Lynette Fay: Why I'll be happily holidaying close to home after lockdown

I wonder during lockdown, with the slower pace of life, how many of us have taken the opportunity to really look around us and see where we live? Taking the time to discover what's on the doorstep can pay huge dividends

Horse riding on the beach in Co Donegal - just one of the many holiday at home options on offer this summer
Lynette Fay

LIFE during the past few months has mirrored life when I was growing up in many ways. The big shop was the highlight of the week, we consumed home cooked meals, had the occasional take-away – which was usually a Friday night visit to the chip shop, as seen in Derry Girls – we walked most places and summer holidays were spent in Donegal.

From beautiful Bundoran to romantic Ranafast, most summers until I was 18 were spent in the county of bungalows, Football Special and An Ghaeltacht. I took my first flight aged 18.

As I got older, Donegal continued to feature, but I gradually started to travel elsewhere. Friends began to move away from home, I have family abroad, and I found that I enjoyed visiting them and discovering new places and cultures. I am far from well travelled, and I still have a long list of places I'd like to visit, someday.

There's no doubt about it, being single and travelling alone is easy. You decide to go, book a flight, pack a bag for one and go – often without giving the trip much consideration. I have often looked at families in airports, laden down with bags, and crying children and wondered 'why would you do that?'

I now know that I could not be bothered with the hassle, no matter how idyllic or out-of-this world the destination. To be clear – if that's what you decide to do, or have done in the past, more power to you. It's not for me.

I could not see myself travelling abroad with baby in tow, especially not now – that prospect amid a global pandemic makes me feel very anxious. That position might change, but for now, I'll be jumping on the 'staycation' bandwagon. What I mean is, this year, I will be going on holidays somewhere on the island of Ireland.

Yes, I mean holidays – plural. The term 'staycation' drives me mad.

For years, we couldn't wait to get on a flight and get out of here. Since social media took over our lives, the more seemingly glamorous the destination, the more 'likes' we would expect on our holiday pictures. After all, what's the point in going on a foreign holiday without publicly posting the evidence?

That said, it can be a lot cheaper to take a family to a different country for a break. Ireland is certainly not cheap – the price of accommodation alone can be off-putting.

Some will still spend their time off on foreign shores, while most will choose to spend their holidays in Ireland. 'Project Staycation' is in full flight this year of all years, given that local business are crying out for help from consumers.

I wonder during lockdown, with the slower pace of life, how many of us have taken the opportunity to really look around us and see where we live? Taking the time to discover what's on the doorstep can pay huge dividends.

In north Belfast, the Cavehill and Belfast Lough are spectacular. The tow path from Duncrue out to Whiteabbey was a haven for us in the strictest days of lockdown. At one point, I found myself on Gideon's Green and discovered a world of history there that I knew nothing about – relating to the Twelfth and the Battle of the Boyne.

Within an hour's drive, the Sperrins, Slieve Gullion and Carlingford Lough are all spectacular and other-worldly. Has everyone seen the beauty of the shores of Lough Neagh for themselves? Has everyone in my native Dungannon been to the top of the Hill of The O'Neill on a good day and taken in that spellbinding view of seven counties?

You don't have to travel very far from home to find a place of beauty and somewhere serving good food. As well as the annual Donegal pilgrimage, as a child, I remember trips to Eskragh Lough and the Washingbay on scorching hot days, sandwiches, juice, blankets and towels packed for the day out.

For some reason, these places seemed to be so far away from home, despite being within a few miles of our home. I'm probably looking back through thick, rose-tinted glasses. I have no doubt that the idea of a day trip to either place will give readers who know them a good laugh – but that's how it was.

I haven't made my mind up on where the holidays will take us this year; the ambition is to discover somewhere new. Suggestions welcome!

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