An alternative wee walk along a well known coast...
I am currently on my longest stint of staying in the country, so when we were invited to Ireland at October half term, I was rejoiced to be leaving England!
We lived in Northern Ireland for a bit, so we knew where we wanted to go, Donegal and the north coast of NI. We spent a few days on the Causeway Coast and decided to go on an Away a Wee Walk hike along the Causeway Coast. I met Eimear many years ago when her dream of running a successful walking company was in its infancy. Like many other tourism businesses, she has fought to keep her business alive in the worst downturn in tourism history. Eimear even said if we'd have asked her what the most significant risk to her business was 2 years ago, she would have said coastal erosion, the thought of a global pandemic never crossed anyone's minds!
We stayed at the Causeway Coast Hotel, perched above the impressive Giants Causeway and next to the visitor centre. The yin and yang of this old building and its sustainable neighbour wasn't missed on us, but that's a whole other blog post!
Eimear met us outside our hotel and drove us to the start of the walk - linear walks are so much easier with a company! We had organised a private tour as our 6-year-old was with us, he's a good walker, but it meant we could have as many sweet stops as we needed and other walkers weren't perturbed by a small person.
The walk took us 5 miles along the stunning Causeway Coast, a small stretch of what is a spectacular landscape across the north of the island of Ireland (weird fact, the most northerly point of Ireland is in the south….). Many tourists don't venture far from the stones, so we saw very few people on these cliffs.
The day was one of those fantastic autumn days where the sun shone, it stayed dry, and the views were far-reaching. Eimear's attention to us was incredible, engaged with the small one the whole way (who is rather inquisitive for his age!) and filled us with facts about the coast's history and the geology.
This area has a lot of history. Not least the north/south Ireland politics but the sunken Spanish Armada ships, the strategic WWII importance of securing the North Atlantic shipping lanes and of course the Giant Finn McColl himself. Only my 6-year-old would prefer the scientific geological reason the Stones exist.
We sat and enjoyed many views with no one else around, savoured an uninterrupted view of the Causeway stones knowing there were 100's of people down there and walked a whole UNESCO World Heritage site!
Eimear and I chatted a lot about where tourism will go in the next year or two and how we can support recovery. Domestic and vicinity touris has boomed in the COVID years; we need to support small tourism businesses that would typically rely on the incoming European and US markets. In Northern Ireland, there is a heavy reliance on Game of Thrones tourism, with many new products appearing - walking trails, the studios opening and a vast amount of jumps of a minibus dressed up for a quick snap tour. Whilst these are amusing, businesses like Eimear's will have a long-term significance in the market and push for a more sustainable, resilient industry.
So next time you stay in the UK or Ireland, think about the type of things you would do if you were abroad and if that is to hire a local guide in a city, for a hike or to lead a kayak trip, do it here too these small businesses need us.
Low Carbon travel options:
There are many options to travel to Northern Ireland without a flight. Take the train to Holyhead, board an overnight ferry and use the train and bus systems in Northern Ireland. Or take you own car. Flying is an option, but the cost of car hire and flights may well exceed a train and ferry.
Trains run between Dublin and Belfast, so the Holyhead ferry is also an option with train links across to Manchester.