10 ways to beat the January blues without breaking the bank
Sick of the new year already? Mark Evans has 10 day-trip and short break ideas to put a smile on your face.
1. Hit the waves
If you're keen on learning a new skill in 2016, why not kitesurfing?
Any visitors to Dublin Bay will see dozens of thrill-seekers skimming over the waves with giant kites in the latest watersports craze (above). For those who don't mind a bit of cold, classes begin again this Saturday from expert trainers Pure Magic in Clontarf.
Details: puremagic.ie or 01-805 4912
2. Book a bargain hotel break
If you fancy a sneaky staycation later this year, two hotel groups have winter sales this week. The Jurys Inn 48-hour sale runs from today until Friday, offering discounts across its 36 hotels in Ireland, the UK and Prague. The 25pc discount applies for stays between February and December 2016. Book online at jurysinns.com.
Meanwhile, Flynn Hotels' January Room Sale starts this Friday and runs until next Wednesday. Rates start from €69 per room per night, including full Irish breakfast, free Wi-Fi, early check-in or late check-out. It's got four hotels - the Imperial in Cork, Newpark in Kilkenny City, the Old Ground in Ennis and Dungarvan's Park Hotel. See flynnhotels.com for details.
3. Land a plane at Shannon
Okay, not quite - but enjoy the next best thing by flying a 737 flight simulator at Atlantic AirVenture in Shannon. It costs from €75 for a half-hour challenge of landing a jet, with longer options available. If that's beyond the budget, there's a family aviator experience, with museum visit (Spitfires and other planes) and information on all things aeronautical, over two hours for €20 a head. Throw in an extra €45 (can be shared by two people) and get 15 minutes in the simulator.
Details: atlanticairventure.com, or call 061-363 687
4. Become the next Rory McIlroy
Carton House is one of Ireland's finest stately buildings and is luxurious (even Ronaldo's been here) while also handy for an overnight stay from Dublin. A one-night Stay & Play golf break starts from €89pps, including room, full Irish breakfast and a round of golf on The O'Meara or Montgomerie championship courses.
Details: cartonhouse.com or 01-505 2000
5. Blast your family and friends
There's nothing like family at Christmas - or taking them on in combat in the New Year. The family-owned Redhills Adventure business, set over acre upon acre of combat zones in Kildare, is geared to families, as well as adult groups.
It offers archery tag - a Hunger Games-style activity - where teams take each out with foam-tipped arrows. There's also Airsoft, which is suitable for children aged 12 years upwards, with team skirmishes using safe airsoft pellets, so you'll get the gain without the pain of much tougher paintball bullets.
Coming soon are Bubble Football, where you are encased in a giant plastic bubble for matches, and Splatmaster, a bit like paintball, but with non-staining and non-painful paint. For non-participants, Redhills Adventure is convenient for the Kildare Village outlet, and also great for team-building and corporate events, with its annual zombiegeddon event a must-do when Halloween comes.
5. Be a tourist in your own town
It's a shame that we don't always appreciate what's on our doorstep. The Guinness Storehouse was recently voted Europe's top attraction, beating the likes of the Eiffel Tower. Strangely, the visitor profile is largely from overseas, and locals are missing out on a world-class attraction.
Discover the history of the Guinness family, inextricably linked to Dublin, the brewing process - and, best of all, get to sample some of the black stuff, with superb views across the capital from the Gravity Bar. The restaurants are fab too - with Gilroy's Bar serving up some high class cuisine (many dishes using Guinness) in a lovely bygone years atmosphere.
If you haven't visited, make it up there this year. It's €18 for adults and €6.50 for children, with family discounts available.
6. Feel no shame in temple bar
Irish people tend to leave Temple Bar to the tourists, but this month gives us good reason to venture in. Tradfest is Ireland's biggest celebration of trad, and the cobbled streets of the Latin Quarter will be throbbing later this month. Events, many of them free or reasonably priced are spread around the city centre - not just Temple Bar - with a host of top Irish and international artists, as well as smaller sessions, taking place.
Details: January 27-31, templebartrad.com
7. Take a cruise
Okay, maybe kitesurfing is a bit strenuous for you. But if you want to see Dublin from a new angle, and spot a bit of wildlife along the way, why not check out a Dublin Bay cruise? A variety of cruises are available, taking in scenic spots such as Dalkey and Howth. One-way tickets are €22 for adults and €14 for four to 12-year-olds, but there's a variety of deals, and combo bus tour offers, available.
9. Sleep over in style
The Gibson Hotel, situated beside the 3 Arena, has the ultimate seal of approval - it's the favoured base of the Dublin football team. And it's not just any hotel, it's also a go-to spot on the city's social scene. The Sunday jazz brunch is becoming a local institution, and good overnight deals are available for a sleepover. There's a B&B package available from €130, with free parking, with other options, including Dublin Zoo trip, for families.
10. Overdose on fun
The festive season - and its aftermath - isn't the same without a trip to Funderland. The annual event gets bigger each year, with new rides, including Airmaxx and Wave Swinger added this year. As well as the thrill rides, with rollercoasters aimed at the very young up to teens and adults, there's an ice rink, circus and market.
A weekend trip (the event closes this Sunday) is the perfect treat for kids enduring that first week back at school after the holidays. Wristband prices for the rides, booked online, are €28.95 for those over 1 metre 2, and €21.50 for those under that height. Both allow four hours of fun at the event, with family deals available. Circus tickets are €9 for adults/teens, and €8.10 for children, while ice skating is €13.50/€12.60.