Done the famous tourist route along the west coast of Ireland? And the city break in Dublin? Liked it? Curious to see an ‘undiscovered’ part of the ‘Emerald Isle’? Well, if it is rugged wilderness, deep (and melancholic) history and Irish traditions you are after, head for County Donegal – Ireland’s often ‘forgotten’ county.
Click here to read the full article published in The Sunday Times, November 10, 2013.
For more tips on Donegal and accommodation, click here.
County Donegal – in the northwest of Ireland – was formerly known as Ireland’s ‘forgotten county’. Even though it’s becoming a more popular destination, there’s still not much choice when it comes to accommodation. Here are two of the best bases from which to explore this remote and spectacular part of Ireland.
Base 1: Southern Donegal
The only five-star hotel in Donegal, Lough Eske Castle outside Donegal Town, combines an antique ambiance with all mod cons; its stunning location and top service have earned it a place in the World’s Best Luxury Country Hotels.
The castle is owned by Pat Doherty – a local Donegal man who purchased the castle ruins in 2007 and spent EUR 40 million restoring it to its former glory – and run by US-based Solis Hotels. Driving up the winding entrance to the castle, it’s hard to believe that, in 2006, the hotel was just a ruin with trees growing through the walls.
Lough Eske Castle is perched close to the shores of Lough Eske – which is not a particularly well-known lake in Ireland but is one of the few places where you can fish for arctic char.
“If you’re lucky enough to make a catch, the hotel’s chef will smoke it for you and you can eat it the next day,” says Mark Knox, Sales Coordinator.
For active visitors, there are plenty of hillwalking trails around the hotel in the Blue Stack mountains and 12 golf courses within a one-hour drive. The famous Slieve League sea cliffs, pretty Donegal Town, dolphin safaris are all within an hour drive.
To wind down and warm up from the crisp Donegal weather, enjoy the spa with its Ogra products made from peat which has body preserving qualities. Or savour a Connemara peat-smoked whiskey beside the fireplace in one of the castle’s cozy living rooms. Or, enjoy the sumptuous afternoon tea as it were in the old days.
Lough Eske Castle opened at the peak of the Irish recession but according to Knox, business is going up. “Donegal traditionally didn’t get many tourists but this is starting to change, now people are coming again.”
So what makes Lough Eske Castle stand out from any other Irish castle hotel experience? Without a question, it’s the friendliness and professionalism of the staff which is trained to ‘Serve from the heart’
Base 2: Northern Donegal
Once you have discovered the sights of southern Donegal County, it’s time to head to the most northerly part of Ireland.
On the banks of Lough Swilly, you’ll find Rathmullan House, a family-run country-style house with landscaped lawns, old world charm and direct access to a long sandy beach.
The property was built in 1820 as a summer residence for Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Knox but was later purchased by a wealthy banking family from Belfast. The current owners – the Wheeler family – bought it in 1962.
Now, your first impression – like ours – might be of disappointment when you step foot inside as the furnishings and décor have not changed much in the past forty years so don’t expect modern or designer-style perfectionism despite the quite pricey room rates. Instead, it’s all about slightly worn wallpaper, antique furniture and creaky floorboards.
However, once you have admired the landscaped lawns, the sun setting over the long golden beach, and enjoyed chatting on a sofa by the fireplace with your fellow guests over a nightcap, you’ll feel the stress lifting and your mood changing.
We met two lovely elderly ladies from Dublin – Maureen and Rosaleen – who have been coming to Rathmullan House every year for the past 25 years since their husbands passed away. They were thrilled to share their memories and give us tips on the local art galleries and sights.
The beauty of Rathmullan House is that time stands still and you can reconnect with yourself and your fellow guests. The location is a fantastic base to explore attractions like the Fanad Head, Glenveagh National Park and Derry City.
After four nights spent enjoying the beach, swimming pool, good massages and tennis court, and exploring the vicinity with long chats in the evening about our adventures, we were ready to venture back into our hectic ‘9-5’ world again.
Part of the problem with hypnotherapy is that people don’t understand it. “It doesn’t mean I will transport you into a comatose state of mind and control your mind and thoughts,” says Deborah Marshall-Warren, who has been in the business for 17 years and written two books on the subject. Increasingly, hypnotherapy is becoming a popular treatment for mental and physical conditions.
Why is hypnotherapy becoming more popular?
Marshall-Warren: Hypnotherapy is now becoming seen as a first resort as a treatment option instead of a last resort. It’s also being extended to treat physical problems like skin complaints whose cause can often be emotionally triggered.
The techniques used allow you to access information that could take six months to get out in psychotherapy sessions. Bright intelligent people can talk and talk but their subconscious doesn’t often get a chance to come out. A session with me ‘cuts out the crap’ in a short period of time.
What kind of people do you treat?
Marshall-Warren: The most common issues are anxiety, insomnia, panic attacks, depression and low self-esteem.
I have treated teenagers who have stuttered since they were three years old. Once we have discovered the cause of the stutter, we can rebuild the person’s confidence and self-esteem. By addressing the emotional root cause, we can reduce the symptoms.
One woman left a job for shyness. It was getting to the stage where she didn’t even wanted to get married because she was too shy. Now, she will speak at her sister’s wedding.
Sometimes people have gone through so much as a child – poverty and abuse -and they overcome it and grow into fantastic people. They can forgive and forget themselves; others need help.
I’m a great listener and sometimes people speak with very little consciousness of what they are saying. Sometimes in language, people almost self-sentence themselves by saying something negative over and over again. For example, ‘it’s such a nuisance to do this or that’ or ‘I’m afraid I could never do that. I’m afraid of X’. They pre-program themselves and some minor things become magnified into dramas.
Do you ever tire of meeting people suffering from anxiety, depression etc?
Marshall-Warren: This is a fascinating subject, my work is never done. Even if it is the 300th person coming for help with confidence building, it is always different.
How many sessions are needed to treat an issue?
Marshall-Warren: The average is three sessions, maximum five. The only exception is maybe weight loss, maybe they come once a month.
Have you had any unique or bizarre cases?
Marshall-Warren: I had one lady who was terrified of vegetables. I saw her once and during the session we turned her into a bright eight-year-old cooking vegetables; it emerged that her mother had cooked soggy vegetables. Later she went out for dinner and ate broccoli, carrots and peas.
Then there was the mother who was terrified of stinging nettles. It was causing a problem for her because she was afraid if her child would run off into a field full of nettles that she would be too afraid to go and catch her.
Many people might be scared to try hypnotherapy for fear of losing control of themselves. Do you really put them into a ‘coma’?
Marshall-Warren: Contrary to belief, I don’t put people to sleep. They are fully conscious of what they are doing. My sessions guide people to relaxation. You cannot relax a person forcefully, you can only guide them. If a person wants to resist, they can.
After bringing a person to a state of relaxation, I create a sense of respect for the subconscious. I always ask permission – for example, ‘self conscious would you agree to go back to …’ The subconscious can always say ‘no’. I do this so you feel comfortable with the new journey and know that you are in control. I don’t do anything without your permission.
How exactly does a session work?
Marshall-Warren: I try to create esteem around you – determination, self-love, self-confidence, the choice comes from you and helps you to design your own labels.
I describe myself as a cheerleader – you create an orchestra and I am like a chorus, respecting, repeating, reacting to the sentences you chose to liberate yourself. I encourage the best and brightest of you so parts of you are owning your own solution.
By supporting you in forcing your words and repeating, repeating, repeating things like confidence, positivity, self-esteem etc, we can override the old patterns of thinking. It’s like installing new software on the hard drive on your computer!
This is not a typical 9-5 job. How did you end up in this business?
Marshall-Warren: Originally, I worked as a teacher for 16 to 19 year olds. This job went beyond teaching; I also had to help them with their confidence, self-belief etc. As multimedia training emerged in the UK, I moved from being a class teacher to a multimedia designer as I loved the creative side of the job – delivering an interactive training program.
After a few years, I began to travel along on my own yellow brick road in a spiritual way. I wanted to do something more aligned with my spiritual growth and development.
I can’t say I chose this path but somehow it came to me. I seemed to have a healing gift but I just hadn’t realized it.
How did you end up in Malta?
Marshall-Warren: I came to Malta in 2005 when I was writing my second book and put myself in isolation in a hotel in Mellieha. Then, I came here to live and never looked back. But I do still spend seven or eight days in London each month.
There are plenty of other hypnotherapists out there. What is different about your work?
Marshall-Warren: Most therapists do direct suggestion which is like reading a script. But I think you might as well listen to a relaxation CD, you don’t need me for this.
The way I work, you are creating your own solution and I am encouraging you to gain your outcome but in a way that you hold on to the power. It’s a very clean therapy which doesn’t work on any assumptions. You design and sing your own song.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
Marshall-Warren: It is exciting to see a turnaround in people. I never lose that excitement. It’s like going on stage day after day and experiencing the freedom, liberation and turnaround in people.
Hypnotherapy is drug-free, that’s the best thing about it!
What is your source of inspiration?
Marshall-Warren: I realized that language is as important as the food we put into our mouths. It can be nutritional or toxic. It is amazing what a small detail can make such a big difference.
Interview Alannah Eames More information http://www.marshall-warren.com/
Clinging to the southern tip of the Malaysian peninsula, the island nation of Singapore is probably most famous for its signature cocktail – the Singapore Sling.
It is also where passengers stop over to stretch their legs on the ‘Kangaroo Route’ flight between Europe and Australia. And the name Singapore (a.k.a The Lion City) conjures up images of towering skyscrapers and an ultra-modern city.
Read the full article by Alannah Eames, published in The Sunday Times, May 12, 2013.
Home to one of Italy’s most popular football clubs, host of the 2006 Winter Olympics, and the headquarters of big Italian brands like Lavazza, Ferrero, Martini, Fiat, Lancia and Alfa Romeo, the North Italian city of Turin is surprisingly down-to-earth with a friendly laid-back charm and vibe.
If you’re thinking of a city break to Italy, you’ll probably consider Milan or Rome before Turin (Torino) would spring to mind. Yet, this North Italian city, tucked into the base of the Alps, is well worth a visit, at any time of the year.
Beating the winter blues
It’s January and the trees are bare; the locals – people and dogs alike – are stuffed into thick winter jackets, and everyone’s knocking back espresso shots or enjoying a hearty Piedmontese dish with friends or family. Fiat 500s are parked everywhere, even across zebra crossings. On the horizon loom the Italian Alps.
The first thing you’ll notice approaching Turin is that it’s not as flashy, brash, expensive or fast-paced as Milan; and nowhere near as touristic as Rome. The architecture’s also different. It’s a pot-pourri of baroque, rococo, neo-classical and Art Nouveau buildings with plenty of piazzas and monuments bearing witness to the city’s rich aristocratic heritage thrown in for good measure.
The Taurini, an ancient Celto-Ligurian Alpine people, were the first residents of this strategic city. Located on the River Po, in the region of Piedmont, Turin was under Roman and Charlemagne rule before Emmanuel Philibert (aka Iron Head) made it the seat of the Duchy of Savoy in 1563. Turin was part of the French Empire for several years and, when Italy was reunified, became its first capital city from 1861 until 1865 when the capital was moved to Florence and then to Rome. During the industrialisation epoch, Turin grew rapidly, before the impact and aftermath of two world wars put the brakes on its development. It was heavily bombed during the Second World War as its automotive industry was churning out defense vehicles instead of passenger cars. After the war, the city and its automotive industry were rebuilt and, today, Turin forms part of Italy’s most important industrial triangle which covers Milan, Turin and Genoa; its population has grown to around two million, half of which live within the city limits.
Like other Italian cities, Turin boasts its fair share of piazzas, each individual yet all with stunning architecture, cosy cafes and steeped in history. Piazza Vittorio Veneto is the largest baroque square in Europe and there you’ll find Porto di Savona, a local restaurant with Piedmontese specialities. Make sure you try bagna càuda, a local hot dip which is a bit like fondue but made from garlic, olive oil, anchovies and butter, spread over roasted vegetables such as peppers or artichoke, and some local dishes with chestnuts or truffle, both popular ingredients in this region. Together with the bars and clubs dotted along the River Po, the Piazza Vittorio, as the locals call it, is supposedly the mecca of Turin nightlife.
Breeding ground for aristocracy and great minds alike
During the days when Turin was home to the House of Savoy, Italy’s royal family, it flourished as a cultural centre, attracting many famous Italian writers, poets and thinkers. Not surprisingly, today it hosts some of Italy’s best and oldest universities; more surprising is the fact that its Museo Egizio has one of the largest collections of Egyptian artifacts outside of Cairo while the Museum of Oriental Art houses one of the most important Asian art collections in Italy. If it’s local history you’re after, check out the Royal Library, Valentino Castle, or the Palatine Towers which are among the best preserved Roman remains in northern Italy. The Mole Antonelliana, which was originally designed to be a Jewish synagogue, now houses the National Museum of Cinema, believed to be the tallest museum in the world at 167 metres; it’s also one of the most popular museums in the city. Turin is often considered the birthplace of Italian cinema; the first Italian screening took place in the city in 1896.
Hotbed for footie and wheels
Cars and football are both synonymous with Turin, often called “the Detroit of Italy” and even if you’re not a motor junkie or a football freak, you can’t miss two of the best tourist attractions in the city: the Museo dell’ Automobilia and the new Juventus stadium. (By the way, the locals tend to support Torino F.C. while Juventus is a bigger hit elsewhere in Italy.)
The Automobile Museum is housed in a stunning modern building and contains beautifully restored vintage cars (also from other European car producers), Formula One racing cars including Ferraris (of course, we’re in Italy!) and much-loved classics like the original Fiat 500 and Fiat 600. You’ll get a great insight into how cars adapted to societal and cultural developments.
It might cost EUR 18 to take a tour of the Juventus Stadium and Museum, but this state-of-the-art stadium which opened in 2011 is worth every penny of it. So, if there are no live matches playing during your visit, at least take the tour to capture some Italian football fever.
And, if you are a chocoholic, don’t miss the CioccolaTò, a two-week chocolate festival in March run by some of the large Piedmontese chocolate producers like Caffarel, Streglio and Venchi. After overdosing on chocolate, head into the Alps, less than an hour away for some hiking or skiing, depending on the season.
So, don’t brush Turin off as an industrial powerhouse, far off the beaten tourist track. Yes, it’s one of Italy’s most important economic centres, home to some of the country’s best known companies, but, trust me, 48 hours in Turin in January is not enough, I’m heading back in the spring for another heady dose of Piedmontese culture and cuisine. It’s a city which is relatively good value for money, where locals are friendly and welcoming to tourists and which still somehow seems slightly ‘undiscovered’.
Not to be missed
Historical tram 7: ride an 8-km, one-hour circuit around the city in this vintage tram. There’s no commentary but during the EUR 1.50 ride you can get a taste of the city’s architecture.
Museo dell’automobile de Torino: to get to grips with Italy’s automotive history.
Juventus Stadium: discover just why this is one of Italy’s most loved football clubs.
Museo Egizio: if you’ve never made it to Cairo, this is the largest collection of Egyptian art and history outside of Egypt.
Floris House: quaint aristocratic ambiance in this store/villa/dining room on Via Cavour for afternoon tea or a late lunch
Piedmontese cuisine: mix with the locals at Porto di Savona on the Piazza Vittorio.
Italian dinner: at Ristorante Giovanni on Via Gioberti where you can enjoy regional and national cuisine served up in an intimate romantic atmosphere with great Italian hospitality.
Shaken not stirred: enjoy a martini in one of the city’s grand bars. After all, this is where the glamorous drink originated.
Although it’s not one of Europe’s main capitals, Edinburgh gives the likes of London and Paris a run for their money. The no-nonsense, down-to-earth Scottish capital, soaked in Celtic mythology and home to some of the world’s best whisky distilleries, has bred and inspired some of the world’s most famous authors, actors, politicians and engineers.