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Saddling up for a unique insight into Connemara

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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.

 

Connacht Tribune

Covid boosts college coffers

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NUI Galway

NUI Galway reported an operating surplus of almost €19 million during the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic when its campus was closed for months.

The healthy finances reported by NUIG has prompted its student body to call for it to waive repeat exams’ fees and student levies, and to invest in mental health services.

Consolidated financial statements for NUIG for the year ended September 30 2020 show the university reported an operating surplus of €18.9 million. This was up by €16 million on the surplus generated in 2019.

The financial statement said that while Covid-19 was ‘extremely challenging’, the ‘extraordinary dedication and work ethic of its staff have mitigated against the financial impact’ of the year.

The report said a surplus of €18.9 million was a ‘commendable performance’ given that 95%  of staff and students withdrew from campus in March 2020 to study and work remotely in line with Government regulations.

It noted that core income fell by a net €4 million compared with the previous year.

“Drops in research income of €9m and a Covid-related decline in commercial and student accommodation income of some €5m were offset by increased fee income of €4m, a €3m increase in the fair value of investments, and other increases of €3m relating to Government grants and other income,” the report said.

It said that the increase in Government grants includes Covid Support grant funding from the Higher Education Authority to cover additional specific Covid-19 related costs of €2.2m.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or  HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

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Connacht Tribune

Workers leave hospitality sector to seek job security

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Pearse Doherty...morale has never been lower.

The severe restrictions for hospitality and entertainment are widely expected to be lifted next month – but already workers in the sector are reportedly leaving in their droves to source more stable employment.

And that could spell disaster for Galway’s vibrant arts industry which is a crucial cog in the wheel of local tourism.

When Covid regulations are eased for those staging events – thought to be announced this week – one of their biggest challenges is to secure staff for operations, according to prominent Galway event organiser Pearse Doherty.

Morale has never been lower in the industry, with even loyal customers getting fed up having to book and reschedule constantly when the goalposts shift so many times for shows.

“I really think it’s going to be very difficult for any venue going back or festival being staged. I don’t think things are ever going to go back to normal. Any event over 5,000 people will likely have to have fewer tents, a bigger space – all these things have to be taken into consideration for people who invest in the business,” he reflects.

“Having 50 per cent capacity and closing time at 8pm does nothing to make things financially viable. A lot of business models are built on having a bar and selling to 100 per cent capacity so I’m just not sure how many will survive the pandemic, even with all the very welcome Government supports for the industry.”

He knows of many in the industry who are changing careers or moving abroad in search of work in a location where restrictions nowhere as strict.

The head of production for the doomed Galway Capital of Culture 2020, head of production for Aiken Promotions which is behind the biggest gigs in the country and the site manager for the Electric Picnic, Pearse has himself pivoted in his career, taking up the role of producer with Fíbín Theatre at An Taibhdhearc.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

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Connacht Tribune

Galway author dedicates children’s book to brave young nephew battling DMD

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Dedication....Fionn Brogan – new book aims to help in his fight.

A flying mouse with a skill for hurling is the subject of a book a Galway man has dedicated to his cousin’s son – six-year-old Fionn Brogan who, like Lumo the mouse, must overcome a myriad of challenges in his everyday life.

Ballinderreen man Tom Costelloe tells the Connacht Tribune he wrote the book to raise funds for his cousin Michael’s son, inspired by the strength and resilience Fionn has shown since his diagnosis of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD) when he was just three years old.  A disease which attacks the muscles, DMD will leave Fionn unable to play football or do many of the things he loves to do as time goes on.

As a result, his family wants to raise enough funds to make the next few years the best possible for Fionn – and aim to adapt their house so he can freely use a power wheelchair among other alterations that will be required.

For Tom, who works as a speech and language therapist, the Covid lockdowns presented an opportunity to put pen to paper and create this story of Lumo, a mouse with wings.

“With a positive message of self-acceptance, the story is brought to life with wonderful colourful illustrations by Thomas Quinn from Kinvara.

“Like Lumo the flying mouse, Fionn and his family have no shortage of strength, resilience and sprit – and thanks to our printing costs being generously sponsored, every euro raised from the sales goes directly to the Fionn Brogan trust,” he says.

Tom, who lives in Galway City, says the family had a series of fundraisers over the past year and he hopes this will add to the momentum of achieving what’s necessary to support Fionn as he continues to defy all odds.

And through his work, he’s had a good research group to test-run Lumo – getting very positive feedback.

“I work with kids so they became my research team, and they were very useful in making sure the book was of interest,” he laughs.

‘Could a Flying Mouse Play Hurling?’ is available in in Clarke’s Pharmacy Kilcolgan, Burke’s Eurospar Kinvara, Circle-K Kinvara, Poppyseed Café Clarinbridge and First Chapter in Gort.  For more information on the Fionn Brogan Trust, visit fionnbrogantrust.ie where donations can also be made.

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