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Top ten highlights for 2010

Dig out your new calendar, as Pol O Conghaile has the lowdown on the year's highlights.

Clipper Round the World Yacht Race, Co Cork

Galway's hosting of the Volvo Ocean Race was one of 2009's big hits, proving just how sensational the combo of big sails and a top-notch festival town can be. This year is Kinsale's turn, as the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race pulls into Co Cork. After 10 months and 35,000 miles of ocean racing, its 10 yachts will kick off eight days of festivities. You can almost hear the shouts: Land ahoy!

ETA: July 1-9. Contact: 021 425 5100; clipperroundtheworld.com.

Terminal 2, Dublin Airport

Michael O'Leary says it should be mothballed. Critics say it could raise passenger charges by 26pc. Slowly, however, the clam-like form of Dublin Airport's Terminal 2 has risen from Ireland's largest construction site. T2 is now 85pc complete and will house Aer Lingus and several long-haul carriers when it opens next winter. As long as a repeat of the disastrous Terminal 5 opening at Heathrow is avoided, Dublin Airport is finally on course to become -- gasp! -- a pleasant place to be.

ETA: November.

Contact: 01-814 1111; daa.ie.

Temple House Festival, Co Sligo

There are so many festivals on the Irish calendar, it takes a very creative title to make new additions stand out. So how about Sligo's first "electric micro-music festival"? The event is the brainchild of Roderick and Helena Perceval at Ballymote's Temple House, and will include music, poetry, holistic therapies, art exhibitions, farmers' markets and a host of activities. There's a dedicated children's team too.

ETA: September. Contact: 071 918 3329; templehouse.ie.

Euro Festival 2010, Co Westmeath

Athlone is gearing up for a hectic summer, having bagged both the European Triathlon Championships and the European Peoples Festival for 2010.

The triathlon will see more than 5,000 competitors descend on the midlands town, and Euro Festival features participants from 15 countries mixing it up in sport, art, cultural performances, photography, street theatre and even cookery demos. The eclectic (and quite frankly, mad) programme of events will make for a busy July...

ETA: July 2010. Contact: 090 644 2100; athlone.ie.

Tayto World, Co Meath

Not satisfied with an autobiography and a Facebook page, 2010 sees another first for Tayto: a visitor centre. Crisp king Ray Coyle is planning to feature children's rides, an Indian village and animals ranging from bison to bears on a 55-acre park close to Ashbourne's Hunky Dory factory. We've already got the Guinness storehouse and Cork Butter Museum, so why not Tayto World?

ETA: July. Contact: 01-835 0611; taytocrisps.ie.

Aviva Stadium, Dublin

Rugby and soccer fretted when Lansdowne Road shut up shop in 2006, facing into the prospect of a spell in the sporting wilderness. We needn't have worried: Croke Park rose to the occasion, and rugby blossomed into an all-conquering juggernaut. The best is yet to come, however, with the handover of a new 50,000-seater Aviva Stadium in April. An interprovincial affair kicks things off on August 7, with the Republic facing Argentina four days later. ETA: August. Contact: 01-238 2300; lrsdc.ie.

Belfast in Bloom, Co Antrim

Hotel openings will be few and far between in the Republic in 2010, but Belfast continues its renaissance with the opening of a 200-bed Premier Inn in the Titanic Quarter and a 169-bed Marriott on Cromac Place. Belfast's big news is the city's top five-star -- the magnificent Merchant Hotel -- finally getting the extension it deserves. A new spa, jazz bar, conference facilities and 38 rooms will all join the old Ulster Bank HQ.

ETA: July. Contact: 0044 289 024 7775; themerchant hotel.com.

Loveliest Horse Competition, Co Galway

Nope, you read that right. For three years now, TedFest has been turning Inis Mór and Inis Óirr into Craggy Islands for a day, mounting cracking activities such as Ted's Got Talent, An Evening of Buckaroo and The Priests V Nuns Beach Volleyball Tournament. This year's festival has another first: a nationwide search for Ireland's loveliest horse. All together now: "You're a pony no more..."

ETA: February 25-28 (Inis Óirr) and March 4-7 (Inis Mór). Contact: Tedfest.org.

Coastal Food Trails, Co Cork

Given its culinary heritage -- stretching from Ballymaloe to the artisans of west Cork -- it's a wonder the Rebel County has taken so long to get its own series of food trails. This year ends the wait, with Fáilte Ireland rolling out brochure-led routes guiding foodies to the best restaurants, markets, co-ops and shops in the county.

Three different trails for Cork City, east Cork and west Cork will whet our appetites.

ETA: January. Contact: 021 425 5100; discoverireland.ie/cork.

Wildside Extreme Sports, Shannon

Ireland's Wild West is ideal for extreme sports, says Cathal Corbett of Limerick Wake & Ski. "We have cracking surf, constant wind and some of the best sailing grounds in Europe." Corbett is teaming up with Oscar Borawski of Born 2 Ride to launch Wildside Extreme Sports Tours, kicking off with a week of wakeboarding in Castleconnell, biking in Ballyhoura, surfing in Lahinch, yachting out of Kilrush and windsurfing in Castlegregory for €499. No shortage of adrenaline.

ETA: January. Contact: 087 786 8689; wildsideextremesports tours.ie.

Irish Independent