PROBABLY the most exciting news for would-be visitors to Ireland this year is the restoration of the Swansea to Cork Ferry service in the form of the "Celtic Pride", with a Polish crew of 125! and room for 900 passengers, with sleeping accommodation for 450, four bars, a casino, a sauna and several restaurants.
London to Swansea on the motorway is 191 miles, a convenient four hour drive. The advantage of the new car ferry is that it goes straight to the heart of Cork and Kerry, two of the most beautiful counties in Ireland for touring by car.
Details of the Swansea to Cork ferry service can be had from your local travel agent, or from Swansea Cork Ferries, PO Box 34, Poole, Dorset, telephone 0202 681818, or Swansea Cork Ferries, 7 Kenrick Place, Baker Street, London WI. Telephone 01-935-4424 and don't forget that you can take your dog to Ireland, as there are no quarantine restrictions.
Cork county has, incidentally, the most efficiently run local tourist information offices in the country. Make use of them on your visit.
The old tried and true and reliable ferry service to Ireland, B & I Line, plies the Liverpool to Dublin route, the Holyhead to Dublin route, and the Fishguard to Rosslare route.
Their two ferries, the "Leinster" and the "Munster" have had a £6 million refit. They offer a wide range of selfcatering accommodation holidays for the family, as well as go-as-you-please holidays by car, using farmhouses or town and country homes.
Prices are at their most attractive if four people travel in one car and twin or double hotel rooms are booked.
If you are a golfer they offer either a holiday centred on Killarney, or a go-as-you-please package for four, with a choice of eighteen golf courses.
Their hotel based holidays include the Aberdeen Arms Hotel in Lahinch, County Clare, a very well run family hotel, with excellent food, almost on the shores of the Bay of Lahinch.
The adjacent golf course is the South of Ireland championship course. The Vaughan family, mother, father, brother, son and daughter are among the most competent and generous of hoteliers in Ireland. Other hotels included in these based holidays are the Castlerosse Hotel next door to Killarney Golf Course, and the Marine Hotel in Sutton in County Dublin.
The Sand House Hotel, Rossnowlagh, County Donegal is right on the edge of the sea and has superb food. Other recommended hotels are Hayden's in Ballinasloe in County Galway; the Aghadoe Heights Hotel, Killarney, County Kerry; the Butler Arms in Waterville, County Kerry; Newpark Hotel, Kilkenny, in County Kilkenny; and Whites Hotel and the Talbot Hotel in Wexford Town, and the Ferrycarrig Hotel, near Wexford Town.
Stop over hotels in Dublin include the Doyle Group of Hotels, the Burlington Hotel, Upper Leeson Street; Montrose Hotel, Stillorgan Road; Tara Tower Hotel, Merrion Road; Skylon Hotel, Upper Drumcondra Road; and the Green Isle Hotel, Naas Road.
For reservations and details, contact your local travel agent, or B&I Line Tours, East Princess Dock, Liverpool, telephone 051-236-8325 or B&I Line, Ireland House, 150, New Bond Street, WI, telephone 01-491-8687, or Reliance House, Water Street, Liverpool, telephone 051-227-3131.
Sealink car ferries offer special promotional fares on their traditional Holyhead to Dun Laoghaire and their Fishguard to Rosslare sailings. For the motorist they have a range of special individual fares. Details from your local travel agent or telephone Sealink on 01-834-8122. And remember you can bring your dog!
Their "Saint Brendan" car ferry, the Fishguard to Rosslare route, has been refurbished at the cost of a quarter of a million pounds. You can get a good traditional Irish breakfast on board for £2.50. Their meal prices are very reasonable, particularly in the Servery.
The Saint Brendan has the shortest sea-crossing, just 34 hours from Fishguard to Rosslare. Although the ship can carry up to 1400 passengers Sealink are limiting their carrying to 1000 passengers for comforts sake, and their crew members are extremely courteous and helpful.
The "Free-As-You-Please" Sealink Motoring Holidays include many excellent hotels, The Park Hotel, Virginia, County Cavan; the Howth Lodge, Howth, County Dublin; Whites Hotel, Wexford; the Metropole Hotel, Cork; the Castlerosse Hotel, Killarney; the Waterville Beach Hotel, Waterville, County Kerry; the Dun An Oir Hotel, Ballyferriter, County Kerry; and the Rosapenna Golf Hotel, County Donegal.
Further information from Sealink Holidays, Victoria Station, London SW1. Telephone 01-821-1751.