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?

Science Week Festivals 2019

Science Week Festivals 2019


This year Science Week is running regional festivals offering a range of opportunities for the public to engage with Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEAM). The festivals will feature family open days, schools outreach events and public talks.


Each festival involves a programme of events which celebrates science and research in the community. All festivals will be running numerous events so it’s guaranteed there will be something for everyone. It’s always a great event.

In Galway check, out the Galway Science Exhibition Day on Sunday 24th November, in NUI.
It’s a fantastic one day celebration and promotion of STEAM with over 80 interactive stands, 30 shows and workshops. In here you’ll find Lego, Chemistry, DNA, Teddy Bear Hospital, Star Domes and animation to name but a few of the activities. Well worth a trip! You can book tickets here.

The Sligo Science Trail is running until Sunday 17th November. The IT Sligo Faculty of Science have this year teamed up with Green Campus to pose Climate, Environmental Science and Technology questions.

The trail runs through the city centre with science objects and clues in shop windows, you need to pick up a map from any of the shops or, if you’d prefer, download it here and start the hunt. Can you find all the clues and complete the trail? After you complete the trail, drop your maps into Fabio’s Ice cream shop in Quayside Shopping Centre to enter the prize winning draw for an Oregon Home Weather Station.
While you’re there you should ask Fabio about The Science of Ice. An ice cream is actually quite a complex and multi-faceted composition, it should be solid, yet soft, and should stay that way while melting slowly. The reasons for the delicate and mesmerising nature of ice cream is ultimately a matter of food chemistry! Just ask Fabio.

Exciting Plans are underway at this year’s Mayo Science and Technology Festival. Culminating with a Family Open Day in GMIT, Castlebar on Sunday 17th from 11.30am. The Open Day will feature an exciting blend of fantastic interactive shows such as The Animal Encounter Zone at the National Reptile Zoo, The Scientific Dilemmas of Dippy the Dinosaur, Scientific Sue, The Exploration Dome and industry demonstrations where you can try out the exciting ‘Dream Flyer’, hands-on workshops such as Madlabs, Our Sun and Other Stars, Building Robots, presentations such as ‘How to Speak Gorilla’ and ‘Drone the Future and Satellites’, plus loads of free-giveaways.

There’s something for all the family here and all events are Free of Charge with free parking on the day.

Free Public WiFi in Galway

Across the globe, many cities are recognising the value of offering free internet throughout the city zone. A new extension to Galway’s free WiFi sees it expanding from 13 to 35 access points, making Galway Ireland’s largest WiFi connected city.

During 2019, the most popular on-the-go smartphone activities were getting directions and finding new restaurants. These are activities that support commerce in the community so making them cheaper and handier makes good business sense for a city.

Evidence suggests that public WiFi increases footfall and encourages people to spend more time in the area. And this increase on the streets converts to more business being done in the shops, bars and cafes around the city.

For business people on the go, free WiFi is crucial for conducting meetings in public places or simply staying on top of communications whilst on the move.

This free connectivity is also extremely important for attracting and retaining younger residents.

Galway’s public WiFi adds value to facility rentals, and is a huge bonus for attracting and supporting fairs, festivals, sporting events and meetings.

From a tourism perspective, the splash screens that users see when they log onto WiFi can give a good overview of things to do in the city, events the Council wants to promote, or they can be used to direct users to a business.

Free WiFi really does further underpin Galway’s credentials as a visitor, customer and business friendly city.

Galway company wins ‘Irish Times Innovation of the Year award 2019’

Galway company wins ‘Irish Times Innovation of the Year award 2019’

We have a look at the life of Brendan McCormack, Vice President of Quality with Atlantic Therapeutics, the company which just won two prestigious awards at the ‘Irish Times Innovation awards’ 2019.

Like all success, this hasn’t come from nowhere. Galway based Atlantic Therapeutics – a spin-out from the Bio-Medical Research Group, the company behind the well-known global brand Slendertone – are currently operating in a range of European markets such as the UK, France, Germany, Spain and Italy.

They recently finalised distribution deals in Scandinavia and are making massive inroads in the US. The company develops medical devices, related software, apps and connected health technologies and won this prestigious award with their breakthrough device, Innovo.

Brendan and Jenni on their wedding dayBrendan tells us why his move to this ground breaking company has been such a good one for him professionally and personally: “Before I made the move to Atlantic Therapeutics two years ago, I was working for a different medical devices company and living between Dublin and Limerick. My career path at that time looked like taking me to either Dublin full-time or London. I felt I was being swallowed up into the city and it was something I wasn’t really into. Around this time, on a night out, I met what turned out to be the love of my life and my future wife, Jenni. She was based in Galway and entrenched in its local scene. The more time I spent in Galway with Jenni, the more I saw what I was missing out on and I thought – ‘I only have one life, I can’t let it pass me by.'”

Brendan started to look around to see what was available in his industry and after a short while he was asked to Join Atlantic Therapeutics as Vice president of Quality, a promotion from his previous work. He still travels the world, but he has a great home to come back to. With both the city and the motorway on his doorstep while still in the countryside, Brendan enjoys the best of both worlds.

Now with a home and garden that would be hard to equal in Dublin or London, Brendan is able to enjoy his down-time properly when he gets it!

Brendan enjoying the west“You’ve got to love it. I live in Kinvara, I’m only a twenty minute drive to work, where I can park on my doorstep. I’m down the road from the culture hot-spot that is Galway with its abundance of restaurants, theatre and gigs and I just have to stroll out the door to some great walks.

I love the positive impact of a rural community, there is a vibrancy and a quality to life that is completely different to anything else. I love the fact I didn’t have to take a step backward to be here, working with Atlantic Therapeutics has been absolutely the perfect step forward in my career”.

Two of the top five Irish Times Awards were won by finalists in the west of Ireland, it’s just another example of the wealth of opportunity in the west, not only for entrepreneurs, but also for those hoping to join already established firms in a large variety of employment.
The other winners were, PEL Waste Reduction Equipment, based in Balla, Co Mayo, who won the ‘Manufacturing and Design’ category for their innovative solar-powered compacting litter bin, BriteBin.

Lead picture credit: rte.ie

Galway 2020 European Capital of Culture Open Call

Galway 2020 is today issuing an open call for up to 2,020 people from communities across Galway city, county and beyond to be part of Galway’s European Capital of Culture opening ceremony celebrations. Percussionists and chanters are just some of the roles being cast in the seven day-long opening celebrations. All abilities are welcome. If you can clap your hands, stamp your feet or bang a pot and pan together, then you are exactly who is needed

The celebrations will start with a symbolic turf cutting ceremony on St Brigid’s day and fiery festivals will erupt in towns across the county over seven consecutive nights from Sunday 2 of February. Moving ever closer to the city through the first week of Imbolc, with events in Clifden, Spiddal, Tuam, Ballinasloe, Portumna and Athenry, a huge cast drawn from across the community will invade the streets and squares of Galway city on the evening of Saturday 8 of February for the spectacular open-air finale.

Find out more HERE

Courtesy of Galway 2020

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

Go Connect with Go Remote

Go Connect with Go Remote

Go Remote says that 69% of people don’t work remotely because they don’t know how to. Yet there are hundreds of jobs available in office-less companies.

If you work remotely or are interested in trying it, the national meet up on 1st and 2nd of November in Kinvara, Co Galway, offers lots of ideas with talks and workshops around facilitating and supporting remote working. Interested? Book your €10 ticket 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!