Set your sat­nav for a trip across the Ir­ish Sea

The Sunday Telegraph - Travel - - Front Page -

Most im­pres­sive of all is Ir­ish Fer­ries’ €150mil­lion (£130mil­lion) WB Yeats, due to op­er­ate on the Holy­head-Dublin route from Septem­ber. Some 640ft in length and weigh­ing 55,000 tonnes, the gi­ant “cruise ferry” has suites with out­side bal­conies, a range of restau­rants and bars, a club class lounge and a cin­ema – fa­cil­i­ties to ri­val many cruise ships.

Once in Ire­land, how­ever, you won’t have to read­just your sense of geo­graph­i­cal scale: dis­tances are nicely man­age­able, and traf­fic tends to be lighter. And make room in the boot for pur­chases of the qual­ity food­stuffs that are the re­sult of a gas­tro­nomic rev­o­lu­tion: golden rape­seed oil, Ir­ish cheeses, smoked fish and meats, jams, breads and chut­neys.

For Bri­tish vis­i­tors, Ire­land be­guil­ingly min­gles fa­mil­iar­ity with dif­fer­ence: the id­iom, ac­cent, and rhythms of speech are all dif­fer­ent; and while vis­i­tors to North­ern Ire­land en­counter the road signs and red postal boxes of home, trav­ellers in the Repub­lic will note bilin­gual road signs, dis­tances in kilo­me­tres, and other in­di­ca­tors of a for­eign land. All the more rea­son to visit – soak up this dif­fer­ence, fa­mil­iar­ity, and the sheer grandeur of the land­scapes. Here are three cir­cu­lar itin­er­ar­ies – from each of the key en­try ports, to help you make the best of Ire­land’s roads.

IRE­LAND

(walled­c­i­ty­brew­ery.com), be­fore din­ner in Soda & Starch (so­daand­starch.com).

Take some time to walk the walls of Lon­don­derry, ad­mir­ing views of the Done­gal hills. Con­sider a guided walk: McCrossan’s Tours (der­ryc­i­ty­tours. com) of­fers valu­able in­sights into a long and tem­pes­tu­ous his­tory. Af­ter­wards, call into the Vic­to­rian Guild­hall, with its sheets of stained glass; and stock up on goods at Ware­house (the­ware­housederry.com). Then hit the A6, driv­ing through the heath­ery up­lands of the Sper­rin Moun­tains to­wards Belfast. Pause at Bel­laghy to visit Sea­mus Heaney HomePlace (sea­musheaney­home.com), an arts cen­tre and mu­seum de­voted to the legacy of this No­bel lau­re­ate.

Or visit Ditty’s (dit­tys­bak­ery.com) in nearby Cas­tledaw­son, which of­fers fab­u­lous baked goods: as­sem­ble a feast, and drive a few miles south to the 17th-cen­tury Na­tional Trust prop­erty at Springhill (na­tion­al­trust. org). From here it’s a 40-minute drive back to Belfast, and to the Mer­chant Ferry fares, like air­fares, are flex­i­ble and may be ad­justed ac­cord­ing to de­mand for any par­tic­u­lar sail­ing. Those listed be­low are the low­est re­turn for a car plus two adult pas­sen­gers. They may not be avail­able on all dates, so should be treated as a guide only. We also give the max­i­mum num­ber of sail­ings in each di­rec­tion at peak times.

(08717 300 400; irish­fer­ries.com) car and two adults Fastest cross­ing time: 1 hr 49 min Max fre­quency: six per day

0844 770 7070; ste­naline.co.uk)

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