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Our holiday misadventures: Northern Ireland stars on their summer breaks



Diona Doherty at home in Derry

Diona Doherty at home in Derry

Diona Doherty with husband Sean Hegarty

Diona Doherty with husband Sean Hegarty

Daryl Gurney and Aine in Gibraltar

Daryl Gurney and Aine in Gibraltar

Daryl Gurney and Aine in Gibraltar

Daryl Gurney and Aine in Gibraltar

Sean Coyle

Sean Coyle

Sean Coyle and his wife Patricia

Sean Coyle and his wife Patricia

Actress Olivia Nash

Actress Olivia Nash

Olivia Nash with the cast of the Hole in the Wall Gang

Olivia Nash with the cast of the Hole in the Wall Gang


Diona Doherty at home in Derry

Well known local stars talk to Leona O'Neill about their best - and worst - vacation memories, from early childhood days spent caravanning in Castlerock, hitting Las Vegas and cruising down the river Nile

‘Mum went into a diabetic coma in Lanzarote, she was near death’

Soft Border Patrol and Derry Girls actress Diona Doherty (30) is heading to the Lake District this year alongside her comedian husband Sean Hegarty (35) and her three stepsons aged 10, 12 and 15. The Londonderry-born woman says she expects it to be hilarious.

"Our summer is really busy," she says. "But we can just about manage to get away for a week. And we might go somewhere in the winter also.

"Because of our work schedules we tend to book last minute. We can't book anything too far ahead, because we could get booked for a job and start the next week and could be doing that job for two months.

"So it is quite difficult to plan ahead. We even booked our honeymoon at the last minute. We went to New York and a cruise around the Carribean - we'd booked it a few weeks before we went.

"We booked this year's summer holidays last week... we go this week and I'm still fretting that something might come through that I'll have to turn down."

She says she spent a lot of her younger years in Gran Canaria as well as on camping adventures, something she hopes she can relive with her own stepsons.

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"Growing up it was myself and my older brother and my mum and dad," she says.

"When I was really small we used to go camping around Sligo in the summer.

"We absolutely loved that. It was just your typical camping holiday, building fires and having fun around the camp and I feel that that will be the type of holiday we will have with the boys this summer. It's like history repeating itself.

"When I got a bit older my mum and dad loved the Canary Islands, so we went to Gran Canaria and Lanzarote quite a bit throughout my teens. It was fairly quiet and laid back. We actually spent Christmas Day there one year, which was quite strange.

"My mum brought a Christmas tree - a tiny hand-held one for our apartment - and we had our Christmas dinner at a restaurant on the beach, which was really weird but lovely for a change.

"I used to keep scrapbooks about our holidays - I would stick in photographs, our boarding passes and little bracelets that I'd bought at the market, and I would write a little diary. They are still in my mum's attic."

Diona says not all of her holiday memories are good ones.

"I remember on my first holiday abroad, when I was 11, we went to Gran Canaria," she says. "My uncle Martin came with us. He dived into the swimming pool, but it was into the shallow end and he busted his nose on the bottom of the pool.

"But he was laughing and he was calling to us to make sure we don't do that, as it hurt. And I remember laughing my head off at him and thinking 'how stupid is he?' And then I dived in directly after him and busted my nose on the bottom of the pool too," she recalls.

"I think my worst holiday nightmare was when I was 15 years old. We were in Lanzarote.

"My mum is diabetic and she went into a diabetic coma and was in hospital for a time over there.

"Her machine that tested her sugar levels was set to a decimal place wrong by the chemist the day before we went away. So her blood sugar levels were reading one decimal place out. She was near death, it was terrible," she adds.

"Thank goodness she came back and she recovered and was absolutely fine. But if it hadn't been for my dad and me both having some Spanish to communicate with the doctors and nurses and the ambulance staff it would have been a lot more difficult. It was a really scary time."

Diona says she is lucky to have been able to travel the world through work and play.

"I have been to New York twice - in the winter and in the summer - and I really, really loved it," she says.

"I loved Dubai also and also the islands in the Carribean. We did a hike through a rainforest there which was unbelievable. We got to swim in natural waterfalls which was gorgeous. I tend to get really bored in the sun.

"I love it, but Sean and I live quite an active lifestyle and, being entertainers, we get bored really easily so we don't really lie around and sunbathe. We like the action-packed holidays where we are out doing a few excursions.

"We have always enjoyed going on city breaks," she says. "The first one we went on was to Budapest. It's just three or four nights in a different city, experiencing a different culture.

"We tend to walk the legs off ourselves and try and see anything.

"I've always loved the idea of working with travel. I don't think the idea of lying on a beach is something that I'm interested in and we've been really lucky to have been able to travel through work.

"I got to shoot in Germany a while back and did a play in New York. Sean has been gigging in Cyrpus, Brussels and in lots of different countries. So we both have ambitions basically for people to pay for our holidays!"

‘I’m in the World Series of Darts this year so I’m off to Las Vegas’

Londonderry-born darts sensation Daryl Gurney (33), is currently in Las Vegas at the World Series of Darts. He says he hopes his partner Aine and children, Caoirse (15) and Daryl (15 months), will be able to join him in the last leg of the competition in New Zealand in August.

"The darts never stops, but we usually get August off if you don't get picked for the World Series," he says.

"But I am in it this year so I'm off to Las Vegas now, then Germany and then New Zealand and Australia in August.

"I'm hoping that Aine can get time off work and as the children want to come out it would be great if they can join me in New Zealand for a week and then two weeks in Australia."

Las Vegas is a long way from Castlerock, where Daryl spend idyllic childhood summer holidays.

"I have three sisters and a brother - when we were growing up, like every other family, we were a bit like cats in the house, fighting. Mum and dad would have taken us to a caravan in Castlerock. We would go down for a week, playing Monopoly and cards, taking the dog along the beach. It was lovely.

"I think the best childhood memory that stands out in my mind is the year that all seven of us were in Castlerock. We had really good fun, it was great weather, we played cards and some of us slept outside. It was great.

"I remember one year going to Castlerock and I asked to stop off at the Sports Factory in Coleraine as I wanted to buy myself a new pair of trainers. We went to the shop, I got my trainers and in the car park, which was beside the river, I started messing about with stones. I threw them up in the air and was kicking them into the river. My brand new shoe - not even 10 minutes old - wasn't tied on properly and was last seen floating down the river. I was in the bad books with my mum and dad that day.

"We never had plenty of money for fancy holidays when we were kids. We were lucky to get away every few years. But they were great times."

Daryl says he has been lucky to have travelled all over the world, but his heart lies at home.

"I travel so much," he says. "I am a bit of a homebird and when I get home I love to go for a drive to Portrush or Portstewart and down over the border.

"I liked being in New Zealand and Australia, I like Las Vegas. I have been in a lot of locations and I have probably forgotten a lot of them. When you're travelling every single week, they tend to all look the same.

"Gibraltar is a lovely place," Daryl adds. "It's an English speaking place and still has the English currency. The first year we went there it was just stunning in the sunshine. We are going there again in the next few months.

"I do travel a lot and go to places all over the world. Anyone would think that it's more of a holiday when I come home, but I'm a real hands-on dad, so it's all go then too."

'Theme parks are amazing, even if you're too old for half of the rides'

Radio Ulster's Sean Coyle says he loves going on holiday, as long as someone else organises everything and packs for him. He says his favourite holidays with his wife Patricia and their three daughters, have been to America.

"We have nothing planned for this year," he says. "I say to my wife, do you want to go anywhere? I say that I'll go if she wants to go. She says she'll go if I want to go and it goes on like that forever. We haven't decided on anywhere yet. That's just how we roll.

"These last 25 years we have always gone on holiday with my sister-in-law and her husband. Between the three of them they organised where we would go. I was always the last to know. Sometimes I didn't even know where we were going until we got to the airport. I just turn up at the airport and go where I'm told to go. There was one time I arrived at the airport and Patricia asked me to go and check when we would be boarding. I went up to the desk and asked about the plane to Portugal and came back and duly reported that we weren't going for another hour, we had time for a cup of tea.

"After a time Patricia went up and checked and came back down and we had to run to the gate as our plane was boarding. I had been asking about the wrong destination.

"We weren't going to Portugal at all, but somewhere else. So that's how much I know about our holidays."

Sean says his childhood summers were spent on the beaches of Donegal and the streets of his home town of Londonderry.

"We never went on holiday when I was a child," he says. "We would have had a day in Portrush, or a day in Buncrana with our mother. We would have got the bus there and mum would have made sandwiches which we ate on the beach. There were flasks of tea.

"I remember in our area every year there was a bus run and all the families and children would have gone out for the day.

"Our parents would have lit a fire on the beach, boiled water and made tea. We would have played about on the beach and then got the bus home.

"And that was our summers, playing about the streets and fields at home.

"It was only when I got married that I really went on holiday."

He says that his wife organises the holiday from start to finish, and that his only responsibility is his shaving kit.

"If someone organises me, tells me where I am going and packs my suitcase, I would go anywhere," he says. "I don't do packing, my wife does that. She buys everything and puts it all in the suitcase. The only thing that I have responsibility for is a toilet bag with my shaving stuff in it. That's it. That is the height of my tasks."

Sean adds: "I loved Bulgaria when we were there. We have been to Florida five times and had some great times there. Doing the theme parks is just amazing, even though you are too old and afraid to go on half of the rides.

"I would love to see more of America. I love those holiday programmes that Billy Connelly makes where he rides around on a motorbike. I would love to do that. Me and William Crawley could do one. He'd have to organise it. And he'd have to drive it. It would be like Driving Miss Daisy, except it's Driving Mr Coyle. William Crawley driving and me in a sidecar. I'm sure it would be brilliant."

‘My favourite spot in the whole world would be somewhere in Italy, I love being around the lakes’

Give My Head Peace actress Olivia Nash says that, growing up in Larne, she didn't have to travel far to find a nice beach. The widow, who has one grown-up daughter, Patricia, is heading to Lourdes this summer.

"This year I'm being holy," she says. "I'm going away to pray for you all. I'm off to Lourdes. And later on, I love Donegal so I'm going up to Rathmullan and then I'll probably go to the sun somewhere, but I have nothing booked yet.

"My favourite spot in the whole world would be somewhere in Italy. I love around the lakes. But wherever I am is where I love."

She says she whiled away wonderful summers as a child in Scotland, spending precious time with her father who worked on the Heysham boat.

"We had such a lovely beach in Larne that most of our holidays were just playing outside," she recalls. "My father was a chef and he worked on the Heysham boats at that time. To see daddy, we would have gone across to Heysham or Morecambe and we had some lovely family holidays there growing up - my mummy and daddy and my sister and I.

"With my father being at sea, he was away quite a bit and it was very precious to have that time together. Morecambe was a typical 'kiss me quick' type of place. I was a really big laugher as a child and every morning down on the promenade I would go to where the laughing policeman and the laughing sailor were. And people used to stand on this platform and laugh. I laughed so much we ended up every morning with an audience. There were lovely happy memories about silly things like that.

"When I was at school I used to go up to my friend in Ballymena and a lot of the families there would take houses in Portstewart for the month of July. I was very lucky, because I always got to go up there. I have lovely memories of that and swimming in the pond and looking at boys, that was the big thing.

"I had an aunt who lived in London and we would get over there for a few days and that, as a child, was magical. After I got married and we had our daughter we used to go to Donegal every year. I remember one year my husband Bill saying to me that he thought we should maybe go a little further afield. So the next we went to Sligo, then the next year went to Galway and then we were really brave and went to Limerick."

Olivia says that she is lucky to have had a disaster-free holiday history, bar some dodgy food in Sicily.

"I haven't really had any holiday disasters," she says. "I have been on holidays where I have thought to myself, I will never go back there. I was in Sicily once and it is a really, really beautiful place. I'm not sure if it was where we were staying or elsewhere but the food was very spicy and I didn't like it at all. I almost lost weight on that holiday.

"I love going on holiday. One of the most amazing holidays I have ever had was to Morocco. It was superb. Five-star anywhere in the world is not the same as five-star in Marrakesh. We went right around the country and saw so many different standards of life and different, wonderful things. I was just so blown away by it all.

"I did a Nile cruise one time also, which was terrific. We went to Cairo and saw everything. I'm not the type of person who can lie by a pool.

"If you saw my figure, I don't suit lying by the pool. I love to get out and about. That's what a holiday is for me."

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