TRAVEL Q&A

Irish Brew

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By Andrea Sachs
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, May 7, 2006

Q. My wife and I are traveling to Ireland and would like to tour distilleries and breweries. Any suggestions?

Ty Livieri, Alexandria

A. In Ireland, the Guinness brewery is the country's top attraction, and whiskey is poetically referred to as uisce beatha , a Celtic term that translates to "water of life." In addition, the pub-to-person ration is pretty high. "Almost every evening out begins or ends in a pub," says Katie Campbell of Specialized Travel Services (800-664-7474, http://www.special-ireland.com/ ), which customizes trips to Ireland, including pub tours.

Many breweries open their doors for tours and samplings. At the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin (011-353-1-408 4800, http://www.guinness-storehouse.com/ ), more than 3 million visitors have passed through its hallowed brewery. Besides the tour, the facility offers an interactive museum and a free pint at Gravity, the country's highest bar. Beer aficionados can also visit Kinsale Brewing Co. in Kinsale, County Cork, and Carlow Brewing in Carlow, among others. Micropubs -- such as Franciscan Well Microbrewery in Cork and Biddy Early Brewery in County Clare's Inagh -- also mix beer production and cocktail hour.

Among distilleries, the Jameson Distillery in Dublin no longer produces whiskey, but visitors can learn about the malting process on a guided tour, followed by a dram at the Irish Whiskey Corner Bar. Similarly, Locke's Distillery is a mill-cum-museum west of Dublin, in Kilbeggan County's Westmeath.

For a working distillery, you'll have to travel -- south to Midleton in County Cork, or north to Cooley (County Louth) or Bushmills (County Antrim). Midleton, part of the Jameson family, is notable for its old stone buildings, water mill and country farmhouse restaurant. If you're based in Dublin, Campbell suggests driving two hours to Belfast and stopping over at Cooley, just off the highway. After lunch in Belfast, drive 2 1/2 hours northwest along the scenic Antrim Coast Road, which leads to Bushmills. You can complete the trip in a day, but to enjoy the real Ireland (i.e., the pubs), break the trip into two days.

For more information on Ireland: Tourism Ireland, 800-223-6470, http://www.discoverireland.com/ .

Q. My aunt is paraplegic and in a wheelchair and was thinking of visiting Asia or going on an African safari. Any insights or companies that help disabled travelers?

Kevin Garlick, Arlington

Before your aunt jets off, assess her current needs and condition, which will then determine the destination. "What does this person need for accessibility?" asks Howard McCoy, who runs Accessible Journeys (800-846-4537, http://www.disabilitytravel.com/ ), which caters to disabled travelers. "Just a private car? Can she slide transfer, or does she have a higher level of accessibility and a lower level of tolerance?" McCoy also would want to know if her disability is expected to change or deteriorate over the years. If so, he says, go to Asia now, because that region is a bit more challenging than Africa.

Once these questions are answered, pick your country. In Africa and Asia, some countries are more accommodating to disabled voyagers than others. "If they can get into a car," McCoy says, "then they should go on a safari in one of these countries -- South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia or Kenya." Of those, he says, South Africa is best for the most debilitated traveler.

For Asia, he suggests Thailand and Vietnam. The company, for example, organizes a 12-day tour of Thailand that visits palaces, museums and temples around Bangkok, Chang Mai, Chang Rai and Pitsanulok. Cost is from $3,700 per person double and includes wheelchair-accessible hotels and transportation in accessible-passenger vans. Air is extra, but the company's Web site offers tips on traveling with wheelchairs, securing aisle chairs, etc.

For more tips and info: Society for Accessible Travel and Hospitality, 212-447-7284, http://www.sath.org/ . Its Web site also lists agencies that specialize in trips for impaired travelers.

My husband and I are planning a vacation to Egypt. We could go in mid-January, early May or late October. When is best?

Janice Settle, Alexandria

Of the three time periods, mid-January offers ideal sightseeing weather: not too hot, not too cold. In upper Egypt, where most travelers go to tour Aswan and Luxor, temperatures are in the 70s and dry. Temperatures are about 10 degrees cooler in Cairo and hover around 55 degrees in Alexandria and along the northern Mediterranean coast. October has comparable weather -- as well as crowds, because both months are high season -- but Omayma El Husseini, deputy director of the Egyptian Tourist Authority (212-332-2570, http://www.egypttourism.org/ ) says, "I prefer January; it's a nice escape in winter." However, if you are more sensitive to hordes than heat, pick May.

Send queries by e-mail (travelqa@ washpost.com), fax (202-912-3609) or U.S. mail (Travel Q&A, Washington Post Travel Section, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071). Please include name and town.


© 2006 The Washington Post Company


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