There are some people who like to hide their green beliefs under a bushel and then there are those who stick a great big flag in their garden to let the world know that being green is no mean feat these days, and so if you’ve got it, you might as well flaunt it. Glenribbeen Eco Lodge is a small bed and breakfast run by Els and Peter O’Connor which has greenness and kindness oozing from every open pore. I say open, because the doors of Glenribbeen are always open. If you turn up with your tent they’ll welcome you, with dogs, children, a horse, whatever, they would turn few away. Because Irish Peter and Dutch Els’ approach to hospitality and life are holistic and generous. They are both musicians and artists, growers and creators within the community, and the guesthouse is all part and parcel of that.
The flag is that of the EU Flower, the eco certification which Peter and Els were awarded in 2009, and with solar panels, rainwater harvesting, home made briquettes for the fire, fine organic vegetarian food, bat boxes, free range hens happily pecking around the beautiful gardens and bird feeders at every turn, they have merited the accolade for sure.
However, it is individual dedication, imagination and understanding of the bigger picture of responsible tourism which makes a business truly sustainable, not just the solar panels or light bulbs. You can stick as many responsible tourism policies as you like on your website, or boast about all your eco-gadgets, but it’s the living and breathing it, having a real connection with how their tourism venture can be part of a wider green community, that makes somewhere like Glenribbeen so special. Just have a quick look at Peter’s blog to see everything from a broad bean hummus recipe to creating a solar powered walkway in your garden, and this will give you an idea of his commitment to all he believes in.
This is not an eco-chic home, however, it is just a home built on sustainable, simple principles, with balconies made from recycled wood, vegetable gardens, books from second hand shops, a living room full of musical instruments. It’s a place where Els’ beautiful paintings cover many of the walls and where Peter shares his passion of archery with his guests by offering lessons free of charge. They know the nearby walking and cycling routes like the back of their hands, with extremely quiet trails straight out of their garden gate, taking you as far as The Vee Gap and the Knockmealdown Mountains. Or the O’Connors will arrange hired bikes to be delivered to the house from Lismore Cycling Holidays, with convenient off road cycling into Lismore town and then into the hills beyond.
We decided to explore the area from the water, however, and thanks to a top tip from Peter, also a keen canoeist, we spent a few hours of a sunny late afternoon in the delightful company of Cappoquin man, Dennis Murray of Blackwater Boating who, having spent his life on the river, knows every bend, bridge and building on it. His gentle charm and local knowledge of not only the flora and fauna, but every historic building which overlooks the river, was enrapturing, regaling us with history one second, and heron spotting the next. With so much attention given to Waterford’s fine beaches, we were amazed to see that this haven of river life was almost deserted.
Another wonderful facility on their doorstep is the wheelchair-friendly fishing boat, the Wheelyboat of which Peter is one of the registered captains. With fingers in many pies, a new project always on the go, Peter definitely has a ‘glass half full’ approach to life and, as we said our goodbyes, he gave us a stick of rosemary to put on the dashboard to bring energy to the driver and natural perfume for the passengers, and Els popped a parcel full of her specialty Dutch pancakes on the kids’ laps for the journey. So, if you are looking for a place to stay in the Waterford area, owned by people to whom both generosity and green living come naturally, just follow the flag.
An edited version of this article was first published in The Irish Times in August 2011