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Diary of a travel writer: Cream tea at father ted's and a farewell to hanafin


You can almost hear the theme music in your ears as you enter the gate of the Father Ted house in the heart of the Burren. Cheryl McCormack, the maitre d' of Glanquin House (the correct title) came on holiday to Ireland aged 25, fell in love with the landscape and a handsome Irish farmer, and now lives in Clare with their five children.

She has the kitchen table groaning with scones and cream and jam, and says tourists can book ahead for a Mrs Doyle tea for a tenner.

Her husband is one of 10 farmers who will gather tourists at the Cusack Centre in Carron daily this summer and bring them on eco-tours through the Burren, mixing farming, folklore, archaeology and anecdote in liberal doses.

Later, Simon Haden in Gregan's Castle hosts the launch of the venture in Ballyvaughan, in his exquisite 40-bedroom hotel. If you could plug into the energy here, you would get Ireland free of our dependency on oil overnight.


Darina Allen is at the table next to me at breakfast. She talks about her campaigns with Good Food Ireland, the "safety net" group which contests some of the more madcap regulatory decisions, the difficulty of getting fresh fish from day boats, and how Brenda from Ballycotton saved her from the fishermen's cartel that is choking the culinary ambitions of the nation.


MSC cruises launch their 2011 programme: with Splendida and Fantasia in Barcelona, Magnifica and Armonia in Venice, Sinfonia in Livorno, Musica in Venice, and Lirica in Citaveccia it will be an Italian summer.

The cruise line MD Giulio Libutti tells me he won't be doing his "cruise for a euro" offer this year but I am not so sure. There are too many berths on the Med -- watch prices sink like the Titanic.


The club camogie finals bring 4,780 to Croke Park, a watershed moment for the sport's struggle against the mainstream.


I am off to Ballyconnell to the Sliabh Russell Hotel. They used to call it the "Oh, Jesus" hotel because you drive around the corner of a country road and see the Taj Mahal ahead of you.


The hoteliers of Ireland have gathered for their annual complain-fest. Too many beds, too low prices, too little attention paid to their efforts to boost tourism. They want two million extra tourists to come to the country by 2014.


Fianna Fail's tourism minister Mary Hanafin is in Ballyconnell for her last function. Go away for St Patrick's Day, she says, and boost tourism. She doesn't say anything about not coming back.