Hidden gems in the west of Ireland

Hidden gems in the west of Ireland

Mom and Pop stores, as they’re known in the US, are all over the villages, towns and cities of our west coast keeping alive the old traditions and customer service that many of us remember with fondness.


Ainsworth's Butchers Killybegs DonegalRemember those stores? You could run in, get a key cut, buy some milk and a mouse trap, purchase

a television and rent a film for the night amongst a million other things! They still exist throughout the west, and are loved by all in the community.

Many of these stores have great old-fashioned hand painted signage and window dressing that just invites you in.

Anyone who uses them on a regular basis knows well – if you haven’t the right change, you’ll get them tomorrow. If you need advice on what you want, you’ll get an actual expert who’ll either get you what you need, order it in or send you off in the right direction. Sometimes, if it’s something you need for just a one-off occasion, they’ll tell you to drop it back when you’re finished!

If you’re lucky enough to live in a place with one or more of these shops, then you know it’s the unique personal touch that makes them work so well.

Ernest Speers Outfitters, Letterkenny, DonegalGraphic Designer, Trevor Finnegan, started a project a number of years ago where he set off on a mission to highlight the beauty of traditional Irish shopfronts, a project he called ‘Our Type’.  Trevor still takes trips around the country in search of new shops to add to the project.  Bring a smile to your face by scrolling through some of the classic shops around Ireland on his Instagram page @our.type.

Christmas Markets in Ireland

Christmas Markets in Ireland

It’s that time of year again – artisans, craft makers and all types of cottage industries are feeling the excitement in the run up to the most important business time of the year. This time of year brings the biggest opportunity to welcome both old and new customers. There’s something magical about Christmas Markets so we’ve come up with a guide to help you support these creative cottage industries across their many varied fields.



Top Tips For Christmas Market Visitors

  • Make sure you have cash, credit cards machines are few and far between
  • Bring your own bags for purchases, recycle, recycle, recycle
  • A pram for small children is advised
  • It’s getting chilly so wrap up warm.
  • If the market has a website or social media page, check it before you go so that you can plan what to look forward to.
  • There’ll most likely be food stalls so make them a highlight of your visit.


Here is a list of just some of the many markets in the west













Strandhill People’s Christmas Market

Sligo Christmas Market



Letterkenny Christmas Craft & Food Fair


Green is the new Black

Before you buy anything this Black Friday remember that Green is the New Black


A national campaign encouraging consumers to buy Irish goods on one of the busiest shopping days of the year – the last Friday in November – has been launched. The call to buy Irish, gift green and support Irish-made goods and services this Christmas is intended to keep money in circulation in the local economy, protecting jobs and public services.


As a nation we have enthusiastically embraced the American concepts of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. An estimated €250m is forecast to be spent by Irish shoppers on Black Friday, split almost equally between online and high street retailers. But if the nation chooses Green over Black this year, it will be the small independent shops and manufacturers which will benefit instead of the large corporations.

The  #greenfriday initiative is backed by many trade associations including the Design & Crafts Council of Ireland, Retail Excellence and Chambers Ireland.

On November 29th, the Green Friday campaign will ask people to input to the local economy, support jobs and help nurture the country’s creative community, manufacturers and service providers by buying Irish.

If you’re heading into town or shopping online, why not try to support the work and livelihoods of small independent shops, craftspeople and designer-makers from across the west of Ireland.

The Small Firms Association Director, Sven Spollen-Behrens, says that Christmas can add a major economic boost when shoppers back small businesses and help maintain jobs.

He said: “If each adult spent just €20 extra in small local businesses this Christmas, this would amount to an injection of over €73m for small firms and would have a huge, positive impact on local jobs and the vibrancy of town and village centres.”

The DNA of many small towns and villages in the west of Ireland has been affected by online retail which often switches the focus away from local shops and retailers. It’s time to give small producers a big chance and, in the process, help rebuild our towns and villages.

This year, why not make it your Christmas wish that all your gifts are locally sourced?

The West of Ireland inspires some wonderful creativity

Galleries in the west


The West of Ireland inspires some wonderful creativity so make sure you don’t miss out on some of the stunning galleries around our counties. Many of them are housed in beautifully renovated buildings with a history all of their own, and act as a community arts hub, bringing alive the arts scene in towns across the west. See for yourself…


The Russell Gallery

From an old stone ruin to a local landmark

This old 18th-century house in Newquay, Burren has been restored from an old stone ruin into a beautiful three-storey building to house the Russell Gallery and, for those who want to relax and reflect some more, a shop, café and wine bar. Gallery owners Andy and Stefania Russell regularly host exhibitions and works by Irish artists, including the Raku ceramic works of Andy himself which reflect the beauty and wildness of the nearby Atlantic and the natural landmark, the Burren.

The Russell Gallery, Newquay, Burren, Co. Clare, Ireland, +353 65 7078185

Image courtesy of The Russell Gallery


The Russell Gallery

The 1940’s bookshop which hosted Salvador Dalí

The Kenny Gallery began life as 1940’s bookshop in Liosbán, just outside Galway. But when owners Des and Maureen Kenny saw the potential of the local artists and crafters exhibited in the bookshop, they decided to convert their own living room into a gallery to give their art its own space. One of the first exhibitions to be held at this new art venue was a selection of paintings by the renowned Irish artist Sean Keating and over its 70 years, has hosted works by greats such as Salvador Dalí and Andy Warhol.
Nowadays, the gallery is a thriving centre of the arts, still run and owned by the family and a definite tick on any art lover’s list.

The Kenny Gallery, Liosbán Retail Park, Tuam Road, Galway, Ireland, +353 91 709350

Image courtesy of The Kenny Gallery


The Whitethorn Gallery

The hub of Clifden arts

Nestled near the stunning twin spires of Clifden is the Whitethorn Art Gallery. Directed by award-winning painter Anne Merrins, it hosts an eclectic mix of tranquil watercolours, textured oil paintings and delicate bronze sculptures. The space attracts Irish and other key European artists.

Clifden itself is also a blossoming hub of artistic activity, with a growing art community who support the renowned annual Clifden Community Arts Festival.

The Whitethorn Gallery, Main Street, Clifden, Co. Galway, Ireland, +353 87 2275171

Image courtesy of  The Whitethorn Gallery


Linen Hall

From Lord Lucan’s Linen Hall to the west’s most important Arts Centre

The Linenhall Arts Centre is in the westerly coastal town of Castlebar. It occupies the landmark old Linen Hall built by Lord Lucan in 1790 for the busy linen trade of Mayo and was reincarnated as an Arts Centre in 1986.

Since then, it has grown with support from the Arts Council of Ireland to become one of the most prominent and important Centres for the arts, not only in the West of Ireland but throughout the country.

In addition to supporting local artists in their work by providing workshops, talks and exhibitions, the Linenhall is also a venue for national and international music, theatre, cinema and opera.

The Linenhall Arts Centre, Linenhall Street, Castlebar, Co. Mayo, Ireland, +353 94 9023733

Image courtesy of Linen Hall


The Model, home of the Niland Collection

Home of the Niland Collection

Built in 1862, Sligo’s Model School has since been transformed into the progressive The Model arts centre which is seen as the heart of contemporary Irish art in the west of Ireland.
It houses the impressive Niland Collection of Art, which includes works from some of the most famous Irish artists such as Jack B. Yeats, Louis le Brocquy and Paul Henry. The Model has also made a name for delivering experimental, progressive and critically acclaimed art programmes.
The building is a vibrant space with a restaurant and coffee dock, a bookshop, a wonderful gallery circuit, a purpose built performance space, and a suite of impressive artist studios on the top floor with enviable views of Sligo town and County.
The Model, home of the Niland Collection, The Mall, Sligo, Ireland, +353 71 9141405

The Model, home of the Niland Collection © The Model

Image courtesy of The Model


Ross Fine Art Gallery

Where Irish and International art meet

Tucked away from the Lough Swilly inlet in the northerly town of Ramelton, the Ross Fine Art Gallery is the Donegal specialist in contemporary art from both Irish and international roots. Opened in 2007, works by Jack B. Yeats and Norah McGuinness have graced its walls. The gallery also promotes the works of local Donegal artists, creating a diverse mix of artistic creations. The gallery is the brainchild of fine artist Janet Ross, whose own work is a regular fixture here.

Ross Fine Art Gallery, The Mall, Ramelton, Co. Donegal, Ireland, +353 74 9151926

Rural walking scheme reopens

Rural walking scheme reopens

Ten years ago, some of the most breathtaking walks in the west were not fully accessible to walkers.

But when a government scheme worked with landowners to open up access across their land, paying them to maintain paths, the number of visitors to key areas and rural incomes were given a much needed boost.

During the recession, lack of funding meant applications to join the scheme were closed even though the hikers continued to come. The good news is, the scheme has now opened up to new members. Find out all about it here

Halloween 2019

Lots to do across the west this Halloween

From the dark dungeons of Westport House to the tombs of Carrowmore Cemetery to the much less spooky streets of Letterkenny, there’s lots to do in the west this Halloween. We’ve rounded up a few of our frightening favourites…

Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetery

Creep your way round Carrowmore

Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetery is one of the most magical places to be on Halloween as the sun lights up many of the sites at dawn on 31st October. The site will be open at 7.15am in time for sunrise and a talk about sacred Neolithic journeys at 8am. There’ll also be tea and buns to keep you in the present!


Lose your head in Letterkenny

Lose your head in Letterkenny

It’s party time on the streets of Letterkenny with their annual Halloween Fest kicking off at 12.30pm on 31st at the Market Centre. You can try out the trick or treat trail, scream room or the games and storytelling session before taking part in the big parade!


Glendeer's Spooktastic Halloween Event

Hang out with the Roscommon witch

Roscommon’s Glendeer Pet Farm has turned ghoulish for Halloween from 26th October – 3rd November with an eerie maze and Pumpkin Passage through the Forbidden Forest past skeletons, ghosts and ghouls. You can hang out and cast spells with the scary witch and toast marshmallows over an open fire – but it might be spookier than you think!

Dare the dark dungeons of Westport House

Down in the basement of Westport House this Halloween, you can explore the dark dungeons and gather round the cauldron for some wicked tales from the White Witch of Westport. You can also get stuck onto the Pirate Adventure Park which has less frights and more thrills! See their video here

Get spooked at the Burren Nature Sanctuary

The haunted barn at Burren Nature Sanctuary has been kitted out to host a scary mix of spooky characters and some eerie ghost stories. If you don’t look scary enough to join in, get your face painted as your favourite character and see if you can spook your neighbour!

Unwind on some of our favourite hikes

Turn off, tune out and take a hike

Ever dream of just unplugging from the world and wandering where no WiFi can find you? Maybe we can help!

It’s great to be digitally connected but what’s even better about living and working in the west is that when you’re ready to take a break from the day to day grind, you have all sorts of hikes on your doorstep.

We’ve rounded up a few of our favourites here:

Diamond Hill

Diamond Hill Loop, Galway

You’d imagine the best scenery in Ireland would take a lot of effort and uphill struggle – not at Diamond Hill Loop. This easy trek follows a 445 metre descent, providing you with some epic scenic moments like Kylemore Abbey and the Twelve Ben mountains.

Slieve League Cliffs

Slieve League, Co. Donegal

Test your inner dare devil here by walking across the famous ‘one man pass’.  A 400-metre long ridge with steep drops to the Atlantic Ocean either side, it’s a  beautiful scenic hike – just steer clear on a windy day!

Keem Bay, Achill Island, Co. Mayo

Croaghaun, Co. Mayo

At 668 metres, Croaghaun is the smaller of Achill Island’s two peaks, but it’s the one with the best views of the sheer drop to the sea. This is where you’ll find Ireland’s highest corrie lake, Bunnafreva Lough West, which is always a great photo opportunity especially with the distinctive Keem Bay in the background.


Benbulbin, Co. Sligo

Undoubtedly Ireland’s most distinctive mountain, Benbulbin is located in the Darty Mountains. Don’t get fooled by the summit height of 526 metres – this mountain is a tough hike and takes about four hours to complete. You’ll get a more accessible climb if you start from the south of the mountain and the breathtaking views of Yeats country from the summit are worth the effort.

Kilkee Cliffs

Kilkee cliff walk

The Kilkee cliff walk is every bit as mesmerising as the cliffs of Moher, just without the crowds, or the fencing!  Some of the key attractions of this 8km cliff walk are the Pollock holes, Diamond Rocks, and Intrinsic Bay. A great starting point is at the Diamond Rocks Café. There are no walls between the walkway and the cliff’s edge, so you’ll get your daily dose of adrenaline just by walking. Just be careful!

Lough Glenade

Eagle’s Rock, Co Leitrim

This glacial formation is an awe-inspiring centrepiece on a tough but rewarding walk.

Located in the breathtaking Dartry Mountains, Eagle’s Rock is Ireland’s highest free standing tower and one of the most iconic landmarks in the Glenade Valley and North Leitrim.

Rainbow over Roscommon 134

Suck River Valley Co Roscommon

The majority of the route is through low-lying farmland, incorporating the boglands of the river Suck, lakes, drainage channels and callows, which are wet grasslands.

Stop along the way at the ‘Nine Friendly Villages’ before heading off to encounter some of the bird and plant life typical in Irish boglands. Really beautiful.

Thanks to Ireland’s Content Pool for the lovely images.

The Business of Literature – €1.9 million Fund Set to Unlock the Potential of Literary Tourism sector

  • Three-year literary tourism pilot programme launches across four Northern European countries this Autumn
  • €80K Fund Available to Support Literary Tourism Enterprises in Ireland
  • Organisations and businesses encouraged to sign up to November workshops.

The untapped potential of literary tourism is the focus of Spot-lit, a new three-year project spearheaded by the Western Development Commission in Ireland, that aims to grow the literary tourism sector in the Northern Periphery and Arctic region. The new programme will support organisations and businesses in this culturally-rich region to grow, collaborate and better engage audiences together.
Literary Tourism is an emerging niche sector within the wider cultural tourism sector, where places with literary heritage offer author and fiction-related literary tourism opportunities along with opportunities arising from literary festivals, trails and book shops. In Ireland, this would include literary rich locations such as Sligo, synonymous with the poet WB Yeats, Seamus Heaney and Bellaghy in Derry, Cuirt International Festival of Literature in Galway, Doolin Writers’ Weekend in Clare.
Funded by Interreg Northern Periphery and Arctic Programme 2014-2020, the regions participating in the Spot-lit programme area are the West of Ireland, Northern Ireland, Eastern Finland and South-West Scotland. Collectively, the region is home to world-class literary icons and landscapes, however, research suggests there is potential for this sector to work together and grow significantly. Current low levels of joined-up literary tourism activity in the Northern Periphery and Arctic Region make it a sector that is ripe for development.
Spot-lit addresses the need for shared development and marketing of existing assets and the development of new ones, which respond to emerging literary and cultural consumer needs. This will result in a better cultural tourism offering and deliver greater economic impact than projects developed in national isolation.
The programme will include the development of a cluster network across the regions, a series of support workshops, the development of 20 new literary products or services and shared learning and transnational marketing.

In November, Spot-lit Partner, the Western Development Commission will deliver a series of workshops for businesses interested in Literary Tourism product development:

  • Building successful Literary Tourism experiences for visitors
  • Designing and developing your Literary Tourism product or service
  • Knowing and growing your market

Visit Spot-lit.eu to find out more.

Following on from the workshops, businesses will be invited to participate in a Literary Business Support Programme. The programme will be open to SMEs, social enterprises, community groups and literary associations with a unique idea for the development of Literary Tourism in their area. This bespoke programme will involve a series of monthly engagement workshops, learning journeys, business advice clinics and individual mentoring supports. The programme will engage with and support 5 businesses and will include €10,000 business development support. The focus of the business idea/product will be for the development of Literary Tourism through literature, place and performance.

In tandem with the Literary Business Support Programme, a new Literary Tourism Model will be developed and will include a €25,000 business support – the model will be developed by identifying a programme of potential performances linked to the Wild Atlantic
Way and its literary assets.

Speaking on the launch of the SME Businesses Support Programme, CEO Tomás Ó Síocháin of the Western Development Commission said:
‘The west has a fantastic story to tell; an area of arresting physical beauty, centres of innovation and economic growth, however Spot-Lit is an opportunity to focus on some of the stories as yet untold. I would urge communities, groups and SMEs to engage with the Literary Business Support Programme, one aspect of the work of the WDC in supporting the Creative Economy.’

The project launched on September 25th with a new website at www.spot-lit.eu, dedicated social media channels @spot_lit_eu. The NPAP region in Ireland includes all coastal counties from Donegal to Cork. Literary businesses and organisations in these counties are encouraged to register their interest for upcoming events and workshops.
The project will run until September 2021.

Prepare your business for Customs workshop

What does Brexit mean for your business?

With Brexit on the horizon, the timing for LEO Donegal’s ‘Prepare Your Business for Customs Workshop’ couldn’t be more timely.

The workshop will cover how export and import Customs will impact trade with the UK as a ‘Third Country’, how tariffs work and the need to correctly classify your goods.
Hosted by the Director of Export-Edge Austin Rutledge and his colleagues, this workshop will help you understand the pending Customs documentation requirements and procedures needed post Brexit. Export Edge have been leaders in Customs and Export Operations Training to help companies optimise their Trade and Customs procedures plus keep abreast of their compliance responsibilities.
The workshop will help you become more familiar with the Customs compliance requirements that will affect your company when trading with the UK outside the EU, and will give you the chance to brainstorm the urgent tasks and applications needed to mitigate costly delays and penalties.
Attendance is free but booking is essential. Lunch is included.

When and where: Thursday 24th October, 2019. From 9.30 am – 4.00 pm at Radisson Blu Hotel, Neil T. Blaney Road, Letterkenny.

For more details and to book your place click here.

Win a 2 day break in Killaloe

Competition – Win a fantastic prize

Win a break in a boutique Co. Clare cottage with an afternoon at W2 Exchange.

All you have to do to WIN this fantastic prize is send us a picture showing us what you love doing in the west of Ireland when #yourtimeisyourown

Go to our Facebook or Instagram pages and upload your picture to the competition post.

The LookWest team will pick the winner.

The living room in One Little Cottage

The living room of the cottage

The one we think is the best will WIN:

1)     A 2 night break in a Boutique Cottage in the stunning Co Clare village of Killaloe.

2)     An afternoon in W2 Exchange with access to a hotdesk facility in a shared office environment with hi-speed internet.

Go ahead and post your pic on our Facebook or Instagram pages.


Terms and Conditions

  • Entrants must be over 18.
  • The prize is as follows: Two nights in One Little Cottage for a group of up to six people with a half day access to W2 exchange.
  • The prize is as stated and no cash or other alternatives will be offered.
  • The prize is not transferable. The prize is subject to availability and we reserve the right to substitute any prize with another of equivalent value without giving notice.
  • LookWest.ie will judge the competition and decide on the shortlist each week, which will be picked at random from all complete entries via Facebook or Instagram.
  • The decision of LookWest.ie is final.
  • The entrant must be following LookWest.ie on Facebook or Instagram in order to enter.
  • LookWest.ie shall have the right, at its sole discretion and at any time, to change or modify these terms and conditions.
  • LookWest.ie also reserves the right to cancel the competition or amend if circumstances arise.
  • The winner agrees to the use of their name and image in any publicity material, as well as their entry. Any personal data relating to the winner or any other entrants will be used solely in accordance with current data protection legislation and will not be disclosed to a third party without the entrant’s prior consent.
  • If posting an image ensure you have consent of any person featured.
  • Closing date is December 1st 2019.
  • Entry into the competition will be deemed as acceptance of these terms and conditions.