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Travel with Rory King: Zadar is a Croatian gem, relax in comfort at the Avoca Hotel in Co Down

Our new travel columnist Rory King, of Rory's Travel Club fame, shares his first two recommended holiday destinations: an Irish 'staycation' at the Avoca Hotel in Co Down and an overseas trip to Croatia for a visit to the beautiful city of Zadar...

Rory King

Downpatrick travel guru Rory King has proven that travel can be done on a budget. The Irish News travel columnist is also a Q Radio regular and founder of ‘Rory’s Travel Club’.

A panoramic view of Zadar
A panoramic view of Zadar A panoramic view of Zadar

I HAVE been to Zadar three times, and I absolutely loved it. You can take a three-hour Ryanair flight direct from Dublin.

Nestled on the pristine shores of the Adriatic Sea, Zadar is a hidden gem among Croatia's numerous tourist destinations. With its rich history, stunning architecture and vibrant culture, this coastal city has emerged as a hotspot for tourists seeking an authentic and immersive experience.

Embarking on a journey to Zadar will leave visitors captivated and enchanted, leaving no doubt as to why it has become a must-visit destination in Croatia.

Zadar would be considered one of the more affordable Croatian destinations. The cost of accommodation there can range from budget-friendly hostels and guesthouses to more luxurious hotels. On average, you can expect to pay around £40-£120 per night for mid-range accommodation.

A group from Rory's Travel Club in Zadar, September 2022
A group from Rory's Travel Club in Zadar, September 2022 A group from Rory's Travel Club in Zadar, September 2022

A meal in a restaurant will cost you around £10-£25 per person. If you opt for more inexpensive options like fast food or local street food, it can be even cheaper. Public transportation in Zadar is reasonably priced, with bus tickets costing around £1-£2 for a single journey. Taxis may be more expensive, so it's better to use Apps like Uber or Bolt.

Steeped in history, Zadar boasts an impressive array of historical landmarks that date back centuries. The ancient Roman Forum offers visitors a glimpse into the city's storied past, while travellers will be greeted by the captivating Church of St Donatus when exploring the cobblestone streets.

Church of St Donatus and Roman Forum in Zadar
Church of St Donatus and Roman Forum in Zadar Church of St Donatus and Roman Forum in Zadar

One of my favourite things in Zadar was The Sea Organ. This modern installation that transforms the motion of the waves into melodic tunes, adds a contemporary twist to the city's historical landscape. It's this seamless blend of the old and new that sets Zadar apart from other Croatian destinations.

The Sea Organ is a modern installation that transforms the motion of the waves into melodic tunes
The Sea Organ is a modern installation that transforms the motion of the waves into melodic tunes The Sea Organ is a modern installation that transforms the motion of the waves into melodic tunes

Read more:

Co Down man Rory is King of budget travel - and a new Irish News recruit

Travel: Why exploring Croatia out of season is a surprisingly relaxing family treat



Another enchanting aspect of Zadar is its famed sunset. Locals and tourists alike flock to the city's waterfront promenade to watch what is often described as 'the greatest sunset in the world'. The Sea Organ complements the sunset with its relaxing tunes.


Beyond its captivating cityscape, Zadar is a gateway to explore some of Croatia's most beautiful islands and national parks. Take a short ferry ride to the nearby Kornati Islands, a stunning archipelago boasting pristine beaches, crystal-clear waters, and a paradise for snorkelers and divers.

The Kornati archipelago in Croatia between Zadar and Sibenik
The Kornati archipelago in Croatia between Zadar and Sibenik The Kornati archipelago in Croatia between Zadar and Sibenik
Plitvice Lakes National Park is a Unesco World Heritage Site
Plitvice Lakes National Park is a Unesco World Heritage Site Plitvice Lakes National Park is a Unesco World Heritage Site

For nature enthusiasts, Plitvice Lakes National Park, a Unesco World Heritage Site, awaits, with its cascading waterfalls, emerald lakes and lush forests. Zadar's strategic location offers an endless array of opportunities to embark on unforgettable adventures.

In conclusion, Zadar is a remarkable city that offers a blend of history, culture, and nature. From its ancient Roman heritage to the contemporary marvel of the Sea Organ, Zadar stands as a testament to the enduring spirit of Croatia.

Wandering the historic streets of Zadar
Wandering the historic streets of Zadar Wandering the historic streets of Zadar

With its unparalleled sunsets, vibrant cultural scene and warm hospitality, travellers from all corners of the world visit to uncover the wonders that lie within. For those seeking an affordable and unforgettable experience, Zadar is worth visiting.

Get your flights booked and be prepared to fall in love – I myself will be back.

:: To find out more, visit Rorystravelclub.com and follow him on social media using @Rorystravelclub

Travel tips and offers for Q Radio listeners and Irish News readers


WANT to learn more money-saving tips, hear travel inspiration and stories of adventure, and get your travel questions answered?

Travel Wednesdays on Q Radio's Mid Morning with Yazz will find travel expert Rory King joining Yazz every Wednesday at 12pm to talk about all things holidays – at home and abroad. He will be revealing secret places to visit and answering listener's questions.

In print and online, Rory will be offering Irish News readers practical and down-to-earth travel tips, insights and tantalising offers in his new weekly travel column every Saturday.

"I am extremely proud to be working alongside Q Radio and The Irish News, and I will do my best to add maximum value to listeners and readers," says Rory.

Listen online via qradio.com

Staycation destination:

The Avoca Hotel, Newcastle, Co Down

PRE-PANDEMIC, the Avoca Hotel was the only one-star hotel left in Ireland – and it is now one of the best boutique hotels in the country.

Situated on the main street of Newcastle, Co Down, the Avoca Hotel is a mixture of old charm and modern luxury. The hotel overlooks both the Irish Sea and Mourne Mountains. It is the ideal retreat for travellers seeking tranquillity and comfort.

I have had the pleasure of experiencing the Avoca multiple times and it is with great enthusiasm that I get to share my thoughts and inspire you to visit.

Upon arrival, guests are greeted by a warm and welcoming atmosphere. The building's traditional Victorian architecture blends harmoniously with contemporary design elements, setting the stage for a comfortable and memorable stay.

Deluxe Sea View room at the Avoca Hotel
Deluxe Sea View room at the Avoca Hotel Deluxe Sea View room at the Avoca Hotel

The Avoca Hotel has 15 en-suite rooms, each exuding its own distinct personality. From the cosy and intimate single rooms to the opulent and spacious family rooms, every accommodation option is designed to cater to various preferences. I most recently stayed in a Deluxe Sea View room, and it was top class.

The newly refurbished restaurant, overseen by an extremely friendly team, was also top class. With daily specials and a fantastic menu, there should be something to please everyone, and the staff are more than happy to cater to any dietary requirements.

The Wild Hare at the Avoca Hotel
The Wild Hare at the Avoca Hotel The Wild Hare at the Avoca Hotel
Take a seat in The Wild Hare
Take a seat in The Wild Hare Take a seat in The Wild Hare

The Avoca also boasts a quirky cocktail bar called The Wild Hare alongside a delightful beer garden, Gin Lane. Gin Lane has live music every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Both have become favourites among locals and tourists alike, offering a great experience for those seeking drinks, delicious cocktails, good craic and great tunes.

Gin Lane beer garden at the Avoca Hotel
Gin Lane beer garden at the Avoca Hotel Gin Lane beer garden at the Avoca Hotel

While the Avoca Hotel is a destination in its own right, the surrounding area offers an abundance of activities and sights to explore.

Walking enthusiasts will be spoilt for choice: I'd recommend the Mournes, Bloody Bridge and nearby Tollymore Forest Park.

For golfers, the Royal County Down Golf Club, a world-renowned links course, is less than a mile away.

Royal County Down golf club was awarded £1.5million. Picture by Arthur Allison/ Pacemaker
Royal County Down golf club was awarded £1.5million. Picture by Arthur Allison/ Pacemaker Royal County Down golf club was awarded £1.5million. Picture by Arthur Allison/ Pacemaker

One of the defining features of the Avoca is the exceptional level of service provided by the staff. From the moment of arrival to the time of departure, every interaction with the hotel's staff was genuinely warm and attentive.

A room with a view at the Avoca
A room with a view at the Avoca A room with a view at the Avoca

FINAL VERDICT

THE Avoca Hotel in Newcastle, Co Down, is one of the best boutique hotels in Northern Ireland. If you follow their social media, they will often have mid-week special offers.

Its picturesque setting, impeccable accommodation, dining options, cocktail bar, live music and attentive service make it an ideal choice for travellers seeking a memorable getaway.

Whether you are looking for a relaxing escape by the sea or an adventurous exploration of the surrounding natural beauty, the Avoca Hotel will undoubtedly exceed your expectations.

Bookings and more information via avocahotel.com, email info@avocahotel.com or call 028 4372 2253.