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

Other Voices Mayo returns to Ballina in February

Great news! Other Voices music festival, which took Ballina by storm in September 2018, will return at the end of February 2020. 

The Partnership between South Wind Blows, Moy Valley resources and Mayo County Council  enables Other Voices to again showcase excellent music, provide great workshops, a music trail in local pubs, high-profile concerts in St. Michael’s Church (live-streamed to local pubs and Ballina Arts Centre) and the ground-breaking Ireland’s Edge Conference.

Chief Executive of Mayo County Council, Peter Hynes added “This is really good news for the town of Ballina. Other voices is a unique celebration of music and place like no other music event in Ireland. We will extend the warmest of welcomes to the artists and to all those who come to experience Other Voices in County Mayo

Annette Maughan, CEO Moy Valley Resources IRD supporting todays announcement outlined “Moy Valley Resources IRD is excited to team up with Other Voices, Mayo County Council and our local partners to bring this fantastic festival back to Ballina. We look forwarding in the coming weeks to delivering an unforgettable weekend for the town”

There was a tremendously positive response to the Other Voices Festival in Ballina in 2018 and it is conservatively estimated that the economic benefit to the region was in excess of  two million addition to an extensive media reach.

Other Voices has been going strong in Dingle for seventeen years, which has led to the creation of an acclaimed Music TV series with over fifteen international broadcast partners. Other Voices Mayo will also feature in the next broadcast series on RTE later this year.

Further information of an exciting line up of artists will be announced next week by Other Voices

Consultation Workshops for Communities in Renewable Electricity

Workshops in Sligo, and Tipperary

The Tipperary Energy Agency and the Western Development Commission in association with the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment would like to invite you to a consultation workshop for communities that are interested in the upcoming Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS) auctions and the associated community proposals. The Government is committed to the first RESS auction happening in June 2020 and the current consultation on RESS 1 closes on January 17th 2020.

The workshops will discuss the 4 Key Community Pillars proposed:

Community Led Renewable Energy Projects

  • Separate community category in auctions
  • Enabling framework for community energy projects – range of support

 Developer Led Renewable Energy Projects

  • Mandatory community benefit fund
  • Mandatory community investment offering

The workshop locations are as follows:

  • Friday 10th January 09.30 – 2pm IT Sligo

Click HERE to register  https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/community-consultation-workshop-for-renewable-electricity-support-scheme-tickets-86672123655

  • Tuesday 14th January 09.30 – 2pm Abbey Court Hotel Nenagh Co Tipperary

Click HERE to register https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/community-consultation-workshop-for-renewable-electricity-support-scheme-tickets-86706121343

The Department and SEAI are supporting our roadshow initiative and encourage attendance and open discussion in the three events. Everything remains open for improvement. They have asked that community reps focus on a few key elements of what is a large consultation document found here https://www.dccae.gov.ie/en-ie/energy/consultations/Pages/Public-Consultation-on-the-Draft-RESS-Terms-and-Conditions.aspx

  • Proposed definition of community renewable project – page 17. Linking to section 7.1.1 on page 60.
  • Proposed community category in support scheme – pages 47-49
  • Proposed community aspects of support scheme – pages 60-63. Please note there are two errors relating to the Community Benefit Fund proposals on pages 61-62.  First, 7.2.4 provisions a and b were meant to be combined at 25%, not 25% each. Second, 7.2.2 appears to suggest that only enterprises active in energy or climate need apply. This was only intended for 50% of the fund.  So, the fund make up was meant to read up to 25% for near neighbours, 50% or more for energy and climate action, 5% for admin and the remaining 20% for all sorts of clubs, societies and not-for-profit initiatives.
  • Proposed citizen investment scheme – Appendix C.
  • At the roadshow events the Department and SEAI also seek discussion on what supports communities will need to deliver their own projects. They plan to start constructing an enabling framework early in 2020.

Other useful reference documents include:

Assessment of models for community renewables in Ireland https://www.dccae.gov.ie/en-ie/energy/consultations/Documents/28/consultations/Assessment%20of%20models%20for%20community%20renewables%20in%20Ireland.pdf

–    Research paper on co-ownership of renewable energy projects https://www.seai.ie/documents/research-projects/RDD-000095.pdf

Contact Dr Orla Nic Suibhne for further information.

LECo Project Officer,

Western Development Commission

Mob: 087-7449405

Leading Retail Technology Innovation From Claremorris

There are not too many indigenous companies operating in the West of Ireland who can count the dotcom bubble of the 1990s and the global financial crisis in 2007 among the challenges they have overcome during almost 40 years in existence – but retail technology firm CBE can do just that.

Indeed, CBE’s consistent success in the ever-changing world of retail payments technology suggests that this business situated at the heart of the Atlantic Economic Corridor is well placed to thrive for another 40 years.

Based in Claremorris, Co Mayo, CBE is one of Europe’s leading innovators in retail technology, serving the supermarket, convenience, forecourt and hospitality sectors. It has a staff of almost 150 people, having started out with just three in 1980.

“In the early days we were just buying third-party software from UK suppliers,” says Sean Kenna, chief executive of CBE. “But it didn’t fit all customer requirements, so we decided to set up our own software development company in 1995.”

CBE is now a one-stop shop for anything to do with retail technology. Every day, shoppers throughout the UK and Ireland routinely use their products when making purchases at cash registers, self-checkouts or card readers in local shops, supermarkets, restaurants, bars, hotels and a host of other outlets.

“We take on all the various areas around the technology of a retail unit – development of the software, supply of the hardware, project management, training, on-field support, consultancy and ongoing software support. We like to come in at the start and offer a complete partnership approach.”

The company employs 146 people between its offices in Ireland and the UK, with 70 percent of them based in head office in Claremorris. Recruitment of additional sales staff and software developers should see staff numbers rise to 150 soon.

Sean joined CBE as a sales rep in 1980 and was its managing director for 15 years before becoming CEO in late 2016 – after company founder and chairman Gerry Concannon stepped back from the role.

Claremorris was initially selected as the location for CBE because it was well positioned for a company aiming to drive sales across Connacht, but the town has continued to serve CBE well even after its business horizons took on global dimensions.

The opening of Knock Airport in 1985 – as well as its ongoing expansion ever since – was a major boon for the company as it built its UK operations and motorway access to Dublin has also been a benefit.

“Then, Claremorris was one of the first towns to get high-speed fibreoptic which meant we could expand our support hub here and not have to move to a bigger centre,” Sean says. “We have over 30,000 terminals that we support every day, so we need very fast communications infrastructure.”

During the dotcom era it could be difficult to attract staff as software developers were drawn to the cities, and it took tenacity to negotiate the financial crisis.  A determination to retain staff through that difficult time paid dividends. “When the recovery came around, we didn’t have to recruit or retrain. We had some very high calibre people ready to hit the ground running,” Sean says.

Fast forward to 2019 and CBE is well established in its main markets of the UK and Ireland. It also has a nationwide contract with KFC in Denmark and is increasing its reach through consultancy services in Europe and Asia.

CBE is currently recruiting as it develops large projects with companies in the global oil industry and Sean is confident that its ongoing success and attractive and affordable location will draw in high-quality candidates as people increasingly look West to combine challenging careers with a better quality of life.

Claremorris was an ideal location for CBE when their commercial ambitions were limited to Connacht – it still is as they continue to expand around the world.

 

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).

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.