Friday, April 19, 2013

Ruairí O Neill's Connemara Tour

Ruairí O Neill's Connemara Tour 2012 with Schedule for 2015

  Three years ago I organised a tour of Connemara. I had 18 people from a small town called Schoelkrippen in Germany come and stay in my village of Carna. We went to Mac Dara's island home of the 6th century monk Mac Dara. The reconstructed ruins stands at the tip of the island. It is now home to a large group of nesting birds and a sheep herd.

All aboard at Más Pier heading to Mac Dara's Island on a fine sunny day in May.

Quick run for it, the Germans have landed! Who ever said these people don't have a sense of humour didn't meet my group!
I locked them in the Chapel for a joke and a break from all the questions but the joke was on me as I forgot about the Chapel window!
The sheep kept to themselves.
Cormorants keeping an eye on visitors to their island.
Keeping the boat away from the rocky shore.
Listening to a talk on Island, it wasn't me as I can never remember any facts or dates, I have my own system of carbon dating, something is either Old, Very Old or Really Old, it never fails!
This is Martin, you wouldn't think it but he is actually German. He drinks Guinness to beat the band. His knowledge of Ireland, its past and present is second to none. We've been friends since the 80's, I don't know how its lasted so long as I can't understand a bl....word he says! He likes his afternoon snooze and he choose the lecture time, I can relate to that, What was it Thomas Payne said Martin?
Celtic Design on Cross on Mac Dara's Island.
St. Mac Dara's Chapel, its roof was reconstructed in the 1970's
Wait, come back, don't leave me here with all these Germans!

Thanks be to God he's come back! After a picnic there we went on to Mason Island once the home of a fishing village now abandoned save for a few holiday homes.

 All on board and heading to Mason Island.
 Approaching Mason Island.
 Walking down the main street from the harbour.
Inside the old School House on Mason Island.

 On wide open spaces.
An amazing place to visit, a land covered in wild flowers untouched by human feet, except for ours of course but we stepped very lightly wherever we walked! It was like traveling back in time, no sounds of the 21century, just birds and the sound of a breeze blowing over the wild flowers, grasses and gentle lulling from the sea. You could fall asleep as you dreamed your way over the landscape.
 The Beautiful Azure coloured Seas of Connemara.
Picking shells on the beach at Mason Island.

 Mason Harbour as it was around 1931, full of Pucán's and currach's for fishing.
 Bartley Connolly and Pat Clotherty around 1940 on the harbour wall at Mason Island.

Grey crow resting on Mason island ruin.

Music by Clann hIarnáin agus Faolum at Tigh Mheaic where we all met most nights for food, Guinness, music and dance. Other nights there were impromptu  music sessions at the Carna Bay Hotel down the road. It was the perfect end to a day out on the sea and mountains.

 Sean Nós Dancing at Tigh Mheaic's

Kicking up the dust to an appreciative audience

Happy man Martin partaking in the craic at Tigh Mheaic

Making the place come alive with traditional music.

                                                                     Dancing a jig

Be careful where you step! This a carnivore plant called the Sun Dew, it traps flies and big toes with its sticky stems and it's, Good Bye Flies and Toes! The importance of having a knowledgeable Local Guide cannot be stressed enough!

Greeting Connemara Ponies along the way.

Martin the Horse Whisperer

Through green woods we strolled

Cashel House Gardens the perfect stop for a coffee or afternoon tea.

Going to Inish Boffin aboard the Island Discovery

Dolphins come by to say 'Hello' on route to the island.

Cormorants nesting on cliff edges

And swimming below the cormorants was this seal who had come into the blowhole after some fish, it was just incredible.

Exploring an underground passage way to the sea

Limpets gathered together on a rock in the cave

Atlantic Ocean on a Sunny day on Inish Boffin

Walking the route to the Fort ruins on Inish Boffin

Swan stretching her wings on a lake on Inish Boffin

Sitting in the window playing music at Tigh Mheaics in Carna after a great meal and a few beers.

This is a 2000 year old crannóg on Lough Scannimh in Carna. These are man made islands with a secret path from the shore out into the lake. On the east side is an entrance for a canoe.

This is Lough Scannimh in Winter time, a beautiful time to visit Connemara.

Crannóg Scannimh in Winter time in Connemara.

One of Clifden's hidden gems, turn in by the Tourist Office, take a left and swing down into the Station House Courtyard. There's an Art Gallery, a Hairdresser's called Hedze, two fashion shops called Design Platform and Ohh by Gum which also has a great selection of children's clothes and sweets! There is of course The Station House Hotel and The Signal Bar and Restaurant, a Theatre, a Café called Steam and Beauty treatment center called Renew.
Steams Coffee is just what you need when you been leading a group through Connemara! They also serve delicious lunches and to die for cakes and deserts.

Exploring a Wedge Tomb in Connemara amidst the Wild Gorse.

Exploring the Wedge Tomb in June.
Satisfaction after climbing Cashel Hill in Connemara.
Wedge Tomb in Connemara, this very old! Our ancient ancestors used these monumental tombs to bury the cremated ashes of their dead. I wouldn't mind have one of those for my departure to the next world!

 Sunrise in Carna, Connemara
Sunset in Carna, we've incredible sunsets here. Some of my pictures on may look like they've been Photoshopped but they haven't been.

Martin and Thomas on a Forest Trail walk in Connemara.

At Lough Inagh Lodge Hotel Seven Creamy pints of Guinness were magically produced by the shy and quiet barman extraordinaire Thomas.

After a walk in the woods there is nothing to beat a Guinness, unless another one of course!

Lunch at Lough Inagh Lodge Hotel with a delicious Sea food chowder, the biz!

Jewellery student making a ring during the Silver Jewellery Class.

A jewellery student and the rings she made during the class, no previous experience is required, you can make rings or pendants. It is all part of the learning experience while on Ruairí O' Neill's exploration of Connemara.

I also give classes on Photography and will help you improve your photographs with tips on Composition and help with understanding the importance of choosing the correct aperture and shutter speed.

This is myself, your guide Ruairí O' Neill for an unforgettable Tour Of Connemara


Travel to Connemara With Ruairí O’Neill’s Connemara Tour.

Ruairí is a Bord Fáilte (Irish Tourist Board)  trained Mountain and Marine Guide and has been specialising in providing tours around his native village Carna located in the heart of the Gaelic speaking Conamara countryside.

His interests are archaeology, Irish history, photography, jewellery and art. His weaknesses are dates, he can never remember any, so if you are keen to know the exact date of the Neolithic Tombs that he will bring you to, you are on the wrong tour! Ruairí’s version of carbon dating is, Old, Very Old and Really Very Old!

Music on Ruairí O’Neill’s Connemara tour will be provided by Clann Ó hÍarnáin, a family of musicians and dancers from Carna. On any given night other local musicians may turn up for an impromptu session.

Ruairí’s Connemara tour brings you to places off the beaten track. He’ll take you to islands that seldom see people. He is keen to provide you with a laid back tour of his native area. It will give you time to meet and unwind amongst locals. He is known for always trying to depart on time every morning but he is also known on occasions for being stuck on local time, which is not the same as central European Time. There is always time for one more cup of tea before a day starts.

Whether traveling on the sea or walking around the coast you are likely to come across many species of wildlife, from Rabbits to Hares and Foxes, Dolphins, Porpoises, Seals, Otters, Basking Sharks. Birds are in abundance, from Seagulls, to Cormorants, Ducks, Curlews, Swans, Peregrine Falcons and Kestrels to name but a few.

Book Early as space is limited!

Cost of Tour for the month of September is € 1,200 pps
Included is :
B&B for 6 nights
Sterling Silver for Jewellery Class
All Ferry and Bus costs
High Tea at Ruairí O’Neill’s
Driver and Guides Tips
Ruairí O’Neill’s wit
Gaelic Language Lessons
Dancing Lessons

Travel Insurance is highly recommended
Single room supplement of € 36.00 applies per night
Air Fare is not included

Fare is based on minimum of 15 people traveling.

Schedule for Ruairi O’Neill’s Connemara Tour in September 2015
Sept 7th Monday


1 .15 pm : Pick up at Dublin Airport

4.15 pm :  Arrive at Galway

Wander around the medieval walled city of Galway and sample some of its excellent cuisine at its café’s, pubs and restaurants.

6.00 pm : Depart for Carna

7.30 pm : Arrive at Carna

Traditional Music at Tigh Mheaic ‘till late

Sept 8th Tuesday

Island Trip

10.00 am : Pick up at Carna Bay Hotel

Visit Mac Dara’s Island and its 6th century chapel. After a leisurely walk around the island we’ll head over to Mason Island. Mason Island had been until the 1930’s, a busy community but now it is abandoned save for a few holiday homes.

Mason Island has excellent beaches so bring your swimming gear! It’s a peaceful and tranquil place to spend a day, wandering around its ancient stone walls and the  ruins of its buildings.  The only sound you will hear is that of birds calling to each other and the sound of the ocean. It’s an ideal place for a picnic!

4.00 pm : Return to Carna

Sumptuous Dinners with local catch of the day a speciality available at Tigh Mheaic’s and Carna Bay Hotel.

September 9th Wednesday

Jewellery Workshop and High Tea at Studio Ruairí O’Neill

10.00 am : Pick up at Carna Bay Hotel

Learn how to make a silver ring or pendant for yourself, friend or family member. Ruairí will show you how to work with Sterling Silver. It is also an opportunity to see the varied collection of his work in Jewellery, Sculpture, Photography and Paintings. Ruairí’s work is all made in Connemara and is for sale, so a chance to find an unique gift to bring back with you.

High tea is in Ruairí’s family home with guests enjoying homemade sandwiches, cakes and tea, the cakes are to die for!

  September 10th Thursday

Climbing Cashel Hill

10.00 am : Pick up at Carna Bay Hotel

Climbing Cashel Hill requires a modest level of fitness, please let the guide know the day before if you think it will be too strenuous so he can make an alternative option for you. Good walking boots with ankle support are required. Walking poles are also advised as the sections of the decent are steep. Ruairí will bring you across a blanket bog with its myriad of plant life, don’t expect him to know the names of every flower and plant, he won’t, as there are too many to remember!
The climb will be at a leisurely pace and plenty of time will be given to stop and take pictures of the magnificent scenery. We will have the sea on one side and the famous Connemara Beann Beola Mountain Range on the other side.

After the climb we will be going to the nearby picturesque fishing village of Roundstone for lunch in O’Dowds Pub. I recommend their Sea food Chowder and Crab Claws.

On the returning journey we’ll stop by Glynsk House for a pint or light refreshments and shopping if required in their Craft shop.

Returning to Carna at 06.00 pm app.

  September 11th Friday

Sky Road and Clifden

10.00 pick up at Carna Bay Hotel

We’ll go to Clifden’s Sky Road to take in the vista over the Atlantic Ocean below.

Returning to Clifden for some shopping and café visits.
We will visit The Station House Courtyard, site of Clifden’s abandoned railway. The Railway Museum is located here, which houses a Marconi exhibition. In 1905 Marconi had a large base built  a few miles out the road at Derrygimla, to send and receive trans Atlantic messages.

The Station House Bar serves wonderful meals and the Guinness is good there.

Steam Café is a must visit for the best coffee in the West and they’ve also mouth watering cakes and deserts.

We will return to Carna via Ballynahinch Castle for a walk along its river and yes, the Guinness is also good here! As we say: "A bird cannot fly on one wing alone!"

September 12th Saturday

Inish Boffin or Inis Bó Finne (Island of the White Cow)

9.30 am : Pick up at Carna Bay Hotel

Ferry from Cleggan

Visit Bronze age settlements, view Cromwell’s Castle.

Walk along shore stopping of at the Blow Hole where seals are often seen swimming looking for fish and tourists (if they are really hungry!).

Inish Boffin is a seal sanctuary so seals are always present here.

In the summer time Dolphins frequently come out to meet the ferry on the way to the island so keep an eye out for them!

We’ll stop off at Murray’s Hotel for soup and sandwiches. Yes, you’ve guessed it, the Guinness is also good here.

The walk here is mostly on tracks but there are some steep inclines so again good walking boots are required.

Ferry returns to Cleggan at 5.00 pm

Returning to Carna for last night of Music and Dance.

Schedule is to be used as a guide. We may have to change some of the days around due to the weather and weather in Connemara changes frequently.

Bring warm jumpers and rain gear, yes even in summer!

September 13th. Sunday


10.00 am :  Pick up at Carna Bay Hotel

12.30 am :  Galway Bus to Dublin Airport, arrive at 3.00 pm

I hope you’ll enjoy your time here in Connemara and come back again, tell your friends about us!

Ruairí O’ Neill

If you would like to book your place or have any questions You can contact Ruairí at 00353 879744063 or email him at

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Creation is a very textured piece, people are inclined to touch it, which is unusual for a painting I think, I know when I see a sculpture that I like I want to touch it, I think most galleries have it all wrong with all their signs of don't touch, work is made to be touched!

Poppies in the Wind

Poppies in the Wind
Poppies are my favourite flowers, simple and so vibrant. We all can identify them, are drawn to them. In each of our lives we all need to get away from our world, you can step into the painting and you are walking through the cornfield, the poppies welcoming you, it is a place of warmth and protection, you emerge relaxed in the knowledge that you have found a place to go whenever you need those moments of escape.