Ask Joan: family get-togethers and Florence

Ask Joan: your travel dilemmas solved: a venue for a 55-person family get together, taking a friend to Florence

I am helping to organise a family reunion for about 55 people who are travelling from Ireland, the UK and Australia. We want to hold it either in the north-west of England or an easily accessible location in Ireland, in October. Do you have any recommendations for mid-priced accommodation that would suit everyone? We would not rule out hostels, but would like to explore other options . – AOD, Wicklow

That is quite an undertaking to get so many people together and find somewhere suitable. If you choose the north-west of England, Manchester would be the gateway and it has a busy international airport and a good rail services.

The Lake District would be a beautiful area to have your reunion and there are some large houses and hostels for rent. There are many beautiful hotels too. You can explore places for large groups on group and also contact the Youth Hostel Association which has a lot of lovely properties in Cumbria,

In Ireland there are a number of great properties around the country – country mansions, small hotels and hostels. Close to Dublin, is a standalone estate that will easily accommodate your group.


In Wicklow, the Kippure Estate would have plenty of accommodation for your family, with a main building and lodges on the grounds,

In Cork, the Blarney Hotel also has a golf course and lodges in the grounds that might appeal to some of the group,

An Oige hostels around the country are in many stunning locations and they can be rented for sole use. See for details.

Another idea is to pick a small town or village and rent a number of houses to accommodate everyone and have a local hotel, pub or restaurant as the social centre. Towns such as Westport, Killarney, Carlingford, Kilkee, Kinsale, Kenmare, Athlone, Wexford are ideal for this.

I would like to arrange a visit with a friend who is not very well to Florence in early spring, when the weather is better. Could you suggest hotels that are central, for about three nights, that are reasonable, and sites to visit. We would only be able to do one to two things per day. – DS, Meath

Florence is a smallish city and easy to get around, though you will find yourself walking more than you expect. Fly with Ryanair to Pisa, the closest airport to Florence from Ireland. The Terravision bus takes about 90 minutes and costs around €5.

The Hotel San Giovanni is so close to the Duomo you can look out the window and check the queues. It is reasonably priced; some bathrooms are shared. Prices are from €75-€95,

Just a little further away and closer to the train station, the Hotel Mia Cara is small and friendly with a little outdoor terrace for breakfast. Prices are around €80-€110,

There are many amazing places to see and you can gently wander around, from to Uffizi Gallery to the Accademia to see Michaelangelo’s David. Don’t miss the Duomo, the Boboli Gardens behind the Palazzo Pitti and the Ponte Vecchio.

I would also recommend taking the guided tour bus, you will get a real feel for the city from the top deck. The tour company, has a selection of good tours of Florence including the Uffizi and the Vasari Corridor.