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Green Holidays in Ireland

Posted by at 01:42 on Saturday 07 July 2007

Catherine Mack looks at eco-friendly holidays in the Emerald Isle
Green is synonymous with Ireland. Who needs branding when you have created a national colour? Visitors come in their millions to seek out the forty shades of green. Yet budget flights have turned Ireland into an urban destination, the perfect weekend city break where you spend all your green stuff on the black stuff. So who protects the rest of this Emerald treasure?

A small company stretching across the border of North West Ireland is doing exactly this. Greenbox supports, advises and promotes small tourist companies which are striving to put responsible tourism principles into practice. Here are ten ways in which this innovative company helps tourists find the g-reen spots in Ireland this summer. ..

Photo: Devenish island, Co. Fermanagh

Jump on the green wagon
Join Jerome in his bio-fuel bus on a ‘Green Scene’ tour of County Fermanagh. A great family day out to visit and learn about wind farms, plans for micro hydro power on the River Roogagh, visit The Organic Centre for lessons on organic gardening, and eat some of their goodies. If this is all too educational, Jerome will take you to all the best mountain biking spots in the area, and teach you about green biking. This tour has been designed to educate bikers on how to adopt an environmentally friendly approach to biking by avoiding disturbance to wildlife, spreading seeds and mud and avoiding sensitive areas such as wetlands, marches and soft earth embankments.

Willow weaving weekends
Join Tom, professional basket maker from Fermanagh and Theresa, rural crafts tutor, for a weekend learning one of the oldest traditional crafts in Ireland. Like so many traditions, willow harvesting is weaving is being revived not only for craft purposes, but as a valuable source of green energy. Staying at Mahon’s Hotel, in nearby Irvinestone, which prides itself on using locally sourced and organic ingredients, for all of its freshly prepared meals, you will enjoy traditional music sessions in the bar when all your weaving is done.

Painting in a hot tub
They really know how to package things here. The Blaney spa and Yoga Centre, located on the shores of Lower Lough Erne, County Fermangagh, is one of those hidden retreats. This is a modern state of the art yoga centre, where you can salute the sun on the veranda overlooking the lakes, take saunas, hot tubs and various treatments from Thai to Reiki massage, and then stroll down to your traditional cottage for the night. Gabrielle Tottenham, the owner, is also hosting a series of photography and painting weekends in the centre, so you can combine the arts and health without having to leave this holistic haven.

Going the whole eco-hog
You can eat, drink and sleep all things eco at the Ard Nahoo Eco Retreat Experience in Dromahaire, County Leitrim. This does what it says on the tin, with yoga classes, nature walks, and as per the theme for November’s ecoretreat, ‘Grounding’ – reconnecting with the Earth energy. A retreat also includes massage, steam baths, and your own cosy ecocabin, “stocked with delicious breakfast goodies”. Eco is not used as a generic marketing term here, and like all places under the Greenbox umbrella, it strives to achieve good sustainable practices. The yoga studio and cabins are heated with wood burning stoves, electricity is provided by wind farm sources, waste is recycled or composted wherever possible, and vegetables are provided by local box scheme.

Tracing your Irish ancestors
Not the usual style of Irish genealogy gimmick, this weekend takes you back to your real roots. Get in touch with how your ancestors lived and feel more alive than you have done in ages on this amazing weekend hosted by the Lough Allen Adventure Centre in County Leitrim. Kevin Currid, owner of the Centre, has devised this weekend break after ten years’ of research and development. You will learn how to build shelters using natural materials, navigation techniques, fire-lighting using flint, open boat skills, boat landing and packing for a minimal impact expedition. You will then put all this into practice on a two day expedition to a remote island in Lough Allen. The weekend is suitable for anyone from sixteen to ninety.

The Breesy Centre
Just the name of this place makes me want to stay there. It may have derived it from the fact that all of its electricity is supplied by Ireland’s wind energy company Airtricity. Or maybe it is because it offers some of the windiest tourism packages on the market. This community run centre, in the village of Cashelard, County Donegal, offers walking weekends in the Donegal hills, the Atlantic coastal walk, and local historical walks, all using local guides and experts in Donegal’s natural and cultural heritage. If you want to be a bit more active, the Breesy Centre will whisk you into a frenzy of surfing, cycling and pier jumping in its all-inclusive week long package of outdoor activities, local and organic food, and early morning yoga sessions.

Living the life of Reilly in a tipi
If you stay in one of Orchard Acre Farm’s tipis you can live the green life round the clock, and not have to lift a finger. The farm is a winner of Ireland’s Renewable Energy Award scheme for its solar water heating system, and recycles and composts wherever possible. With its all inclusive package, you are greeted with a local food hamper, and then breakfasts, packed lunches and home made dinners are prepared for you using local and organic ingredients. You also have free access to bikes and Canadian canoe to explore the Kingfisher Cycle Route, or local waterways of this local landscape of many lakes. The package also includes a tour of the area with a local guide. You can buy a weekend, mid-week or week long package and stay in the fully-equipped tipi, with futon beds, and central wood burning brassier, and live the life of Reilly.

Too cool for school
Foreign language lessons have changed a lot since my day. I was sent to a cathedral city in France to learn about Joan of Arc with a boring family of accountants whose children’s’ idea of fun was a game of Scrabble. The Donegal Language School has sussed it. They offer courses in English and Surfing, English and horeseriding or English and multi-activities, such as surfing, canoeing, high-wires, or abseiling. You do fifteen hours of English classes a week, mornings only, and then surfing lessons in the afternoon with qualified instructors. Evening activities are laid on too, with barbeques, quiz nights, and even talent shows. What’s happened to good old fashioned boring learning, for goodness sake?

Bring your own
I have heard of ‘bring your own bottle’ but never ‘bring your own bucket’. A bucket, a ladel and an apron are all you need to partake in a day of cheesemaking at Corleggy Summer Cheese School, on Corleggy Farm in County Cavan. A day long course which sends you back home (with your bucket) and your own one kilo cows’ milk cheese. Try explaining that at Ryanair’s excess baggage counter.

Whale and dolphin watching
The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group was set up in 1990 to establish an Irish stranding and sighting scheme and to campaign for the declaration of Irish territorial waters as a whale and dolphin sanctuary. Just one year later in June 1991 the Irish Government declared all Irish waters to be a whale and dolphin sanctuary, the first of its kind in Europe. The Group is running a series of summer events, such as the Weekend Whale-watching Course on Cape Clear Island, one of Ireland’s most exquisite island hideaways, from 15-17th August. For more details of summer courses see their website www.iwdg.ie.

For more information on Greenbox holidays, see: www.greenbox.ie.

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