As thousands of Ulster travellers bemoan the fact that the volcanic ash cloud from Iceland has thrown their holiday plans into chaos, the Northern Ireland Tourist Board (NITB) is encouraging people to book a May Day holiday that they can Bank on at home!
The bank holiday weekend gives everyone a chance to relax and recharge their batteries with a short break and there’s no better place to holiday right now than at home, according to NITB destination marketing manager, Ruth Burns.
There are so many reasons why it makes sense to holiday at home over the May bank holiday, explained Ruth.
The unprecedented chaos created by the volcanic ash cloud has caused serious disruption for so many Northern Irish holidaymakers, most of whom did not get away anywhere. But never fear – our message is that there are loads of wonderful attractions and events at home for people to enjoy without any risk of their travel plans being cancelled.
Last year, the number of Northern Ireland residents choosing to holiday at home increased by 13 per cent as more people realise that they need look no further than their own doorstep to see places they’ve never seen before and have a great holiday, without breaking the bank.
The long May Day weekend is a perfect time to get out and explore more of Northern Ireland with so many events and attractions across the province. So weâ€™re encouraging people to look closer to home and do something they haven’t done or go somewhere they haven’t been before, she concluded.
To get people started, NITB has come up with a county-by-county guide of what’s happening over the May bank holiday weekend.
Medieval May Day: Monday May 3, Holywood Town Centre and Queen’s Leisure Centre, 10am – 4pm. Step back in time to medieval days and see Holywood transformed with a medieval theme. The event includes the crowning of the May Queen, traditional Maypole dancing various craft activities and fancy dress competitions for the little ones. Entrance FREE.
May Celebration Weekend: Saturday May 1 & Sunday May 2, Castle Espie. Two days of fun activities to celebrate Castle Espie’s 20th anniversary and the opening of the new centre. Entrance: 1990 prices for the two days.
May Day Specials: Monday May 3, Downpatrick & County Down Railway, 2-5pm. A chance to escape May Bank holiday hubbub by taking a steam train ride from Downpatrick to Inch Abbey and back. Adult return fare – £5, child/senior citizen return – £4, child under 3 yrs free.
May Day Celebrations: Monday May 3, Ulster Folk & Transport Museum, Cultra, 10am – 5pm.
Traditional May Day activities in the Folk Museum including stripping the willow with the basket-maker, butter-making, street games and storytelling, all woven together with music and dance.
Carrickfergus May Day Fun: Monday May 3. Enjoy an all-new family fun day out. The May Day mini land train will be snaking its way through Marine Gardens picking up children on its way to all the activities on offer. Special Princess makeovers for little girls including face painting, tiara and wand. Special Princess Castle with turrets and knights.
For the boys a new laser tag assault course – available for the first time; King Kong Activity Centre, mega slide and sumo suits for inflatable fun. There’s also a new 9-hole mini golf area to keep mums and dads entertained. All the usual favourites including traditional Maypole dancing, balloon modelling, face painting, the flea circus and Punch and Judy Show. Entrance FREE
Larne Irish Folk Dancing Festival: Saturday May 1 & Monday May 3 at St Cedmas Church Hall, Curran Road, Larne, 9.30am. Local competitions.
Quads at Carnfunnock: Sunday May 2, Carnfunnock Country Park, Larne, starts 12 noon. Race your pace in these four-wheeled mobiles for children aged 6-12. Price: £3.00 per ride.
Bank Holiday Monday Family Fun Day at Crom Estate: Monday May 3, 2-4pm. A great family fun day out with games, crafts, activities and lots more. Entrance: adult – £2.95; child – 90p; family – £6.81.
May Day Extravaganza at the Share centre: Saturday May 1 to Monday May 3. Enjoy the thrills in a variety of land and water activities – taster sessions, one-hour or two- hour sessions in sailing, kayaking, canoeing, banana skiing, archery, Combat Corps, climbing and pedal go-karting. There’s also a wide range of combination packages available. Entrance from £6, family discounts available.
May Day Rally: Monday May 3, St Angelo, Enniskillen. Enniskillen Motor Club’s May Day Rally.
Belfast City Marathon: Monday May 3, various venues throughout Belfast, starts 9am. Get out and cheer on close to 18,000 runners who will take part in this annual May Day event. The route takes participants along the streets of north, south, east and west Belfast. Starts at Belfast City Hall and finishes in Ormeau Park. The event also includes a wheelchair marathon, a team relay, a marathon walk and a fun run.
Viking Boat Races: Sunday May 2, Cutters Wharf, 12 noon. The 10th holding of the annual Viking Boat Races.
African Culture Day: Monday May 3, Belfast Zoo, at 11am & 2pm. Enjoy a day of African music and culture at the zoo including dancing, singing, storytelling and drumming. Also follow the trail around the zoo to find out more about its African residents.
Bank Holiday Hoo-Haa: Monday May 3, Wellbrook Beetling Mill, Cookstown. Enjoy a very funny, gossipy but true Living History interpretation of the Mill and those associated with the linen industry in Mid-Ulster.
Rare Breeds Show: Sunday May 2 & Monday May 3, Ulster American Folk Park. A show of rare breeds of cattle, sheep, pigs and poultry with answers from exhibitors to questions on the wide range of interesting animals.
Tour of Ulster: Saturday May 1 to Monday May 3 in the Dungannon area. The Tour of Ulster, the premier cycle stage race follows it usual format of four stages over three days around the Dungannon area, with a time trial in Dungannon Park and the race covering most of the scenic routes of the area.
City of Derry Jazz & Big Band Festival: April 29 – May 3, various venues. Northern Ireland’s biggest jazz festival featuring an eclectic programme of top-class music with something for everyone.
Benbradagh Hillclimb: Saturday May 1 at Curragh Road, Dungiven, Benbradagh, starts 11am. The Annual Northern Ireland Hillclimb Championship run by the Maiden City Motor Club. Regarded as one of the top five hill climbs in the British Isles, this hill is one of the most demanding for drivers and cars attempting each climb. 1.2 mile course, cars ranging from A1 sprint, rally and classic saloon. Entrance: FREE.
Launch of the Summer Festivals: Saturday May 1, Magherafelt, 2-6pm. Magherafelt comes alive with a feast of colour and a lively fun-loving carnival atmosphere at the spectacular start to its 2010 summer festival season with a list of unforgettable activities including a parade and plenty of attractions for families and children to enjoy.
Spring Plant Fair: Monday May 3, The Argory, 1-5pm. A wide range of plants to purchase and be inspired by. Local produce will also be available from the walled garden. Entrance: normal admission charges.
Armagh Apple Blossom Festival: Friday May 7 & Saturaday May 8. For anyone taking a longer stay the beautiful Apple Blossom season in the Orchard County can be celebrated with a range of events based in Armagh City and the surrounding area.
NITB’s website www.discovernorthernireland.com contains details of May Day events taking place across Northern Ireland as well as lots of special short break offers at a range of hotels, guest houses and self-catering accommodation. Accommodation offers start from as little as £79 per person sharing for a two-night 4-star hotel break including dinner.*
The Northern Ireland Tourist Board (NITB) is supporting Londonderry’s bid to become the first UK City of Culture in 2013 and encouraging people to register their own support for the bid at www.cityofculture2013.com