A family has said they are "so much happier" after leaving their steady jobs in the UK to follow their dream of setting up an alpaca farm in Ireland. When Ruth Newton and her husband Stewart moved to Ireland from the north-east of England in August 2017, they left behind their full-time jobs as mental health nurses for the NHS to move to a quaint little town in the west of Ireland.
Alongside their son Charlie (15), the Newton family decided to fulfil their dream of living on a rural farm surrounded by animals- or what ended up being mostly alpacas.
"It was very stressful. It got too much, it was difficult to find the work life balance. As a family we knew something had to change," Ruth told Independent.ie.
"We thought to ourselves, if we won the lotto, what would we do? We didn't win the lotto, but we all decided we wanted to live in the country with animals."
The family looked at parts of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland at first before settling on the idyllic Curraghduff Farm in Oughterard, Co Galway, overlooking Lough Corrib.
Ruth explains that the family knew they had to have some sort of income coming in, and together they came up with the idea of opening a 'glamping' (glamorous camping) facility - accompanied by alpacas.
"It's so random isn't it," Ruth laughs.
"When we moved in we thought 'we have to make some money', just to get by. The goal is to offer family sized teepee tents for an eco-friendly glamping experience but we're just waiting on planning permission.
"I went to a glamping conference in the UK and it was there I met an alpaca breeder. I fell in love with everything about them, from the noises they make to how they interact with people. We hope to incorporate the alpacas and start doing artist weekends too."
With eight alpacas currently living on the farm and a baby on the way, the family decided to offer the 'Ultimate Alpaca Experience' to members of the public, starting next month.
Each alpaca has a name, including four named after characters from the hit TV show Peaky Blinders; Little John, Alfie, Tommy and Arthur. For €20, animal lovers can walk through the scenic countryside with their very own alpaca.
"We're planning on making it a two-hour experience where people can meet and greet the alpacas. We'll match people with an alpaca to suit their personality, some of them are more timid, and we'll walk around the nearby land," Ruth said.
"We'll be taking our time walking them and there will also be photo opportunities. People can also bring a picnic if they spot somewhere nice along the way."
Ruth says she's been "overwhelmed" with the interest so far, and that the family have no regrets about starting a new life in Galway.
"We've never looked back, we love it here. Everyone is so friendly and the community has welcomed us with open arms, it’s a much better lifestyle.
"We've got less money but we're much happier, that’s what so brilliant."
More information on Curraghduff Farm and the Ultimate Alpaca Experience can be found on their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/alpacaglampingfarm/