Travel talk: where the experts holiday-Lawrence Bate

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Lawrence Bate, director of Tourism Ireland in Great Britain and an active traveller, chats to CD Traveller about the Emerald Isle, his love of South Korea and loyalty to Lonely Planet

Lawrence Bate

Lawrence Bate

What do you like to do on holiday?
As much as possible! I’m not one for just sitting on a beach so I’ll go running, cycling, canoeing – basically anything active so I prefer holidays in the mountains as opposed to flying somewhere and flopping on a beach. Being active means that I can also eat plenty when I’m on holiday – I love trying whatever the local speciality is. The other great thing about going away is being able to spend quality time with my wife and two boys (aged 9 and 13) although I probably drive them mad!

Where did you last go?
I went to Mexico with my family for three weeks last summer. We flew to Mexico City and then got a bus to Morelia (declared a world heritage city in 1991) where we picked up a hire car and did a circuit that included hiking up a volcano in the hail, marvelling at archaeological sites and chilling out on some fantastic beaches. With the concerns about swine flu a lot of people had stayed away from Mexico, so we hardly heard another English voice while we there. Although we spent 21 days in Mexico, we really only saw a small part of the country.

Do you know where you’re going next year?
We’re off skiing over Easter and plan to go to Northern Ireland in the May half term. I’ve been to Northern Ireland on business many times but it’ll be great to show the family the sights and sounds of Belfast and Londonderry as well as the amazing drive round the coast between the two cities, taking in places like the Giant’s Causeway and some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. I’m also hoping we’ll get time to go walking in the Sperrins as it’s very different to the walking we’ve done before in Britain. We’ve got nothing booked for the summer but Montenegro is top of the list – for a small country it seems to have an enormous variety of landscapes and activities.

The River Lagan, Belfast

Of all the places you’ve been to, what was your favourite?
It’s really tough to single out one place in particular as so many have special memories. My wife and I went on honeymoon to South Korea and Japan and we have also lived in Turkey and Chile where we took the opportunity to travel around as much as we could. Since returning to England we’ve been to many great places – the West Coast of Ireland, northern Spain, Estonia, Iceland and Mexico – each of them wonderful in different ways. However if I had to pick just one, I guess it would be South Korea.

Why was it your favourite?
The scenery in South Korea’s interior is amazing with incredible temples in places only accessible by going over bridges spanning deep ravines. Also the people were unbelievably friendly – we were even invited by a group of Buddhist nuns to have lunch with them.

Which destination do you wish to travel but haven’t been?
There are so many places I’ve still not been to. I’ve heard great things about Canada, especially the West Coast and the Rockies. We’ve got friends who live in the Yukon and some of their stories and pictures are amazing. I’ also fancy going to India as it would be such a different cultural experience.

South Korea holds a special place in Lawrence's heart

South Korea gets Lawrence's vote

In your own country, what would you recommend tourists see that isn’t in the travel guides?
There are three standouts in Ireland that often get overlooked by visitors. First up, I’d recommend signing up for one of the many walking tours in Belfast – it’s a city with an fascinating history and the guides are well informed and have that special Belfast wit to boot. Secondly  head for the beach at Crookhaven in County Cork – almost as far south west as you can go is a wide expanse of golden sand and you can sit under clear blue skies (we had great weather when we were down there) and gaze out over the Atlantic Ocean. Finally check out the cave at Doolin in County Clare –it contains the longest stalactite in the northern hemisphere and is just awesome.

How do you plan your holiday?
I’m a guide book fanatic, especially Lonely Planet. I’ll get a bunch out of the library and thumb through them trying to imagine what a holiday in the particular place would be like, then once I’m pretty sure I’ll buy the relevant guide and plan things to do on the holiday. I use a combination of Lonely Planet and Trip Advisor recommendations to get ideas for accommodation and they’ve never let me down!


Where do you see tourism in your country in 10 years time?
It’s difficult to predict as the world is changing so fast. I believe that people will increasingly want more authentic and enriching experiences and Ireland is well positioned to take advantage of that trend. For British visitors in particular, Ireland is so close and yet so different to Britain – while there are obvious similarities like the language, the culture is very distinctive and of course the warmth and friendliness of people in Ireland means that visitors can get so much more out of holiday there.

How often do you go away?
As often as possible! Ideally two or three times a year with a few camping weekends closer to home. My travel plans, like most peoples, very much depend on budget as well as time.

Irish popstar and presenter, Ronan Keating (left), with Lawrence

Boyzone's Ronan Keating (left) with Lawrence

Thanks Lawrence!
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