Stepping stones: the Giant’s Causeway in Co Antrim

‘I’ve neglected colder climes for too long’

First holiday memory?

The glens of Antrim in Northern Ireland. We used to go to a very small seaside village called Cushendall, reached by the most amazing journey along the coast road. This was 1964, so we would pack our tin buckets and spades and our new Ladybird clothes from Woolworths, and check into the Thornlea Hotel for two weeks.

I have an incredible affinity with the coastline of Northern Ireland, but especially its World Heritage Site, the Giant’s Causeway. I was lucky enough to grow up with these magical basalt stepping stones right on my doorstep, but it’s something that everyone should see.

Best holiday?

Monument Valley, along the Arizona-Utah state line. I am a western film aficionado, particularly the films of John Ford – so it was like stepping back into the landscape of She Wore a Yellow Ribbon and The Searchers. Most things I’ve seen in life don’t live up to my expectations, but Monument Valley really took my breath away. We camped out in the desert, rode horses and met Native American tribes – it was the best holiday I’m ever likely to experience.

What have you learnt on your travels?

That travelling sucks. I find airports, planes  and security horrible. The longer I do it, the  more I dislike it. There’s no glamour in travel any more. We’ve lost the idea that it’s a special thing, where you get treated nicely. I’m on a plane most weeks, but I’ve found myself turning down jobs recently, because I can’t stand going through airports.

Ideal travelling companion?

I’m looking for one at the moment! I love going on cruises, but my wife can’t go because she gets motion sickness. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life going on the standard Mediterranean seaside holiday, but I don’t really have a family that has the travel bug. I’ve even played gooseberry with my best friend and his wife on a cruise to Alaska, because nobody would come with me. We had a wonderful time – seeing icebergs and going on helicopter flights.

Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?

None of the above. I like my comforts and I need television wherever I am. From my years presenting the Holiday show, I’ve seen all the culture I ever needed to see. Now I just want a good hotel where I can relax.

Holiday reading?

I like everything that would bore most other people. Factual books, political autobiographies, movie-star biographies and historical novels.

Where has seduced you?

Marrakech. I went in October once, when the air was fresh and crisp. I loved that the city was crazy, colourful and a bit smelly, with the Atlas mountains all around, capped with snow. I think autumn in general is a beautiful time to visit a place, whether it’s here in the UK or abroad.

Worst hotel?

A guesthouse in Margate. The carpet was so sticky it was as if they were trying to catch mice. The mattress was stained and filthy. It was ghastly.

Best hotel?

The Turnberry, outside Ayr in Scotland. We were driving from London to Stranraer to get the ferry over to Belfast for Christmas and a huge storm hit. We couldn’t cross for three days and had a dog with us, but luckily the Turnberry took us in. Nobody does pomp like the top Scottish hotels. Impeccable service, beautiful landscape – it turned out to be a really enjoyable experience.

Best meal abroad?

I generally overdose on seafood on holiday, because I don’t necessarily cook it at home. I’m never stuck for a good fish dish in Portugal – they do wonderful stews, monkfish and baked cod.

Favourite city?

Cape Town for the coast, the wonderful climate and the stunning views of Table Mountain.  I remember seeing people in suits on Blouberg Beach kicking off their shoes and throwing down their briefcases after a day at work. It was amazing to watch.

Where next?

No plans yet, but it would be nice to spend Christmas somewhere where there’s snow and log fires. I think I’ve neglected colder climates for too long.

Eamonn Holmes is working with Tourism Ireland to promote the new Giant’s Causeway visitor centre in Northern Ireland (