CLEVELAND, Ohio – For more than 50 years, longtime local travel agency Pat Hollywood has been sending Clevelanders to her beloved homeland.
Traveling to Ireland will be much easier.
Starting next spring, Cleveland will launch a new non-stop service to Dublin, the capital of Ireland, via the Irish airline Aer Lingus.
A trip that previously required a stopover on the East Coast or in Chicago will be an easy seven-and-a-half-hour flight from Cleveland Hopkins.
Shortly after the new flight was announced, calls began coming in to the Hollywood Travel Connection agency in Aurora. “We get a lot of requests,” she said. Even groups that had booked different flights wanted to be re-accommodated on the new route.
“We have to make sure we keep it full,” she said.
Hollywood came to the United States from Donegal, in the far northwest tip of Ireland, in 1960 at the age of 18, eager to make it in what she called the land of opportunity. She ended up in Cleveland because she had an uncle here.
She moved back to Ireland in the 1970s, where she met her husband and had three children. But the pull of Cleveland was strong, and she returned here with her family in the early 1980s.
At age 80, she still runs Travel Connection and works with several other agents, including her son Mark Hollywood, who is vice president of global operations.
About two-thirds of their business is travel to Ireland.
Mark and Pat recently agreed to answer a few questions about traveling to Ireland – from when is the best time to drive on the left side of the road. They also discuss the importance of the US preclearance facility at Dublin Airport.
But first, a quick geography lesson: The island of Ireland, about the size of Indiana, is made up of two countries – the Republic of Ireland, which is part of the European Union, and Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom. . The Republic of Ireland is roughly five times the size of Northern Ireland.
Dublin is the capital of the Republic of Ireland, Belfast is the capital of Northern Ireland.
So here are Hollywood’s tips for a trip to Ireland:
These new Aer Lingus flights start in May. Do you have a favorite time of year to travel to Ireland?
It’s not a bad time to visit Ireland because even in the winter months the air flow keeps the climate very mild so even from November to March the temperatures are in the 40’s and 50’s. And rarely does Ireland see snow despite its northern latitude.
How long would you recommend a first-time visitor spend in the country?
Depending on what the visitor would like to achieve on their trip, seven to 10 days are ideal to take in the various locations and get an authentic Irish experience. With this new direct service from Cleveland to Dublin, we also expect people to head to Dublin and the surrounding areas for a long weekend getaway and stay for four or five days.
Best sights to see? (I realize this is difficult.)
Wow, we could probably come up with five to ten per district, but you don’t have enough room in this article. For first time visitors we definitely recommend Dublin and Belfast with things like the Book of Kells at Trinity College, the Guinness Storehouse, EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum (which is fantastic for American visitors), the Titanic Experience, the Causeway Coast, and of course County Donegal.
Underrated places that don’t get enough attention?
Donegal has become really popular since National Geographic and Lonely Planet put it on their ‘great places to visit’ lists over the last 5 years or so. But there are still plenty of places that are off the radar, so to speak, and we try to encourage them to visit, or program them into our own itineraries.
Some of Ireland’s southern coasts from Cork to Wexford have stunning scenery, accommodation and visitor attractions that may not get as much attention as the likes of Kerry, Galway or Dublin. But I guarantee you’ll be glad you got them.
Overpriced places that people don’t need to bother with?
This is a tough one because there are so many unique experiences that will be different for each visitor. Some of the older manor houses and estates may not be a priority for the pub crawl enthusiast, but they are a must on a historical tour. Our biggest advice is to not try to do it all, which is a common problem we see with some travelers. Enjoy it and immerse yourself in the experience; you can always visit again.”
Advantages of touring alone or with a group?
We provide many self-drive and chauffeured itineraries that provide huge flexibility when traveling as individuals, couples and families. You are not bound by a fixed schedule and can really take everything. Groups tend to be a bit less flexible as we have to stick to a schedule, including pre-planned attraction bookings, which means we have to stick to a schedule. Some of the feedback we’ve received from many of our group travelers over the years is the opportunity to meet new people, make and develop friendships that last long after the trip is over. In fact, we’ve had several instances where people met us on a group tour and then decided to do more trips together in the future.
How is driving in Ireland – how difficult is it? Some tips?
You definitely need to be aware and comfortable with the steering wheel being on the opposite side of the car and you driving on the opposite side of the road. It can be a bit tricky because your brain is so used to things coming and going in opposite directions. One of our most popular products is our chauffeur-driven itineraries, where you leave the driving to our drivers/guides as we take you around the country. That being said, we have a lot of clients who have no problem arranging car rentals with us as they move around the island.
What about Northern Ireland? Should travelers add a few days to their trip to Belfast and the surrounding regions? Has Brexit made it easier to travel between the two countries?
We absolutely love Northern Ireland and definitely recommend it as there is so much to see, do and experience. Fortunately, Brexit hasn’t really affected the ease with which you can move back and forth between the North and the South. Apart from the cross-border fee that car rental companies now charge if you plan to drive north from the country, there really haven’t been any major changes or inconveniences.
One final question: How does the US pre-clearance facility work at Dublin Airport? How important will this be to travelers returning to Cleveland?
It is very easy. Basically, you clear US customs and immigration before you get on the plane, which means you don’t have to do it when you land in the US. TSA and customs are on site, which means when you land in Cleveland or, say, any other US airport, it’s like a regular domestic flight.
A non-stop service between Cleveland Hopkins and Dublin is launched on 19 May on Aer Lingus
Pat Hollywood Travel Agency has connected thousands of people to their Irish homeland: Immigrant Entrepreneurs