The gems right on our doorstep!

We’re probably coming to the end of what can only be described as the best Irish summer in living memory. I certainly can’t remember a better one and I was born in the 50’s! It got me to thinking about one of the main reasons why Irish people holiday abroad each year and that it is the likelihood of good weather since it is something that can never be guaranteed at home. Yet despite all the people who crave hot sunny days by the beach and the opportunity to top up their tans so friends and acquaintances will know that they’ve been away, there is a sizeable enough minority of consumers who shun the sun and are always on the lookout for destinations (other than home) where they can holiday in comfort without worrying about being burnt to a crisp or running the risk of contracting melanoma.

Such holidaymakers avoid the sun for a variety of reasons — they may be very fair-skinned; they may be travelling with young children or they may simply find hot weather very uncomfortable to walk around in. Some elect to remain in Ireland even though it may often be cheaper to leave these shores. Others take the ferry to France as northern regions such as Brittany and Normandy enjoy similar weather to us. But what if you’ve already holidayed in such places and are now looking for a change of scenery without necessarily compromising on the weather front?

Two destinations immediately come to mind: The Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. The Isle of Man is by far the larger island and is world famous for its TT bike races. It can be accessed during the summer season by a ferry service from Dublin which takes around four hours — great if you want to throw everything into the back of the car and do a bit of touring around the island when you get there. Aer Lingus operates flights to Ronaldsway and they take just 50 minutes door to door. Most people base themselves in Douglas which is typical of so many of the major beach resorts that were developed during the Victorian era and enjoys a commanding view over a large curving bay and promenade that runs for several miles. There’s no shortage of guesthouses and hotels to suit every budget — think Blackpool, but on a smaller scale!

Jersey, on the other hand, is only accessible by air. Direct flights operate from Ireland during the peak summer season and the rest of the year, you need to connect via London. The island is about one fifth the size of the Isle of man in area at just 45 square miles, but it certainly packs a lot in. Car hire is cheap on the island (as are a lot of consumer products as the islands are duty free) but be aware that parking can often be a problem because of the high population density on the island which currently stands at just over 100,000. The one thing that unfortunately is not cheap on Jersey is the cost of accommodation as the bed capacity of the island has been capped for many years so to be honest, it can never compete price-wise with your typical beach resorts on the continent. Having said that, this amazing little island has so much to offer in terms of beaches, shopping, gastronomy, history (along with neighbouring Guernsey, Jersey was the only part of the UK to be occupied by German forces during WW2! Indeed, one of the top attractions on the island is the German underground hospital which was excavated by slave labour provided by captured enemy soldiers.

Both the Isle of Man and Jersey use Sterling so there is the issue of the currency exchange rate but it is currently at one of its lowest rates against the Euro in years so now is probably as good a time as any to check out both places. I must confess that Jersey is my personal favourite and I think that St. Helier, the capital, is a great weekend destination, if you can find reasonably priced accommodation.

Check out St Brelade’s Bay hotel, Longueville Manor,The Pomme D’Or and Hotel du France or Merton in Jersey whilst the Sefton, Mannins, Inglewood or Claremont are worth having a look at in the Isle of Man.

And the benefits? Short flying times, no language problems, not excessively warm, reasonable exchange rates currently, beautiful scenery, good shopping (in Jersey), child-friendly.

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