Ask Joan: a weekend in Ireland and a trip to Granada

Your travel queries answered

Granada: hotels in the city can be good value in September. Photograph: Thinkstock

Granada: hotels in the city can be good value in September. Photograph: Thinkstock

 

I’m turning 25 this August and would like to rent a house in Ireland with my friends for a weekend. There will be about 10 of us. I would love to be near the sea and close to some activities, water sports, horse riding, etc, and a bit of nightlife. Do you have any suggestions for somewhere not too expensive that does weekend rentals, please? – CM, Kildare

Houses for 10 or more are a bit more difficult to find so it might be easier to focus on an area first. Good destinations for what you are looking for are Dunmore East – the Bluegrass Festival is on from August 23rd and there is an adventure centre, dunmoreadventure.com. Carlingford has lots of land and water activities with carlingfordadventure.com and Skypark.ie. There is horse-riding at ravensdale-equestrian-centre.com and lively nightlife.

Kerry seems to have more large houses than most counties and the towns of Kenmare, Tralee, Dingle and Portmagee are all great fun for groups. You could even take a trip to the Skelligs – a memorable way to mark your 25th.

Find things to do on Gokerry.ie, and staroutdoors.ie in Kenmare have a great range of water activities. Lahinch, in Co Clare, is a lively town too and you could try surfing in one of the surf schools or beach trekking with Daly’s, based near Ennistymon, dalysequestriancentre.com.

See these websites for accommodation, cottages4you.com, myselfcatering.com, relaxireland.com, daft.ie and imagineireland.com.

In September, I’ll be staying for two weeks in a friend’s house outside Alicante, Spain. While we are there, I would like to take a trip to Granada for a few days to see the Alhambra and the city. I will not be driving. Can you give names of companies in Ireland or a reputable one in Spain who could organise a trip for us? – MMC, Dublin

Irish companies do not usually arrange trips within countries unless part of a tour. I have seen Spanish travel agencies advertising trips to Granada but I think you would have to source that while there. Your friends may know of a local travel agency.

However, you can do Granada quite easily yourselves. There are five buses a day from Alicante and they use nice modern coaches. The journey takes around five and half hours and will cost from about €32 return. See alsa.es/en for timetables. You can book online too.

In Granada you can buy the City Pass which will give you access to the Alhambra, a city sightseeing tour, entry to museums and city bus journeys for €37.50 over five days. Entrance to the Alhambra is €13, (€9 for those over 65) and entrance to the Generalife Gardens is €7. Allow plenty of time to see the Alhambra – it is spectacular. See Lovegranada.com for lots of information about sightseeing.

Hotels in Granada are good value in September; four-star hotels cost from €100-€130 and three-star hotels from €60-€80 on hotels.com. I stayed in the Hotel Carmen and it was a great location, downtown, near the cathedral and across the road from some good shopping. It has a small pool and bar on the roof with views over the cathedral. I also recommend taking a guided walking tour called “Between Islam and Christianity.”

There are two hotels within the Alhambra. One is a luxurious parador in a former monastery, parador.es. It costs from €336 per night and there is a discount for over 55s. The other is Hotel America, an old-style modest hotel, from around €120 per night for two, hotelamericagranada.com.

Send your questions to jscales@irishtimes.com