© Nelson Mail 27 November 2007 Josh Reich

She has spent the past 27 years in New Zealand but the call of home still rings loud for Irishwoman Rachel Ryan.

The Delaware Bay resident has organised a 10-day tour named Walk the West of Ireland to introduce travellers to three less-visited regions: the Beara Peninsula, the Glen of Aherlow and the Burren.

A recent trip with her daughter Alice helped to solidify a vision of introducing New Zealanders to the culture, people and countryside of the Emerald Isles. Ms Ryan said many New Zealanders felt a connection with Ireland, either through their heritage, the music or an appreciation of the Irish way of life - just as she always felt a connection to New Zealand when growing up through her New Zealand mother.

"It's not as if I pine for the place - it's a comfortable dichotomy. I feel at home here and feel at home in Ireland.''

Ms Ryan said she decided on a walking tour as she felt it was the perfect way to absorb the landscape.

"When you drive you are totally separated from the people and the countryside.'' The tour will involve travellers walking up to five hours a day with specialist guides well-versed in local history and stories, followed by meals cooked by a chef trained at the famed Ballymaloe Cookery School in Cork.

The principles of "slow food'' will be adhered to, with local produce being the staple, followed, of course, by the odd Irish coffee.

Ms Ryan is quick to point out that the tour is not designed for people to party up, but to sample the culture and people. "They are very warm and speak in stories. They are a wonderfully oral people - they are interested in you but want to tell you stories about other people too. There is not too much soul- searching.''

Highlights of the trip are expected to be witnessing the Dawn of Summer solstice at Grange Circle in Lough Gur, the lush green fields of the glen and the combination of arctic, mediterranean and alpine flowers growing in the limestone of Burren.

For Ms Ryan, however, a real focus of the tour will be "getting under the skin of what it is to be Irish, and about two cultures coming together''. Walk the West of Ireland will be held from June 16 to 25 next year.