Co Down sports presenter Holly Hamilton takes viewers on a holiday adventure
Northern Ireland TV presenter Holly Hamilton chats to Jenny Lee about her new role fronting travel show Getaways, getting married abroad and why going on camera in her shin pads doesn't faze her
AS THE sparkle of Christmas fades, tis the season to settle down on the sofa and dream of the sun, sea and city breaks. Getaways, BBC One Northern Ireland’s travel review show, returns this month with a new six-part series, three new presenters and a host of fun-packed holiday ideas.
Getaways stalwart Joe Lindsay is joined by BBC sports presenter Holly Hamilton and Scottish presenters Jennifer Reoch and JJ Chalmers, as well as some guest presenters, exploring locations closer to home.
For Greyabbey-born Hamilton, presenting Getaways is a "dream job". "I've watched the programme for years. It's one of the few holiday programmes that still exists. We are not there as a brochure, if we find faults we were very vocal about it," says the 33-year-old.
In the first programme, to be broadcast on Monday January 13, Hamilton teams up with JJ Chalmers to explore the Balearic Island of Menorca. They check out the beaches, a water park and a horse show and there’s even time for some shopping and snorkelling. Back home in Northern Ireland, Eamonn Holmes takes a trip down memory lane as he explores the Glens of Antrim where he spent many a childhood holiday.
After studying politics and French at the University of Dundee, Hamilton began her broadcast career in Scotland, working for Scottish Television. She had worked with her Getaways colleague and former Royal Marine JJ Chalmers before and therefore admits "it did feel a little bit like going away on holiday with your friend".
"Both of us are quite energetic. We were like two big kids at the water park in Menorca. Someone from Northern Ireland approached us when we were there and asked us what we were filming for as they thought we were on a date for Take Me Out," laughs Hamilton who married fellow Northern Ireland broadcaster Connor Phillips a year and a half ago.
The pair, who met when both working on the breakfast programme on Cool FM, had their ceremony in the Algarve in southern Portugal.
"When we got engaged we both knew where we wanted to get married. It's such a beautiful region and the people are so friendly. I wanted to wear my high heels, so we couldn't have the ceremony on the sand, but we had it in an area looking down at the sea."
Later in the Getaways series Hamilton and Chalmers visit Crete and take a two centre city break to Prague and Brno in the Czech Republic. "It was great going to these places not really knowing what to expect or to have any preconceived expectations," she says.
"I had pictured Prague to be full of hen and stag do, but I was so pleasantly surprised it wasn't like that at all. Brno is smaller but more beautiful than Prague and without the crowds. It's a two and a half hour journey by car or train and was my favourite location from our travels," adds Hamilton, who plans to make a personal return vacation to Menorca.
"Again, in my ignorance, I thought Menorca was a tacky party location. It was completely the opposite. It was so relaxed and chilled with hundreds of beautiful beaches and turquoise blue water. It's also a very safe place for families with young children."
A keen traveller, Hamilton enjoyed a pre-Christmas break to Budapest, but it's Berlin that takes the title as her favourite all-time break.
"I love city breaks and my favourite was Berlin because there was so much exploring to do, culturally and historically. I actually explored the city by Segway on the main road with all the traffic."
The Co Down woman's career has taken her from BBC Breakfast's red sofa to the green grass courts of Wimbledon and the Open Golf Championship. She is also picking up more and more additional work, from hosting the Northern Ireland coverage of Children in Need to appearing on topical comedy panel show The Blame Game.
She also took her seat in the famous black Mastermind chair, coming a respectable second and dropping only one point on her specialist subject of George Best.
"I was happy with my George Best round – it was my general knowledge that let me down," laughs Hamilton, a keen sportswoman herself, who plays hockey for her local team in Manchester.
"Hockey has become one of the most important parts of my life and it's been the best way to make friends and have a life outside work."
Sticking her shin pads on and turning up to work covered in mud is a weekly occurrence for Hamilton, who says her favourite style is "gym clothes and her Hockey Ireland bobble hat".
"There is actually a video of me presenting the television sport behind the desk in my shorts, shin pads and trainers going about Twitter. Connor had come to the studio to pick me up and drop me off at a hockey match and posted it and it went a bit viral," she laughs.
And will she be reporting on Ireland's hockey adventure in this summer's Olympic Games? "I hope so. Tokyo has been on my bucket list of places I want to travel to. But my sister's wedding is slap bang in the middle of the Olympics so I haven't worked that one out yet. But when there's a will there is a way."
Last year Hamilton and her husband were named as patrons for Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education (NICIE) – a subject they both feel passionate about.
"As a huge sports fan it was only when I left Northern Ireland that it dawned on me how crazy it is that there are some children in Northern Ireland who will never play Gaelic football and some who will never play hockey or rugby because they went to a different school," says Hamilton, who went to Regent House in Newtownards, while her husband attended Abbey Grammar in Newry.
While she has yet to attempt playing camogie, Hamilton did train with the ladies Gaelic football team at her husband's GAA club in Manchester.
"I managed to play in a couple of matches but in the end hockey won. I don't think I have the hand to eye co-ordination for it," she laughs.
:: The new series of Getaways is made for BBC Northern Ireland by Waddell Media, and is a co-production between BBC Northern Ireland and BBC Scotland. The first programme will be broadcast on BBC ONE Northern Ireland on Monday January 13 at 7.30pm. Other destinations featured include Philadelphia, Croatia, Seville, the Isle of Arran and Centre Parcs, Longford.