One morning in 2008, while watching the sun rise over the Beara Peninsula in South West Ireland, an idea began to form in the mind of a young Irishman named James Byrne. Before him was a scene as spectacular as anything he had seen on his travels in South America, Malaysia and New Zealand.
James Byrne, Founder of Hillwalk Tours
As dawn broke across the dramatic mountains which look down on the Atlantic Ocean and the morning became coloured with 40 shades of green, James decided that it would be his mission to ensure other people could experience the unforgettable scene he was witnessing before his eyes.
“But how would they see these wonders of the world? From the seat of a bus? From the window of a helicopter?” thought James.
He knew that to fully feel the fresh Irish breeze on your skin or to breathe the damp and sacred Scottish air, you must be fully engrossed in the natural world, and that could only be done by being there, in mind, body and spirit, traversing the landscape by foot, one in front of the other.
And just like that, Hillwalk Tours was born.
The first tour sold was on The Dingle Way in 2009 and since then, Hillwalk Tours has provided happy experiences for over 25,000 walkers.
A lot has changed since that first tour was sold. In 2012, walking tours in Scotland were added and a few years later in 2015, we started to sell walking tours in England. In 2017, we sold our first tour outside of the UK and Ireland, the famous Camino de Santiago pilgrimage in Spain.
In our bright and diverse Head Office in the city of Galway on Ireland’s west coast, the one thing that hasn’t changed is the mission that James Byrne originally set out in 2009. Creating experiences that make people happy is our core purpose. We do that by helping people escape to nature. It’s that simple.
That mission extends beyond just our walkers who take to the trails. It means that for our employees, working at Hillwalk Tours must be a happy experience. We’re privileged to have a friendly multilingual team that offer personalised customer support whether you’re already on a walking trail or just dreaming about a hike that you’ve had on your bucket list for years. We hire people who care about what we’re doing, support them and look after them. We give them opportunities to learn and grow.
The Hillwalk Tours Team celebrating our 10th anniversary
We create happy experiences for our B&Bs too, and the restaurants, shops and taxi companies that serve our walkers. These are often small businesses located in isolated areas that have been left behind by urban migration and a lack of investment in rural regions. Their warm hospitality and friendly welcomes epitomise the magic of a Hillwalk Tour and we’re dedicated to helping keep these rural communities alive.
We are blessed that so many rugged coastlines, towering mountains, sandy beaches and quaint villages are accessible to walkers and we want to keep it that way. As more and more people take to the great outdoors, our collective mark on the environment increases. Litter, damage to vegetation and water pollution are just some of the results. Protecting the environment is not something we just preach about, but it’s something we practice too, by supporting the ideals of Leave No Trace. We believe that the Leave No Trace ethos can have a tangible impact on nature conservation which is why we encourage all of our walkers to make it hard for others to see or hear you and to LEAVE NO TRACE of your visit.
We pledge to stay true to these ideals, no matter what. By leaving the earth around us untouched, we can continue to create happy experiences for walkers around the world.