Covid 19 was like a wrecking ball to our plans for operating Turf Bog Tours during season 2020. As a result of this global pandemic we suspended all Turf Bog Tours for this year.
Assuming that things settle down not just here in Ireland but around the world we hope to be back operating tours in Spring 2021. Since we started operating Turf Bog Tours in 2016, the vast majority of people taking a tour have been from overseas, perhaps Irish people are still too traumatised by their childhood bog experiences to take a tour! Our international visitors have come from USA, Canada, Argentina, Spain, France and UK. Being so reliant on these overseas visitors means that we are hoping that current internatonal travel restrictions will have eased by Spring 2021.
As we work towards Spring 2021 we are actively looking at how we can further enhance the Turf Bog Tour experience for visitors, we have some ideas. Likewise we will continue to use social media to promote Turf Bog Tours and provide that all important connection to Ireland.
Talking of connection to Ireland, at present we have a limited stock of our 2020 vintage turf for sale. If you are yearning for a bit of Irish nostalgia that warms both your heart and hearth this Autumn then place your order here.Posted by
With Summer almost over, we are prepared for the change to the seasons. Plus as we transition into Autumn, there will be some sort of new normal to come once the kids head back to school in early September.
Looking back over the summer months, we have made the most of opportunities to get camping. As mentioned in previous blogs we head to Gortahork in the north west of Donegal.
The wild camping experience has been brilliant. It is a chance to get off grid and even if for just one night, it is good for the soul. Everything is more real and vivid when camping. Food prepared on a gas stove or barbecue tastes better, beer is fresher and a cup of tea is best of all! Why does tea taste so good in the wild? Perhaps its the effort that goes in to it, collecting the fresh spring water for the kettle and then waiting for the whistle of the kettle as it boils on the stove. Adding in the Lyons teabags (only Lyons will do!) to the teapot for the brewing process, the sense of anticipation grows. It is a sensory experience and a chance to appreciate what goes in to a cuppa before drinking it in the most scenic of backdrops.
Then there is a the campfire. Turf and timber combine to provide heat and light. A drum from a washing machine makes for an effective firepit. As the darkness of night advances, the fire becomes a true focal point. Gathered around it, stories are told, jokes are delivered and even singing has been known to fill the night air. A rewind to simpler times, it is a true break from the modern electronic world.
There are of course drawbacks. Rain can make everything more challenging particularly when it comes to packing up camp. However overall the positives far outweigh the negatives, if they didn’t we wouldn’t keep going!
As we head in to Autumn we are thankful for these experiences and hopeful of at least one wild camping expedition before Winter comes.
With the easing of Lockdown restrictions we can now travel anywhere in Ireland once more. No foreign holidays this summer, it is the year of the staycation. Thankfully Ireland has many solutions in this regard.
A wild camping experience is on the cards for myself. I will head to Gortahork in North West Donegal. In my opinion this little corner of Ireland has it all. Amazing scenery comprising stunning beaches, offshore islands, a mountainous backdrop with a sprinkling of turf bogs and all set amidst the rich culture of the Gaeltacht. It is my happy place!
Covid19 has stripped things back and has reminded us of what matters. Experiences over possessions . Local over multinationals. Genuine over fabricated. Therefore in the new world order, going wild camping seems more appropriate than ever.
I am looking forward to sitting by a camp fire (burning turf of course!) with a brew in hand. All I need is the weather – fingers crossed!Posted by
Since our last blog post in May we have had a heatwave which enabled us to get the turf dried and home before the end of May. Unfortunately in early June the weather broke and it has returned to something like normal with an Atlantic influence bringing us wind and rain.
That said the spell of good weather which began in early April was very welcome during Lockdown. It enabled those of us who love the outdoor life to escape into nature or in my case the turf bog.
Incredibly the turf was cut, spread, footed, bagged and brought home by the end of May. That is a record for the McAndrew clan. Some locals suggested that we cut another batch of turf but my instinct correctly said no. Not only has there been a lot of rain since then but I don’t think my “workforce” would have appreciated more work in the bog.
The weather was also conducive to cycling. In May I clocked up 300miles/480km and I went a bit further in June racking up 500miles/800km. This was only possible because we had got the turf home in record time!
However we did have a tough decision to take and that was to suspend Turf Bog Tours for season 2020. It is the right decision we believe in these strange times. We hope to be back in time for season 2021. Fear not though as we will continue to provide regular updates on bog life via our social media channels over the coming months.
In the meantime we we have looked at other revenue streams. We will be making our 2020 vintage turf available for sale. This will be sold in batches over the coming months and to be notified of when these will go on sale, please subscribe to our mailing list on our website
We have also developed our Irish Log Torches which we are now selling. These are perfect for providing heat and light whilst camping or for evenings on the patio. You can even boil a kettle on them! If you are interested drop us an e-mail for a quote.
All in all its been a busy start to summer, long may that continue!Posted by
It has been a while since our last blog post back in February and it feels like everything has changed since then.
The Coronavirus situation and resulting lockdown has curtailed our plans for Turf Bog Tours for the foreseeable future. It has come as a blow to our plans to grow the business but it is much more important that everyone gets safely through these difficult times.
Homeschooling, homeworking, online meetings and social distancing are the new norms. Whilst adapting to this new world order we have still been able to work out on the bog, in line with Irish government direction I may add! The great weather in April enabled us to get this years turf cut in record time, we started on a Thursday and had all cut and spread by the Sunday. Within a week we even had it turned thanks to sunshine and an Easterly breeze.
As to when we will be operating Turf Bog Tours again all depends on the lifting of restrictions on people’s movements and activities. To be honest, I am expecting that it will be 2021 before we can operate tours again.
I was at a conference recently. The theme was all about health and wellbeing. One presentation that really struck a chord was about what to do to keep your brain healthy in order to avoid dementia. Alongside not smoking, reading plenty, eating the recommended daily 5 portions of fruit and vegetables, the odd (small) glass of wine and keeping your BMI below 25, was the concept of walking and talking.
This was music to my ears. Being in the great outdoors is definitely a de-stresser. With the right company, a combination of exercise and a blether is all good. From my own viewpoint, add in the company of a canine (Bailey Dog) and your walking experience is further enhanced!
A Turf Bog Tour has all these ingredients and more. Fantastic scenery, the freshest of air, a sense of peacefulness missing from today’s technology driven world and the opportunity to chat and learn about bygone days. Proof if ever it was needed that it is good to walk and talk. Order your prescription today at www.mcandrewstore.comPosted by
Welcome to our first blog post of 2020. We are currently doing a lot of work behind the scenes in anticipation of season 2020 including marketing and practical preparations. As we near the end of January we are aware that it wont be too long before we are back out working on the turf bog.
We have always been mindful of the environmental pressures on the turf bog, hence we have always cut our turf by spade rather than by machine. This awareness played a part in the decision that we took in summer 2019 to stop selling turf online and to concentrate fully on Turf Bog Tours.
Therefore in 2020 we will cut a smaller area of turf bank than in previous years. Our aim is to still show visitors the process and tradition of turf cutting by spade. All turf produced will be for our own domestic use during the winter months.
In effect out turf bog will become a demonstration turf bank. We strongly believe that the art and tradition of turf cutting should be preserved. We are never failed to be amazed at our visitors enthusiasm for the turf bog and the chance to wield a slean (turf spade) for themselves. It evokes memories and provides a connection to the Ireland of yesteryear. The opportunity for reminiscing and nostalgia are always greatly appreciated by our visitors.
At the same time we will continue to share our knowledge of the turf bog landscape including wildlife, flora and fauna with visitors. We show our visitors that this wilderness is a landscape teeming with life. Moreover we provide an insight in to how our ancient ancestors, the first farmers in Ireland played a huge role in shaping the boglands of Ireland when they cleared the land of forests.
Then there are the positive health benefits of the turf bog, fresh pure air, the sound of nature and a sense of tranquility all under a big sky. If nothing else, a visit to the turf bog including the trek in to the turf bank will confirm that you are closer to nature and is a genuine opportunity to escape today’s increasingly digital world.
Taking everything into consideration, we firmly believe that our Turf Bog Tours strike the perfect balance between tradition and conservation. Here’s to a brilliant season 2020!
As we near the end of December, we take a look back at the year that was 2019. We have selected our favourite photos from each month from January through to December.
The first spell of wintry weather is here. The stove is on nightly now at Turf Bog Tours HQ as we warm ourselves burning the turf cut earlier this year.
In the past week the temperatures have dropped. Whilst it is still technically Autumn, we have had wind and rain from the north followed by hard overnight frosts.
Just last Sunday, Callum and I decided it was the right time to retrieve the turf barrow and turf spades from the bog. We soon realised that it was not the right time! With daylight fast fading as we reached the bog, the heavens truly opened up and we were drenched in no time. Needless to say the form was not good with either of us as we returned home. But at least the turf barrow and spades are now safely stored away until next Spring.
As stated earlier it is at this time of year that we can now sit back and enjoy the fruits of our labours in the form of a turf fire as it burns in the stove. Trips to the turf bog will be few and far between now and the Spring. If truth be told I will miss the turf bog. As you can probably tell I am not one for being cooped up indoors and I suffer from cabin fever. Thankfully Bailey Dog will still require her walks so I have a good reason to get outdoors.
However, it is good to have the time to promote and market Turf Bog Tours. Planning for Season 2020 is well underway. I am currently implementing our marketing plan as spread the word far and wide about Turf Bog Tours. To date we have had folk from Ireland, Scotland, England, USA, Canada, Spain, France and Argentina join us for tours. We are looking forward to welcoming more Turf Bog Tourists from around the world in 2020.
In our previous blog we gave you some recommendations for places to visit in County Donegal. In this blog we provide a snapshot of 5 places near our base here in Belleek that are amazing places to visit.
If you are coming to this part of Ireland to take a Turf Bog Tour you are probably wondering what else there is to see. Wonder no more and go explore these amazing spots in County Donegal which we highly recommend. All of them are within 2 hours of our turf bog!Posted by
The turf bog is not just a unique landscape to admire. It is also home to many animals and birds.
Join us on a Turf Bog Tour and you might spy, hear or see the signs of some of the following wildlife:
Frogs – the damp nature of the bog is ideal for our amphibian friends. From late winter the frog spawn can be found around the bog. By late spring the place is full of frog life.
Lizards – similar to frogs they like the cool damp conditions. Harder to spot but with a bit of luck and knowing where to look you might just spot a turf bog dinosaur.
Deer – harder to spot, ideally you would want to take a dawn or dusk tour. Failing that we can show you deer tracks and signs of where they have eaten the bark from young trees.
Hares – in March the local hare population go a bit mad with the mating season. The turf bog is a great place to spot these speedy mammals.
Cuckoo – the migratory cuckoo bird comes to Ireland in late Spring from Africa and it’s unique call is a sure sign of summer. I have never spotted one but from late April onwards from first light to last you cannot help but hear its distinct call.
Grouse – a game bird that was low in numbers in these parts is making a comeback. I have been given a fright by a grouse or two, mainly caused by Bailey Dog springing them up from the undergrowth. They lie in the heather and take off with a loud call.
Geese – another migratory bird, this time they come to Ireland for the Winter. From October onwards you can hear them flying overhead in V formation The noise of their wingbeat and that distinctive call is an amazing spectacle.
The above are just a taster of the wildlife you can encounter on the turf bog. No matter what time of year you take a Turf Bog Tour there is wildlife to see!