Meithal in Malafia…

Traditional Portuguese dessert pastel de nata on black background

North of Porto, on the Caminho da Costa, the boardwalk creaks and sways to the slap of September feet as we gather each other up like strays into the community of the Road. Gerry from Dublin, ‘Just had to get back.’ His Camino Frances, two years ago, ‘was full of special people and places.’
He finds it strange that, as a member of the Irish Humanist Society, he’s drawn to the Camino. ‘I suppose religion is still lodged in us somewhere.’
He …

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Pilgrim and Tourist – in North West Spain…

Taken in Valldemossa

Close now to places I walked through last year. A glimpse of riverside willows racing past the car’s window, then the Puente Santa Maria. A year gone in a flash, like the swallows skimming the road ahead. Too soon they’ll leave, towing the dreams of summer south. Time speeding up even as it counts down. Summers’ shortening, gone like the bluebirds. Leaving us with our Celtic quandary – that of souls riven by a deep love of home and yet …

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The untapped tourist potential of Tyrone…

Ulster American Folk Park

Having recovered from being effectively a no-go area for tourists for the best part of three decades Northern Ireland now has much to offer the discerning visitor. Although I seem to be one of the few people on the planet who have never seen Game Of Thrones, the show seems to have worked wonders for the local tourist industry now that places like the Dark Hedges and the Giants Causeway have become popular must-see destinations. There are of course the …

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Going anywhere nice for your holidays? How about the back garden?

Greenhouse with colorful folding chair

So where are you off to on your holidays? Given the massive price increases of hotels and flights, the answer might be your back garden. We were away the other week in the Hodson Bay Hotel in Athlone. It was a nice trip, just not sure it was €300 per night nice which is the price you will pay for one room for 2 adults and 1 child during the summer. I thought it was just a case of price …

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Oman: A visitor’s eye…

The moment we met I knew that God and Allah shared a single light First impressions count and a moment of beauty can remain in the memory, to be shared and enjoyed forever. This moment for me came during my first visit to Oman a few years ago when I arrived into the country at nightfall and en route to my hotel encountered the breathtaking Mohammed Al Ameen Mosque, majestically overseeing the capital city of Muscat. It was not long …

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The increase in used car prices…

vw, golf, gti

I was dandering through Charles Hurst the other week when my eye was drawn to a Smart ForTwo for sale. It was 6 years old but it was on sale for nearly 10 grand! Turns out those Smart Cars are over 20k new, who knew? I quite liked the original Smart Car concept but the revamped model divides opinion shall we say. They get very average reviews and you can buy a Polo from 15k or the Kia Picanto from …

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Tourism spend by southern visitors to NI was up 151%….

ireland, dunlunce castle, northern ireland

The Belfast Telegraph reports on the boost to NI Tourism by increasing visitors from the South: Tourism NI said it had found major growth in expenditure after analysing cardholder spend by people visiting from over the border. During June to September, total tourism spend by southerners was up 151% on the same time in 2019, while hotel spending using cards was up by the same level. And spending by southern visitors in bars and taverns had tripled, Tourism NI said, …

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The ‘circle line’ proposal for Greater Belfast…

Anyone familiar with the Black Mountain and Cave Hill walking trails will know that the city of Belfast is cut off from urban sprawl to its immediate west and north west. This does not mean that the communities at either side of these hills are cut off from one another. To the contrary in fact, the greater Belfast commuter belt takes in the communities from these hills to Lough Neagh in an increasingly service driven economy where Belfast has become …

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Ireland commits to funding Enterprise replacement from 2027 – what about NI?

The Irish National Development Plan is a long document, and I have had little time to do more than skim it, but the key headline spotted by Jonny McCambridge and noted by Mick, one of the concrete proposals in the plan, is the replacement for the Belfast-Dublin Enterprise service by 2027. The branded Enterprise service was introduced by the Great Northern Railway in 1947, and at one time was extended to Cork.  NIR relaunched its side of the service in …

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People need to want to go to Belfast City Centre, not be forced to…

As the Chief Executive of the Belfast Chamber of Commerce, it is Simon Hamilton’s job to fight for the success of Belfast City Centre. In an article for the Belfast Telegraph, he warned that working from home could turn central Belfast into a ghost town. For those of us who grew up during the troubles, this was the default state of the city centre for decades. Great coverage in today’s @BelTel of @BelfastChamber’s ‘Returning to the Office’ survey. The findings …

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Translink to bring back a trial of later bus services

Translink Chief Executive, Chris Conway has responded to a tweet saying that the company will be resuming a trial of late night bus services. Responding to SDLP Councillor, Seamas DeFaoite he said; A range of later night services were trialled in 2019 but Covid19 did stall any further plans, we’ll start trials again in Nov/Dec as part of recovery. — Chris Conway (@CEOTranslink_NI) August 18, 2021   The transport provider has been trialing this during the latte part of 2019 …

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The tricky task of getting home after a night out…

bar, lounge, cocktail

A friend went out for a meal and some drinks in Belfast City Centre on Saturday night. Being a sensible fella he left the bar about 11 pm to head home to his house in the Four Winds area of Belfast. Unfortunately for him, he missed the last bus home by a few minutes. Not a problem he thought, he would ring one of our big two taxi companies – an hour later, still no taxi. At this point, he …

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Belfast Rapid Transit (Glider) Phase 2 announced

This week, Minister for Infrastructure Nichola Mallon launched the public consultation for Phase 2 of the Belfast Rapid Transit (Glider) system.  I think this is a welcome development and will improve connectivity, access to and uptake of public transport in the city.  I remember when Glider was first launched on the east/west route a few years ago. Before it got off the ground, it was fashionable to dump on it (a common pattern for public transport projects on this island). …

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Reimagining Enniskillen…

I am just back from a short break in sunny Fermanagh. As my main photo shows, when the sun is shining there are few places more beautiful. Fermanagh has massive potential to increase tourism, it could be a real growth industry for an area that has had its economic issues in the past. I had some thoughts I wanted to share about the main town Enniskillen. These are only my impressions as a visitor; I would appreciate input from locals. …

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Tackling Northern Ireland’s Infrastructure Apartheid – Part 1 – The Problem…

Infrastructure has become a hot topic in NI since the London government established a ‘Union Connectivity Review’ (UCR) to recommend projects to strengthen links between the UK’s constituent parts. Since then the media has been consumed by the possibility of a physical connection between NI and Scotland – first in the form of a bridge and more recently an undersea tunnel, christened the ‘Boris Bridge’ and ‘Boris Burrow’ (though I would suggest a more appropriate title should incorporate the name …

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Build Belfast Back Better – #imaginebelfast wants your ideas

Ahead of next week’s packed programme, Imagine! festival are calling for your ideas to imagine a better post-pandemic Belfast. How would you Build Belfast Back Better? You can submit up to three ideas that reimagine the city in the face of the pandemic and the challenges presented by Brexit, increased poverty, loneliness and mental health issues.

The State of Us … Previewing the seventh annual Imagine! Festival of Ideas and Politics (22-28 March)

A quick rummage through the Imagine! Belfast programme coming up between 22–28 March. Under the strapline of The State of Us, there’ll be exhibitions, workshops, lectures, film, comedy, music, spoken word, lectures, theatre and quizzes. Voices from at home and abroad. The festival isn’t afraid to challenge. It doesn’t expect participants to agree with everything that is said. It’s about making people think. Widening their horizons. Broadening their understanding. Developing their empathy. Helping them figure out why – and if – they truly believe the hunches and biases they may have been living with for a lifetime.

Boris’s burrow? Boring in more ways than one.

I do not promise an absence of any further puns in this piece. So last Sunday the big news was: we can’t put a bridge over the top of the Beaufort’s Dyke, so sure we’ll just build a tunnel round it.  It’ll only be 25 miles long. Except… The Channel Tunnel is 37.92km (23.57 miles) from the English coast under Shakespeare cliff to the French coast at Sangatte.  It takes a further 9.14km (5.68 miles) to reach the tunnel mouth …

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Rant I – Handbrake Turn Tourism and Visitor Centres…

seamus heaney

This is the first in the series of posts regarding tourism, its under-exploited potential and the wider implications of our current strategy, these posts are effectively bit-sized rants from one epic length, foamy-mouthed, ganshing session. To the best of my knowledge Handbrake Turn Tourism was coined by my late uncle, anyway, what it pertains to is the type of tourism where tourists flock to a must-see spot (usually a visitor centre), take a few selfies and then head off to …

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#SluggerTV – The Role of Tourism #TheReset

Our latest episode of Slugger TV looks at how the local tourism industry can be reset. Brona Moffett (National Museums NI) and Michael Stewart (hospitality consultant) joined David McCann to discuss the sector which is worth 4.9% of Northern Ireland’s GDP, sustains over 40,000 jobs, and has taken a real battering since March.