My Life In Travel: Donal MacIntyre

'I can be in Belize one day, Burma the next'
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The Independent Travel

What's your first holiday memory?

What's your first holiday memory?

Camping in County Wexford with my mother. There were five of us in one tent. She then discovered that she was claustrophobic and had to sleep with her head outside the door for the whole night. She bought a second tent after that.

Where did you spend the summers of your childhood?

In West Cork, on Bere Island, which was the ancestral home of my mother's family. We also visited family who lived in Seattle a few times.

What's been your best holiday?

Recently, I've spent most of my holidays attempting to climb the Matterhorn with my mate, although on each attempt over the last four years, we have been thwarted by the weather. I've also just come back from a great holiday in Morocco.

Where have you lost your heart?

When I was 11, in a village called Dingle in Kerry. It's the Irish-speaking area of the country where most Irish schoolchildren go for a month to learn the language. It's fantastic because you can see the rain coming, in dark single rain clouds over the hills, and there are great beaches and pubs there - not that I was interested in them at 11, but that's where I had my first snog.

Are you a frequent traveller?

Far too frequent, I can be in Belize one day, Burma the next, and the Sahara after that. I do a huge amount of travelling, mostly in goat-class economy - if there was ever a candidate for deep-vein thrombosis, it's me.

What's your favourite place in the British Isles?

The Giant's Causeway, the Gower Peninsula, and the wildest parts of Donegal are my top three.

Who would be your ultimate travelling companion?

Apart from my girlfriend, it would have to be my best mate Shane. I have travelled with him a lot, as we used to do a lot of canoeing together when we were on the Irish national team.

What's the worst thing that has happened to you on holiday?

We were doing a programme on the mountain gorillas in Rwanda, and were arrested at gunpoint and held overnight by a group of renegades. After that, I was given a gun to protect myself. We were staying in this crazy hotel, and had a very dodgy Congolese meal and too much Congolese wine, then I was left in this dingy room with a Gideon Bible, a sub-machine gun and a very tipsy head and dodgy tummy.

Where would you never return?

Patna in India. Even though it has Buddhist origins, the Indians regard it with some degree of humour as "bandit country", and they're not too far wrong. It's a lawless, unappealing place, which doesn't really have good memories for me, and I was very pleased to get the hell out of there.

Where would be your trip of a lifetime?

The Antarctic would be extraordinary. I have been to the Arctic, which blew my mind, but the Antarctic has a totally different terrain, and is much more exposed.

The world ends tomorrow: where do you regret never having been?

Probably New Zealand. I'm very keen to get there. I've met loads of Kiwis, and they're a great nation, about a tenth of them are Irish anyway, so I have an affinity there.

'MacIntyre's Big Sting' is on Channel 5 next Tuesday, 6 April, at 8pm. Donal MacIntyre is running the London Marathon on behalf of Mencap on Sunday 18 April

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