March 09, 2020

Ireland: the ideal destination for Australian Seniors





Len and Phensri Rutledge find Ireland is a stunning green, has humorous and helpful people, numerous attractions and convivial pubs.

It is called Ireland and Australian seniors can enjoy it at special senior's prices. Ireland is a country that is made for Australian travellers. It is informal, friendly, small, and has all the comforts of home. Fortunately, it also has some travel bargains which should not be ignored.

While we can't be as lucky as senior residents of Ireland and Northern Ireland who receive free travel on all government-run and some private trains and buses (you must have been resident for a minimum of 3 months to be eligible), visitors can still score some discounts.

Seniors, known throughout Ireland as OAPs (old-age pensioners), enjoy a variety of discounts and privileges. Australian seniors can avail themselves of many of these discounts, particularly on admission to attractions and theatres. Always ask about an OAP discount if special rates are not posted.

My wife and I have just returned from Ireland. We spent quite a bit of our time in Northern Ireland and were really impressed with Belfast, the north coast, Londonderry and the Sperrins region. Since the 'troubles' ended, a new enthusiasm has gripped Northern Ireland and this has translated into new hotels, restaurants, attractions and more. It is an exciting place to visit.

There are many ways to explore Ireland. The traditional bus tour is still popular and many seniors will opt for this. You can also travel around by train. A Eurail Ireland Pass allows five days of travel within a month and there are special fares for seniors (over 60). Bus Eireann services the Republic while Ulster Bus serves Northern Ireland. Both have comprehensive services.

Travel agents assume that all seniors want a coach tour but my preference is car rental when conditions are right. Ireland meets those conditions. Most of the major car hire companies have desks at airports, ferry terminals and cities across Ireland. All drivers need is a valid Australian licence. In the past, some companies were reluctant to rent to drivers over 70 but this restriction appears to have gone. The majority of cars are manual shift but some automatics are available. It pays to book ahead. Traffic drives on the left and roads are generally good.

Although Ireland is small, it takes quite a time to explore. The major cities of Dublin and Belfast are worth days of your time, while most areas of the island have natural and man-made attractions worth stopping to see. There is jaw-dropping scenery, extraordinary castles, postcard landscapes, distinguished buildings, wind-lashed wilderness and the cutest villages imaginable.

All of this would mean little without friendly people and the Irish somehow manage to give a warm welcome to visitors. Australians hold a special place in the hearts of many Irish people and this is shown by the ease with which you can make friends with a local. It may be while you are standing looking at a map on a street corner. It could be while you are sitting alone in a pub. Age doesn't seem to come into it and the friend is just as likely to be a 21-year-old tradesman as a 65-year-old retiree.

Most Australians start their Irish visit in Dublin. The city has elegance in its Georgian architecture, heritage in its long and dramatic history and decadence in its pubs and upmarket restaurants and clubs. Many of the capital's great museums are free of charge, so you won't have to worry about finding discounts. If that's not enough, buy a Dublin Pass from www.dublinpass.ie to guarantee free entry to 31 top attractions as well as other benefits.

While talking passes, Ireland has literally dozens of world-class golf courses and if you want to experience three top Dublin courses at a discount rate, try a Dublin Golf Pass available from the Dublin Tourism Office

Outside of Dublin, the choice of where to go can be very difficult. There are some scenic superstars such as the Ring of Kerry, Northern Ireland's coastal route and coastal Connemara but you shouldn't miss some of the quieter areas where you can see the more genuine Ireland away from the tourist trail.

Some of my personal favourite locations are the charming harbour town of Kinsale, the rugged sea cliffs of Slieve League, the Dingle Peninsula and the Glens of Antrim. Don't miss ancient Newgrange where you can enter 5000-year-old tombs, Powerscourt where the house and gardens are a delight, Kilkenny with its medieval treasures, the rocky Burren, and the Ulster American Folk Park near Omagh. Possibly best of all is the stunning Titanic Belfast; it is amazing.

Whatever you do, don't miss visiting an Irish pub. The Guinness is great but even if you don't drink alcohol, a soft drink or cup of tea will be a wonderful experience. If it happens to be close to lunchtime, stop and sample the food. You are certain to see soup, potatoes, steak and chicken on the menu and maybe even shepherd's pie or casserole. The atmosphere will be great and the food substantial.

Finally, a tip on purchases. Australians don't have to pay the 17.5% Value Added Tax (VAT) on items you're taking out of the country. There are some restrictions but ask each store for a rebate form, and then hand them all in at the airport. Depending on the companies involved, you'll get a refund in cash, on your credit card or by cheque in the mail.

Words: Len Rutledge Pictures: Phensri Rutledge

www.LenRutledge.com

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCX5HUmGP1lR2aoscn3O8P2Q

Feature supplied by: www.wtfmedia.com.au

IF YOU GO.

Australian passport holders do not need a visa to enter Ireland or Northern Ireland on a holiday. There are no border checks between the two countries.

Best time to visit is May/June and September/October when you avoid the big crowds but still have a chance of reasonable weather.

More information is available from www.discoverireland.com.au

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