The June Bank Holiday weekend traditionally signals the start of a summer season that promises a calendar filled with festivals, outdoor activities, holidays, and, hopefully, warm and dry weather.
For many of us a holiday is about doing nothing but relaxing in the sun, and that decrees that thousands of Irish people will flock to the beach resorts of mainland Europe for a one or two-week holiday to soak up the rays. It is now part of our Irish culture and it is perfectly understandable. But what about the rest of the summer, days off, the weekends? Admittedly Ireland cannot provide guaranteed sun, but let us not forget about all the fantastic places to see and activities to enjoy right here in Galway county.
How many have grown up in Galway and never been to the Aran Islands? Just a seven-minute flight away, or less than an hour boat ride, and you can immerse yourself into the craggy island landscape of stone that has inspired some of Ireland's greatest writers and poets and feel a million miles away. How many have enjoyed a summer's picnic in Renville Park where the children can delight in the simple pleasure of kicking a ball around? Have you yet discovered the ancient fortress of the O'Flaherty clan that is Aughnanure Castle in Oughterard, tread the corals at Trá an Dóilin in Carraroe, or walked the ancient Mamean pilgrimage track for a spectacular view of the Twelve Bens Mountain range? And one day will you take that river cruise up the Corrib you have been promising yourself for years?
How many of us would say: "Yes, I have heard about it from others, but never experienced it for myself."
So why don't we start our Discover Your Own Backyard campaign similar to that developed in Melbourne, Australia. With the co-operation of councils and tourism interests, it has gone a long way to educating Melbourne residents about things to see and do in their local area, raise awareness of what is on offer, and also helped to build community pride.
You do not have to have oodles of money to travel in your own backyard, but a mindset to explore. So if you suffer from “taking for granted what's in my own backyard” syndrome, go on, find the adventure close to home. You will not be disappointed, and it will also keep some tourism euros in our county and country.