Northern Ireland hiking holiday, mountains and hills
Description of Northern Ireland hiking holiday, mountains and hills
This trip can be tailor made throughout the year to suit your requirements
As the pioneers of responsible tourism, we've screened this (and every) holiday so that you can travel knowing it will help support the places and people that you visit, and the planet. Read how below.
PlanetWe all need this planet to be healthy and thriving – it’s the only one we’ve got, after all! And as an outdoors business, we of course are particularly aware of the need for us to take environmental responsibility. There are many, many aspects to doing that but, as a responsible hiking holiday provider, two of the key elements for us are waste and emissions.
We hate waste – in particular single use plastic, which we think it has to be one of the daftest inventions ever. So we are continually looking to:
• reduce the amount of waste we produce; then
• ensure the waste we do have is the least harmful it can be, by refilling, reusing and recycling wherever we can; and
• dispose of what remains appropriately, where that’s not possible.
Here’s what that approach means in practice:
• As many of the products as possible for our meals are sourced & re-stocked from our amazing local ‘zero waste’ refill store. And we are always looking for further ways in which we can avoid buying anything that comes in plastic (however convenient that thing may be), for example by cooking it fresh ourselves
• We never use single use plastic bags for our shopping (we are proud that Ireland led the way with a plastic bag tax in 2002!)
• We provide our guests with a metal refillable water bottle, for them to fill with tap water (there’s a reservoir in the hills just up behind us)! We then fully clean that bottle after every trip, so its ready to use again. As a result, we do not use any plastic water bottles
• We prepare and provide virtually all the meals for our trips ourselves, so we aren’t using an ever-increasing stock of polystyrene take away boxes in plastic bags
• We only use biodegradable or reusable containers for packed lunches on all tours
• We never serve any food on single-use plastic plates and we don't use single-use plastic cups or plates or cutlery or film
• When out on a hike, we operate a strict “leave no trace” policy, carrying all litter with us until we can dispose of it in a responsible manner. Our trek leaders are fastidious in ensuring that this is followed by all participants on any hike
• We look to protect our hiking gear & equipment, regularly cleaning and re-proofing it, and always trying to repair any damage rather than having to buy new replacement gear, if at all possible. In fact, we deliberately chose the outdoor brands that we use because they share our enthusiasm for repairing, rather than replacing, equipment wherever possible
• We seek to do all of our business online rather than in print. For example, details of our treks and tours are made available to our guests in paper-free form online or as PDF versions, while we use electronic communications wherever possible. We only print where specifically requested by another party, and we deliberately decided not to have a stock of printed letterhead to help that. In the limited occasions where we do have to get materials printed, we use print on recycled or FSC-certified materials which are themselves widely recyclable and recycled wherever possible, and we only use unbleached paper. We also recycle our printer cartridges.
As well as dealing with our own waste, we also take responsibility for waste created by others. We promote and practice “Plastic Patrol” on all of our hiking trips and holidays, where we ask each of our guests on each of our treks to bring back at least one piece of plastic litter left by others on our hills, so we can dispose of it responsibly (and they are of course free to collect as much as they want!).
Our waste, whether generated or collected, is then disposed of responsibly, being recycled where possible via the sophisticated, separate recycling systems for glass, plastics, cardboard & paper, and food waste operated by our local authority, so that as little as possible goes to landfill.
Emissions are much harder to see, but they’re arguably even more damaging to the planet. We fully accept the current IPCC advice stating the need to cut global carbon emissions to 55% below 2017 levels by 2030 to keep the planet within 1.5 degrees of warming. And here’s what we’re doing on our emissions as a result:
• We travel on foot for the majority of the time on our trips, which is obviously an emission-free way of getting around! But, save for visits to Belfast where public transport can be used from our nearest town, we do need to use a car for the majority of our internal transport, as Northern Ireland’s public transport network is not particularly comprehensive or frequent. However, where we do use a vehicle, we look to reduce our vehicle-related emissions whenever we can by upgrading the efficiency of our current vehicle as soon as we are in the financially position to sustainably do so, via a new second hand car (we believe new cars require too many virgin resources to be justified). Our last change of vehicle in December 2019 resulted in a 44.3% increase in fuel efficiency and a reduction of 22.4% in CO2 emissions. Our ultimate goal here is to move to a suitable electrically powered vehicle.
• Our location also helps us minimise the amount of travelling by car that we need to do. We are ideally located within 25 minutes of both the Antrim Hills and the Larne Ferry Terminal from Scotland, 45 minutes from both of Northern Ireland’s airports as well as the Belfast Ferry Terminal, one hour from the North Antrim Coast, and one hour thirty minutes from the Mournes.
• We also encourage our guests to avoid air travel where possible by applying a ‘green discount’ for those arriving by ferry from the mainland United Kingdom, while, for guests arriving into Dublin Airport arrivals, we both reduce the price accordingly – and apply a further ‘green discount’ – if they take the AirCoach service to Belfast.
• We also use local produce, items and ingredients as much as possible throughout our experiences, both because they’re great quality, but also to ensure that the air miles behind everything we eat and use are at a minimum.
• While Northern Ireland may not be renowned for the sun, we look for accommodation partners who use solar energy to heat their water (although there is a disappointingly low take up of that so far).
• We encourage our accommodation partners to move onto the greenest tariff available in Northern Ireland for their electricity, while the Northern Irish grid is also increasingly harnessing wind power, including from three large networked wind farms that sit in the hills just up behind our base.
We are proud of all of those. But we’re not satisfied with them. So we are also part of www.tourismdeclares.com, a collective of almost 100 travel companies, organisations and professionals who have declared a climate emergency and are coming together to find solutions. We will not rest on this one – it’s too important.
PeopleWe concentrate squarely on the country we know and love, Northern Ireland, so it is only natural we want to maximise the benefits tourism can bring to the Northern Irish, while also looking to do as much as we can to help our guests get to know everything about Northern Ireland, so they foster an ever-lasting connection to “our wee country”. So we research, design and operate each itinerary ourselves and do not source our itineraries from other agents. That allows us to make the biggest economic difference we can, by putting support for ‘local’ in the following ways at the heart of everything we do and each experience we offer:
• Local People: all of our members of staff, tour leaders and assistants and other partners live in (and are often from) Northern Ireland, who carry out all their tasks within the country, and contribute full time to their local economies. That’s important to us both because locals know where the best food, souvenirs, local crafts and entertainment can be found, but also because we’re hugely proud of the ingenuity, creativity, friendliness and warmth of our compatriots. We want the world to better know Northern Ireland for those traits.
• Local Communities: by encouraging our guests to hike in lots of different locations across Northern Ireland and not focusing on one specific mountain range in Northern Ireland, we help to support communities that might not otherwise benefit as much from the tourism industry. Yes, in this holiday, we do visit popular areas such as the Mournes, where hiking tourism is most concentrated in Northern Ireland. But in all our itineraries, we seek to encourage visits to areas that are not necessarily considered ‘highlights’ in the guidebooks (e.g. Trostan, the highest point in County Antrim), so we spread the love and benefits to those areas. We also look to manage the “load” and impact on each community and area we visit, by only operating one group at a time, and setting a maximum group size of 6. That way we respect the capabilities of the destinations we visit, while also ensuring our experiences are more personal & authentic for our guests.
• Local Things: as far as possible, we always seek to source items, produce and ingredients that are made or grown in either Northern Ireland or Ireland as much as reasonably possible (and failing that the rest of the UK). Both because those local items and brands are superb quality, but also to ensure that the air miles behind everything we use are at a minimum.
• Local Businesses: As far as we can, we also seek to buy all the items and services we need from local, independent suppliers (wherever those things are made). This includes in particular our amazing local ‘no packaging’ refill store, as well as our local outdoors store, both of which are only 5 miles from our base. We think it is vitally important to put money and support back into our local communities, to strengthen local businesses, families, and individuals across all spectra of Northern Irish life. And if we can’t find something ultra-locally, we widen the search out only as far as we need to – first the whole of Northern Ireland, then Ireland, then the UK, then Europe.
• Local Knowledge: Before our guests arrive with us, we send them a playlist of some of our favourite Northern Irish artists and bands, as well as a list of some books and poetry by Northern Irish literary greats, to build their excitement and anticipation & provide an initial engaging insight into life in Northern Ireland. Given its turbulent past, we also provide each guest with own introduction to Northern Ireland, its history and culture, including advice on the political and social situation in Northern Ireland and on how to navigate discussion on such topics sensitively. Then to deepen that initial insight once guests are here, we have a small library of non-fiction books about all aspects of Northern Ireland and Ireland’s history, along with a further selection of fiction by local authors and poets that we are happy to lend to guests.
• Local Experiences: Getting out and walking, talking & exploring among the natural beauty, stunning scenery, warm welcomes & interesting history of Northern Ireland does the best job of giving our guests the deepest appreciation for the location they are in. But each of the areas we hike offer lots of opportunities to visit and interact with local artisans, craftspeople, environmental projects and attractions in Northern Ireland so our guests get an even deeper understanding of the Northern Irish people. Depending on our guests’ interests, we encourage them to include visits local, independent breweries & distilleries, food producers, textile manufacturers, potters & ceramicists, artists, historic, cultural or environmental attractions, and sporting events such as GAA, within their bespoke itineraries, wherever we hike. On this holiday in particular, the rural location of the Antrim Hills and Mournes mean that a lot of the nearest opportunities relate to keeping old traditional industries and ways of life going: for example, a local manufacturer of the hurling sticks & sliotar balls used in the Gaelic sport of hurling, and a traditional hand-loom weaver producing beautiful fabrics, rugs, scarves and cushions. We always accompany our guests on these experiences, to help answer any questions they may have so they have an informative, fun and hassle free holiday while also fostering a genuinely deep connection with our wee homeland & making a positive difference to local communities.
• Local Support: We further support and give back to our local community by providing free group treks to organisations and charities working with local youth groups and disadvantaged local communities.
In these ways, we help to maintain jobs in a relatively remote part of the United Kingdom and ensure that tourism spend filters through into the local economies across Northern Ireland, while also being a helpful, and not overwhelming, presence on the local community, and reducing the risk of an area changing environmentally due to repeated exposure to tourism.