Ask Joan

Your travel dilemmas solved

 Carlingford is an ideal spot for a book club to have a weekend away. Photograph: Failte Ireland

Carlingford is an ideal spot for a book club to have a weekend away. Photograph: Failte Ireland


I’ve been a member of a book club for the past nine years or so with 11 other girls. We are trying to find a country house or B&B that will take us for an overnight with an evening meal to celebrate some birthdays in October. We would like a place within two hours’ drive from Dublin, and one that has good food, grown/sourced locally. Our budget is up to €130 per person and some of the girls don’t want to share beds/rooms. MS, MBC

You would be looking at a minimum of six rooms and many guesthouses have fewer than that. Hanora’s Cottage is high in the Nire Valley between Clonmel and Dungarvan in the Comeragh Mountains. It is picturesque and has a fine restaurant serving locally sourced food. Breakfast is highly recommended.

There are 10 bedrooms of mixed sizes, twins, doubles and triples. A weekend stay will cost €95pps including dinner and a packed lunch. Some of the girls might like to walk the surrounding hills. See, 052-6136134.

Just over an hour from Dublin in the medieval village of Carlingford, Ghan House is home to a cookery school and the restaurant provides local grown and sourced meat and fish. They have a mixture of bedrooms between the main house and the garden wing. A weekend overnight stay will cost from €125pps with candlelit dinner. See 042-9373682.

Also worth considering is the Redbank House in the fishing town of Skerries. The Redbank has been welcoming guests for the past 30 years. Fish from the harbour’s fleet is a staple of the menu and locally grown vegetables from north Dublin. An overnight stay with dinner will cost from €58pps with the early bird menu or €79pps for the a la carte. See, 01-8491005.

My husband and I would like to go to St Petersburg in September. I have seen a trip which includes Moscow and St Petersburg but none for just St Petersburg. We would also like to spend a few days in Tallinn. Is it difficult to get a visa for Russia, where do we apply and what notice is necessary? MR, Dublin

The good news is that it is cheap to get to Tallinn. Ryanair has flights in September for under €100 at time of writing. They fly on Tuesday and Saturday from Dublin. From Tallinn there is a daily train to St Petersburg. This would be an ideal way to see both cities,

You will have to apply for a Russian visa in advance – it takes up to four weeks for a tourist visa – and you would have to book and prepay for the accommodation in St Petersburg. See

Skytours, at 75 Talbot Street, Dublin 1, has a Russian staff member who can assist in making arrangements for visiting Russia and St Petersburg. Tatiana Soukhanova can be contacted on 01-8772519.

I intend to drive around Germany, but they don’t seem to have cheap hotel chains in city outskirts like the French Campanile or F1 groups, or Travelodge in the UK. When you search under ‘German hotel chains’ they list international groups such as Accor and Mercure, or local ones with just a handful of hotels. JA, Dublin

There are plenty of good value hotels in Germany. is a chain of budget hotels with prices from about €49 per night. They are in or near all the major cities in Germany and provide good modern accommodation.

Meininger Hotels have properties in all the main cities and are budget hotels with a mixture of singles, doubles and dorm rooms from €24-€74 per night. See

Hostels are also a good option. There are more than 500 around the country, often in historic or period buildings, some are even in castles,

The German tourist office has recently produced a guide to affordable holidays, with more than 300 places to stay under €40. You can request a copy or download it from

Send your travel queries to