Tripologist: Take a soul-tugging trip along Ireland’s coast

Soul-tugging … Ross Castle in Killarney, Ireland. Saint Basil’s Cathedral, Red Square, Moscow.
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My husband and I are visiting Ireland for the first time next March/April. We thought we’d stay for a week in Sneem in a cottage but don’t know where else to go. Do you have any suggestions for another pretty area to visit? We’d like to stay in one area for a week or so and explore around. Any suggestions would be appreciated.- M. Baker, Lennox Head.

Sneem is a gorgeous little town on the southern rump of the Ring of Kerry and your timing in the pre-tourist season is ideal. Pick a fine day and take the boat trip to Skellig Michael, a World Heritage site on account of its early Christian monastery. Another gem, and better still, is Valentia Island, which you can drive to via the Maurice O’Neill Memorial bridge at Portmagee.

From Sneem, my inclination would be to head for Killarney and continue north for a soul-tugging journey along the west coast.

Following the coast between Killarney and Donegal takes you through a succession of wonders, from the stone-walled fields of Connemara to the peat bogs of County Galway, from roofless, ruined abbeys to fully functioning castles and rollicking pubs. Begin with a circuit of the Dingle Peninsula, taking the Conor Pass Road, which hoists you to the clouds for a heart-stopper view before descending to the ageless fishing town of Dingle.

For a beguiling glimpse into Gaelic traditions, the Aran Islands serve up Ireland as it is so often invoked — windswept views of cloud-shrouded moorland, friendly locals and the ubiquitous craic, the Gaelic word for good times.

Ferries make the journey out to the islands several times daily from Galway.

In and out of Heathrow with bags of time

My husband and I are both seniors and will be travelling from Moscow via Helsinki on Finnair to London’s Heathrow Terminal 3, arriving about 5.10pm, and are booked on a BA flight leaving from the same terminal to Sydney, departing about 8.25pm. Do we have to clear customs on arrival at Heathrow, and are we leaving ourselves enough time to get from the arrivals hall, collect our luggage and get to the departure hall in time to check in for our flight home to Sydney? How far would we have to travel from arrivals to departure?- M. Coleman, Manly.

You should be able to check your bags all the way through from Moscow to Sydney, without needing to collect them and pass through customs and immigration or check-in again at Heathrow. When you check-in for your Finnair flight at Moscow, tell the desk staff that you are booked on a connecting BA flight, and they should be able to check your bags through all the way to Sydney. They should also issue you with a boarding pass for your London-Sydney flight.

If not, when you arrive at Heathrow, follow the signs to the transfer desk to obtain the boarding pass for your BA flight.

According to Finnair’s Sydney office, the minimum time between connecting flights at Heathrow is three hours. This generous allowance reflects that Heathrow is a huge airport and getting from arrival gate to departure gate can take a long time.

Since you are arriving and departing at Terminal 3, you should have no problem. While it is not possible to tell in advance how far you will have to travel between your arrival and departure gates, it would take you an absolute maximum of 30 minutes to get from one to the other, even if these gates are at the furthest extremities of the arrivals and departures levels.

At most airports, 90 minutes is a safe margin between connecting flights, assuming that you do not have to collect and re-check baggage.

A plan for the fare-minded flyer

I am travelling solo in Europe for three weeks this coming October-November. My flights are into and out of Paris, and with not much time I am limiting myself to western Europe. Can you outline an ideal itinerary for someone mid-20s and on a budget? And how long do I have to decide: that is, when do the European budget airlines tend to skyrocket their prices (Ryanair, easyJet and so on)? On the very tentative hit list so far is London, Paris, the Australian WWI battlefields of France, Spain (Madrid or Barcelona?) and a visit to a friend in Italy.- B. Brown, Accra, Ghana.

After a few days in Paris and northern France, and considering the time of year and the budget constraints, I would be heading for southern Europe, with Seville and Granada on the must-see list as well as Barcelona. After Spain, you might hop straight across to Italy, since the French Riviera does not sparkle when it’s forced to put on clothes. Venice is a real delight in the winter, since it is almost crowd-free, and when the fog rolls in across the lagoon it adds to the city’s mystique.

You might also consider Sicily, where you can expect mild to warm temperatures and lower prices than in most other parts of Europe. You could easily spend a week between Sicily’s east coast and the Aeolian Islands.

You will get the best airfare deals if you book several months in advance. As seats fill, the prices head skyward. However, this is not an especially busy time for leisure travel, so chances are you will still find good deals even a month out.

The best times to visit Israel

I have been invited by a friend I have known from my schooldays to visit her in Jerusalem. With the promise of a roof over my head (and a bed), I am keen to take up her offer. What advice can you give regarding best time to travel, tours, places not to be missed, visa requirements and the possibility of a side trip to Petra?- J. Rich, Balmain.

The best time to visit Israel from a climate point of view is March to May, and September to November.

Summer is unpleasantly hot and the country is crowded with visitors but the winter days are often mild and bright.

You can find plenty of options for organised tours when you get to Israel, and chances are your hosts will suggest places you should see and perhaps even suggest local tour operators. You can also organise a tour to Jordan that includes Petra from Israel.

Australian passport holders do not require a tourist visa for a stay of up to 90 days in Israel. Note that there are some countries that will deny you entry if you have an Israeli stamp in your passport, but Jordan is not among them.

Neither is the United Arab Emirates, should you be flying with Emirates, Etihad or Qatar Airways on a flight that involves a stopover.

Digiwatch

The Skytrax website gives you the low-down on the good, the bad and the downright ugly of the world’s airlines, with star ratings, lounge reviews, seat reviews, airport reviews and pithy feedback from passengers about their flight experiences — and they’re not afraid to let fly with the acid when things go wrong. Other handy information includes an airline-by-airline economy-class seat review.

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