Belfast airport now charging for smoking

Belfast International Airport has introduced a new charge. After deciding to charge people £1 ($1.64) to drop off passengers and £1 for a clear plastic bag to put liquids in, now passengers are going to be charged £1 to use the smoking areas.

Airport officials defend the charges saying it costs them extra to maintain separate smoking areas, which are used only by a minority of the passengers.

Smokers will have to insert a pound coin into a coin slot to open the doors to the smoking area. Do you think this is fair? Take the poll below or sound off in the comments section!

[Photo courtesy Piotrus via Wikimedia Commons]


Five things to do in (and around) Dublin, even in the rainy winter

Ah, Dublin. Home to Guinness, a Leprechaun museum, an absurdly tall spire and the famous / infamous Temple Bar quarter. It’s also home to around 300 days of cloudy or rainy weather, which begs the question: why are you fixing to fork out hundreds, possibly thousands more just to visit in the summer? There’s no question that the weather in Europe is far more palatable in the spring and summer months, but it’s also shockingly expensive. A flight to anywhere within the EU jumps up by orders of magnitude as soon as you select June, July or August as your departure date and in the case of Ireland, there’s really no need to hand over extra to an airline when you could be spending those dollars Euros on attractions, pub food and better hotels. I’ve always been a fan of visiting places in the off-season, and Dublin’s no different. Read on to learn of five slightly off-the-wall things to do in (and around) the Irish capital.

%Gallery-117267%Visiting U2’s former recording digs: Windmill Lane Studios

A good part of the entire world knows that U2 hails from Ireland, but if you’re a hardcore fan, you owe it to yourself to see where things began. The (now-defunct) Windmill Lane Studios is where the group recorded Joshua Tree, War and Boy, and while the studio itself has now relocated to a different section of Dublin, the prior building still stands as part of the Rock ‘N Stroll history trail. It’s covered in graffiti, and you’ll know you’re near the entrance when you start seeing loads of U2 shout-outs from tourists around the globe. Feel free to pack a Sharpie and leave your token of appreciation (and hometown) behind. Directions to the studio are here — this is one time where you’ll need to read up rather than trusting Google Maps.

A dainty stroll through Powerscourt Gardens and The River Walk

What’s a trip to Dublin without a trip out of Dublin? The Powerscourt Estate sits just 45 minutes south, within County Wicklow, and it’s a slice of age-old paradise. The House & Gardens are well worth exploring — it’s some of the most beautiful grounds these eyes have ever seen — and since it’ll tough to return after just a day, I’d recommend an overnight stay at The Ritz-Carlton, Powerscourt. You’ll get free cycles to rent, a free pass to the absolutely stunning River Walk and pampering that you’ve always dreamed of. The only problem? It’ll make your city center digs seem downright plain. Read more on our visit here.


Pub hop on O’Connell Street and the Temple Bar area

If you’re coming to Dublin for the first time, there are two names you really need to know within the city center: O’Connell and Temple. The former is dotted with a massive spire and includes a number of famed pubs and shops, while the Temple Bar area is just across the bridge (look for the giant Heiniken sign, and turn right). There, you’ll find budget accommodations (hostels galore), and more pubs than any lightweight could ever visit in a night. The Auld Dubliner is a personal favorite for grub and drinks, and the live musicians that show up there are tremendously talented. Oh, and make sure you order Guinness. Anything else just wouldn’t be Irish enough.

Venture west to the Cliffs of Moher, The Burren and Bunratty Castle

The east coast is gorgeous, but the west? Doubly so. Paddywagon Tours offers a 12 hour day trip to the west of Ireland, hitting County Galway (and the Bay), Corcomroe Abbey (a gorgeous church left in ruins), Poulnabrone Dolmen Portal Tomb (a standing monument from 4,000+ years ago), The Burren (a totally unique and mind-blowing rocky landscape), Doolin (Ireland’s unofficially official Irish music capital), the breathtaking Cliffs of Moher and finally, Bunratty Castle. At around $70 per person (admission to the Cliffs inclued), you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better value when it comes to gawking at the highlights on the opposite side of the Republic. Try to peek the forecast ahead of time and lock down a day with a lesser chance of rain, but even if it pours, take a raincoat and soak it all in — Ireland wouldn’t be as green as it is without nature’s tears, you know!


Leave the country… by car

If you’re brave enough to take the wheel while situated on the passenger’s side of the car (not to mention remembering to keep your motorcar on the left of the road), you can head straight to Northern Ireland via road. And you’ll be there in under two hours. Belfast and the surrounding areas offer some pretty extreme outdoor activities, and while it may be a bit chilly and rainy in the off-season, you’ll be fighting fewer crowds all the while. If you aren’t so adventurous, the lovely lads at Paddywagon offer another day trip to Belfast, and we can personally attest to their adeptness at handling reverse traffic.

[Images provided by Dana Jo Photography]

All of these activities were enjoyed during the height of the off-season in Ireland, and I’d obviously recommend ’em to anyone. Pack a few warm layers and a solid raincoat, and head out with a mind to enjoy yourself no matter what. If you have any other off-season Dublin must-dos, toss ’em into the comments section below!

Heathrow, Gatwick, and other airports disrupted

A large cloud of ash from Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull volcano is sweeping across the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, shutting down airports all across the islands.

Heathrow and Gatwick were closed until 7am local time and have been operating on a limited capacity with numerous delays and cancellations. This morning Gatwick had the strange situation of being able to allow planes to take off, but its approach path, which was closer to the ash cloud, was closed and no flights were able to land.

Airports also faced disruptions in parts of Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, and the Isle of Man. Rail services are adding extra trains to deal with stranded air passengers. Currently only Belfast City, Londonderry, Shetland, and Orkney airports are closed, but most other airports in the region are still trying to catch up after numerous delays and cancellations.

As the cloud continues to move south and east, it may cause disruptions on mainland Europe. Amsterdam’s Schiphol, Rotterdam, and Groningen airports in The Netherlands are closed until at least 2pm local time.

The Met Office, a UK weather predicting service, is predicting the winds over Iceland and the North Atlantic will shift to a more easterly direction in the coming days, blowing the ash up into the arctic regions and away from more populated areas. They have created maps showing the predicted spread of the cloud.

Here comes the ash again!

Airports in parts of Northern Ireland have shut down due to the latest ash cloud from Iceland’s infamous Eyjafjallajökull volcano. The main airport affected is Belfast, which will remain closed until at least 1pm local time. Ronaldsway airport on the Isle of Man is also closed.

A large cloud of ash is headed southeast from Iceland and is predicted to affect airports across the UK and the Republic of Ireland on Monday and Tuesday. If winds continue as predicted, the cloud should be out of UK airspace by Wednesday, but of course the winds could always shift back towards the UK and with the eruption showing no signs of abating, travelers could be in for another major headache.

The UK’s Met Office has produced a handy and somewhat depressing series of charts predicting the movement of the ash cloud.

Meanwhile, vulcanologist Dr. Dougal Jerram from Durham University said Eyjafjallajökull could keep erupting for several months. Vulcanologists are also worried about Eyjafjallajökull’s sister volcano Katla, which is much bigger than Eyjafjallajökull and usually erupts within a year of Eyjafjallajökull erupting.

Travelers should have figured out by this point to check ahead before going to the airport, but it bears repeating.

Europe breathes sigh of relief as ash cloud moves west

Shifting weather patterns brought good news to northwest Europe this morning as a new ash cloud from the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull blew west out into the Northern Atlantic.

The new eruption had produced a cloud of ash that caused temporary airport closures in Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, and some parts of the Scotland and England since Monday. Most airports reopened in the early hours of this morning and at the time of writing all airports were operating normally.

The volcano continues to erupt and aviation officials are monitoring the weather for any changes. Travelers flying to Ireland or the United Kingdom are advised to check ahead before going to the airport.