Ask Joan

A Road trip around the Great Lakes or the Blues Highway, hiking in Ireland and how to go it alone

I am visiting a friend living in Chicago late July/early August and we plan to make a Thelma/Louise-type road trip in her car for a week. Can you suggest any routes for the week that would be fun/interesting for two girls? It would be a round trip bringing us back to Chicago . – FH, Dublin
Summer is a good time to explore the Great Lakes region around Chicago. Taking a circular tour around Lake Michigan the first port of call would be Milwaukee, home of Miller beer and Harley Davison bikes. The city on the lake is famous for its summer festivals and music events and you can see what's on this year on The Wisconsin State Fair will also be on over that time. Don't miss the Museum of Art, on the lake, it is a perfect example of Calatrava's work.

Follow the lakeside to the city of Manitowoc, a naval town and home of the Maritime Museum, From here you can take the SS Badger,, car ferry to Ludington on the northern Michigan peninsula and explore beaches, small towns, sand dunes, wineries, artisan foods and forests. It's considered the Hamptons of Michigan.

If you like music then another route to consider is the Blues Highway which runs from Chicago all the way to New Orleans. You might not get as far as New Orleans in the week but you could certainly get to St Louis and Memphis following Route 61.

My friend and I would like to take a rail tour of Ireland for a week followed by a self-guided hiking tour of scenic areas. Can you advise us as to recommended trips? We are two women in our 60s from the US . – D & N
There is an extensive rail network around Ireland and it is possible to buy a pass to explore it. A four-day Trekker pass would cost €110 and a five-day Explorer Pass with five days travels over 15 days costs €160; you can purchase them on


Otherwise I can suggest a tour with Railtours, a specialised company that takes people on a variety of guided trips. It is a great way to see a lot of the country in a short space of time. For example, the four-day tour, the Great Southern and Western, will take in much of the Atlantic coast of Ireland, and costs from €549pps with accommodation. You can add extra nights to any of the tours or choose a different return date,

When it comes to hiking we have extensive walking trails all over the country, is also a great resource for hiking and walking trails. There are also many walking festivals depending on the time of year, find them under Festivals.

I recently separated from my partner, am in my late 30s and have never travelled on my own. Could you give me any advice on companies or holidays for solo travellers please? I would like to go away for a week and enjoy visiting galleries, museums and nice restaurants. –Anon
Being on your own can be a bit daunting but there are some holidays available for people travelling alone. The Travel Department's latest brochure has some that might fit the bill. A city tour to Dubrovnik, Croatia, is a week-long trip in April or October, from €699 and includes breakfast and dinner each day in the Hotel Tirena. There are three excursions included in the price. See (01) 637 1626. See also, based in the North, it specialises in trips for singles to European resorts and can book you from the Republic.

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