Irish Daily Mail - - Travel Plus -

YOU now have 22 days to fol­low through on 2018’s New Year’s Res­o­lu­tions. Ten days to lose all that weight, go to the gym, give up drink­ing, learn a for­eign lan­guage, get fit. Good luck! Of course you could draw a line un­der this year’s good in­ten­tions and re­solve to have a go at some of these in 2019...


TAKE Ulysses with you on hol­i­day – and read it this time. It’s very good, you know.


GO for a walk in Tol­ly­more For­est in Co. Down. The route to the King’s Grave is par­tic­u­larly rec­om­mended.

No­body knows if a king is buried in this me­galithic mound – dat­ing back to be­tween 1000-1500 BC – but given the promi­nence of the site, it’s safe to as­sume it was some­one who held a lot of sway in these parts some 3,000 years ago. A king per­haps, or a knight.

The path which snakes along the Shimna River, whose fol­lies, gothic out­rages, grot­tos, obelisks, bar­bi­cans, pre­tend sen­try boxes, faux her­mitages and nat­u­ral beau­ties in­spired the likes of CS Lewis and Ed­ward Lear, is en­chant­ing.

As you near the sight of the King’s Grave, the Mournes can be glimpsed through the trees. It’s a view that would in­spire any writer.


GO to the Air Gui­tar World Cham­pi­onships dur­ing the sum­mer – in Oulu, North­ern Fin­land.

The cur­rent holder is a Ja­panese gen­tle­man, the fourth per­son from Ja­pan to hold the ti­tle. To date, no Ir­ish per­son has ever won.

There are many rules, but these seem to sum up the ethos of the art: air guitarists’ gui­tars must be in­vis­i­ble, ie. not made of any­thing else but air; air-elec­tric or aira­cous­tic gui­tars are both ac­cept­able – an air gui­tarist can use ei­ther or both dur­ing a per­for­mance; plec­trums (non-air types) can be used as props.

Prob­a­bly see you there.


SPAN­ISH is reck­oned to be one of the eas­i­est for English speak­ers; Scot­tish Gaelic should be a cinch for Ir­ish speak­ers. Frisian (parts of Ger­many, Nether­lands) also looks a good bet: ‘De barst at­mo­sphera wass njoggen­tich’ is Frisian for, ‘The craic was 90’.

The hardest nearby lan­guage is prob­a­bly Basque. Ap­par­ently it has no syn­tac­tic par­al­lels to ei­ther English or Ir­ish. For in­stance, ‘Ach, I’m just pop­ping down to the shops for some mes­sages’ is ‘Oh, Gutx­ienez den­de­tara joan naiz mezu batzue­tarako.’


THE course of true love never did run smooth.

Lysander loves Her­mia but to be to­gether they’ll have to run away. Demetrius loves Her­mia too but she hates him. Un­like He­lena, who loves him like mad. Some­one needs to sort this out. Yes, you can im­merse your­self in a bit of Shake­speare: A Mid­sum­mer Night’s Dream is be­ing toured in 2019, ev­ery­where from Belfast to Brid­gend.

This col­umn’s tip would be Mike Twed­dle’s pro­duc­tion at the in­com­pa­ra­ble Tobacco Fac­tory in Bris­tol, if you hap­pen to be in the vicin­ity.

You can see if his Bot­tom is all it’s cracked up to be.

The play runs from Fe­bru­ary 20 to April 6 at this ter­rific venue, a favourite of this col­umn.

All your Shake­spearean favourites will be there, and re­ally up close – Puck, Oberon, and of course Nick Bot­tom.


WE’LL be hav­ing a close en­counter with an as­teroid on Fe­bru­ary 15.

A near-Earth plan­e­toid called 2012 DA14 (as it likes to be known as on for­mal oc­ca­sions) will pass about 34,000 kilo­me­tres away from the Earth.

In as­tro­nom­i­cal terms, this is a Very Near Thing (closer than the Moon, for in­stance); whole Hol­ly­wood movies have been based on less.

How­ever, this col­umn’s astronomy cor­re­spon­dent, Dr Juan Small­stip-Fore­man, as­sures us there is no cause for panic.


HEAD for the Euro­vi­sion Song Con­test in Tel Aviv, Is­rael.

Ire­land’s en­try hasn’t been cho­sen – so you’ve still time to write that elu­sive win­ner.


READ the book where the hero, who only has one name, mar­ries a woman whose sur­name be­comes their son’s first name.

Yes, it’s Wuther­ing Heights, fea­tur­ing Heath­cliff, Is­abella and Lin­ton Heath­cliff.

Al­ter­na­tively visit the Brontë Home­land In­ter­pre­ta­tive Cen­tre in Drum­bal­ly­roney, Co. Down.

Ay oop! And you thought he were a York­shire lad!

But the hero (or anti-hero if you like) of Wuther­ing Heights, Heath­cliff, could well have been based on Emily Brontë’s me­mories of her un­cle.

Welsh Brontë, like Emily’s fa­ther Pa­trick, grew up in the beau­ti­ful rolling coun­try­side around mid Co. Down.

Un­cle Welsh re­put­edly trav­elled all the way to Lon­don on one oc­ca­sion, spe­cially armed with a big stick, to si­lence crit­ics of his niece’s novel.

The hill­top parish church and school at Drum­bal­ly­roney, where Pa­trick taught be­fore go­ing to Eng­land, is now the nu­cleus of the In­ter­pre­ta­tive Cen­tre – which cov­ers all the de­tails of Pa­trick Brontë and his il­lus­tri­ous off­spring.


TAKE a Game of Thrones tour round the North. What? You hadn’t heard some of the GoT was filmed in Co. Antrim? Check it out on www.milk­ing-it­for-all-its-worth. com. But some of the GoT sites re­ally are stand-alone won­ders. Try Ballintoy har­bour, with its lime­stone and basalt cliffs ris­ing ver­ti­cally out of the sea, and jet-black rocks pro­tect­ing the quay­side where Theon ar­rived on Dragon­stone. From here you’ll get ter­rific views across to Sheep Is­land (real name, not a GofT makey-up one). Bri­tain, only 19km away, is also vis­i­ble, look­ing like a slightly big­ger Sheep Is­land.


ONE of the finest views in palaeon­tol­ogy is avail­able on Valen­tia Is­land: amongst the ear­li­est foot­prints known to sci­ence are on a track­way that threads along a coastal rock plat­form in the shadow of Jeokaun Mount, not far from Valen­tia Lifeboat Sta­tion.

In­dented on the rocks are foot­prints of a 385mil­lion-year-old four-legged an­i­mal, or tetra­pod, an early ances­tor of us all.

Some 150 dis­tinct prints from at least one an­i­mal can clearly be seen – made by some­thing prob­a­bly the size of a col­lie.

The best time to view is early morn­ing or late af­ter­noon when the sun casts the prints into re­lief.

The foot­prints are a cru­cial link in the story of the evo­lu­tion of life on earth.

Un­til some­body pulled them­selves onto land, all ver­te­brate life was in the sea.

You can al­most hear this crea­ture say in a Kerry ac­cent, ‘Yerra, I won­der if this is such a good idea...’


‘IT’S amaz­ing how of­ten my soul goes to the Na­tional Gallery and how sel­dom I go my­self,’ said es­say­ist Lo­gan Perseall Smith, no stranger, I’m sure, to read­ers of this col­umn.

And of course Lo­gan speaks for us all.

So this year pop into the Na­tional Gallery. High­lights in­clude Car­avag­gio’s The Tak­ing Of Christ.

Car­avag­gio led a violent life – he en­joyed prowl­ing the streets of Rome, sword at hand, look­ing for vic­tims to en­gage in an ar­gu­ment or a fight.

Sur­pris­ingly he made it to the ripe old age of 38. But he left be­hind some of the most sen­sa­tional and glo­ri­ous (not to men­tion campest) art.

Hel­lelil And Hilde­brand, The Meet­ing On The Tur­ret Stairs – a del­i­cate Fred­eric Wil­liam Bur­ton wa­ter­colour – should like­wise on no ac­count be missed.


THEY say it’s im­pos­si­ble to lick your el­bow, but you could give it a try to while away a bor­ing busi­ness meet­ing.


SEE one of the great­est sport­ing paint­ings ever pro­duced – Ham­ble­to­nian Rub­bing Down by Ge­orge Stubbs.

It’s housed in Mount Ste­wart House, stand­ing on the west­ern shores of Strang­ford Lough, Co. Down.

The paint­ing, one of the great­est ever stud­ies of vic­tory, pain and tri­umph, was com­pleted when Stubbs was 75.

When the Na­tional Gallery in Lon­don staged a ma­jor ex­hi­bi­tion, ‘Stubbs and the Horse’, in 2005, this one great work was miss­ing – con­sid­ered far too valu­able to travel.


Game on: Is­rael’s 2018 Euro­vi­sion win­ner Netta Barzi­lai and, be­low, Thrones star Emilia Clarke

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