Mayo Dark Skies

Many stars are born

Taking on the growing problem of light pollution in Ireland, a Co Mayo community group has been set up with one particular aim: To raise children who can name more stars in the sky than stars on the screen!

Community is Strong in the West of Ireland, and strong communities make great things happen.
When one such group from Newport, Mulranny and Ballycroy got together in Co Mayo the stars were aligned.

In 2015 following research undertaken whilst at GMIT and with the support of NPWS, they put together the application for Ireland’s first International Dark Sky Park, which in 2016,  was accredited with gold tier.

Since then they have worked with local authorities, community groups and researchers to raise awareness of the growing problem of light pollution in Ireland. Mayo Dark Skies was a founder member of the Dark Sky Ireland group set up to tackle this problem nationwide and have produced guides and resources for communities and individuals to use which are accessible online.

They also give regular talks on how to reduce light pollution in the community and host events such as the annual International Dark Sky Week in 2019. The project was awarded EcoHero 2018 by Outsider Magazine and they are also in the nominations lists for the Spark Change Sustainable Community Awards by the Wheel.

This November there are two exciting events in the Dark Skies Park from the 1-3rd. First off is the fourth annual Dark Sky Festival which is a community collaboration between Newport, Mulranny & Ballycroy. The family friendly weekend event is set to be the best ever this year featuring Canadian Astronaut Robert Thirsk, Éanna Ní Lamhna, French astro artists Chasseurs de nuit and many other events relating to astronomy, rocket making, stargazing and much more.

Immediately following the festival, they have a very important international event. The Park will host the 14th European Symposium for the Protection of the Night Sky from 3-5th November. It is the first event of its kind in Ireland to be licenced by the International Dark Sky Associationand is being twinned with their own Dark Sky Conference in Tucson.

To find out more click here

Photo Credit: Mayo Dark Sky Park
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.
  • 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 is final.
  • The entrant must be following on Facebook or Instagram in order to enter.
  • shall have the right, at its sole discretion and at any time, to change or modify these terms and conditions.
  • 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.
The Tweeting Goddess, National Womens Enterprise Day 2019

National Women’s Enterprise Day 2019

Female entrepreneurs from across the West are #MakingItHappen in 2019, and Local Enterprise Office Galway is delighted to present a dynamic and engaging event on behalf of Galway, Mayo and Roscommon to celebrate National Women’s Enterprise Day. To mark the occasion, a special event will be held in Galway city’s historic Hotel Meyrick on the 17th of October. Read more

The Business of Literature – Major Literary Tourism Initiative Set to Enhance Commercial Capacity in Northern European Region

Major new three-year literary tourism pilot programme set to launch across four Northern European countries this Autumn.

Spot-lit is a new three-year project that aims to grow the literary tourism sector in the Northern Periphery and Arctic region by supporting the 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.Funded by Interreg Northern Periphery and Arctic Programme, the regions participating in the Spot-lit programme area are Western Ireland, Northern Ireland, Eastern Finland and South-West Scotland.

All share a number of common features such as low population density, low accessibility, low economic diversity, abundant natural resources, and high impact of climate change.
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.










Some of the Spot-lit partners at a recent partner meeting in Scoltland (left to right) Filip Sever, Mary Keaveney, Minna Mustonen, Helena Aaltonen  Marlene Kohllechner-Autto, Shane Campbell.

Speaking on the occasion of the launch of the project, CEO Tomás Ó Síocháin of the Western Development Commission said: “We are delighted to launch this programme today following an extensive period of research and development. Spot-Lit has the capacity to deliver tangible benefits to under-tapped regions across Europe through the literary tourism sector which we know has the potential to be a major economic driver. We encourage any organisation or business in the literary tourism sector to visit our website and sign-up for our information roadshows in early October.”

This Autumn, the Spot-lit partners in Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Finland will deliver a series of workshops for businesses interested in Literary Tourism development.

Workshop 1: Building Successful Literary Tourism Experiences for Visitors
Workshop 2: Designing and developing your Literary Tourism product or service
Workshop 3: Knowing and growing your market

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 5 businesses in each country and will include a €10,000 innovation voucher. The focus of the business idea/product will be for the development of Literary Tourism.

The project will officially launch on September 25th with a new website at, dedicated social media channels @spot_lit_eu, followed by a call out for literary businesses and organisations to register their interest for upcoming events and workshops.

killary coastal park

Killary Coastal Park – Now open to the public

The Killary Coastal Park is a newly built 2km looped coastal walk located on the grounds of Killary Adventure Company in Leenane, Co. Galway.

Things to know about the Killary Coastal Park

  • Where: Killary Adventure Co, Leenane, Co. Galway, Ireland, H91 PY61
  • Cost: Free to use for individuals and small groups
  • Opening times: All year round
  • Parking: Free at the car park at the start of the walk
  • Terrain: Rough underfoot, not suitable for buggies

A bit about the trail

This coastal trail brings walkers down to the shores of the Killary Fjord where they can enjoy stunning views. From the northern shore of Killary Fjord rises Mweelrea, the highest mountain in Connacht. To the south, there is a most imposing panorama of Maumturk Mountains and the Twelve Bens.  There is a vast array of bird and wildlife to be found on the Fjord including Heron, barnacle goose, mallard duck, mute swan, seals, otters, and dolphins.

There are art installations along the route; a chain saw carving of the prow of a Viking Long Ship done by Limerick artist Will Fogarty and a 3m x 2m Oak frame which will frame some of the most dramatic scenery in Ireland, as the weather changes so does the picture!  There are information boards on the local flora and fauna painted by artist Rachel Craig, and of the geology and history of the Fjord.

The trail is free to use with a car park located just beside the start of the path. Shane Young of Killary Adventure Co. says “It is a stunning new amenity for the Leenane and Connemara region. We are lucky to have land available to use for such a facility.”

The path, although rough underfoot and not suitable for buggies, is perfect for families and walkers of all ages. It is also one of the few walking paths in Connemara on which dogs are welcome.

Onsite Food Truck Misunderstood Heron

The Misunderstood Heron food truck; recently voted one of the top 10 coolest food trucks in the world by the Lonely Planet, is located near the start of the walk making this a great destination.

The path could not have been built without the support and funding from the BIM flags grant.

For more information have a look here:


st patricks day

Top 10 Things To Do In The West For St Patrick’s Day 2019

It’s one of the biggest days in the calendar and a day for Irish people at home and abroad to celebrate our culture, identity and heritage.

But St Patrick’s Day is so much more than that.

We give you the rundown on the ‘Top 10 Things to do in the West of Ireland this St Patrick’s weekend’. 

1. Sunrise and Pipe Bands (17th March)

For traditional Irish St. Patrick’s Day festivities there’s no place like Achill on the rugged west coast of Ireland. In many villages on Achill there is a tradition of pipe bands, and on St. Patrick’s Day these colourful and compelling bands play a central role in celebrations.

From a 6am reveille, the bands march for most of the day – surely one of the longest St Patrick’s Day parades anywhere. For visitors, a thoroughly enjoyable day can be had following the Achill pipe bands, pausing for refreshments of course and taking time to enjoy the spectacular scenery of Achill Island. In the evening, traditional and modern entertainment is offered in many of the local hotels and pubs.

This schedule allows visitors and spectators to join the bands for a while and then to explore Achill’s other attractions – for the active visitor these include watersports, golf or hillwalking, while for the more relaxed visitor there are always the restaurants and bars to enjoy.

Celebrate Ireland’s national day in traditional style, and follow Achill’s pipe bands on their annual parades.

2019 Schedule:

8.00am – Dooagh Pipe Band starts. Molly’s, Keel West.
8.00am – Keel Pipe Band starts. Minaun View Bar, Keel.
8.30am – Pollagh Pipe Band starts. Dooagh NS, Dooagh.
8.45am – Dookinella Pipe Band starts. Achill Head Hotel, Pollagh.
9.00am – Afreann Gaeilge (Mass in Irish). St. Patrick’s Church, Pollagh.
10am – all bands play. St. Patrick’s Church, Pollagh.
10.30am – begin march from Pollagh to Dookinella.
12noon – Mass @ Dookinella Church.
1pm – bands play individually, then collectively. Dookinella church. Bands then commence march back to their own villages.


St Patricks Day

2. Galway’s St Patrick’s Day Parade  (17th March)

2019 marks the 117th anniversary of the Galway St. Patrick’s Day Parade. The iconic fountain in Eyre Square will even turn green as part of the St Patrick’s Day celebrations.  The Parade will start at 11.30am and finish at approximately 1.00pm.

This year’s route is changed to previous years. The Parade will start at 11.30am from NUIG and wind its way down University Road, over Salmon Weir Bridge, up Eglington Street street, and past the viewing stand in Eyre Square finishing at approximately 1 pm on Bothar Na mBan.

Macnas will be bringing their magic to the Galway St Patrick’s Day Parade for 2019. Macnas Artistic Director is delighted to showcase next generation Macnas; the Macnas drumming troupe aged 15 -19 which will be led, under the stewardship of Éimhín Cradock and Debbie Wright, will perform a celebration of the dance between shadow and light to the city streets.

They will be joined by the Macnas Young Ensemble, led by Miquel Barcelo, who will bring a performance inspired by the animal energy in flight and fight with the human spirit. This troupe will pioneer new beats on the street with the Macnas signature high octane performance.

Costume will be designed by Cherie White, makeup by Michelle Ruane. >>

3. May The Road Rise To Meet You (17th March)

St. Patrick’s Day, with a difference in South Sligo as athletes will once again take to the roads for the Tubbercurry St. Patrick’s Day 10K Road Race.

The first ever Tubbercurry 10K road race was planned for St. Stephen’s Day but was postponed due to snow and ice. It was rescheduled for St. Patrick’s Day 1973 and ever since it has become an annual fixture in the running calendar. Last year saw 375 runners take to the streets of Tubbercurry. >>

4. Go Native in Donegal (17th March)

Since 2005, the people of Burtonport, Co Donegal, and surrounding areas have hosted a celebration of Irish culture on St Patrick’s day.

St Patrick’s Day 2019 will see the 15th annual community celebration of Irish culture take place between 12 – 2 at St Columbas Community Centre in Burtonport, Co Donegal.

This is an indoor event suitable for all the family. The event, which has become an annual fundraiser for 3 local causes – The Local Lifeboat fund, St Columbas Community Centre & The Burtonport Festival is packed out each year with individuals coming from far and wide to enjoy some Irish Stew, traditional music, Irish dancing, marching bands, taditional games, children’s FREE raffles & art and craft, refreshments and much much more.

Entry to the event is BY DONATION and we do encourage you to bring some money to take part in the raffles that will be going on throughout the day. >>

St Patrick's Day

5. Join Ireland’s friendliest place for the Ennis St Patrick’s Day parade

Thousands of people are expected to line the streets of the Clare County Capital on Sunday, 17 March for the 2019 Ennis St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

This year there will be prizes awarded for the entrants that provide the “Most Musical & Colourful Spectacle” (1st Prize – €500, 2nd Prize – €300, 3rd Prize – €200).

The parade commences at 11.00am from Clare County Council’s Headquarters at Áras Contae an Chláir before proceeding via New Road, Newbridge Road, Club Bridge, Abbey Street, O’Connell Square, O’Connell Street, with participants finishing in the grounds of the Holy Family School, Station Road. >>

6. See the Quaker City String Band at Kiltimagh St Patrick’s Week festival:

Since 1989 in Kiltimagh, Co. Mayo, St. Patricks day has evolved to become a week-long celebration of Irish tradition and culture.

The Quaker City String Band from Philadelphia has visited Kiltimagh for the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade on many occasions, adding to the international flavour and colour of the week.

Visiting bands from Europe also join with various Irish Bands to create a fun-filled festival for everyone.

The highlight of the festival is the parade, and with over 40 floats and many bands, our St. Patrick’s Day Parade is one of the biggest and best in the West. 3pm, Sunday 17 March >>

st patricks day

7. Join Sligo’s ‘Largest Gathering of People Dressed as Leprechauns World Record’ attempt

Sligo’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade is the only event which has run in Sligo every year since 1971.

2019 celebrates 49 years of Parades in Sligo Town! This year It’ll be Leprechauns-a-Go-Go on the Sunday streets of Sligo when the St. Patrick’s Day Parade joins with local volunteers in an attempt at the Largest Gathering of People Dressed as Leprechauns World Record. it’s time for a new World Champion Town of Leprechauns and is calling on everyone attending this year’s Sligo parade to come dressed in a leprechaun costume. >>

8. Fun for all the family at Boyle’s St Patrick’s Day Parade

Boyle St. Patrick’s Day Parade 2019 will start at 3:30pm on Sunday 17th March. If people would like to enter a float, please assemble out in Mockmoyne for registration at 2:30. Best float wins €500.

9. Carrick on Shannon’s St Patrick’s Day Parade 2019

The lovely people of Leitrim can attend the Carrick on Shannon parade on Sunday 17th March starting at 12.45pm.’s+Day+Parade

10. For something different: Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes

On Monday 19th of March at 3 pm at the Hawk’s Well Theatre in Sligo, enjoy the wonderful anarchic work of children’s favourite Roald Dahl with storyteller and artist Wayne O’Connor as famous fairy tales are reimagined in a suitably revolting manner. >>


mayo surf scene

The Insider’s Guide to the County Mayo Surf Scene

The Insider’s Guide to the West Coast Surf Scene is a series exploring the vibrant West of Ireland surf scene along the Wild Atlantic Way. Your guide to the surf is writer, pro bodyboarder and surf coach Seamus McGoldrick from Strandhill, Sligo.

Seamus began surfing at Strandhill Beach, one of Sligo’s hidden gems, and followed his passion by setting up his own thriving surf school business, Sligo Surf Experience.

So, who better to give you the inside scoop on the Irish surf scene?

shambles mcgoldrick

Our series kicked off in Donegal where Seamus met some lucky surfers who manage to chase the dream of surfing all year round on the west coast. We then turned to Seamus’ home county of Sligo, where we met surfers of all hues – surfboard shapers, musicians, architects, and entrepreneurs – who have made Yeats County their home because of its world class waves.

Having followed the surf coast of Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way from south Donegal through Sligo we now land in the mystical county of Mayo; a wild, rugged county that can boast 1150 kilometres (722 miles) of coastline. With the longest coastline in Ireland, it is no wonder you can find plenty of waves out among the beaches and bogs of Mayo.

Mayo Surf Scene Overview

The limestone landscape of east Mayo gives way to blanket bog near its western Atlantic coast. Much of Mayo’s spectacular natural scenery lies near this coastal drive along Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way. The cliffs, stacks, and islands at Benwee Head offer some of the most dramatic scenery on the Irish coast. Under Mayo’s blanket bog lay spectacular secrets. The field systems used by the ancient Irish are preserved under the peat. The most famous site is the one at the Céide Fields which is believed to have been built five and a half thousand years ago and is the world’s oldest known field system.

In addition to the longest coastline, Mayo also contains Ireland’s largest offshore island, Achill Island, whose western edge houses Croughan mountain. Croughan’s northern slope has been eaten away by the ferocious Atlantic waves to produce the highest sea cliffs in Ireland (and the third highest in Europe at 688 meters).

Mayo is a laid back surf haven but people also visit the county’s dazzling beaches to kayak, kiteboard, paraglide, swim and dive. Outdoor enthusiast can explore Mayo’s Blueway trails or cycle the Great Western Greenway – one of the world’s most scenic cycleways.

The WAW Surf Coast ends at Erris, at the western tip of Mayo, and the majestic Bay Coast, a salty fresh-air playground, takes over from Erris into Connemara in western Galway. If you are looking for savage Irish beauty along with plenty of history and culture, Mayo is the place to be.

keel beach

Mayo Surf Scene Facts:

When the early Irish surfing pioneers ventured south from the spiritual home of Irish surfing in Rossnowlagh, County Donegal, they soon discovered Sligo. Naturally, Mayo became the next surfing frontier. Once you pass Easkey’s limestone reef breaks you soon reach the wilds of Mayo. You might not see any surfers, but they are there.

Ballina is the capital town but the largest town in Mayo is Castlebar (population 34,000) followed by Claremorris. Mayo is well serviced by rail and a number of national primary roads and easily accessible by Ireland West Airport Knock near the famous religious shrine at nearby Knock Village.

Mayo has always felt the effect of high emigration but the county can now boast that its great surfing is making young people stay put and attracting in foreigners. And when you land in Mayo make sure you learn the local lingo as nine percent of Mayo’s population live in the Irish speaking Gaeltacht.

Hikers might like to hike to the top of Croagh Patrick, the sacred mountain that overlooks Clew Bay that houses 365 islands, one for every day of the year and one owned by John Lennon. Clew Bay is home to the picturesque villages of Louisburgh, Murrisk and Mulranny – the gateway to Achill Island.

Local Surfer: Charles O Malley

Local Mayo surfer Charles O Malley felt lucky to grow up in Murrisk village at the foot of Croagh Patrick halfway between Westport and Louisburgh. His mother would drop him to the beach where he would hang out with one of his older brothers who worked for Surf Mayo one of the first Irish surf schools run by Elvis Beetham.

charles o malley

Charles catching a few summer fun ones

“My older brothers started surfing in the mid-Nineties and I copied everything they did. When I was a student I would teach kids in surf camp in the mornings for SURFMAYO and Lifeguard on Carrownisky Strand in the afternoons seven days a week. Summers were always hectic working on the beach every day but good fun also and helped fund my studies in IT Sligo.”

surfing carrowniskey

Carrowniskey Waves via SurfMayo on Twitter

According to Charles, surfing in Mayo is quite special because the county has such a vast amount of coastline. The beaches on the north and west coasts are exposed to all the swell that meets the Wild Atlantic Way. After a stint in Dublin and Galway working as an engineer, Charles returned to his home roots in Mayo in 2018 and started working with Elvis from SURFMAYO.

Elvis SurfMayo

Elvis Beetham of SurfMayo

“I’m lucky now that I’m living beside the coast again that I can fit in surfing in the mornings and evenings with running the surf school.”

Charles says ‘the big difference between summer and winter surfing is definitely the water temperature as it’s much cooler in the winter and the waves can be a bit bigger also. However, once you have a good winter wetsuit it makes it much easier to enjoy winter surfing around Mayo.”

Outside of surfing, Charles recommends other activities like cycling the Greenway, stand up paddle-boarding, windsurfing, kitesurfing, fishing, camping, swimming, playing GAA, rugby, football.


Sunset surfers at Carrowniskey

After all this action you will be pleased to know that between Westport and Louisburgh there are many great cafés, restaurants, and bars where locals and tourists enjoy hanging out. Charles reckons his local beach, Carrownisky Strand, is a great surfing beach: “however there many great surfing beaches in Achill and Belmullet also.”

“If you want to get into surfing in Mayo, my colleague Elvis is the man with the most knowledge to introduce you to surfing. He moved from Cornwall to Mayo twelve years ago and has taught hundreds of people to catch their first wave.”

SURFMAYO was Mayo’s first surf school, established in 1998, and one of the first surf schools and surf hire companies established in Ireland. SURFMAYO School of Surfing caters for all ages and abilities in surfing and offer professional surf coaching and equipment with coaches who are highly experienced, passionate surfers. SURFMAYO offers a taste of the ultimate surfing experience on the Wild Atlantic Way.

I learn from Charles that Danny Hedley from Louisburgh is the local up and coming teenage surfer. He began learning to surf with SURFMAYO eight years ago and you’ll often see him in the water preparing for events like the National Irish Surfing Association competitions.

Danny is also training to become a beach lifeguard and hopes to become a Surf Instructor. Charles tells me he ‘will be sure to spread his knowledge onto the next generation’.

More at

Brothers Fergal and Kevin Smith:

Surfer and photographer Kevin Smith

Fergal and Kevin Smith grew up four miles outside of Westport on an organic vegetable farm. Their family used to go to Achill Island on the weekends in the summer. Fergal’s dad tried surfing and he and his brother soon followed when Fergal was about seven years of age.

Being from Westport, Fergal was closer to Louisberg which is where he decided to go to school, to be closer to the waves. Now he could surf after school. Fergal surfed Keel Beach in Achill Island until he reached his teens when he started exploring other surf spots.

“I have amazing memories of Achill Island and I still love going there,” says Fergal. Finally, Fergal’s older brother Kevin, also an avid surfer, got a car and the true adventure began. Every day they would venture all over Mayo and out to Belmullet to go surfing. Fergal began to excel the better the waves became.

Kevin Smith is a standout Mayo surfer in his own right who is now a professional photographer. But it was Fergal who decided to focus on becoming a professional surfer. Kevin went off surfing to Australia and became an engineer. When he came back to Ireland, Fergal’s surfing career was taking off and his brother decided to turn professional. Fergal needed someone to film him surfing and Kevin was always interested in photography.

The two brothers began one of the most remarkable collaborations in Irish surfing history culminating in the fantastic Growing Series.

“Surfing, as a teenager, was my dream in life to pursue.” explains Fergal, “And I really wanted to see how good I could get, to push myself but also to surf these amazing waves in Ireland.”

Before Fergal, the days when the surf was huge were spent watching the massive waves break from the safety of the shore. Fergal grew up seeing these waves breaking but he hadn’t seen people riding them. He knew it was possible. In fact, with partners in crime Mickey Smith and Tom Lowe from Cornwall, he went ahead and made it possible, busting down the door for others to follow. With minimal equipment and money, this power trio broke down the perception of what was possible in Irish waters.

The Mayo coastline borders on Enniscrone, home of local surfing legend Cain Kilcullen, the manager of the family-run seaweed baths.

fergal smith

“I grew up with Cain Kilcullen who is still in my opinion and in most people’s opinion one of or the best talented Irish surfers that there ever has been. I had the privilege of growing up with him.” says Fergal.

Inevitably Fergal began to venture farther afield in search of more waves. Fergal learned a lot from the varied coastline of Mayo and the precocious talent of Cain Kilcullen and began to attract the attention of surfing magazines and photographers. Soon, he was the most photographed surfer in the world.

Fergal enjoyed his work as a professional surfer, surfing all over Ireland and also doing overseas trips to Australia and Tahiti. But growing up on an organic farm he knew in his heart that he would sooner or later go back to this occupation. Fergal now is part of the Moy Hill community Community assisted agriculture project based in County Clare but says he still misses the winter swells in Mayo.

Fergal says “One thing I miss living in Clare is all the mountains. In Mayo, there are beautiful mountains everywhere.”

Filming professional surfing led Kevin to wildlife photography a job Fergal thinks he ‘definitely enjoys more than civil engineering’. “What is great about Kev is he has all the degrees and could work in any city but he really wants to live in the west of Ireland”

According to Kevin, surfing in Mayo is still fairly new and there were little to no surfers in the water in the early 1990s. “I feel Mayo was a lot slower than other counties to get large numbers regularly surfing. Mayo has a lot of great surfable beaches to explore out past Louisburgh to Achill or Belmullet. Now we have a lot of great surf schools, for example, SURFMAYO in Carrowniskey and a lot more people are enjoying the waves around Mayo.”

clew bay

Clew Bay view from Croagh Patrick

Kevin says the unique thing about surfing in Mayo is “seeing the mountains in the background as you surf with no one around; it is quite special.”

“There is not a huge surf scene but it is cool hanging out at Carrownisky, experimenting with Elvis’s self-shaped surfboards and there is a great welcoming surf scene around Belmullet too and always good vibes in the water.”

“There have been some great surfers to come out of Mayo; Rory Tuey and Fergal Smith spring to mind. Now there is a great local lad called Danny Hedley from Louisburgh.”

In summary, you don’t need to be a professional to surf in Mayo. In fact, Mayo really suits beginner and intermediate surfers. Plus, it is a nice, quiet part of rural Ireland. It houses a low key surf scene packed with mellow surfers just going surfing. There might be some campfires and BBQs but there are certainly no fans or photographer thronging the sand dunes.

Fergal Smith explained to me about how hard granite makes for a rough coastline. Softer rocks make smoother coastlines where there is more chance of waves being found. Sligo and Clare have flat soft Limestone rocks and you’ll find a lot of waves there but Galway has a different type of rock which forms islands and pinnacles but doesn’t yield much surf.

“Regardless of the waves, going to Achill Island is a beautiful experience you will definitely enjoy.” says Fergal Smith, “For adventure, take a trip to Belmullet and Louisburg has a small surf scene and there are some really nice people out there.”

Achill Island can boast some of the finest beaches in Ireland including five blue flag beaches.

We will visit Fergal and his brother again in our next installment of the Insiders Guide when we arrive in County Clare skipping Galway as it doesn’t have the same level of surfing as Mayo simply because of geology.

surfing at keel co mayo

Pure Magic on Achill Island:

Over ten years ago, a dedicated, world traveled watersports team, including Frenchman Francois Colussi, found a kitesurfing paradise on Achill Island. All year, Achill is swept by wind which is perfect for kitesurfing. The island has plenty of spots to practice kitesurfing including lakes and beaches. Achill is the first land mass in Europe to receive the wind from the Atlantic and it blows!

The Pure Magic centre, situated at the foot of Slievemore Mountain and overlooking Keel Lake, takes full advantage of this fact. Achill is such a world-class venue for the sport that the 2012 World Kitesurfing Championships were held there.

The Pure Magic team created the Battle of the Lake to celebrate the finale of the Irish Kitesurfing Tour. Every year, at the same windy time, kitesurfers from home and abroad head to Achill Island, along with water fanatics, beach lovers, music lovers and all sort of other lovers. The competition is intense but good natured and the legendary afterparty has grown into a festival in its own right.

Other activities like stand up paddle boarding, surfing, sea kayaking, angling, horse riding, land yachting, walking, cycling, climbing, snorkeling are all within easy reach of the Pure Magic centre which also boasts a lodge and restaurant.

All this and more make Achill Island the perfect place to relax and unplug from the mainland.

Find out more at PureMagic

Useful Links:

Insider’s Guide to the Donegal Surf Scene

Insider’s Guide to the Sligo Surf Scene

Sligo Surf Experience


swinford 250

 Swinford celebrates 250 years with a year-long calendar of festivities – come and be a part of it!

Drenched in history Swinford has a rich cultural heritage dating back to 1769 and beyond.  This year, in a year-long celebration of its history as a bustling market town in the heart of East Mayo, the people of Swinford are throwing open their arms and inviting anyone with a connection to the town and county to visit and participate in “Swinford 250 & More”. The official launch of Swinford 250 & More, hosted by Angelina Nugent, will take place on Thursday 14th March  from 7-9pm in the Gateway Hotel,

‘Swinford 250 & More’ was the brainchild of the Swinford community, which enthusiastically has come together to develop, not just a single event but a series of celebrations of Swinford’s rich cultural story taking place throughout 2019. The programme is varied and diverse. There are family reunions, clan gatherings, sports fixtures, conferences, music festivals, craft and interactive historical events, all with a unique and vibrant Swinford flavour.

Chairman of the ‘Swinford 250 & More’ Committee, Cathal Kelly, said; “ 2019 is an opportunity for Swinford people to celebrate, remember, commemorate and leave a legacy.  Everyone Past Present and Future has something to offer.  Let’s make it a major moment of civic pride and a brilliant recognition of everything we love about Swinford and our fantastic community.  Be a part of Swinford 250 & More.”

The initiative is primarily directed at the Irish diaspora worldwide and those with links to the town and county, with the hope of encouraging them to reconnect with the town.  The organisers are also eager to enhance the experience of tourists and other visitors to the Swinford region by giving them opportunities to enjoy Swinford’s hospitality and partake in events.

Swinford has traditionally been the gateway to North Mayo. By channelling Swinford’s proud cultural and musical heritage it is hoped that the ‘Swinford 250 & More’ initiative will bring economic revenue into the town, commemorating historical connections, forging new ones and creating a reason for visitors to return to the town in future years.

More information on the year-long programme can be found on the Swinford 250 & More Facebook page or

14th – 17th March – Swinford St. Patrick’s Day Festival Weekend
14th March – Press Night
Venue: Gateway Hotel Swinford, Time: Thursday 8.00 p.m.

15th March – Swinford Drama Group
presents “For Better For Worse”
Venue: The Front – Gateway Hotel Swinford, Time: 8.00 p.m.

16th March – Launch of Conor Walsh’s New Album
“The Lucid”
Venue: The Front – Gateway Hotel Swinford, Time: 8.00 p.m.

17th March – Swinford St. Patrick’s Day Parade – Theme: Past, Present and Future
Venue: The Streets of Swinford at 3.00 p.m.

13th April – Swinford Comhaltas Spring Show
Theme: Anois teacht an tEarraigh.
Venue: Swinford Cultural Centre 8.30 p.m.

21st April – Easter Sunday Kiddies Easter Egg Hunt
250 and More Eggs up for grabs
Venue: The Woodlands Swinford, Time: 2.00pm

11th May – Swinford’s First Darkness Into Light Walk
Venue: Swinford Town and Brabazon Park, Time: 4.15 a.m.

31st May – Visitors Welcome Home Session
Venue: White House 8.00pm.

1st June – Bank Holiday Saturday, Film Screening
“All Our Yesterdays”
Venue: Gateway Hotel Swinford, Time: 7.00p.m

2nd June – Bank Holiday Sunday –
“An American Wake”
Venue The White House 8.00p.m.

23rd June – Bonfire and Barbecue
Venue: Community Centre, Time: 8.00 p.m.

1st – 7th July – Connacht Fleadh Cheoil
Venue: Various town locations throughout the week

22nd – 26th July – Cúl Camps
Venue GAA Pitch 9am – 3.00pm

29th July – 2nd August
Síamsa Sráide Creative dance
Venue: Swinford National School 10am –

29th July – 2nd August – Scoil Ceol
Venue: Swinford National School 3.00pm – 6.00pm

1st – 7th August – Síamsa Sráide
Venue: Various town locations throughout the week

25th August – Swinford Agricultural Show
Show Ground. Time: 8.00am- 6.00pm

6th & 7th September – Market/Chapel Street Reunion
Venue: Market Street, Time: all weekend

24th – 28th October – Féile Na Samhna
Venue: Various locations in Swinford town

29th November – 7th December
Swinford Shopping Bonanza
Venue: Various town locations throughout the week

29th December – Swinford 250 & More Gala Night
Venue: Gateway Hotel, Time: 7.00pm


Wrap Fund Development Loan

A development loan of up to €15,000 is available to support the development of a feature film, television drama, animation or game at any stage from treatment to pre-production.

Who Can Apply?
A WRAP development loan is available to teams where at least one Producer/Developer has a company located/established in the Region (Clare, Donegal, Galway, Mayo, Roscommon, Sligo).

The team must have:

  • For Feature Film/Television/Animation: a Producer(s) and Writer(s) attached. A Director(s) must be attached in the case of a documentary but is not mandatory in other genres.
  • For Games: a Developer(s), Designer(s) and Programmer(s) attached.
  • an eligible project in the English or Irish language that they wish to develop or co-develop;
  • have secured clear access to the necessary rights in any material that is to be adapted for the screen.
How to Apply

Please ensure that you have consulted the relevant WRAP Development Funding Guidelines (Film/Television/Animation or Games) in advance of a submission.

Applicants wishing to apply for Games development funding are asked to complete the application form and submit along with the requirements by email to by 5pm on Friday 08th March 2019. Late or incomplete applications will not be accepted.

Please note that a new deadline for WRAP Development Funding  (Film/Television/Animation) will be published shortly. 

WRAP Development Funding Guidelines (Games)
WRAP Development Funding Application Form (Games)

WRAP Development Funding Application Form
WRAP Development Funding Guidelines (Film/Television/Animation)


The Hills of Connemara are Being Conquered Again

With spring in the air, the outdoors is calling again. Gaelforce Mountain Run in partnership with John West is kicking of the season on March 9th in Leenane, Co. Galway. This run offers spectacular views of Connemara and gives runners unique access to some of the most stunning peaks in the region.

With trail running and mountain running taking the world by storm the Gaelforce Mountain Run promises a tailored race to fit a wide audience from novice mountain runner to experts with many competitors coming over from Europe and the United Kingdom.

For anyone new to mountain running, the 12km Introductory Mountain/Trail Run is the best place to start. This is the perfect event for anyone wanting to bring a new dimension to their running.

Next up is the 13km Intermediate which offers stunning views from various peeks varying from 320 to 562 meters in elevation. The 22km Expert route follows another ascent and a steep descent to keep it interesting. This distance is an UTMB qualifying race – The UTMB is Europe’s most prestigious trail running event through the Alps.

Sheila Kilduff, who took part in 2018, sums it up nicely: “This is a gem in the events calendar – just you, the elements and a few other mad people who love running in the hills. No trails or tracks, just nature in front or you!”

As well as taking part in the event, it is a great time of year to explore the West of Ireland and to take in some of the famous sights between Clifden and Westport such as Kylemore and the Connemara National Park.

You can find out more on