Southern Star Article

We’re in the paper today but we’re not an Eco Village ! It should have said Eco Tourism…

Here’s the full article I submitted.


*When and why the Goleen Harbour story started? What was your motivation to embark on such a plan? 

The idea for Goleen Harbour came about in summer 2014 when I was out cycling and followed a for sale sign for a coastal farm with period ruin. I cycled up the farm track and came to a large flat field with a view out to Fastnet, Cape Clear, Baltimore and the entrance to Crookhaven. I immediately thought ‘camp site’. I then crossed the field to the harbours edge and found a rocky outcrop, standing there I really began visioning the potential of a place to stay, to relax, a place to have adventures and to learn, a place apart on the Wild Atlantic Way.

I had spent a lot of my time over the previous 15 years working in environmental education and the promotion of sustainable, resilient communities, largely through our group Sustain West Cork. In 2005 we put on a weekend festival in Bantry featuring amongst others, Lord David Putnam, Friends of the Earth founder Jonathan Porritt and Christy Moore. We planted Community Orchards in Bantry, Dunmanway and Skibbereen. After delivering Cultivate’s Community Powerdown course in Ballydehob and Dunmanway I ran it in Kilcrohane this led to co-founding the Sheep’s Head Producers group. I’ve also been programming and speaking on these issues at festivals such as Electric Picnic, Body & Soul and Cork’s own Townlands for over 10 years. My immersion into the world of sustainability has been both challenging and interesting, it’s given me a broad understanding of renewable energy, green building, waste management and biodiversity. At the same time I’ve been involved in community eco tourism projects such as the creation of the Sheep’s Head cycle route with the Sheep’s Head Way for whom I was part of the EDEN award winning team, presenting on Sustainability. I’ve advised on eco tourism businesses both commercial and non commercial.

All of this I had been doing for free which, if I’m honest, had impacted on my own financial sustainability. I could see this coastal farm could give me the chance to bring all these skill sets into play along with my professional skills as a designer. It was a potential project that could make us financially sustainable along with benefiting the environment. My partner Melanie Furniss is a bodywork/ massage therapist, and gardener, again skills that compliment the development and delivery of the project.

Is there much support for this kind of business in this country? What’s the potential do you think to develop eco tourism? 

In terms of government support it’s not an easy environment for smaller like us operators trying to develop a viable all year round business. The last LEADER programme was well funded and delivered support for hundreds of eco tourism projects nationwide. It’s well publicised that the the delivery has changed hands and the funding has been slashed, especially here in West Cork. However at the time of writing we have an Expression of Interest in with LEADER West Cork and are also looking at a small amount of funding for Kayak equipment etc through BIM’s FLAG programme. West Cork LEO have an on line trading voucher scheme we will apply for. We were very unfortunate with the timing, if we had been a year earlier, and able to avail of the previous LEADER programme, we would probably been fully developed by now. Fáilte Ireland are helping with their 3 Head Visitor Experience Development Programme which we are very involved with. We’ve been very fortunate to have investors, a local couple who could see the potential benefits for the area, without them we would not have been able to have come this far.

The local community has been very supportive, Goleen Community Council particularly have allowed us use of their sports hall and pitch when necessary and will be helping us develop our 3km harbourside loop walk that will start and finish on the main street. WCDP’s Rural Recreation Officer Patricia Bevan is also helping us with the walk. We also supply organic vegetables to many of the eateries in Goleen and Crookhaven.

There is a tremendous opportunity to establish Ireland, particularly the West coast as the Eco Adventure Playground of Europe. Eco Tourism remains a very strong growth sector and that is recognised by Fáilte Ireland, however the development of the sector is being hampered yet again by the lack of “joined up thinking” by our government. How can we credibly market West Cork as an Eco Tourism destination when you have decisions like the granting of the license for Mechanical Kelp Harvesting in Bantry Bay ? Time and time again our authorities and public bodies seem to be working against each other rather than with a common aim. The County Council’s planning fees were also very high for our commercial application this does not help a business like ours that will potentially bring much needed employment to the area to start up. Maybe a rebate sum could be offered, backed by the government, per full time equivalent job created ?

*Are people’s attitudes to the environment and sustainable living changing in the area do you think? Do you think schools need to play a greater role? The Government? 

I’ve been encouraged in the last couple of years to see that people are at last reacting in large numbers in a positive way in actions that will help the environment. For example the movement against single use plastic bottles and plastic in general really seems to have gained traction now and the rise of Veganism. I’m not saying everyone should stop eating meat but if you can reduce it as much as possible in your diet, we don’t have to be eating it every day it didn’t use to be the way many of us eat it 2 or 3 times a day now. It is a hugely energy intensive industry that produces a massive amount of carbon emissions.

Our agriculture sector is mainly beef and dairy with very little diversification, I’d like to see a move back as the land allows, to cereals, vegetable, trees and other crops plus grass being grown as a feed stock for Anaerobic Digestions to produce energy.

I’ve also been encouraged to see people in their 20’s and 30’s really standing up and saying no we don’t want to live this way, we believe there is another way and we’d like to demonstrate it. A great example of this are our surfer friends Fergal Smith, Matt Smith, Mitch Corbett and their partners at Moy Hill Community Farm near Lahynch who are inspiring others and using their public profiles to do something very positive for the planet. I read an interesting article last year that pointed out that that the Skinny Jean was the last big fashion trend and that has been around in various evolutions for what at least 5 years now? When I was growing up it was flares one year drainpipes the next etc. Young consumers just don’t buy into those kind of fashion trends any more which is positive. We’re seeing a much needed shift back to “make do and mend”. Our greatest challenge is the fact that our kids are fast loosing touch with nature I read this week that 64% of UK children play outside less than once a week and 20% have never climbed a tree ! I don’t think those statistics would be much better here. Of course a lot of this has to do with us fast becoming a nation of screen addicts but it’s more than that, parent’s are scared to let their kids play unsupervised, outside any longer due to “stranger danger’ etc when the stats in the UK at least, say the chances of abduction are the same as they were in the 70’s. Kids time is taken up with often pressurised, after school, supervised activities when they used to be out collecting frog spawn, climbing trees and building dens. They are not getting the chance to learn from their own mistakes and build confidence, this is producing a generation that feels unable to control it’s own destiny, kids are anxious and stressed. Just five minutes’ “green exercise” can produce rapid improvements in mental wellbeing and self-esteem, with the greatest benefits experienced by the young, according to a study at the University of Essex. We have a fast growing youth mental health crisis in this country which could lead to an unsustainable society to me this is as much of a sustainability issue as plastic pollution. At Goleen Harbour we offer a chance for kids and their parents to get off their screens and back into nature, in time we hope to offer a place where those in crisis and trauma can come and find the space and time to get back in touch with themselves and the earth. Melanie has worked with Yazidi refugees in Greece and is studying trauma release through bodywork, her focus is very much on calming the central nervous system and giving clients tools to both recognise their need to repair and to apply those tools. One important step schools could take would be to only allow mobile devices where appropriate, for lessons not at break time. I’ve heard that kids in playgrounds now are stood around staring at and swiping their phone screens instead of playing and talking to each other. If 90% of your social interaction is taking place in the virtual world what are you going to do when you have a real world crisis and you’ve lost the ability to relate one to one ? Every school should be teaching our children to grow fruit and vegetables too.

 What easy things can, and in your opinion, should people be doing on a day to day basis to improve sustainability and protect the environment? 

We’ve always found that it’s much easier to change peoples behavior when it results in saving money. There are simple things like only boil enough water in your kettle that you actually need rather than almost filling it each time. Turn lights off where you don’t need them. Only put a wash on when you have a full load and air dry your clothes whenever possible. Don’t buy too much perishable food etc. Then there are steps you can take which might cost more but will cost less in the long run, ie energy efficiency, home insulation, and renewable energy for heat and light there are grants available from SEAI and they are soon to launch a Micro Generation scheme for Solar PV which is long overdue. Switch to a hybrid or electric car if you can afford it. We should be purchasing locally grown, seasonal Organic food whenever possible in that order, we should not be buying products that contain Palm oil or micro beads. Walk or cycle to your destination if at all possible.  Get out into nature with the whole family as much as you can; in West Cork we are blessed to be living in one of the most beautiful places on earth (on a good day 😉 ) get out there and experience it !

*What things do you and your family do in your day to day life? 

Along with the easy things above we live some of the time off grid on a Solar PV system which really makes you energy conscious. I have only taken one long hall flight in more than 10 years. We’ve planted more than 8000 native trees, we grow a lot of our own vegetables. Clothing wise I buy from companies such as Howies who use recycled, natural and organic materials. We recycle and compost and end up with very little “rubbish”. I try to limit my sons screen time to 2 hours a day and closely monitor what he is doing on line. We only burn wood and some turf in our stove not coal of any type, I believe coal including smokeless should be banned for health reasons as well as carbon emissions.

*Any plans to reintroduce the Sustain West Cork Weekend? 

No there aren’t but I am curating and managing the Village Green at Townlands Carnival again this year which will feature Green Crafts and Big Bubbles Kids areas along with Earth Matters exhibits and the Village Hall with a programme of inspiring talks, music, spoken word and comedy. This year the festivals Sustainability Policy will feature:- encouraging car pooling via face book, reusable cups for the bar, recycling on site , composting toilets on site, the wildlife survey carried out last year, smart energy metering as last year, and a possible carbon off set tree planting initiative on site via Festival Forests.

Where are you with the plans for the activity centre and the camp site? 

We are creating a place to stay, to relax, a place to have adventures and to learn. a place apart on the Wild Atlantic Way.

This year (subject to a succsessful grant application) We will be adding 3 Luxury Geodesic Dome tents sat on decking with outdoor kitchens that will blend into their cliff top settings on the edge of Goleen Harbour and Ballydevlin Bay complimented by a cliff top Hot Tub. We will also have 2 contemporary, high spec, wooden Eco Cabins. Our setting is a beautiful, unspoilt, historic, Organic Farm on the East side of the sheltered harbour at Goleen West Cork. We’ll have a camp site shower and toilet block with a large stretch tent for a social space suitabe for weddings and events. We’d love to run a week long family camp with workshops for the whole family, kids teepee making, Seaweed Safaris, Camp Craft, Fish and Cheese Smoking, Yoga and Massage etc. with music in the evenings. Activity wise we will be adding Target / Field Archery to compliment our Archery Tag combat sport game. We are working on 3 cycle tours 2 taking in the 3 Heads of Mizen, Sheeps Head and Beara, one with luxury accommodation, fully supported, a Bike Packing experience and one Ebike Food & Drink tour. We hope to be adding Sea Kayaking to our activities with Seaweed Foraging and will be opening our 3km harbourside loop walk to the public. We’ll be running our highly complimented Kids Camps again but not so many, places will be limited. Plus watch out for our Wild Nights Out developed wirth our briliant Activities Manager Shawn Harridine, launching this season!

All our actions are guided by 3 objectives.

  • To improve the biodiversity and the environment in which we are working.
  • To create sustainable local employment and strengthen the local economy.
  • To encourage healthy, vibrant, sustainable communities

We will shortly be running Tree Planting Days to replace those that have failed in our native woodland, to get invovled follow our Goleen Harbour facebook page, twitter and instagram.  We are also interested in talking to investors large and small and are open to donations.


For more info visit



Geodesic Dome tents merge into the stone on the cliffs with our Fastnet Field Camp Site and Kayaks having launched from Castle Strand.








2 responses to Southern Star Article

  1. Memento Mori says:

    I’m glad your post popped up on my reader today. The work you’re doing is needed and important. Best of luck with Goleen Harbour–the view looks amazing!. 🙂


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