My travel hot spots for 2011

Posted by Marion Whitehead on 20 January 2011

Ireland: 40 shades of green

In a country where most people think the national treasure is a famous brand of beer, rebels with causes are counted as heroes and fairies still lurk in forests, it’s easy to be enchanted by the Irish. Add a few castles, gracious homes with glorious landscaped gardens and a surfeit of fine food, and most travellers will be in bliss.

Dublin is a much-loved city steeped in history, art and literature, but it buzzes with energy, music and lively conversation. What started as a Viking encampment over 1 000 years ago became a capital city with gracious Georgian facades. In the last decade, the Celtic tiger has been flexing its economic muscles in the old docklands area and modern glass high rises give it a fresh, cosmopolitan vibe. The most-visited museum is undoubtedly the Guinness Storehouse. After walking through six floors of exhibitions on how the country’s favourite tipple is made, you can enjoy a pint on the top floor while taking in a panoramic view of the city.

Popular outdoor activities range from hill walking in quaintly named areas such as Sheep’s Head near Bantry Bay, cycling, fishing and golf – there are more than 400 courses on the Emerald Isle, including a third of the world’s natural links courses and championship courses which attract some 240 000 golfers each year.

A big plus is that South Africans don’t need visas to visit the Republic of Ireland.

Who to contact
Tourism Ireland tel 011- 442-0822, email [email protected], or visit Discover Ireland.

Agulhas National Park: romance heads south

Wiggling your toes in the white sand of a secluded lagoon at the southern tip of Africa, your most pressing decision is whether to have a last swim in the turquoise water or to stroll up to your cosy chalet for a sundowner. Sanparks has placed Agulhas National Park‘s new rest camp at the most alluring spot in this developing park, overlooking a marine lagoon and sweeping bay where seagulls pick the beach clean of morsels washed in by the last tide.

Proclaimed in 1999, the park covers a 21 000-hectare swathe of the Agulhas Plain where extensive wetlands provide habitats for a range of birds and increasingly rare lowland fynbos plants survive, uniquely adapted to this harsh, wind-blown environment.

Voëlvlei is a magnet for a host of interesting birds, both resident and migrant. Soetendalsvlei is said to be South Africa’s largest freshwater lake with access to the sea. Driving through the windswept landscape with its scrubby vegetation, it’s hard to believe that this bit of the Cape floral kingdom boasts a species-richness equal to that of tropical rain forests. Of the 2 000 species of indigenous plants in the park, 100 are endemic to the area and more than 110 are Red Data species.

Who to contact
Sanparks central reservations tel 012-428-9111, email [email protected]
Eastern Cape Highlands

Also known as the centre of the universe to those who live there, the mountains at the southern tail of the Drakensberg offer plenty of adventure, whether you’re driving some of the highest mountain passes in South Africa, teasing a rainbow trout in a clear mountain stream, or dipping a paddle into a fast-running river.

The area is bounded by Lady Grey in the west, Barkley East in the south, Mount Fletcher in the east and Lesotho’s mighty mountains brood on its northern border. In the heart of this rugged landscape is the village of Rhodes, home to an assortment of eccentrics and outdoor types. They’ll take you hiking, mountain biking, birding, botanising and horse riding amid splendid landscapes, and show you secret spots with rock art that’ll knock your socks off.

Who to contact
Highlands Information
Eastern Cape War Trail
Easter Cape Wild Trout Trails
Rock art tours 073-242-6952

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