An escape to Donegal is fast becoming the dream holidays of summer 2021, as local self-catering operators note a surge in bookings.
With international travel up in the air, holidaymakers are looking to rental homes, campsites and caravan parks for breaks that seem much more likely than jetsetting around the world.
After a bumper summer last year, many are putting destination Donegal at the top of their wish list.
Sonia Mc Gonigle, who runs a collection of luxury holiday homes under the brand of ‘My Donegal Escape’, has never seen demand like it.
“It is unreal, there are calls every evening and if it isn’t the phone it’s AirBNB or TripAdvisor,” Sonia told Donegal Daily.
Bookings to her properties are up an estimated 70-80% for this time of year. In her 20 years in hospitality, it’s been her biggest ever start to a year.
Despite April holidays put in doubt by reports of extended restrictions, Sonia is hopeful about welcoming guests in the summertime.
She said: “They haven’t given us any guarantees yet for staycations. Obviously I’m disappointed about April, I thought we might have got intercounty travel for April or May, I thought even if I lost my bookings I can invite Donegal guests.
“I don’t mind if we do a full lockdown until May if it means we can save everybody’s summer.
“It would be a disaster if there were restrictions in July or August. Every guest that has booked, they are all so looking forward to it.
“I’ve learned my lesson to write everything in pencil. You just don’t know what will happen.”
Sonia manages both large and intimate self-catering homes in beautiful locations in Ballyliffin, Clonmany, Ardara, and Donegal Town. After running a B&B at Glen House in Clonmany for 16 years, she decided last summer to rent out the entire home as an option for large families.
The Glenevin Waterfall behind the property, and the popular little ice-cream shop beside it, saw the busiest footfall in years, Sonia said.
Many of those who visited Donegal last summer are keen to come back, she notes.
“You love seeing them booking again because you know you’ve done something right,” Sonia said.
“Donegal offers good value and we are so lucky with how many outdoor activities we can offer.”
With holidays to sunny Italy and Spain cancelled, it has also emerged that people are more willing to travel further for a week-long break in the north west.
“Last summer we had jokes that there must be nobody left in Cork,” Sonia said.
“We saw so many from Cork. This has given people further south the opportunity to make that journey up. I have people from Cork, Dublin and Cavan all coming back after staying with us last year.”
Demand may be high, but Sonia said there is no need to panic book.
“There is a perception that everything is full, but what I see happening is UK bookings might be cancelled and more options will open up,” she said.
“I’m about 80% full at the moment. People are so ready for their escape this summer.”Tags: