Colette Sheridan: Dispatches from the staycation front as virus tries to spoil fun...

Staycations mean there's no guarantee of good weather - and they can be expensive, so says Colette Sheridan
Colette Sheridan: Dispatches from the staycation front as virus tries to spoil fun...

STAYCATION FROLICS: Swimmers enjoy some sunny weather in County Kerry

RIP-off Ireland is alive and well, taking advantage of Covid-19 as people wanting to go on holidays have few options but to stay in the country.

That’s all very well, but when there is no guarantee of good weather, it can be a miserable — and expensive — experience.

Last month, a week-long stay in some hotels for a family in the west of Ireland or the south-west cost between €2,000 and €3,000. Yet a family of four could go to Spain or Greece for under €2,000.

Holidays in Ireland are too often a case of desperately seeking sun, trying to amuse fractious kids stuck sightseeing in the family car (kids hate scenery) while shelling out money at every turn and being presented with a saucy bill at the end of the staycation.

Dispatches from a couple of spots around the country reveal varying levels of pricing. A friend and his wife stayed in a modest hotel in Co Kerry last week and were charged €400 for two nights bed and breakfast. They knew they were being charged over the odds for staying in this down-at-heel hotel which reminded them of a communist era building that hadn’t been improved upon since the 1970s, apart from the installation of aluminium windows. But they were very gracious about it.

On the one night they had dinner at the hotel, they said the meal — fish cakes, salad and chips — was perfectly acceptable and cost around €16, which was reasonable.

On their first night in Kerry, they dined in a restaurant in a seaside village. Their waiter fetched them a couple of pints of Guinness from a pub across the road, to drink with their meal. That the Atlantic wind almost whipped the heads of the pints while in transit just added to the charm.

My friends won’t spend the rest of the year whinging about all the money they spent on accommodation during their brief staycation. As the husband said, everyone needs to “be cut a bit of slack this year”. He added that, on the plus side, there were no Yanks around. But he pointed out that there was no attempt at social distancing in the hotel, which is worrying. Disposable cutlery was provided. The staff only wore face masks while serving breakfast. By dinner time, the masks had been abandoned.

But making up for the various shortcomings at the hotel, a very generous discount voucher was given to my friends as they were leaving. The husband said that despite the cheeky accommodation costs in their hotel in the kingdom, “Kerry retains its magic”.

On the other hand, my sister and her partner feel they got good value in a posh country house hotel in the west of Ireland last month. They paid €648 for three nights bed and breakfast with two evening meals included. Not bad, considering the food was very good with a menu that included baked sea bass en papiliotte with lemon and tarragon, and slow-cooked Connemara mountain lamb shank with chilli and tomato.

They were impressed with the implementation of social distancing and hygiene measures at the hotel. But if, when you stay in a hotel, you like to rob the bedroom of miniature bottles of shampoo and comfy slippers, you’d have been disappointed at this hotel where toiletries and tissue boxes and tea trays had been removed from all rooms. If you required any of these items, however, you could let reception know.

To reduce “contact interaction”, the hotel no longer offers a buffet breakfast. In my book, this is unwelcome as I like to do the dog on the buffet front, selecting everything from eggs to pastries as if eating enough to see me through the day.

A lot of us Irish are like that. Perhaps it stems from some sort of folk memory of the Famine. Or it’s just unadulterated greed.

Either way, Covid-19 is a spoil-sport on every front.

According to a highly detailed list of guest information at the hotel, sanitation there has increased cleaning and service workloads in each department “by almost 30%, so please forgive us if we are running a little slower than usual”.

Who would want to be in the hospitality business in this time of pandemic?

I was in a pub last week for the first time in ages. Praising a staff member for the high standards of hygiene and the level of detail involved, including a temperature check on arrival, she said that they’re all exhausted from complying with the regulations.

We had to book for a 4pm sitting and before we knew it, our 105 minutes were up. My friend had to take away the remainder of her pizza in a box. Will we ever get used to this new world order?

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