© Taranaki Daily News 1 March 2010 by Felicity Ross

Walking trip explores ancient ruins

Rachel Ryan wants to share the rich heritage of Ireland with intrepid Kiwis.

The Irish woman with a Taranaki connection moved to New Zealand in 1980 and two years ago decided to take the locals on a walking trip through her homeland.

"I thought people would be interested in seeing a different side of Ireland, not just the tourist side but the culture and the landscape," Ms Ryan said.

That's why she set up her tourism venture, Walk The West of Ireland.

"It's the grassroots experience," she said.

The 10-day trip runs once a year, although this year is the exception, with Ms Ryan running two different events, taking visitors on a walk through the landscape of the Beara Peninsula, the Glen of Aherlow and the Burren.

"People can meet the locals, hear their stories and eat the local cuisine as we have our own personal chef through the journey," she said.

Ms Ryan first got the idea of taking New Zealanders to experience her native land a few years ago after talking to her nephew about her hometown of Limerick.

"It had been bubbling away for a few years and my nephew talking about how much he loved Burren, which is only half an hour from where I grew up, and I suddenly thought I have never been there and it made me intensely curious," she said.

The walk takes holidaymakers out to the remote regions of western Ireland and with the help of well-versed guides, people can explore 5000-year-old ruins and learn about the natural history of the country. "We take people to the local festivals and I have archaeologists look in depth at the ancient legends and myths.

"It really gets under the skin.

"It really shows how Irish people are and who they are."

The annual tour costs [Euro]2000 or NZ$3900 which includes three- course meals and wine, tour guides and accommodation.

The price does not include airfares.

Walk the West runs from June 18 to June 27 and Ms Ryan takes 10 people at a time.

Her newest tour Connemara's Calling runs from July 3 to July 12 and explores North Mayo, Achill Island, Inisbofin and Connemara.

"So many New Zealanders have Irish heritage and are interested in checking it out for themselves."

Up until now Ms Ryan has only advertised in the South Island because she lives in Nelson but she recently decided to venture up to the North Island.

She has a special affinity with Taranaki because it is where she met her husband of 23 years, Grant Williams, who is originally from Opunake.