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Saddling up for a unique insight into Connemara

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta



Guests love the thrill of being able to ride horses or ponies along the Wild Atlantic Way. PHOTO: CONNEMARA EQUESTRIAN ESCAPES.

Lifestyle – Bernie Ní Fhlatharta meets Cáit Goaley who overcame grief to grow a high-end tourism venture

Specialist holidays are a growing trend worldwide, aimed at the discerning visitor who wants something different and is willing to pay for it. One home-grown specialist holiday experience is Connemara Equestrian Escapes which enjoys what the local landscape has to offer and provides one of the best known horse breed in the world — the Connemara Pony.

Riding a Connemara Pony on the white sands of a local beach along the popular Wild Atlantic Way, with the sea on one side and the beautiful Twelve Bens mountain range on the other is something that has to be experienced to be believed.

Cáit Goaley, the woman behind the Connemara Equestrian Escapes, loves horses but particularly her Connemara Ponies.

She has been adding to her stables since she invested in first brood mare — Cáit has been riding horses since she was a child, first coming across them when her father bred a few on his farm in Moycullen.

Johnny Goaley, a city based builder and part-time farmer and Connemara pony breeder, loved his trips to Moycullen and Cáit remembers hiding in the boot of his car to ensure he wouldn’t go without her!

Her own love of Ireland’s favourite native pony breed is her late father’s legacy to her and a love that she is now using to make a livelihood.

“It’s like I suddenly know what I want to be when I grow up,” says Cáit, who is thoroughly enjoying meeting a range of nationalities, mostly American and Canadian and an increasing number of Europeans through the luxury package holidays which involve staying in her five-bedroomed house on Curra Farm. It’s five miles from Moycullen Village and guests travel by bus throughout Connemara to visit local sights and enjoy cultural activities like the Glengowla Mining Experience or a visit to Aughnanure Castle in Oughterard.

Curra House backs onto Lough Corrib and in the evenings, as guests enjoy relaxing on the deck (designed by Cáit to resemble the deck of a boat), they can see the twinkling lights of houses in Annaghdown on the other bank, beyond a few of the 365 islands on the lake, although Cáit believes that figure is much higher!

The holiday project was a concept dreamt up by Cáit and her husband Ciarán, who died suddenly over two years ago.

And while others might have collapsed and withered with grief, Cáit has used her grief to develop and expand what started as a B&B for fishermen. The expansion made sense as the couple had begun to to realise that the fishing season was too short to sustain a viable B&B.

The secluded location of Curra House is one of the selling points of the holiday. And guests don’t have to worry about finding it because as soon as they arrive in Galway City, they are picked up by Cáit and brought wherever they want to go for the rest of the week.

“We did extensive market research — we started about four years ago — and decided to incorporate our love and knowledge of horses,” she explains of the project. “We were pleasantly surprised that there are a lot of people who also love the idea of holidaying on horseback with a bit of Irish culture thrown in!

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.



Designated drinking zones in city centre are ‘only solution’

Stephen Corrigan



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Properly staffed designated areas are the only solution to out-of-control outdoor boozing, according to the city councillor who drafted the city’s drinking bylaws.

Cllr Peter Keane told the Galway City Tribune it was likely that councillors would seek to ‘tweak’ the existing bylaws in the near future to find a long-term solution that would enable young people to ‘enjoy a drink outdoors in a safe and controlled environment’, not just now, but in the future too.

To avoid a repeat of scenes around Spanish Arch over recent weekends, the Fianna Fáil councillor said providing areas where the consumption of alcohol was allowed would enable Gardaí to properly enforce the drinking bylaws throughout the rest of the city.

He said he could ‘absolutely appreciate the concerns of residents’ in the Claddagh and elsewhere where anti-social behaviour including urinating in gardens ‘and worse’ had been a blight in recent weeks, but said with proper control, those worst excesses could be avoided.

In the first ten days of June, 83 on-the-spot fines were issued in the city for drinking in a public place.

And last Saturday night, Gardaí closed off the Quincentenary Bridge after hundreds of young people gathered on the carriageway and turned it into a “highly-dangerous road traffic risk situation”.

“Control is the key word for me. Gardaí don’t have the resources, nor do they have the appetite as far as I can see, to deal with the lack of control there has been during the recent good weather.
“If you were to designate, say for example the Spanish Arch or a green area in Salthill, where the bylaws didn’t apply, you could put a number of wardens in place there to control the situation. You could provide adequate bins and toilets, and enough bodies to staff it, and that would allow gardaí to police the bylaws elsewhere,” said Cllr Keane.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story and coverage of the re-opening of the hospitality sector and outdoor dining, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Dispute simmers between businesses and Council over outdoor spaces

Dara Bradley



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Friction between businesses and local government over the reclaiming of public space to facilitate outside hospitality marred the beginning of the city’s ‘outdoor summer’.

Galway City Council has come under fire over its handling of plans by bars and restaurants to use street furniture to facilitate outdoor dining and drinking.

Most city watering holes and eateries resumed trading on Bank Holiday Monday – serving outdoors only – for the first time since Christmas, and the authorities reported that it was successful for the most part, although it needed time to ‘bed in’.

The city vintners’ group said its members with adequate outdoor space were happy to be back and described the mood as ‘euphoric’ in places.

But several outlets expressed disappointment with the Council.

In Eyre Square, the Skeff Late Bar and Kitchen claimed it had to cancel 200 advance bookings – up to 800 people – for this week, after the Council refused permission for “extended outdoor seating”.

On Middle Street, Sangria Tapas Restaurant lashed the Council for refusing it permission to use certain types of awning and windbreakers to facilitate outdoor dining. “Surely the powers that be can take time to support the industry that supports the city?” its proprietor said in a complaint to City Hall.

‘Back the West’, businesses criticised the Council for rowing back on promises to provide additional outdoor space on Dominick Street Lower and Dominick Street Upper, in time for outdoor hospitality’s reopening on June 7.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Council chief: ‘landlords see 4% rent increase cap as a target’

Enda Cunningham



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The Chief Executive of Galway City Council has said that the 4% annual cap on residential rent increases is now seen as a target by many landlords.

Brendan McGrath said that affordability continues to be a major problem for renters in the city and that an increasing number of people availing of the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) scheme have to pay ‘top ups’ to their landlords.

The HAP scheme replaces rent supplement for those with a long-term housing need – the individual finds a private rented accommodation within specific rent caps and the Council pays the landlord directly. The tenant then pays a rent to the Council based on their weekly household income.

The maximum monthly rents under the scheme range from €330 for an adult in shared accommodation to €900 for a single parent or couple with three kids.

Based on their household size, tenants can also apply for a 20% extra ‘discretionary’ payment on top of their HAP payment.

However, Mr McGrath said many on the HAP scheme in Galway have to pay top ups to their landlords.

“Rents as a percentage of income is increasing and affordability remains a major problem for the city’s renters. The majority of HAP tenants require additional discretionary payments to assist them in maintaining their tenancies, particularly single person households.

“An increasing number of HAP tenants now have to pay top ups to their landlords even with the 20% extra HAP discretionary payment applied for their particular household size,” Mr McGrath said in a report to councillors.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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