Rocking out at Rock Farm Slane!
Sunday 21st September 2014
And so my journey began…Day one of my ‘Digital Dame Goes Wild’ Eco Tour of Ireland. I had picked up my Opel Mocca S vehicle kindly sponsored by local car dealers Ferrybank Motors based in Wexford the day before so Sunday was just about packing then off I set! (I think I packed for every possible weather scenario!!)
I had to do a quick pitstop at my twin sisters’ place in Dublin to borrow a super groovy sleeping bag (those scenarios again) and was on my way.
Everybody has heard of Slane – Slane concerts, Slane castle, ‘I Love Slane’ Tee-shirts in the 80’s… This however, was my very first time to visit Slane and as I began my descent into the picturesque village of Slane I knew I had arrived somewhere special.
Steeped in history and awash with folklore entering Slane takes you back in time – it seems to hit a deep rooted nerve within your very being. Following my (relatively) trusty Google Map Lady – we shall call her Grace – I turned off to the left just before the bridge to head up to the Rock Farm Slane Campsite.
Carina met me at the campsite carpark and, as I marvelled at the many pheasants, she put my bags into a wheelbarrow and off we set.
Carina has a wonderful gift of making you feel at home and relaxed almost immediately so we decided that coffee was probably the next most important consideration at that point. We chatted amicably whilst brewing a cup then sat on the rustic styled yet warmly inviting outdoor veranda as she ran through a short bio of Rock Farm Slane and what it means to her, hubby Alex and their 3 gorgeous children.
Rock Farm Slane is a Gold Certified Eco Tourism Business that offers a unique eco friendly accommodation experience with a choice of Glamping yurts and shepherd huts that can accommodate couples,families and small groups as well as Weddings when extra bell tents can be erected.
I was again reminded of the historic Crannogs of Ireland past, these days however there is a lot more luxury thrown in! Comfortable beds, easy to light stoves and an outdoor hot tub to sip champagne in under a blanket of stars .. should that be your want 🙂
My accommodation for the night was a shepherds hut located close to the main communal area to ease any fears I may have had about sleeping there alone.
Electric Bike Tours
We set out on electric bikes for a whirlwind tour of Slane. Rock Farm Slane have a number of electric bikes that they hire out to residents or groups looking to experience something different without breaking into too much of a sweat. I am now a major electric bike fan!! (as you know I have begun this tour to get back out from behind my desk and boy did these bikes help me get back into the rhythm and up that hill!)
Carinas’ local knowledge is indepth and she shares her knowledge enthusiastically with lots of facts and folklore about the past.
After the tour I explored the Glamping site and made myself a hot chocolate then sat on the swing under the huge oak tree as I imagined the battles of the past that had taken place so close by this peaceful serene hideaway.
As I prepared for bed it was time to try the on-site compost loo – I found using the compost loo totally fine and it really makes you wonder about the amount of waste we process in such an inefficient & expensive manner when a compost loo is so simple.
Living in the country as I do, the silence of the Shepherds Hut was no bother although I imagine with other people staying in the site you would feel more relaxed. I had lit my stove earlier and my hut was roasting! I had to open the door for a while, guess my fire lighting skills are improving!
In the morning I was greeted by a large hare loping through the grounds and lots of bemused looks from the pheasants. The showers are not only beautifully decorated but also very nice and HOT! – something I had worried a little about- after all there’s nothing like a good shower to set you up for the day.
It was a wonderful experience and I would highly recommend checking them out especially for a family getaway, romantic break or hen party. Carina’s husband Alex is currently setting up a whiskey distillery so if you’re really nice he just might give you a tasting!
For contact details and social media links to Rock Farm Slane Click Here >>
Listen to our ‘Cuppa Tae’ Chat here: https://soundcloud.com/ecoactive/rock-farm-slane
EcoTour Kindly Sponsored By
On Wednesday 24th September I finally left magical Meath and headed West to Loughrea. Co Galway to meet Jenny Cooper part of the amazing team at Slieve Aughty Centre, an Eco guesthouse, activity centre and organic kitchen created by Dutch Mother and Daughter team Esther and Merel Zyderlaan.
Having seen some images on their website beforehand I was expecting a Morroccan influence in the decor but such creativity and attention to detail in the furnishings was still mind blowing when I got there. Opulence, Intricacy, Creativity, Magical..These are the words that spring to mind when trying to describe the interiors at Slieve Aughty Centre.
I met with Jenny Cooper who manages the marketing and day to day administration of the eco house and she gave me a grand tour of the setting. Slieve Aughty Centre is much more than an eco friendly place to stay – it offers information on guided and self guided walks in the areas with a nature hut open to the public and full of information and maps of the forest trails.
They run regular events such as creative workshops both for adults and children – their art room is amazing – I want one! It’s a popular venue for childrens’ birthday parties where they can let their imaginations run wild and take home something that they have made and decorated themselves.
Slieve Aughty Centre grow as much of their own produce as possible – all organically, and what they don’t grow they outsource from local organic producers. While I was there I met some lovely German girls who are on a working holiday whereby they work 4 hours a day Monday to Friday in return for affordable accommodation, great food and of course the opportunity to enjoy horse trekking, walking, attend workshops etc.
The ethos at Slieve Aughty Centre is to mix and mingle thus visitors are encouraged to sit together at mealtimes and get to know one another. Of course if anyone prefers to eat alone that’s fine too but just think of the potential new friends you could have made!
Weddings and celebrations are also very popular at Slieve Aughty Centre with couples tying the knot in their personally decorated pergola, surrounded by friends and family and usually ending up around the campfire till the morning light!
The rooms all have verandas with many of them linking to one another so that friends (both old and new) can join up for a relaxing glass of wine in the evening or enjoy an organic breakfast in the morning!
Visitors can pop by anytime for a coffee or join them for their buffet lunch at 2pm and dinner at 7pm. It is best to book in advance as they cater for the expected to avoid food waste so do give them a bit of notice especially if there is a group of you planning to visit.
Anyone can avail of their guided walks plus as they have a permit to use the surrounding Coillte woodlands which they use for the Slieve Aughty Horse Treks, local horseriders can also avail of this.
Slieve Aughty Centre has 9 bedrooms all uniquely furnished and two Eco Cabins so they can accommodate up to 32 people sharing. Their Weddings are usually intimate affairs and accommodate 70 for a sit down meal in their fabulous dining hall with extra space for the after party in the garden.
If your in the area why not pop in for a look and enjoy a coffee or a cup of tea on the veranda. You’ll wonder why you never visited before!!
For contact details and social media links to Slieve Aughty Centre click here >>
Listen to our ‘Cuppa Tae’ Chat here: https://soundcloud.com/ecoactive/the-three-towers-ecohouse
EcoTour Kindly Sponsored By
BlueBerry Hill Activity Farm Kerry
As I was making my way from Tralee to Cork I had decided to fit in a visit to the area of Sneem Co Kerry, having heard much about it from a 1980’s band trip my sister had made in her late teens. The memory of her ‘I love Sneem’ hat stays with me to this day!
Not since the beautiful drive through Leitrim and Sligo had I experienced such incredible vistas and landscapes. Seriously folks, if you have never driven through the ‘Cork and Kerry Mountains’ a la Thin Lizzy then now is the time to do so – (well maybe in the spring..)
I had arranged to visit the very cute sounding Blueberry Hill Farm, an activity farm where visitors get to interact with a number of farm animals including goats, pigs, cows, geese, hens and more.
Sigi and Yvonne met me upon my arrival and we began our interactive tour with a bit of bottle feeding the goats! What fun! I can imagine the squeals of excitement that children would make from the enjoyment of being able to literally touch and feed the animals.
A Way of Life!
Chatting with Sigi it became apparent that this is more than a way to make a living – this is their way of life. Indeed Sigi and Yvonne decided to sell their house and travel around Europe before discovering and falling in love with Sneem and have worked hard building Blueberry Hill Farm from scratch.
The farm has goats, piglets, a beautiful cow (it’s rare I call cows beautiful trust me) and lots of very amusing fowl – (see the dinnertime video below to see what I mean) which visitors get to meet, touch and feed whilst Sigi explains a bit about them and promotes choosing free range meat over intensively farmed animals reared for meat only.
Candlemaking & Scone Making Fun!
The farm also has a very cool barn which is the venue for a spot of candlemaking where children from a very young age to adults all get to make a lovely keepsake that will actually be useful – a candle! Sigi and Yvonne originally had a candle making business where they created beautiful mutli coloured and multi shaped candles which they sold at markets and to craft shops throughout Ireland and it was from this business that they were able to finance the purchase of the land many years ago.
There is a choice of tours and the full tour includes the preparation of scones where the children are shown how butter is made and they use the buttermilk and cream on the scones which are devoured afterwards!
Blueberry Hill Farm also offer lot’s of workshops throughout the year for adults interested in self sufficiency.
Self Sufficiency Workshops
One in particular that really interested me was the Home Dairy workshop where you can learn to transform milk into delicious yoghurt, soft cheeses, hard cheeses and real butter. This workshop will give you knowledge and skills which you can put into practice at home afterwards. They also offer Blacksmithing and Candle Making for adults.
Unique Hen & Stag Events!
Blueberry hill farm have some great ideas for Hen and Stag parties looking for something a little unusual – for eg the hens can create a beautiful horseshoe shaped ‘Good Luck’ candle with engravings on it which the bride can have at her wedding, whilst the stags can build a raft to sail across the lake in order to find the hidden whiskey! Or vice versa! no gender stereotypes here- many stags enjoy getting the groom to experience married life earlier by learning how to prepare and bake scones – pink apron supplied!
A freshly prepared lunch using their own homegrown organic veg and salads is included in the hen and stag packages.
Pre booking is essential for blueberry farm tours and events and they are open all year round so do give them a call on 087 3647371 to avoid disappointment!
Listen to our EcoTour Audio Here:
Visit Blueberry Hill Farms’ Profile Page Here >>
Dinnertime for those naughty Geese:
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Bundoran Surf Co
Surfing is a great sport to be enjoyed by people of all ages and fitness levels. It is a great way to pick up a new sport or even just an excuse to get into the great outdoors.
Beginner lessons take place in waist deep water so don’t worry if you aren’t confident in the water. Our Surf School is approved by the Irish Surfing Association, all lessons are fully insured and all instructors are qualified beach lifeguards.
Information about beginner surf lessons:
- Adult €30 (3 lessons €85, 4 €110, 5 €130 on consecutive days).
Groups of 7 and more €25pp.
- Kids €25 (from 8 to 16yrs inclusive).
Groups of 16 and more €20pp.
Lessons run at 10am and 2pm all year round.
5pm lesson available on request.
All instruction and equipment provided.
Transport to and from beach included.
The lessons last for about 3 hours.
Changing facilities, hot showers, and a hot drink after the session included.
All you need is a towel and swimwear.
We use 4/3mm suits in summer and 5/4/3mm suits in winter.
Hen party fun, thrills and spills
You can now book these incredible fun and affordable hen parties through Eco Active Ireland!
Go with the Flow organise your day out so that you and the girls get to spend up to three hours together having the craic on different stretches of the River Barrow ranging from white-water spills and thrills to something a little calmer.
You can choose open Canoes – two or three in each – which are the most popular or Kayaks – no, don’t worry you won’t spend most of the day in water – except for our “Wild Swim “ Always tons of fun, laughing all the way.
You will be guided by qualified and experienced (and fit!!) instructors. We provide all the equipment you need. Special care and attention will be given to anyone who is a bit nervous – be assured, this activity is suitable for all ages and abilities.
As a memento of your day out with us, we will give you a digital photo album FOC.
All this for only €45pp for a half day adventure with up to 15 people. Discounts are available for larger groups
Girls, there’s only 52 Saturdays in the year so, seriously, you need to secure your day of choice by paying a €100 deposit*.
Getting there: We are only 20 mins drive from Kilkenny, Carlow and New Ross. We do not provide transport but we can point you in the right direction! If you can car pool that’s a lot extra in the kitty for the night to follow!
View Map >>
A Hen Party with style!
Our Foraging expert Mary White has come up with a wonderful unique hen party idea for all you brides to be out there. This is certainly the kind of hen party I would enjoy!
The Hen and her flock will arrive at 11.30 for a deluxe Brunch.This will be followed by foraging for delicious safe wild food.
The Hen will then roll up her sleeves and turn these delicious wild foods into sumptuous pestos, fritters, salads and other treats aided by her clucking hens who will do her bidding.
Time 11.30 -4pm
Includes DeLuxe Brunch, edible treats to take home including Heart shaped cookies and cakes and a farewell glass of Prosecco.
Hen Parties to Crow about!
Price €40 per person up to 10 people.
Over 10 – 10% discount.
EAI Map Ref: The Old rectory, Killedmond, Borris,Co Carlow – View Google Map
Choose your date and we will let you know availability
Please note that a minimum booking of 6 is required with one week’s notice.
Outdoor fun in the big blue!
A great day out for any group – surfing lessons in the unspoilt seas of Fanore Co Clare.
The Aloha surf school is based on beautiful Fanore beach ( I once saw Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins there) and offers special group rates for surf lessons.
Take it away Pete:
Surfing Lessons are 2 hours long and take place in waist depth water under the careful supervision of our surfing instructors who are in the water with the surfers at all times.
Surfers greatly benefit from the close personal attention of our professional instructors who are all qualified RLSS Beach Lifeguards and ISA Surfing Instructors.
While the focus of the surf lessons is learning to surf, you will also gain valuable information regarding surfing etiquette, beach safety and knowledge of the ocean.
The first section of the surf lesson consists of some dry land exercises where you will learn the techniques of wave selection, paddling, catching the wave and then standing up; the reason you’re here!! Practising the skills on a stable surface makes it easier to learn the right techniques before taking the plunge.
The second section of the lesson is out there in the surf putting all that you’ve learnt into practice.We provide special soft boards for beginners, wetsuits and wetsuit booties. So all you need is your swimming kit, towel and lots of energy!
- Bookings are subject to a minimum of 3 people.
- Price includes all equipment, instruction, use of changing rooms and hot showers.
- Lessons are subject to availability and conditions being suitable on the day.
- Choose from any date.
- Activity times are tide dependent so change from day to day
- Our activities have been certified by Ecotourism Ireland
1 person – €35
8+ people – €30 pp
16+ people – €25 pp
24 + people – €20 pp
EAI Map Ref: Aloha Surfing and Sea Kayaking >>
This makes a great gift too! Why not buy someone you love an EAI Gift Voucher?