Green shoots to warm the heart on responsible tourism


ETHICAL TRAVELLER: Catherine Mackon responsible tourism

FIRST OF ALL, a thank you. The recent responses to my featuring individual green places to stay have been very encouraging. By booking holidays with some of the people I meet, who are not only doing all the right things in terms of ethical travel, but also providing the sorts of places holiday memories are made of, you are changing lives.

These businesses are battling against the Nama’d hotels which are offering characterless rooms for buttons and putting the smaller fish who won’t have their assets, or asses, covered by the banks when push comes to shove, to the edge. But my ethical map is growing, despite the Nama invasion.

In Co Clare, for example, a recent journey began at Ennis Farmers’ Market. I headed straight from the train station to meet Noelle Horner, who sells organic eggs, fruit, vegetables and home-made bread at her weekly stall. I was off to spend a weekend writing in the cottage (leenorganics. com) which she and her husband, organic grower, Jason Horner, restored on their farm in Crusheen, just 11km from Ennis. My arrival was well timed, so that I could get a lift and pick up plenty of supplies while I was there.

The cottage, aptly named Teachin Glas (green cottage), is a typical old stone dwelling, set low down from the country lane and painted off white, with just the right palette of wild flowers around it to merit the title of chocolate box. This was once their own house, but as their family expanded, they not only sought more space, but to create a sustainable life out of their land. And they have done it well, stripping back their old cottage to the bare stones, covering it with hemp and lime plaster, and so keeping the rural roughness on the interior and exterior stonework.

Other touches include a solar panel to heat the water, a wood pellet stove for all heating, eco-friendly paints and a reed bed system for waste water. The cottage is divided into two sections, the main one with two double hayloft-style bedrooms and a small self-contained one-bed “granary flat” section where I stayed. This is like a petite three-tiered cake, with kitchen and bathroom on the ground floor, sittingroom on the next, and a double bedroom at the top, each layer with its own delightful fillings. The kitchen counter, for example, was bedecked with Leen’s goodies: home-baked bread and cake, eggs, and plum jam which tasted as if the plums had fallen straight from tree to pot.

There are good bikes on the farm for guests’ use, and over the weekend I managed to take in a fair bit of the Mid Clare Way (, one of those hidden trails which passes their front door with remote hills, lakeshores and hardly a soul en route. I did have the company of Bella, however, the farm’s beautiful dog.

I know this is just one of many cottages around Ireland, but it is places like this which maintain a side of tourism that the Chez Namas will never achieve. Other similar cottages which stand out for rural diversification done for passion not just profit, include Tory Bush Ecoloft in the Mourne Mountains (, Co Down, Tír na Fiúise in Co Tipperary (, Cnoc Suain in Co Galway (, South Reen Farm in west Cork ( and Innish Beg Cottages in Co Fermanagh (innishbeg

At the end of my stay at Leen, I was flicking through one of their lovely collection of books, Vanishing Irelandby Turtle Bunbury and James Fennell, a superb spotlight on some of our older generation of publicans, musicians, farmers and fishermen. I realised that the Irish artisans, lovers of natural skills, traditions and heritage, are not vanishing at all. And if well supported they will be here for generations to come. So, thank you.