Horsing around in Collooney


Yesterday Lucy and I went to Markree Riding Stables in Collooney, Co. Sligo. It’s only about ten minutes down the road from us and it’s set on the grounds of Markree Castle (which has recently be sold – but that’s another story). We were welcomed by Caroline, who owns the stables along with her husband Rocky.

Here we go

Lucy was riding Arrow and I was riding Bruce, who I used to ride when I had lessons at Markree. Getting up on the horse is a bit of a struggle, I always think there should be a crane to lift me up into the saddle, but luckily there was a step so it wasn’t too bad – even for someone as short as me. Trying to get the stirrups even was quite a challenge, I ended up hanging over Bruce’s head and we hadn’t even moved! To get back into the swing of things we stayed in the arena for a little while, I even managed a little canter – well I didn’t but Bruce did – so I was delighted about that.


When we felt comfortable on our horses we went out on a trek with the lovely Clare looking after us. It was a lovely day for it and great to be out in the fresh air. We went along quiet lanes around by the castle, we met up with a ‘traffic jam’ – cows! It’s a great way to explore Sligo and you don’t have to be a rider to go on a trek, beginners are welcome.

Sligo traffic jam

The cows were very interested in the horses, they must have thought they were strange-looking cows. The horses didn’t pay them any attention at all. They are very laid back, calm horses, which is just as well because I must have been quite tense as I got cramp in my toes a couple of times!

Walking to the castle

It was a lovely relaxing trek. The perfect way to re-charge the old batteries, which was much-needed as it’s been a really busy few weeks. We managed a good few trots as well, I had the misfortune of being behind Lucy’s horse for a while – let’s just say there was a wind problem…but Lucy will tell you more ;)

Into the river

On the way back to the stables the horses got a chance to cool down in the river. Thanks to Niamh who took this photo. Bruce wasn’t too keen on the water so he just dipped his feet. I got off Bruce to take some photos – big mistake – I think my legs had turned to jelly. I sort of wobbled along and it was even worse when I tried to run! It was fun trying to get back on Bruce again too, thanks for the leg up Niamh!

Laughing horse

Sincere thanks to Caroline, Clare, Bruce, Arrow and all the lads, lassies and horses at Markree Riding Stables for a really wonderful day – and I can still walk today so that’s a bonus! This is part of the Wild Atlantic Wayfarer project in conjunction with Lookwest and the Hawk’s Well Theatre.


Magnestism Magnetism, a major contemporary art exhibition will open to the public today. It’s located in the old Snia/Saehan factory that is just behind Hazelwood House. I was luckily enough to go along last night for a preview. It was a bit strange for me as I explored the factory a few years ago with Derelict Nation so it was very different to see it last night full of people. I only took a couple of photos with my phone so you can go along and see it for yourself.


Magnetism runs from June 28th to September 27th 2015 Open Tue—Sun, 12pm—7pm. Closed Mondays. You can find out more about it here.

In the meantime I’ll leave you with a few images of the factory from 2013.

The empty desk

Wild Atlantic Cultural Tours


My Wild Atlantic Wayfarer project has been so interesting and enjoyable and I’ve loved every minute of it. It’s not all about me throwing myself into the Wild Atlantic Way though. Parts of it have been very laid back and extremely relaxing and informative. My day with Denis from Wild Atlantic Cultural Tours was one of those really chilled out experiences.


When I first met Liz from Old Deanery Cottages she was telling me all about Denis and how great his tours are, so I was delighted to meet him and spend some time with him. As always I was clock watching but I did have a wonderful few hours with him exploring the area.


Our first adventure was foraging for cockles, I have never foraged before so this was an experience. Denis handed me my equipment (a spoon and a plastic bag) and off we went. It was like a treasure hunt trying to find the cockles. I started off quite badly but ended up getting the hang of it.


When we had enough cockles for a meal we headed back to the car. I loved seeing the Dunlins, I’ve never seen these birds before, so another first on my tour with Denis.

Rathfran Abbey

The next stop on my magical mystery tour with Denis was Rathfran Abbey, this is a Dominican Friary, dating from 1274.

Rathfran Abbey

It was great looking around the abbey. Denis pointed out some really interesting parts of it including faces carved into the stones, I would never have noticed them.

Summerhill House

Right near the abbey is Summerhill House. This is an 18th century house and was home of the Palmer family. It’s a real shame it’s a ruin as I think it would be beautiful if it was restored.

Sea Beet

Very close to the abbey we did a bit more foraging. Denis showed me sea beet and we picked some. I’d never seen this before, it tastes a bit like spinach. We also took time to look at the other plants around us and Denis was telling me what they were. I’d never really paid much attention to gorse before, do you know it smells like coconut? Neither did I until I was with Denis and he told me to smell it. You really do learn something new every day.


Another short drive and some wonderful scenery including some amazing little cottages and we arrived at Kilcummin.

Old cottage


Kilcummin Pier is a very pretty little area, popular for fishing and diving.Kilcummin is noted as the site where a French expedition commanded by General Humbert landed in 1798.

Kilcummin Pier

We saw the rambled around the old church near the pier. Looked at the old graveyard and visited St. Cummin’s Holy Well.

Old Church

Our next stop was to have a look at the Lacken Bay Cliffs. This is a really stunning area – so beautiful and we had the whole area to ourselves. Again I wouldn’t have found this area if it wasn’t for Denis.

On top of the cliffs

Sea pinks

We had a look at Lacken Strand and the sculpture, which is part of Tír Sáile – The North Mayo Sculpture Trail.

Sculpture and Lacken Strand

Our final stop on my wonderful Wild Atlantic Cultural Tour was a court tomb, this was really hard to find and very off the beaten track, again Denis helped me find it.

Court Tomb

I had a wonderful time with Denis, it’s hard to believe how much we saw in the space of a few hours. If you want to see the real Ireland go on a Wild Atlantic Cultural Tour. You will learn about the flora and fauna, history and heritage, the people, the sights and the sounds. It’s a wonderful relaxing day and throughly enjoyable. Thanks so much Denis for everything.

Dare to Bare to Fight Cancer

Pink Sea

Exactly 7 years ago last Sunday, the very first skinny dip for charity in Ireland – and the world – took place at the lovely Lissadell Beach in Sligo. It was the inaugural Dip in the Nip (so-christened by the late, great Gerry Ryan) and at the time was considered crazy, shocking and impossible. Máire Garvey and her co-conspirator Grainne Gilmartin of the Sligo Wellness Centre happily admitted that they didn’t really have a clue what they were at when they decided to turn the audacious idea into a reality.

It was a very grey, drizzly morning (what IS it about Midsummers’ Day?!) but that didn’t stop 180 women (the first one was a women-only event) travelling from all over Ireland to do something so wonderfully challenging – Máire has since described it as an extreme sport, but with no training required. To cap it all, tide times had not been factored into the planning, so everybody had to run for about a mile before hitting water.

All Dips are special, and all first Dips especially so. But that very first one, that first run into a chilly, drizzly North Atlantic had about it a unique sense of adventure, of awe, of joy. So many of those Dippers had experienced cancer themselves, some of them more than once.  Many of them had single or double mastectomies, some without re-constructive surgery. Others were there to honour somebody close to them.

People continue to do the Dip because they want to be part of the fight against cancer, part of the solution, and while the priority for the Dip in the Nip – as ever – is raising money for the local cancer charity that each Dip partners with, it has become increasingly clear that for the people who take part, what the Dip gives them is so much more than being part of that fight: it gives them something unique, deeply personal and long-lasting.

One Dipper spoke of how being naked in the sea healed her acrimonious relationship with her deceased, alcoholic father, and allowed her to say goodbye to him, something she had been unable to do previously.

A male Dipper described it as a special way to raise money that honours body and spirit, that is beautiful and respectful, filled with love and hope and remembrance.

Another Dipper, who had  a double mastectomy, echoed the sentiments of many when she said after her first Dip that running naked into the sea had given her back her body, her self-confidence and her sexuality.

This is something common to most, if not all Dippers, whether or not they personally have had cancer. Running naked into the sea seems to re-connect them with their bodies. It’s as though they fall in love with them, and re-discover just how beautiful those bodies are, regardless of size, shape or lumpy bits! It is such a simple act, that of immersing oneself in the waves, and yet it has powerful consequences for those who do it.

It also takes people outside of their comfort zones, even Veteran Dippers who have Dipped many times. For some, it is an extreme sport that – mercifully – requires no training.  And it offers so many rewards,  not just for the benefiting charity, but for the Dippers themselves.

The 2015 Sligo Dip in the Nip, again in support of S.H.O.U.T., will take place on Sunday 5th July at 8am on a beach in Sligo. Máire feels proud of the fact that the very first one ever took place not just in Ireland, but in Sligo. And Sligo has adopted it as its’ own, especially the Beltra Country Market who have taken ownership of it in the best possible way. And will do so again on the 5th when they provide their homemade goodies and the welcome hot tea, coffee and soup after the Dip. There will also be an opportunity for Dippers to purchase some lovely crafts from the Country Market as well, as souvenirs of the day.

Full information and how to register can be had at www.dipinthenip.eu  on Facebook or by calling 086-401 6047.

Lunch at O’Briens Sandwich Cafe, Sligo

Mark and Jo

Lucy and I were delighted when Mark and Jo from O’Brien’s Sandwich Cafe, Sligo invited us along to try out Rachel Allen’s Summer Signature Range.

Thai Chicken Wrap

First up is the Thai Chicken Wrap. It’s a delicious combination of chicken, peanuts, cucumber and coriander, dressed with sriracha mayo. It’s nicely spicy, I like spicy food so I loved it.

Goats Cheese on Toasted Sourdough Bread

Next up is Goats Cheese on toasted Sourdough bread. Now this is my absolute favourite, I’m a huge fan of goats cheese and this is combined with beetroot, dressed rocket, roasted hazelnuts and honey. It’s really delicious, a great mix of flavours that all compliment each other.

Thai Chicken Salad

Lastly on the Rachel Allen’s Summer Signature Range is the Thai Chicken salad. We just had a small portion to try it. So if you order this you will get a much bigger portion. It’s chicken, peanuts, cucumber and coriander, dressed with sriracha mayo, served with mixed leaves and a fab facaccia. With the sriracha it’s a little bit spicy but has a nice little kick to it. It’s perfect on a warm summers day like we had today.

Hot chocolate

I also had a hot chocolate to go with my lunch…any excuse for a hot chocolate! Thanks a million Jo and Mark for a lovely lunch. You can find them on Facebook here.

Meandering along the Moy

Ballina Yesterday I headed to Ballina, Co. Mayo to go kayaking with David from Paddle and Pedal. To be honest I was a bit apprehensive as the first time I went kayaking I was rubbish – also as you know if you are a regular reader I’m not very coordinated at all. So I did warn David what he was dealing with – just in case he had to fish me out of the river! Luckily I managed to stay in the kayak – part of me was a bit gutted as I’ve turned into a bit of a water baby since starting my Wild Atlantic Wayfarer project. David I met David at the Ballina Quay, he gave me the option of a wetsuit but the effort of getting it on put me off and I had a change of clothes with me just in case. It was drizzling on and off but this is Ireland and you can’t let the rain stop you or you’d do nothing. David gave me a waterproof jacket and a life jacket and explained how to use the paddle before we got on the water. Kayaking I was a bit worried that my backside might not fit in the kayak but I was in luck. So off we went into the River Moy. David showed me how to reverse in the kayak and even how to do a ‘three point turn’! I even got the hang of it OK. Kayaking alongside Belleek Woods We journeyed up the river, alongside the beautiful Belleek Woods, at one point we had a swan gliding along beside us. There were also several herons along the way as well as ducks, a cormorant and a Canada Goose. Under the bridge Paddling onwards we joined Nimmo’s Canal where we saw salmon jumping in front of us. It was really amazing and just so relaxing. It was like being in another world and it’s a fantastic way to see Ballina. We paddled right up to the bridges until we could see the Ridge Pool – as the fishermen were out we didn’t go too close. The Creteboom On the journey David was telling me all about the area, including some of the history of the place. He told me about The Creteboom, which is a derelict boat located at Ballina quay, during World War 1 there was a shortage of steel so they had to make some ships out of concrete. There are only two left in Ireland now, the one in Ballina and The Cretefield which is located in the Carlingford yacht marina. Crossing the bridgeThanks so much to Paddle and Pedal for a great day. I was amazed when David said we had paddled around 3 miles, I was also surprised to find that I wasn’t aching at all today. It’s a brilliant day out and if you don’t fancy taking to the water you can go on a cycle tour and explore Belleek Woods. David also hires out bikes so if you are in Ballina on holiday and want to go out and about on your own get in touch with him. I’ve decided I need to go back to Ballina and explore some more.