strandhill

Ambitious New Tourism Campaign set to Extend Tourism Season for Strandhill

From some of the hippest eateries in the West to some of the most inspiring landscapes and walking trails, surf breaks, and seaweed baths, Strandhill is a surf mecca along Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way.

With a busy tourism season throughout the summer, the local Strandhill Community Development has leveraged funding from the government’s Town and Village Renewal Scheme to support an integrated tourism marketing campaign to extend the tourism season, and encourage return visits in Autumn to the Strandhill and Coolera Peninsula.

The new campaign was launched at a Swell Sligo training event earlier in June. The breakfast event took place in Strandhill Golf Club with a packed line-up of speakers on sustainable tourism, digital marketing, and PR.

Speakers included Cillian Murphy of Loop Head Tourism and Lisa Regan from Galway’s West End who both spoke about sustainable tourism in the West of Ireland.

The campaign is set to extend the tourism season into Autumn, as well as increasing the length of bed-nights per person and spend per head by initially targeting young families and social energisers – two tourism audiences who want action-packed days as well as fun-filled nights.

strandhill

Adopting three strategic thrusts for the marketing of Strandhill this summer, the initiative includes an integrated marketing campaign to share all the inspiring moments of the day from dawn to dusk using the hashtag #StrandhillMoments on social media, incentivising return visits in Autumn, and enhancing the delivery of the overall tourism message to include heritage assets like Carrowmore Megalithic Tombs, walking trails on Knocknarea and Killaspugbrone, as well as the well known activities of surfing and water sports.

The campaign includes a revamp of the tourism website GoStrandhill.com, featuring an interactive map with attractions and local businesses, Strandhill package deals and featured itineraries for families and groups, as well as marketing, training and mentoring support for local tourism businesses.

Commenting on the launch, Cllr Sinead Maguire said, “This is a unique example of the community coming together to promote our local businesses. It is based on the premise of one supports the other and all will benefit, at the heart of this campaign is a wish to have a comprehensive campaign for the peninsula as a whole. We are incredibly fortunate with the array of tourism opportunities we have on offer from beach to mountain to one of the most significant archaeological sites in Western Europe and we as a community were delighted to get the opportunity to promote them.”

strandhill

Strandhill Beach. Photographer: Mike Searle

A team of local creative professionals was commissioned to work on the campaign; a new media bank of photos has been commissioned and will be available to support the campaign through online channels and in print media. A new series of promotional videos have also been created and will be released across the Summer and Autumn months.

An overarching goal of the campaign is also to promote responsible and sustainable tourism development while safeguarding the unique culture, heritage and biodiversity of the peninsula through cooperation with all stakeholders in the wider community.

The campaign will also tie in with Failte Ireland’s promotion of the Northwest coastline as the Surf Coast along the Wild Atlantic Way, and the new tourism strategy launched by Sligo Tourism recently.

For further information on the campaign, see gostrandhill.com or follow the hashtag online #StrandhillMoments

Shore Shots

Over 300 outdoor enthusiasts and surfers visit Sligo for the sixth edition of Shore Shots Surf Festival

Over 300 surfers, outdoor enthusiasts and movie buffs made their way to Sligo last weekend for the sixth edition of Shore Shots Surf Festival. Originally held in Dublin for three years, the event now hosts the majority of the content in The Model theatre with a number of fringe events taking place around the town centre and in Strandhill.

 The event, which is now renowned as one of the biggest gathering of surfers in Europe, began on Friday night with a book launch from Donegal native Barry Britton who had correlated over four decades of work in time for the festival.  Music on night one was provided by Jim Carbin & Acoustic Breaks, while inside the cinema festival goers got a chance to see the European premiere of the new Laird Hamilton movie ‘Take Every Wave.’

On Saturday the festival played host to a surf market, talks from some of Europe’s best outdoor photographers including George Karbus, Tim Burrow, and Ian Mitchinson. In the cinema theatre Sligo native Gearoid McDaid introduced his new movie ‘Misery Loves Company’ to a packed audience, while Easkey Britton took home the top prize for her new movie ‘ A Lunar Cycle’, which will now be showcased at the festivals partner event in Vienna next month.  Derry born musician Keith Harkin, who has made a name for himself in the States, flew back for the festival and put on a three hour show in Connolly’s bar as a fringe event to the public before Seamie O’Dowd showcased his Rory Gallagher style show on stage in 5th on Teeling.

Sunday morning of the festival coincided with ‘Earth Day’ and so begun with a beach clean at Strandhill in conjunction with Clean Coasts and a marram grass planting session with climate action officer Gary Tyrrell. As a reward everybody who took part was treated to brunch in The Strand Bar courtesy of festival sponsor Tullamore Dew. Back in the model theatre festival goers attended an ‘Earth Day’ panel discussion on single use plastics pollution in our oceans and attended movies including ‘Smog of the Sea’ and ‘A Plastic Ocean’.

Festival organiser Allan Mulrooney commented “Our attendees traveled from all over Ireland including Cork, Clare, Waterford and Dublin. We also had people travel from the UK, France, Portugal, Germany and a small few from the States which is fantastic.  When we surveyed them on site, it seems 60% had never been to Sligo before. Saturday was a beautiful day with fun waves and sunshine so we’re delighted our guests saw the North West in all its glory. The event was a huge success and we believe it’s the perfect fit for Sligo to showcase the work-life balance, the outdoor lifestyle and the world class waves on our doorstep”. Allan also added that more needs to be done to help small festivals progress and grow in Sligo with no funding, organisational help or structure in place to support grassroots initiatives. “We believe our festival has great value for Sligo and the North West and with more support could grow into an event that attracts three thousand or more in years to come. This structure needs to come from within the local council and tourism board if we wish to see our events grow to attract more beds nights and increase tourist spend here.”

For more on Shore Shots visit shoreshots.ie

Image Credits: Johnny Frazer

 

shopify galway

Shopify – A New World of Job Opportunities for the West of Ireland

With the advent of better broadband and an increasing demand for flexible working options, companies are looking at the potential of remote working for staff.

This is good news for the West of Ireland, with more and more people looking to escape the M50 and work in the West, the potential to work remotely for a large company with great career options is very appealing.

working from home

Shopify in the West

One such company offering just this is Shopify. Shopify is a Canadian e-commerce firm headquartered in Ottawa. It develops software for online stores and retail point-of-sale systems. It was originally founded after its owners wrote software for their online snowboard store. The platform is currently used by more than 600,000 merchants who transact more than $34bn in sales volume.

Shopify now employs a large team in Ireland; most of whom are based in the West. All Shopify staff work from home; there is no Shopify office.

Shopify staff are located across the Western Region; with Galway centralised as its hub city. There are already some clusters of staff in towns like Carrick on Shannon, County Leitrim and Boyle, County Roscommon. They also have staff in Sligo, Donegal, Clare and obviously a large cohort in Galway. Staff do get to meet though; Shopify hosts monthly social meet-ups, mostly in Galway but events have also taken place in Sligo and other areas.

We spoke to the Luke Cassidy who works in Talent Acquisition at Shopify, to understand how this works and what their expansion plans are for the West of Ireland.

‘We’ve grown our team 300% over the last few years; from a small team that started in Galway in 2015. The majority of Shopifolk are based on the West coast. The team primarily works in support roles.’

Looking West

galway cityWhen asked why Shopify chose to base their team primarily in the West, Cassidy is effusive in his positivity on the benefits. ‘As soon as we felt the entrepreneurial energy of Galway City, we felt at home. At Shopify, we saw the opportunity to tap into the diverse and skilled workforce, and have a positive impact on the city as a whole.’

Luke also emphasises the importance of the cultural strength of Galway; ‘Galway is a cultural hub with an amazingly inclusive, innovative and engaged population. From Eyre Square to Spanish Arch, and everything in between  illustrated that the passion, spirit and heartbeat of the city is palpable.’

Shopify is a Canadian company and considers itself to be the world’s biggest start-up. They see a very strong cultural alignment between their company’s ethos and the West of Ireland culture; they are champions of diversity.

Remote Work Doesn’t Mean Isolation

Working remotely takes a certain amount of discipline and whether Shopify are recruiting for a customer service role or a more techie position, skills like problem-solving and the ability to think independently are key.

While you’ll get all the benefits of working from home, but with a solid structure. Staff work in set shifts, typically between 7am – 3pm or 10 am – 6 pm. And although you’ll be working remotely-  you won’t be lonely. “We schedule by team, so when you are working your whole support network are online too,” Luke explains.

And you’ll also get plenty of opportunities to meet your team members face-to-face. “There are meet-ups happening organically and then once a month we have a team meet-up.”

Meet The Team:

shopify team

Luke Cassidy and Veronica Patton of Shopify

Veronica Patton is a ‘Support Onboarding Trainer’ working with Shopify. She divides her time between Galway City and her native home in Donegal. We spoke with Veronica to get an insight into her experience of remote working for Shopify.

What did you do before you worked for Shopify?

‘I worked in many different areas before Shopify. My background was in Town Planning and most of my experience was in that field. I was a Heritage Officer for a local authority, then a tourist advisor for a while. Directly before Shopify, I was working for a distribution company in the West.

How did you find your job?

‘I was introduced to Shopify in April 2015 when a recruitment agency I had used before got in touch with me and told me about an exciting Canadian company that was looking to hire people in the Galway area. I didn’t really have any commerce or IT experience but the mission and values of the company drew me in. .

I also really enjoyed the interview process, from the “Life Story” interview to the technical interview (aptly called the Gauntlet!) I can honestly say that my life has changed for the better since joining Shopify.

I joined as a Customer Success Guru and loved every minute of it. I had never learned so much in any role previously. It was challenging work, but thanks to an amazing team, I was able to embrace the change and excel. I spent over a year as a Guru, then moved into the Squad Lead role and now a Support Trainer.’

What are the pros and cons of remote working?

‘One of the biggest pros for me has been the flexibility it has offered. I can work in Galway until 4pm on a Monday, hop in the car after work and drive to Donegal and work from there for a few days without it impacting my role. I have been able to spend more time with my family and friends than I ever did in any previous role. I can work from my home office or meet up with colleagues where we work together for the day.

I’ve noticed such a difference in my work-life balance. You have more time to spend doing the things you enjoy rather than sitting in traffic trying to get home. You’ll also save money on work clothes. Remote working makes you more proactive and independent – which has definitely helped me both inside and outside of work.’

remote working

So are there any negatives to remote working?

Veronica struggles to find any large negatives in her experience of remote working. ‘Personally, I find it hard to think of too many cons of remote working. I have definitely found more pros than cons, it has had a such a positive impact on my life.

It can sometimes be easy to continue working past your scheduled finishing time or opening the laptop on a weekend to check something else but you end up reading emails. It’s important to be aware of these kind of habits. You’re not really getting proper downtime if you are constantly on. Luckily Shopify has resources in place to help with this. Teams have daily check-ins as well as weekly meetings with your team lead – both are so supportive and always offer great advice. We also have allowances to support your mental and physical health, which let me expense the running shoes I had been looking to buy for months and help inspire me to be active. I’ve also tried my hand at a few meditation classes for the first time! Communication is different on a remote team, we mostly communicate via our internal chat (Slack) or by using video call.’

A huge thanks to Luke and Veronica from Shopify for sharing these insights with us. If you like the sound of a role in Shopify, the good news is they are hiring!

Shopify Roles Open Now:

Customer Success Guru Role (Fluent in German)

For more info, visit shopify.com/careers/

strandhill sand dune

The Insider’s Guide to the Sligo Surf Scene

The LookWest.ie Insider’s Guide to the West Coast Surf Scene is our new series exploring the vibrant West of Ireland surf scene county by county. Your surf guide will be writer, pro bodyboarder, and surf school manager Seamus McGoldrick.

Seamus began surfing in Strandhill, one of Sligo’s hidden gems and followed his passion by setting up his own thriving surf business. So, who better to give you the inside scoop on the Irish surf scene?

Turning now to his home county of Sligo, Seamus meets some lucky surfers who manage to chase the dream of surfing all year round on the wonderful west coast of Ireland.

Sligo Surf Scene: An Overview

Although the name Sligo is derived from the Irish placename Sligeach or Shelly Place, this coastal county has become synonymous with surfing. One reason is that the Wild Atlantic Way from Cassiebawn Castle in Mullaghmore in North Sligo to Rathlee Tower in Easkey in West Sligo is rich in the raw material of surfing: good waves.

The other reason is that the surf scene in Sligo has exploded in the last fifteen years with the indigenous surfers, artists, filmmakers, and entrepreneurs interacting with the legion of foreign surfers who have become magnetised to Sligo shores in a way that exemplifies the very best of modern Ireland.

In Sligo, it is a simple case of West is best. So meet the surfers who will explain why.

Meet The Surfers:

1. The Local: Kian Egan – Surfer/Musician

kian egan

When Kian Egan left home at seventeen to tour the world and make lots of hit records with his band Westlife he knew nothing about the surf scene in Sligo. When he returned from his musical odyssey back to Sligo over a decade later he had already surfed in Hawaii and had bought his first surfboard. Now the local Sligoman is an avid surfer who makes the most from consistent waves on his doorstep at home in Strandhill.

I ask Kian how he got into surfing in the first place?

“My Dad was a big golfer who played golf in Strandhill Golf Club” explains Kian.

One day while out on the beautiful seventh hole overlooking the famous waves of Strandhill, Kian spotted a bunch of people out surfing.

“I said to Dad, ‘I’d really like to do that, I’d really like to be in the ocean trying to catch a wave’. And Dad was like, ‘why don’t you’.”

The pair finished their game of golf and Kian went down to Tom Hickey at Perfect Day Surf School who took Kian for his first surf that evening. After his first surf Kian was hooked. He bought his own board and wetsuit and sped off on another great life adventure which complemented his passion for music perfectly.

“As the years rolled on, I met some of the local lads who helped show me the way,” recalls Kian.

“We became mates and all of a sudden you become part of the community. That is what happens in surfing.”

“A lot of people would have seen me as that guy from Westlife trying to be a surfer. And I was, I was that guy from Westlife trying to be a surfer. But I stuck with it because I had a passion for it. I loved being in the ocean. I loved the freedom of it especially after doing what I was doing. Living in a stressful city world where it was all about success and selling records and doing concerts in front of 1000s of people. All of a sudden I’m out in the ocean, nobody can ring you, no one can even get to you.”

@kianegan

2. The Surfer Mom: Jane Lamberth – Surfer/Businesswoman.

jane chambers

Jane & Myles Lamberth of Shells Cafe in Strandhill

Dubliner Jane Lamberth first came to Strandhill over eight years ago on a surf trip with some friends. Since then, she and her surfer husband Myles have moved to Strandhill, set up a thriving seaside business called Shell Cafe and Little Shop plus started a family.

One reason Jane relocated to the west coast was to combine her twin passions for the sea and good food but the main reason was the surf.

“When you live in Sligo there are so many waves available to you. I am an intermediate surfer and my husband is a full-on brilliant surfer and both of us can find waves every day of the week to suit us,” says Jane.

Jane got into surfing in her twenties on a random girls weekend to Tramore in County Waterford where a surf lesson sparked off a surf addiction that would completely alter the course of her life.

“[After that first surf] something clicked and I went, wow, this is something pretty awesome.”

As a result, Jane decided to travel to Cornwall for the summer to hang out on the beach where she met her future husband Myles.

“For him, surfing was literally his life. That sealed the deal with me when it came to choosing a surf lifestyle.”

Jane could now benefit from Myles experience and encouragement and her surf skills steadily built.

“Myles brought me out to new waves and different surf spots and got me beaten up a few times, but Myles lines was ‘you have to learn to enjoy the wipeouts too’.”

“My level of surfing has improved being beside the sea, you have a much better understanding of surfing and there is loads of women in the water. It is infectious.”

“I always look back [at that first surf trip to Strandhill] and wonder does visualisations and things like that work? After the surf, we climbed the sand dunes. I was on a high and I said to myself, I am going to live here someday because I just love it.”

“Based on one weekend away in Sligo I decided to live here, which is kind of ridiculous.”

Except it is not ridiculous. Although I am born and raised in Strandhill and I am admittedly biased on the subject, it is impossible to deny Strandhill has that sort of seaside charm. I have personally witnessed many surfers who show up in Strandhill with the intention of staying for one weekend and they are still here a decade later.

Jane concurs: “I was sitting on the sand dunes feeling life is good, everything is as it should be and there was a connection, just something magical. Strandhill drew me back.”

“When we first moved here, there was too much going on. There were so many party invitations and things we were burnt out. Oh, there is a gig in Sligo town, there is a gig in Strandhill, this one is having a party, oh there is a beach party or a late night surf session or a camping trip. We were stretched too thin on the west coast of Ireland!”

“There are so many like-minded people and the music and arts scene is off the scale. There is something here to keep you busy all the time.” shellscafe.com

3. The Shaper: Conor Canavan – Surfer/Shaper

waxon surfboards

Conor at WaxOn Surfboards. Photo: Mark Capilitan Photography

For many years during the development of the Sligo surfing scene getting waves was the easy part but it was near impossible to get your hands on a local custom-made surfboard. Today, things are different with master craftsman Conor Canavan turning out perfect custom-made surfboard at his Wax On surfboard factory at Rathcormac Craft Village near Sligo Town.

Having a homegrown Irish surfboard company located on the west coast was a major boost for the Sligo surf scene.

“Surfing in Sligo is very healthy at the moment.” affirms Conor, “Definitely more people are surfing than ever has been.”

“And, we have literally every amenity here in Sligo. When I was living in Strandhill, I had two restaurants and a bar across the road and another bar and restaurant a hundred metres up the road. I had a cousin living in Swords in Dublin and he told me. ‘You I have more on your doorstep than I have in Dublin’.”

Conor grew up in County Galway and spent his summers sailing, snorkeling and diving with his father.

“I grew up with this respect for nature and it was a very natural that I would get into surfing”

Becoming a surfer is one thing but becoming a surfboard shaper is another. A homegrown surfboard business serving the wide variety of people drawn to Sligo shores for the swells, could it work? Conor’s career path proved to be a wise choice as the Sligo surf boom began soon after.

waxon surfboards

Conor at Waxon. Photo Credit: Mark Capilitan Photography

But how did Conor even decide he wanted to build surfboards in the first place? It was 1998 when Conor embarked on the long winding road towards becoming a surfboard shaper.

“I had a daft idea one day. I was out surfing and I had failed another exam in college so I was going, okay, what do I want to do? It was a beautiful June day with just me and another friend out surfing. I was after ducking under a wave and when I came up, I went, what if I could learn how to make surfboards? That would be great craic.’

In the late nineties, it was not unheard of for people to make their own surfboards at home as a one-off project. Making surfboards, especially on an industrial scale, is a serious disciple involving the skills of shaping, sanding, glassing, spraying, and tinting. There is a craft, there is an art and there is a skill. The aesthetics are huge and a finished surfboard should be next to a piece of art.

Conor has been successfully shaping surfboards now for twenty years. At the start, there was a choice: “You could be Paddy backyard or you could do it right.”

Conor went off and spent six months with renowned shaper Craig Hughes at Raglan Surf Co in New Zealand and learned a huge amount about surfboard design. He also spent two years in Cornwall with Chops (Beach Beat Surfboards).

When he came back to Ireland and set up shop in Sligo his customers were the many people moving past the beginner stage of surfing and starting to take it more seriously. When you are thinking of getting your own board you need to talk to a surfboard shaper like Conor.

“Sometimes people would say I am not good enough to have a board that is made for me, but that is precisely when you need one. A cheap mass produced beginner board will get you from standing on the land and into the water, but if you like surfing it is time to get rid of it, get something decent, and you will progress quicker and get more enjoyment out of it.”

“Surfboards are like people, there are all different sizes, specs, and weights. Every single person is different and so every single board is different. A person gets on one board and they progress and move on to another board. And it keeps going like that. I am not trying to sell you one board, I am trying to sell you fifteen boards over the next fifteen years.”

waxonsurfboards.ie

4. The Architect: Elizabeth Clyne – Surfer/Professional

elizabeth clyne

Eliz Clyne catching waves

Sligo-woman Eliz Clyne has long been one of Ireland’s top surfers. Eliz is definitely a soul-surfer and contests were never her thing. She was in it for the lifestyle and the adventure. For Eliz, the question always was how to combine her love of surfing with her career aspirations.

Growing up near Strandhill Beach, Eliz began surfing at age twelve. She surfed regularly through her school years with other world-class Sligo surfers Jessie Smith and Áine O Donnell. Then she met her future fiancé Barry Mottershead, a traveling South African surfer, who was one of the people who came to Sligo for surf and simply never left.

“Barry and I started going away over summers to Indonesia to surf. At the same time, I was studying architecture in UCD, a long course with long hours, so it was hard to get the surfs in. I would be in my studio designing while at the same time checking the surf back home on the internet. Then, I would be on the last train back to Sligo at the weekend to hopefully get a surf.”

“When I qualified, I tried to get somewhere to work where there was surf. That was first.”

To Eliz, it was always about the proper work/life balance. She didn’t necessarily want to be away from the coast but at times had to make sacrifices for her career. Eliz worked in Dublin for a while before moving to Sydney.

On paper, Eliz’s lifestyle in the Sydney suburbs was ideal, except she could never get used to the large number of people at each surf spot compared to Ireland.

“I did learn to hustle which is a good skill to learn but it doesn’t compare to living here and going to spots that are empty.”

“When I got back to Sligo I started trying to figure out how I could live here and surf. I started working for myself as an architect and now in the last year myself and John Monahan joined to form Noji architects. He is another surfer originally from Sligo who moved back from Dublin.”

“The fact you can do a full days work and get a surf afterwards is amazing, I mean, there is nothing more satisfying. A surf after work, what it does for your head. That is what the drug of surfing is, it detaches you from all that is going on. I don’t think anything matches it for what it does for you, mind and body. ”

Elizabeth is an architect at Noji Architect in Sligo noji.ie 

Surf Scene in Sligo: A Closer Look

Kian Egan would say Sligo is the best place in the world to live as a surfer.

“I had the option to live anywhere in the world. I don’t say that lightly. I did. I had the option to go and live in any part of the world. But Strandhill in Sligo is where my heart beats.”

“Even over the Californian dream, the west coast dream is where it is at.”

The surf scene in Sligo is multifaceted and composed of a mix of artists, entrepreneurs, architects, film-makers, postmen, bakers, nurses, doctors. You name it and we have it. Sligo town provides an amazing urban centre for the surf community. Many traveling surfers who have settled in Sligo have gone back to education in IT Sligo. Kerry Larkin is a top surfer and lecturer at the IT along with Emmet O Doherty who also runs a Stand-Up Paddle Board business named SUP Dude in based in Mullaghmore.

“If you want to live by the sea and go surfing as much as possible, have good schools, good lifestyle. You can’t really beat the west coast of Ireland.” says Kian, “There is little traffic compared to Dublin or a large city. Sligo town is an easy commute. The surroundings are incredible.”

surf sligo

A Global Community

Eliz Clyne affirms Sligo Town, which may not be Europe’s prettiest town, nevertheless is surrounded by world-class beauty. But the main factor for Eliz is not the surf nor the spectacular setting, it is the community that comes as part the surf scene in Sligo.

“I am sure the GAA has it in a certain way but that is much more organised. What I love is that you can go out in the water and meet someone you haven’t seen in two months and chat and just pick up where you left off. Lovely organic chats about all sorts.”

“We are surrounded by nature and community, that is the big thing, the surf community, and how open it is. It isn’t a closed club. From the outside, when you are not part of it, it might seem a little cliquey, but, when you meet someone you don’t know who surfs there is that instant connection.”

“I think it is important for the Irish in general to remain open to the travelers and surfers they meet on the Wild Atlantic Way who are coming.”

Jane Lamberth, whose friends know her to be a queen of hospitality, tells me, “At the end of the day, Strandhill is just a small village on the west coast of Ireland but any day of the week in Strandhill you could bump into a local or visitor from anywhere in the world.”

Kian Egan is a global ambassador for Sligo. He says, “Sligo has so much to offer. If you take Strandhill as a centre point and you go north towards Donegal you have plenty of great surf and if you go west towards Enniscrone and Mayo there are loads of breaks.”

surf sligo

“And the surfing community in Ireland is still a very tight-knit community. The west coast is very connected it seems when it comes to surfing. I didn’t know anyone from Clare ten years ago and I lots of guys from Clare now.”

One main reason surf communities around the world are so tightly knit is because at some stage everyone gets a fright out while out surfing. A close call, a near collision or a bad wipeout are just a part of the game. As you learn to surf you begin to realise that people need to watch out for each other.

Conor Canavan particularly likes the van culture in the Sligo Surf scene and the pre and post-surf gatherings that organically happen as part of the process of surfing.

“That is where I do most of my socialising, nowadays, when I am out and about surfing” explains Conor.

As a father of two young kids Conor doesn’t find as much time to socialise in the many great pubs in Sligo, ‘but then the beach and the reefs become it and it is a great thing’.

“The kids love it, particularly with the van. In and out at different places, preparing hot chocolate or frying a few sausages. I am of that generation that was all about hanging out in your van. I have a full oven in my van and am very self-sufficient. It is lovely, however, to be able to go into Shells for a hot chocolate or coffee or take your kids for a treat to Mammy Johnstons and get them all ice creams and have a great day.”

Just as Conor’s surfing business provides surfers will the equipment they need to catch the waves, Jane Lamberth’s business all about providing that space where hungry, tired surfers like to go to relax and, more importantly, talk about the surf.

“It is lovely,” Jane tells me, “you come in from a surf and all the guys and girls hang out on the benches outside and have their coffee and catch up. It is lovely to see. And when you have your coffee and cake after a surf you have really earned it. Everyone talking about the waves, did you see the wave where I did this or who is going out later? It is great craic.”

Parents Jane, Conor, and Kian all tell me they feel blessed to be able to raise their children in Sligo.

The Next Generation

Sligo surf hour of power

The Hour of Power at Co Sligo Surf Club. Photo: Andrew Kilfeather

Kian explains his reasons why. “One day, when myself and my wife Jodie were in London in Liverpool Street Tube Station, one of the busiest train stations in England, and we saw thirty kids lined up with their teachers going on to the tube. The kids were six or seven years old, it was a dark, busy underground environment, not very nice for the children.”

“Then we came back to Strandhill a week later and we saw the same age school kids going down to the beach with their teachers on a sunny day. And you say, hold on, the difference here is incredible. That was one of the big turning points for us in the debate about bringing up kids here or in London.”

“Life can be hard on the west coast in one sense if you are used to a fast-paced world. But we still would never change it because it is not about us it is about our kids. I have three little boys now.”

“Now I feel we couldn’t be in a better place, and surfing is a massive part of my life.”

“I got involved in the Sligo Surf Club committee because I want the kids of the village to learn to surf and County Sligo Surf club is the perfect vehicle for that. They do an Hour of Power surfing program in the summer and my oldest son, who is six, started doing that when he was four. ”

Conor Canavan agrees. “I think it is great that the surf club is encouraging young people to go out and have fun and let them know the ocean isn’t this dark dangerous place.”

Kian explains, “The surf club brings local kids surfing each week in the hope of teaching them skills that will last them a lifetime, which will get you catching waves all around the world, which will get you friends all around the world. That is what surfing is.”

Strandhill sunset

Sunset Surfs in Strandhill. Photo: Andrew Kilfeather

Loads of parents are involved. Shells are fantastic because they got on board with the surf club this year and sponsored a parent Hour of Power session so the parents can learn to surf too.”

Jane recalls, “I remember watching the surf club doing the kid’s surf sessions. I would often see these moms who I would never see in the sea with smiles on their faces, in their wetsuits pushing their kids into waves.”

“Surfing sometimes seems like a bit of a cliche but it is quite a cool sport. It can feel a little intimidating if you aren’t in that age bracket or that genre. I had this idea, I saw all these mum and dads on the beach and they were so happy, I thought wouldn’t it be so cool to get them in surfing now they have a taste for it now they are used to being around the water.”

“We partnered up with the surf club and did the Shells parents sessions. Lots of parents showed up and were so enthusiastic about it – some were people who would have never considered surfing or thought they were too old.”

“Surfing enhances your life living here. If you are a family, even on the rainy days there is something to do with your kids, you are going to get wet anyway so it doesn’t matter.”

Although it is very beginner and family friendly, make no mistake, Sligo is not exclusively all about beginner surfing. The most striking element the Sligo surf scene, which makes it world-famous in fact, is the high-performance surf scene which seems to be growing every year.

Kian Egan tells me, “In Sligo, we have a very high standard and it is only going to get better. Gearoid McDaid is the first professional surfer from Sligo whose sponsors pay him to travel the world. He has paved the way.”

Gearoid McDaid grew up surfing in Strandhill and was a part of the County Sligo Surf Club. He turned professional after he left school and is now sponsored by RipCurl [vid link].

“Gearoid is at such an amazing level and the kids in our club will look up to that. The future is very bright. With surfing, you are going to see a huge change here in the next ten years because you are going to see kids in Ireland doing what the kids in Hawaii are doing.”

Eliz agrees, “Gearoid has his whole surf career ahead of him. You would hope that in the future that there will be more potential Gearoids.”

Conor Canavan from Wax On surfboards supported many top Sligo surfers like Gearoid McDaid and Aron Reid. Eliz Clyne herself and her friends Aine and Jessie are some of the most stylish and accomplished surfers in the country. Eliz’s fiance Barry Mottershead has become a world famous big waves surfer since he landed on Sligo shores. Even her business partner John has had the opportunity to take his surfing to the next level by moving back to Sligo.

Mullaghmore – Bringing Sligo Surf to an International Stage

“John said to me early last year one of his big aims was to surf Mullaghmore.” Eliz explains, “Mullaghmore is a big wave spot beside a beautiful little-sheltered harbour one side and a wild side around the corner where one of the best big waves in the world breaks.”

“My fiance Barry would surf there a lot and John would chat to Barry about it whenever they would see each other. John was aware that you needed to be part of the safety team and there is a very strict etiquette out there. There always has to be two jet skis out there for safety. There is a good bit of learning in it but John was totally up for that along with his tow partner Art, a guy who runs a little surf pub in Strandhill village called The Dunes.”

Art Counihan is another Sligo surf entrepreneur. In fact, before getting involved in the bar businesses, Art was working at Wax On with Conor Canavan studying surfboard design.

“I met Art when he was seventeen: a good local kid from Carney who grew up surfing. He came in and began learning the craft and now he makes a kick-ass board. I trained him that he can do a board from start to finish including shaping, sanding, glassing, colours, tints, the whole shebang.”

“When an opportunity came up with The Dunes and himself and his friend Tom took that over. I personally think it is fantastic, it has given another avenue of life to Strandhill. He has his own surfboards up on the wall.”

Conor tells me Art and John have been training for over two years since they got a jet ski. Practicing towing in, build up their experience and doing freediving and surf safety courses.

“Out surfing, a lot of people would say to me, ‘where is Art, I haven’t seen him in ages?’. They were fobbing off good days to train but it is all coming good for them and now. This winter they are braving Mullaghmore and they are doing really well.”

Kian Egan fills us in on this world-famous big wave spot:

“Mullaghmore has just exploded. All a sudden you have people who are traveling from all around the world to surf Mullaghmore, this massive wave sitting on our doorstep in Sligo. People are surfing it bigger and bigger year in and year out. The whole world is noticing. Mullaghmore is the new thing.”

When I hear people are coming to Ireland I always tell them not to make the mistake of just staying in Dublin, fly into Knock or rent a car and explore by driving up the west coast. There is a list of places to visit and Mullaghmore is at the top of that list, especially in winter when you will get to see guys charging twenty-foot waves. Whether you are a surfer or not, for anyone to stand there and watch that happen your jaw will hit the floor.”

Jane has stood on that cliff and watched those waves and backs up what Kian is saying:

“Yeah, it is surreal, but there is no ego about it. They come in and can look shy and quite retiring and then you see them being towed into these massive waves, you are thinking where does that come from, that courage, the training, the bravery? I often wonder what it is that lets them by-pass that thing in their brain, it is insane.”

And the spectator aspect. When Mullaghmore is on, the guys are out there and everyone on land is cheering them on. It is really insane.”

Who To Know:

1. Peter Clyne: If you want to know what the surf scene in Sligo is all about just check out a few of the surfing films from the creative mind of Peter Clyne of Outer Cells media. Peter started out making surf films and moved on to films focusing on nature, music and of course, adventure. Peter’s big sister Eliz recalls a trip with Peter to Baja Mexico two years ago.

“Myself, Barry and Peter headed down to a friend in California. Barry is a kayak guide. He set up his business knowing that he loved the water and the outdoors but he didn’t want to go straight into surf so he went into nature guiding. So he wanted to use kayaks to go explore a piece of coastline in Mexico.”

“Peter was drafted in to film the whole thing and the three of us headed off with a Californian friend. We were away from the world for thirteen or fourteen days with no phone signal. We probably saw only four or five other humans. We came back and Peter entered that at the Shore Shots film festival in Sligo.”

Peter won a recent surf film festival in Donegal with his film Halycon about professional big wave surfer Conor Maguire.

Super talented surf videographers like Peter Clyne and Peter Martin from Sligo and Fionn Rodgers from Enniscrone contributed enormously to the perception of Sligo as a surf mecca and imagery of Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way as the ultimate surfing journey.

@clynep

2. Barry Mottershead: A South African surf adventurer who set up Sligo’s first adventure business showing people the stunning inland waterway and tranquil coasts of the region, Sligo Kayak Tours.

After taking the biggest drop of his life by proposing to longtime girlfriend Eliz Clyne on top of Table Mountain in Cape Town, Barry can usually be found expertly guiding groups around famous Sligo beauty spots or else out on the massive waves at Mullaghmore when conditions permit.

@sligokayaktours

Barry Mottershead

Barry Mottershead. Photo Credit: Toby Butler

3. Conor Canavan: Need a board in Sligo? We know just the man.

“Sometimes people ask me what I do for a living and my standard line is, ‘I make people happy’. I make glorified toys for adults and that in turn makes them happy.”

“What I absolutely love is when I paddle out in the water and I see someone surfing on a new board I have made them and you see them more confident and surfing better with big smiles on their faces.”

@waxonsurfboards

4. Allan Mulrooney: Allan Mulrooney is a local Strandhill surfer who has worked closely with Barry on a number of projects including the successful Strandhill Indonesian Relief Fund in the wake of a devastating tsunami in a surfing region they had both visited.

Allan has helped set up the definitive online guide to Strandhill (gostrandhill.com), the Strandhill People’s Market at Sligo Airport – which fast became the biggest and most popular market in the northwest – and the ever popular, at home and abroad, Shore Shots Irish Surf Film Festival which is now in its fifth year.

@almulrooney @gostrandhill @strandhillpeoplesmarketallan mulrooney

5. Veronika Kinsella: Veronika is the brains behind Loved & Upcycled – a freshly grown eco-label based in Strandhill, Sligo. Veronika upcycles post-consumer materials into new products giving them a new lease life and saving them from ending up in a landfill. Loved & Upcycled product range includes laptop cases made out of wetsuits and bags and wallets made from bike tubes and kites.Veronika Kisela

“I moved to Ireland nine years ago for a job in Google. I had my first surf lesson seven years ago and got instantly addicted. When I lived in Dublin, leaving the office after work on Friday heading West was my favorite feeling.”

“I had dreamt about living in places like Lahinch, Strandhill or Bundoran and eventually gathered enough courage and left my job. Despite a few bottlenecks, I’m happy living here now with the ocean at my doorstep in an amazing community of people who are willing to do utmost to shape their work-life around their lifestyle and passion for the ocean.”

I’ve moved to Strandhill only a year and a half ago, so I am still fairly new here, but I’ve felt welcome from my first day. My surfing connections made it easier for me to become a part of the Strandhill community. For example, just a few days after my launch in 2016 I got a stall at the Strandhill Christmas market. I got invited to participate at various local events such as Shoreshots surf film festival 2017, where I was able to showcase my work alongside well established local businesses and artists such as Atlantic Equipment and Lanis Surf Art.

@lovedandupcycled

6. Ashleigh Smith: Born on the northwest coast of Ireland, raised on the side of a mountain overlooking the bay, Ashleigh Smith grew up with nature in her bones. To be outdoors in the countryside or on a beach is to be at home for her.

Ashleigh Smith occupies the rare position in the Irish surfing community as a female bodyboarder and was awarded several Irish and international titles in her teens.

Ashleigh now focuses her efforts on designing her own range of bags, the Atlantic Equipment Project, inspired by the surfing culture on the west coast.

@atlanticequipmentAshleigh Smith

7. Gearóid McDaid:

At just 16, Strandhill native Gearoid McDaid became the best surfer in Ireland by winning the Men’s National Championship. Just 3 years on and Ireland’s surfing prodigy is fast earning recognition as one of Europe’s best young talents. Gearoid is on the brink of huge success and has already represented Ireland on the world stage.

@gearoidmcdaid

8. Ian Mitchinson

Always in the water when the waves are big at Mullaghmore, adventure photographer Ian Mitchinson’s feed is one to follow for its stunning range of adrenaline-filled photography from across the North West. @ianmitchinson

Where to Hang Out

1. Shells Cafe and Little Shop

Shells Cafe has helped build community in Strandhill since they opened in 2010.

“Shells are fantastic.” says Kian Egan, “Shells is the hub for people visiting Strandhill. It is where to go to grab their coffee or chat inside the Little Shop.”

“The ideal morning for me,” says Eliz Clyne, “is to drive out the beach early and have a crisp winter surf session and follow that with a little takeaway Shells coffee.”

@shellscafe

2. Kilcullen’s Seaweed Bath

This traditional Seaweed Bathhouse in Enniscrone was established in 1912 and is the perfect place to relax and unwind on a visit to Enniscrone. Or you might fancy a hot seaweed bath after you try surfing for the first time at one of the surf schools on the fantastic Enniscrone Beach. You might even catch Cain Kilcullen, a multiple Irish surfing champion, delivering fresh seaweed to the Bathhouse.

kilcullenseaweedbaths.net

3. The Strand Bar

The Strand Bar is Strandhill’s famous surfing pub run by the Byrnes brother who grew up surfing in Strandhill. A great pub with a classic Irish atmosphere with plenty of surf memorabilia up on the walls for any curious visitor.

@thestrandbar

4. Strandhill People’s Market

With so much entrepreneurial talent in Sligo, Strandhillian Allan Mulrooney had a vision: the Strandhill People’s Market. Within a few years, it has become one of the most popular markets in the northwest with plenty of special events to keep people entertained.

Of course, lots of surfers are there each week with their wares including surfing sisters Ashleigh Smith from Atlantic Equipment Project and Jessie Smith of DriftWood Coffee.

@strandhillpeoplesmarket strandhill market

5. The Building Block

The Building Block in the centre of Sligo town on the banks of the Garavogue is a co-working space which allows small business to have a place to work with high-speed internet, hotdesks and lots of fresh air, space and light.

John Monahan from Noji Architects was a co-founder of the Building Block. Eliz Clyne explains:

“The Building Block is quite unique, I would say that over fifty percent of the people there surf. One business here, Ox Business Systems, is a three-person team. When two of them, a husband and wife, moved back from Australia and she sent him out on a field trip and said ‘go find where we are going to live’. He explored the whole west coast and chose Sligo and the Building Block to set up their business.

@tbbsligothe building block

 

Don’t Miss

Shore Shots Irish Surf Film festival, The Model Sligo, April

Shore Shots

Shore Shots is an annual surf festival which takes place in Sligo in April. Don’t miss this action-packed weekend of surf, adventures, and parties along the Wild Atlantic Way.

Jane – “Shore Shots is unbelievable, and the crowd it draws to Sligo. There is this great food, great talks, and speakers, brilliant movies plus the social side of it, the connecting of people. I know people who have made great business connections at that festival.”

Conor – “Shore Shots is great at promoting Sligo, there are people who come here and they say, wow, I didn’t know this was going on in The Model. I set up a stand there and people come and you talk about boards and you show them different models and stuff.”

shoreshots.ie

The County Sligo Open, August Bank Holiday Weekend

Jane: “I wouldn’t classify myself as a good surfer but I actually entered the women’s longboard this year. That will tell you how inclusive it is. It was so much fun. I was blown away by the experience of surfing in a competition. It pushes you, which is great, and I would say to anyone to compete in one just for the craic.”

Kian “There is lots of really cool events based around surfing in Sligo. The County Sligo surf contest is going to grow and turn into a surf festival as the years roll on. It brings such a buzz to the village, everyone is hanging around the promenade watching it. People get to know each better because they are down at the beach all day. The Sligo Open is on every bank holiday weekend in August. We had a big junior contest in Strandhill last summer too. I got Quiksilver on board and they sponsored 1000s of euros worth of prizes through a local surfer and former club member David O Donnell who now works for Quiksilver.”

facebook.com/CountySligoSurfClub/

Article Credits:

A huge thanks to Seamus McGoldrick for this article. @seamusmcgoldrickYou can watch more about Seamus in this video about him by Peter Clyne.

Featured Photo Credit: Strandhill Sunset, Andrew Kilfeather @andrewkilfeather

Conor at Waxon Photos: Mark Capilitan Photography – www.markcapilitan.com.

Like this? Read our Insider’s Guide to the Donegal Surf Scene here.

 

 

 

 

 

surf donegal

The Insider’s Guide to the the Donegal Surf Scene

The LookWest.ie Insider’s Guide to the West Coast Surf Scene is our new series exploring the vibrant West of Ireland surf scene county by county. Your surf guide will be writer, pro bodyboarder and Surf School owner in Strandhill, Seamus McGoldrick.

Seamus began surfing in Strandhill, one of Sligo’s hidden gems, and followed his passion by setting up his own thriving surf business. So, who better to give you the inside scoop on the Irish surf scene?

Kicking off in Donegal, Seamus meets some lucky surfers who manage to chase the dream of surfing all year round on the wonderful west coast of Ireland.

shambles mcgoldrick

Seamus ‘Shambles’ McGoldrick. Image Credit: Pablo Jimenez

Donegal Surf Scene Overview

It is fitting that Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way starts off in Donegal, the county with island’s longest coastline on the island, which is either 400 miles or 1130 kilometers long depending on who you talk to. So, if you have an interest in surfing you have 400 reasons to want to come here to live.

Epic, expansive and wild, Donegal is home to Ireland’s most rugged and beautiful coastline. It was against this stunning backdrop that surfing was introduced to the shores of western Ireland by pioneers like the Britton brothers of Donegal, who were beckoned to the water and the wild by the thundering waves.

In the late Sixties and early seventies, a colourful and brave bunch or Irish men and women took off on legendary Surf Safaris, that started with the thousand of kilometers of endlessly varied surf terrain in Donegal and aimed south.

When the Celtic Tiger hit in 2004 surfing took off. More surf schools opened up to cater to demand and surfer friendly accommodation soon followed. The fact that Europe’s premier big wave challenge – the Mighty Mullaghmore – was pioneered just a few miles down the road in Sligo means that surf tourism in Bundoran, Donegal’s number one surf town, is increasing.

Starting in North Donegal, surfers like to visit Falcarragh, Marble Hill, Dunfanaghy, Dungloe Strand, Rossnowlagh, Tullan Strand and Bundoran.  Donegal was voted number one on The National Geographic Traveller (UK) ‘cool list’ for 2017 for good reason.

Meet The Surfers

The Local

killian o kelly

Bundoran Native Killian O’Kelly

Killian O Kelly is Bundoran born and bred. Killian is one of the original local crew of surfers at ‘The Peak’ – the world famous premier European surf spot located right in the centre of the town.

Killian has had a long love affair with the Donegal coastline. He spent his childhood exploring the county’s different beaches, he sea-kayaked around Donegal Bay and began surfing aged sixteen. In addition to being a Bundoran lifeguard for many years, Killian is a volunteer on the local RNLI lifeboat.

Killian established Turf n Surf – one of the friendliest and coolest surf hang outs in Donegal – in 2006 with his wife Mary on Bundoran’s West End with a premises overlooking The Peak, of course. This family run tour company, hostel and activity provider is one of the largest adventure activity providers in the northwest.

Killian O’Kelly also helped set up the Irish Gap Year company to cater for students coming over from the US for various cultural and leadership programs, which provides employment during the off season. Since most surfers simply suffer financially through the off-season hoping to catch the perfect wave, Killian realised early on that surfing alone wouldn’t get him through the off-season

“We diversified out of surfing along time ago to make the business work.” explain Killian.

Turf N Surf now offers accommodation, surfing, sea-kayaking, stand up paddleboarding and blo-karting.

More at turfnsurf.ie and irishgapyear.com

kate turf n surf

TurfnSurf Instructor Kate Gaffey

The Surf Instructor

One of the most common ways in which surfers can make their living in Donegal is working as a surf instructor. Several of the surf schools like Surfworld, Bundoran Surf Co. and Finn McCools also have surf shops and accommodation businesses which offers extra employment options.

Wicklow woman Kate Gaffey was between jobs in 2012 when she completed a surfing instructor course in Bundoran.  After living on the west of coast of Donegal for a few weeks, Kate decided to turn her back on the nine to five office lifestyle beckoning her in Dublin. The natural surrounding beauty in Donegal is what enticed her to stay here to live.

“Donegal is not just a beautiful part of Ireland,” says Kate, “it is one of the most beautiful parts of the world.”

Next, she met Killian and Mary at their Turf N Surf Halloween party – dressed as a human weather map. Kate called in a few months later (in regular clothes) with her new surf instructor qualification and, to her delight, was hired.

“The people are so welcoming in Bundoran, whether you’re here for a night, or for life.” affirms Kate.

Bundoran is a cosy and compact town where you can easily walk from one end to the other. Bundoran’s Main Beach and Tullan Strand are within walking distance of each other. The famous Rougey Cliff Walk and the West End walk have some of the best views of the summer sunsets or the dolphins jumping. In the winter,  there are numerous prime views of the raging Atlantic hammering the coast.

Bundoran boasts great pubs, nightlife and cafés. There are  many beautiful places to explore outside of Bundoran too so you can really make the most of your time off.

Kate says there are all sorts of ways of making a living in Donegal for surfers and non-surfers alike, “If you are willing to work there is work. You’ll find it in hotels, bars, restaurants, cafés, supermarkets that all take on extra staff in the summer months.”

“If you have a job where you can work from home, you’ve hit the jackpot.”

The busiest time for Donegal’s surf school is from June until August.  In the winter months places like Donegal Town, Letterkenny, and Sligo all offer plenty of work that is not reliant on the season. Kate believes the highlights of the surf scene in Donegal varies depending on what level surfer you are.

“For the hard core, the winter months are always welcome, with the consistent, powerful swells rolling in. For the thrill seekers, the huge swells at Mullaghmore would be without doubt a highlight. That is a sight to behold, whether you are one of the surfers braving it in the waves or just there to spectate with your heart in your mouth from the cliff at Mullaghmore.”

“But for me, sometimes the highlights can just be that sneaky evening surf, when its glasses off and you’re catching waves in the most beautiful of surroundings, wondering why you’d ever want to be anywhere else.”

“Traffic jams are mostly non-existent and the work commute could almost be described as a pleasure. How many people can say that! With all the time you save not being stuck in traffic on the M50 you can get in a morning or evening surf. With the beach on your doorstep your quality of life can only be improved.”

Read a great article about big wave surfing at Mullaghmore on MagicSeaweed here.

The Pro

noah lane

Professional surfer Noah Lane

Noah Lane is a professional surfer and surf coach from Rainbow Beach on the east coast of Australia who now lives in Donegal. Noah surfed professionally through his younger years and could have made a living from his talent as a skilled athlete anywhere in the world: Hawaii, Fiji, Brazil. So why Ireland and Bundoran in particular?

“Bundoran is a hub for the sport in Ireland.” Noah explains, “Surfers travel from across the country and from around the world to access the ocean off Donegal’s coastline simply for the opportunity to use the ocean in some of the more beautiful and remote areas of Ireland.”

“The coastline here is one of the best in the world. I’ve been at one beach and felt like I was in Norway and driven less than ten minutes and felt like I’m back in Australia.”

Surf Art by Barry Britton

From East coast Aus to West coast Donegal is a big jump but it is unsurprising given Bundoran’s famous hospitality and incredible surf. Noah relocated to Bundoran four years ago where he met his partner Tara Mc Guinness, a local Donegal surf artist.

As well as a thriving surf scene, Donegal is also home to world famous arts scene and an incredibly talented music scene. Noah says, “Musicians like Cian O’Donnell, Kevin Lowery and bands like the Wolves of Youth are all heavily involved in the surf scene.”

There are a number established surf artists in the area including Barry Britton, Gavin McCrea and Tara McGuinness. Gavin and Tara have painted colourful oversized surf-themed murals throughout Bundoran. And legendary Silver Surfer Barry Britton has painted numerous posters and artwork for some of the most prestigious surf contests in the world, including The Pipeline Masters.

Compared to Australia the surfing industry in Ireland is quite small so year round trade is a problem. The harsh winter weather makes the primary business of beginner surf lessons in the off-season that bit more challenging, although these challenges are being overcome with improved wetsuit technology and steady growth in the surf industry in the last decade.

Noah Lane

Professional surfer Noah Lane doing what he does best. Image Credit: Ian Mitchinson

“I know it is cliched, but surfing really is a lifestyle,”  Noah elaborates, “and most surfers that I know find ways to get by and to continue doing what they love.”

Noah feels very fortunate to be supported by surf companies like Finisterre and Globe, “That helps through the winter months and allows me to chase waves. Along with that I work on a surf magazine called Backwash, which keep me busy through the winter months.”

“Having surfed around the world there really is something special about surfing in Donegal. It’s hard to put your finger on it. It might be a combination of the volatile weather, beautiful coastline and amazing people but whatever it is, it’s unique and captivating.”

Follow Noah’s adventures @noahlane_

The future of surfing in Donegal.

surf donegal

Photo credit: Ian Mitchinson

Surfing is growing in Donegal, but so is recreational boat ownership and activities like kayaking, diving, wind surfing and jet skiing. Maritime events are very popular and have the potential to draw large amounts of visitors to Donegal in the future.

Marine tourism in general around the globe is forecast to grow substantially, which bodes well for Donegal and her world class coast. To be sure, Donegal County council are committed to promoting Donegal as a marine tourism destination of excellence and are committed to developing a unique marine tourism visitor experience.

Donegal has always had its own unique identity. Part of it is geographical. Part of it is historical. The economy of Donegal will be particularly susceptible to currency fluctuations of the Euro against the Sterling and is ground zero when it comes to Brexit. I guess this will just add to the edginess, chaos and wildness that already characterises Ireland’s northernmost county.

surf donegalPhoto credit: Ian Mitchinson

Donegal Surf Scene Facts

  1. Donegal has one of the most established surf scenes in Ireland
  2. Over one hundred people are directly employed in surfing in Donegal.
  3. Surfers, amateur and professional alike, travel from all over the world to visit Donegal for its famous surf.
  4. Donegal’s buzzing surf scene boasts half a dozen surf shops, surf hostels and surf cafes.
  5. Donegal is home to over twelve surf schools, including seven in the Bundoran area, employing dozens of surf instructors
  6. A building boom during the Celtic Tiger means there is plenty of affordable accommodation in Donegal.

Who To Know

  • Irish surfing founding father Barry Britton barrybritton.bigcartel.com
  • Surfer, scientist, artist and adventurer Easkey Britton is trail-blazing a path for Irish female surfers and activists. @easkeysurf

  • Saffa photographer Ian Mitchinson‘s feed is constantly inspiring us to explore more of our own backyard @ianmitchinson

  • One of Ireland’s bravest and youngest big-wave surfer Conor Maguire hails from Bundoran @conormaguiree

Don’t Miss:

  • Ireland’s largest surf and music festival in Bundoran – Sea Sessions (22 – 24 June)
  • The Irish National Championships where the nations top surfers battle it out at the world famous contest location of ‘the Peak’ in Bundoran. All competition details and dates via Irish Surfing Website.
  • The classic Intercounties surf contest in Rossnowlagh, which has been running for fifty years! The Intercounties will take place in Sept 2018.
  • Liquid Therapy’s AS Open that brings together volunteers and surfers with special needs for a fun day’s surfing.
Sea Sessions

Sea Sessions Festival in Bundoran

Surf’s Up

From Ireland’s longest coastline, the next coast we will reach on our epic surf safari south will be the Leitrim coast, which is the shortest. Some people say bigger is better but when it comes to the super short and super surf rich Carbury Coast bridging Donegal and Sligo, I would beg to differ.

Image Credits:

A huge thanks to Ian Mitchinson Photography for the stunning photos

santa

Top 10 Things To Do in the West of Ireland to get in the Christmas Spirit

We are getting very festive here in LookWest HQ with only two weeks to go to the big day. Each year we are amazed at how many incredible Christmas markets, festivals and events are taking place in the West to get you in the festive spirit. This year’s list is bigger and better than ever.

spm christmas1. Strandhill People’s Market, Sligo Airport, Strandhill

Strandhill People’s Market, now in its fourth year, opened its Christmas market last Friday, 1 December. Based in the unique surrounds of Sligo Airport’s Hangar, the market has become one of the biggest along the Wild Atlantic Way with over 50 stalls to choose from on each date.

The organisers behind the family-friendly venue are constantly looking for new ways to expand its audience and make it an event for everyone to enjoy. In October, they hosted the inaugural Strandhill Food Festival – the first to be held in an actual airport.

This December, they’ve brought back late-night opening at the market –  it’s on every Friday leading up to Christmas. Another new initiative for 2017 – the organisers are encouraging people to offer their elderly neighbours a lift to this year’s market to include them on the festive fun. And those who bring their elderly neighbours along for a welcome bit of festive cheer will be treated, along with their guests, to a free cup of coffee or mulled wine at the market from the unique ‘Driftwood Coffee Cart’.

The market has already proven to have had a significant economic impact on the surrounding area, creating employment, generating visitor spend, and making a substantial contribution to the winter economy in Sligo. See strandhillpeoplesmarket.ie

2. Galway Christmas Market – Until December 22nd
This year’s Christmas Market will take place both in Kennedy Park and on the plaza on the northern side of Eyre Sq.  It is in the heart of what has become known as Galway’s East Village. The 32m high Big Wheel offers spectacular views over the city and Galway Bay and which is wheelchair accessible and also features a VIP gondola for special treats and corporate bookings. 

There’s Santa’s Grotto and a German Bierkeller, a helter skelter and carousel, choirs, story-telling , music and lots more. The market is open from 12pm to 8pm Monday to Wednesday and 10 am to 10pm Thursday to Sunday until Friday, December 22nd.

See christmasmarketgalway.com

Galway Christmas Market.

Galway Christmas Market. Image Credit: Reg Gordon

3. The Christmas Experience at Tullyboy Farm, Boyle, Co Roscommon

Down on Tullyboy Farm in Boyle in Co. Roscommon there is a chill in the air and all the animals are tucked up warmly in their beds awaiting the arrival of baby Jesus. The atmosphere is buzzing with excitement. The pudding is being made, Santa’s bags are being packed and the Elves are eager to bring you through the ten stages of the Tullyboy Farm Christmas Experience.

Parents and children can warm themselves with hot chocolate and marshmallows and mulled juices/mince pies in the Yuletide Kitchen where you can also help out with stirring the pudding and don’t forget to make your wish. Hear the story of Christmas in front of the big fire in the inglenook fireplace, then up the spiral staircase to Santa’s bedroom to see Santa’s old fashioned bed and the naughty elf.

Visit the Christmas Experience at Tullyboy Farm until 23 December. See tullyboyfarm.com/visitorfarms/christmas/

4. Winter Wonderland at Westport House

Visit Mayo’s ever popular Westport House from November 26th and discover a truly magical Winter Wonderland. Packed with festive fun and cheer; this is not just a trip to Santa, but a full Christmas day out! You’ll be welcomed into Santa’s grotto, where Mrs. Claus will enchant children with ‘The Story of Stumpa’ by the fireside. Get your face painted, nibble on yummy gingerbread, as you decorate your own Gingerbread Man; and make your own Yuletide Log.

Then of course comes the main event: A visit to Santa in his magical grotto, where he’ll have a chat with all the children, give gifts, and take photos to remember this special occasion. Santa Sensory experiences are also available.

Kids get to meet Santa in his 18th century grotto, discuss their wish list and get a gift while parents enjoy a seasonal glass of mulled wine.The little ones will love special story-time with Mrs. Claus in the Drawing Room before they decorate their own Yuletide log to take home for the Christmas table. Sing carols with the cheery elves, decorate Gingerbread Men and hop on board the Westport House Express. See westporthouse.ie

5. Visit Donegal’s Lapland

The longest running and most popular Christmas show in Donegal is back again for 2017 and you do really have to pass the North Pole to get here, we kid you not!

Santa’s Lapland in Donegal includes a live show, with an elf telling the nativity story as it unfolds on stage. Santa arrives down the chimney with a small gift for each child. They move on to Santa’s home, visit the toy factory and sit on his sleigh. There’s a second chance to meet Santa at his home, and have photos taken. See donegalslapland.ie

6. Christmas in Carrick, through December 

The Leitrim town of Carrick on Shannon hosts a month of Christmas celebrations with lots of festive events. Christmas Village markets, Santa’s Grotto, live music and events throughout December. See facebook.com/christmasincarrick/

7. Sligo On Ice, Stephen St Carpark, Sligo, 
Sligo On Ice opens for the month of December in the central location of Stephen St Carpark in Sligo town. The perfect spot to reconnect with friends and family over the Christmas festivities. (Sligo 4th Dec – 29th January) See facebook.com/sligoonice/ 

8. Brigit’s Garden, Galway

If you’d like to take the focus away from presents, you might like Brigit’s Garden in Galway. Their Santa’s Christmas Magic Show includes music and dancing, followed by the lighting of candles, and then the lighting of the Christmas tree – by magic. There are no individual presents for children (though there is a symbolic gift for each family). So if you’re worried about the commercial side of Christmas, this might be the one for you.

ailwee caves9. Santa’s Workshop at Ailwee Caves, Co Clare 

Santa Claus has been taking up his annual residence at Aillwee Cave in Ballyvaughan especially to meet children and their families since The Millennium. He works very hard as he prepares this unique event.

Along with Mrs Claus and his team of happy Elves, Santa ensures a very special personalised visit for each child. He arranges lots of exciting entertainment for all the family which continues right throughout each day. There is face painting, a puppet show and lots of carnival entertainment to be enjoyed.

Santa Elves are waiting with their LISTS of the boys and girls visiting every day. They will guide everyone along the cave passageways singing Christmas Carols all the way. Santa Claus with his helper will meet and chat with each child and of course have a present for everyone. Mrs Claus is there to greet the grownup with a glass of Hot Punch and a Mince Pie.

Santa’s train is available for rides all day long which will take you to visit the Birds of Prey Centre. There you will enjoy a complimentary visit to meet a Snowy Owl or a Happy Harris Hawk! A visit to Santa’s Workshop at Aillwee really is a unique, thrilling, fun filled day out for every generation of your family. aillweecave.ie/santas-workshop

10. Santa At Arigna Mining Experience 

Visit Santa with a difference as he goes underground this Christmas at the Arigna Mining Experience in Roscommon. Experience the magic of the Christmas underground kingdom with thousands of magical lights which the Elves have put on display to welcome Santa to his grotto. Santa will be in his underground grotto where he will meet all the children.

Visit our Traditional Nativity Scene and see the real meaning of Christmas. Meet Mrs clause who will help you post your  letter to Santa in his special postbox!

Stop by the ‘Elves Workshop’ to check if your name is on ‘Santa’s Naughty or Nice List’, receive your special certificate from the Elves – (be sure to be extra good to get your name on the ‘Nice List’). Join the Elves singing their Christmas jingles as they work in their toy factory. Visit their wonderfully talented face-painters Veronique and Anke who will work their ‘magic’ for you, no request is too much from princesses to butterflies, Spiderman to Rudolph.

For more visit arignaminingsantaexperience.rezgo.com

Ireland West Airport embarks on €15m investment phase of terminal enhancements and Runway upgrade works

Work has commenced on a €15m facilities investment plan aimed at transforming the Airport over the next three years. The investment strategy will see over €15m invested in new passenger facilities, terminal upgrades and infrastructural works across the airport facility and runway.
By the end of the first quarter of 2018 almost €4m worth of major infrastructural projects, to improve the operational efficiency and to upgrade and enhance the airports facilities and services, will have been completed.
Projects to be completed between 2017 and 2019 include: 
• Resurfacing of Car Park Zone 5 resulting in 250 permanent surfaced car park spaces less than five minutes walk from the terminal
• Major upgrade of existing car park equipment to the latest state of the art equipment including the introduction of a number plate recognition system
• Construction and re-modelling of new toilet facilities at the airport
• Covered aircraft passenger boarding stairs for passengers boarding and disembarking aircraft
• Re-modelling of immigration and arrivals area creating increased circulation space for arriving passengers
• Upgrading to new flight information display screens across the airport terminal
• Upgrade and replenishment of ground handling equipment and safety and response vehicles
• Enhancements to the airport retail and catering facilities
• Construction of a new Tourist Welcome Centre adjacent to the arrivals area
• Introduction of new digital display screens throughout the airport facility
• Remodeling of departures area creating additional seating capacity and upgrading of furniture
• Upgrading of the existing runway instrument landing system (ILS) enabling enhanced navigation for pilots
• A full resurfacing of the airport’s 2,400m runway including taxiways and an upgrade of lighting system to LED
This year the airport has commenced a series of critical projects on the airports runway to maintain the highest standard of airport safety and operations. The work includes replacement of existing runway lighting and fittings, major airfield drainage programme, upgrading of the runways instrument landing system and other minor site works. It is planned that in 2019 work will commence on a €10m+ overlay of the airports 2.5km Runway. The current runway is 30 years old and work will involve a resurfacing of the entire runway ensuring this critical infrastructural asset is maintained to serve the region for the next 30 years.
This latest investment at the airport will also include a major enhancement of the airport experience from a visual perspective with the introduction of a new and modern way finding signage system throughout the airport as well as the implementation of a new brand identity, helping to create a a combination of a lighter and brighter passenger environment and contemporary look and feel throughout the airport terminal.
This transformation programme will provide a major boost for the local economy with the airport utilising the services of a number of local contractors and suppliers to carry out some of these projects.
This latest development plan follows the completion of a number of safety and security related projects, totaling over €2.5 million last year, as the airport continued to invest, with the support of the Department of Transport, in upgrading its facilities whilst ensuring compliance with Irish Aviation Authority requirements from a safety, security and operational perspective.
Commenting on the development plans, Joe Gilmore, Managing Director, Ireland West Airport commented, “This latest facilities investment programme will adapt, modernise and transform the airport with contemporary elements and future-proof services. It will make the airport more efficient, provide greater flexibility and resilience to the passengers and ensure an even more comfortable and easier journey through the airport. This is especially important at a time when we are experiencing passenger growth and working with our airline partners to introduce more choice in services for our customers. We believe these planned improvements will continue to grow our reputation as the faster, easier, friendlier airport of choice for those travelling to and from the West, Midlands and North West of Ireland. Investment in new facilities and in particular continued investment in safety and security ensures the operational environment of the airport will be future-proofed to meet the evolving airline and security needs and to ensure we have the infrastructure needed to handle more passengers and provide them with a positive experience whether arriving or departing as we enter the next phase in the airports development. I wish to express our gratitude for the continued support of our local authority partners and the Departments of Tourism, Transport and Sport and Rural & Community Development towards these developments. In addition, a thank you to our customers whose contributions, through the Airport Development Fee, provide a critical funding support for the airports development plans’.
sligo walks

Let’s Get Sligo Walking – New Promotional Campaign Showcases over 60 Sligo Walks

“Let’s not only get Sligo walking, let’s get the world walking in Sligo,” were the final words spoken at the launch of the new Sligo Walks website and video at Sligo Airport, Strandhill on Friday last. Those words were spoken by Deirdre Lavin of the Sligo Sport & Recreation Partnership, who were among the many organisations, groups and other stakeholders present at the event, which also included a short but symbolic walk in glorious sunshine along the nearby Killaspugbrone Looped Walk in Strandhill.

SligoWalks.ie is a new website which has detailed walking information on over 60 waymarked walks throughout Sligo, and this along with a viral video which shows some of Sligo’s most iconic walks – will encourage people to use the wonderful natural amenities on our doorstep, as well as providing an opportunity to promote Sligo much further afield. Illustrated maps by artist Annie West provide walkers with eye catching reference points of many of the walks and are free to the public from locations such as the local Fáilte Ireland tourism office in Sligo.

“The video we are launching , the new information leaflets published,  the new website being introduced today, will all greatly enhance our tourism product, and could well be the catalyst for the development of further marketing and promotion campaigns centered on our exceptional facilities,” said Councillor Séamus Kilgannon, Cathaoirleach of Sligo County Council, at the launch event.

Many of Sligo’s walking and outdoor clubs were represented at the launch and several of them spoke, describing the many positive benefits that they and their colleagues have received from walking in Sligo, from both a physical and mental health perspective. Jim Newman spoke on behalf of the Sligo Walking Club, Alan Sayers on behalf of the Sligo-Leitrim Mountain Rescue Team, and Goretti Brennan described the huge growth in popularity in walking with community groups such as the North Sligo Walking Group, which now has approximately 100 members.  “The walks are meant to be enjoyed as we interact and meet up with old friends, making new ones along the way. It has also become apparent that fitness levels have improved with confidence as initially some of our group were shy or reluctant to go the distance,” she said.
Dorothy Clarke, Director of Services at Sligo County Council, said that a huge amount of investment has been made in providing walking infrastructure in Sligo, and now a great opportunity awaits for local people to get involved in walking, whether informally or as part of a group. And as walking is a pursuit which can be done at any time of the year, the message is to get walking, stay healthy and to get the word out that by visiting SligoWalks.ie you’ll find all of the information you need to get started.
For more information, visit www.sligowalks.ie or follow @SligoWalks.
green door leitrim

Green-Door Festival of rural architecture and design is back this Autumn

The fourth Green-Door Weekend of rural architecture and design returns to counties Leitrim and Sligo this 28th September – 1st October.

Thirty nine homes with sustainable features and ways of living, many self-builds, renovations and extensions, will be open to the public over the two days.

This is a unique opportunity to meet home owners and builders, architects and suppliers to get first hand, honest information about the whole process of sustainable planning, designing and building, the choices made, the highlights and the lowlights.

The weekend is full of talks, workshops, exhibitions and demonstrations, with the aim of stimulating and inspiring the weekend’s participants.

  • The weekend kicks off with talks and debate which aims to give a backdrop to the weekend. The theme: ‘Building, Living, Dwelling’ will be discussed by the following speakers at The Dock Arts Centre in Carrick on Shannon.:
  • Jingru Cyan Cheng : A Split Household: Contemporary Rural Home for China’s Floating Population; Marcus Donaghy and Will Dimond : Material Knowledge ; Deirdre McMenamin :  Configured Rurality Models of Rural Habitation and will be chaired by  Dominic Stevens
  • All day Saturday 30th : 15 homes throughout South Leitrim open to the public. FREE From a cob house to an architect’s garden to a heritage rectory.
  • All day Saturday 1st Oct: Exhibition: ‘Thinking, Living, Dwelling’ is a major new exhibition curated by Sarah Searson and designed to underpin the Green-Door festival (running until Oct 14th) A whole day of talks and clinics at the Dock to include a cob clinic, Healthy homes by Pat Barry IGBC.  Architecture-based drawing and painting workshops for adults and children.
  • 11-5pm Peter Cowman from Living Architecture will be giving talks and demonstrations based on his econo-space, in Leitrim Village.
  • Film Night: Microtopia, La Maddalena Chair and Sensing Spaces are films about architecture and homes at The Glens Centre in Manorhamilton. This is a chance to unwind and catch up with other people.
  • All day Sunday 30th: over 20 homes in North Leitrim and Co Sligo  FREE
  • Including artists’ homes (Max and Anna-Maria, Matt Jones, Charlie Easterfeild) new build builds (Frank Albrecht) and renovations (Brian and Jane)
  • Bike tours of some of the homes around Dromahair led by architect Colin Bell.
  • Exhibitions, demonstrations and workshops at the Leitrim Sculpture Centre

Green Door Festival Programme:

You can download the Green Door Brochure here or visit www.greendoorireland.ie

For more information

Website:www.greendoorireland.ie

Email: jo@greendoorireland.ie

Tel: 087 778 1914

Social:

Facebook: facebook.com/InspirationalHomesLeitrim 

Twitter @ihleitrim

 

 

Coolaney Mountain Bike

Multi-million Euro Funding Boost For West of Ireland Tourism Projects

Outdoor recreation in Ireland is to get an €11m boost, with funding now allocated for projects coming under the government’s Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure Scheme for this year. The West of Ireland has done particularly well with all counties benefiting including some large infrastructure projects in Mayo, Sligo and Leitrim.

The grants awarded will go to a mix of smaller local measures, with grants of up to €10,000 each (Measure 1), and larger projects will have a significant national or regional impact (Measure 3), receiving grants of €100,000 to €1m.

Winning West: Where the Funding is Going

In Sligo almost one million euro in funding has been announced for out-door recreation facilities, including a grant of €840,285 for Coolaney National Mountain Biking Centre.
The funding for Coolaney National Mountain Bike Trail will facilitate the development of this amenity, and will provide for its connectivity with other major initiatives, including the Wild Atlantic Way and the Sligo Way Walking Routes.

Leitrim County Council has been granted €1 million to complete a Greenway and Cycleway from Carrick-on-Shannon along the river Shannon to Drumshanbo. The plan is to have a connected water and land based track from Carrick-on-Shannon through Leitrim Village to Lough Allen in Drumshanbo, giving visitors the option of services on either end with links to other greenways, walks and activities along the route.Carrick on Shannon Blueway

County Mayo is to get iconic way-mark way as part of €11m investment; the Clew Bay Trail is to get €984,000.

In Roscommon the Miners Way and Historical Trail got €5,520, Doon Shore amenity, Lough Key, Boyle got €10,000 and Killukin Cascade Waterfall in Carrick-on-Shannon will receive €8,000.

Donegal has been allocated €66k for rural recreation projects designed to maintain and improve outdoor facilities in the county, it has been revealed. Under this funding release outdoor recreation facilities in Ballybofey, Glenties, Termon, Urris, Glencolmcille, Ballyarr, Letterkenny and others will benefit.”

Statistics from Fáilte Ireland show that in 2014 close to 1.2 million visitors to Ireland took part in hiking or cross-country walking, spending about €915m in the Irish economy during their stay, while 286,000 visitors took part in cycling activities with a related spend of some €268m. The two sectors generated revenue for the economy of €1.2 billion.