The Tour Leaders

Rachel Ryan - Tour Leader

Rachel RyanHaving grown up in the lush farmland of southwest Ireland, I have a deep connection with the land. I cherish childhood memories living on our family farm and of walking down the fields with a basket of jam sandwiches and thermos of hot tea for the haymakers.

New Zealand has been my home since 1980. I live on 25 acres of regenerating native bush at the top of the South Island with my family. Wherever you live here, there is spectacular walking in extraordinarily beautiful and contrasting landscapes.

I believe walking is the very best way to really get the feel of the countryside and its character. The fresh air, the smells and sounds, and the unhurried ambling through nature offers the most memorable of travel experiences!

Like many people I feel particularly drawn to the West of Ireland where rich Irish tradition endures. The Burren in County Clare, Connemara and the Beara Peninsula in West Cork are regular haunts, as well as the beautiful Galtee mountains in County Tipperary - a stone's throw from where I grew up.

It has been my pleasure to design two guided walking tours: Walk the West and Connemara's Calling, for you to explore. Both walking tours offer very diverse landscapes, stunning scenery, scrumptious local gourmet cuisine, dozens of ancient sites and rich village culture.

I have a fond appreciation of the Irish 'X' factor and ensure that you experience the warmth and generosity of the Irish people. Our purpose is to stray far from the main tourist trail and ensure you get a taste of  'authentic' Ireland along with a deeper sense of what it is to be Irish. You will be fascinated by Ireland's rich and ancient cultural legacy so evident throughout the countryside.

I offer you a warm invitation to join myself, Hugh and Elin on an unforgettable walking tour of these stunning areas of the West of Ireland.

Hugh Ryan - Tour Leader

Hugh RyanHugh has an intimate knowledge of Ireland - he is Irish through and through, is passionate about the countryside and its people and, incidentally, has a wicked sense of humour. He also knows something about the Kiwi way of life having lived in Nelson for nearly two years completing an outdoor leadership course there. He has extensive experience driving groups overland between London and Kathmandu and has been on our team since 2008.

I have walked in the wilds with Hugh both in New Zealand and in Ireland and there is just no better company to be had. I am so delighted to have him with us!  Hugh an extremely popular member member of our team, endorsed by this feedback from Julie (2010)  - "The unique "Hugh factor" - his unfailing cheerful charm and sense of humour always ensuring he included each of us."

 

"I've driven on many roads throughout the world - and got lost on quite a few of them! The roads in the west of Ireland are rightly famous for their beauty and meandering ways - and plenty of opportunities to get lost! Never boring, always something interesting around the corner - I look forward to your company!" Hugh Ryan.

Elin Payne - Walk The West Of Ireland Chef

Elin PayneI've always loved eating well! Moving to Ireland from the Bahamas in 2000 gave me a chance to explore the food business here and I've been happily cooking/catering for the past five years. I've a cooking qualification from Ballymaloe Cookery School in Co. Cork and I support Slow Food (www.slowfood.com) which promotes biodiversity in our food sources and care and culture in our food production.

When I came to Ireland, I discovered a country that takes its food seriously. From production to plate, Ireland is making a name for itself internationally for its "new" Irish cuisine. What's new is not the traditional ingredients or the culture of Irish food - these remain wonderfully in place. Instead there is a re-'new'-ed focus on care.

There is care in the producers - lots of organic growers, farmers and fishermen. There is care in the preparation - in the artisan butchers, cheesemakers, smokehouses, soup makers, jam makers, pate makers and countless cooks and chefs taking time and care in choosing good produce and preparing it to accentuate the intrinsic flavour. I think the best of Irish cooking celebrates the country and its history using traditional foods from its fields and waters, carefully prepared, simple and full of flavour.

On this tour, the menu focuses on such traditional Irish foods, using locally available produce from whichever region we're in and always with a vegetarian option. Expect wonderful organic salmon and succulent Connemara lamb, exuberant vegetables, incredible cheeses and voluptuous puddings! (And lots of chocolate!) - here's a recipe for my Chocolate Brownies.