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Northern Ireland stars on their best ever summer holiday

Published 07/07/2016

TV presenter Lynda Bryans and husband Mike Nesbitt with their sons PJ and Christopher during a holiday in Florida
TV presenter Lynda Bryans and husband Mike Nesbitt with their sons PJ and Christopher during a holiday in Florida
Achill Island, which lies off Co Mayo
Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt
Radio presenter Ralph McLean during his visit to Graceland
The Big Dipper at Barry’s in Portrush
Disneyland Paris

Staycation or travel abroad? Whatever you decide to do, the general consensus around this time of year is that everyone needs a break. Kerry McKittrick reaches for her suitcase and seeks out inspiration from five well-known local personalities.

Lynda Bryans (51) is a TV presenter and lecturer. She lives in Belfast with husband Mike Nesbitt, leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, and their two sons PJ (20) and Christopher (18). She says:

"When I was a child we always went up to Portrush for our holidays. I often think about those times. It always seemed to take forever for us to get there because I was so excited and always very impatient.

We would stay for a week in the Londonderry Hotel, which has long since gone. We would have been half board or full board, so most of our meals were taken in the dining room there. I specifically remember a high tea affair.

Most of our days were spent on the beach. I know you don't feel the cold when you're small, but I really don't remember it being wet and cold like our summers now. There were buckets and spades, sandcastle competitions, donkey rides and ice creams. After our high tea at the hotel we would then go to Barry's Amusements, which was the highlight of our day, of course. We saved pocket money so we could play with the slot machines and go on the dodgems. The big dipper was the most thrilling thing ever. In fact, I still like to go on the ghost train when I go up there.

We also had a family friend who lived in Donaghadee and whenever she came to visit her family in Ballygowan, where we lived, we would go and stay in her house. I used to play with her grandchildren because they were the same age as me, and I remember scrambling after crabs beside rock pools and running around by the harbour. We ate a lot of dulse and ice cream from The Cabin. Those were idyllic childhood summer days when we only went home when it was time for lunch or tea.

Since I've had my own family I've always tried to go away somewhere every year. Indeed, this year will be the first time Michael and I will have a holiday without the children as they're both off doing something else.

We knew this time would come, so a couple of years ago we pushed the boat out and we all went to America. We travelled to California, from San Diego to Las Vegas, through Death Valley to San Francisco, and did the coastal trail along the west coast.

That was a lovely holiday, and one that was rather poignant because we knew it could be our last one as a family. It was also around the time of our wedding anniversary, and when we got married we'd done a similar trip - flown to Las Vegas and then on to Hawaii to get married.

On the recent trip we kept wondering who were the two strange boys joining us. We had a great time away and the weather was unbelievable."

Paul Clark (60) presents UTV Live on weekdays. He lives in Belfast with his wife Carol and sons Peter (26) and David (24). He says:

"I always remember my first family holiday - we went to Dunfanaghy in Donegal and we stayed in a guesthouse. I was about 12 and I loved it. I fell in love with Donegal because we had such a good time.

The following year we went to Achill Island and I fell in love with that too. I've been extremely fond of the west of Ireland ever since.

Those family holidays were great because you didn't have to worry about anything. Mummy did all the packing and washing and you didn't worry about money or bills or where the next meal was coming from.

I don't know what it is about childhood holidays, but the summers were always hotter and drier. When I think of them I always think of blue skies and hot sun. I'm sure there were wet days, too, but we all have selective memories. Nowadays my wife and I love walking so we go to Donegal every year. We love France also - we go to a place in the Alps called Saint-Gervais-les-Bains, where we have been visitors for 15 years.

A friend has an apartment there and we also get involved in village life - we've been going there for so long we're treated like locals. The weather can be a bit iffy because it's so high up, but it's a great place for walking.

I'm never been tempted to go off to Tenerife and lie on a beach for a week. My work takes me off the beaten track sometimes, and that's what I like for my holidays too.

I wouldn't thank you for a beach holiday - I did it once many years ago in Menorca, and I vowed I would never do the same thing again. For me a rainy day in Donegal or in the French Alps wins out every time."

Claire Allan (40), novelist and mother of Joseph (11) and Cara (6), is married to Neil and lives in Londonderry. She says:

"Our best family holiday was last year when we went to Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt. It was just after the shootings in Tunisia, so obviously we had some concerns about travelling to that area, but in the end we had an amazing time. It was also the first time we went on a holiday that was quite far away - we had wanted to wait until both the kids were old enough to properly enjoy it. You wouldn't want to take babies to such heat.

Our hotel was in a water park so it had everything that the children could want in terms of a holiday - my two are water babies. The whole resort was family-focused so there was entertainment in the evenings too - yes, that was me getting up and making a fool of myself to Agadoo with Cara in the evenings.

For me it was just lovely to be away from the housework and the dishes and everything else. To just be able to simply enjoy our kids was very precious for me and my husband. It was a very safe place too - there were lots of kids' clubs so you knew they were being looked after if they weren't with you. Cara and I even went for a massage together and although she was only six, she lay there for the whole hour so she could feel like a grown-up. The holiday was a treat after a really busy year.

We also have a holiday home in Donegal, which is where we will be going this year. I love it there. We are based in a small resort, but again it is very family-focused and there are a lot of children the same age as our two. I know they can go out and play and will be completely safe. It's only 40 minutes away from home but it feels like another world.

We could have gone for somewhere that was 90 minutes away from home, but my husband's mortgage business sees him travel to Belfast and Magherafelt a lot so we factored that in - we didn't want him to have to drive too far."

Ralph McLean (46) is a TV and radio presenter for BBC Northern Ireland and lives in Ballymoney with his wife, Kerry and their children Tara (9), Dan (8) and Eve (8 months). He says:

"From a personal point of view, I like to make the odd pilgrimage to places that are important to me. I'm a massive music fan and in 2012 I made a trip over to Memphis, Tennessee. It was a work trip to broadcast from the Folk Alliance Festival, but that all happened at night so I was free during the day.

I would go to Elvis's home Graceland one morning and the next day visit Stax Records, which is like Mecca for soul music. I stood on these sites where my musical heroes had lived or recorded or performed, which was fantastic. It was a really special thing to see where the magic happened. If you're a music lover, then it's worth spending the money to go to the places where your musical heroes are from.

As far as the family are concerned, we've been going to the same place for years now - it's a country club in Tenerife. The whole family goes, including Kerry's mum and sister. It's a brilliant escape. Sometimes we think of going to other places, but then we always ask ourselves: 'Why would we bother?' We also tend to go off-season in January or February for a bit of winter sun, which you really can't beat."

Caroline Curran (32) is best-known for her role Maggie Muff in the play 50 Shades Of Red, White And Blue. She lives in Belfast with fiance Christopher. She says:

"One of the best holidays that I ever had was a school trip to Disneyland Paris when I was 11. I still remember everything about it, and I would love to go back. I got a photo with Cobra from Gladiators, and I even got to go up the Eiffel Tower. My best memory was driving up to the park and getting my first glimpse of the castle. Everyone in the group stopped and thought 'wow'.

These days my brother lives in Italy so I try to get away for five days to see him whenever I can. If I don't have much time off in between shows I'll go somewhere like the Slieve Donard Hotel in Newcastle for a couple of days. I just love relaxing in a really good hotel.

I get to travel a lot with my job and go to places I wouldn't necessarily visit. I went to Newfoundland in Canada on tour with a show about human trafficking. We were there for 10 days - it is an absolutely beautiful place. We thought we would be arriving in a country where there was six feet of snow on the ground, but in fact we were bathed in beautiful sunshine.

Everyone was so friendly. Interestingly, there are a lot of different accents out there because the people come from everywhere. I would never have got the chance to go there if it hadn't have been for my job."

Belfast Telegraph

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