Pól Ó Conghaile: Shannon Airport flying high as 70th anniversary approaches
Today is an historic date at Shannon Airport, marking not just 70 years since its first commercial transatlantic flight, but its first airshow in 25 years.
Up to 40,000 people are expected to attend the Shannon Airport Airshow, an aerial spectacular featuring some of Ireland and Europe's leading aerobatic performers, jet fighters and stunt fliers.
Highlights include the Black Knights (billed as Ireland's most successful parachute team), a Norwegian Airforce Mig-15, RAF Hunter Jet and Swedish jet the Viggen Saab. There's lots to see on the ground, too, from static aircraft displays to live music.
Tickets cost €5 on eventbrite.ie (kids go free).
Aerial stunts aren't the only cause for celebration. Since decoupling from the Dublin Airport Authority, Shannon hasn't just stopped its decline in passenger numbers, but grown them 17pc. Transatlantic capacity is up this year. Ryanair has added 74,000 seats.
It has had its troubles, and challenges remain, but access is excellent and the Wild Atlantic Way is a real selling point for overseas visitors. A strong Shannon is not only good for Irish jetting out (like Dublin, it offers full US preclearance), but tourists jetting in. Ten destinations were added last year.
If you're passing through, check out the growing collection of memorabilia in the transit lounge. Model aircraft and photos of VIPs ranging from Marilyn Monroe to Pope John Paul II are on show. If you have old images yourself, the airport would love to hear from you!
Airport parking costs can quickly add up, but there are ways and means of easing the hit. Shannon last year launched its online Park4Less offering (a 7-9 minute walk from the terminal) from just €24.99 per week, for example. Meanwhile, if you fancy somewhere nice to stay nearby, the Limerick Strand Hotel (strandhotellimerick.ie) has one night's dinner, B&B, a bottle of wine and complimentary access to the leisure centre on special from €87.50pp. The four-star hotel is a 15-minute drive from the airport. NB: All prices subject to availability/change.
Looking for a luxury pad to lay your hat before you jet off (or after you jet in) from Shannon? Best available rates for B&B at Dromoland Castle (dromoland.ie), a 15-minute drive away, start from €250 per room off-season - though you'll pay a lot more than that in summer months. Here's a tip, however. The hotel has bought and refurbished the Inn at Dromoland (theinnatdromoland.ie), which you may remember as the Clare Inn. Rates at the three-star, which boasts a pool alongside 130 revamped rooms, start from around €90 off-season.