Dates & Prices


Dates: 21st – 25th May 2025

Price: £1,250 Places available

Single Room Supplement: £150

Deposit: £150 per person

Price Includes: All meals, accommodation with private facilities, ground transport, services of guides, holiday report

Not Included: Flights, travel insurance, drinks and any other personal items.

Leader: Sean Cole & Mike Waller

Group Size: Minimum of 3 and a maximum of 6 guests plus 2 leaders.

Conservation donation: Botanical Society of Britain & Ireland (BSBI)

Grade: Gentle paced walks in a variety of terrains. Ideally suited to photography.

Holiday Highlights

  • Led by the authors of the highly acclaimed Britain’s Orchids: A Field Guide to the Orchids of Great Britain and Ireland
  • See the endemic Irish Marsh Orchid, which will be in its prime
  • The hard-to-see Dense-flowered Orchid, restricted to Ireland, in good numbers at several locations. This species has a range restricted to the Mediterranean, and Ireland, and is not found in Britain.
  • Spectacular displays of thousands of Early Purple Orchids
  • Beautiful Sword-leaved Helleborines and Bird’s Nest Orchids in an enchanting Atlantic Rainforest next to a beautiful lake 
  • A remote site in a beautiful forest, containing thousands of Lesser Twayblades – tiny, but superb close up!
  • Hundreds of Pugsley’s Marsh and other Marsh Orchids at a fantastic site close to the stunning St John’s Point Beach, as well as more at a gorgeous lake in Co Mayo
  • Birds including Red-necked Phalatrope, Corncrake, White-tailed Eagle, Great Northern Diver & summer-plumaged Black Guillemots
  • Insects including early season dragonflies and possibly Marsh Fritillary & Cryptic Wood White butterflies

Enjoy a bonanza of orchids in Ireland on this new & exclusive botanical tour!

Mike Waller is a professional ecologist and botanist, having dedicated his career to wildlife conservation and scientific outreach – working for organisations such as the Natural History Museum, Plantlife, London Wildlife Trust and the RSPB. Beyond his passion for wildlife, he is a habitats and vegetation communities specialist, underpinned by his physical geography background. Mike is a passionate tour leader and derives great enjoyment from showing people new and exciting wildlife. His lifelong interest in European wild orchids led him to co-author “Britain’s Orchids” for WildGuides, published in 2020.

Sean Cole has had a passion for wildlife since he was young, and has travelled extensively in the last 45 years to seek out, study and enjoy watching birds, butterflies, dragonflies, reptiles & amphibians, as well as his main passion – orchids. He has been studying them for over twenty years and has published many articles about them. He is co-author of “Britain’s Orchids” for WildGuides, the result of his passion for sharing his enthusiasm for wildlife and conservation.

We’re delighted to return to Ireland for our exclusive five-day trip, led by authors of the highly-acclaimed “Britain’s Orchids” to the orchid-rich country of Ireland!

We will experience the beautiful scenery of the Wild Atlantic Way, including some stunning beaches and Loughs, enjoy the friendly relaxed atmosphere and famously welcoming people of Ireland, both in the Republic and the North.

As if thousands of orchids, including some very special ones, are not enough, we should see some exciting birds and butterflies too!

We strongly believe in the care and protection of the habitats and species we’ll be there to see. This is why we’re keeping the group size small, with 2 leaders. Through our partnership with BSBI you’ll also be contributing towards the study & conservation of plants and habitats on this tour as well.

Our base will be the town of Sligo, which straddles the Garavogue River where it meets Sligo Bay. It’s famed for fine seafood, traditional Irish music, and the iconic flat-topped Benbulben mountain, which has dominated the landscape in the west of Sligo for over 300 million years.

We will stay in a comfortable & stylish three-star Hotel in the heart of Sligo. The comfortable theme continues as this is a genuine small group tour, limited to six guests, travelling in two SUV vehicles throughout the tour. This will also allow access to some special, wildlife-rich sites in stunning countryside. We will visit rare Machair and Atlantic Rainforest habitats as well as mountains, loughs and extensive dune systems – plus there will be some stunning beaches along the way.

The pace will be relaxed, but we will make the days fit with the amount of things to see – which is a lot! As well as allowing plenty of time to soak up the experience or take photographs, there will be identification advice offered on the trickier orchid species we might encounter.

Apart from the orchid fest, we will also enjoy other wildlife during the trip. We hope to get great views of Red-necked Phalarope at its only breeding site in Ireland. Corncrake is very likely at several sites in Co Mayo – including a very reliable one with 8+ singing males. We may see White-tailed Eagle at one of its few reintroduction sites. Great Northern Diver is possible at some of the coastal location and summer-plumaged Black Guillemots come in close at the harbour in Killybegs.

There should also be some early season dragonflies to enjoy, such as Scarce Chaser. And depending on the season we may be lucky enough to see Cryptic Wood White and Marsh Fritillary butterflies too.

On the trip last year there were also some super cetaceans seen, including Minke Whales, Dolphins, and even a Basking Shark. We will visit the same locations again so although no promises can be made, there is a possibility of sightings and our guides will have spotting scopes with them, to help make the most of any opportunities as they occur.

A final thought. If you have a partner, friend, or other companion, who would like to travel with you but not take part in the daily excursions, then this trip is ideally suited to that, and we can offer a reduced rate for them to stay with you at the hotel (on a room sharing basis) and share some of the meals we’ll have in the local vicinity.

This promises to be a very popular holiday so we recommend booking soon!

Day 1: Meet & depart from Knock Airport early afternoon and head to a mountain near Sligo where we should see our first main orchid target – Dense-flowered Orchid. We will also have a spectacular view of the coastline from here. Then north to Mullaghmore, which is home to several orchid species, some of which will already be in flower, and is also good for birds such as Skylarks, Red-breasted merganser and waders. There was a pair of Whooper Swan nesting here in 2023. This site has also produced early dragonflies on past trips. From there, a short drive to our accommodation in Sligo.

After dinner we can meet in the Hotel bar, check our photos and get to know each other.

Day 2: After breakfast we will head north-east towards Enniskillen in Northern Ireland, where we visit a spectacular escarpment overlooking Lower Lough Erne, which has the largest population of Dense-flowered Orchid in the UK and Ireland. Numbers vary from season to season but can range from 100 to 700+. In a good year, the site has many Early Purple orchids of all colours too and other plants typical of montane limestone grassland such as Mountain Everlasting. This is a private access area to which we have permission from the ecologically-minded farmer. Our timing should be right to get the plants in perfect condition, depending on the season of course!

We will have our packed lunch on the hill – the views are so good! If it does happen to be raining, we can eat in the vehicles with the windscreen wipers on (we are able to take the vehicles up to the top of the hill). Next, a short drive to Navar Forest Park. This is a popular wildlife destination in the area with lakes, forests and bogs, and we should see hundreds, or even thousands, of Lesser Twayblade, which will be coming into flower and look lovely and fresh. There are also sites for Irish Damselfly and Cryptic Wood White in the area.

Evening meal at the hotel.

Day 3: After breakfast we will head north to visit an ancient Atlantic rainforest – one of the top 5 most biodiverse woodlands in whole of Ireland – where we will see some beautiful Sword-leaved Helleborines. Common Spotted, Bird’s-nest Orchids and Common Twayblade are also present. This is also a site for Tree Lungwort – a specialized species of lichen that is an indicator of pristine habitat. Here, we may also see Pied Flycatcher, Grebes and possibly Red squirrel and White-tailed Eagle, which has been reintroduced to the region. We will have lunch overlooking the gorgeous Lough Eske, a tranquil and beautiful lake with mountain views. Then on to the spectacular St John’s point and a colony of Marsh Orchids, including Britain and Ireland’s largest population of Pugsley’s Marsh Orchid. Among spectacular scenery near the lighthouse and beaches we’ll explore the series of fens where we should see hundreds of individuals of this species along with Early Marsh, Heath Spotted, and possibly Irish Marsh and get some practice on the various hybrid combinations. From here also we should see breeding Snipe, and on the sea there is a chance of Whales, Dolphins and Basking Sharks, as well as Great Northern Diver and Auks. The limestone grassland may produce Marsh Fritillary Butterfly, and also has numerous Early Purple Orchids, offering fantastic photographic opportunities.

Then northwards to Sheskinmore National Nature Reserve – a large area of dunes and lakes. Here we get our third chance seeing Dense-flowered Orchid, growing in dune slacks – a very unusual habitat in Ireland. The species is scattered throughout this national nature reserve. We will also see various Dactylorhiza marsh and spotted orchids, including more instructive hybrids if we are sharp-eyed. One area could have several thousand Early Purple Orchids and is truly a sight to behold!

After these delights we head to the famous fishing town of Killybegs for a dinner of fish and chips – it would be rude not to here! The harbour also has birds such as auks, including Black Guillemot, that show very close. If the weather is fine we can eat our meal overlooking the harbour, otherwise we will sit in.

Then back to the hotel for evening drinks and social.

Day 4: Today we head west into County Mayo, where we are guaranteed a lot of Irish Marsh Orchids, many in their prime, at several sites, including the beautiful Cross Lough, and nearby coastal machair. Lunch in a really nice café in Belmullet – where, in some gardens, Irish Marsh orchids grow in front lawns!

The Belmullet peninsular is also home to Conrcrakes, and we have a good chance of hearing them, and maybe even catching a glimpse of one. It is also home to Ireland’s only breeding population of Red-necked Phalarope, which can be watched from the road at a safe distance from any nests. The sea may produce terns, auks, divers, otters and cetaceans.

Evening meal in Sligo, followed by drinks in a nearby bar along with some traditional Gaelic music for our last evening.

Day 5: Our last day, so we will have an earlier breakfast to enable us to check out a site on the way back down to the airport. If flights or travel allow it, we will head to Mullaghmore to see how the orchids have progressed since our first visit.

Dropoff at the airport and say our farewells!

To follow later

To follow later