With Mid-term break already in some of our minds it is worth checking out where we can go for an autumn staycation. The timing is good for taxpayers as the Government have launched a new scheme that might entice some to go on a little break.
Stay and Spend is a tax scheme aimed at consumers to help drive sales in the hospitality sector during the off-season which has been negatively impacted as a result of COVID-19 so what better way to save on tax than with a staycation.
The scheme will provide a maximum of €125 in income tax credits to tax-payers who spend up to €625 in restaurants, pubs, hotels, B&Bs and other qualifying businesses, from Autumn 2020 through to Spring 2021, including over the Christmas period.
Where a taxpayer has insufficient income tax liability to fully benefit from the measure, they may still avail of the relief against their USC contributions.
I’m back on The Hard Shoulder on Newstalk this week to talk about some travel inspiration over the coming months. I’m looking at cruising on the River Shannon and in Lower Lough Erne. Irish Waterways have a website with links to lots of boat charters. https://www.boatholidaysireland.com/
This summer I checked out two of the most popular cruise companies – Silverline Cruisers based in Banagher County Offaly and Carrickcraft based in Carrick-on-Shannon and Bellanaleck.
Do you need to have experience to hire a cruiser?
This is probably the most frequently asked question and I’m delighted to say no you don’t. You don’t need a license or previous experience either to helm a boat on the Shannon-Erne waterways and with a bit of care and study you can do most of your preparation at home before you arrive to pick up your boat. Carrick-craft have an extensive video course on their website with pop questions so you can test your knowledge as you study the details of navigation and handling the boat.
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Who does this type of holiday suit? Is Cruising good for families? For Couples?
Hiring a cruiser is like having your own caravan with all the fun of camping but with a good deal more amenities and luxury. It’s a great holiday with kids. On our first time we took my teenage daughter and her friend around Lough Erne and there was so much to do and see for everyone. Enniskillen is a busy town and great spot to spend an evening with good choice of restaurants and bars. It also has plenty of berths to moor at which is great for the novice to get bearings. We found other boat users were keen to assist with pulling in and out of moorings, throwing ropes and helping to turn. Everything happens very slowly on the water so the key is to take your time, there’s no rush, it’s a different pace of life on the water.
Our teenage girls loved the home on the water and especially packing up the fridge with treats and food for the morning fry up. They had their own bathroom too which is a must because they take a while to get ready before hitting the town.
For empty nesters or two couples this is a great way to enjoy a weekend break at really nice pace. We met lots of families with young kids too who make up a good section of cruisers and as long as everyone wears their jackets on the water it is a very safe way to travel. It’s a good way to teach young ones to respect the water too while enjoying the amenities.
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Where is the best place to see cruisers and get a taste for cruising?
Carrick-on-Shannon is a big base for cruisers and I popped down to check it out as there are many cruise companies based there. I spoke to local business man Ciaran Kelly who is owner of The Landmark Hotel and he has seen huge interest from the domestic market this year which has had a positive effect on the town.
What sort of activities can you do while enjoying the waterways?
The Shannon-Erne waterway is a long and extensive area for cruising and my advice is to take a small part and get to know that well instead of trying to take in a huge area.
On Lower Lough Erne we brought the girls hydro-biking which is a fun way to move on the water, it’s a bit like moon-walking on very slow bicycles but great fun. You can find lots more things to do at Castle Archdale Forest Park, such a carting and of course taking in the natural beauty of the forest.. https://www.castlearchdaleboathire.com/ Then there is the boatyard distillery which is well worth dropping in to. The tour includes your own bottle of gin which you get to label with your own individual batch number and name. https://boatyarddistillery.com/
Fermanagh is Northern Ireland’s Lake District, beloved for its stunning scenery, historical landmarks and diverse experiences and only 2.5 hours from Dublin
Lough Erne is home to 154 unique islands, including the famous Devenish Island which was founded in the 6th century by Saint Molaise.
Lough Erne itself is made up of the Upper and Lower Lakes which connect in the picturesque island town of Enniskillen which sits on the River Erne.
Boasting a multitude of top quality hotels, dining experiences and unique visitor attractions, Fermanagh is the perfect location for a staycation
Carrickcraft Boat Hire offer fifteen types of boat in our fleet in Ireland. The smallest sleeps two people and the largest sleeps ten. The most popular size is a four-berth boat, ideal for a small family or two couples. https://www.cruise-ireland.com
Notable stopping points include Enniskillen, Lough Erne Resort, Castle Archdale Forest Park, Manor House Country Hotel, Boatyard Distillery, Lusty Beg Island & Devenish Island.
County Fermanagh is filled with marinas and it’s easy to hire everything from small boats, barges, and kayaks, to canoes and paddleboards across the county
They have give me prices for midterm and April next year
Indicative prices for the October Bank Holiday weekend, and also April 2021 weekend prices are:-
Carlow class – 2 berth – €499
Wave Princess – 3 berth – €599
Kilkenny class – 4 berth – €799
Clare class – 6 berth – €895
Waterford class – 6 berth – €1099
Fermanagh class – 8 berth – €1499
On the Shannon we picked up our boat with Silverline Cruisers at Banagher in County Offaly. This is a nice small port and Barbara Smith’s family has been in business for over forty years. She told me about all that there is to enjoy on the Shannon Waterway.
Places to see on the River – Clonmacnoise is a wonderful heritage site operated by the OPW. Admission is €4 per adult and it can be visited from the river if you are cruising.
St Ciarán founded his monastery on the banks of the River Shannon in the 6th Century. The monastery flourished and became a great seat of learning, a University of its time with students from all over Europe.
The ruins include a Cathedral, two round Towers, three high crosses, nine Churches and over 700 Early Christian graveslabs.
The original high crosses, including the magnificent 10th century Cross of the Scriptures area on display in a purpose built visitor centre adjacent the monastic enclosure.
Don’t leave the Shannon without a visit to Lukers of Shannonbridge
What better way to finish off your stay than a stop off at Lukers of Shannonbridge. The pub is set beside the bridge and a hive of activity with fabulous restaurant and now the Boatyard open air pub which features movies and music at weekends.