Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Friday 20 July 2018

How these farmers turned their grass-based farms into tourist attractions

Claire Fox

Claire Fox

While watching a field of cows graze or sitting down for a simple chat and a scone are everyday activities for many of us in Ireland, tourists from all corners of the globe are flocking to West Cork to do just that.

West Cork Farm Tours are a group of five farmers -three dairy, one suckler and one pig - who have opened up their unique farms to tourist groups looking to get close to nature along the Wild Atlantic Way.

Denis and Colette O'Donovan regularly welcome tourists to their 70 hectare dairy farm in Glandore, Co Cork. Denis said the idea for the farm tours was a joint concept that evolved between the farmers and the Celtic Ross Hotel in Rosscarbery.

"We're 12 months in gestation. We had all done well in The Southern Star and Celtic Ross West Cork Farming Awards and decided to start welcoming tourists on to our farms as we felt we had a unique story to tell.

"Tourists can then stay in the Celtic Ross, so it's a win-win for ourselves and the hotel as it's a joint package. Neil Grant, general manager at the Celtic Ross has been very supportive to us in the process," says Denis who has a dairy herd of 150.

The "unique story" that Denis and his fellow host farmers have is that they are all grass-based, which visitors from abroad often find fascinating, he says.

"Our one common denominator is that we're all grass based farmers and we're very passionate about what we do and we'll tell our story to anybody who'll listen."

He adds that while they haven't had any Irish tourists visit their farms yet, plenty have travelled from abroad to trek through their land either by foot or by trailer.

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"We recently had a group from Austria and some from the University of Texas. The Texas group reckon they'll come back every year. It's weather dependent but they can walk through the farm or go by trailer depending how far away the cows are. For some who have never been on a trailer it can be a very exciting experience for them," he adds.

With pub culture dwindling in rural Ireland, Denis believes the farm tours offer tourists a special chance to meet locals.

"They love chatting to my parents or meeting my young lad. We give them a scone and some tea at our kitchen table and they can sample some of our Carbery cheese. We tell them stories they wouldn't hear otherwise and show them areas off the beaten track that they wouldn't be able to find on any map," he says.


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