Stíofán Mac Cárthaigh - (Stephen McCarthy)
How it began
Growing up in the townland of Deelish, a few miles outside of Dungarvan town in County Waterford, I was fortunate to be surrounded by an extended family with a rich history of dramatics, storytelling, Irish traditional music and stepdancing. This enabled me to tap into the abundant talent that has been passed down through the generations of my family. Locally, I attended dance and music classes which allowed my siblings Brendan, Sharon, and I to entertain bus loads of tourists at Bridgie Terries public house with music, chat, and laughter.
In the surrounding mountains and countryside, my imagination ran wild as I witnessed the breathtaking beauty of the area. I found solace in the depths of the forest, taking mindful moments to listen to the dulcet sounds of nature, watching tadpoles grow in small ponds, or playing among the heathers and ferns with my siblings. Life was filled with both good and bad times, but overall it was fantastic.
During the period of the Irish Celtic Tiger from 1994 to 2009, I worked diligently to pursue a career as an Architectural Technologist, while also engaging in my favorite hobbies of amateur dramatics, musicals, Irish music, and stepdancing. However, the collapse of the construction industry in 2009 prompted me to reassess and utilize my skills to establish alternative income streams.
Fortunately, I seized the opportunity to join the internationally acclaimed Irish Dance Spectacular “Rhythm of the Dance” and toured with them for two years, showcasing my diverse talents across the globe.
Having gained significant experience in show business, I subsequently ventured into the tourism industry in the South East of Ireland. I began my journey in Waterford City, where I was employed as a historical re-enactor and tour guide for the Waterford Treasures, showcasing the medieval museum, Bishop’s Palace, and regaling visitors with tales of the Epic Tour. Later, I transitioned to Kilkenny City, where I worked as a tour guide for both the Kilkenny ghost tours and Kilkenny cycle tours, highlighting the city’s rich medieval history and all that it has to offer visitors.
As a result of my various creative experiences, I became curious as to why such tours are typically limited to urban settings. This led me to consider the possibility of conducting guided walking tours in my own village, where I have resided since 2018. When Covid-19 emerged in Ireland in March 2020, travel was restricted to a five-kilometer radius, prompting me to explore the same route that I now use for my guided walking tours. Along this route, I discovered the natural beauty, geological formations, and architecturally exquisite structures in the area, as well as its potential for mindfulness and Irish heritage. I subsequently identified ten points of interest on the route and began to develop a mind map of ideas on how to setup a future guided walking tour offering to the area.
Recognizing the power of storytelling to convey the essence of the experience to my potential target audience, I drew upon the ancient Irish tradition of Seanachaí (Old stories). To prepare for my endeavor, I visited the Kilmacthomas library and conducted extensive research on local heritage stories from books by local historians Sean and Sile Murphy related to the chosen route. I gathered as many relevant books as possible to enrich my knowledge and provide captivating anecdotes for my guided walking tour.
In November 2020, I made the decision to enroll in a local LTI Tourism trails with Smart Media at Dunhill Multi Educational Centre. This provided me with the necessary knowledge and skills to establish the business that I had long envisioned. Following the completion of this course, I then enrolled in the VTOS Start Your Own Business program to further solidify my project and make it a tangible reality for tourists to enjoy.
In June 2022, I officially launched the prototype for the guided walking tour, and the feedback thus far has been overwhelmingly positive. During the tour, I strive to convey my passion by sharing factual and engaging stories with the audience. The Steps Back Thru Time experience offers visitors a unique glimpse into history, complete with pivotal moments that have had both tragic and celebratory outcomes. It is my sincere hope that participants come away from the tour feeling both enlightened and exhilarated.
Fun & ❤️P🧡R💛I💚D💙E💜
Integrating entertainment into my guided walking tours is a top priority, and I make a concerted effort to engage participants of all ages with witty quotes and local folklore. My goal is to ensure that every guest fully enjoys and comprehends the experience. During the tour, I encourage questions and lively discussions on all aspects of the region of Kilmacthomas, as I believe that these debates and conversations are vital to fostering knowledge sharing and interaction.
As a proud member of the LGBTQI+ community, having come out in 2002 as a cis gay male using the pronouns He/Him/His, I am committed to providing a safe, fair, and inclusive tourism service experience. I believe that the more businesses that adopt this national strategy in Ireland, the better the quality of life and overall wellbeing will be for the next generation of society. My business is guided by core principles of Equality, Respect for Diversity, Inclusion, Visibility, Collaboration, Accessibility, and Accountability. I welcome you to join one of my tours at any time by simply booking your tickets, and I will personally ensure that you have an exceptional Steps Back Thru Time guided walking tour experience.
I have been a fully accredited trainer of the Leave No Trace principles and practice since October 2021, and I am committed to sharing these seven fundamental principles with all participants of my walking tours. In addition to enjoying the fresh air and mindfulness moments along the routes, it is essential that we raise awareness about sustainability and our environment.
By promoting awareness and sustainability, we can all play our part in preserving the stunning amenity that lies on our doorstep in the heart of the award-winning Waterford Greenway. It is my belief that by respecting and preserving this beautiful natural environment, we can enhance our appreciation of it, and ensure that it continues to be a source of enjoyment and inspiration for generations to come.
Independent Tour Guide Association
I am proud to be affiliated with an independent group of experienced tour guides who offer exceptional guided tour experiences to both locals and visitors across all the 32 stunning counties of Ireland. I became a member of this group in June 2022, and as a result, my business is covered by public liability insurance provided by this reputable organization.
Together, we are committed to showcasing the many wonderful destinations that Ireland has to offer and sharing with you the fascinating Story of Ireland. Whether you are interested in history, culture, nature, or simply want to experience the beauty of the Emerald Isle, we have a tour that is sure to capture your imagination and create unforgettable memories.