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One of the best things about Ireland as a holiday destination, even for Irish people, is that it is incredibly small and you can do a lot in a short period of time. With that in mind, here is what we got up to in Clifden on the West Coast of Ireland on our 48-hour sustainable staycation!
Sustainable. Eco friendly. Environmentally conscious. These are all buzz words that are very much in the zeitgeist at the moment, but what does it actually mean to have low-impact or to be eco? Before heading on our trip, we sat down and planned out the trip. This is probably one of the top tips on how to limit your carbon footprint or environmental impact. Plan! This doesn’t mean you cannot be spontaneous on your trip but be sure to know the basic things, (where you are staying, where you will eat, how you are getting there), especially if you’re only going for a short period of time. This planning time will reduce the number of conveniences that you rely on that in turn generally results in the use of more single-use plastics.
If you want to know more about tips on how you can Minimise Your Carbon Footprint on Your Next Staycation you can read our article.
Within a few moments of setting up our tent, after what felt like a long day of travelling we agreed that we needed to stretch our legs! A wander out to Omey Island at low tide was just what the doctor ordered. Omey Island is located 600m off the mainland and is accessible at low tide along a sandy strand. It is definitely one of Ireland’s most unique roads! We walked out along the strand and made our way along the grassy, stone wall-lined lanes to Omey Beach. We took some time to admire the amazing views that the island has to offer and its rich flora and fauna.
After a casual 1.5 hour amble, we had worked up quite the appetite but felt we couldn’t let the opportunity of a refreshing dip at the campsite’s private beach pass us by. While the water was absolutely baltic it was crystal clear. There is something so special about those tropical-looking white sandy beaches in Connemara, they always seem so inviting despite their frigid temperatures.
The swim was the perfect pre-dinner activity as we are not sure steaming hot bowls of chowder have ever tasted so good. In another effort to travel more sustainably we decided to eat local for the duration of our trip. Olivers Seafood Restaurant in Cleggan offers just that – an abundance of fresh fish caught from just outside the door and vegetables sourced locally. And the food certainly doesn’t disappoint. It’s also a great spot to watch the sun go down on a post-dinner stroll.
The choices you make when it comes to your kit can have a big impact on your carbon footprint. It is important to not only purchase from brands that are making a conscious effort to reduce their own carbon footprint but to choose kit that lasts. These days we have so much choice and can pick up a waterproof shell for next to nothing. However, it is important to consider how long it will be before that item ends up in landfill. Research your purchases, spend a bit more for quality gear, and opt to repair your kit instead of dump it and you will be making huge strides to lower your environmental impact.
Craghoppers is one of a handful of outdoor brands taking huge steps to ensure that they work as sustainably as possible. Not only are 70% of their products made using post-consumer recycled plastic, they also use Bluesign approved fabrics, have a zero product to landfill policy, and as signatories to the UNFCCC Fashion for Global Climate Action, have committed to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. This year, Craghoppers started using sugarcane paper for outer swing tickets which is not only a highly renewable source but also compostable and recyclable.
The top pick from what we wore on day one was undoubtedly the Anderson Cagoule from Craghoppers. This lightweight, waterproof shell is super technical with everything you could want from breathability to a concealed hood and stormproof pockets yet looks far from a traditional waterproof jacket. The unisex cagoule is the perfect weekend away option as it will take you from the top of a mountain to the bar and won’t look out of place in either setting!
We chose to stay at Clifden Eco Beach Camping which is an industry leader when it comes to sustainable travel in Ireland. The campsite is the first carbon-neutral campsite in Ireland, offers free shuttles to and from public transport links and has banned the use of single use plastic bottles. And these are only a few of its environmental policies, you can read all about the campsite’s environmental policies here.
Clifden Eco Camping is also idyllically located about 10 kilometers north of Clifden in County Galway on its own pristine white sandy beach. The campsite offers people an authentic wild camping experience while maintaining the comforts and amenities of a campsite. We set up camp on our own private plot that was very well spaced out from the others. The natural grassy dunes also offer some privacy to the campsite, adding to the independent feel.
We opted to use our MSR Elixir Tent and Therm-a-Rest sleep system. Again our product choices were conscious. Cascade Designs who are responsible for making the products take a great environmental stance and really make products to last a lifetime. The Therm-a-Rests are made in Cork where there is also a team of dedicated repair wizards who will manage to fix any isssue with any of their products no matter how old they are.
Cascade Designs: A Global Brand Making Sustainable High Quality Outdoors Kit in Cork
After a restful night’s sleep, we rose to a lovely day so we decided we would pack up early and head off to do some sightseeing on our way to hike Diamond Hill in Letterfrack!
After taking in the views at Island View Beach we stopped off for a wander and paddle at Anchor Beach. Yet again we were stunned at how clear the water was. We were glad to have our Craghoppers Travel Towel to dry our feet off (and get rid of the sand between our toes!)
Starting at the Connemara National Park visitors Centre in Letterfrack, we hiked the Diamond Hill loop. The trail we did was a 7km figure of eight loop route that took in the top of Diamond Hill.
Diamond Hill Loop: Everything you Need to Know
Once we summited Diamond Hill, we were surrounded by incredible views. We had views of the Mamturks, Twelve Bens (both excellent places for more strenuous hill walks), the town of Clifden, and the rest is the beautiful coastline of Connemara. On the way down the mountain, we even saw a young stag bounding through the heather. We would absolutely recommend Diamond Hill for those looking for a 2-4 hour walk with lovely views.
After we arrived back in Letterfrack we got a quick coffee and snack in a local café before having to head on to catch the boat to Inishbofin at 11:30 am from Cleggan.
Inishbofin is a 40-minute boat ride from the tiny harbour of Cleggan in Galway (www.inishbofinislanddiscovery.com). It has a population of 180 and is only 16.5km2, so can absolutely be explored in half a day. There is something extremely refreshing about island life, Inishbofin is an amazing place and so are the people. They are inspirational, open-minded and have a real can-do attitude. If you would like to know more about why we decided to visit Inishbofin and what makes Inishbofin: A Treasure Island of Ecotourism you can read the article we wrote!
If you find yourself in need of a coffee or some food after a Diamond Hill hike, we would absolutely recommend Kabo Cafe in Letterfrack. We, quite wearily, wandered into Kabo cafe in Letterfrack after our hike and we were taken by the vibe of the cafe as well as the quality of the coffee! Offering up sumptuous breakfast baps, hearty soups, and delicious sambos, it is a definite must-visit if you are in the area.
Following a pretty full day on Inishbofin we caught the 5 pm boat home. Within an hour of departing were sitting at the Sea Hare in Cleggan for our dinner. A gastronomical experience, The Sea Hare serves up some of the area’s most incredible delicacies, almost all of which are locally sourced, seasonal, and all of which are incredibly tasty! A must if you find yourself in the area.
We both opted for Craghoppers footwear for the duration of our trip. We had the Adflex Mid as well as the Trek Boot on our feet. Both of these boots were excellent for the full day on our feet, both on and off the mountain. On our Diamond Hill hike, they worked perfectly. They both offer enough cushion underfoot for the gravel trails thanks to their injection molded insoles. They also maintain enough support for the rocky ascents while also providing confidence-inspiring grip for the slightly slippy sections thanks to their Vibram outsoles.
We woke early the next morning and in spite of the temperature dropping uncharacteristically low for spring we both slept very well. As we departed Clifden, on our journey home, we decided that we would make a stop at Kylemore Abbey for a photo. We then headed down to Galway and back east, not before stopping at a beautiful cafe in Moycullen called Tree Bark Store for an oat milk flat white in our keep cups and a browse of their many local and zero-waste products.
By Matthew McConnell
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