How targeted investment by the Western Development Commission at a crucial stage has made a meaningful difference in the west of Ireland.

The Western Development Commission (WDC) has invested €57m in 189 businesses and community projects in seven western counties, latest figures show.

The WDC Investment Fund approved investments of almost €7m across the region in 2019 alone, supporting 44 entities in Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim, Roscommon, Mayo, Galway and Clare.

“The €57m we have invested in 189 companies has resulted in another quarter of a billion euros being leveraged for our portfolio companies”

The impact of the fund is underlined by the fact that over 5,000 people are now directly or indirectly employed by the 189 companies assisted to date, according to Gillian Buckley investment manager with the agency. These companies have created a significant boost to the economy of the region with total payroll costs for those who received loans or equity from the WDC, now estimated at €63m annually. Out of that, €18m goes back to the Exchequer in taxes.

Many of the companies have a global reach and it is estimated that 73pc of the turnover of WDC-supported companies is export-related. Buckley pointed out that the fund has been self-financing from an investment perspective since 2010, with returns and exits from investments made constantly being re-invested in new enterprises under Fund’s the evergreen strategy.

Gillian Buckley, Investment Manager, Western Development Commission.

Among the companies that have invested heavily in R&D and that have expanded their workforce as a result of WDC support is Co Galway sports technology company Contego Sports which has developed N-Pro, protective headgear. N-Pro was recently selected as the first participant in a trial by World Rugby aimed at reducing the risk of head injuries and concussion. N-Pro CEO Mark Ganly founded the company  in 2014.

Among those who have donned the N-Pro protective helmets are rugby hero Nemani Napoli who plays with Montpelier and who wore the product in the recent Championship Cup. Closer to home Connacht’s Ultan Dillane has also sported the headgear.

“We hope to see a significant number of players wearing the product in the Six Nations this year”, said Ganly who has also been targeting other sports where head protection is vital.

Design for life

Fintech company Cerebreon, based in Ardara in Co Donegal, has also benefited from WDC investment and hopes to grow its workforce this year.

The company uses machine intelligence and algorithms to spot likely insolvency failures in advance, and take corrective action.

“We predict and try to prevent defaults from insolvency arrangements” explained CEO Gillian Doyle.

Cerebreon employs 10 people, six in Donegal , three in the UK and one in Dublin and expects to increase its workforce in 2020.

“All the intellectual property and core development is done in Donegal. The broadband is superb,” said Doyle.

She said staff have been making quality of life decisions to return to Donegal where proximity to families, short commutes and community support, aligned to job satisfaction make it an attractive proposition.

The Western Investment Fund was set to address a gap in support available for start-ups and established companies in the western region. Beneficiaries include a wide range of hi-tech operations including fintech, medical devices and artifice intelligence,  as well as traditional sectors such as food and tourism.

The almost 190 companies who have received WDC investment spend €24m annually on R&D.

While job creation and the expansion of overseas markets are considered key outcomes of WDC investment, there is also a strong focus on enhancing the lives of those living in the region. The investment fund supports a range of social enterprises and community-based initiatives in the seven counties in its remit.

These range from childcare facilities to sports and recreation amenities and enterprise space projects.

Another sector which is targeted for support is the creative sector and the WDC operates a micro-loan fund for those making a living in arts and crafts, publishers, graphic artists and web designers.

Those working in film, television, animation and games sector can avail of strategic investment under the WRAP (Western Region Audio-Visual Producers ) Fund , a collaboration involving both the WDC and the Galway Film Centre which has been running since 2018. These investment funds have helped copperfasten the west and the north west as attractive locations for those making a living in the creative sector.

Companies frequently use the WDC support to leverage further investment from both the private and public sector. “The €57m we have invested in 189 companies has resulted in another quarter of a billion euros being leveraged for our portfolio companies,” explained Buckley.

Support from the WDC has coincided with major expansion for a number of key players in the high tech sector in the region.

Global software company Cora Systems which is headquartered in Carrick-on-Shannon, Co Leitrim, had a staff of just five when it was first approved for investment by the WDC 15 years ago. Now it has a workforce of 80 people.

Galway-based Altocloud had a workforce of just six when the WDC first approved it for investment in 2015. Since being acquired by Genesys in 2018, a Silicon Valley based multinational, Galway has been designated the company’s global Centre of Excellence for Customer Experience AI with the workforce projected to grow to 200 over the next couple of years.

“The success of the WDC Investment fund shows that targeted investment at a crucial stage can make a real difference,” commented Gillian Buckley.

Written by Marese McDonagh

Published 26 February 2020

Nxnwtech X Technology Themed Community Conference Launch

Nxnwtech X is a one day, technology themed, not for profit, community conference to be hosted in LYIT Campus on Thursday 4th June. We caught up with one of the organisers Joe Dunleavy, VP, Head of Innovation at Pramerica to find out more.

Tell us how the conference came about and what it hopes to achieve?

A number of years ago a couple of colleagues came together, Ryan Bradley, John Brady and Paul Wallace to form a tech community meetup here in Donegal called North By North West Tech.  That group meets monthly, is open to the public through meetup.com and covers themes across areas such as AI, Cloud and IoT.  It rotates around a different theme each month and locations in Letterkenny and has also held joint meetups with groups in both Derry and Sligo. It is really well attended and supported by over 700 members.  Based on the success of that working group the founders discussed the idea of having a full day tech conference and floated the idea past the community.  The group loved the idea and a team of volunteers from large companies to start up joined together with Ryan, John and Paul to make the conference a reality.  The vision for it is to drive the technology agenda in the region and it is an event ran by and for the regional community with any money made being donated to local charities.  It would not be possible without the support of the community and partners like LYIT who have been very supportive in providing us with access to their very impressive campus for the event.

Letterkenny has become a hive of activity over the past number of years with FDI companies such as Optum, Pramerica, Sita and indigenous start-ups working together. Tell us a bit about the community?

Letterkenny’s tech scene is buzzing at the moment and is great to see.  There is many vibrant companies and start-ups in the region working on very interesting things.  The monthly tech meetup is well attended by folks from many of these companies and we finish every meetup with a My Startup Story slot where a funder gets some time to share their journey and details of their companies.  What is really nice about that is we have seen companies who started working together off the back of introductions made at the tech meetup.  We have examples of senior tech folks in some of the FDI companies act as mentors to startups and in some case also become customers of those start-up firms as they scale to product offerings.  Another success in the region has seen start up founders who have had a career with local FDI and IDA supported companies and then leave to pursue their own idea and build a company from it.  David Gildea the founder of CloudRanger, that was recently acquired by Druva  is a past employee of Pramerica.  So a real melting pot of talent in tech within the region.

You launched a call for proposals this week. What are you looking for and how can people apply?

Yes the team was delighted to get our site up and running recently with a big thanks to Darragh Coll who built it for us.  The site is critical to be able to provide information about the conference as well as have potential speakers to put their name forward with a proposal for a topic.  We welcome anyone interested in speaking to put a proposal in at this link.  The focus of the conference is tech and business but we know the success of the conference  will be based largely on the quality of the speakers and their topics..

If companies are interested in sponsoring the conference who can they reach out to? 

We are open to sponsorship and have been very excited with the initial commitments we have secured but for anyone interested please reach out to us  at sponsorship@nxnwtech.com

 

 

Australian Surfer Living in Donegal Raises Funds For Bushfires

Photo Credit Ian Mitchinson

The bushfires sweeping Australia have reached unprecedented, catastrophic levels causing heartbreak and have left an overwhelming sense of powerlessness for those watching on, both near and far.

As of this week, the total area burned has reached over 8.4 million hectares, an area equivalent to the size of Ireland. At least 24 people have lost their lives, over 1700 homes lost and an estimated 480 million animals wiped out with many now reaching critically endangered numbers.

Australian surfer Noah Lane who lives in Bundoran, Co.Donegal has put together a prize pack from some of his sponsors to raise vital funds for the Australian Red Cross and has already raised over €12k.  The prize includes a brand new Beau Young surfboard, two pairs of brand new Globe shoes, Douchbag travel accessory’s, a €200 Finisterre voucher and much more.

As an Australian living in Ireland, Noah wanted to appeal to the Irish, UK and European surf and wider community, many of whom have enjoyed holidays to the affected areas or have friends affected and struggling through this tough time. Noah surfed professionally through his younger years and could have made a living from his talent as a skilled athlete anywhere in the world: Hawaii, Fiji, Brazil. So why Ireland and Bundoran in particular?

“Bundoran is a hub for the sport in Ireland.” Noah told us in a past interview “Surfers travel from across the country and from around the world to access the ocean off Donegal’s coastline simply for the opportunity to use the ocean in some of the more beautiful and remote areas of Ireland. The coastline here is one of the best in the world. I’ve been at one beach and felt like I was in Norway and driven less than ten minutes and felt like I’m back in Australia.”

Noah relocated to Ireland almost seven years ago and last year opened ‘foam’, an epic little café in the heart of Bundoran.  If you’d like to donate to Noah’s fundraising efforts, click here.

Photo Credit – Stab Mag 

 

 

 

Galeforce Connemara, Galway

New Year’s Resolutions

Embark on a physically gruelling journey, take on the most epic environments in some of the world’s most impressive locations. Sign up for a unique race to physically challenge you whatever your level. How about tackling one of these epic races. Just be warned, you might get hooked.

 

Quest Killaloe

Quest, Clare

Quest Lough Derg is a one-day multi-sport race. It takes place in the hidden heartlands of Ireland in Ballina/Killaloe and all around majestic Lough Derg.

This race gives competitors the chance to run, cycle and kayak some of the most dramatic, breathtaking and remote scenery in the world.

More information

See a Video

 

The Race, Donegal

The Race is a 250km unsupported endurance event across the rugged landscape of North West Donegal. To finish competitors have to complete 15km of kayaking, 166km of cycling, 5km of mountain running and 64km of road and trail running. It is the ultimate 24 hour test of endurance. The Race takes place in Spring each year. The 2020 event will take place on the weekend of the 21st of March 2020.

See a video

 

Quest Sligo

Quest, Sligo

Discover the hidden gems of South and West Sligo, explore untested routes, hills and trails in one of Ireland’s most spectacular landscapes.

 

Galeforce Connemara, Galway

Looking for a bit of a faster race to test your speed and quick wit? The Gaelforce Connemara Challenge is a 32.5km sprint distance adventure race where competitors will run, bike and kayak along the steep valleys, serene forests, rolling hills, and sparkling lakes of Connemara. The Killary Fjord provides an amazing backdrop to this race, which is broken up into four stages: a 10km run/walk, 2km mountain climb, 17km cycle and 3km run/kayak/run. See our lead pic to give you an idea of the beauty.

Ballycuggaran, Lough Derg

Trade in your pyjamas for togs this Christmas morning

Thousands of festive swimmers will take the plunge on Christmas Day. The increasingly popular seasonal tradition will see beaches, coastal rocks and lake shores along the west coast packed with brave bathers. In many cases, these swims raise money for various charities. But, apart from the fundraising, these swims provide an extremely exciting spin on Christmas Day.

 

Bundoran, Co Donegal

The 2019 Christmas Day Swim in Bundoran will be at 12.15pm on December 25th on Main Beach. The event is organised each year by Ken Page of Page’s Cafe and held to fundraise for Ozanam House/St Vincent De Paul. It is now a staple event in the calendar and indeed for Christmas Day!

Galway Swim

Galway Bay, Co Galway

The annual Cope Galway Christmas swim raises funds to support the homeless and vulnerable people in Galway. The swim will take place between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. in Blackrock, Salthill.

Lough Lannagh, Castlebar, Co Mayo

Due to the extremely low temperatures of these waters, this swim is not for the faint of heart! Join in the queue to jump off the dock into the frigid waters, and come out with a bit of a shock to your system.

Lough Derg, County Clare

The annual Christmas swim is held at the Twomilegate at 12.30 pm on Christmas Day.

Sligo

This annual charity swim raises much-needed funds for the MS North West Therapy Centre. The swim takes place from Rosses Point Yacht Club at 12 noon.

25 Dec, Rosses Point, Co Sligo. Find out more here.

Clare

Kilkee is a swimmer’s utopia. Its Pollock Holes are natural deep pools that replenish each time the tide recedes. Newfy (or Newfoundout as it’s officially called), has two diving boards which Richard Harris used to frequent. The annual Christmas Day swim is on Kilkee Beach at 12.30pm in aid of Kilkee Sub Aqua Club’s search-and-recovery activities. 25 Dec, Kilkee, Co Clare. You can find out more here.

Leitrim Swim

Leitrim

Join the annual Leitrim Ice Breakers Christmas swims in Carrick- on-Shannon and Ballinamore.
The first dip of the day will take place at Garadice Lake at 12.30pm, followed by another at the slipway next to Emerald Star in Carrick at 1.30pm, after 12 o’clock mass.

 

Pic credit for lead image of Ballycuggaran, Lough Derg by Patrick Bolger

Lead photo by Chris Hill of Dun Aengus, Inishmore, Aran Islands

Sustainable Shopping

Tired of feeling guilty about wheelie bins full of wrapping paper and drawers of unwanted gifts, many people are ditching frenzied shopping for more sustainable celebrations. Here are some top tips that will help you go green this Christmas.

 

Try alternatives to physical presents. Instead, give people experiences, how about a Heritage Card which provides for free admission to all fee-paying State managed OPW Heritage Sites located throughout the country for one year from the date of first use.

With exciting sites all along the west coast, this is the perfect gift idea for someone new to the area.

Lead photo by Chris Hill of Dun Aengus, Inishmore, Aran Islands

If you can, avoid shopping online, seek out ethical or sustainable shops and Christmas markets. Markets – large or small –  are a particularly good way to find local and handmade goods, meaning your money is going back into the local economy. Check out our post detailing Christmas Markets from Donegal to Clare.

It’s a Wrap

Think about gifts that will make people’s everyday lives more sustainable. Perhaps a relatively inexpensive beeswax wrap, which can make a big difference in the long-term. Check out Galway based It’s a Wrap who sell beeswax wraps which are handcrafted in the West of Ireland and are a perfect sustainable gift. They are reusable, contain antibacterial and anti-fungal properties and can be composted. What’s not to love?

 

Mrs Quinn's Charity Shop

Why not head to your local second-hand shop or charity store to find some pre-loved gifts? You can find absolute treasures in vintage shops at great prices. Be kind to the environment and support a local charity, now that’s the festive cheer we love.

The Santa experience!

The Santa experience!

A trip to see Santa used to mean a trip to the local shopping centre, there was usually an elf, there might be a present, and there was always a man in a big red suit. It was quick and easy. A no frills experience, but still the highlight of Christmas.

 

Today, it’s not just about going to the local department store. Now we have “destinations” and “experiences” where you can visit the man himself in his own winter wonderland. These are not to be missed and we have gathered a few truly magical experiences here:

Santa at Bunratty, Co. Clare

Santa at Bunratty, Co. Clare

This Christmas, experience a winter wonderland of magical, festive atmosphere with Santa at Bunratty Folk Park. As the excitement builds to meet Santa there are lots of games and treats to keep young minds active as they wait for their name to be called….then, it’s into Santa’s Grotto to meet the jolly man himself. Take a spin in the Polar Express train, get active at Santa’s Little Helpers workshops or enjoy the magical Puppet Show. Find out more here.

 

Elf Town Galway

Set over 4 floors “A fantastic interactive and entertaining Christmas adventure” at the Galway Race Course. Elf town is a magical experience and interactive journey for all the family, with a visit to Santa and plenty of additional highlights along the way.

Elf Town is open every Fri/Sat/Sun until the 23rd of December 2019, including the full week prior to Christmas. Check out the website to get your preferred date and time, plus Facebook for updates and news. Have a look for yourself.

 

Roscommon

The Annual Strokestown Park Victorian Christmas Experience is back for 2019. With lots of festive attractions for all of the family including; A visit with Mrs Claus at Santa’s Stables where you will meet the animal, elves will accompany you through the magical tunnel into the secret underground rooms of the House where you will see the elves busy at work preparing for Christmas. The highlight of the Victorian Christmas Experience is meeting Santa Claus by the fire in the traditionally decorated library to receive a Christmas gift. Read all about it here.

 

Winter Wonderland, Co. Mayo

Winter Wonderland, Co. Mayo

Parents can enjoy a delicious glass of mulled wine and kids a tasty juice while soaking up the twinkling lights, with lush green garlands and tinsel trimmings spilling festively from every corner of Westport House. Kids will adore a special visit to Santa in his grotto with story-time by the fireside with Mrs Claus, sing-a-longs with the elves and festive face-painting to really get them in the Christmas spirit. Read all about it here.

 

Take the Santa Express at Oakfield Park, Donegal

Oakfield Park in Raphoe, Co Donegal invite you to board the Santa Express at the station and have an enchanting train ride through the woodlands to meet Santa and his helpers! He will be in residence on select dates during December 2019. Have a look at all they have to offer.

 

Celebrate the Christmas season at Santatown at the Sligo Folk Park in Riverstown, Co. Sligo

This weekend visit the Santatown to enjoy the very special Christmas show put on by Santa’s Elves. Everyone will get to meet Santa himself and receive a lovely gift. Have your photo taken with Santa and the Elves. Write your letter to Santa and post it from here in the special post box that takes it straight to the North Pole! Read more here.

Santa’s Underground Grotto 2019

Once again, Arigna Mining Experience comes alive with a festive atmosphere. The visit to Santa in Arigna is a unique, exciting fun-filled day out for all the family. Book a family experience with the resident magician or the Custard Pie Puppets.

Oisin Foley: (Magician) ‘Blending magic, comedy and a lot of fun, Oisin’s show entertains all kids both young and old and truly is a magical experience for the whole family! From the time the show starts, until it ends he’ll have everyone on the edge of their seats or rolling on the floor laughing!’

Custard Pie Puppets is one of Irelands recognised family entertainment companies founded by master puppeteer Conor Lambert and Tessa Fonfara. Conor Lambert has been performing for over 40 years and is an experienced performer in theatre and on television starting his puppetry career on RTE’s iconic ‘Wanderly Wagon’ in which he played the character of Mr Crow.

The show at Arigna Mining Experience “Christmas Crackers” features Santy’s helpers Dong & Ding, Frosty the Snowman and of course Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer and more- all wrapped up with seasonal capers, laughs and sing-a-long fun

 

Carrick on Shannon town centre visit Santa’s Grotto

Carrick on Shannon town centre visit Santa’s Grotto

Children can’t resist meeting Santa himself on the run-up to Christmas. This unforgettable festive experience for youngsters can be enjoyed in Carrick-on-Shannon. Santa’s snug and cosy grotto in the centre of Leitrim town is a perfect treat for little ones, eager to meet Father Christmas (and no doubt tell him all the things they want for Christmas).

New event for South & West Sligo to draw 1000+ adventure racers

Quest Sligo is the latest and most exciting event to be added to the Quest series of adventure races. This brand-new, one-day, multi-discipline sporting event will take place on Saturday 22nd August 2020 giving participants the opportunity to experience the beauty and hidden gems of South and West Sligo. The event will see participants run, cycle and kayak their way around stunning locations such as Temple House Lake, Ladies Brae, Ox Mountains, Tawnatrohaun, and Lough Easkey.

Participants will have three routes to choose from: the ‘Challenge’, ‘Sport’ and ‘Expert’ route. The Challenge route is for those who are new to Quest or adventure racing, for those more experienced there are the longer Sport and Expert routes. Whichever route is chosen participants are guaranteed an unforgettable experience with great comradery and adventure.

Quest Adventure Series are working with support from South and West Sligo Tourism to bring this high-profile event to the area. Director of Quest Events, Oliver Kirwan, is already looking forward to this new event, he said “We have some fantastic events across Ireland and we are really pleased to be able to bring the series to South and West Sligo. The great thing about these events is that they’re really accessible and we would encourage local people to take a look and see if it’s something they’d like to challenge themselves with. We’ll be bringing more than 1000 adventure racers here in August and we know the local community will put on a great reception. We are looking forward to it already!”

Paul Taylor, Chairperson South and West Sligo Tourism said “We are thrilled that South and West Sligo has been chosen as an adventure location along with other well-established adventure tourism destinations such as Glendalough, Kenmare and Killarney. We are looking forward to welcoming a large influx of visitors to our unique part of Ireland to experience more of what’s on offer here. We have no doubt that the event will contribute greatly to the local economy.’’

Quest Adventure Series has five Irish events in 2020, Quest Kenmare (7th March), Quest Glendalough (4th April), Quest Sligo (22nd August), Quest Lough Derg (12th September) and Quest Killarney (10th October).

The Quest team are currently developing the routes to showcase the beautiful area that is South and West Sligo. Quest Sligo will open for registration in January with launch special and early bird rates available for a limited time. Check out the Facebook event page to keep up to date with event information and details.

For more information visit www.questadventureseries.com/race/quest-sligo/

or email annette@eliteevents.ie or call 0646635512.

For further details on visiting South and West Sligo, check out their website https://southsligotourism.ie/

Life after the big move

Life after the big move

So you’ve landed your dream job and relocated to the stunning west of Ireland. Now it’s time to start building the life you’ve dreamt of. It can be daunting finding new friends and gaining access to your new community, but don’t worry here’s a few pointers that will send you in the right direction.

 

Without a doubt we will all build relationships in our new workplace, but it’s also important to build a support network outside of the office. For people with kids, leveraging off your kids relationships is always an option and is often the case. But for those without children or those wanting to try a different route, we have gathered a few helpful ideas to help you open up your possibilities.

Be social

Be social

Social media has changed everything and the world is a far smaller place than it has ever been. You’ll obviously stay in contact with your existing friends via social media.

Most of our friend groups are created by meeting friends-of-friends. This process can feel disrupted when you move to a new place, but you’re not really that far away, and even if you were, you can always rely on your existing friends for support. One of the great ways to meet people in your new life is to source friends from people you already know. Ireland is such a small place and we love this kind of conversation. Tell friends and colleagues when you’re planning a move and then ask them if they know anyone in the area and if they can make an introduction. Getting connected with people who are already connected to your social circle is a great way to plug into the social fabric of a new place, and normally, friends of friends aren’t that far removed from your type of personality.

There are many online communities as well that are a great source for activities such as Meetup. These communities are great for meeting people with similar interests. The Galway site offers a range of activities from fitness, to cultural evenings, to day trips. Check it out for some great ideas.

Do something way out of your comfort zone

Do something way out of your comfort zone

Give yourself the gift of doing something ultra-thrilling and try something totally new to you. Try surfing; The west coast has the best surfing in Europe, or kayaking; either sea, river or lake there is a plentiful selection, or why not diving? According to world famous diver, Jacques Cousteau, “some of the best diving in the world is off Ireland’s west coast”, or if not any of these, try anything else that highlights the advantages of moving to the west coast. For the less adventurous, it doesn’t have to be all about the adrenaline rush! Why not try out the local Am Dram group or make your way to any one of the many trad festivals in the west, the choice is only limited by you.

If it is the adrenaline buzz you’re after, check out one of Ireland’s leading surf schools, Strandhill Surf School, They cater for all level of surfer, from beginner to advanced, young to old. This is a great place to advance your skills, get outdoors and make acquaintances.

Accept the invite

Accept the invite

Always try to accept and extend social invitations. This can be challenging particularly as an adult, we all expect kids to just hop in there, make friends and get on with it. But as adults we really have to push ourselves to overcome our inhibitions. Trust yourself, take the step and just do it.

Who doesn’t love food? In Mayo there are two of winners of the 2019 Irish Restaurant Awards, Cian’s on Bridge Street for Best Restaurant and House of Plates  who won Best Chef with Barry Ralph. Why not extend an invite to a couple of people to join you in checking out these great eateries? This is a great way for people to chat and get to know each other.

Exercising is social

Exercising is social

In all the hustle and bustle of your move, your new job and new social life, you may forget that exercise is often also about community and friendships. The towns and villages in the west all have whole social circles built around exercise and sport. Whether it is the liberation of open water swimming, rigorous Boxercise or stretching it out with pilates, you already have your fitness in common which can make initiating a conversation so much easier. Think about what else you could have in common. The next time you’re at a workout class, ask someone if they’re often at that class or what other classes they would recommend as you’re new in town.

If you’re in Roscommon, why not head to the stunning Lough Key Forest Part every Saturday morning at 9:30am where you can run, walk, skip, chat and laugh your way around the park with their park run. Park Runs, are of course, all over the country so just have a look at their site and you can find out where your local run is.

Get out there

Get out there

When all is said and done, getting out and actually trying new things is the key to building your new social circle. Say yes to opportunity, volunteer, explore and show up. New friendships won’t happen if you don’t go to new places and put yourself forward. So when the opportunity arises to do something new, DO IT. You’ve already taken a huge plunge; you know you’ve made the right move, now take advantage of all the west of Ireland has to offer you for your future.

Most counties in Ireland have a website that co-ordinates volunteering opportunities. These possibilities range from sports organisations, community development groups, community centre committees, youth groups, active age groups and Tidy Towns committees. Have a look a Volunteer In Leitrim to give you an idea of what’s on offer there. All you have to do is register your details and you will be matched with an organisation that needs your help.

Learn a new skill

Learn a new skill

Why not become a budding photographer? Photos are everything now, it’s so easy to do and a great way of getting out there. Maybe join a photography group, Donegal, for instance, has two great clubs, one in Buncrana, and another in Letterkenny. These are great for learning new skills and meeting people.

Get out more

Get out more

As tempting as it may be to hideout in your new home, you need to minimise the unpacking and maximise the exploration of your new surrounds. Walking is best for this, as you slowly move around, you’ll get to see all the nuances of your new world, it’s calming and it will give ample opportunity to meet people. In the west there is so much to encourage you to get out that this won’t be a problem. Notice boards in the local shops, coffee shops etc. are still a great way of finding out about local groups that may be of interest or even lead you down paths you’d never thought of. Stores like The Grainey in Scarriff, Co. Clare are a wealth of information for details on  variety of local and county wide events and classes. Where ever you are in the west there are always local stories bursting with knowledge of what’s on around the vicinity.

Keem Bay, Achill Island

Winter in Ireland – we’ve got it covered!

Clear blue skies, bright warm sunshine, miles of clean, sandy beaches – it’s no surprise to us that these describe Ireland perfectly. Ireland does some of its very best work in winter – and you can too. From wandering long cliff-top strolls to warming up with a log fire and a bowl of stew, you’ll wish it was winter all year round.

 

It’s not that cold – honest!

The reality is Ireland is never too cold to enjoy and we often get delightful winter mornings with clear blue skies and sunshine. On the odd occasion when we do get a dusting of snow, well, just wrap up and enjoy!

Make the most of it with a cliff-top stroll on Achill Island or wander in the footsteps of one of Ireland’s best loved poets Seamus Heaney and head out west to the Flaggy Shore.

Lead image, Keem Bay, Achill Island. Pic credit @irish.hikes.with.sansa

 

Croagh Patrick

It’s really quite beautiful

There are some spots on the west coast that simply transform during winter, and the ever-changing landscape is bound to inspire you to have an adventure. The rugged landscape of Donegal is only enhanced by the howling winds and crashing waves that whip along its incredible coastline; and Mayo’s Croagh Patrick glistens magically when snow finally settles on its scree-covered peaks.

Carrowkeel

Carrowkeel, Co. Sligo. Pic credit Siobhan Rheinisch

Experience the winter solstice like nowhere else in Ireland

There is a line of passage tombs stretching west to east across the middle of Ireland, from Knocknarea and Carrowmore near the Sligo coast. Carrowkeel Cairn is estimated to be 700 years older than Newgrange – it is smaller and less sophisticated but remains one of the most spectacular and breathtaking archaeological landscapes in Ireland.

Northern lights

Malin, Inishowen, Ireland. Pic credit Patryk Sadowski of @imaginelightmedia

Chase the Northern Lights

Think the Aurora Borealis/Northern Lights only materialise in Scandinavia, North America or Greenland? Think again. Thanks to its location and low levels of light pollution, Ireland’s northern coastline offers amazing opportunities to see this natural phenomenon. Try a visit to the Inishowen Peninsula, where Aurora sightings are frequent. While there’s no guarantee they’ll appear when you visit, spaceweather.com can send you Aurora alerts!

O'Grady's on the Pier

Pic credit O’Grady’s Restaurant Barna

We have some delicious winter warmers

Tuck into some of Ireland’s traditional dishes, such as a hearty bowl of stew or seafood chowder, to warm you from the inside out. Along the west coast, you will find world class fish restaurants from Harry’s Bar & Restaurant in Inishowen to Grady’s on the Pier, promoting only the finest and freshest local produce fresh from the Atlantic.

Galway Christmas Market

Pic credit @galwaychristmasmarket

City breaks will warm your heart

What can we say? The atmosphere in our cities is electric during winter. Galway’s Christmas is in the top 10 in Europe. This twinkly winter wonderland is the ideal Christmas getaway.

 

The towns and villages are buzzing

On a cold night in Ireland, there is always a log fire to gather around and hear a story or two – the nation has after all one of the strongest storytelling traditions of any indigenous population in the world. On Loop Head, a wealth of folklore – some ancient, some relatively recent – has been passed down from generation to generation, with the stories often embellished for greater effect.

Look out for a ‘Come Here ’Til I Tell You’ session in Loop Head.