A new visitor passport by Fáilte Ireland and An Post hopes to drive tourists into rural post offices.
The hardback booklet can be stamped at 188 Discovery Points along the Wild Atlantic Way, providing a unique souvenir of Ireland.
The passports and stamps are available at over 130 post offices along the coastal touring route, as well as at Dublin’s GPO and the post office on St. Andrew’s Street.
Similar visitor keepsakes are popular on classic tourist routes ranging from Spain’s Camino de Santiago to the Appalachian Trail.
“We want to deepen visitor engagement and encourage those who travel along the route to slow down, dwell longer and immerse themselves in the local towns and villages of the west coast,” said Minister of State for Tourism & Sport, Patrick O’Donovan.
“The local Post Office is at the heart of these communities,” he added.
Ryan Tubridy (above) was one of the first to have his passport stamped today, when he popped into the Buncrana post office during a weeklong series of outside broadcasts forming part of Fáilte Ireland’s summer marketing campaign.
“This colourful, keepsake Passport is a great addition to our range of products and services and will help to drive footfall into rural Post Offices along the route,” said An Post’s Director of Innovation and Quality, John McConnell.
The Wild Atlantic Way has been a massive domestic success since its launch in 2014, with Fáilte Ireland set to invest a further €19m this year.
International awareness of the route remains “modest”, however, as chairman Michael Cawley said at the launch of its 2016 tourism plan earlier this year.
Most overseas visitors surveyed are unaware of the route.
“The passport is also neatly placed to encourage a return trip for those that have part-completed their passport,” said Fiona Monaghan, Fáilte Ireland’s Head of the Wild Atlantic Way.
For every 20 new stamps collected in a passport, visitors can call into Tourism Information Offices to receive a Wild Atlantic Way gift.
Visitors who purchase a passport are also entered into a draw for “a holiday of a lifetime along the Wild Atlantic Way”, Fáilte Ireland said.
In this post you will find 2 Articles: one good news and some ideas based on golf along the Wild Atlantic Way
- Royal County Down named as the new number one golf course in the world
- Golf along Ireland’s ‘Wild Atlantic Way’
Royal County Down named as the new number one golf course in the world
Invariably, where there was sand, there was wind, pushing and shaping landscapes onto which golf holes logically fit, carving out dips and hollows that served as bunkers. Wind was also an essential element. Without it, golf was simply pub darts.
Grand early courses clung to the coastlines. Those that couldn’t tried to emulate the look, feel and experience. That changed in the middle of the past century, when courses became a major sales tool of housing developers on ill-suited sites. The game became aerial and heroic, over chasms and lakes, down rocky hillsides and canyons. Architects used bulldozers as their pencils, some producing layouts with no more artistry than road builders.
That dark period is behind us, halted by the collapse of the housing economy and by a new generation of golf architects who are endeavoring to bring golf back down to earth. They seek seaside settings for their work, and though precious few are still available in the United States, elsewhere on Planet Earth, ocean waves lap against some of the most gorgeous layouts ever seen.
That’s clearly evident in Golf Digest’s second biennial ranking of the World 100 Greatest Golf Courses. Forty-six of the Top 100 are courses on seaside venues. That includes Northern Ireland’s Royal County Down, a surprising though deserving new No. 1, replacing New Jersey’s Pine Valley, which has plenty of sand but no ocean and is now No. 3 on our exclusive list. Royal County Down, on rugged, windblown topography along the Irish Sea and beneath the Mountains of Mourne, features snarling bunkers edged by marram grass and dates from 1889.
Golf Digest noted that Royal County Down was a “surprising but deserving new number one.”
They said: “Royal County Down, on rugged, windblown topography along the Irish Sea and beneath the Mountains of Mourne, features snarling bunkers edged by marram grass and dates from 1889.”
Tourism Ireland were delighted at the announcement.
Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland, said: “It is a fantastic accolade for Royal County Down to be voted number one golf course in the world – beating other world-renowned courses such as Augusta National, venue for the US Masters, and Pine Valley, New Jersey.”
“And I am delighted to see another local course, Royal Portrush, come in at number 27 on the same list.
“This wonderful endorsement presents Tourism Ireland with another invaluable opportunity to showcase Northern Ireland to golfers and prospective visitors around the world.”
Golf along Ireland’s ‘Wild Atlantic Way’
Two years ago, when I first discovered Irish links golf and Ireland in general, I knew I wanted to return someday. I just didn’t realize how much.
After six mostly gorgeous July days of breathtaking scenery, great food, inordinately friendly people and bucket-list golf, I know that now. Trust me on this: golf in Ireland, and the country as a whole, is an adventure that only makes you want more of it.
Checking the savings account, and … yep. I’ll be back.
My first experience came in 2013, at the behest of John Garrity, a golf writer/correspondent with Sports Illustrated and one of the nicest (and tallest, at 6-7) sports writers around. In 2009, he wrote “Ancestral Links,” about searching for his family roots in Belmullet, a village of 3,000 on a wild, windswept portion of the western Irish coast in County Mayo. He also discovered Carne Golf Links, a fabulous, rustic and otherworldly course that, along with all 3,000 locals who know him, keeps him coming back year after year.
In 2013, I was one of a dozen golf writers who spent five days with Garrity touring a tiny portion of what is now billed as Ireland’s “Wild Atlantic Way” (www.wildatlanticway.com), a 2,500-kilometer (1,600 miles) stretch of the Atlantic coastline that Failte Ireland (Tourism Ireland http://www.ireland.com) promotes as a largely unexplored, spectacular tourist destination. We played three days at Carne, two rounds at other courses – a mere taste.
This time, we would see and enjoy more. Following the Open Championship at St. Andrews, I flew to Belfast to join nine others on the tour bus and play six links courses in as many days, on a route wrapping around the northwest corner of Ireland. Based on the amazing views, that stretch encompasses some of the wildest parts of the Wild Atlantic Way.
At the end, Carne remained my favorite; it’s hard to ignore your first love. But the previous stops – Portstewart, Ballyliffin, Portsalon, Rosapenna and County Sligo – all are now on my must-see/must-play list. And there are another 25 links courses along the Wild Atlantic Way, running south to Kinsale near the city of Cork, meaning more discoveries remain.
So here’s one itinerate writer’s report on what a fellow bus rider called “the golf trip of a lifetime.” To which I replied: Hopefully, only until the next one.
PORTSTEWART (STRAND COURSE)
Looking for a missing taxi in Belfast International Airport is hardly the ideal way to start a trip, but a friendly young man with a cell phone helped find my ride, and I was on my way to meet the others at Portstewart, just up the road from its more famous cousin, Royal Portrush. Stevie, my loquacious cabbie, kept me entertained for the 90-minute ride, which ended with me scrambling to get to the first tee on time.
Thanks to Kevin Markham, an Irish writer whom I met in 2013, a spare set of his clubs awaited me. Kevin – whose book “Hooked: An Amateur’s Guide to the Golf Courses of Ireland,” is a must-have guide to all 350 18-hole courses – also had the dubious pleasure of playing along with and watching me spray balls into Portstewart’s towering, grass-covered dunes.
In “Hooked,” Kevin refers to Portstewart as “Ireland’s Front Nine,” and the view from the elevated first tee – with the ocean and nearby village off to the right – confirmed that designation. We hit our tee shots down into a dunes-lined, dogleg left valley – the first of eight doglegs in the opening 11 holes – and were off.
While the first few holes seemed one up-and-down trek after another, the course eventually offered more gentle slopes, but no less penal rough. I lost too many balls in six days to count, and Portstewart claimed its share. But the par-5 seventh hole was site of my first warm Irish memory: driver, 5-iron, 8-iron to an elevated green, and a 30-foot putt that dropped for a birdie.
We had our first taste of Irish weather (cold, sideways rain) – the rest of the trip would be, remarkably, almost rain-free and around 60 degrees Fahrenheit – and several of us skipped the final two holes to see the end of the delayed Open, watching Zach Johnson’s playoff win while our rain gear dried out. A beachfront joint for fish and chips (and sticky toffee pudding for dessert), and we were off to our hotel. One day down, five to go.
BALLYLIFFIN (GLASHEDY COURSE)
John Farren, Ballyliffin’s general manager for 11 years, has been a club member “all my life,” so he knows his course – actually, courses; the Old, established in 1973 (when a second nine was added to the original nine, which dates to 1947), and the Glashedy, a 1995 project by Pat Ruddy, an architect with many renowned Irish courses to his credit, including the European Club near Dublin.
The original course was built after a dozen farmers sold 367 acres of dunes land to the club’s founding members, who designed the course with advice from the late Eddie Hackett, the godfather of Irish golf architects. Ruddy has updated Glashedy’s bunkers in recent years, and Sir Nick Faldo did an upgrade of the Old in 2006.
Farren would love to see more tourist rounds played – 20,000 of 80,000 annually; the rest are played by the 1,000 members – up to 35,000. “This club is the main economic driver in the area, and a major tourist attraction,” he said. “You can play the courses every day of the week, and they’ll be different (due to) wind, rain and the contouring of the course.”
Of the courses on the itinerary, Ballyliffin was perhaps the most consistently visually spectacular. Climbing one uphill par-5, you could look at the green set between two towering dunes, then look behind you at the island-sized Glashedy Rock in the bay, and imagine a giant “bowling ball” plowing through the dunes and down the fairway before sinking halfway into the water.
Ballyliffin is Ireland’s northernmost golf club, Farren said, yet the two courses are open 365 days a year. “We’re the gateway to the Wild Atlantic Way,” Farren said. “The gates to Heaven.” It’s difficult to disagree.
By now, you may have figured out that course names can be confusing. Many Irish courses are identified by both the club and the course names (similar to Scotland’s Royal & Ancient, the club, and the Old Course). Portsalon calls its course Cathal, and it held trip honors for both the narrowest fairways (and perhaps the thickest, nastiest rough areas) and the friendliest membership.
By the time club captain Paul Armstrong had gifted us with caps, club histories (two volumes) and club ties with the distinctive boar’s head crest, memories of lost balls were forgotten. Kevin Markham designates Portsalon (pronounced Port SAL-on) as one of his “Top Ten Must Play” courses, and views of mountains and water alone justified that.
“We’re rising in the (Irish golf) rankings” – 22nd; Golf World rates the course 31st – “and we have to do it with light resources,” Armstrong said. The course dates to 1891, and was bought in 1896 by the Barton family (whose crest is the boar’s head) for the equivalent of 64,000 euros (about $70,000 U.S.).
One Irish golf tradition is that the game’s best players stay involved with the country’s courses, and former Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley (whose father, Mick, has local ties) has advised Portsalon on needed changes, including widening a few fairways.
Armstrong says clubs such as his in the sparsely-populated northwest have to band together to survive. “(The Wild Atlantic Way) gives us that mechanism,” he said. “This will allow those of us under the radar to increase awareness of our courses.”
One unique Portsalon feature is the large engraved stone alongside one fairway, dating from the British occupation, which translated from Irish/Gaelic read: “On this place, holy mass was celebrated at the time of penal laws,” 28 prohibitions that kept Catholics from exercising their religion and their rights as citizens.
Wow: golf and history, all in one spot.
ROSAPENNA (SANDY HILLS COURSE)
If you’re a single-digit handicapper, or someone who enjoys the cruelties the game can throw at you, Rosapenna is the place. For many of us on the writers’ tour, it was simply too much: too much elevation change, too much wind, too much gnarly rough. That doesn’t mean we didn’t enjoy it, but we had to work at it.
The club has great bloodlines: Old Tom Morris laid out the original course in 1891, and Harry Vardon and James Braid added length and bunkering in the early 1900s. The club’s second course, Sandy Hills – the one we played – opened in 2003, another Pat Ruddy design, and Golf World ranks it 11th in Ireland, second only to No. 10 Carne on this adventure.
We saw a statue of Old Tom near the first tee, and the joke was that we could beg him for sympathy, but he wouldn’t listen. How tough was Sandy Hills? One member of our crew, Craig Smith of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America, tore a calf muscle climbing to one of the elevated greens. Interestingly, the only hole on the front nine where I recorded a usable score was the par-5 eighth – the site of my second (and last) birdie.
As at Ballyliffin and Carne, the towering dunes and winds are Rosapenna’s claim to fame, as well as its undulating, devilish greens. Our calm, low-key Irish guide, Rory Mathews, rolled one putt just past the hole, then watched (and uttered a few angry oaths) as his ball continued off the green into a bunker.
That said, Rosapenna’s resort hotel is fabulous, the rooms larger (and nicer) than apartments I once rented. Mine had a porch overlooking the beach, a good spot to relax – and, after the golf, recover.
COUNTY SLIGO (ROSSES POINT)
In the U.S., we’d call it, oh, maybe “Flattop Mountain.” Here, it’s the Benbulbin, a massive land formation that looms over every view of County Sligo/Rosses Point, which Kevin Markham designates a “Top 10 Links” (Golf World rates it No. 12 in Ireland). Not quite as hilly as Ballyliffin or Rosapenna, its fairways are flanked by large (but not huge) dunes and views of Drumcliff Bay, including an offshore lighthouse visible beyond the green at the 12th hole – which is named, fittingly, “The Lighthouse.”
After we survived the brutal par-4 17th (a severe, uphill dogleg left) and the blind-tee-shot 18th, club general manager David O’Donovan explained how the course – originally built by Harry S. Colt in 1894 and redeveloped by Pat Ruddy, who “played here as a kid” – was deemed too short for modern equipment and a candidate in 2014 for lengthening and toughening.
“Pat met with 196 members, and 191 voted for the changes,” O’Donovan said. Those were made “on a shoestring,” a common lament for northwest courses, and were helped by an overseas benefactor. Tourists account for 12,000 rounds a year, a number he’d like to see climb to 23,000.
O’Donovan is a natural promoter, saying Irish golf is a perfect destination for U.S. golfers, given the strength of the dollar to the euro (almost one-to-one) vs. the UK pound. He believes County Sligo should be ranked with Royal County Down, Ballybunion, Lahinch and Ireland’s other world-class courses.
“Our golf courses are just as good,” he said. The Wild Atlantic Way initiative is helping inform visitors of that, he said. “They come for the tourism, and they find the golf,” he said. “We’re a hidden gem, but we don’t want to be hidden.”
CARNE GOLF LINKS
Most of the writers’ tour departed for Dublin after County Sligo, but three of us followed John Garrity and his buddy, Philadelphia writer Mike Kern, to Belmullet to stay overnight. Two – Craig Smith and Greenville freelancer Trent Bouts – would be seeing Carne for the first time; I was making an eager return.
I wrote about the pleasures of Carne two years ago, so suffice to say, the 27-hole course puts the “wild” in Wild Atlantic Way. The dunes are the largest in Ireland; the winds are capricious; the fairways and greens are rustic but smoother and more manicured than my last visit. It is like golf nowhere else.
Three of us (Smith rode along in a cart, or “buggy”) played the original Eddie Hackett-designed back nine and the Kilmore nine, built by Scotsman Ally McIntosh. You stood on the first tee of both nines and aimed at fairways set between towering dunes that made you think of the Himalayas. You hit a tee shot, headed off after it – and didn’t stop smiling the entire round.
There were other delights discovered over six days. The tiny pub, McFeeley’s, in Clonmany, near Ballyliffin, where Eamon Sweeney, town councilman and local butcher, treated four of us to 12-year-old Jameson whisky (not “whiskey”); the pub owner who drove all of us to our hotel after we closed his place one night; the huge, delicious dinner at Fun Bobby’s in Belmullet, where the chef, John Comry, is a former “Ireland Chef of the Year” who moved back from Dublin because he missed his hometown; the fish chowder that makes a meal by itself; the sticky toffee pudding (in two restaurants) that we declared the greatest dessert on earth; and always, the scenery.
You could not play a single round of golf, and still fall in love with Ireland – but why would you do that? It’s a different game than in the U.S., and a fantastic difference at that.
Once every year or so, however often one’s finances can afford it, players owe it to themselves to discover that – or, even better, rediscover it.
Tourism Ireland has released a video it hopes will attract Star Wars fans to Skellig Michael, an island off the coast of Kerry used as a location in the box office blockbuster Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
The video shows film director J.J. Abrams and other crew members discussing why the team chose the UNESCO World Heritage Site as a film location.
“I remember when we all flew in, it was special and we knew it,” executive producer Tommy Harper said in the video.
TheJournal.ie reports the video will be shared around the world. The campaign comes despite concerns last year that filming at Skellig Michael would damage the island’s ecology, although government officials said there was no substantial damage.
Tourism Minister Paschal Donohoe said Skellig Michael’s appearance in Star Wars: The Force Awakens exposed the island’s beauty to “potentially hundreds of millions of people.”
“By the end of November 2015, we had surpassed our best ever year on record for the number of overseas visitors,” Donohoe said. “We are determined to build on that.”
Skellig Michael will also feature in the next film of the series, which will be released in 2017.
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.
Ireland in Top Destinations for Travel in 2015
It’s official! Lonely Planet has named Ireland as one of the Top 10 countries to visit in 2015. And who would argue with them? diverse landscapes are stunning, cities bustling and attractions unique and abundant.
WILD ATLANTIC WAY
It’s a rival to California’s Pacific Coast Highway and Australia’s Great Ocean Road
The people themselves are inevitably at the heart of the best the country has to offer
Ireland’s traditions are firmly intact and the cosmopolitan people are as welcoming as their forebears were known to be
Fireworks, gigs and parades for the kids
George Wendt known to millions as Norm from Cheers along with his wife Bernadette take a road trip along the Wild Atlantic Way to discover all it has to offer.