Bronagh O’Rourke runs an eco-tourism business, alongside her husband, Cathal, just outside the village of Boston in county Clare.
They diversified their 500-acre farm, which is located in the Burren National Park, by establishing the Burren Farm Experience.
The tour of their farm offers an authentic insight into the agriculture, archaeology and history of the area, which Bronagh describes as a “polished, rustic experience”.
She is a Cavan native, born into a farming family in Ballyconnell, who later became publicans in Cavan Town. She studied sports therapy in the U.K., before forging a career in pharmaceutical sales.
She met her husband at the Galway Races and after they got married, she left her beloved home soil and settled on Cathal’s farm in the ‘banner county’.
“When I saw the land and the farm where Cathal was from, it was a no-brainer that I wanted to come and live here,” she told That’s Farming.
Bronagh admits that it took a while to adjust to life in her new surroundings, having always lived in a town and also the change from her career in sales.
“I just got on with it”, she added, with looking after a young family and trying to help her husband on the farm being her main priorities.
“With the way beef has gone, I wanted to help my husband as much as I could as he’s completely involved in agriculture.”
The couple have three young girls, and this fuelled Bronagh’s decision to leave the pharmaceutical industry. She decided to stay at home with their children and do “something with the farm”.
She saw an opportunity to make the most of the large numbers of tourists in their area. “I felt it was something that was needed, something authentic. There are a lot of pet farms around and kid’s experiences but nothing for tourists that are looking for something different or unique and a proper sense of Ireland.”
“I decided to explore the options and did a tour guiding course two years ago.”
“Then last year, we advertised it ourselves to see if we could get some people and tours in to have a look.”
The tour groups they’ve had so far have been pleased by the variety of their farm. Along with the working farm, tour groups have the opportunity to see and explore an ancient forest, three national monuments, a lake and the limestone pavement of The Burren National Park.
“It seems people coming on their holiday want a little flavour of everything,” she added.
The couple found it difficult to source information and advice when they began adding an ecotourism aspect to their enterprise.
The Cavan native forged a connection with a local group called ‘Women in Business’, which is an ACORNS scheme, an initiative which supports female entrepreneurs living in rural Ireland.
“I found that really good in terms of knowing where to direct your energy,” she explained.
“We create business plans with them, and we meet once-a-month. We are given a mentor and we can bounce questions off her.”
Bronagh and Cathal have first-hand experience of the work and dedication it takes to get a business like this off the ground, and what she’s most proud of is the recognition they’ve received for their hard work.
“Just to get recognition from people to say you’re on the right track, this is what tourists want.”
“Tourism is a huge part of the story of this part of Ireland and we’re lucky because of that.” explained the 2019 Corrib Oil Women in Farming Awards finalist.
Bronagh sees a bright future for ecotourism and hopes that the next generation will be able to introduce new ideas when their time comes, and further diversify their farm.
She has a desire to give the tourists of the area “a real sense of Ireland” and become an expert in her field. Their goal is to become the best tourist experience in the West of Ireland.
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