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Travel

Off-beat Ireland

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St Columb’s Cathedral, Derry’s oldest building.

DINE at one of the best restaurants in the North.

Jurassic Park star Sam Neill, who was born in Omagh, last year launched his own New Zealand wine range Two Paddocks at Bureau by the Lough restaurant, which last year won three categories in the regional Pubs of Ulster Pub of The Year Awards.

No wonder the Hollywood actor chose this gastropub for the launch — as well as its exemplary food and wine, it has one of the finest views imaginable.

More Travel:

As Sam the Wine Man said after launching his brand: “The view from Bureau By The Lough’s restaurant window has to be among the best in the world!”

www.bureaubar.com

  • Full steam ahead

At the Steam Museum and Lodge Park Walled Garden, a former church, near the village of Straffan in Co. Dublin, resides the world’s very first automotively self-propelled four-wheeled device in existence.

A small working model of a steam engine, built in 1797, by Cornish man Richard Trevithick, was a template for engineers who were responsible for building his steam machines.

The museum has various pumping machines, engines, boilers and magnificent Heath Robinson style devices. Fascinating stuff, even for those to whom machinery might not be the most absorbing.

From steam power to flower power, the 18th century walled garden is a grade-A arboretum, it’s beautiful no matter what the season.

www.steam-museum.com

  • a water pistol fight at Rathbeggan Lakes

It costs €25 for a full-day ticket to Rathbeggan Lakes. You’re then free to wander down to the pet farm, feed the ducks, or take your water pistols into a purpose-built warzone and fight until the last drop of water.

Other activities include a 14-acre Airsoft war-game range (and great fun, believe me), a zip-line, angling and a fun valley full of inflatable slides, bouncy castles rubber balls.

For the more contemplative, a heritage park includes a guided walk through Meath’s history.

www.rathbegganlakes.com

  • Stay at George Best’s house

Visitors can stay in the former home of the Irish footballing superstar George Best, in the Creggan area of East Belfast. One to 14 night stays are available at 16 Burren Way on the Cregagh Estate — not far from where both Van Morrison and Alex Higgins were born and reared.

George Best’s funeral cortege set off from the house on its way to Roselawn Cemetery in December 2005.

In 2011, Landmark East purchased the family home in order to preserve the legacy of the East Belfast legend. After an extensive renovation project, the family home is now available to rent. The house accommodates five, and is available for £125 per night.

www.georgebesthouse.com

  • Have a ride on Ireland’s only cable car

To get to Dursey Island, lying at the southwestern tip of the Beara Peninsula, you need to take the cable car — Ireland’s only cable car, and the only one in Europe which crosses sea. Each cable car takes six people… or one cow.

In days before the cable-car, the cows had to swim across. Improbable though this may sound, there are photographs to prove it. Whether the cows (and sheep) preferred the airborne journey or the sea, well, we can only guess. The island is home to some dozen people, a handful of livestock and, millions of seabirds.

The most westerly of Cork’s inhabited islands and one of the last outposts of Europe, Dursey’s beautiful sunset featured worldwide in a televised broadcast of the last few hours of the Millennium.

  • Visit an Anglican Cathedral

Derry’s oldest building, St Columb’s Cathedral, and the first purpose-built Anglican cathedral in the world, was completed in 1633. The shell case that contained the encircling Catholic army’s terms of capitulation in 1689 reside here.

But although the Ascendancy’s triumphalism may stick in your craw, the sheer history and beauty of the place counter-balances it. As Peter Hitchens recently put it: “Imagine, a cathedral city perched on a hill above a river, rounded by walls and full of architecture and history.

“If Londonderry were anywhere in Southern England, it would be choked with tourism, full of bookshops and crammed with upmarket restaurants and cafes.”

  • Cultivate a greener, more existential outlook

The Burren in Co. Clare features the Boghill Centre. This sustainable complex with a strong environmental policy is set in 50 acres of land on the edge of this limestone wonder.

The land includes organic vegetable and fruit gardens, a nature trail, a stone circle, a wildlife pond, a reed labyrinth, a chicken coop and pig pen, an orchard, and several recently planted native woodland areas.

Boghill’s mantra is to reduce, reuse, recycle; the ethos is based on creating an environmentally sustainable business that has a minimal impact on the earth.

The Boghill kitchen is renowned for its vegetarian food sourced primarily from the adjoining organic garden and orchard.

Guests stay in one of the single or twin en-suite rooms or share a family room in the hostel, and can take part in various activities and workshops ranging from ‘Beyond yoga song’ retreats to workshops in traditional music, ceramics and tribal spirit drumming.

www.boghill.com

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