Gallivanting Tours: Meet Lorraine O'Dwyer

woman smiling Gallivanting Tours
Lorraine O'Dwyer, owner of Gallivanting Tours in Co. Wexford.

Are you a Wexford native and exactly how did you get your start “gallivanting” around Ireland?

My mum is a native of Wexford and my dad is from Dublin and that’s where I grew up. But we spent every summer and Christmas and most weekends here. I always felt more at home here and so it made sense that as soon as I could I moved here permanently, I did.

I was 22 when I moved to Gorey in North Wexford and I've never looked back! I am raising my own kids here now and it is a wonderfully warm and close community to live in. I couldn't imagine going anywhere else!

We have the best of both worlds here. The lovely lush green countryside and small-town pace of life, but within an hour’s drive I could be in Dublin City center! I get seriously itchy feet, always looking for the next adventure.
The Wexford coast on Ireland's sunny southeast. Photo: Courtesy of The Irish Experience for Failte Ireland.

I love to work but couldn’t find a job to suit, so I created one! It’s not just the tours that I offer. I also work with the National Tourist Board, our local county council and schools, and I also host Storytelling Nights across the country, so every day is different. I’m always off gallivanting!

Did you have any previous experience in the tourism industry before becoming a tour guide?

I grew up in the industry. Dad is a hotelier and a publican and very well known here in Ireland for his themed bars and unique hotels. Family holidays were really research trips so, from a very young age, I was immersed in it! I began my own career at 14, working in the bars and hotels, which included waiting tables, serving at the bar, front desk, reservations, accommodation…. you name it, I've done it!

I didn't receive a formal education. I left school early. But the education I did receive through my experiences was invaluable and I really feel I was very, very lucky to get the upbringing I did!

What do you feel is different about the southeast where Gallivanting Tours is focused as opposed to other places in Ireland?

Ireland is a strange island, so small and yet each county or province is really different! Wexford is special to me for many reasons.

First off, it’s not as well known by international visitors and yet it’s the number one place for Irish people to come and stay. Every summer, we are invaded by families from Dublin, Galway, Cork, and Belfast!

famine ship in water The Dunbrody Famine Ship Experience
The Dunbrody Famine Ship, a popular attraction in Co. Wexford. Photo; Failte Ireland.

So, we have loads of great places to stay, things to do, places to eat, along with a working Internet service and a good road system! But at the same time, while we are set up for tourism, we don't have that “diddly-aye I'm a Leprechaun” nonsense!

Instead, we have real authentic stuff, including the Storytelling Houses, the trad nights, the farmers' markets, and some of the best beaches you'll find on the island!

You mention “unique visitor attractions” that can be found in Wexford. What are your own personal favorites?

That’s a really hard question! But I adore the National Heritage Park. I love that you can sit down by the fire in a Celtic Ringfort, wrap a woolen cloak around you and pretend you've gone back to the time of the Celts or the Vikings.

beds inside a hut Gallivanting Tours
A ringfort house interior at the Irish Heritage Park in Co. Wexford. Photo courtesy of Irish Heritage Park.

It was a real favorite for my kids growing up as it’s such a large park and so much fun to visit. You can even stay overnight, dressed as a Celt and sleeping under animal skins! I might be weird, but I found it terribly romantic!

It's somewhere that feels very real, the management and the staff really try to make it as authentic as possible and it’s a real gem of a place to explore.

You offer all kinds of different tours, including spiritual retreats. Tell more about these one-day and multi-day offerings from Gallivanting Tours?

Our ancestors worshiped the land. They called her Danú, the great Mother. We have rituals and ceremonies that were practiced here for thousands of years, sacred spaces untouched by any sort of modernity, and stories that hold great wisdom.

I have lived with the old beliefs my whole life. I celebrate the old ancient holidays like Samhain and Bealtaine. And now, I and many other Irish people find ourselves acting as our ancestors once did, as teachers or guides helping people reconnect to the land.

I work primarily with a Celtic Shaman called Cait, a healer called Patricia, and a high priestess called Baya but I have a large circle of others I can call on, from tribal drummers to druids to the coven of witches that I work with privately.
Photo: Samhain fires. Tourism Ireland.

So far, we have curated the retreats for international groups of women, but I also have scrapped a few tours halfway through and it’s become a spiritual tour!

One very memorable tour involved a stressed, busy and self-confessed “Tiger Mom” from New York. We started with Johnstown Castle but ended up doing some grounding work barefoot on the top of a mountain!

Which “gallivanting” tour would you suggest someone take if they are visiting Wexford and the Southeast for the first time?

two people sitting on a wall by an old church Gallivanting Tours
Tintern Abbey is one of the places that you'll visit on the Stormin' Normans tour. Photo: Brian Morrison, Tourism Ireland.

Either The Stormin' Normans or the Hook & Snare tour. These are the best stories and most scenic drives! But as all my tours are private, I often end up tweaking things to incorporate a little of both of these tours at my customers’ request!

Food in Ireland has had a bad rap for years, but now things seem to be changing for the better with more organic offerings throughout Ireland. What’s special about the food tours that you offer?

I focus more on our food heritage, the influences made by the Celts (garlic butter, cheese), the Vikings (sausages), the Normans (vinegar, wine, and rabbits), and the English (potatoes, tea, and sugar).

a block of cheese gallivanting tours
Photo: Failte Ireland.

I want people to learn about how important organic farming is and how all farms should be as free-range as possible. If we take our food for granted, then we take the earth for granted and that’s not a good idea.

But also, our food story is a great way to tell our island’s history, but with added gin and chocolate! My food tours are not your normal food tours, but you will have learned a lot about Irish food by the end!

Tourists these days are looking for vacations that offer genuine experiences. Do you feel that they’ll get that at Gallivanting Tours?
Photo courtesy of Gallivanting Tours.

I know they will. I pride myself on it! I have no interest in anything else. I am very happy to say that I get a lot of return customers and referrals as a result and I would be utterly horrified if someone left one of my tours not feeling like they have made a new friend in Ireland!

What is the most complimentary comment you’ve received from a person who has taken any one of your tours?

“There are tours, and then there are tours, and then there are gallivanting tours….” That was a TripAdvisor review that made me well up! Every compliment counts though.
Lorraine O'Dwyer, owner of Gallivanting Tours pictured at the Hook Head Lighthouse in Co. Wexford. Photo: Facebook.

And people have said things like, I was “the highlight of the trip,” “worth every penny,” and “exactly what they came to Ireland to find.”

Hearing things like that make the job worthwhile, and it motivates me to keep going!

Readers of Ireland on a Budget are looking for value and experiences that are not overly expensive. Does Gallivanting Tours cater to all budgets?

I am on the higher end. Tours are €170 per person but you get a LOT! It’s also a very personal experience so while I am expensive, I am worth it!

What can visitors expect when taking your tours?

A door to door service, VIP treatment where ever they go, a full day of stories, a hamper full of treats to enjoy or take home, meeting locals and having the craic, the best lunch spots, loads of advice, and travel tips for the rest of their stay and of course some of Ireland’s best visitor attractions!

How can readers of Ireland on a Budget find out more about your tours?
Visit my website or email me at [email protected].

If there is anything you’d like to add, feel free to mention it below

I work with Taste Wexford as their official storyteller. We often run special food events throughout the year, so check out their website for more information on this!

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