Cnoc Suain, Conamara: A Place in the Heart
Help establish a nature-inspired Creative Hub at our cultural retreat on Ireland's west coast & be part of this evolving visionary tale
Cnoc Suain, Conamara: A Place in the Heart
Help establish a nature-inspired Creative Hub at our cultural retreat on Ireland's west coast & be part of this evolving visionary tale
This project will only be funded if it reaches its goal by Thu, June 27 2019 12:30 PM UTC +00:00.
"A place quite unlike any other" - The Guardian
Rooted in Gaelic culture, nature & heritage, The Cnoc Suain Project promotes creativity, innovation, learning and mindfulness of the earth's - and humankind's - precious resources.
Fáilte go Cnoc Suain, tearmann draíochtúil i bhfiántas Chonamara.
Welcome to Cnoc Suain Culture & Nature retreat – a labour of love and an all-consuming life project!
A combined passion for Irish heritage, nature, creativity, science and experiential learning lies at the heart of our venture.
Within this evocative Connemara setting of luminous skies and ancient bog land, our restored international award-winning hill-village celebrates the culture and creativity of a people and place. Cnoc Suain is situated a twenty-five minutes drive from Galway city, between the mountains and the sea, overlooking Galway bay.
Celebrating Culture | Supporting Biodiversity | Promoting Sustainability | Fostering Learning
In this Kickstarter campaign we are asking for your support to help convert our stables into a new nature-inspired multidisciplinary performance space, where culture, nature and creativity can flourish.
Our Field room will also receive a technological makeover, enhancing our hands-on ecological and biodiversity-based learning experiences.
These new developments will open up many new opportunities for Cnoc Suain (Restful Hill), facilitating creative and nature-based experiences, workshops, events and residential programmes, while enabling us to continue promoting Irish / Gaelic culture, innovation, environmental awareness and sustainable tourism in the Connemara region.
In return for your support, we are offering unique rewards steeped in the cultural and natural heritage of Ireland.
Na Stáblaí (The Stables)
"Na Stáblaí" (The Stables) – once home to our Connemara ponies - is the ultimate 'conversion-in-waiting'. Nestled into the hillside, the tranquil surroundings and interweaving native woodland will become as much a part of this new space as the existing bricks and mortar.
Retaining some of the distinct stable features, such as the authentic pitch-pine stable doors, we will extend the existing veranda forward to cover in the paved area. Handcrafted wooden seating, tables and an outdoor wood fired oven will create a nature-lodge atmosphere, while the creatively re-imagined interior will incorporate a performance space; artisan shop & gallery; kitchen & tearoom - a fitting platform for an array of artistic adventures!
At Cnoc Suain, we live in close harmony with nature and believe that culture, nature & landscape are intertwined.
The Environmental Science / Field Room Upgrade
A new investigative mix of exploratory guides and digital technology will compliment and augment the existing 'hands-on' indoors and outdoors interactive experiences, and will help us provide, in an entertaining and accessible way, a deeper understanding of the important environmental role bogland ecosystems play in counteracting climate change.
As Cnoc Suain continues its purposeful endeavour of “promoting sustainability and mindfulness of the earth’s – and mankind’s – precious resources” (2010 Global Vision Award), the new technological presentations and practical ecological workshops will highlight the importance and richness of Connemara's biodiversity.
Conamara (Connemara), famously known for its stunning natural beauty, spellbinding light and wild spirit has been a powerful source of inspiration for generations of artists, poets, ecologists and musicians.
As part of this next creative and nature-based development, Cnoc Suain will initiate a creative-in-residence programme, where local and international creative minds - from artists to scientists - will be invited to fully immerse themselves in the inspirational surroundings of the retreat, with an option to showcase and share work at the end of their stay.
Why is this new development so vital to Cnoc Suain?
This new multidisciplinary development will not only enhance and further our cultural and environmental explorations, it will also open up new revenue streams for Cnoc Suain.
Cnoc Suain's international award-winning cultural day experiences and residential retreats have been the bedrock of our project since its beginnings. However, due to limited infrastructure and facilities, we are unable to host both day and residential programmes simultaneously. The reality of hosting any small event at present can be a major juggling act, and necessitates hauling furniture and equipment around the hill, while also installing temporary shelters – in hail, rain or snow.
To ensure Cnoc Suain's continued viability as a self-funding independent project, it needs to be in a position to run residential and day programmes simultaneously, and host small events with ease.
Our new multidisciplinary space will make this possible and will in turn help create local employment, provide income for local artists and artisans while continuing to support the local economy.
Funds from this Kickstarter campaign will also be put towards:
- Converting one of our cottages into a self-contained artist's studio/ residence.
- Necessary upgrading within the hill-village; eg. re-thatching the c.17th century cottage 'An Sceach Gheal'.
"This is an incredibly exciting project! A path-breaking approach on how to nurture learning, creativity and innovation, rooted in culture and nature." - Professor Finbarr D. Bradley - U.C.D. Smurfit Business School
Some examples of rewards for our generous backers. We have carefully chosen rewards which reflect the campaign and what we are trying to achieve through our new nature-inspired Creative-Hub.
Reaching our goal....
Kickstarter is an all-or-nothing crowdfunding platform. If we do not reach our goal within the set time-frame, we do not receive any of the pledges, and the money is returned to the supporters in full.
While our goal of €70,000 will not cover the entire cost of the proposed plans outlined above, it will enable us to construct a considerable portion of this phased development. If we are fortunate enough to exceed our target, additional funds will help complete the stables conversion, upgrade the Field Room and help towards Creative facilities & spaces for day workshops and residential retreats such as:
- Visual art room for painting, sculpture etc.
- Meditation/ wellness room
It is only possible to pledge once to a project on Kickstarter. Backers can only choose one reward tier (eg - €15 or €50 or €500) per pledge. However, you can change your pledge amount and reward selection for as long as a project is live. (see FAQs)
Who we are:
> Dearbhaill Standún - Co-founder of Cnoc Suain, is a native Irish/ Gaelic speaker from Conamara, a qualified teacher, a professional musician with the award-winning Irish traditional music group ‘Dordán’ and a graduate of Ballymaloe Cookery School.
> Charlie Troy - Co-founder of Cnoc Suain, is a natural scientist, a qualified teacher with over 40 years experience. He also established a herb-growing business 'Lusra Chonamara' (Conamara Herbs).
Their daughters Eleanor and Dearbhaill Maedhbh both work alongside their parents and are evolving Cnoc Suain's vision for the future;
> Dearbhaill Maedhbh Troy is a visual artist and musician and has been nurturing and promoting the project for the past 7 years. Her experience in both growing up and working at Cnoc Suain have inspired her interest in seeking authentic, creative and unconventional pathways to connect people with culture and nature. Dearbhaill Maedhbh is the creator of this Kickstarter campaign.
> Eleanor Troy has worked at retreat centres and ecotourism businesses in New Zealand and the UK and is now implementing her experience along with her skills and knowledge into Cnoc Suain's nature-based and sustainable practices. Her interests lie in holistic healing, music, creativity and nature - which has most recently led her to train in forest school - and has plans to re-establish an organic farm at Cnoc Suain for both vegetable and animal.
Finding Cnoc Suain....
Motivated by the joy of learning, two local teachers, Dearbhaill Standún and Charlie Troy, nurtured a dream of one day finding a place where they could foster an awareness, understanding and appreciation of Conamara's rich culture, nature and landscape in an atmosphere of discovery and conviviality.
In 1995 they came upon a magical 200 acre hill farm, just three miles from where they were living in An Spidéal (Spiddal), County Galway. With ruins of cottages (bothies) dating back, reputably, to the 1690's, a c.3,000 year old standing stone on the hilltop and a panoramic view of lake, river, mountains and sea, this place had it all - Conamara's cultural, natural and built heritage - Cultúr, Dúlra, Dúchas
Inspired by what they found and visualising the possibilities, the couple sold their home and property, purchased the farm, settled there with their young family and set to work.
They spent the following decade lovingly and sustainably restoring the old cottages, dry stone walls and pathways, while also adding some new traditional-styled buildings to create a little hill-village in harmony with its surroundings.
In this enchanting setting, visitors immerse themselves in Conamara's distinct culture, nature and heritage through day-experiences / events, retreats and cottage stays.
Together with their daughters, Charlie and Dearbhaill are now embarking on an exciting new chapter in the story of Cnoc Suain - a project which, to date, has been over 90% self-funded.
If you would like further information on Cnoc Suain or the project's future plans please do not hesitate to contact us, we would be happy to hear from you.
Bí linn - Join us
THE BACK STORY
The following is an extract from 'The Irish Edge: How Enterprises Compete on Authenticity and Place' by Professors Finbarr D. Bradley and Jim J. Kennelly, Orpen Press, 2013;
"Dearbhaill, an accomplished fiddle player, is a founding member of the traditional music group Dordán, acclaimed for its distinctive mix of Irish traditional and baroque music. Dearbhaill’s background and experiences in culture, education and musical entertainment imbue her with a rich appreciation of and commitment to the Irish language, music and culture, particularly that of her native Connemara.
"Charlie, like Dearbhaill, became a teacher and a fluent Irish speaker. As an environmental scientist, he is deeply interested in the natural history and archaeology of Connemara. Writer and naturalist Michael Viney calls him ‘a tireless disciple of natural Connemara – animal, vegetable or mineral.’
"Indeed, both Charlie and Dearbhaill are disciples of a cultural and a natural cause, fostering an ethos of learning that permeates Cnoc Suain.
'Education is at the heart of it, in the sense of sharing knowledge in a creative & joyous way' - Dearbhaill Standún
"If Charlie and Dearbhaill’s story had been conjured up by Hollywood, perhaps it would have had a variant of that line from Field of Dreams: ‘If you build it, they will come.’ But life rarely follows a Hollywood script. It has taken Charlie and Dearbhaill well over a decade of struggle to make the dream of Cnoc Suain a reality."
And so it began.....
We wanted the restoration to be authentic and sustainable. Renewable energy heat pumps were installed, stones from the surrounding fields were used to rebuild the cottage walls, and reclaimed wood and slates were retrieved locally from soon-to-be demolished dwellings. Everything was handcrafted, from furniture to fittings. Most of the work took place during the boom in Ireland, a time when tradesmen were in high demand, and consequently sourcing workers skilled in traditional craftsmanship proved to be a major dilemma.
We were fortunate to meet two incredibly skilled and dedicated men from Brasov, Romania – Dan Cenusa and Serban Popa (pictured below) – who put heart and soul into the project. With the added input from a highly regarded local builder, the project had found its dream team. The work necessitated us living a commune-type existence together on the hill for a number of years; ourselves, our three young daughters, Dan and Serban, Connemara ponies, dogs and a flock of sheep!
Working together on the project was stimulating and rewarding, but we did encounter some unforeseen challenges along the way......
In late 2007, just when we were ready to launch the first of our residential programmes, a fire consumed the restored 200 year old thatched cottage. The insurance company would not pay out, and with Ireland descending into economic recession, the financial markets had frozen and there was simply no credit available.
Three years later the geothermal heat pumps burst due to an abnormally cold (Polar Vortex) winter. This time the insurance company did pay out but increased premiums by 1,050% !!
With our residential retreats now on hold, cash reserves depleted due to repairs to the cottage, and staggering insurance rates, spirits were at an all-time low. While we never doubted the project, we did wonder at times whether our being here was choice or destiny! Unwavering support and encouragement from family and friends sustained us during these difficult times.
To generate urgently needed income we had to act fast! Drawing on our teaching skills we quickly devised place-based experiences that were original, innovative, informative & fun.
We contacted travel companies and universities directly, but interactive cultural learning experiences, off the beaten track, were still uncharted waters. We were being told time and again by people in the travel business that we were at least ten years ahead of our time! Organisations and companies were reluctant to deviate from the 'must-see' set menu.
Against all odds, however, Cnoc Suain and its Cultural Experiences began to receive international recognition and critical acclaim, winning prestigious national and international awards for cultural preservation and authenticity, experiential learning, sustainability and environmental stewardship.
- 2007 Conamara Heritage Award - Galway County Council
- 2009 'World Ethical Travel Award' - The Guardian newspaper
- 2010 'Global Vision Award' for 'Cultural Immersion' -Travel + Leisure magazine
- 2015 Irish Responsible Tourism Award for 'Cultural Heritage' - IRTA
- 2015 World Responsible Tourism Award for 'Cultural Heritage' - WRTA
- 2015 'Phoenix Award' for Preservation - Society of American Travel Writers.
- 2017 Ireland's "Best Cultural Experience" - Irish Tourism Industry Awards
The positive reviews and awards gave Cnoc Suain credibility and us renewed vitality and hope for the future.
What people say:
“A beautifully restored hill village that sits on layers of Irish history, Cnoc Suain offers a thorough immersion in local culture. It is serving as a trailblazer and a powerhouse in promoting sustainability and mindfulness of the earth’s – and mankind’s – precious resources.” 2010 'Global Vision Award' Winner – Travel + Leisure Magazine
“A labor of love, a vision, an effort to preserve and revivify the cultural heritage and the rural traditions of the Connemara region: Dearbhaill Standún and Charlie Troy’s Cnoc Suain is a testament to the ways that landscape, horizon, and worldview intersect with language, song, and story.” Prof. Richard. E. Miller, Rutgers University, New Jersey.
“You have to love a couple that are not only giving back through creating this slice of sustainable tourism, but also creating a legacy for generations to come.” Ginger Warder, Travel writer, Florida.
"A place quite unlike any other, where Irish traditions are alive and kicking." The Guardian.
“Cnoc Suain in Connemara is a fine example of a cultural tourism project that respects vernacular heritage. Its layout follows the plan of the baile / clachán on which it is built, it has active community immersion in traditional arts like sean-nós, and it attends carefully to environmental stewardship.” Atlas of the Irish Rural Landscape - 2nd Edition, Cork University Press, Ireland.
"Charlie and Dearbhaill have really changed the way we are looking at Irish culture. What they have created in Cnoc Suain is so beautiful and remarkable it really needs to be visited. We approached Cnoc Suain with a view to hosting a few dinners using native ingredients and local growers but the subsequent conversations we had with Charlie and Dearbhaill led us to agree we need to look at language and music and landscape and ecology and cuisine to really explain our history and culture. Born teachers and in love with their landscape these people are a treasure and a constant resource for us." Michelin chef Enda McEvoy, Loam Restaurant (Ireland's Restaurant of the Year 2019), Galway, Ireland.
"Staying in one of these cozy cottages is one of the most authentic experiences you could have in Ireland" National Geographic.
Cnoc Suain's Current Available Day-Programmes
Cnoc Suain's international award-winning day-experiences introduce people to, and create awareness of, the rich culture, nature & heritage of Conamara;
- Conamara Cultural Exploration - Our cultural experience for independent travellers (available on designated days)
- Gaelic Cultural Experience - Cultural experiences for organised groups
- Student Programme -An interactive cultural and environmental learning experience for university & college groups.
- Connemara Culture & Culinary Experience -For private, incentive or corporate groups.
'Cothú' (Nurture): Cnoc Suain's Cultural & Environmental Educational Initiative
The aim of Cothú is to foster an awareness and appreciation of Irish culture and heritage, creativity and the environment through innovative learning experiences & events.
As part of the 'Cothú' initiative Cnoc Suain has hosted cultural programmes in a voluntary capacity for local primary school children - and will continue to do so into the future.
Cnoc Suain also offers cultural Student Programme to Irish and international university and college groups at a rate which is partly subsidised by Cnoc Suain as part of the educational objectives of 'Cothú'.
Where we are:
Cnoc Suain cultural retreat is a restored hill-village (hamlet) located on a hillside in the Conamara Gaeltacht (Gaelic-speaking) area of Connemara - and a 25 minute scenic drive west of Galway city. Situated off the 'Mountain Road', linking the villages of An Spidéal (Spiddal) and Maigh Cuilinn (Moycullen), the hill-village is surrounded by a broad expanse of bogland designated as a European Special Area of Conservation. Access to Cnoc Suain, by bike, car or coach, is along a 'single-track' country lane. We manage visitor numbers carefully for the protection of the environment, to enhance visitor experience and to ensure peace and privacy for residential guests.
Cnoc Suain does not operate on a drop-in basis. Pre-booking is essential. Age group: 15+
This hill farm was home to the Hehir family for many generations prior to our purchasing it in 1995. We treasure our continued friendship with the Hehir family and are proud to be the current custodians of this very special place.
The various elements of the phased plan have been estimated resulting in an overall cost of €70,000 towards the stable conversion, Field room upgrade and infrastructural repairs.
Risks and challenges
As Kickstarter is an all-or-nothing affair, Cnoc Suain must reach its cash target within the allocated time or the money pledged is returned to purchasers of the rewards.
Conversion projects are frequently delayed due to unforeseen obstacles / problems, the unpredictability of the Irish weather being one of them. As with many developments there is a certain amount of disruption and strain on the infrastructure. However Cnoc Suain's past record at overcoming challenges will help ensure the smooth running of the existing business.
A reserve has been built in to the overall capital campaign plan to cover administrative fees and expenses and estimated government taxes.
If Cnoc Suain does not reach the Kickstarter goal we will not be in a position to progress to the next phase and the continued viability of the project as a place of culture, creativity and learning will be compromised.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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