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Escape Dublin For A Weekend Trip To Kilkea Castle

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Once upon a time, or, more accurately, about six years ago, American real estate developers, Jay and Christy Cashman, did something most Americans only dream of: They bought a castle. A real, medieval castle, in County Kildare, Ireland, just over an hour’s drive from Dublin’s city center. 35 million dollars worth of renovations later, the castle, which dates back to 1180, reopened as a luxury lodge and golf resort, with over 180-acres of recreational space surrounding the ancient stone building. A new spa, wellness center and pool, as well as new chef are all expected in the near future, but the castle, which has nightly rates competitive with four and five star hotels in Dublin City, is easy to access from Ireland’s capital, and full of diversions for a short excursion outside of  the city.

Getting there:

The Kilkea van is available for pre-booked pickups. The chauffeured ride costs €90 one way or €180 per trip to Dublin, either the city or the airport. Parking is also available on-site for independent drivers.

A guest bedroom in Kilkea Castle

Kilkea Castle

What to do: 

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The castle itself houses three restaurants, including 1180 a fine dining-style restaurant with a prix-fixe dinner and full Irish breakfast, as well as a pub, The Keep. Those interested in getting off-site can head a mile down the drive to the century’s-old Mooney Pub, which has hosted a slew of celebrities in recent times.

On site, guests can cozy up near the fire in the grand salon, and in better weather, play a match on the tennis courts, practice archery, go fishing, skeet shooting, horseback riding and of course, golf. In warmer weather, guests can take advantage of the current in the river winding around the castle for tubing or schedule a boat tour on the nearby waterways.

The Keep at Kilkea Castle

Kilkea Castle

Spending a weekend relaxing on the castle grounds may be sufficient for travelers eager for a respite from the city (the castle is also WiFi and cable equipped…), though plenty of attractions are also within a short drive of Kilkea. Nearby, Walsh Whiskey Distillery offers behind-the-scenes distillery tours and tastings of their signature products, Writers’ Tears and The Irishman; and The Irish National Stud allows visitors to engage in immersive equestrian experiences as well as walk through the adjoining Japanese gardens. Those interested in history can also visit nearby Castletown House, a restored Palladian property dating back to the 1720s, and Burtown House and Gardens, a villa also dating back to the early 1700s (and was passed down through the family’s female lineage), which now has a barn cafe with a locally sourced menu on-site.

For Americans abroad, staying in a castle comes with a novelty that’s certainly indulged by Kilkea’s history, and with the new renovation and modern amenities (an elevator! heat!) , the property is comfortable and easily accessible to Medieval castle newbies.

Kilkea Castle Rooms start at €291 per night in the early to midweek and €323 per night on the weekend. The adjacent Kilkea Carriage Rooms start at €154 per night for early and mid-week and €191 per night on the weekend. Specials, including a 25% discount through March 2019, are often posted online

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Travel

EU raises Schengen visa fee to €90

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EU raises Schengen visa fee to €90

More expenses await African nationals seeking visas to enter the European Union as the EU plans to increase visa fees starting Tuesday, according to Schengen visa statistics released on Saturday.

The report stated that starting from Tuesday; African nationals would pay €90 instead of €80 for a Schengen visa application

Also read : UK new Visa rules and how they affect Nigerians, other immigrants

The report stated that the EU had earned €3.4m from rejected Schengen visa applications submitted by Nigerian citizens.

According to the data, in 2023, African nationals received 704,000 negative responses for their visa requests.

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“This means that €56.3m went up in smoke, considering that visa application fees are not refundable,” it stated.

The report noted that a high number of rejected visa applications had caused African nationals to spend millions every year, with the fees known as ‘reverse remittances’ benefitting no one but the EU countries.

“African nationals spent €56.3m in visa application fees in 2023, representing 43 per cent of all expenses; rejection rates in 2023 were especially high for African and Asian countries, which bear 90 per cent of all expenses. Expenditures are to increase by 12.5 per cent starting next week as the EU raises visa fees for adults from €80 to €90 on 11 June, following a recent decision by the EU Commission,” it added.

Algeria was the country of origin for most rejected applications in 2023, representing 23.5 per cent of all amount spent on rejected applications.

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The country also had the second-highest number of rejected applications compared to all – 289,000 out of 704,000, representing 42.3 per cent of all requests.

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“This nationality group is especially impacted by visa rejections because it has high application rates and they are affected economically when placing visa applications” the report added.

It further explained that Moroccans, top visa applicants from Africa for the year, had the highest number of visas rejected.

“A total of 437,000 visa requests filed by this nationality group were rejected in 2023, representing 62 per cent of the total. As per expenses, Moroccans spent €10.9m on rejected visa applications in 2023,” the report indicated.

It added that Africans were heavily impacted by those expenses, considering that the majority of African countries have some of the lowest wages in the world.

According to the report, the amount of Africans rejected visas is 43.1 per cent of all the amount generated by rejected applications in 2023.

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A recent study by EU Observer revealed that the Schengen visa rejections generated an amount of €130m in 2023.

“In the previous year, this amount stood at €105m, showing an upward trend of Schengen visa expenses as well as rejection rates,” the report stated.

The founder of LAGO Collective, Marta Foresti, said, “Visa inequality has very tangible consequences and the world’s poorest pay the price. You can think of the costs of rejected visas as ‘reverse remittances’, money flowing from poor to rich countries. We never hear about these costs when discussing aid or migration, it is time to change that.”

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Delta diverts Lagos flight to Lome after thunderstorm, passenger’s death

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A yet-to-be identified passenger onboard Delta Air Lines’ Atlanta-Lagos flights reportedly died midair on Monday.

Theheute learnt that she died due to a health emergency that occurred midair, approximately three hours before the flight’s scheduled arrival in Lagos.

Although a decision was made by the crew to proceed to Lagos, it was learnt that heavy thunderstorm in the area forced the pilots to divert the plane to Lome, Togo.

The flight took an additional delay in Lome due to refueling and the weather, according to some persons close to the development said. The Delta Air Lines’ A330-200 aircraft had 215 customers onboard.

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However, the flight later landed safely in Lagos, approximately eight and a half hour after the scheduled time. The flight was initially scheduled to arrive by 10am on Monday. It was learnt that the passengers received compensation.

Delta Air in a statement apologised for the inconveniences, adding that the airline regretted any difficulty or delays caused to its customers’ travel arrangements during the flight.

The statement read, “Delta flight 54 ATL-LOS has landed safely in LOS after an onboard customer medical situation and subsequent diversion to LFW due to weather. We sincerely apologise to our customers for the inconvenience and delay in their travel plans.”

Meanwhile, some passengers and Nigerians made comments on social media about the flight.

@samson_Goddy posted a tweet on X stating that his flight was delayed and that two medical emergencies occurred, including the death of a woman in midair.

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He noted that the passengers were forced to make an emergency landing in a different country after the aircraft ran out of fuel.

He wrote, “My Delta flight from Atlanta to Lagos was scheduled to land at 10am, but arrived at 6pm or later.

“So we had two health emergencies: a lady died on the flight midair, we ran out of fuel and were forced to do an emergency landing in another country, and we were grounded for 5+ hours.

Responding to questions on X about the incident he added, “Yes, oh, one woman died like that three hours after we left. I think it was a heart attack, because there was a doctor onboard. But I overheard something similar.”

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FG promises seamless passport for Nigerians

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The Minister of Interior, Dr. Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, has reiterated the commitment of the Nigerian government towards delivering a seamless and efficient passport for Nigerians, both within the country and in the Diaspora.

Speaking at the inaugural Diaspora Webinar Lecture Series of Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM) entitled: “New Passport Policy/Processes for Nigerians in the Diaspora,” Tunji-Ojo said that was the directive from President Bola Tinubu to him and other cabinet members towards attainment of the Renewed Hope Agenda.

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The minisiter, who emphasised the importance of providing top-notch services befitting Nigeria’s stature as the giant of Africa, stated that: “Effective from March 8, 2024 Nigerians will benefit from a contactless passport application process, reducing the time required to complete the entire process to a maximum of seven to 10 minutes.

“This monumental reform is part of the overarching efforts to modernise the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) and enhance service delivery to citizens,” he added.

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Highlighting the achievements and reforms within the ministry and its parastatals, particularly the NIS, the minister underscored the clearance of over 200,000 passport backlogs within three weeks of his assumption of office and the deployment of E-Gates at international airports to streamline entry and exit processes.

He also outlined plans for the installation of a modern control centre across international airports in Abuja and Lagos, aimed at enhancing immigration officers’ capacity and providing Nigerians with a seamless travel experience.

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Tunji-Ojo stressed on the importance of leveraging on technology to simplify passport acquisition, stating that Nigerians would only need their National Identification Number (NIN) for passport applications and bio metrics.

“Through an automated system, data will be pulled from the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) database to fill application forms, reducing the risk of identity fraud and ensuring a single point of contact for citizens,” he said.

The minister added that plans are underway to automate the passport enrollment process, enabling online application, biometric capture, and home delivery of passports, thus eliminating the need for physical visits to passport offices.

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Whole addressing concerns raised by participants from various continents regarding current challenges in passport application and delivery processes, he assured of the government’s commitment to resolving these issues as soon as possible.

The former lawmaker urged Nigerians to take pride in acquiring their passports, as the new process heralds a new era of hope and progress for the nation and its diaspora community, adding that the ministry woule partner with NIDCOM.

Earlier, the NIDCOM Chairman/CEO, Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, commended the minister’s efforts, highlighting the significance of the Diaspora Lecture Series in keeping Nigerians abroad informed about programmes and reforms of President Tinubu’s administration.

In her presentation, the Comptroller General, NIS, Caroline Wura-Ola Adepoju, emphasised that the new process would significantly reduce human interaction, thereby eliminating inconveniences associated with passport applications and saving time for both applicants and immigration personnel.

Adepoju said the service had produced 1,033,506 million passports in 2021; another 1,597,729 million in 2022; while a record of over 2,141,300 million were produced amidst various challenge in 2023.

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She, however, said that many Nigerians did not come forward to pick up their passports at various centres she visited recently both within and outside Nigeria, promising that from March, there will be positive improvement in passport production without going through any stress or interventions.

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