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Diary of a travel writer: Sometimes it's right in your backyard

We think holidays in Ireland are more expensive than abroad. They are not. Not because you can live cheaper here. Our restaurants are among Europe's most expensive. But when you take away the cost of an air fare for the family, you're several hundred euro better off.

But we don't reason like that. We like to tell everyone what a great deal we got, how hot it was and how little we paid for a top-class bottle of wine. But the mobile home in Ballyconneely is cheaper. Ask Brian Cowen. He stays in one.

Noel Dempsey went to Malta and we know what happened there.


Time to catch up with my homeland, and confront the home-holiday debate conundrum. We want to stay at home, but do what when we are here?

Irish attractions are too expensive. The principle of tourist attractions is the same the world over: they charge as much as they can get away with. Our problem is that we are more tolerant than most. The Guinness Storehouse is a beautiful attraction. Guinness is the world's third-most popular brand-related attraction, so they are doing something right. But is it worth u15?

Admittedly I have yet to see either, but are the new Dublin attractions, the Leprechaun museum and the relocated wax museum, worth a tenner?

Are the Ailwee Caves worth u17? And the Marble Arch in Fermanagh half that?

How come it costs more to see Blarney Castle than to visit the Louvre? Why is Dublin Zoo u15 and Belfast Zoo £8.50? The wheel by the O2 is u2 more expensive than its Belfast equivalent.

That said, it is half the price of the London version. You charge what you can get in the tourism business. New York charges $20 admission to its museums, while the Irish ones are free.


Maybe we have more attractions than we think. Most of our pubs are centres for the performance arts. We have 700 in Dublin. Admission charges vary according to your bladder capacity.


A showery Sunday in the Wicklow mountains. Spectacular. The best things in life are free.


The tourists I meet are happy. They like the people and the encounters they have. Ireland does a people thing most of our 200 competitors cannot match. A lot of world tourism is pretty bland. Landscape, picture, bus, home. In Ireland there is a chance meeting to lift the day.


Dead crayfish, a pile of them by the canal bank at Sherlockstown, near the lock-keeper's house. This, after the clean-out of perch and rudd, makes me suspicious.


Mayo, and the Breaffy House in Castlebar, a great family hotel in a thriving area. Castlebar is buzzing and there is music in the air.