Taking the next step
There’s something about sharing the path with someone over a few days. You build up an unspoken bond of trust that lingers long after the walking is over. On Camino, it’s easy to find common ground. Conversations roll in unknowing telepathy with each passing step; a shared story, a recalling of someone precious who has passed, a treasured memory, a dream worth chasing, an imminent decision… each nudge us into a space we may not have known before. Step by step we soon come to realise that the Camino is not so much about arriving at a destination; more all that happens in-between.
No sooner is the backpack put away for another season when the real work begins. It is now we ‘fine-tune’ our tour offerings so that we can hit the ground running in Spring 2023. Assessing the viability of each tour is also an important consideration. Volatility in the world seeps right down to the pricing of our tours; higher oil prices impact on coach transfer rates, inflation has a knock-on effect on hotel and dining costs, VAT rates change in the tourism sector once you start arranging the accommodation, meals and travel arrangements for your visitor… so pricing each tour in a way that does not compromise what we offer becomes the challenge. It’s a balancing act between offering value and holding on to the ‘extras’ that make each tour all the more memorable.
The Camino tends to draw people that work off the same frequency… each with a deep connection to the outdoors, each with a ‘joie de vivre’ and sense of fun that knows no bounds, each with a courage to draw on when they need to, each receptive to the deeper flow of the universe as it rolls out before them. We like to host a Gala Dinner on the final night of our St Declan’s Way Camino to mark the achievement. They’re a happy bunch. They’ve just received their stamped Pilgrim Passport and Certificate of Completion, they’re chatting away maybe sipping a well earned gin and tonic, and they exude contentement of a kind not easily earned. Many email on their return home, some post google reviews, each one encouraging us onwards, nudging us gently to where we need to be.
In a beautiful ironic twist of fate, those we lead on Camino have led us to where we are now. Their insight, their appreciation, the tweaks they suggest are all invaluable. The pathways we walk on Camino, as in life, are not always presented to us as a fait accompli. Sometimes we’ve got to think on our feet, visualise where we want to be, then put one foot ahead of the next and go for it. We all have a creative streak in us, that capacity to see beyond what exists and to reach out for what might previously have appeared beyond our reach. It pays to trust your gut. It pays too to listen to those you’ve come to trust along the way. Here’s a snapshot of the 2022 reviews:
As a recreational cyclist I had grave reservations about undertaking this walk. Indeed, I wouldn’t have gone had my Australian mate, a hiking fanatic, not insisted. Truth to tell it wasn’t as difficult as I expected. Indeed, it was a really great experience, due in no small measure to the wonderful leadership of Phil and Elaine and the lovely dynamic they managed to create in a diverse group that included two Ukrainians and an Australian. Our leaders planned the whole experience meticulously, down to small details about the best route, the best coffee shops, advice on footwear, comfort stops etc. All done with careful attention to individual needs. They also included short, well-prepared, thought-provoking and reflective interludes with digital musical accompaniment. Very good for the soul!…And to cap it all off our Ukrainian friends treated us to a lovely lunch at their house before we undertook the scenic Cliff Walk in Ardmore. A big thank you to Phil, Elaine and their team for a truly memorable experience! (Jim, Limerick)
I completed the five-day St. Declan’s Way pilgrimage with a huge sense of personal satisfaction and triumph thanks in no small way to Phil and Elaine Brennan. The logistics were impeccably organized, freeing me to engage fully in the pilgrimage experience. Phil and Elaine were there throughout to pass along their knowledge, provide encouragement when the walking became challenging and to enjoy many a laugh with us. They are well-connected with both the local landscape and the local people, sharing these connections freely. St. Declan’s Way in itself is a spectacular walk. But it is the warmth and kindness of the Brennans that made it such an enriching experience for me. (Margaret, Canada)
Had the most amazing week completing St. David’s Way in Wales. The support, encouragement and community we built over a very short period of time was a testament to the atmosphere created by Phil, Elaine and all the amazing guest guides they arranged for us. The scenery was stunning and every element was planned to perfection. It was so lovely to go on a holiday and not have to worry about anything. Will definitely be going on more trips with Waterford Camino Tours. (Sarah, Kildare)
We completed the 5 days walk along St. Declan’s Way in August with Phil, Elaine and Conor. They did a fantastic job in organising a wonderful week and sharing with us their passion and knowledge for the local area, and really did go above and beyond to ensure that everyone had a great week. Their easy-going manner and good sense of humour really contributed to the enjoyment of the week. A highlight for me was the musical reflections, particularly on the banks of the River Blackwater in Lismore and in Mount Melleray Abbey. Their encouragement to slow life down and to live simply is certainly a message that I have tried to take away with me. I would certainly recommend the company to anyone considering joining them for one of their walks. (Anna, London)
A great week walking the St. Declan’s Way Camino and a much-needed recharge of batteries! A heartfelt thanks to Phil, Elaine, and Iain (Journeying) who put so much into making this pilgrimage journey work – their kindness, thoughtfulness, easy charm, knowledge, and humour shines through. The local guides along the way were also great and added to the success of the week. The Irish countryside never disappoints but it had an added charm during the walk where there was time for talking, listening, reflecting, sharing and laughter! I loved staying at Mount Melleray such a wonderful spot and who can forget Brother Seamus who was so pleased to have us there and made us so welcome. I would highly recommend this ‘journey’, you will not regret it and you will want to come back again! I look forward to returning in the not too distant future. (Theresa, London)
St. Declan’s walk August 2022. This was a unique and wonderful experience made all the more enjoyable by the personal care, understanding, attention to detail and flexibility shown by hosts Phil and Elaine. The guides Mark, John G and Conor were brilliant. Their local knowledge and good humour contributed to the group’s enjoyment and we benefited from other local expertise organised (and occasionally spontaneous) along our way. We enjoyed the company of our fellow travellers, a diverse, friendly and interesting group and the accommodation and food were excellent. We came home physically and mentally refreshed. This break is the perfect antidote to our fast paced, device-controlled lives and we look forward to meeting again with the Camino team. Conor’s maxim of “keep it simple” included by Phil and Elaine in the beautiful photo album kindly given to us as a memento, will resonate for a long while. (Jim and Gráinne, Belfast)
Phil and Elaine (& Conor!) animated a memorable St. Declan’s Way 5-Day Camino along the hills, farmlands and river walks of Waterford and Tipperary. Every element of the trip was overseen so well, from the accommodation in Cahir House and it’s beautiful heritage town, to the peace-filled environment of Mount Melleray Abbey. The walks were so well paced that even in the more challenging moments we felt carried along by the warmth, wisdom and laughter of our group, buoyed up by cups of tea and coffee and homemade treats provided from cafes and bakeries along the way. Input and stories from local guides added immeasurably to our experience. The musical talents of Phil and Elaine and others in our group were the icing on the cake and the sense of wellbeing and accomplishment as we completed the journey was felt by us all! A huge thanks… we will return! (Pat and Mary, Dublin)
Enjoyed an incredible 5-day Camino with excellent attention to detail, care and attention to the whole group. The experience was enhanced by incredible views, daily tasty fresh lunches, scrumptious dinners, great stories, informative guests/guides, visits to historic sites, mindfulness moments, nice easy pace of walking, spontaneous singing and even some comedy! Elaine and Phil are an incredible couple full of enthusiasm and passion. They went above and beyond to ensure everyone enjoyed their time on this historic walk. I look forward to booking another trip with them. (Anne, Dublin)
Those 5 days were magical. I saw beautiful places, my wish came true, I met wonderful people. It was all very emotional. Thank you for such an opportunity. (Katcha, Ukraine)
Encouraging words go a long way. We all need them from time to time. Positivity breathes confidence. We listened, honed in on what has worked well, adapted where we felt change was needed and have mapped out a new and exciting way ahead. We have recently formed our own company, Waterford Camino Tours Limited, and have bought the trading name Celtic Ways Ireland, each small but significant steps in widening our scope beyond Waterford to include iconic places in Southern Ireland from Glendalough in County Wicklow, to Gougane Barra in West Cork, to the mesmeric delights of Dingle in County Kerry.
Our goal is clear; to create unique ‘tailor-made’ tours for small groups seeking a more mindful adventure in Ireland with a blend of stunning walks, local guides, cultural experiences and fine cuisine tailored to suit everyone. We offer a premium product that we believe will have particular appeal to the Irish diaspora around the world. We pride ourselves in our attention to detail, listening to what the visitor wants before crafting that special ‘time-out’ for them in Ireland. If they want hurling, we source the tickets or take them to the local training session. If their ancestors are from Kilkenny, we try to re-connect them to source during their time with us. We love the challenge this presents. There are no guarantees in this life. It’s a leap of faith. Not quite sure where we’ll land but sure if we don’t jump we’ll never know!
The invite we extend to our visitors we must now extend to ourselves… ‘Time to experience the fun, the adventure, the music, the cuisine that this magical stretch of Southern Ireland offers in abundance. Time to go deeper into the story of our people and re-discover our shared Celtic past. Time to leave our footprints in the land of our ancestors. Let the journey begin!’