New travel app sees Ireland’s true green colours for St. Patrick’s Day

Press Release

For immediate release 10 February 2012

On St Patrick’s Day, 17 March, a new travel app, Ireland Green Travel, written by award winning travel writer, Catherine Mack, shows the world some of Ireland’s truly green gems, not just the emeralds.

Just as everything turns green for the world wide celebrations of St. Patrick’s Day on 17 March, a new travel app on the market, Ireland Green Travel, helps tourists see all of Ireland’s ever growing number of truly green gems, not just the emeralds.  The Ireland Green Travel app, currently available for iPod and iPad, and Android, has been written by award winning Irish travel writer, Catherine Mack, who specialises in green and responsible tourism.  Featuring over 120 entries of green accommodation, activities, transport options and local food experts, this guide will have you hiking, biking, canoeing and sleeping in some of Ireland’s lesser known green spots – lakeside lodges, yurt camps, island retreats, eco-castles, grand houses, yoga retreats and community-run hostels. Each accommodation entry has details on how to get there without a car and Ireland Green Travel app has a handy up to date Slow Travel guide for visitors who want to get to and from Ireland without flying,  with information on local rail and bus services, as well as how to bring your bike on them.

“Ireland has been feeling the pinch recently, to say the least”, says Catherine,”but St Patricks Day is always a welcome opportunity for those of us at home or abroad to cheer ourselves up with what we love most about the country.This app aims to celebrate businesses which have committed to sustainability in tourism, and which offer a passion for preserving the country they love to share with visitors, not only on St Patrick’s Day, but for generations to come”.

  • Price £1.79, $2.99. Published by Sutro Media.


For further information about Ireland Green Travel see preview  or  to request a download code for a review copy , or photos, please email or phone +44 7905 275828. You can also follow Green Ireland Travel at or on Facebook at Green Ireland Travel App.

*Catherine Mack was winnner of Best in Responsible Tourism Writing category at the Virgin Holidays Responsible Tourism Awards 2011




Inis Meáin – my Christmas best

Photo: Inis Meain Restaurant and Suites

Few things in life beat a wish which actually comes true. This time last year I wrote a New Year’s wishlist, which included a mission to visit more of our stunning islands. First, a trip to Cape Clear made me smile and celebrate our natural heritage, but a trip later in the year to Inis Meáin, one of the least visited of the Aran Islands, actually made me cry. In the same way that a fine work of art makes me cry, or a stunning piece of writing,  or just an overwhelmingly kind gesture. I experienced all of this on Inis Meain, staying at Inis Meáin Restaurant and Suites, a place where I felt all my travel writing Christmases had come at once.

Inis Meáin is a place of solace and reflection and Inis Meáin Suites has been designed with this in mind. As the only hotel here, it could have made a big splash, but instead its architect opted for a native limestone façade, with just enough glass to reflect the soft, luminescent blue sky, creating a long, low-lying building which segues seamlessly into the matching limestone terrace. This is just one of hundreds of hard-

Monkfish and spuds at Inis Meain Photo: Catherine Mack

won terraces, so characteristic of the Aran Islands, stretching out in every direction like veins across a body.

Indeed, Inis Meáin Suites plays the role of a central artery on the island, providing tourism income which is sustainable in a sumptuous, seductive and yet sensitive way. Sustainability is core for its owners, Ruairí and Marie-Thérèse de Blacam. Ruairí is chef in his own restaurant, where the food has already won endless accolades from the gastro press. Before dinner, he showed me his impressive fields of vegetables, free range chickens, cow and piglets.  As we walk past one barren field after another, all enclosed by the famous stone walls,  I realised it’s not long ago in the island’s history that this land was considered impossible to cultivate. However, the local people created soil from sand and seaweed and, having grown up on the island, Ruairí seems to have inherited some of this determination to create life and sustenance out of the rock.

How far this island has come, with developments like the hotel’s water harvesting system which enables the use of grey and rainwater, helping in the creation of  salads, herbs, cabbage, spinach and spuds. Later in the restaurant, his inspiration seeps through every mouthful of his food too, as we watch him produce lobster salad, monkfish and dry aged sirloin from his open plan kitchen, chatting with the guests as he merrily chops, sears and simmers.

The de Blacams want you to savour every bit of Inis Meáin, so even though you have the luxuries of an enormous whiter than white bed, chilled champagne, white robes and alpaca throws, the call of the land is too great. They leave bikes outside each suite, as well as swimming towels and a fishing rod. I managed to avail of all three and, along with my hiking boots, was able to reach the less accessible coves and cliffs, allowing me to live every moment here. I even caught some Pollock off the pier, which Ruairí prepared as a starter later – not just thrown in a pan, but sashimi

Photo: Catherine Mack

style, sprinkled with sesame seeds, ginger and a bowl of wasabi sauce.

Walking is the only way to truly imbibe the wild, desolate and totally intoxicating beauty of Inis Meáin. The de Blacam breakfast is strategically generous, so that you can pack the leftover boiled eggs, salami, cheese and homemade bread into your bag for a good long walk. Don’t miss the wilder south west side of the island which took me a good four hours, as I navigated my way across the mad, craggy, limestone cliffs, constantly stopping to try and get my head around these unique and awe inspiring seascapes.

This is a pricey getaway, with suites €250 per night and a minimum 2 night stay. But if I could pick one ethical travel treat as a voucher for someone this Christmas this, without doubt, is my top tip. Because although I generally adore the solace of islands when travelling alone, Inis Meáin evokes such poetry and passion, offers such mystery and magnificence, that it is just one of those special places which begs to be shared with someone you love.

Photo:Catherine Mack

This article was first published in The Irish Times

Teapot Lane Luxury Yurt Camp, Leitrim Ireland – so cute it’s camp

Teapot Lane - a great place for old friends and their kids to catch up Photo: Catherine Mack

While the rest of Europe has gone ‘glamping’ crazy,Ireland is still playing catch up.  In some ways this is a good thing, with the UK and France offering such a plethora of posh pitches now, it almost has me pining for my old four man Vango. But then I step inside the comforting cocoon of a yurt and, fickle and weak, I’m hooked again. And they don’t get much lovelier than Leitrim’s latest offering.

Although Teapot Lane Luxury Yurt Camp looks a bit ‘yummy mummy’ on its website, with its spotty wellies, teapots and pamper pages, don’t judge a book. This carefully thought out eco-venture, run by Derval McGovern, has managed to encapsulate so many aspects of a truly responsible tourism business, it can fly its green flag as high as its gobsmackingly gorgeous one. Thanks to Teapot Lane, Leitrim just got lovelier.

Teapot Lane has achieved in a year what other European glamp camps have only managed to pull off after ten. It’s more like a mini festival of green outdoor living, with plenty of indoor space to cater for Irish weather too. As well as three luxury yurts all equipped with wood burning stoves, cast iron beds with top of the range bed linen, fairy lights and lanterns, there is a thatched self-catering cottage, and a private bathroom with roll top bath in case you just can’t do compost loos and outdoor showers. When the self-catering cottage is vacant, this bathroom is available for yurt users too. The yurts’ showers are powered by gas, are tankless, need no electric supply and use a combination of mains and rainwater from the roof, and both showers and toilets are concealed in sensitively designed wooden huts alongside each yurt.

When we arrived at Teapot Lane, there was homemade vegetable soup and bread to welcome people after their journey, all laid out in the well equipped chalet kitchen with its two big tables, crockery, board games, books, cupboards full of ready made salad dressings, olive oils, spices, herbs and everything you might need to do the perfect camping cook-in.

There is never a big crowd cooking here either, as Derval has committed to keeping her remote woodland site restricted to small numbers.  It is ideal, therefore, for coming with a gang of friends or a few families taking over the whole camp, bagsying every tree swing, hammock, and campfire stool for a week of chilling in comfort. And at €100 per night for a yurt sleeping 4-6, this is fair and square sustainable tourism.

Nearby Mullaghmore Strand in Sligo. Photo: Catherine Mack

The location is ‘tri-licious’ too, sitting pretty on the borders of three counties. Donegal’s beaches of Bundoran and Tullan Strand are both under 13 kms from the camp, Sligo’s stunning Mullaghmore Strand a perfect cycle down quiet roads just 8kms away, and Leitrim’s famous hillwalks around the Dartry Mountains are within about 5kms. You can even bring your dog for some serious walking, as Teapot Lane welcomes responsible dog owners too.

Teapot Lane has good links with local activity providers, organising surfing or riding lessons, fishing or foraging trips and guided walks. Or follow the nearby North West Cycle Trail along endless, pretty backroads, hiring a bike from Hire and Sell in Bundoran, Tel: 071 98 41526.

Blessed with good weather, we took advantage of the excellent surfing instructors at the Donegal Adventure Centre in Bundoran and spent an exhilarating few hours on Tullan Strand. I followed this up with a heavenly hour of aromatherapy massage back at the camp in Derval’s treatment room, while the rest of the gang headed off to raid PJ O’Reilly’s fish van in Bundoran of its daily catch to throw on the barbecue.

But it’s at night that Teapot Lane really started to shine for me. This is the time of day when glamping turns back to camping, when the stars come out, the campfire comes to life, lanterns are lit, the yurts glow, wood burners smoke and children cuddle in hammocks among the silhouetted trees. When the rain kicks in, you can just head to your circle of canvas, warmed up in minutes by the wood burner, and just watch the rain from your king size bed. Sorry, Vango, you’ll just have to wait for next year.   An edited version of this article was first published in The Irish Times in June 2011

Photo: Catherine Mack

Slieve Aughty Riding Centre, Co. Galway

There are lots of saddles to choose from at Slieve Aughty

I never dared go on a horseriding holiday before. The reasons?  Not good enough, not brave enough and not rich enough. However, all horsy hang-ups were dispelled on a recent family break in County Galway, at the Slieve Aughty Riding Centre . I met the owner, Esther Zyderlaan, at an ecotourism conference earlier in the year. She talked about her eco and family-friendly business which, on paper, was the perfect eco-case study. When I got there I could see that, in practice, this truly is a gold (and green) cup winner.

Esther greeted us in a floral apron and wellies, picking lettuce from her organic kitchen garden, while directing a beaming brigade of children, just back from a woodland hack, to the stables overlooking the fecund gardens. Slieve Aughty is organic in the real sense of the word. It has grown not only as a riding centre, but a place to eat fine home-cooked  food, go hillwalking, discover cycling trails and stay at locally owned cottages.

Although we stayed at a self-catering cottage (a lovingly restored thatched one), Esther’s ethos is full board. The dining room is the Centre’s hub where at breakfast, for example, we have home-made scones, local cheeses, compotes, eggs, yoghurt, great coffee and hot chocolate. Suppers are smorgasbords of smoked salmon, stews and salads straight out of a Ballymaloe photo shoot. Over meals we chat about our plans for the day ahead, or adventures had at the close.

Each day started with a mini adventure, taking a forty minute walk from our cottage to the Centre through woodland, accompanied by a couple of Esther’s donkeys, which we tied up in the cottage’s field the night before. We cycled, we walked, we ate. However, I had to get the bit between my teeth and dare to ride a horse. There are no bits for many of the horses here, with bit-free bridles, part of their natural riding ethos. I was also nervous for the kids, as their previous riding experience was with a strict, cranky woman who made them (and me) feel stupid for not knowing how to hold the reins or tighten the saddles.

The Aughty team could not be more different. Esther gently introduces us to our horses, telling us to look them in the eyes, and just talk to them. She leads by example, talking as gently and lovingly to the animals as she does to us.  Our hack leader, Gerry Daniels, is everything you could want in a teacher. He watches the children carefully, encourages them gently, and talks to us all humorously and warmly. He leads our younger son on a rein at the start, and judges perfectly when to let him ride independently, through luscious woodland, over streams and up over hills. Our children were converts, and I too  had fallen back into my childhood dream of owning my own horse once again.

Esther makes ethical look easy. It felt like we were staying at a favourite aunt’s farm for the weekend, with stables full of beauties, and a larder full of goodies. She even has a workshop full of arts materials, boxes of beads, glittery things,

Esther's kitchen at Slieve Aughty

paints and rainy day stuff. The Centre’s buildings are all simple, low carbon eco-designs, many of them built out of timber from her original family house, which she knocked down when her children left home. She is waiting for funding to connect the heating system fuelled by dry horse manure, and wood from her 35 acres. The banks may not have their green light switched on yet, but Esther had hers switched on long before most of us knew what being green actually meant. She is a lesson to us all.

This article was first published in The Irish Times 22 May 2010