Model agency boss Alison Clarke, DJ Rigsy, Miss Northern Ireland Rebekah Shirley and West End star Niamh Perry talk to Kerry McKittrick
There’s the holiday you’ll remember for the rest of your life – moonlight walks on the beach, lazy days by the swimming pool followed by Champagne at sunset. You might have been with some of your best friends living it up or perhaps you were having an intimate break with a loved one.
And then there are those breaks that are seared into our memories for all the wrong reasons – you might have had the worst time of your life sitting in a tent in a flooded field with rain-soaked sandwiches, or in a hotel that looked oh-so perfect in the brochure but turned out to be an unfinished building site when you arrived. Now that summer is officially here we thought we’d ask some well-known people about the times they really got away from it all – and the places they went that they desperately wanted to get away from.
‘Getting married in the Bahamas was brilliant’
Alison Clarke owns and runs ACA model agency in Belfast. She is married to international golfer Darren Clarke and has two grown-up sons and two stepsons. She says:
I’ve never really had a ‘worst’ holiday – I’m happy to get away anywhere whenever. But my best holiday has to be when Darren and I combined getting married and our honeymoon in the Bahamas into one holiday. It’s such a quiet, gorgeous place with very few people around.
We spend a lot of time in the Bahamas as we have a house there and we love it because it’s so peaceful.
There is a beach bar open during the day and then a club house restaurant open in the evening and that’s it – only two places. A lot of people have their own homes there so you do see people that you know.
I like lying in the sun so I like to get away somewhere hot. Darren switches off by going fishing and there’s a golf course there for him, too, so there’s plenty to keep me, him and the boys happy. We leave stuff so I can travel out there with hand luggage – it’s all very casual.
I’ve always tried to go somewhere every year; I have an excellent team here at ACA so I know the business is in good hands when I’m away.
Besides, with technology the way it is these days I can check my emails and check in with the office when I wake up in the mornings. I’m always sort of working which is a good thing in one way and a bad thing in others.
Still, that aspect of being able to keep in touch with everything back home has changed so much – I can remember going on girls’ holidays to Spain when I was younger and queuing up at the phone box to ring my mum back home.
I travel a lot with Darren anyway – with his schedule we only get a couple of weeks off at a time throughout the year so we might get to the Bahamas twice and then we might go to a nice hotel in Donegal towards the end of the summer for a long weekend.
When I was growing up my two brothers were show-jumpers, as they still are.
Our summer holidays were spent travelling all over Ireland to competitions. I’ve been all over the country and it’s beautiful but I don’t take my holidays here.
I see a lot of it when I’m working or when Darren is playing here.
We have so little time together though that we want to get away from it all when we can.”
‘My brother was perfect tour guide in Australia’
Rigsy (35), who is a radio presenter for Radio Ulster’s Across The Line and a club night promoter, lives in Belfast with his girlfriend Lisa. He says:
I’ve just had my best ever holiday. A couple of months ago I spent 10 days in Australia where I was visiting my brother Mark. He’s only 24 but he’s mature for his age while I’m immature for my age – we meet in the middle and we’re very close.
We spent time in Melbourne and Sydney and it was incredible, even though I wasn’t there for that long.
It was that perfect mix of having someone you want to spend time with who also knows all the best places to go. We went to an Australian football game and took an ocean drive to Port Campbell, before visiting Bondi Beach.
If I had gone to Australia and visited places that other people and guidebooks recommended then it probably would have been great but this way was much better.
There was no stress because Mark knew where he was going and the best way to get there.
To be honest, I get homesick as soon as I get on the M1 but this holiday was perfect and ticked all of the boxes.
My worst holiday was the classic family break people have when they’re eight or nine.
My family went to stay in a caravan in Donegal and my sister and I were both allowed to bring a friend each with us – my brother Mark wasn’t even born then.
We sat in the caravan for a week looking at the rain.
All we had to do was listen to the Suzanne Vega song My Name Is Luka that we had on a cassette, and play cards – I was a dab hand at poker by the end of the trip.
Rain seems to be a theme for bad holidays for me. My first two times at Glastonbury were in 1997 and 1998 – the two wettest years on record. I don’t care who was playing, it was not a fun way to spend a weekend.
I remember watching Portishead with the rain seeping through my hoodie and thinking I had never been so miserable.
I’m taking a staycation this summer with my girlfriend – we were supposed to spend a week in Italy but my new passport didn’t arrive in time so we’re going to Cork instead.
Because we don’t have to pay for expensive flights we’re treating ourselves to a really nice hotel with a jacuzzi in the room instead. It will be a real treat to spend a nice weekend relaxing together.”
‘The thought of being at home is pure heaven’
Niamh Perry (23) is a West End singer and actress from Bangor. She is currently playing Sophie on the international tour of Mamma Mia! She says:
The best holiday I ever had was when I took part in the Ulster Project as a teenager. The Ulster Project was a cross community scheme that worked with the families of teenagers in Northern Ireland and the USA.
I was about 15 and I spent a month living in Arlington in Texas with a local family. While I was there we worked with charities and underprivileged children. It was great fun but it was also a worthwhile thing to do and it’s something that’s stayed with me ever since. I went back for another month and the girl I stayed with came over here to visit me.
My worst holiday was when I was about nine years old. My parents decided to book an all- inclusive holiday to Spain for the whole family. We’d never done the package holiday thing before as we’d spent most of our summers in France or with our family in New York. I just remember there being loads of drunk, rowdy people and the same thing for breakfast every day.
Although I’m normally based in London, at the moment I’m on the international tour of Mamma Mia! so I’ve been living out of a suitcase for a while. The thought of being back in Northern Ireland is heaven to me – and I actually have a staycation planned. I have a few days off in August and plan to head straight to my parents’ house in Donegal to drink Guinness and sleep in front of the fire.
Saying that, being on the road with Mamma Mia! has been amazing. We are currently in Blackpool but previously we have played Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Hong Kong . I’m travelling the world and working while I do it.”
‘After university I want to see more of world’
Rebekah Shirley (18) is the current Miss Northern Ireland and lives in Ballymoney. She says:
I’ve just come back from Turkey, where I had an amazing couple of weeks in wonderful weather. It was my first proper holiday away with my boyfriend Michael and it was certainly all about relaxing.
Michael has been very busy with end of year exams as he’s a student and I was trying to get my college work done and out of the way so I could make room for my Miss Northern Ireland commitments. We lay by the pool and fitted in a bit of sight-seeing too.
I haven’t really had a bad holiday yet, although I haven’t been away for a few years. Normally I go on big family holidays to places in Spain. I’d also been to Turkey once before. An aunt of mine from Belfast goes to Portrush every summer to camp and I would often go and join her. It’s nice to be outside with no phones and get away from it all. Portrush is a brilliant place to go as you have the beaches and walks and there’s lots of craic.
I’d love to travel more. I’m planning to go to university once my year as Miss Northern Ireland is up but after that I want to see more of the world. I would love to go to Australia and certainly America so once I graduate this is certainly something I’m going to look into.”
And the celebs that come our way …
While our own celebs have enjoyed holidays around the world, Northern Ireland itself has been a magnet too for some well-known names:
- Sarah Jessica Parker and husband Matthew Broderick have been long-time visitors to this part of the world – they own a holiday home in Donegal and recently posed with a bride from Limavady after dining at a local hotel.
- Alicia Keys may have come to wow Belfast with her vocals but she made the most of her trip here to perform in May 2013. The songstress took her son on a trip to Streamvale Open Farm in Dundonald the next day
- LeAnn Rimes took to Twitter when sightseeing after her concert in September 2013. The star posted pics of an open-top bus tour with husband Eddie Cibrian, a visit to the Duke Of York bar in the Cathedral Quarter and and even a selfie outside the nearby St Anne’s Cathedral
Wish you were here?