Slieve Aughty – lrish Eco retreat

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Slieve Aughty
Welcome to Galway!

Welcome to rural Ireland!

Slieve Aughty Eco Centre – is a couple of hours drive West from Dublin. Deep into the Galway countryside it is a unique destination with a range of eco accommodation and glamping options. It’s restaurant is entirely organic using only fresh local produce.

The horse riding centre has facilities for lessons , hacking out and even riding holidays. We stayed in The Three Towers Eco House where all the rooms are individually designed with different quirky touches.   All natural materials are used here. -Stone, marble, glass and wood are everywhere and tasteful muted colours. The rooms don’t have TVs and the Wifi isn’t poor. Luckily there are plenty of other activities to keep you occupied.

Slieve Aughty
Sleep well

In the grounds of the main house the house there are other eco cottages which offer more private accommodation for groups. There’s even a Tipi outside next to the the organic garden, which is a fun place to stay in the summer months. Kids will love staying in the quirky loft rooms of the cottages and climbing the ladders to bed – there is an awful lot here for families to enjoy.

Slieve Aughty
Lazing in the loft

Ecotourism Ireland

The centre is part of Ecotourism Ireland. Ecotourism is defined as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people”  Slieve Aughty provides a low impact, sustainable holiday option set in the heart of Ireland’s natural landscape.

Families staying here can explore the natural landscape of rural Ireland while eating home grown, fresh food, and sleeping in comfort. This all with a minimal carbon footprint and maximum opportunities to enjoy country living.

Slieve Aughty
Eco cottage

The centre is the brainchild of Esther and Hugo Zyderlaan who moved to Ireland from Holland in 1978.  They have created this destination from the rugged land they first purchased here back then.

Esther has tended her Organic garden for over 35 years and it is certified by the Irish Organic Farmers and Growers Association. All of the salad greens and herbs used at the centre come from this garden. In the summer there are berries and apples ready to make into desserts for the cafe and restaurant. Mushrooms collected from the forest in season, and cheese and eggs are from local farms are also on the menu. There are even organic gardening workshops on offer.

Glamping in the garden!

Particularly popular for weddings, the centre is used for all kinds of events and  family parties. It has an outdoor pizza oven, which cooks home made pizzas for guests every Friday. There are outbuildings where children can enjoy craft workshops too, another option to keep them busy. The cafe is open for day visitors and there is a fully licensed bar too.

What do you think of a soft border for Ireland? I’ve always liked a soft border..

Riding at Slieve Aughty

There are 35 horses at the centre, suitable for all abilities. There is a selection of steeds for children and adults, beginners and more experienced riders. Most are are Irish draft/blood crosses or Connemaras,  the famous  Irish grey ponies.

Some excellent cross country jumps set up in the surrounding woods and countryside, offer a challenge for the more accomplished rider. There is also a show jumping course made from natural elements like fallen trees. The cross country course covers about 25 acres and there are a number of different types to jumps to try. We came across Dead Man’s Jump which looked like  man asleep on a fence with his wellies sticking out!

Riding in the Emerald forest

You can have a lesson here in the school or ride out hacking. If you are a cross country jumping fan you can actually book a Cross Country Training Holiday here. Guests spend a week learning the skills to be confident jumping in the open. This is a really interesting option for a riding holiday and not something I have seen elsewhere.  The cross country course is also available for hire for riding clubs and pony clubs.

Never look a gift shop in the mouth..

Slieve Aughty – watch out for the Little People!

The countryside here is great for exploring. I enjoyed a ride through the Emerald Forest with Silvia from Italy, who was here for a residential horse riding holiday. The rocks and trees were dripping with bright green moss which gave the whole place a very magical feel. If a leprechaun had strolled around the corner I would not have been surprised at all.

It’s all happening in the kitchen

The food here is fresh and wholesome. I particularly enjoyed the huge bowl of fresh salad leaves served up at every meal. The home-made wild garlic pesto is also quite delicious.  There is even venison on the menu occasionally, after the deer in the woods have been culled in the winter. Left over produce become jam, preserves or pickles for use in the kitchen. 

The Gnome is in.

If you have small children with you, or simply believe in the little people, you must take time out to visit the Slieve Aughty Enchanted Forest. In a grove of native trees nearby, there is an estate of fairy homes.  Gnomes, trolls and witches live here side by side.

Slieve Aughty – the luck of the Irish

You can wander through the woodland and spot their various dwellings with a special map you pick up at reception. You can even sprinkle some fairy dust and make a wish. Write down your wish on the supplied luggage tag, and then attach it to a wishing tree. It’s fun to read the wishes from the children who have been there before.

I wish..

‘for my Grandad to be happy in heaven,’

‘A transformer and a trampoline,’

‘To grow up to be a lovely girl,’

‘To play for Cork and be successful!’

The wishing tree is another special feature of this special place because it can spark the imagination of the young or even the young at heart.

My wish!

The Slieve Aughty Centre is a great place to visit, full of eclectic items and individual style.  It gives a chance to really get away from the stresses and strains of modern life and discover your inner Irish country self. Why not check out this Galway gem set in the heart of the Emerald Isle?

Anyone for tea?



  1. It is a wonderful place to stay!
    It was a pleasure for me to meet you and reading your great article it reminds me the nice time I spent there?

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