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The best of the UK and Ireland: opt for a staycation

COMMERCIAL FEATURE

There are obvious hotspots around Europe to get away to at any time of the year.

However, it seems that, in gravitation towards the heyday of the mid 20th Century, destinations in England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland are again becoming popular with tourists. Whilst holidays in Spain, France and Greece continue to be attractive to many, some have felt the pinch of the economic downturn more than others and foreign trips aren’t quite as financially accessible as they might have been five or so years ago.

Throughout the UK there are lesser publicised gems that you may not have thought about as a holiday destination - locations that can offer great value and great entertainment for the more prudent patriots of the British Isles and Ireland.

One such jewel, which may not get as much attention as it deserves, is Cardiff. The Welsh capital is situated in Glamorgan, the largest county in Wales, and despite its relatively low profile, it’s regarded as the 10th largest city in the whole of the UK, with a population of over 300,000. You may be surprised to learn that Cardiff has grown into a big tourist destination (thanks in part to the construction of the Millennium Stadium) – last year it attracted over 18 million visitors.

As with many UK cities, Cardiff prospered from shipping trade routes in the 19th Century to become a major UK port. Cardiff is a sporting hotbed and was named European City of Sport just a couple of years ago. With a thriving rugby scene (and a long suffering throng of football fans) it boasts the splendid Millennium Stadium, which hosts some of the biggest international sporting events and will feature 11 matches as part of the football event at the Olympic Games in 2012.

However, the most outstanding features of Cardiff and the surrounding areas are of course natural ones. If you like fresh air, stunning, hilly countryside walks and breathtaking views at the end of those journeys then look no further than Cardiff. In a city also full of opera, museums, historical guided tours and some superb value 3-star hotels in Cardiff, it’s a very interesting place to visit.

If Wales doesn’t warm your cockles, how about a visit to Belfast? With a huge amount of investment flooding in since the advent of greater political stability, ample and stunning coastline, plus some of the nicest people you are likely to meet anywhere, Northern Ireland is another fast growing holiday and short break destination. As with Cardiff, Hotels in Belfast generally cost a lot less than those of equivalent quality in other major cities and you will be treated to some of the best hospitality in Europe.

A short hop on the train or plane will take you to Dublin, the capital city of Éire: another fantastic option if you wish to holiday closer to home. Dublin is already famous for its tourism of course but, in the light of the recent economic downturn, tourists perhaps need reminding of its many attractions. The heart of the Guinness world, Dublin also has some of the finest restaurants on the continent, serving fresh fish, beef and dairy produce that are second to none and very hard to resist. Have a look at HotelClub lodgings in Dublin for some really decent offers on top quality places to stay around the island. It really doesn’t have to cost the earth to get away this summer and the British Isles and Ireland offer great value for people feeling the pinch.

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