Boyne Valley Activities aim to develop and promote the Boyne Valley as a premier activities and Eco-Tourism destination. We offer a wide range of Eco-Tourism experiences and high octane activities and are committed to responsible tourism in this culturally and archaeologically soaked region. We are currently in the process of getting recertification for the 2018 season.
Environmentally Sustainable Practices
See our Environmental Policy for more information.
Natural Area Focus
Working with landowners: We have agreements in place with all land owners that we use for our river tours and all our products. Provisions of “leave no trace” code of conduct to all visitors with details of it’s implementation by the tourism operator. Boyne Valley Activities have attended “leave no trace” training days and are currently looking at getting certified as leave no trace facilitators for the promotion of the leave no trace principles. Leave no trace handbooks are on display at our centre for our visitors and our staff adhere to their outdoor ethics programme. On our River Tours we regularly bring the visitor in around some of the monuments and insist that no natural stone, help fossils etc are removed or sold.
Ensuring the visitors time is spent in nature: All our products are primarily spent in nature, 100% of the time. All experiences focus around the river and the visitor is surrounded by nature from the time they start kayaking, rafting, cycling or taking part in our river tours, to the time they finish. The Boyne is a SAC so there is an abundance of nature as you turn every bend in the river.
Ensuring the visitors personal experience of nature: Secluded area visit. We have literally miles of secluded areas that we pass on a daily basis on our trails be it kayak or raft, in fact, we pass different areas depending on what experience the visitor decides to take. All experiences are completely secluded, so much so, that you can’t actually access the areas unless you take these experiences, there are no roads, no cars, no noise! An abundance of wildlife, from otters to kingfishers and cormorants to herons, are on display on a daily bases in these areas and it is seldom a visitor will finish a trip WITHOUT seeing some wildlife. The areas are pretty much uninhabited by people, a farmyard or two perhaps, and inaccessible to motor transport.
Ensuring no more than 25 visitors per guide: None of our experiences can physically take any more than 16 visitors and if we do have those numbers we must bring extra guides.
Ensuring no more than 15 visitors per guide: Our eco-tourism product will typically have numbers of 8 as a maximum. This is for a number of reasons, primarily, safety. All our activities have governing bodies and we always run to their guide lines, we work to their participant/instructor ratios and we feel that the participant will have a better experience when the instructor has a more personal connection with his/her group. Also in our River Tours, we find that from an interpretation point of view, the visitor has more scope to connect with the guide and ask questions rather than being left out the back and maybe not even hear what is going on.
Product makes careful use of a protected area in its operation: Boyne Valley Activities work hand in hand with OPW, Meath Heritage and NPWS. All bodies know us and aware of our product on the Boyne (SAC). We communicate at all levels with the bodies and they are fully aware of our product and hold it and our company in high regard.
Development of key product groups: Running both river tours on the Boyne itself is an Archaeological experience in itself, as the tour concentrates on the landscape archaeology of the river and area, the fact that on one tour we take in Newgrange monument, a UNESCO site, we want to emphasise not only the monument but the whole landscape and develop this totally under used vantage point to a much wider market.
Interpretation and Education:
Appropriate interpretive plans in place: Interpretive Plan of Medieval Tour
Research: The product itself has been thoroughly researched by a local archaeologist who is a part time employee of the company and tour guide.Research of the visitors has been carried out through our own tours on the water and what the visitors wanted and what appealed to them most on the kayak tours, mixing our feedback with Failte Ireland’s research into the UK and European segments, we were able to put together the tour.
Products target market: The products target are the Culturally Curious segments of the incoming tourists segments who are interested in responsible travel, day trippers from Dublin and local segments that want to learn more about the heritage of the area and the ecological diversity of the river Boyne.
- Why is there so much Medieval Activity based at the river in Trim. What was life like to the settlers arriving up river to this region.
- Who were they.
- Why is the Boyne an SAC.
Messages: The visitor must behave in the Raft and adhere to the guides safety induction. To respect the surrounding wildlife. Visitors must use only designated entrance and egress points at river. Visitors must respect our Leave no Trace principles.
Goals: To deliver a unique fun filled experience to our visitors by way of an interactive tour that will immerse them in the culture and heritage of our region, responsibly, and with a minimum impact to our environment.
Objective: We want our audience to retrace the steps of our Medieval settlers and get out and active on our Rafts. We want them to engage in our stories and learn how important both culturally and historically this unspoilt area is. Our guides are up for a laugh and pride themselves on “having the craic” so it is imperative that while the visitor learns something, they must have a fully enjoyable experience.
Structure: The structure of the experience is a guided raft tour.
Special features of the interpretation: The tour is completely interactive to the point that the visitors have to physically paddle the raft down river, this is by no way physical, if anything it’s a recreational spin, there is plenty of chances to get a splash or two, the visitors get a unique chance to get close to nature on the SAC and the monuments are huge when looking from river level, this is a unique aspect to this particular tour.
Communicating the principles of Ecotourism: Boyne Valley Activities are dedicated to promoting responsible tourism in the Boyne Valley. We endeavor to deliver a range of outstanding activities and experiences in this culturally soaked region and in doing so, leaving a minimum impact on the environment that we strive to maintain and conserve.
The significance of the Ecotourism area: This area has huge significance in Ecotourism, a little known area and virtually unspoilt, the fact that the Boyne itself is a SAC speaks volumes. The biodiversity and wildlife alone has a has an array of species along it’s banks and in it’s waters, kingfisher, heron, cormorants, otter and swans to list but a few can be seen on a daily basis. The cultural significance is fantastic, from the oldest bridge in Ireland to the Largest Norman castle in Europe are all taken in by our tour and held in high regard from visitors.
Monitoring and evaluating the interpretation: It is essential that we keep evaluating the experience, we appreciate, this is still quite young experience and although we have it running very smoothly, it is always good practice to see how people are reacting to it.We acknowledge our visitors comments and insist they leave truthful comments on the visitor comment forms, we know that constructive criticism will sharpen the experience for the next group. We also take on board new information from participants for their local knowledge especially if they have a story with it!!
Improving the interpretation over time: Gathering the new information we receive from our visitors, especially stories we have clocked up along the way will help improve the interpretation over time. We already have the facts, as we grow more confident delivering the experience, we can add to the basics and become better story tellers. We may possibly look into some workshops in interpretation to help fine tune our delivery, it must be noted that we were already running these tours without ever having heard of interpretation so we find it quite natural-but there is always room to improve. Boyne Valley Activities have carried out a lot of research for our over all product and indeed specifically our River Tours. Our own research regarding our activities have been put together in our business plan and we have also taken on board the research of Meath Tourism and failte Ireland, both of whom are hugely excited about our product (s). Our main target market are the Culturally Curious, Adventure Seekers and Dublin’s Doorstep segments of the tourism market. The main theme is to provide a personal experience where the visitor can interact with the guides as they inform them of their surroundings in a light hearted manor and make sure the visitor engages with the story-and not be saturated with dates and times. Our goal and objective is to provide the visitor with an experience that they won’t get from a brochure, to inform them of our story, of their surroundings, to make them go away remembering the guide more so than the tour. All our experiences/tours are guided. We pride ourselves on providing informative fun based experiences, where we insist on the visitor feeling they have met a friend as well as seen some spectacular scenery and leave them feeling they have just experienced “real Ireland”. We constantly communicate the principles of eco-tourism and indeed leave no trace as it is all around the experience all of the time so the visitor will absorb their surroundings naturally. Because the experiences are primarily on the water, the visitor will see first hand the significance of the eco-tourism area, they also have the added advantage of being able to meander down this SAC knowing they are doing so with minimal impact, in fact, this is the ONLY way they can actually experience this area. We have built our business so far on monitoring our experiences, we find that the best evaluating and monitoring platform to use is customer feedback, though we work alongside OPW guides and we regularly get feedback from them. As with everything in our business it is essential to keep ahead of our competitors, we are a very young company and appreciate we must improve our interpretive experiences all the time, over time. We feel that our interpretive experiences alone make us stand out from an otherwise standard crowd. We intend on keeping it that way.
One item of personal interpretation incorporated into eco-tourism experience: Our Medieval River Tour has personal interpretation incorporated into our eco-tourism experience.
One item of non personal interpretation incorporated:
1. Our self- guided river trips have non personal interpretation incorporated in them.Once the visitor makes contact with us about one of our experiences we will direct them to our website where we have links on it regarding places of interest and what they will see on route, we have made our site quite interactive with lots of engaging information for the visitor.
2. Our self guided kayak tours offer the visitor a unique insight to this region. It really brings them back to nature with a very hands on approach by being on the actual SAC. We have incorporated a camping option along the route. 6km down river we have a campsite available for the participants to camp for the night. It is along the banks of the river with ample services and is a great way to experience the area and further enhance their experience.
3. Trim Castle is on our doorstep and our visitors will often call in for a look around, especially after our interpretive river tour.
Targeting of interpretation towards special interest groups: Each summer we take archaeological students that come to an archaeological dig in our area on our River tour on a weekly basis. The Irish Archaeological Field School have links to our website to show their students this tour before they travel.
Interaction with other visitors: By partnering with various accommodation and eco campsite providers in our area, their visitors will interact with our visitors as our activities are provided on their campsite and there will always be different groups on all activities so there will be many opportunities for social interaction.
Provision of a newsletter for past and future visitors: We already currently run a monthly newsletter to our data base of customers and will continue to do so.
Ensuring Staff are properly trained: Training document provided.
Contributing to Conservation
Business is involved with Payback Scheme: We currently direct our visitors to our website and have put a link up to Bird Watch Ireland so the visitor can contribute to the on going conservation projects they run and with so much bird life on the river it seems fitting.
Membership of nature conservation organisations: Are signing up with Irish Wildlife Trust, have spoken to them and will be signed up in coming weeks and will provide receipt when we have it.
Active involvement in local environmental project: In the process of spear heading the first Canoe Trail in the Rep. of Ireland, coordinating an action group that is hoping to have the trail started by spring 2014. Also involved with local river rescue team in cleaning the water course after flooding and involved in clean up of the river bank with local tidy towns.
Public Information event: Working with Meath Ecotourism Network we have contributed to some open evenings where we promoted our own product and the Network as a unit to the public.
Information available on local flora and fauna: Loretto Guinan is organising information from NPWS.
Litter clean up day organised: Boyne Valley Activities annually clean the river and riverbank with the local tidy towns and local authority and have an on -going cleanup / maintenance arrangement with same.
Information on local nature reserves: Info coming soon…
Native tree planting: Currently organising purchasing native trees through Meath Eco Tourism Network, the network is looking at buying the trees through the group as we may be able to get more at a better price
Establishment of wildlife area: There is unfortunately nowhere at our administrative base to establish this at present.
Installation of bird/bat boxes: We have just installed bird boxes at our premises and there is also bat boxes available for our area.
Benefiting local Communities
Supporting local employment: Boyne Valley Activities have a strong sense of community in their operation and insist on giving back to our local community. We currently have 2 part time guides for our interpretative tours, we have 2 part time instructors, we have placements each year from not one, but two, secondary schools in the area for work experience. We use all local bus operators to transport our visitors and are founder members of our local Canoe Club, for whom we still provide our time and expertise to for the day to day running of the organisation.
Working with the local community: Currently coaching with our local Canoe Club and regularly help out with all their fund raisers, be it providing prizes for the fund raise or to physically help out on the river. Also hugely involved with our local Meath River Rescue service and offer kayaking back up on their exercises and indeed assistance on all recovery operations in our area.
Employment of local guides: As explained in measure 39, we employ 2 part time guides in our interpretative experiences and will possibly need to train up more for next season.
Provision of access to work experience: The possibility of an intern may come around as we are already speaking with an Italian school that are coming to Trim for the summer, they have already approached us to see could we give them some work, we have explained we will have the option and are currently waiting to get confirmation from the Home Stay organiser, however we haven’t got it yet-but will put it in once organised.
Product developed by community group: Currently spearheading The Boyne Canoe Trail, the first in the Rep. of Ireland. We will be setting up a non-for-profit organisation to set up, get off the ground and maintain the trail and up keep in the immediate and long term future.
Encouraging purchase of local arts and crafts: We are currently looking in to offering the visitor the option of purchasing a beer voucher for a local Craft Beer brewer in the town, that can be purchased in various pubs in the area.
Encouraging purchase of local food: Our rafting and kayaking trips in Slane would sometimes request a bbq and we can organise that through Rock Farm where almost all produce is locally produced.
Encouraging purchase of organic food: Again the visitor has the option of purchasing organic food from the Slane farmers market after our experiences.
Membership of a local tourism network: Boyne Valley Activities are founder members of Meath Ecotourism Network and have gained much experience and support from the network.
The product should afford the visitor the opportunity to spend time in a traditional rural pub: We always give the visitor the opportunity to sample a Guinness from any one of a few traditional pubs in our area. Our favourite pub being “Lenahans Pub” on the main street and 5 minutes away by foot from our centre. Monday and Thursday nights are TRAD nights in there and the pub has an old world charm, open fire places with plenty of craic. We regularly hold BBQ’s there over the summer months and it’s a pub that boasts a story in every corner, by staff and visitors alike. Well worth a visit!
Ecotourism Ireland monitoring of visitor satisfaction: All visitors are given the opportunity to fill out a questionnaire asking them about their experiences of our product. We also must submit “visitor satisfaction collation feedback” forms (provided by eco-tourism Ireland) on an annual basis.
Complying with relevant legislation: Boyne Valley Activities as a company and as an eco-tourism provider conforms to all appropriate legislation for operations of the company, we can provide on request:
· Health and Safety Statement
· Environmental Protection
· Food Safety HACCIP
· Special needs access (no)
· Employment policy
Review of the product by industry professionals: Both Failte Ireland and Tourism Ireland have reviewed our product. They contacted us to introduce some tour operators that they felt might find our product of interest to them. The FAM trip was hugely beneficial to us, as our product is still in infancy stages by and large and although we have been running them out at local level, it was interesting to see the take the industry professionals had on it. Their feedback was very optimistic and it seems we have a product that not only attracts the “Culturally Curious” market segments, but also the “great escapers”, and they are behind providing us with as much marketing help as they can.
Sharing of visitor satisfaction insights: We have already taken our Network members on a visit of our main administration centre and have shown a number of them our entire product range. We found the best way to explain our product was to show them and at one of our meetings we purposely held it at Bective Mill and took the Network on a kayak trip down river to the mill and let them experience it for themselves.
Responsible Marketing and Communication
Responsible Marketing and Communication: Product outline, promotional materials are accurate and do not promise more than can be delivered by the business.The eco-tourism operators main marketing channel will provide the following:
- Description of the product on offer:
Boyne Valley Activities provide unique activities and interactive experiences in the Boyne valley, this totally underused amenity (The Boyne) has 5 millenia of cultural and archaeological wonders to explore. With responsible tourism at the heart of our operation, we aim to share these experiences with visitors that want to see, not only Ireland-but real Ireland.
- Description of how the product is run in an environmentally friendly manner:
Boyne Valley Activities insist on providing all their experiences in an environmentally friendly manner with a minimal impact on their surroundings. Starting from our base it is obvious from our use of energy and creation of waste and even how we harness our rainwater that we have our environment at heart. Training our staff to be aware of their surroundings and being aware of their impact on wildlife and biodiversity means that we, as management, know our leave no trace principles will be used as best practice on all our experiences leaving a minimal impact on the very area we are helping conserve.
- Description of how people will experience nature:
Essentially all our experiences are run on, or around The Boyne Valley. The River Boyne itself is a special area of conservation (SAC) with vast amounts of flora and fauna over a 90 klm area. All River Tours, kayaking and Rafting bring the visitor into very remote parts of the river where very few people can get access to from land. With growing angst between farmers and the public and access being restricted more and more, meandering down river really does give the visitor a unique chance to experience nature, at it’s wonderful best.
- Description of what visitors can expect to learn about/gain insights into:
While an abundance of wildlife is a charming gem to catch the visitors eye, it is fair to say that they could witness similar flora and fauna on any water course in the country. What we want the visitor to experience is the river. We want to interact with them and show them the river, the landscape of the river, we want them to ”float through time”, we want them to experience our ancestors sailing across Europe and Asia and pushing their way up the Boyne to settle in the towns we now call home. We want them to experience battles that changed history, show them the abbeys and castles that were constructed for no other reason than the river, they won’t be bored by dates, but rather intrigued by the people that lived there, the “rock stars” of their medieval days!
- Description of how the product promoter contributes to conservation:
Link to Bird Watch Ireland on website.
Description of how the operation of the product benefits the local community: Essentially the product benefits the community in many ways, primarily as an activity provider many people would travel for the activity/experience and would frequently need accommodation and we will always promote providers in our eco-tourism network, as we know the visitor will appreciate staying in the accommodation of like minded people, be it in a yurt on an eco farm or a 4 star green hospitality hotel. Knightsbrook Hotel in Trim have us listed as their activity provider on their “things to do” pages and we offer them great rates and likewise, we get great rates when we send visitors for bed nights. “Hares Leap Glamping” in Slane package with us also and we provide our activities and they provide the eco accommodation. Local taxi companies shuttle the visitors around and we would frequently send them to a quaint country pub to have a drink and a local night out, typically we would send them to Lenahans pub, especially on a Monday of Thursday for the traditional music, at weekends it wouldn’t be unusual to find a Ceile in full swing in The Bounty Bar or story telling in Marcie Regans Pub. All publicans are local so we all know what is happening in each restaurant/pub on a daily basis which makes it easy for us to direct the visitor to their desired destination-and we might even go in with them for a sociable one or two.
Responsible Marketing and Communication: All marketing of all our eco-tourism products are all web based at all times. Having just launched a new fully interactive website, now enables our blogs, social media platforms and e-zines/newsletters to be circulated online. Having gathered a large customer data base over the last number of years we find electronically is the preferred platform for us to communicate with our customers. With a fully functioning online booking engine also on our website we find it both effective and reduces paper promotions to virtually nothing, however, since our company re-branding we are currently looking at using recycled paper for our direct mailing campaigns as we understand we need to keep our brand professional and have to purchase high quality paper so we are also going to have it recycled as well. In saying that we already have large amounts of promotional material already purchased and it is not cost effective to just waste it, so we will phase out the promotional material as we use it and phase in the recycled paper.
Developing international cooperation: Links to website/blogs of environmental conservation organisations and links to organisations that promote responsible travel.
Cultural Respect and Awareness
Information provided on local heritage: A lot of information is provided to our visitors through our interpretation of the surrounding areas, primarily from local history as our guides are all local but also local folklore and legend likes to raise it’s head from time to time.
Cross border cooperation: n/a
Provide local access: At no stage and by taking part in any of Boyne Valley Activities eco-tourism experiences will the visitor impede local residents access to historical, archaeological, culturally and spiritually important sites.