“Game of Thrones” and “Outlander” Enhance Appeal of Ireland and Scotland

balintoy-harbourIreland and Scotland are taking a page from New Zealand’s playbook by showing off the real-life settings for onscreen fantasy worlds. Rather than Tolkien’s tales of Middle Earth, the fantasies in question come from the hit HBO series “Game of Thrones” and the STARZ series, “Outlander.”

Tourism Ireland has partnered with HBO to showcase “Game of Thrones” locales for the second year in a row. In addition to cheeky promotions (“dragon’s eggs” at local markets); official signage points the way to filming locations throughout Northern Ireland.

In Scotland, visitors are keen to follow the trail of the time-traveling female protagonist of the “Outlander” series. Visit Scotland has created an interactive map to mark film locations.

Tour operators have introduced specialty itineraries that explore the fictional settings of the shows.

“There is definitely an interest in film tours. People watch these shows and they want to go see the locations, which are often quite beautiful,” said Brenda Staben, a front line agent with Hobson Travel.

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“Ireland has so many places of wild beauty. And people are so friendly. I just had a client get into a car accident there. While they were waiting around, the lady they hit took them to lunch,” Staben tells Travel Agent.

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Of course, tourists do spend money. And film tourism has become big business. “Game of Thrones” cross-promotions and tours have brought quite a bit of revenue to Ireland, as well as other film locations such as Croatia and Malta.

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Visit the village where the jewelry and crowns used in ‘Game of Thrones’ are made. Guests can meet the artisans in their workshops, and maybe even order their own custom piece. The hotels are very much into it as well. At Ballygally Castle, where client can stay, there are jewelry displays from the show. They also have a ‘Game of Thrones’ afternoon tea. But you won’t find any dainty finger sandwiches,” said Reilly.

Guests can also practice some archery and learn how to pick up a sword at Castle Ward, used for the outdoor courtyard of Winterfell.

 

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Titanic Belfast beats Eiffel Tower to ‘best tourist attraction’ spot

Titanic BelfastTitanic Belfast has fended off one of the most iconic buildings in Europe to be named the continent’s best visitor attraction.

The 300m Eiffel Tower may have breathtaking views of Paris, bit it was Northern Ireland’s top tourist spot which won over judges at a major travel awards event in Berlin.

It also beat off stiff competition from artist Claude Monet’s Grand Gardens in France and the London Eye.

Inside an impressive exterior – designed to resemble the ship’s prow – Titanic Belfast contains a number of exhibitions on early 20th Centrury Belfast, the ship-building industry, the ship’s sinking and its legacy.

It was the only attraction from across Ireland to be recognised at the European Group Travel Awards.

CEO of Tourism Ireland Niall Gibbons said: “Congratulations to Titanic Belfast on this very well deserved award. Since its opening in 2012, Titanic Belfast has become a truly iconic and ‘must visit’ attraction for overseas visitors to Belfast.”

The inaugural European Group Travel Awards (EGTA) were organised to recognise and celebrate the best suppliers in the group travel sector, with group travel buyers around Europe asked to submit their nominees in 21 different categories.

 

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Haunted Ireland: The four haunted castles of County Offaly

What do “Ghost Hunters,” “Scariest Places on Earth” and President Obama have in common? Why the spooky county of Offaly of course!

Kinnitty-Castle

These four castles in The Faithful County have been visited by some of television’s most famous paranormal investigators

Kinnitty Castle

First built in 1209 and home to Druids and poets alike, this Gothic style castle hotel was burned to the ground by Irish Republicans in 1922 and rebuilt to its current state in 1928.

The High Cross and Abbey wall of the original structure remain and several ghosts are believed to haunt the grounds. Two of the bedrooms, the Geraldine and Elizabeth rooms, are haunted and several other areas of the hotel leave visitors uneasy and spooked.

The most famous ghost, however, is that of the Monk of Kinnitty, Hugh. Although spotted by visitors and staff alike, the mostly friendly spirit prefers to communicate with one employee, sometimes predicting future events. The castle was the subject of an investigation by UK television’s “Most Haunted.”

 

Clonony Castle

This 16th-century Tudor castle was built with all the usual features for the period, including a murder hole, mysterious passages and a three story tower.

It was given by King Henry VIII to Thomas Boleyn in exchange for the hand of his daughter, Anne. Anne’s two cousins (also cousins of Queen Elizabeth I) lived there and were buried on the grounds just a hundred feet from the castle, a fact only re-discovered in 1803.

There have been many reported sightings of the ghost of a skeletal being known as ‘The Thin Man’ atop of the tower, an eerie hazy glow surrounding him.

Clonony Castle

Charleville Castle

Visited by the “Ghost Hunters International” team and “Scariest Places on Earth,” this haunted castle was built in the early nineteenth century. The surrounding oak forest is hundreds of years old and was home to the Druids with a Druid’s Initiation Circle remaining.

The daughter of the 3rd Earl of Charleville, Harriet tragically died aged eight in 1861 after sliding down the main balustrade and losing her grip, crashing to the stone floor. Her ghost is still reportedly seen and felt on the stairs, and at night the screams, laughter and singing of a young girl can be heard. The 1st Earl of Charleville has also remained to protect his home, his spirit walking the tower. Visitors have also seen inexplicable balls of light darting throughout the castle.

Leap Castle

Investigated by “Most Haunted,” “Scariest Places on Earth” and the TAPS team from “Ghost Hunters,” this castle was built in the late thirteenth century by the O’Bannon clan and could well be the most haunted place in Ireland.

Two brothers were fighting for leadership of the O’Bannon clan. On the fateful day when everything changed, one brother, a priest, was saying High Mass in what is now known as The Bloody Chapel. His rival brother entered and plunged a sword through his torso, whereupon the priest fell across the altar and died in front of his horrified family.

Despite being a burned out shell, the chapel can still sometimes be seen illuminated from the road.

The Oubliette was a hole in the chapel traditionally used to store valuables or hide during attack. The O’Carroll clan, who later inhabited the castle, had other ideas and used it to dispose of “unwanted guests,” particularly mercenaries they would hire and then poison, dumping them in the Oubliette when they served no further purpose. Many skeletons were removed during renovations and this was believed to stir up paranormal activity within the castle.

Monks have been seen in the Priests House, including a burly man seen pushing a barrel up a flight of stairs only for it to fall, and in the Murder Hole Room a cold hand has grasped the wrist of a resident, only for the room to fall still, a groaning heard and the sound of a body falling to the floor.

A woman known as The Red Lady has been seen prowling the halls, dressed in scarlet and brandishing a knife with a look of pure hatred upon her face. An 11-year-old girl named Emily fell from the battlements in the 1600s and her fall can be witnessed time and again, although she disappears before impact. Charlotte, a mysterious young girl with a deformed leg, can be seen walking the floor and at the fireplace.

Leap Castle was in the hands of the Darby family from 1649 until the 20th century and many if not all of the hauntings were witnessed by Mildred Darby in the late 1800s. Indeed she was believed to experiment with the occult and may have been pivotal in the manifestation of the spirit known as The Elemental.

The Elemental may have been summoned by Mildred Darby, however it is more likely this ethereal being was on the sacred grounds before the castle was built. Mildred described the creature as grey, decomposing with claws and emitting a foul stench. Although The Elemental can be felt as a sinister presence, it will only manifest and attack if it is provoked, so my suggestion is that you don’t.

More info: Offaly Tourism

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Four Irish hotels named among Europe’s Top 10 resorts

Last Week the country featured on Lonely Planet’s Top 10 to visit in 2015.

Now comes the news that readers of Condé Nast Traveler magazine have named four Irish hotels among their Top 10 European Resorts.

Sheen Falls Lodge tops the list at No.1, with Ashford Castle ranked second, the K Club fourth and Adare Manor rounding off the Irish showing in tenth place.

The Top 10 Resorts in Europe is as follows:

Sheen Falls Lodge, Co. Kerry
Ashford Castle, Co. Mayo
Blue Palace Resort, Crete
Kildare Hotel at the K Club, Co. Kildare
The Gleneagles hotel, Scotland
Badrutt’s Palace, Switzerland
Grand Hotel Zermatterhof, Switzerland
Villa d’Este, Lake Como, Italy
Old Course Hotel, Scotland
Adare Manor, Co. Limerick
Condé Nast Traveler’s Readers’ Choice Awards are published annually, and this year featured over one million votes from almost 77,000 readers. Several lists of best cities, islands, hotels, resorts and cruise lines are drawn up from the results.

Sheen Falls Lodge, which overlooks the picturesque Sheen Waterfalls, also ranks 82nd on the global list of Top 100 Hotels & Resorts.

“We are extremely honoured to be named the number one resort in Europe and to be one of four hotels from the UK and Ireland in the Top 100 hotels and resorts in the world,” said Patrick Hanley, General Manager, Sheen Falls Lodge.

“A special thank you must be extended to the team here who dedicate themselves and make an exceptional effort to ensure all guests have a pleasant and memorable stay.”

The Kenmare five-star is commended by readers for its “first-class service” and “very pretty views”, according to the magazine. Its “very high-quality design” also merits a mention.

The Cong, Co. Mayo five-star has “beautiful grounds, fantastic recreational activities” and “outstanding service”, according to readers.

Formerly the Guinness family home, the hotel’s guest rooms come with high ceilings and four-poster beds, the magazine points out, “though they can be tired looking.”

The five-star is currently undergoing an extensive refurbishment programme.

Connemara’s Ballynahinch Castle also features, ranking 23rd of 25 Top Hotels in Europe.

“The setting is something out of a fairy-tale book – lush greenery, lake, silence,” readers report. “It’s just gorgeous, like a rich uncle’s country estate.”

The Condé Nast citations cap an extraordinary run of international recognition for Irish destinations and hotels overseas. In addition to Lonely Planet’s Top 10, Enniskillen’s Lough Erne resort recently topped the Huffington Post’s “Best Hotels for Winter 2014/15” round-up.

The full list of Readers’ Choice Awards winners can be accessed here.

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1 City 5 ways

from Delta Airlines Sky Magazine

There’s more than one way to discover Dublin.

BLOOMSDAYTRIPPER
Where to Stay // The Brooks Hotel
The Ormond Hotel from James Joyce’s Ulysses is no more, but you’ll find this friendly little boutique hotel in central Dublin to be the perfect base for any Leopoldian dawdling.

Morning // Reading Room at the National Library
Stephen Dedalus is Joyce’s Telemachus to Bloom’s Odysseus; he has an epic conversation about Shakespeare in The National Library’s as-impressive-in-real-life Reading Room.

Afternoon // James Joyce Tower & Museum
Take the DART train to Sandycove to the Martello Tower, site of the opening scene in Ulysses and now a charming museum dedicated to the writer.

Dinner // Davy Byrnes
In Ulysses, Joyce’s masterpiece about Ireland’s daddy issues, Leopold Bloom stops in here for a glass of burgundy and gorgonzola sandwich.

LANDED GENTRY
Where to Stay // Ballyfin
After a painstaking eight-year restoration, Ballyfin is a reminder of Ireland of the 1820s, when Jane Austen/Downton Abbey-style gentlefolk lived just outside of sooty Dublin.

Morning // Golf at Portmarnock
The website talks of “those dimpled fairways threading their way through that classic fescue.” We wish we had a decent brogue to do it justice —not to mention swing.

Midmorning // Kevin & Howlin
Since 1936, the Kevin family has been providing the finest Donegal tweeds for Irish sportsmen and women. For some new duds, head here.

Afternoon // The Curragh
Whether draught or sport, a true Irish gentleman knows his breeds in The Land of the Horse. The Curragh in Kildare remains Ireland’s most important Thoroughbred racetrack.

RIVERDANCER
Where to Stay // Four Seasons
This lovely hotel is located in the Ballsbridge neighborhood, possibly the best habitat in the city for the beautiful Georgian-style “Dublin doors.”

Morning // Book of Kells at Trinity College
The Kells is a magnificent 1,200-year-old illuminated Bible. Honor the monks who labored over it by taking a few notes in its dimly lit room.

Lunch // Fade Street Social
Dylan McGrath’s gastropub on Fade Street celebrates the character of Irish food through an innovative small-plates menu.

Afternoon // Tibradden Wood Zip Line
Zip around and commune with the bird life above Tibradeen, the highest point in Dublin’s old pine forest 15 minutes from Dundrum Town Centre.

FENIAN
Where to Stay // The Dylan Hotel
In south City Centre, The Dylan is a smart little hotel tucked near the first British army barracks to surrender to Michael Collins in 1922.

Morning // GAA Museum
In Ireland, hurling isn’t just a game; it’s a creed and a movement. This museum in Croke Park is a shrine to the Gaelic Athletic Association’s contributions to the culture and its goals.

Afternoon // Glasnevin Cemetery
This is one of the first cemeteries to allow the burial of both Catholics and Protestants, including many Irish rebels and statesmen such as O’Connell, Parnell, Collins and De Valera.

Evening // Abbey Theatre
Opened in 1904, Ireland’s national theater led the cultural revival of Yeats and Synge. It remains relevant, producing new work by Elaine Murphy, Pat Kinevane and more.

U2 GROUPIE
Where to Stay // The Clarence Hotel
Bono and the Edge bought the Clarence back in their Zooropa days and transformed it into one of Dublin’s premier boutique hotels.

Evening // Olympia Theatre
Tom Waits recorded “The Piano Has Been Drinking” in this beautifully restored theater. And whether it’s Die Antwoord or Tame Impala, it still books the best gigs.

Dinner // 777
Right in the center of Dublin’s “Hipster Triangle,” 777 is a tequila bar that caters to the new variety of fully sleeved punter. Try the oysters with chili sauce.

Late Night // Whelan’s
Whelan’s is a Dublin music-scene institution. And it stays open late—you know, late enough for “one more.”

View all these locations on our map: Locations