Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

National reptile zoo

Sunday, June 30th, 2024 | Travel

They have lots of reptiles.

I learnt some cool stuff. Did you know, for example, that an axolotl is a real creature and not just made up by Minecraft?

I was a bit unsure at first. Everything is in one room and you can get around it in around 30-45 minutes. That in itself feels like not much for the entry fee. And there were no talks on. But it turns out they just had the wrong sign up for the talk times and they started 30 minutes later.

Once the talks started, they were great. We went to two, spaced 90 minutes apart, with Dr Polly who brought out three animals each time. She told us a bit about them and then we got the chance to touch them. Snakes are lovely and soft: no wonder they used to make stuff out of their skin. Each talk was 30 minutes so there was a good hour of live stuff going on which made it well worth the visit.

There is a small cafe selling toasties where you can grab some lunch.


Thursday, June 27th, 2024 | Travel

A bunch of cool stuff to see here including the valley itself, grave yard, tower, ruined church and other buildings. But really shines if you fancy a hike. There are two lakes you can walk around so well suited to a range of fitness levels. And there was a food van selling toasties, so that was lunch sorted.

Scenery is gorgeous.

I did get eaten alive by insects at upper lake, though. I got bitten eight times despite having jeans and a hoodie on. They got my on my arms, wrists, ankles and hips. Why am I cursed with being so tasty?

Chocolate Garden

Monday, June 24th, 2024 | Travel

We did a family trip to the Chocolate Garden. They have a small playground and a toilet, so that is lovely. But they could probably do more on the chocolate front. They had a small wall of chocolates for sale and ice cream, but only one of the flavours was chocolate, and if I am being honest, I hoped for a little more there.

We also had lunch at the MerryTree restaurant at Rathwood garden centre and that was excellent.

Ardgillan Castle

Thursday, May 16th, 2024 | Photos, Travel


Monday, April 22nd, 2024 | Travel

We went to Westport last weekend. It wasn’t the stunning success we hoped for.

The idea was to get there in plenty of time and have some exploring time on Friday. But it took 5.5 hours to drive across the country meaning we were not there until late and was late to bed.

In the morning I did the marathon and recorded my first run DNF. I wasn’t in a great state by the time I got back I had a shower, changed and went down to collect my bag. But then we got hit by another rain storm and got soaked again.

We went to the beach on Sunday but it was freezing. Then we headed over to Croagh Patrick for a little walk in the foothills but when we got there the car park didn’t accept card or mobile payments so we couldn’t pay. And then the rain started again and properly lashed it down.

There were some highlights, though: Westport itself is a nice place with plenty of bars and restaurants and we had some good meals in The Wyatt, Servd and Woodfire.


Thursday, August 31st, 2023 | Travel

Last weekend I took my first trip to Belfast. It was a flying visit so I didn’t get time to see the sights. But they do have a lovely city hall. And a Greggs:

Pubs were good, too. We dropped by The Crown, Trademarket and Town Square.


Wednesday, June 28th, 2023 | Travel

We recently had the pleasure of spending a few days in Waterford. It reminds me of York a little with its viking connection and its city walls. But with the added advantage of being on the coast with some beautiful beaches nearby.

Despite a packed schedule, we managed three trips to the beach. One to Tramore, which is somewhat exposed but has a long stretch of sand and seaside amusements. The photo above is from Dunmore East which offers a protected cove and a lovely few cafes and restaurants nearby.

House hunting in Dublin

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2023 | Travel

We’ve been trying to relocate to Dublin but finding a two-bed property to rent in Dublin is literally impossible. I’m grateful to everyone who has offered advice on the subject but the housing crisis there is now so acute that strategies that worked a few years ago are no longer effective. So, for any future travellers, I wanted to document our experience.


The biggest website in the Irish property market is Daft. There are others (we tried them) but everyone uses Daft. It allows you to browse letting listings and apply via the Daft website. The problem is that nobody responds to these messages.

The reason is that they get so many. For each listing that is posted 1,000 people apply for it. Not my words, the words of a staff member at Brock Delappe. So they just pick 10 people at random to offer a viewing. You cannot game the system or put the right magic words in the box because they literally pick at random and you have a 1% chance of getting a viewing (let alone getting the place itself).

Dublin has rent control, a system they call the Rent Pressure Zones which prevents landlords from raising their rent more than 2% a year. This seems like a good thing. But has several unintended consequences. The first is that demand increases much greater than this but because the market is restricted on how much it can increase prices it cannot find the correct level. So, you end up with 1,000 people applying for each available house because the house, in a capitalist free market, is worth much more than this. The second problem is that if you do get the house, the landlord is going to treat you like dirt because you’re easily replaceable by 999 other tenants: and there are many horror stories on Reddit and Facebook to illustrate this. And there will be problems because there is no incentive to make a property more attractive, or even fix the basics, when the price is suppressed below market value.

Common strategies involve setting up property alerts so you get a push notification whenever a new ad is posted and having pre-written text you can submit straightaway. We did not find this improved the ods.

After applying for hundreds of properties, we ended up with two viewings. Both were unfurnished which seems harder to shift in Dublin. Unfortunately, both went cold, possibly when they found out I was self-employed. The law in Ireland says they cannot ask for more than two months’ rent upfront, so even though I have a year’s rent sat in a bank account, it is no help.

Calling estate agents

If nobody is replying, the next step is to call them, right?

Except they won’t take your calls. They all say that they will refuse to take your calls but I wasn’t to be put off so easily. I called plenty of them. But they all told me to go back to Daft. When I told them nobody replied on Daft, they said tough luck and hung up. And those were the estate agents that actually answered the phone.

Relocation consultants

There are companies that specialise in helping people relocate to another country. You pay them a bunch of cash and they help you with temporary accommodation, finding a long-term property, orienting you in Dublin, moving your stuff, etc.

I called four of them (which was all of them that I could find) and none of them would return my messages.

Ask the university

If you’re enrolling at Trinity Collehe Dublin, maybe they could help. TCD explicitly don’t help with private accommodation: they said come to our halls or nothing. I ignored these warnings and contacted them anyway but nobody emailed me back. They also setup an International Postgrads group and I did ask around in there but it was just other students in a similar situation and one person who suggested a relocation consultant which I discussed above.

Trinity College Student Union also has an Accommodation Service so I contacted them. However, they said that as I had a family they couldn’t help.

Facebook groups

In addition to property sites, many Facebook groups such as “renting in Dublin” have sprung up to fill the gap. These are mostly full of nieve people like us posting about how they are moving to Dublin next month and need some housing.

The next tranch of people in there are scammes. We were contacted Sevills (not Savills) who said they had a new way of renting: simply pay two month’s rent upfront and move into the property without a viewing. If we didn’t like it, we could leave within the first seven days using their money-back guarantee. They sent a video of a host who remains mute throughout the video giving us a tour of the apartment.

If you’re thinking “that’s obviously a scam”, you don’t know the Dublin property market as well as you think. In this case, we concluded it was a scam. But a refusal to do viewings and sending a video instead is sometimes done by legitimate estate agents who can’t even be bothered to do a group viewing. And property developers like Vesta do offer a move-in without a viewing money-back guarantee. Most property developers don’t even publish a phone number; it’s email-only if you want to get in contact.

The third tranch of Facebook users is people with weird requests. These range from the relatively normal for capital cities: it’s a room in a shared house but you’ll be sharing the bedroom with someone else (or occasionally the offer is one half of a double bed), to the bizarre: the whole house is yours but you need to vacate for one weekend a month so that the landlord can spend some time at home.

Luxury developments

A number of build-to-rent companies have cropped up in Dublin. The idea is that they build a large block of flats that they manage themselves, furnish it to a high standard and flog it off for large amounts of rent despite it being nowhere near Dublin city centre. There are two ways to categorise these. The first is those asking for over €3,000 per month for a two-bed. These are closer to the city centre but outside of our budget.

Then there are those asking for under €3,000 a month, usually around the €2,500 mark. These are often outside of Dublin itself (but still technically in County Dublin). There is so much demand for these that they all go before they are finished building. So, if you want one, you have to commit to taking it and then moving in a few months later when they have finished building it. If you want to wait until the building is done, it is too late.

Temporary accommodation

If you are lucky enough to get a viewing via Daft, you better be ready to go. We were offered the chance to go to an open house but were only given an hour’s notice to get to the other side of Dublin. So, you best be here and be ready.

That is tricky, though. Temporary accommodation is difficult and expensive to find. This is true at all times but particularly difficult at the moment because a lot of it is filled with Ukrainian refugees. They clearly need it more than I do so fair enough. But it does make the problem trickier.

You can get cheaper prices if you do not book anything in advance: i.e. just take whatever is left that day. But if you don’t have a permanent base you can offload you stuff into and you are constantly having to check out at 10 and check in at 4, it is difficult to make plans, go through Daft listings, and generally get organised.


It’s been 18 years since Dlyan Moran filmed his comedy show You know it’s a sign of a country thriving and a city being very successful when you can’t afford to live there anymore. People say “yes, I have a very easy commute; I live in the Aron Islands. No problem. Yeah, we live in a tree. It’s only €400,000.”

Since then, things have become way worse.


Thursday, September 15th, 2022 | Travel

I was recently offered a PhD by Trinity College Dublin so last month we quit our jobs, put our stuff into storage and moved to Ireland. It did not go well. Dublin is expierancing a massive housing crisis and there is nowhere to live. I will blog about that later, for now, here are some of the highlights.

The crossing over to Ireland was relatively pain-free. I have heard horror stories about trying to get into France but thanks to the Common Travel Area, things are still pretty chill in the Irish sea. Importing goods may be another matter. It was even easier on the way back: we just drove off the ferry and into Wales.

A lot of the coastline around the Dublin Bay is very picturesque. Especially Sandy Cove in Dún Laoghaire. We stopped by James Joyce’s tower (the location of the opening scene in Ulysses) where the museum curator was shocked to discovered I had actually read Joyce’s novels.

We had to be conscious of budget so there wasn’t much fine dining. But we did check out both Abra Kababra and Supermac’s, both of which were surprisingly good.

Transport around Dublin is a mixed bag. There is a lot of traffic and pedestrians have to wait for ages at pelican crossings. There are commuter trains, but the real public transport to be had is by living on the DART (an electrified light rail that runs along the coast) or one of the two Luas lines (the tram system).


Monday, September 13th, 2021 | Travel

In Yorkshire, the rocks are much bigger and you can climb on them. Also, it doesn’t cost you £47 to look at them.

I have visited Stonehenge before but never with Elina so worked it into our travels. I can confirm it looks pretty similar to how it did 12 years ago. Venla thought the gift shop was pretty good.

At least I got to play the Spinal Tap song on the way there.