Like many others with a strong attachment to two cultural heritages, Rachel feels her heart is equally at home both in Ireland and in Aotearoa/New Zealand. Having lived half her life in each of these countries she is deeply appreciative of the strong pull to have a foot in both places at once!

Rachel’s father, Thady, has passed on his love of rural Ireland and his deep pride in being from a long line of County Limerick Ryans. Likewise, Rachel's mother, Anne has a strong attachment for her home near Geraldine in full view of the Southern Alps plus a place in her heart for the Kaikoura coastline where Anne spent a few magical years as a child in Oaro. Rachel herself lives ‘in paradise’: in a wattle and daub home, surrounded by an abundance of bush and bird life, overlooking the Whakapuaka estuary near Nelson, with her partner Grant, two daughters Kiri and Alice, and a small menagerie of dearly loved animals.

Walk the West of Ireland Ltd. was born on a recent trip to Rachel’s Irish home. Roaming the west of Ireland, visiting friends and relations and taking the opportunity to explore the wilder parts of the west culminated in Rachel’s resolve to design a unique discovery experience bringing people to Ireland to experience the landscape, the culture, the cuisine and the very character of Ireland.

This is a 10 day walking-focussed trip consisting of exploring three spectacular and diverse areas: the wild and rugged Beara Peninsula in West Cork/Kerry, the lush green patchwork of the Glen of Aherlow and the Galtee Mountains in County Tipperary, and the unique limestone terrain and botanically rich Burren in County Clare. Ancient sites abound in these places – it is not uncommon to come across stone circles, wedge tombs, ogham stones and holy wells on the walks as well as early Christian and medieval abbey and castle ruins. Local guides will accompany walkers to pass on the myth, folk lore and history of each area.

Accompanying the group of up to 10 people are Rachel and brother Hugh. Hugh has led overland trips from London to Kathmandu in the 90’s, has spent 2 years in New Zealand completing an Outdoor Leadership course in Nelson and exploring New Zealand’s mountain and river terrain. Rachel and Hugh have delighted in completing an adventurous walking experience together: navigating the coastline from Kahurangi Lighthouse down to the mouth of the Heaphy River and finally to Karamea on the West Coast of the South Island. Their most useful and treasured tool for this challenging expedition was a copy of explorer Charles Heaphy’s original map!

An integral member of Walk the West of Ireland’s team is Elin Payne. Elin has a cooking qualification from the renowned Ballymaloe Cookery School in East Cork. She’s a strong supporter of the Slow Food movement and relishes in being part of the ‘new’ Irish cuisine: its celebration of the country and its history using traditional foods from its fields and waters, carefully prepared, simple and full of flavour. Elin will be providing sumptuous Irish cuisine to walkers on this trip. Her menus will focus on fresh foods, using locally available produce from whichever region the group is in, always with a vegetarian option. According to Elin : “expect wonderful organic salmon and lamb, exuberant vegetables, incredible cheeses and voluptuous puddings! (And lots of chocolate!)”.

Accommodation for Walk the West of Ireland is carefully selected for aesthetic appeal: in cottages on the Beara Peninsula within walking distance of beautiful and remote village of Allihies, a lodge in the foothills of the Galtee Mountains where host, Roy, is a fluent Gaelic speaker, a traditional musician and dancer. An evening of learning set dancing is a highlight here! The group will be staying for the final three nights in private homes on the very edge of the Burren near the stunning culturally rich village of Kinvara in County Clare.

Other highlights of the trip include a luncheon at the luxurious Hidden Ireland Georgian Home of Lismacue, in Country Tipperary, visits to artisan food producers in West Cork, artists and crafts people and plenty of long summer evenings to explore local village life. Hugh, Elin and Rachel have many contacts, a fact which helps to make this tour such a personal experience.

The inaugural Walk the West of Ireland tour will take place from 16 – 25th June 2008 – especially timed so that members of the group can be at Ireland’s largest stone circle (over 3000 years old) in Lough Gur, County Limerick, for the dawn of summer solstice.