If the recent burst of summer sunshine saw you putting your holiday plans on hold for the time being, you probably weren’t alone. The past few weeks have seen visitors flocking to Northern Ireland’s beaches, parks and seafronts in huge numbers to soak up the rays and enjoy the best of Northern Ireland’s natural beauty.
Tourism contributes around £1.5bn to the economy in Northern Ireland, according to figures from tourism agency, Visit Britain, putting the lie to the idea that the perfect holiday has to be several time zones away.
But just what is it that makes the perfect holiday for so many of us? And are those slickly marketed package holidays nowadays really better than those we remember from our own childhoods?
With the summer holidays now in full swing, we asked a number of well-known local faces to tell us what they look for when planning their summer vacation — as well as sharing their golden memories from years past.
Broadcaster Tina Campbell (43), who is from Bangor, is married to John Paul and is mother of Charlotte (13), Sophie (10) and Ben (6). She says:
For the first time in years we haven't made any plans to go abroad this summer, something which my eldest daughter finds strange because since she was little we would have always gone away. But for this summer we have decided to stay at home for a number of reasons.
We will venture to the coast together at some point and hopefully take in Tollymore, Newcastle and the Giant’s Causeway rather than flying out of the country.
I managed to see a lot of the world before the kids were born, like the USA and the Dominican Republic, but Spain has been the one place I would be used to going to. I love to travel and have always loved visiting different places but for us Spain is the place we would visit on a yearly basis.
I love the beach and so a beach holiday is what we look for when we're looking to go abroad. The beach is especially important when you are travelling with a young family as you can relax while knowing the children are nearby and are safe. It's also my type of holiday as you can still soak up the culture of Spain. When we travel we like to eat out at the same time as the locals and this helps you take in the atmosphere and even practise your Spanish, too.
My favourite memory of being on holiday is definitely when we brought the children to Florida. It was about six years ago and friends of ours went too with their children. We all had a ball while staying in a fabulous villa. We took the kids to Disneyland and the beaches. All being well, we would love to do the same kind of holiday again, possibly next year.
A few years ago, around Easter time, we were going away to Spain for a break. From the beginning of the trip it was a nightmare. First of all there was a problem with one of the passports belonging to the children. Then we ended up missing our flight and spent extra time hanging around in the airport. By the time we got on board our flight, I had picked up a stomach bug and I fainted on the plane. So when we landed we were greeted by an ambulance crew who had very little English. Thankfully I do have some Spanish so we were able to communicate but it was definitely the worst experience I've had on holidays. I ended up being sick for half of it.
I remember how hard my mother and father worked when my brother and I were young. We're lucky to have great memories of being on holiday together and Majorca is one place that really sticks out in my memory. When we came home from our holiday, I spent some weeks with my grandparents at Ballywalter. Mum and dad would have to work during the week so they'd come to see us at the weekend. We'd spend
endless amounts of time playing on the beach until it was time for school to start. When the sun decides to come out you really see how beautiful Northern Ireland is. We live in the Ards Peninsula and it's a gorgeous place to be based.
When I'm off from work I love to take the kids down to the beach and spend some time with them outdoors. Anywhere along the north coast is best.
Singer Peter Corry (47) was born in Belfast and lives in London with his partner Fleur. He has three children from a previous relationship. He says:
I haven't made any plans yet for this summer, I might get away at some stage but work is hectic. It really depends if I have time.
Apart from going home every now and again, there's nowhere I would normally go on a break but Italy is definitely a favourite place of mine, it has everything I need out of a holiday.
I suppose in Italy you can have the best of both a beach holiday and a city break, if that's what you want. I do like to relax by a pool in the sun but I'm not someone who likes sitting around all day.
My best memory of a holiday probably dates back to when my children were younger. As a family we used to go away for about a month or so to Europe and liked to make it up as we went along. I liked the fact that we didn't have everything figured out.
When I was younger, about 22, I travelled to Hawaii and when I got there I realised my wallet was missing. I think I spent the first night there on a park bench.
As a child we used to go on a caravan holiday to Castlerock; it was always really enjoyable and I look back fondly on it.
Apart from those holidays in Castlerock, Groomsport on the North Down coast would be one of my favourite destinations in Northern Ireland, also for my memories from when I was younger.
Peter will be appearing at the Summer Swing event at Hillsborough Castle on Sunday, August 11. For details, visit summerswing.co.uk
Ulster Unionist MLA Jo-Anne Dobson (47) was born in Banbridge. As wife to husband John and mother to sons Elliott (22) and Mark (20), Jo-Anne juggles her job as Ulster Unionist Party MLA with life on the farm in Waringstown. She says:
As well as my job, we have a busy farm at home and we usually try to get as much done as possible but it really depends on the weather. I always feel like everyone else is hoping for a heatwave so they can enjoy the sunshine whereas I'm hoping for rain so that we can leave the farm and get away for a weekend. Ironically, the farm is at its busiest time of year when Stormont breaks so that's why it's so hard to plan anything.
Last year we had a great holiday in Canada. We booked it within about five days of going. We've always wanted to see the Calgary Stampede so we were delighted when we got to see it in its 100th year, it was really special. As a family we tend to love adventure holidays and I think that's why last year was so enjoyable.
Because of time limitations it's very difficult to get away. I do love to go for a city break but I don't mind the sun either.
What was my best holiday? Well, last year’s was a hard one to beat, but the very best was probably the time when my husband and I joined my sister and her son with my mum and dad in Florida. We brought the kids to Disneyland and despite the queues for everything, they loved every minute of it. We had a typical house you can imagine renting in Florida with the pool in the back and it was lovely, as we were all able to stay under the one roof.
It's special to me because my mum and dad worked very hard so to get that time together was invaluable.
I can't put my finger on any terrible experiences we've had in the past on holiday. However, the year my son Mark had had his kidney transplant we went on a break to Scotland. While there, Mark began to feel unwell so we ended up having to come home early on the boat to bring him back to hospital. It was the worry really and as a parent you have to prioritise. Mark won't even go back there today after that experience.
As a child it was just mum, dad and my sister and I. We would go to places like Portrush and Bangor on day trips and bring a picnic sometimes. But my favourite memory from those days has to be the time we went to Majorca, mainly because it gave me the memories of spending quality time with my family, much like the time we went to Florida.
We haven't made any plans to go on a foreign holiday this summer. If we do decide to go somewhere it will probably be a last minute thing near the end of the month.
We recently went to Cambridge for four days for my eldest son Elliott's graduation so that was a nice break.
Locally, Portrush and Portstewart are two destinations that would be at the top of my list. If it does rain when I'm off and the farming comes to a standstill, we'll probably try and get up to the coast for a few days. I love to be walking on the beach with my hood up in the rain.
Lynda Bryans is married to former broadcaster and Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt. After a successful career in television, Lynda balances running media production company Take I Take II with her husband, lecturing at Belfast Metropolitan College and being mum to two sons, PJ (18) and Christopher (16). She says:
Last year, as our sons are getting older, we thought it was going to be our last time doing the family holiday thing together so we went all out and travelled to America. The boys loved it, as did Mike and I, we really enjoyed it.
We've not booked any holidays for the summer yet. Normally we'd have something organised by now but our boys are both teenagers now and they want to do more of their own thing.
We went up to the north coast while the weather was great but we probably won't be going abroad at this stage.
We've always gone down the line of a beach holiday, especially when the children were younger. At that stage we had to keep them entertained so a beach holiday suited us down to the ground. When you don't have small kids, it's easy to go somewhere and head out for a drink or read a book without having to worry about them. But when you have a young family it's a different story. I do love the heat, I always have, but I don't sunbathe anymore, what with the risks it has on health.
Last year's trip to the States would be pretty hard to beat as far as best holidays go. It was the holiday of a lifetime. Between myself and Mike we had both saved up our Airmiles but had never used them, so they were a great help in paying for the journey. Especially in the times we're in at the moment, I certainly couldn't have afforded it without the Airmiles.
Before the boys were born, we went down to west Cork and Co Kerry for a break. We had rented this house that we found in a brochure and it looked perfect in the pictures but when we got there it was horrific. It was damp, musty, just horrible. So that was definitely my worst holiday experience.
Other than that we've been really lucky that we haven't had any bad encounters on holidays. Obviously when you're a parent on holidays, safety is a worry and you think about the dangers of the pools and balconies but, thankfully, nothing happened in my family's experience.
When I was growing up, mum and dad used to bring me to Portrush. I'm still very fond of the place. I loved being brought there, going for dinner and getting a chance to go to the amusements. Even my boys love going up now and again. It brings back memories.
Mum used to take me to Donaghadee, too, when I was a child. Dad worked as a builder so he couldn't come with us all of the time. But that just made us really look forward to the time he would get off. I remember playing endlessly in the park there so that's a place that stands out, too.
Overall, Portstewart is probably one of my preferred destinations in Northern Ireland. We all love it up there and Mike is particularly fond of it. It's one of the places we would have visited before the kids came along.
Wendy Austin (60) is a journalist and presenter of BBC Radio Ulster’s current affairs programme, Talkback. Wendy is married to Frank Hewitt and has three grown-up children, Niall, Kerry and Clare, from her first marriage. Last year, Wendy travelled to Buckingham Palace where she was presented with an MBE for her contribution to broadcasting by Prince Charles. She says:
We're just home from Italy where we spent a couple of weeks. We were at Lake Garda for some of the time and on the Mediterranean coast for the rest of it. We like to bring our own car when we go and we tend to go back every year if possible.
Neither a beach holiday or a city break specifically appeal to me. That's the beauty of it when we go to Italy. With the lake at your doorstep you can stay active and move around quite easily. I do like to see various places while I'm there but I love to take a few days to relax and do nothing, too.
After Frank and I got married we went to the Seychelles on our honeymoon. It was gorgeous, paradise, so that would be my best ever holiday moment. But Italy comes close too; it's hard to pick one.
My worst? Shortly after my dad passed away we were due to go to Mauritius. I think it was around February and there were huge snowfalls due across the UK. We ended up having to haul our luggage down through England and onto the tube. When we arrived at Heathrow Airport and were beginning the check-in process, the airline announced that our flight was being cancelled.
We eventually arrived in Mauritius a day later than we were supposed to and the weather there was a big letdown, too. We spent the first few days waiting for a massive storm to pass.
I can recall many great summers spent as a child with my grandparents in Portstewart. Although the weather wasn't always guaranteed, I remember watching Wimbledon on television while it was pouring with rain outside.
In Northern Ireland, Newcastle and Dundrum in Co Down would be my favourite destinations, I think it’s because I love walking there and it's great to be near the coast.
Margaret Ritchie (55), an SDLP MP and a former Assembly Member for South Down, lives in Downpatrick. She says:
I haven't been away on holiday yet this year and I don't really mind as the weather has been lovely. This month I will be going to the Edinburgh Festival and I'm also planning a trip to Jersey at some stage. I've never been to Jersey but from what I've heard it's beautiful there.
About five years ago I travelled to Boston with some friends who I have known for several years. It was a remarkable visit as we went sightseeing and shopping, all the usuals, and we went on the John F Kennedy Trail, too. It was fantastic apart from the heavy thunderstorms we got caught in.
Thankfully I can say that I have never had a really terrible holiday.
Nothing stands out in my memory, everything has always gone more or less according to plan — so far, that is!
When I was a child I used to visit my grandparents in Cavan at my mother's home during the summer. I remember enjoying it immensely as a little girl; it was that holiday feeling, I suppose, with no school and I have great childhood memories to take from that.
In all honesty I've never actually been on holiday in Northern Ireland. In saying that, I recall one time when I was very young, we drove from Cavan to Newcastle and I remember thinking ‘Why are we going to this place?' as the weather conditions were horrendous. But, as luck would have it, the sun was out in Newcastle when we arrived. We had a lovely time, it was nice to go somewhere new and I loved that it wasn't raining like it had been in Cavan. For that reason Newcastle would be my favourite holiday destination in Northern Ireland, mainly because of that nice memory.
Where the celebs like to get away from it all
Ibiza may be known for attracting young socialites and groups of students to its party filled shores but actor Leonardo Di Caprio (38) was also spotted soaking up some sun on the Balearic beauty spot.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge spent some quality time with the Middletons on the Caribbean island of Mustique. This trip to paradise was a welcome escape as it came just after the news of Kate’s pregnancy and morning sickness dominated the media headlines.
Supermodel Heidi Klum (39) brought her children and new boyfriend Martin Kristen to Hawaii in April this year but the vacation took a turn for the worse when the fashion mogul’s son Henry (7) was pulled underwater by the force of the waves and almost drowned before his mother ran to his rescue.
Beyoncé and Jay-Z visited Havana, Cuba, on holiday in April to celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary. However the trip reignited the debate over a ban on US citizens visiting the Caribbean nation.
The Saturdays singer Una Healy and her rugby star husband Ben Foden recently embarked on a family holiday to the Algarve, Portugal, their first holiday with daughter Aoife-Belle. But Una got into some difficulty in the water and was brought ashore by boat.
Barbadian beauty Rihanna had a lavish two-week trip to the south of France earlier this summer with best friend and model Cara Delevingne.