running through until April. The closest airport is Geneva Airport, located 135km from the resort with connections out to Meribel available. Alternatively, take a trip on the Eurostar from London St. Pancras to Moutiers Railway Station which is just 18km away. When looking to book your accommodation, you are spoilt for choice with fantastic hotels and luxury wood clad chalets available right on piste. I would also book your lift passes before you travel. Prices start at €44 per adult for 1 day but there are a wide variety of passes available, including passes for all of the Three Valleys, week long passes and family passes. For more information and to book online, visit Meribel’s website.

Dog friendly holidays in the West Country of England

With over 600 miles of coastline and more than 400 beaches between them Devon and Cornwall welcome millions of visitors every year. The counties also have a vast  network of footpaths and bridleways crossing nearly 900 square miles of open moorland making the West Country an ideal destination for dog owners.

Best Beaches

Devon and Cornwall’s beaches vary from hidden sheltered coves to vast stretches of sand and narrow strands below towering cliffs.In the the summer dog restrictions do apply to some beaches but there are still over 150 for you to roam free with your canine companion.

On the north coast Constantine Bay near Padstow offers wide sweeping expanses of  sand dotted with rock pools and backed by sand dunes and cliffs. The rocky outcrops and headlands make for beautiful scenery and great windswept walks while on the west coast the tiny Priests Cove on the wild and spectacular Cape Cornwall offers a tiny pebble beach with scores of rock pools to explore and the cliff tops offer spectacular views. Devon’s south coast offers the beautiful sheltered area of Portlemouth which is also quiet and away from the main family beaches allowing even more freedom for you and your dog.

Great Inland Walking

Just a short drive from Exeter lies the 3500 acres of Haldon Forest Park. This Forestry Commission property is crisscrossed with trails for all levels of fitness. The Dart Valley Trail has 16  miles of signposted walks with great river views and valley scenery. Around St Austell you can see some unusual and almost otherworldly landscapes following any of the China Clay Trails around the old clay pits and tips from the 250-year-old clay mining industry. For a wilder experience head for the moors. Exmoor, Dartmoor and Bodmin Moor all welcome dogs and on the public rights of way there is no legal requirement to keep your dog on a lead but on open land always be a responsible dog owner and follow notices requiring your dog to be on a lead near livestock.

Where to Stay

While travelling with pets some owners prefer the freedom of a self catering cottage, chalet or caravan. Dogs Trust Cottages have lots of great properties and you can help the charity when booking through them. Inner Wolf have a good selection of places for those on a real outdoor adventure with their hardy hound. If your dog is very well-behaved and you want to stay at dog friendly inns, B&B’s or hotels, Dog Friendly has a good choice of all these types of accommodation happy to accept dogs.

Practical considerations

As a dog owner you will of course be aware that you need to keep your dog under control at all times, stay aware of other people and animals and potential reactions to a dog and to pick up after them wherever you go. When planning a holiday there are a few other essentials to remember so the holiday is a success for you and your pet. Consider if you will want to visit shops or restaurants or other places that may not accept dogs and if so where your pet will stay. Some accommodations do not allow pets to be left unattended for periods of time.

Dogs can never be left in a car in hot weather due to the higher temperature in the car causing heat exhaustion which can be fatal. Lastly your dog must legally wear a collar and tag with your details on it so consider if you need a new tag with your holiday contact on it.

Activity holidays for groups in April

April is a fantastic month to get out into the world and explore. What better way than to get together with a group of people and partake in some fun activities amongst some of the world’s most picturesque and iconic locations. Here’s our guide to the best activity holidays available.

Family activity holidays

Obviously the key to getting this type of holiday right is making sure that the whole family is kept entertained. This means getting the right balance with culture, activity and adventure and of course throwing in the odd animal adventure will certainly fire the imagination.

If you don’t mind the cold, why not try dog sledding in Lapland. Not only will this be an utterly unique experience but it will certainly capture the young ones’ imagination. For something a little warmer, head to Vancouver Island, Canada to explore the rugged landscape on a kayaking tour. Here you can take to the waters and see bears, orca whales and elk in their natural environment before camping out at night and live the prairie lifestyle.

If your family wants to head for warmer climes, take a trip to the Galapagos islands for a truly unforgettable trip. Here you can snorkel and dive to explore this natural wonder and see the unique eco-system. Spot sharks, manta rays and sea tortoises as you take to the waters.

Activity holidays with close friends

I find that visiting an iconic location is often made all the more magical by sharing that experience with close friends. Perfect for this then is a walking holiday at the Great Wall of China which stretches over 2700 miles, though obviously you won’t be walking the whole distance!  Take a trip to Sinai in Egypt where you can explore some of Egypt’s iconic sites. Climb Mount Sinai where Moses received the ten commandments, snorkel in the Red Sea and camp out underneath the stars.

Visit Morocco for a desert adventure. Here you’ll be assigned your own camel to ride your way through the desert, exploring this stunning landscape as you go through the Draa Valley. When night draws in, camp out in bedouin style and end your trip with a journey to unforgettable Marrakesh.

Activity holidays for large groups

There are a number of fantastic trips that are perfect for large groups. Take an unforgettable journey to the east and to explore India. Start with sightseeing in Delhi and the Taj Mahal before heading to the wilderness of the Himalaya foothills. Here you can climb peaks, visit temples and have overnight stays in mountain lodges. You’ll also be able to visit one of the many national parks to take part in a safari to see some of the country’s iconic animals. I would also detour to Rishikesh to explore the spiritual side of India and indulge in some eastern mysticism.

Mexico is also a wonderful place to explore with a large group, again with many iconic historical sites to see. Visit the ancient Mayan cities at Chichen Itza to explore the ruins and at Uxmal, a truly spectacular archeological site. You’ll also be able to explore underground caves and climb into the mountains. Take to San Cristobel for a speedboat tour along the river and to see crocodiles in their natural world.

Where to go on holidays in Italy off the beaten track

Italy is a country filled with iconic destinations and world-famous sights, so making a choice of travel destination here can feel a bit daunting. However, if you’ve visited the usual places or want something a little bit different, it’s time to experience the real Italy by heading off the beaten track. Here’s my guide to getting the perfect Italian holiday.

Northern Italy

Cinque Terre is a fantastic alternative to the tourist busy Amalfi Coast. Located in Liguria, you’re spoilt here with picturesque villages all located on the coast of the Italian Riveria looking out across the rocky shores. It’s famed for its seafood cuisine which you must make sure you try as well as sampling some locally produced wine, grappa and limoncello.

The Italian Lakes are world-renowned but to get the allure of famous Lake Como without the crowds, visit Lake Iseo. Here you’ll find a smaller area but one that is filled with charm as you find yourself amongst vineyards, castles and medieval monasteries. There are a number of small villages to visit but ensure you take a trip to Peschiera Maraglio, a wonderful little fishing village.

Southern Italy

With many people visiting Rome and the North, Southern Italy often gets overlooked but it’s at your peril if you do as you’re missing some truly spectacular sights. For a coastal destination, you’d do well to visit Maratea which sits between the mountains and seas to make for an atmospheric trip. Here you can visit any one of the 44 churches that are scattered throughout the town or the iconic statue of Jesus that watches over Maratea. Most impressive is the Cave of Wonders, filled with underground cave passages.

Capri is renowned for being the playground of the rich and famous and draws quite a lot of attention to itself. To experience the Italian islands, take a trip to Ischia which you’ll find is not only cheaper but less crowded than Capri. Make sure you take to one of the thermal spas for a truly relaxing moment during your trip. This volcanic island also has the impressive Aragonese Castle and many gardens to visit.

Central Italy

Again another overlooked area is Le Marche, which is neighboured by Tuscany and Umbria. Filled with beautiful beaches, picturesque villages and spectacular scenery. Here you can see some of Italy’s famed archeology at Sassoferrato where you can see medieval monasteries, roman ruins and visit a museum which hosts lifesize Roman Guilded Bronzes. To see one of Italy’s famed castles, visit Gradara Castle which was made famous by Dante. To explore the landscape, visit the Frassasi caves or hike in the Sibillini Mountains or take to Cingoli, which is often named the ‘balcony of le Marche’.

Hints and tips

Obviously visiting lesser known parts of the country does mean that some places you visit won’t be as perfectly set up for tourism like Rome and Naples are for instance. There are a number of things to do before you travel to combat this though. Make sure you plan ahead and do your research so that you know where exactly you want to visit and what’s in the surrounding area. It’s important to stay flexible when travelling as Italy can be unpredictable at times so it’s good to have alternative destinations nearby if you find the place you visit is closed by the time you arrive there. I would definitely advise investing in a good phrasebook as English won’t be as readily known in the lesser known parts. You’d also do well to hire a car as it’ll give you the opportunity to make the most of your trip but it’s essential that you book your car hire before you travel.

 

A Southern India Itinerary for May

India is a country that is filled with so many exciting holiday opportunities. Ancient monuments, Eastern mysticism and an enviable natural world all make for a wonderful vacation. With the lure of some of India’s most famous site in the north, the south is often overlooked but it’s at your peril that you do. Here’s my guide to the very best that Southern India has to offer.

Southern Culture

Fly direct to Bangalore and spend time exploring this fast growing city.  The most iconic thing about Bangalore is the depth of colour that the city is filled with and this makes for a memorable trip. There are many parks to relax in and many impressive buildings to visit, including the impressive Vidhan Soudha. Just a short journey from Bangalore is Mysore, known as the city of Royal Palaces and here you’ll find a breathtaking series of palaces, including the City Palace near Chamundi Hill.

Visit Cochin, a place which truly brings together a mix of cultures and is influenced by its ancient past. This port on the South eastern coast will leave you breathless, with memories of the iconic Chinese fishing nets being set out for their day’s catch.  A two-hour drive up the coast will bring you to the Guruvayoor Temple, which is one of the most important Hindu sites in India.

Southern wildlife

India is home to a wide range of animals which are wonderfully viewed in their natural habitat. The thing I love so much about this part of the world is that just a short ride outside of a city will bring you to a natural wonder and you’re spoilt for choice here in the south. The main attraction is to visit one of the national parks to head out on Safari. It’s almost essential that you see tigers in India, in the landscape where Rudyard Kipling was inspired to create Shere Khan. Visit the Nagarhole National Park, once the Maharajas reserved forest, to go on a jeep safari and you’ll be rewarded with sights of elephants, bears, panthers and tigers amongst many other animals. I would highly recommend taking both a morning and evening safari as they are completely different experiences.

I would also recommend visiting the Ranganittu Bird Sanctuary  which is nestled upon a series of rocky islands and is home to many different species of bird. See the elephants at Punnathoor Kota near Cochin or take to the Rajamalai National Park in Munnar for more fantastic sights of India’s wildlife living freely.

Southern Landscape

Of course the natural world here doesn’t just impress with its wildlife as the habitats many live in is every bit as breathtaking as seeing these majestic animals. Visit Vythiri for a perfect example of showcasing Southern India’s landscape. Located within Wayanad region’s forest and valleys, Vythiri is home to the Suchipara falls, a three-tiered waterfall, the Edakkal Caves and nearby is the Pookote Lake, which makes for a scenic visit. You can also climb the Chembra Peak which at 2100m is the tallest summit in the region.

I would also make sure that you take in a trip to Alleppey to cruise through the backwaters here for what will be a memorable ride. You can also book an overnight stay on a houseboat to make the very most of your journey here.

Before you travel…

Southern India is easily accessible from road, rail, sea and air, with both Bangalore and Trivandrum airports receiving international flights. May is a great month to visit, with endless sunshine and warmth, so ensure you bring clothes to help cover up and ensure you pack the sunglasses and suncream! The World Health Organisation also recommends being up to date with routine vaccines as well as taking vaccines for Hepatitis, Polio and Typhoid. For more information, visit their website.

 

The best of British Christmas holiday ideas

With Christmas just around the corner, choosing where to celebrate the special day can often be a tough decision.  With the UK home to so many great Christmas destinations, why not choose somewhere a bit different this year and look forward to a memorable Christmas.  Whether you’re planning a small celebration with family or a larger event with friends, planning a great Christmas is no problem.  Here are a few ideas to get you started…

Shop ‘til you drop in Manchester

With a list of presents as long as your arm, getting the Christmas shopping sorted can often be a daunting task.  Why not get away for a long weekend and shop ‘til you drop?  That way, you can get everything done in a few days before returning home to enjoy the festive season in style.  Manchester is a great choice for a pre-Christmas shopping break thanks to its huge Christmas market where you’re sure to find a unique gift or two.  For high street names, the city is home to the Arndale Centre, the UK’s largest indoor shopping centre with more than 240 shops, making it the ideal place to get all of your shopping done.  Round off your short break with a show at one of

The Manchester Christmas Market website is a great place to start planning your festive shopping break.

Christmas in the Capital

The Christmas lights on Oxford and Regent Street are quite simply mesmerizing and could put even Scrooge into the Christmas spirit.  Once you’ve had your fill of twinkling lights, head to one of the outdoor ice rinks across the city to really get you in the festive mood.  The rink at Somerset House echoes Rockefeller Centre in New York and Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland is great for families with plenty to keep everyone entertained.  No Christmas trip to London is complete without visiting Trafalgar Square where the annual gift of a huge Christmas tree from Norway is displayed in all its glory.

To start planning Christmas festivities in London, visit the Time Out website for a full list of festive goings-on in the capital.

Celebrate in Wales

Just like the rest of the UK, Wales’ major towns and cities offer weeks of fun at winter wonderlands and big lights displays.  For those after a traditional Welsh Christmas break, leaving the big cities behind is your best bet for a dose of traditional festive cheer.  Until the 1960s men would gather in churches at the crack of dawn on Christmas Day for the Plygain service and sing carols for several hours.  While the Plygain is no longer as popular, the tradition still survives in mid Wales and hearing a Welsh Male Voice choir perform carols is a sure-fire way to feel festive.  As soon as Boxing Day dawns, hardy residents of Tenby in South Wales don fancy dress and head to the beach for the annual Boxing Day swim.  A great atmosphere is enough to overcome the chilly temperatures with more than 600 people braving the waves last year to raise money for charity.  If you’re on holiday in south Wales, this is something not to be missed whether you take part or stand on the beach with a mug of mulled wine.

For more information about the Boxing Day Swim, visit the official website.

The best ways to celebrate St Patrick’s Day in Dublin

Dublin is the original party city and this is certainly true in March when locals and holidaymakers join together to celebrate the Irish patron saint.  So if you’re looking for somewhere to celebrate all things green and gold, you couldn’t pick a better place for a weekend break than Dublin. 2013 is also the year of The Gathering where Ireland will welcome home its many diaspora in a huge celebration of Irish culture and identity. So, what are you waiting for? 2013 is the year to visit Ireland and here is our guide to making the most of St Patrick’s Day in the capital city.

St Patrick’s Festival

A four day festival is planned in Dublin to celebrate St Patrick’s Day in 2013.  From an Irish craft beer village, a walking tour which follows in the footsteps of St Paddy and plenty of music, song and dance, there will be plenty to put everyone in the party mood.  The highlight of the festival will undoubtedly be the People’s Parade where 8,000 people will join a winding procession through Dublin which takes in some of the city’s most iconic buildings.  Whether you take part in the parade yourself or simply line the route, you’re in for a party like no other!

  • When: 14th-18th March 2013
  • Where: Locations across Dublin
  • Website: stpatricksfestival.ie

 

Go Green

From pints of the black stuff to face paint and costumes, green is the colour of St Patrick’s Day with Dublin’s most famous buildings being illuminated in green light on March 17th.  It’s not just Ireland which is going green with global landmarks also being bathed in St Patrick’s colour as part of the worldwide celebrations.  From Christ the Redeemer in Brazil, the Egyptian Pyramids and the ‘Welcome’ sign in Las Vegas, buildings across the UK and the world will be marking the Irish patron saint.  To find out which Dublin landmarks are taking part, visit the Festival website.

Drink in the atmosphere

A delicious pint of Guinness is obligatory during St Patrick’s Day and there’s no better place to sample the black stuff than at the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin.  You’ll start your tour of the Storehouse by standing in the world’s biggest pint glass before learning about how Ireland’s most famous drink is made before understanding how to craft the perfect pint.  As admission includes a complimentary pint, you’ll be able to put everything you’ve learned to good use at the end of your trip.  It’s also possible to trace your family history at the Storehouse where personnel records from the 1800s are accessible for surviving family members.  What better way to mark The Gathering?

  • Location: St James’s Gate, city centre.
  • Opening times: Monday to Sunday 9.30am-5pm, late opening during July and August.
  • Admission price: Adults €16.50, Concessions €13, Children under 12 €6.50, Family €40.
  • Website: guinness-storehouse.com

Family Fun

If you’re celebrating with the family, you’ll be looking for a way to mark March 17th that’s more mythical stories of St Patrick than Guinness and parties.  The good news is that families with children of all ages are well catered for with a variety of activities planned throughout the festival.  The Big Day Out which takes place on March 16th promises dancing workshops and musical performances suitable for all ages.  A Festival Treasure Hunt takes place on the Monday and leads you on an unusual route through the city with clues to follow.  It’s a great way to see the city or discover Dublin with fresh eyes, and best of all, there are fantastic prizes to be won.

  • Location: Merrion Square (Big Day Out), City Hall (Treasure Hunt)
  • Time: 12pm and 9am respectively
  • Admission: Free!

More information can be found at the St Patrick’s Festival website.

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