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If you’re a nominee, consider yourself cordially invited to our annual awards ceremony on the evening of Wednesday 1 February 2023 in the Sugar Club, Dublin. We are thrilled skinny to announce that our fab sponsors are on board to help us celebrate all that is great and good about the Irish adventure scene, so it’s guaranteed to be a good party. Our hugely generous title sponsor is Sport Ireland. And our other supporting sponsors are #2MinuteBeachClean, #2MinuteStreetClean, Craghoppers, Leave No Trace, Hiiker, Salewa and Collen Construction.
For everyone else, a limited number of tickets are on sale here. Subscribe to our email newsletter on our homepage to hear more about the Outsider Awards 2022.
We were bowled over by both the quality and quantity of the stories you sent us. So sit down, make yourself comfortable and read the spine-tingling and inspirational stories of these extraordinary people who are now officially on the long list of nominees for the #OutsiderAwards.
We were bowled over by both the quality and quantity of the stories you sent us. So sit down, make yourself comfortable and read all about these awesome who are inspiring people to get out there and make the most of the great outdoors. #OutsiderAwards.
At the end of 2020, 23-year-old Gareth Laheen hit a low point in his life. He was working in a full-time office job he didn’t like and was partying a lot. He’d never spent any time in the outdoors. All that changed for the Galway man in January 2021 when he went on his first-ever hike in Connemara. “That day something sparked inside of me, my love for the outdoors,” Gareth says. Since then, he’s been on many hikes. Mainly for enjoyment and self-development.
He started taking photos and videos of all his adventures. At the weekends, instead of going out, he went camping in the mountains and captured beautiful photos and videos of the Irish landscapes. “I knew that I wanted to spend as much time as possible in nature.”
Throughout 2021 he made it his mission to travel around as much of Ireland as possible climbing mountains. By February 2022, he left his full-time job and booked a one-way flight to South America. There, he trekked to Machu Picchu and climbed and camped on active volcanoes. When he returned that April, he pursued his career of being an outdoor adventure content creator and is now doing that full-time.
“When I go hiking, I have a clear mind. I’m happy and energised. I do it for my own enjoyment,” Gareth says. Hiking and spending time in the outdoors has many benefits. For him it relieves stress and anxiety and has a positive impact on his mental well-being.
He plans to run events and retreats for people who struggle to connect with like-minded people and who want to spend time in the outdoors.
Follow along @life.of.gerk
Elaine Nic Reamoinn (32) is a science teacher and personal trainer from the small village of Clonegal on the Carlow-Wexford-Wicklow border. She founded Siúl Linn, a social outdoor community in the South East of Ireland, in June 2020. Its aim is to bring like-minded people together in a safe space outdoors, where they can appreciate nature, connect with each other and connect with themselves. Since then, she has organised over 30 free events.
After going through a tough time in her life, she went through a period of soul-searching and learned the importance of giving back to society. “Life is very simple,” she says. “What we give, we get back.”
Her aim is to connect people to the incredible beauty we have on our doorstep, and how much joy can come from being outside together. She also started organising single events because she knows how difficult it can be to find a partner—particularly in rural Ireland.
She got involved in hiking because she and her dad (a tillage farmer) explored local trails with their dogs and she realised not everyone is fortunate enough to have had a knowledgeable guide like father and don’t get to experience the healing power of a country walk and the power of nature immersion.
Elaine says hiking changed her life. “People open up on the hills. There is a social connection amongst the hiking/outdoor community in Ireland. Building the Siúl Linn community motivated me to connect people to each other and to nature.”
As far as fundraising goes, she organised hikes this year for My Lovely Horse Rescue; the C.S.P.C.A.; a Pride hike; and wellbeing walks.
Follow along @siul_linn
Hailing from the Wicklow/Carlow Border, 29-year-old Nathalie Lennon graduated from college with an Earth Science degree. She has always loved geography and the outdoors and she knew she wanted to be active in her job. But work was hard to find so she decided to take some time to follow her passion for fitness… so she became a personal trainer. After doing this for three years, building up her own business, she eventually realised that the real issue was nutrition and people’s relationship with food/fitness. “So I qualified as Nutritional and Health Coach in 2018, from the Irish Institute of Nutrition & Health.”
“When you work with a client who is struggling to find a healthy balance between fitness, food and busy lifestyles, you see the stress. You can see the turmoil it is causing internally, and that is tough,” she says. “The reward comes when you see that penny dropping moment. The moment where everything seems to ‘click’ and they find harmony in their habits and lifestyle.”
Her biggest obstacle was actually finding that ‘click’ moment herself. It took her a long time to rebuild her relationship with food and fitness. “It’s a process I have shared many insights on over on my Instagram and something I am really passionate about helping others overcome, or prevent it happening in the first place.”
This past year, Nathalie had the opportunity to get into radio. She presented and produced a 22-week health and wellbeing series on KCLR (Kilkenny Carlow local radio), which was a huge project, but an amazing one. “To have another platform to educate people on what really matters when it comes to their wellbeing, as well as develop my radio personality, was a fantastic opportunity.” She’s currently working on our second series.
Follow along @nathalielennon_
Living in Galway, but from Kinlough in County Leitrim, 32-year-old Paul is a Well-Being Mountain Guide, Nature Ambassador and Inspirational speaker.
He runs singles events on the hills and takes people on adventures to hidden locations in Ireland. He also does inspirational talks on mental health and teaches people about safety on the mountains.
It all started seven years ago, when Paul was in a dark place in his life. Luckily, the outdoors turned it all around for him. A year-and-a-half ago he decided to set up his business—Muddy Souls—which has been a huge success for hundreds of people. “Changing lives to make a person smile is what I’m passionate about,” Paul says. “I love to help people and to also show them what this beautiful island of Ireland has to offer.”
It was Paul’s dad who introduced him to nature and wildlife and the unbelievable mountains of Ireland. He loves the feeling and energy he gets when he hits a summit. He also loves to see the positive messages he receives from people who can’t wait for the next Muddy Souls Adventure.
Paul has done charity work and fundraising for the likes of North West Stop Ireland (a mental health free service); the Irish Cancer Society; and the Sligo Cancer Society. But it doesn’t stop there. “I plan to speak in every county to share the tools that worked for me to escape from the bad days, and I’m also to going to run hiking events all over the world soon.” Watch this space!
Follow along @muddy_souls
Busy mum of two (to a 9- and 6-year-old), Cara Byrne is Ireland’s first, and so far only, Hiking Psychotherapist. The 41-year-old from Dublin set up her private practice, Hike Psych, in 2020 to allow her to combine her two passions—psychotherapy and hiking. She uses all the traditional, evidence-based therapeutic processes, but she uses them with clients while hiking around the Dublin mountains.
“I wanted to set up the service for ages, as I had seen first-hand the benefits that the outdoors provides to people’s mental health, but the pandemic accelerated it as I wanted to offer clients a safe way to continue to work in person.”
Cara got into hiking by chance, when a close friend invited her on a girls’ weekend to Scotland, but forgot to mention that the purpose of the trip was to climb Ben Nevis. She had never hiked before that! “I love how fast people let their guards down [when hiking], how the mountains level the playing field and no one cares what you do, where you live, what you earn. It makes people connect on a deeper level much faster.”
Cara has been a Type 1 diabetic since the age of 3, which creates a lot of challenges in terms of maintaining safe levels while hiking and not wanting to interrupt clients’ sessions to administer insulin or take glucose. She’s also had a history of disordered eating, which she’s grateful to have recovered from. “I now advocate for HAES and am trained in CBT-E and as an Intuitive Eating Pro Counsellor, so I can help others experiencing the same difficulty I did.”
Cara plans to expand Hike Psych. “I want a hiking therapist in every county so people don’t have to travel so far to get the benefits of outdoor therapy.”
For more information on Hike Psych check out https://www.hikepsych.ie or follow @hikepsych.ie
Georgina Driver (37), a self-employed sports injury therapist, and her husband Paul (39), live in Co. Carlow with their three daughters—Grace (5), Ella (3) and Aoife (18 months).
Georgina has always loved hiking. In fact, her earliest memory was hiking Croagh Patrick at age 4 with her parents.
When their first daughter came along, the couple didn’t hang up their hiking boots. Instead, they introduced her to the outdoors at an early age and decided to take on the 32-peak challenge, hiking the highest mountain in each county with her strapped to their chest or back. Fast forward five years and she is taking on the challenge herself, climbing mountains most weekends.
Georgina and Paul share their hikes on Instagram (@ourlittlehiker) to encourage other families to get outdoors together and to advise them on routes that are suitable for small kids. “We get loads of lovely messages from parents thanking us for the inspiration.”
Of course, getting three small children out the door takes planning, patience and time, but it’s worth it, they say. They have plenty of tips and tricks to help others do the same.
“Recently we climbed Armagh’s highest mountain and it was a great highlight to watch the girls reach the summit on their own and to celebrate with each other.”
Their next challenge is to help Grace complete the rest of her 32 peaks, walk the Wicklow Way as a family and to continue to explore more trails in Ireland.
“The dream would be to write our own book, ‘Irelands Top 50 Family Friendly Hikes’, along with tips for hiking with babies and toddlers.”
Follow along @ourlittlehiker
New mum to a baby girl, 32-year-old Finn is a marine biologist, writer, speaker and ambassador for Clean Coasts. From Dublin, but living in Bundoran, Finn started doing marine biology workshops for children this year—her job as a Marine Mammal Observer was temporarily put on hold while she was pregnant. “It was so wonderful to travel Ireland giving talks to schools about ocean conservation.” Her biggest event (online) had almost 2,500 children from all over Ireland at it.
“A real highlight for me is seeing little kids show an interest in marine science and conservation. I love their questions, they’re always so different to what adults ask.”
With her talks this year, she loved seeing kids become interested in the environment around them. For talks with adults, it’s about helping them realise that they can have a positive impact when it comes to climate change.
She had a tough time health-wise during her pregnancy, which meant she wasn’t able to do all her usual outdoor activities—trail running, hiking, surfing, etc. That had a big impact on her mentally.
“When I wasn’t able to do all my usual outdoorsy bits, I’d wondered what was the point of sharing my usual content on my website or social media. But it was lovely to get messages from people saying they were still interested in the more simple/at home ideas for living more sustainably. It didn’t all have to be adventurous content. That was really nice and kept me going!”
She’s keeping tight-lipped about a project she just finished, which she hopes will gain momentum in 2023. And she has just finished a book about climate change (that’s about as much as she can say for now) and is really excited to see what comes of that in the New Year. Watch out for it!
Follow Finn @saltwaterstories.me
The Happy Pear started out back in 2004 with twins David and Stephen Flynn, a tiny shop and a dream of helping people to eat more veg!
Dave and Steve had been travelling the world and as twin power goes, on opposite sides of the world they switched to a plant-based diet within a week of each other. The Happy Pear seed was sown.
The Happy Pear has grown over the last 15 years. There’s a café and shop in Greystones, Wicklow, 60 products, 7 online courses, 5 cookbooks, a farm, a roastery, and a community of over 1 million people living healthier.
The guys are all about a healthier, happier world. They appreciate every day (which starts early to catch the sunrise on Greystones beach), and they truly believe that the key to happiness is good health and a great support network.
The mission is still the same as when they first started out—to help everyone to get healthier and be happier!
“We want to play our part and help you make one small step today. One decision for the better. Maybe it’s just about what you’re going to eat, or how you’re going to move. Maybe it’s about how you see your life and the lives of those around you.” They believe in the power of people…those willing to play their part, no matter how small it is, for the greater good of the community and your body.
Follow along @thehappypear
Tipperary woman Roz Purcell has achieved a lot of success in her life so far. One recent venture she’s really proud of is creating The Hike Life (THL) community. THL has grown massively in the last few years.
Roz built her brand organically from her desire to grow a free hiking community. She offers hiking inspiration and information, documenting and posting about her hikes all over the country. She also covers moderate walking trails, so you don’t need to plan a three-hour-plus hike to be inspired by her recommendations.
The Hike Life was active before Covid, but because of the pandemic, Ireland has seen a huge increase in more folks getting outdoors…and hiking has really taken off. It makes Roz happy that people are benefiting from the information she provides to find hikes in their area. It’s a nice community and she’s proud of that. Hiking really helped her personally and she’s glad what she does is also helping others.
Now The Hike Life has expanded and Roz has a website where you can get baselayers, beanies and neck warmers. All the essentials needed to keep you warm on a good ole hike! The first product, the THL hat, was developed to fund the hikes—paying for the mountain guides. While her brand has grown, the roots in THL community remain central to everything they do. It’s a small but growing brand with sustainability and community at its core.
Follow along @thehikelife
Based in Roscommon, 28-year-old Ellie and 31-year-old Carl hike long-distance trails, as well as Irish mountain projects such as the County High Points, and have started participating in Irish trail running events.
They are all about making the outdoors more accessible, so they document what they do in the hope that others can experience just how amazing the Irish outdoors is.
Ellie and Carl both got into sports and the outdoors in different ways growing up, but their love of long-distance walking was born from a baptism of fire—walking the Camino Del Norte in 2015 with no real walking experience. “We arrived with basic equipment and used a free brochure as our guidebook. Those six weeks of walking have shaped our lives ever since.”
It’s clear that the couple are passionate about being in the Great Outdoors. No matter what sport or activity they’re doing, the outdoors offers them space for reflection and connection. They were the first people (that they know of) to walk every National Waymarked Trail in Ireland in 2019. This year, Ellie set the first FKT for the Leitrim Way—”which has since been smashed by others!” she says.
They love hearing from other people about the adventures they did because of information they made available, or inspired them to do. “Those messages are honestly the most amazing things ever.”
Ellie says they have big plans for 2023…but she’s keeping her lips sealed for now.
Follow them to find out more @tough_soles
By Matthew McConnell
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