Rachel set for a day's adventure on Lough Conn.

Rachel's Irish Adventures targets culture curious French

GLOBETROTTER Rachel Nolan has returned to her Ballina roots where she has set up Rachel’s Irish Adventures, where visitors can explore the outdoors and the stunning, secret landscapes of the Wild Atlantic Way by land, river and sea, writes Tom Gillespie.

Concentrating on the French market this year, Rachel sums up her goal: 'Some of the locals do not even know what is on their doorstep. We need to get more people out, even the locals, enjoying what we have.

'It is all about people that are culture curious and people who really want to get under the skin of the area and become involved in the culture and lifestyle of Mayo.'

Rachel (31) moved back to Ballina in November 2015 having moved out 12 years earlier.

She explained: 'I was all over the place. I was never back for more than a weekend really. I came back after spending four years in France and a year in Greece. I spent six of those years working with Jameson.'

Rachel, who is fluent in French and Spanish, added: 'I came home for lifestyle reasons, along with other things, and decided I wanted to be in this area. I was offered a lot of jobs but they were on the east coast. I decided to put together my passions and experiences and then I set up Rachel’s Irish Adventures. I bought an eight-seater bus and 10 bikes.

'My background is all whiskey and I have trained as a self-defence instructor. I have a passion for the outdoors. I do a lot of endurance racing, five-day stuff, mountain bike.'

On her return she discovered the new Connacht Whiskey distillery had opened at Belleek, Ballina.

She explained: 'That is the niche that I specialised in. Now I look after their sales and marketing in the Irish and European market, but I am not a full-time employee. I’m on a consultancy basis only.'

Hiking, mountain climbing, trail running, guided heritage walks and tours, road and mountain biking, kayaking, surfing, fishing and stand-up paddling as well as whiskey and wine appreciation sessions are all part of the options visitors can avail of.

And, of course, Rachel’s mother, Majorie, runs the Brigown B&B at the Coast Road, Ballina, overlooking the majestic River Moy, where visitors can avail of cookery classes.

Rachel continued: 'We have such a great offering here it is just to get more people to see it. For someone that loves travelling, I like to offer people an authentic experience. When people come here they do everything from a half-day up to week-long experiences.

'They do everything from baking in the kitchen with mam, getting her to read the tea leaves, out turning turf with Declan Caulfield, down fishing on the river with Judd Ruane, whiskey tasting or traditional sessions.

'I have teamed up with different tour operators, including one down in Kerry, to try and get the people up this direction. It is saturated down south. This area could do with a few more people.

'The main market I am focussing on is the French market because I speak fluent French. I know their culture very well.

'Having the languages is definitely a plus. There are very few people in the west with language skills and what is really interesting is getting an overseas visitors in and more revenue into the country.'

Looking at last year’s visitor statistics, she said that 8.9 million people visited Ireland. Of that, 4.9 million visited the Wild Atlantic Way but only 12% came north of Galway.

Rachel, who won Ireland’s best Young Entrepreneur for Mayo award, declared: 'There is a great opportunity here for Rachel’s Irish Adventure. It is massive. From a scaleability point of view this year I will have someone starting with me in March and another full-time person for the summer.

'I sub-contract out a lot and there is spin-off for restaurants, activity providers and accommodation providers. My 2018 goal is to extend this role model in to the Spanish market.'

A lot of her activities are based around walking, cycling, hiking and meeting the locals in the bar with John Keane for a pint of Guinness in Pat Rouse and listening to traditional music.

She added: 'Originally I thought I would be running up and down mountains with people. Now it is more like leisure, local food, local people and the local landscape.

'I have two partnerships with French tour operators this year and we have organised itineraries for north Mayo - one cycle and one trail run. But it is all very cultural about the food and meeting the locals in the evenings.

'I would like the hotels in the region who are full during the summer to be ringing me up and hiring bikes to rent. There are a number of things I can offer and let's try and keep the visitors here in the region for longer.

'What I am offering is even more interesting for those from overseas than it is for the locals, in certain ways.

'My tours are all about the visitor. Once they arrive, I’ll take care of everything. And I will bring them on an experience I can guarantee will leave them wanting more.

'We can explore the Wild Atlantic Way on foot or by bike. From sky to seabed, visitors can scale the great heights of Croagh Patrick, surf the wild Easkey waves or go deep-sea diving along the spectacular Ballycastle cliff-lined coastline. There are no limits.'

Rachel caters for individuals, couples, families, groups, stag and hen parties, team-building events, and endurance event training for all ages 18 upwards and all fitness levels.

Rachel Nolan can be contact on (085) 1108969 or email info@rachelsirishadventures.com or visit www.rachelsirishadventures.com.



Do you have a story to tell about your business? If so, Tom Gillespie would be delighted to hear from you. Get in touch at (087) 9680780 or gillespietom49@gmail.com.