Ann O’ Grady grew up in a small village in Co. Clare, on a picturesque farm surrounded by mountains and nature.
With the world-renowned Burren region on her doorstep, she loves nothing more than immersing herself in the beautiful surroundings she has come to know and love so well.
From a young age she had a keen interest in hiking, spending her summer Sundays hiking the Ballyvaughan Wood Loop and the Mullaghmore Loop in the Burren National Park.
She also spent two weeks every summer in the Aran Islands (Inis Oírr) with her family where they would spend the days cycling the island.
Ann is currently in her final year studying Tourism Management at the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology.
With a passion for travelling and promoting tourism, Ann loves helping our walkers to organise their dream tour.
Coming from a rural background, one of Ann’s favourite aspects of the work is creating new opportunities for B&Bs in remote parts of Ireland and the UK. She is passionate about sustainability and the protection of her rural roots.
Ann first came to work in Hillwalk Tours in 2013, for her university second year placement, and she has become such a valuable member of the team, we haven’t wanted to let her go ever since!
Anthony Barrett grew up on a Farmhouse B&B in Mayo in the West of Ireland.
After completing a Master’s Degree in Business Studies in University he spent 15 months travelling the world in search of the best sights, experiences and football stadiums it had to offer.
This including hiking some of the most stunning regions of the world including China, Thailand, New Zealand and South America.
However, these experiences only lead to an increased appreciation of his home country and its unique culture, heritage and natural beauty.
On returning to Ireland, Anthony returned to the hospitality sector working in a variety of front office position in various hotels.
In March 2010, he jumped at the chance to join James and the Hillwalk Tours team in their goal of helping others experience the magic of the European landscape.
Anthony's favourite walks are around the rugged landscapes of his native West of Ireland.
Connemara and the Aran Islands, in particular, are places where he has spent many enjoyable days in sunshine and of course in rain.
To say Aoife Byrne enjoys walking is like saying that the Pope enjoys praying. Aoife is absolutely crazy about walking! It’s a fundamental part of who she is and no day is complete unless it includes about three hours of walking.
So why is it so important for Aoife? Well, having undergone major brain surgery as a child to remove a tumour, the entire right-hand side of Aoife’s body was affected. To overcome this disability, Aoife has had to become incredibly resourceful and strong-willed. For example, she now writes with her left hand and, after 15 years of instruction, she recently acquired her full driving licence.
Overcoming life’s challenges can be difficult but that’s where walking comes in – as well as providing good exercise, the beautiful local scenery lifts Aoife’s spirits and leaves her feeling reinvigorated and ready for action.
This makes walking the perfect activity to complement her work. Aoife started working for Hillwalk Tours in 2015. She prepares the walking packs that are sent out to our walkers from all over the world. She loves her job as it keeps her mind active, puts her in good form and develops her time-keeping skills.
These skills come in handy because they allow Aoife to plan her next walk. Living on a farm in the beautiful Kilkenny countryside means Aoife is spoilt for choice when it comes to walking. Her favourite spots locally are along the River Barrow, Ireland’s second-longest river, and in the grounds of Mount Juliet – one of the region’s most picturesque country estates.
Naturally, it is not possible for Aoife to go walking with the same people all the time. Nobody else wants to walk that much! So, after her mother has had enough, Aoife will call on Geraldine or Sinead - two of her sisters who live nearby.
If they are unavailable, Aoife will think nothing of jumping in her car and driving one hour to Wexford to go walking on the beach with her eldest sister, Fiona. Or, if all else fails, she’ll just go walking up the farm with her loyal golden retriever, Olly.
So, if Aoife could go walking anywhere in the world, where would she go? Well, not surprisingly, her first answer is “Everywhere”! But, when pressed, she lists Yellowstone National Park and Great Falls Park in the USA and anywhere in New Zealand. She would also love to go on safari in Africa.
Camille Binaud grew up in a small village in the heart of the French Alps between Chamonix and Annecy. From a young age, she used to spend her holidays striding across the mountain paths in summer and riding down the hills with her skis during the winter.
Living in one of the most touristic regions of France, she naturally focused her studies in Tourism Management. She wanted to show the wonders of her region to the whole world!
After working for tour operators in Switzerland, she decided that she would like to have some more international experiences.
With this idea in mind, she spent one month as an Intern with a tour operator in London. However, she realized that one month was not enough to be part of a country.
Therefore, in 2012, Camille left her beloved mountains to study for half a year in the Netherlands. Landscape-wise, that was a massive change! But if she missed her mountains some days, she had a great time meeting people from all over the world and discovering the Dutch landscape with her loyal companion : her Dutch bike of course!
When she went back to France, she decided to finish her Masters Degree in Tourism Management before spending 7 months in Copenhagen, Denmark where she worked for an Event Agency.
It was love at first sight! Camille fell in love with this city, and completely understood why Danish people are said to be the happiest people in the world. One thing that she will remember about Denmark : “Hygge”, the Cosy Danish Way of Life.
After this Danish experience, Camille was keen for new adventures and chose to discover Ireland, attracted by the amazing landscape and the renowned traditional Irish music.
And she was definitively not disappointed by what she discovered in Ireland. Galway is for her, the perfect postcard of Ireland and she loves it!
Claire grew up between her native region of Alsace, in the Northeast of France, and a remote village at the bottom of the French Alps. There she roamed the wilderness, sometimes experimenting with questionable survival methods she had read about in books.
At eighteen she flew the nest to study business, two years in Reims and two years in Lancaster in the UK. She loved the laid-back and friendly ways of the British and decided to move to London after graduating. She spent two years there working in events management and social media, but she was slowly getting itchy feet.
In 2014, Claire and her best friend left for what was initially a two-month road trip from Chicago to L.A. On the road of “manifest destiny” they started questioning the purpose of their own lives, and somewhere between Amarillo and Santa Fe, they had an epiphany: they should continue the journey. They bought a one-way ticket to Sydney where they landed clueless and penniless, but quickly found work selling cheese on a market. After a few months in Australia, they repeated the experience in New Zealand, waitressing and working on farms. They loved it there and before they knew it, a year was over. They started on the long journey home and got stuck one last time in Cambodia, waitressing in a guesthouse on beautiful Kampot River.
During her journey Claire had seen many beautiful landscapes and rediscovered a love for the great outdoors and for hiking. Weary of traveling, she started looking for a place where she could be close to nature whilst also living in a small, vibrant town. She found Galway and Hillwalk Tours. It was a match!
In her spare time she likes to read and write, go on all sorts of adventures especially if they involve camping, and work on her dream project of opening a cooperative cafe workshop.
Eilis grew up on a farm in the West of Ireland surrounded by horses, chickens, pigs, you name it! She loves the outdoors and animals – together! In her free time she adores going for runs and walks with her dog, Marley, in the beautiful countryside of Mayo and Galway. The grounds of Ashford Castle in Cong and the surrounding woods is one of her favorite places to bask in the great outdoors.
When she’s not attending to her gorgeous dog you could find her watching GAA matches-another passion of hers! She also likes to cycle the beautiful greenway along the West Coast when the opportunity arises.
Eilis was always passionate about travel, learning about different cultures and learning new languages. She studied Applied Languages at University and as part of her degree she spent six months studying in Germany and another six months working in South America.
In Germany she went on plenty of road trips around the country and in South America she got to explore Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay and Brazil. She taught English in a school in Argentina and lived with Argentinian families. This further enhanced her love for Spanish and the latin way of life!
In 2013, she graduated from the University of Limerick. After that she ventured to the south of Spain to live there for a year and a half, teaching English. Here she embraced swimming in the sea, rollerblading along the lengthy prom and enjoying the tasty Spanish cuisine.
Missing the beautiful Irish countryside she decided to move back to the West of Ireland. She spent another year teaching languages here in Ireland but wanted to get back working with her true passion-travel.
A job at Hillwalk Tours was therefore ideal for her-combining her love for travel with her love for Spanish. She couldn’t have let the chance pass her by!
Eimear O’Connor grew up in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and from an early age recognised her love of travel, and big cities!
At 18, she headed to London to complete a degree in Business Studies, and on completion jumped at the opportunity to take a sponsorship to Boston College, USA to study International Export Marketing.
Sailing down the Charles River one day, Eimear decided that a year just wasn't enough and stayed in the States. She moved to New York City, residing there for the next five years.
The buzz of the city, the diversity, the amazing cultural treats, and of course the East Village, have left a lasting passion and impression on Eimear. While working hard as a Conference Director, Eimear also found time to travel – from San Francisco to Miami to Bermuda and the Caribbean – she certainly got to see a lot!
Ten years later, with the “itchy feet” soothed, Eimear moved back to Ireland, settling in Galway – impressed by its vibrancy, culture and traditions. Here she worked in HR, specialising in European employment law, until she decided to take a break to spend time with her young family. Eimear is married to Padraig - a Galway man, and they have 3 girls; Brianna, Emily and Grace.
It was during this time Eimear was really able to appreciate the magnificent environment that surrounded her, and her love of living by the sea. Her favourite get away places are Roundstone, Connemara and Portnoo, Donegal – both “good for the soul”.
With her family all getting bigger, Eimear decided to go back to work and low and behold – here she is at Hillwalk Tours!
Fiona grew up in the scenic area of Annaghdown in Co. Galway on the West Coast of Ireland. Living near Lough Corrib, she developed a keen interest in swimming and often spent many of her summer days swimming in the nearby lake.
Growing up in a rural area, she developed a passion for her own culture and language as well as that of others. She completed a Degree in Spanish and Legal Studies at NUI Galway, during which she spent a year abroad in the beautiful, cultural city of Murcia on the South Eastern coast of Spain. It is here she further developed her interest in language and culture and decided to return to Spain upon completion of her Degree.
This time, she found herself teaching Science and Art to Primary School students in the picturesque sea-side city of Cádiz on the South-Western Coast of Spain. Being a lover of the outdoors, she relished in the opportunity to swim in the Atlantic Ocean and take in the beautiful sunset as often as she could while living there.
During her experience in Spain, she took the time to travel to a variety of cities and towns around Europe and Spain itself including Brussels, Granada, Lisbon, Seville and Marrakech to name but a few. With a keen interest in Arts and Crafts and everything sentimental, while travelling, she collected postcards with the desire to document her journey in a stunning scrapbook upon her return.
One of her most memorable trips is a walking trip with a group of 3 friends in Ronda in the province of Malaga in Spain. The beautiful scenery and landscape surrounding this fabulous town reminded her of home and caused her to return to this destination a number of times during her 2 years in Cádiz.
After completing her second academic year in Spain, she found that the West of Ireland was calling her once more and decided to return home. She now also enjoys reading and writing in her spare time, if she is not listening to music and walking her dog. Combining her love for travel, the outdoors and language, she found the opportunity at Hillwalk Tours was one she could not miss!
Hauke* Steinberg is originally from Schleswig-Holstein in the very north of Germany - and seems to have been destined to work with Hillwalk Tours.
From 1991, Hauke studied Geography, Zoology and Landscape Ecology at Kiel University, on the Baltic Sea. In 1996, he moved to Ireland to study, drink, play music, and later also work at Trinity College Dublin.
After college, he was first working for an engineering company for a number of years before deciding to try something new. He had been almost everywhere in Ireland and knew the country better than most who are born there. So he started working as a tour guide and showed tourists the beauty and secrets of Ireland. By now, it’s hard to find a place in Ireland Hauke hasn't been to.
At that time, he also started training as a trail inspector with the National Trails Office of Ireland. In this role he was responsible for the standards and quality of the trails and loop walks our customers are walking on when they come to Ireland. Thanks Hauke!
Hauke discovered his love for the outdoors while studying and later working at Trinity College Dublin in the 1990's. With the Wicklow Mountains on the doorstep of Dublin, it was easy to join a walking club and go on regular hikes in the hills. These regular walks continued through the years and he even helped to run an ‘After Office Walking Club’ at work.
Over the years, Hauke has travelled not just all over Ireland but all over the world and he has hiked in Scotland, Europe, Africa, South America, Alaska and Japan. In particular, his travels in South America and Alaska developed his interest in landscape and wildlife photography.
Photography has developed into more than a hobby for Hauke. He is an accomplished, award winning landscape and nature photographer and his main photographic interest lies in landscape and nature photography.
You can have a look at his photos at www.haukesteinberg.com
Another thing you need to know about Hauke is his love for Irish music. It all started in the 1980's when Hauke discovered folk music and folk rock. Since then, this has developed into a deep passion for traditional music from Ireland and other Celtic countries.
During his college years he spent most evenings in pubs playing music and earning the money for his rent. By now he is an accomplished musician, playing the Irish concert flute, tin whistle and the bodhrán (the Irish drum) - if you are unlucky enough he might even sing a song for you!
James Byrne grew up on a farm in Kilkenny in the South-East of Ireland.
After studying Business and French in university, he spent nine months in Quebec teaching English.
There followed a brief flirtation with journalism. This ended when he noticed that using his press pass to gain free entry to sports events was proving more enjoyable than actually reporting on them.
Hiking trips in Malaysia, New Zealand and South America reignited a dormant passion for the great outdoors.
Upon arriving back to Ireland, James tried to re-adapt to office work but only lasted three months before he quit his job, bought a new bike and went cycling around Europe.
When he got to Slovenia he turned around and started to consider what to do when he returned to Ireland.
Try as he might, nothing sprang to mind so, as soon as he got home, he got into his car and drove around Ireland looking for inspiration.
One morning, watching the sun rise over the Beara Peninsula, an idea began to form. Before him was a scene as spectacular as anything he had seen on all his travels.
Enticing visitors to come and experience Europe's unique natural beauty suddenly seemed like the most obvious thing in the world...
And so Hillwalk Tours was born.
Jamie Ralph grew up in a County Galway town in a family with a love of international cultures, travel and languages. His mother is an Italian speaker who lived in Italy for many years, his cousins grew up in Zambia and Bolivia, and his grandmother traces her roots to the city of Lima in Peru. This gave him a curious interest in life beyond the familiar from an early age.
Jamie holds a BA from NUI Galway, a Master’s in Politics from University College Cork and a Professional Diploma in Digital Marketing from the Institute of Direct and Digital Marketing (IDM). The day after graduating from university in Ireland, he moved to London to develop his career in communications and marketing and lived there for 6 years, working in the education and health sectors. Before joining Hillwalk Tours, he led the marketing strategy for a world-renowned association of international schools where he had the exciting opportunity to visit schools in diverse areas of the world.
During his time in London, Jamie took some time out to explore South East Asia and in 2017, he spent a month travelling across the US, from New York to Los Angeles. It was on this trip that Jamie had his most memorable hiking experience, on a peaceful and beautiful trail leading to the iconic waterfall at Hamilton Pool, just outside one of his favourite cities in the world: Austin, Texas.
Having recently escaped the concrete jungle of London, Jamie is looking forward to getting reacquainted with the fresh air of the West of Ireland and further exploring its rugged coastline and waters. Although the writer Samuel Johnson once said, “when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life”, Jamie says he had obviously never been to Galway!
A keen musician who has performed and recorded in both the UK and Ireland, you’re likely to find Jamie singing songs in the corner of a local pub at the weekend. He also runs a supporters’ club for English-speaking fans of the Argentinian football team Newell’s Old Boys which has led him to appearing on the BBC as a pundit. From time to time, he translates Spanish content into English for the Rosario-based club but his first love is Tottenham Hotspur. He still holds a season ticket at Spurs and travels back to London regularly to see them.
Jason Escobedo Fox was born in Ottawa, Canada but spent the majority of his childhood living in Mexico, enjoying the Latin American culture and taking in the sun with his family. They would often take weekend trips to neighbouring towns to enjoy the vistas and would also visit the beach from time to time.
11 years later, upon his return to the Great White North of Canada, Jason discovered his passion for camping, hiking and canoeing – something that would become a yearly occurrence for him during the summer months.
Living in the multicultural and bilingual city of Ottawa, Jason learned French in secondary school and went on to study Criminology at a bilingual university where he further developed his skills in French.
However, after all those years in Canada, Jason was really missing the southern heat, so he made the decision to take an extended trip to Central America. He spent 3 months travelling from Mexico to Nicaragua by land. On this life-changing trip, he was able to meet tons of great people, have countless amazing experiences, and it was then that he caught the travel bug.
Jason couldn’t get enough of this travelling lifestyle, so after saving up some more money, he decided to take another 3-month trip to Southeast Asia. He absolutely loved his time hiking, kayaking, swimming, and relaxing there – not to mention eating!
Having spent his fair share of time down south, Jason decided to switch it up and visit some European countries. He thoroughly enjoyed driving the Ring Road, camping out, and hiking all throughout Iceland. And who could forget all the trekking and sightseeing that he did in Northern Italy and Slovenia? However, the country that struck him the most was – you guessed it – Ireland.
After visiting the Emerald Isle and falling in love with its culture, people, and stunning natural beauty, Jason made the decision to move over. Having spent so much time travelling, he wanted to find a job in the tourism industry where he could help other travellers such as himself. It was then that he found Hillwalk Tours, and the rest is history!
Kasia was born in Olsztyn, the capital city of the Warmia and Mazury Province in north-eastern Poland. Growing up she was surrounded by beautiful lands, lakes and forests, this helped Kasia to develop a passion for travelling and love for nature.
Kasia studied Agritourism at Warmia and Mazury University. It was her dream to run an Agritourism farm where she could show others the beauty of the Polish countryside and offer her guests healthy and organic food products.
When Kasia was not studying she was traveling around Europe, learning English and opening her mind to other cultures. Everything was new and exciting to her. One of the places that Kasia visited was Galway- it was love at first sight! Her heart was soon torn between Ireland and Poland. Kasia knew it would be difficult to leave Galway and go back to Poland, however Kasia still dreamed of owning her own business.
After completing a Master’s degree in Hotel and Tourism Management at Gdynia Maritime University, Kasia decided to come back to Galway for another year or two before settling down in the Polish countryside.
Kasia travelled back to Poland a little later than planned and started working as a HR Administrator in one of her local call centres. She thoroughly enjoyed that period of her life but her desire for travel only grew stronger. Kasia’s next move was with her family to Kent, a beautiful and picturesque county in England. As a family they enjoyed walking in different forests and parks, visiting beautiful little towns and lakes. Despite the charming landscapes and all the wonderful people they met, Kent could not compete with Galway.
Kasia now lives with her family in Galway, her favourite place on Earth. She was delighted when she got the opportunity to work with Hillwalk Tours. Kasia enjoys road trips in Ireland and she also organises a family holiday in Europe at least once a year. Kasia believes this is the best way to see the world, meet new people and give her children the opportunity to follow her passion for travel.
Katalin McGreal was born in Hungary and grew up in a small town in the picturesque Bakony Mountains, not too far from Lake Balaton; both highly regarded tourist destinations. Her first foray into the tourism industry came about when she started working as a tourist guide during her secondary school summer holidays in the beautifully ornate Cistercian Library in her local town, Zirc.
Then the big city called and she enrolled in the University of Economics in Budapest. After getting her degree in Foreign Trade and International Finance, she started working in corporate finance within the telecommunications industry. Here she met her husband Fergus, an Irish man originally from Co. Longford and they ended up moving back to Dublin in Ireland. While enjoying the vibrancy and culture that Dublin offered, they spent lots of weekends touring various parts of Ireland and Katalin fell in love with the scenery along the wild Atlantic shores.
Finally, after spending 20 years in Dublin, the call of the West was too strong to resist and Katalin and her husband decided to move to the buzzing city of Galway. Here they enjoy lots more weekend trips up and down the west coast, from the beautiful beaches in Co. Clare up to the mountains of Connemara and Mayo. Having found Hillwalk Tours, Katalin also returned to the tourism industry after many years spent working for large corporates, thus rediscovering her first passion.
Katalin’s favourite outdoor activities now include walks in the Burren, climbing Diamond Hill in Mayo, strolling in the grounds of Kylemore Abbey or simply walking the Prom in Galway.
Luisa Golz grew up in a small town called Waltrop in the industrial Ruhr area in Germany. With her parents, her brother and her sister she enjoyed many holidays abroad.
When her brother returned from a school exchange program in Alaska, Luisa also got the travel bug. As she wanted to improve her English (and had watched a lot of Riverdance), she chose Ireland and spent six months as an exchange student in County Tipperary.
Luisa was fascinated by the friendliness of the people, Irish music and dance, and most of all she loved the varied and beautiful landscape of Ireland.
Upon returning to Germany she could not wait to finish school and return to Ireland. And she did; in August 2011 Luisa began working in a hotel in Kilkenny. After a short while, she realised that the hotel industry was not her passion, and a year later she enrolled in Waterford IT studying Tourism Marketing. In the meantime Luisa worked in the tourism office in Kilkenny and thoroughly enjoyed it. The three year course was then successfully completed in 2015 and Luisa’s next step was to either pursue further education or to get a job.
When Luisa was offered a position with Hillwalk Tours she was delighted to be able to pursue her career in the field she had dedicated the last three years studying for. Taking a job in Galway meant that she and her boyfriend had to move from Kilkenny to Galway. Having enjoyed visiting Galway on weekend trips on a few occasions, Luisa looked forward to the move and a new adventure.
Luisa always wanted to live closer to the sea. Moving to Galway has made this dream come true. She enjoys riding her horse Polly, walking her sheepdog Holly, running in nature and trying new restaurants. All her interests can be satisfied in her new home in County Galway.
Marie Hough grew up in a small village in County Roscommon. When she was growing up, she spent her summer holidays with her family visiting different parts of Ireland. At the age of 17, she decided to study in Galway and has never left the city since!
Marie grew up with a keen interest in sport. She was an active member of both Ladies Football and Camogie with her local club. Having competed at all levels, she has received many County Titles. Marie enjoys many outdoor activities from cycling to walking her dogs in the beautiful countryside at the weekends.
Marie attended NUI Galway where she studied Commerce, specialising in Human Resource Management. During her time at university, she spent her weekends working in a hotel in Athlone.
After finishing her final year exams, she decided to spend her summer travelling around Europe with one of her friends. Their interrailing experience included countries such as Germany, The Netherlands, Czech Republic, Austria and Slovenia. It was during this time she developed a love for travel, from the busy cities to the scenic landscape of Bled in Slovenia. Her travelling experience also gave Marie a greater appreciation for Ireland’s stunning scenery and culture. Marie hopes to continue to travel and see what different parts of the world have to offer!
Marie was delighted when she was given the opportunity to work with Hillwalk Tours in the field of business she studied for three years.
Mathieu Pegeot grew up in the East of France, in the region of Franche-Comté, not far from the border of Switzerland and Germany.
From a young age he discovered a passion for foreign languages. As he was fascinated by the idea of understanding and interacting with people from around the globe, he decided to study languages at university. In the meantime, his curiosity and love for music led him to discover Irish traditional music and Ireland has never stopped fascinating him ever since. He was captivated by the stirring voices of Luke Kelly and Ronnie Drew.
A year later, Mathieu made the decision to leave his native region of Franche-Comté to go and study in England. His adventurous spirit pushed him to travel all around Ireland and Scotland in his spare time and explore the stunning landscapes he would never be able to forget. This experience had a real impact on him and reinforced his desire to live abroad, knowing inside that he would soon be back in Ireland! When he went back to France, he decided to continue his studies in foreign languages while specialising in the fields of e-commerce and digital marketing. Shortly after, Mathieu headed south to Andalusia, where he worked for three years in a digital agency, while getting used to the local accent!
As Mathieu was always passionate about nature and wide-open spaces, at the beginning of 2017 he decided to fulfil an old ambition and drive across the United Stated in a campervan, all the way from California to New York. With stars in his eyes, he realised how important it was to fulfil his dreams and made the decision to try and combine his love for nature and languages with his marketing knowledge, in a country that has always fascinated him! Mathieu found Hillwalk Tours and his dream came true!
Misja Weesjes was born in the Netherlands, and moved to Ireland when she was 13. She spent the remainder of her childhood between the two countries, spending summers camping in the Netherlands and Europe with her father and brothers, and the rest of the year running wild in Galway.
At 18 she moved back to the Netherlands for a year to study hospitality, but the lure of both the wild open spaces of the West of Ireland, and her family proved too much and she moved back to Galway which has been her home since.
As well as rearing her own little family, Misja went back to college and gained a Degree and a Masters in English Philosophy and Writing. She has since worked in a variety of jobs from sales to facilitating community drum classes and creativity workshops.
Apart from her family, Misja is passionate about a few things; books, the outdoors, hiking and travel. Connemara and the Burren are her favourite places in Ireland.
Her perfect day would be a remote hike to the top of a mountain with a good book and a picnic, strolling back down only as the light begins to fade. Or maybe a day at the beach with a surfboard, taking along a good book and a picnic for when the waves die down! Or, actually, a day spent travelling to some far-flung place she hasn’t been yet (making sure to bring along a good book and a picnic!)
With her family grown up, Misja decided to start dedicating her time to doing more of what she loves, and when the opportunity to work with Hillwalk Tours came up she saw it as a perfect opportunity to combine work with pleasure.
Nóirín Gillespie grew up in Galway on the west coast of Ireland, beside the sea, where she eventually returned to settle down.
Nóirín comes from a long line of Scouts and Girl Guides so her interest in the great outdoors stems from a young age.
One of her most vivid early memories involves camping in Sweden and Denmark as a child and swimming in the sea in the middle of the night under the midnight sun. Despite having travelled all over Europe she only recently ventured outside on a trip to Rio.
Nóirín has a degree in German and Sociology and further diplomas and certificates in Business, Training & Education and HR Management. Spending an Erasmus year in Cologne in Germany was the highlight of her university experience.
Nóirín has been involved in the tourism industry and in bringing people to Ireland for a number of years. With this experience and an interest in sustainable, green industries in Ireland, joining Hillwalk Tours was a natural progression for her.
Now in her spare time Nóirín enjoys “Gentle Level” walks in Connemara and other outdoor activities such as gardening, jogging, walking her dogs and socialising with friends.
Her dream holiday is to spend some more time in South and Central America and explore the Aztec ruins in Mexico.
Patrizia grew up in Germany between the Black Forest and the Swabian Alps. Spending a lot of her time in the forests and hills of her native region has contributed greatly to her love of nature.
Growing up, she spent a lot of her time outside, mostly thanks to her passion for horse riding. Patrizia spent her summer holidays every year with her family in Southern Italy, visitng her grandparents and spending some weeks in the sunshine eating all the delicious food. Having grown up with two different cultures has definitely made it much easier now for Patrizia to settle into a new country.
At the age of 11, she came to Ireland for the first time and spent two wonderful weeks on a houseboat on the river Shannon. Looking back now, this was probably the time when she fell in love with the Emerald Isle.
After finishing school, Patrizia spent a few months in Scotland and England, where she worked in a hotel. She especially loved her visit to the Highlands which she still remembers well. Unfortunately though, she couldn’t catch a glimpse of Nessie!
Following her apprenticeship in Germany and after spending a few months in France for an internship, she started a new job back in Germany. However, she didn’t enjoy it very much and decided to do something entirely different and go studying in Sweden. Her new home Malmö was set directly by the sea, opposite the lovely city of Copenhagen, and the unpredictable windy weather has prepared her well for Galway! During her time at university, she also spent an Erasmus year abroad and went yet again to France, where she studied in Grenoble in the French Alps.
Patrizia likes spending her free time with friends or just with a good book. She is a very creative person and she very much enjoys painting and drawing. With her love of nature she also developed a passion for sustainability and leading an ecoconscious life.
After finishing her studies and moving back to Germany, Patrizia realised that she actually doesn’t want to live in her home country, so she decided to move abroad again and chose to live in Ireland. As she loves the country so much, she is now very happy to have moved to Galway and to live at the seaside again.
Pauline Lemaire was born in a small city not far from Lille in the north of France. Her parents had the secret wish of living big adventures and when she reached the age of 4 they decided to move to Egypt. She lived there for 3 years, surrounded by huge pyramids and hieroglyphs, which made her more curious about her world and gave her the soul of an adventurer.
While growing up she developed a true passion for the English language! As she was too young to travel, she exercised her love of the language by watching series and movies and learning lyrics from Queens’s songs. At first, her dream was to be an English teacher as she loved to share experiences with others. However as she started university, her dream changed as a classroom wasn’t big enough to explore! She decided to study tourism while doing her best to learn all the secrets of the 196 countries in the world.
In the meantime, she was travelling of course! As her parents are expats, she had the chance to wear a chapka hat in Russia, to go biking across Holland mills, to sleep under the stars of Sahara Desert and to take stunning pictures from the roof of one of the highest building in Qatar. Her studies gave her the opportunity to live abroad as well, in the Czech Republic and Thailand but she particularly enjoyed her time in Ireland!
She moved to Dublin in 2014 where she stayed for 4 months living with a Dubliner girl, this made her discover the Irish way of life! The island capital wasn’t the most beautiful she had seen but there was so much more to enjoy as every corner of Dublin is full of history, music and people! Socialising is such a big thing in Ireland and the people are so sweet that you might never leave.
After travelling from Europe to Asia and finishing her master degree in tourism, Pauline decided to look for her first job in Ireland which had already seduced her with its Celtic legends, stunning landscapes and the kindness of its people. That’s how she got the opportunity to become a Galway girl and join the team at Hillwalk Tours!
Rebekka Hafner-Toone was born in Yorkshire, North England but grew up in a little village near Munich in Bavaria, South Germany. (She’s still a huge fan of Bayern Munich!).
Growing up she spent a lot of time on her nanny's farm and outdoors, going for walks in the nearby forest. From an early age she visited the Alps and the historical cities of Bavaria with her family. She soon recognised her love for traditions and hospitality while working in beer gardens and local festivals.
Her hometown is twined with Naas in Kildare and this brought Rebekka to Ireland. She first travelled with the marching band of her hometown and then came back every summer travelling the country and enjoying the breath-taking landscape and historical buildings. The kindness and hospitality of the Irish people impressed Rebekka and she decided she wanted to move to Ireland at some stage of her life.
After completing her school exams Rebekka moved to the Franconian city of Würzburg where she did her apprenticeship in the hotel industry. During this time she enjoyed exploring the different vineyard tours and wine areas. Thoroughly enjoying the work at the reception and reservation departments during her training, she moved to Frankfurt to work for a conference and exhibition hotel. During her 13 months in the financial city she met her partner (or as Rebekka likes to call him - her Irish Leprechaun) and decided to turn her dream of moving to Ireland into reality.
She moved to Tullamore - the town of the ladies whiskey - and worked as a Senior Receptionist in a local hotel. During her time in the Midlands she used her days off to travel to different parts of Ireland, particularly the West of Ireland which became her favourite place.
For her future development she decided to move to Dublin where she gained experience in Marketing and Advertising. During this time she missed the countryside and so she decided to move to the place which impressed her the most - Galway.
Organising trips for family and friends to Ireland was her own little trademark and so the position at Hillwalk Tours was the perfect opportunity to bring all her past travel experiences together.
Richard Davis grew up on a farm in a rural village in County Galway in the West of Ireland.
From an early age it was clear that Richard had a sense of travel and adventure in his blood, leaving no stone unturned and no tree unclimbed, much to the dismay of his parents who often had to call out “don’t go too far” and “be careful”.
When growing up, he spent his summer holidays visiting different parts of Ireland with his family and often went walking on the beautiful landscape of Connemara, in the West of Ireland, where his father was born. When he first travelled abroad to London, he was hooked on travelling!
Richard attended University in Galway where he studied Business initially and later Human Resources. During his time in University, often working on a tight budget, he travelled extensively throughout several parts of Europe with his friends; exploring new landscapes, cultures and traditions along with seeing some incredible sights, meeting amazing people and experiencing unusual things!
After completing his Masters in Human Resources, he made the decision to leave his home place and moved to Belfast in Northern Ireland where he quickly obtained employment. Here he spent time not only working but also sightseeing and immersing himself in the different culture, history and sights that Northern Ireland had to offer.
Not content to sit still in one place, he spent a large amount of time still travelling throughout Europe with his work, friends or family. When realising that travel & tourism was his true passion in life, he attended University in Belfast to study a Masters in Tourism. Although enjoying life in Belfast, when the opportunity arose to join Hillwalk Tours, he could not pass up the chance to pursue a career in Travel & Tourism along with a chance to move home to his native Galway.
In his spare time, when he’s not looking for an opportunity to visit a new country, Richard enjoys watching and playing all types of sports, but most notably soccer. He has often travelled to the North-West of England several times to see his beloved Wigan Athletic play. Due to his sense of travel and adventure, he often spends most of his weekends driving throughout Ireland and often chooses the paths less travelled to drive in order to discover locations that a breathtakingly beautiful and remote – the ‘gem’ location.
Some of his other passions in life are trying new foods, farming, music and interacting with friends, family and meeting new people.
Sarah McNamara grew up in lovely Limerick City, spending every summer in the scenic seaside town of Kilkee, Co Clare. Little did she know that being dragged as a child on the ritual Dunlicky cliff walk, in rain or shine, more times than she can remember, would instil a lasting love of the outdoors and the sea.
After completing a degree in Astrophysics in NUI Galway and a master’s in Florida Tech, Sarah turned her attention away from the stars and focused on exploring planet Earth. The 7 month trip across Africa, South America and Asia provided plenty of opportunities to break in her brand new hiking boots. Treks in the Andes and Himalayas are what inspired her to begin hiking the Irish countryside on her return home.
A job in Marketing Analytics brought her to Dublin, with many beautiful walks in the Dublin and Wicklow Mountains on her doorstep. However, the West and the sea were always calling, and 5 years later she moved back to Galway and a role in Marketing Insights before joining Hillwalk Tours.
Besides seeing the world and exploring the outdoors on foot or on two wheels, Sarah’s other main passion is soccer. She loves nothing more than combining this with her love of travel, following the Republic of Ireland to the last two European Championships in Poland and France. Until her next trip, for a tournament or otherwise, she is loving re-experiencing all that Galway and the West has to offer!
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