The following is a transcript from the LIVE Community Chat held here at TheWildGeese.com on Friday, June 13, 2014 with with Michael Regan-Waugh of Wild West Irish Tours. Some editing has been applied for clarity.
The Wild Geese: Céad míle fáilte, a chairde! So glad to see each one of you who have stopped by for this evening’s LIVE Wild Geese Community Chat here at TheWildGeese.com.
With us from County Sligo, Ireland is Michael Regan-Waugh of Wild West Irish Tours. Welcome, Michael!
Wild West Irish Tours: Thank you so much Ryan!! We are delighted to be associated with The Wild Geese for this chat! Welcome everyone and thanks for coming! Trish and I are sitting here in Moneygold, Grange, County Sligo, looking across at the Isle of Innismurray...lovely.
The Wild Geese: Michael, how about beginning this evening by telling us just a bit about what Wild West Irish Tours does, and what sets you guys and your tours apart from the rest?
Wild West Irish Tours: We feel that the best way to experience Ireland, is with a small group...and we have lived many years in Ireland and have come to know the locals, and the places that you may never have heard of, but are just magical. We feel like our guests are coming "home" to visit as much as having a tour.
The Wild Geese: Couldn't agree more with that philosophy, Michael.
Patricia A. McAuliffe: What do you consider a small group?
Wild West Irish Tours: Our groups are from 5 to 7, Patricia.
Patricia A. McAuliffe: And do you travel in a people-mover, bus, or....?
Wild West Irish Tours: We use a comfy mini-bus that can seat 9 people but we stay to 5 to 7. We really depend so much on our local friends...the musicians, artists, farmers, folklorists etc...to make this so intimate and authentic.
Wild West Irish Tours: By the way...welcome to our "Wild Westies" - these folks have been with us on a WWIT. :-)
Debbie Wolfe: It IS authentic. I did one of the big tours back in 1988. It was nice but too many tourists!
Fran Reddy: Where are some of the off-the-beaten-track places that you visit?
Wild West Irish Tours: We have places that you might not even find on Google...including a place called Serpents Rock. It is actually amazing...will make you forget about Giant's Causeway!
The Wild Geese: I think you guys are on to something there, Michael. It's the benefit of having a guide who knows the best places to go without losing the freedom like you do on a huge tour.
Patricia A. McAuliffe: What would a typical day on tour include?
Wild West Irish Tours: We have our B & B out by the ocean and start off usually around 9:30....we are based on the coast, but we have the mountains right here as well, so there are so many incredible places we go....including Innismurray Island which is simply unbelievable. We have friends like Author Joe McGowan, who join us for parts of the tour....
Debbie Wolfe: And Leo, the amazing and knowledgable Irish farmer !
The Wild Geese: Ireland's northwest has so many areas that are under-appreciated. Counties Sligo and Leitrim are filled with unbelievably beautiful places, and so few tourists ever get the chance to see them. I suppose I am a bit biased as an O'Rourke, but I love the Northwest.
Wild West Irish Tours: We absolutely love north Leitrim in particular.
The Wild Geese: That being said, I don't want the secret to get out to TOO many people about the northwest. Then it wouldn't be so uncrowded and pleasant. :-)
Gerry Regan: Michael, what makes Sligo different than any other part of Ireland -- is it the geography, the mindset, or an interplay between them both? It almost seems to me to be unique from the rest of Ireland, the experience of visiting and traveling there.
Wild West Irish Tours: Well, I have to mention W.B. Yeats, whose birthday we celebrate today. Yeats would have roamed the countryside, talking to all the old folks and drinking in all the stories....
Patricia A. McAuliffe: I stopped wondering why Yeats wrote poetry when I traveled around Sligo. I was ready to give it a try, too.
Fran Reddy: Patricia, I did ;)
Gerry Regan: Almost as if there's a 'snob' factor -- that Sligo is so rich with culture and breathtaking landscape. ;-)
Wild West Irish Tours: We have the mystical Knocknarea, where Queen Maeve ruled and is saifd to be buried on the top.... Yeats wrote a wonderful poem called "The Stolen Child" and in it, the faeries are taking a child to all these beautiful places in Sligo.....and we feel like we are the hand of the faerie in many cases.
Fran Reddy: Love that poem.
Gerry Regan: How would you say Sligo is different than, let's say Donegal or Mayo? And do Wild Westies get to visit those counties too?
Wild West Irish Tours: We actually do go to Donegal, Leitrim, Sligo, and Mayo at times...along with Roscommon and a night in Dublin. We have also gone to Clare and Derry...but the Northwest is one place that has not been spoiled by the "Celtic Tiger."
Wild West Irish Tours: Long before we started WWIT, we always thought that THE Northwest was magical...but forgotten.
Patricia A. McAuliffe: There are faeries on Knocknarea. When I got halfway up and wanted to turn around, a father and son appeared out of nowhere and 'shortened' the distance with their stories and company. As I placed my stone on the cairn up there I turned and they were gone.
Debbie Wolfe: Michael, could you say a little about the September tour to Clare and Galway?
Jill McLaughlin: WOOT! Clare!
Wild West Irish Tours: Debbie - we are going to be visiting the "hidden East Clare" and surrounding area. This is where my family is from and there is a treasure trove of music down there...we will be there much more next year.
Gerry Regan: Is that due to more restrictions on wanton development, Michael? That might be beyond the scope of this chat, but I am curious.
Wild West Irish Tours: There just was not the same kind of build up here, and we are so grateful.
The Wild Geese: A tremendous regional music style from Sligo / Leitrim as well, especially the flute style.
Wild West Irish Tours: Absolutely. Sligo has such a rich music heritage and we are proud to be very close with the likes of Cathy Jordan and Dervish.
Gerry Regan: It sounds like some of these tours fill up -- nice problem to have. How early do you recommend booking?
Wild West Irish Tours: We still have some availability for the Autumn but I would book soon. For 2015, we already have people asking for our dates.
Stephen Hogan: Sligo is also hosting the Fleadh Cheoil this year and next.
Wild West Irish Tours: http://www.wildwestirishtours.com/specialtours/ireland-fleadh/
Stephen Hogan: I am so excited to be going on my second WWIT in August that will be focused on the Fleadh!
Wild West Irish Tours: As Steve Hogan mentioned...we have the biggest Irish Festival in the world here this year and we have a great tour for it.
Gerry Regan: Might we create a tour exclusively for members of The Wild Geese -- that's an ambition of ours?
Wild West Irish Tours: We would love that Gerry!!
The Wild Geese: A Wild Geese Wild West Irish Tour would be tremendous. Wild, I'd say. Lots of wildness going on there.
Wild West Irish Tours: Count us in!!!
Gerry Regan: We'll look to make that happen, Michael. 5 to 7 might be fairly easy to produce.
Wild West Irish Tours: And we can do more than one Gerry....sometimes we have a "double tour" where there are two tours going on at the same time...
Gerry Regan: Some interesting, tantalizing possibilities, Michael! Does Cathy Jordan accompany any tours? We saw Dervish perform last March, and I've become a HUGE fan.
Wild West Irish Tours: Cathy Jordan has participated in private sessions for us.
Debbie Wolfe: The nice thing about a small tour is that friendships develop among people who love Ireland.
Wild West Irish Tours: We are also big into Ancestry. Just this week we took a woman home to her great-grandparents home in Mayo ... it was absolutely wonderful...emotional...
Wild West Irish Tours: Our Ancestry tour: http://www.wildwestirishtours.com/specialtours/emigrant-trail/
Fran Reddy: Awesome. Your tours sound simply amazing.
Wild West Irish Tours: Thanks Fran - we really are so fortunate to have the support of local people to help us make these so memorable.
The Wild Geese: Michael, I'm curious how you guys came to focus on the northwest. You said your ancestors came from east Clare, so how did Leitrim, Sligo, Mayo, Donegal become the focus? Was it just the appeal of their unspoiled and WILD nature?
Wild West Irish Tours: I came to Sligo many many years ago and just fell in love. I lived and worked here and I couldn't get over just how amazing the area was, and yet, no one seemed to know about it.
Gerry Regan: Michael, is there one particular spot in Sligo that invariably evokes the most emotional responses from tour-goers?
Wild West Irish Tours: Gerry - Innismurray seems to be the crown jewel for us...there is a 6th century monastery on this abandoned island...and we always have the island to ourselves.
Debbie Wolfe: Another thing I loved....nothing is set in stone. If we saw something interesting, a stop was made for pictures, etc.
The Wild Geese: What Debbie says there is my main "beef" with the big tours. Rigid itinerary that has no room for changing plans slightly when something is discovered. Sounds like Wild West Irish Tours don't have that same inhibiting rigidity, which is fantastic.
Fran Reddy: My hubby's ancestors came from Sligo so we'd love to see it.
Patricia A. McAuliffe: Do you have sing-songs on the tour bus? :-)
Wild West Irish Tours: We have sings songs in the pubs - so bring your party piece Patricia...
Catherine Brenda Johnson: Michael, any thoughts yet on a Christmas tour?
Wild West Irish Tours: We had a Christmas tour last year...after Christmas and would love to have another this year. Can we count you in Catherine?
Gerry Regan: Do you guys offer any' living history' -- actors interpreting local figures from Sligo's past?
Wild West Irish Tours: We go to great places like Parkes (O'Rourkes Castle), Sligo Abbey, where the guides bring it all to life. We also have Michael Roberts, who has written a book on myths and legends, join us at Carrowmore Megalithic cemetery for storytelling.
Patricia A. McAuliffe: 'Stories' at Carrowmore...perfect!
Wild West Irish Tours: Carrowmore Tombs and Innismurray recently made National Geographic’s 10 places to visit in Ireland. But they better know a boatman to get out there...we do!! :-)
Catherine Brenda Johnson: As you know, I've been taking care of my 81 yr old sick father...it's going to depend on his condition. But I'm going soon!!
Gerry Regan: Catherine, hope your Dad is on the mend! Has he been to Sligo?
Catherine Brenda Johnson: No, he wanted so bad to go with me...which would have been wonderful after we went to Alaska together. But he is very, very weak now.
The Wild Geese: Sorry to hear that, Catherine. :-(
Wild West Irish Tours: We wish you and your dad well Catherine. Catherine is another "Wild westie" here today. :)
Jill McLaughlin: Catherine, bless YOU!!
Cynthia Neale: I'm not good at this, but I'm here! A friend and I are going to the west in August. I've been a few times and love the west for many reasons, but especially for the music and dancing.
Wild West Irish Tours: Hi Cynthia - the west is the best for music!
Stephen Hogan: Are you going to the Fleadh Cynthia?
Cynthia Neale: I set dance, but will be at the Redhead Conference in Crosshaven, Cork for a long weekend and then to a retreat at Anam Cara in Berea Peninsula. Any idea for set dancing from Anam Cara in Cork?
The Wild Geese: Michael, what kind of trip duration are we typically talking about on a Wild West Irish Tour? How many days?
Wild West Irish Tours: Our adventures are about 9 days. By then, you have done so much!!
Catherine Brenda Johnson: Our group missed out on the Island because of rough water. When I go back (and over my fear of sea sickness), I really want to go out there.
Debbie Wolfe: If any of you are sitting on the fence about a trip to the West of Ireland, I encourage you to make the decision to go. Life is short and you will not want to miss this!
The Wild Geese: Well said, Debbie.
Catherine Brenda Johnson: Debbie, that's why I hit my savings account. What was I waiting for?
Wild West Irish Tours: Our last tour this year will involve music again...with Sheryl Crow, of all people: http://www.wildwestirishtours.com/specialtours/sligo-live/
Catherine Brenda Johnson: We got to see Van Morrison on ours - small venue of 2500 people.
Wild West Irish Tours: That was special Catherine
Kirby Barrett: The West is The Best !
Cynthia Neale: How about a Wild West Set Dancing Tour?
Wild West Irish Tours: Hi Cynthia, - glad you mentioned that. As it happens, we have the Ring of Kerry Dance Group from Gaithersburg, Maryland, coming over next week for a music & Dance orientated tour. We have 21 coming over, which is something we usually do not do...but we love a great ceili and these are special people
The Wild Geese: Michael, I see you guys are based in Richmond, Virginia when in the States, yes?
Wild West Irish Tours: Yes- we are originally from New York and D.C. but live in Richmond hald the year and in Sligo the other half.
The Wild Geese: Okay, folks ... any more questions / comments for Michael this evening?
Patricia A. McAuliffe: Go raibh maith agat a Michael! Very much enjoyed this chat.
Fran Reddy: Very informative Michael, thanks.
Debbie Wolfe: Very nice...blessings to all of you!
Wild West Irish Tours: Thank you so much Patricia!!!! Blessings to you, too!!
The Wild Geese: Thanks so very much to everyone who joined us for this evening’s chat; and thanks especially to Michael Regan-Waugh for talking about the wild west of Ireland and what Wild West Irish Tours are all about.
Stephen Hogan: Slainte!
Wild West Irish Tours: I haven't typed that much since high school!
Fran Reddy: Take care Michael and all. :-)
Wild West Irish Tours: Thank you everyone!!!!
The Wild Geese: Go raibh míle, míle maith agaibh, gach duine, agus oiche mhaith! Thank you very, very much everyone, and good night!'