Prior to Boris Johnson’s ‘Roadmap’ announcement on 23 February 2021 staycation bookings had already gone through the roof.
Since his announcement, while sun seekers eagerly await for an easing of international travel, UK-based holiday firms Hoseasons and Cottages.com have both reported record-breaking surges.
Whether they’ve been spurred on by the UK’s rapid vaccine rollout, or are simply more canny bookers, there has been a particular surge in bookings by the over 50s. With both ABTA and SAGA reporting a boom in staycations.
While for many, those staycation bookings will mean the Yorkshire Dales, Peak and Lake Districts, Snowdonia or Cornwall, for many more it has traditionally meant the Emerald Isle.
With its devastatingly beautiful coastline, UNESCO world heritage sites and a whole treasure trove of touristy gems, Ireland has long-since been that idyllic escape and home from home for many of us.
But if the UK’s Covid-19 tier system isn’t enough to get your head around, what measures does Ireland have in place?
And, crucially, now that the UK has left the EU, what post-Brexit rules apply to Brits entering the country?
COVID restrictions are, for now, the first hurdle. Both Northern Ireland and the Republic are under similar restrictions to those on mainland Britain. If not harsher.
At the time of writing, tier-5 restrictions or lockdown applies across the whole of the island, and will remain in place until 1 April in the North and 5 April in the South. And there is currently a quarantine period for all arrivals (not of the hotel variety, though!).
News that will no doubt dampen many hopes of an Easter break. But don’t be too down-hearted; on the positive side, these restrictions are up for review on 18 March. And if ‘conditions are met’ you may still get that emerald green light.
Some hotels and holiday parks are already taking bookings in anticipation, with tourist sites across all counties poised to open their doors.
Citizens Information in Ireland and nidirect in Northern Ireland are both reliable sources of the most up-to-date information on COVID restrictions on the island.
So, what will visitors face at the border? If, indeed, there is one.
Well, there is one, but not a physical one. And it’s not where you might imagine. Officially, the border is in the Irish Sea. Which in many respects means that visiting Northern has become like visiting any EU country.
However, for the most part, the Irish Sea acts only as a trade barrier. And, fortunately for staycationers, the Common Travel Area – an agreement between the Irish and UK governments dating back to 1923 – still stands.
This allows citizens on both sides to travel freely. So, you’re not going to get stopped going from North to South or vice versa.
There are, however, some important changes that apply on entering the country. You must carry photo ID, with some carriers demanding a passport.
You can no longer simply pop your pets in the car and go. UK Pet Passports are no longer valid. You must obtain an Animal Health Check certificate from your vet for both Northern and Southern Ireland.
And you must get a Green Card from your vehicle insurance provider to drive in the Republic.
Other rules do apply, especially if you’re not a British or Irish national, so it’s important to check before planning your trip. Again, nidirect is a great source.
So, is a staycation in Ireland worth all this aggravation? Most definitely!
While Ireland’s breath-taking coastline and mountains could’ve been manufactured with hikers or cyclists in mind, the whole of Ireland is positively brimming with things to do. Much of which is conveniently outside…
As well as natural phenomenon, such as the stunning wild West Coast, Giant’s Causeway and the magical Marble Arch Caves, you’re never far from spectacular man-made attractions, from Norman castles to Belfast’s new Titanic Quarter.
And movie fans will delight in a tour of the surreally striking locations used as backdrops in the production of Game of Thrones and Star Wars.
Ireland’s cities, too, have plenty to offer. Dublin’s hipster vibe, I’m sure, will still be felt no matter what restrictions apply.
And there’s no better way to while away an afternoon than to visit the Guinness factory. You’ll be guided back through the history of the famous porter and, at the end of the tour, get to sample some of the ‘black stuff’ for yourself in the stylish gravity bar.
Best of all, though, are the warm, friendly and welcoming people of the Emerald Isle who will be in the making of your staycation.
But before you join the canny bookers, whether you’re booking your staycation in Ireland or the UK, please make sure your insurance covers last-minute COVID changes.