Ask Joan: Where should we go for our 60th celebration holiday?

On safari in South Africa and a murder mystery night in Ireland

I am 60 on January 2nd and want to celebrate. I would like to go somewhere warm and welcoming, where myself and my long- suffering husband can really step away from the constant demands of our working lives to enjoy excellent food and wine, and be pampered in lovely surroundings with a nice host.

I have saved long and hard and have a good budget to spend? South Africa seems easy with the time difference as we just have two weeks before return to the grindstone. PK, Co Down

Taking into account the time of year and the level of comfort you would like, I think we need to look to South Africa, the Caribbean or Thailand. South Africa at that time of the year will be lovely and you can certainly combine good food, wine and comfort.

It would be a pity to go so far and not experience something of the wildlife. My suggestions are to do a few days on safari, a visit to the Winelands and a luxury resort hotel. Kruger Park has amazing resorts; I can suggest the Boulder Lodge ( and Sabi Sands Reserve (


In the Eastern Cape, the Shamwari Game Reserve is malaria-free and has some interesting conservation programmes. It's also very relaxing ( For top-notch luxury, consider the Red Carnation Hotels. They have three properties in South Africa, two on the coast with great ocean views.

In the Caribbean, I love the British Virgin Islands, where there are some lovely resorts. One to consider is Sugar Mill Hotel on Tortola, a small, charming property with great food and service (

With direct connections from Dublin via Dubai or Abu Dhabi, Thailand isn’t so far away. It is only two flights to the holiday island of Phuket, where there are many fabulous hotels. Chiva Som is one of the most famous, and has been consistently voted in the top spa resorts for years.

To get the best value and security for your budget, it would be smart to book through a travel agent. Agents often get better rates in hotels as well. In Co Down, see NI Travel Agency of the Year and DowneTravel in Downpatrick.

For packages from Dublin, you could contact, and

I'm hoping to organise a murder mystery night with dinner experience for my husband's 40th birthday next year. Does anyone in Ireland do this type of thing, or do I need to find a small house/castle and organise the murder mystery bit myself? We will be 12 couples, so would need somewhere with approximately 12 bedrooms. RO, Dublin

That’s a great idea for a party and, as you have a good-size group, you should be able to organise it as a private event. There are quite a few hotels around the country that put on these weekends. There are also some lovely smaller venues where you could have exclusive use.

Go to, where Bruce Henry organises individual events. Small castles to rent include and, both in Co Louth. Or properties from the Hidden Ireland ( or Blue Book collections ( may be ideal, especially for atmosphere.

Hotels that have mystery events include Foxford Lodge in Mayo (, the Yeats Country Hotel (, Renvyle House ( in Galway, the Sheraton in Athlone ( and Bray's Royal Hotel (

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