Kells – a business built on 5,000 years of history

Lucy O’Reilly set up The Kells Experience, offering tours of Meath’s historic Boyne Valley, in 2011. Today it provides everything from short walks to multi-day itineraries including accommodation, vehicle hire and language guides.

A business built on 5,000 years of history

Rated number three of nine things to do in Kells on Trip Advisor, we are passionate about the heritage of Ireland. Our professional yet informal style makes The Kells Experience a welcoming, personal and unforgettable way to see the wealth of heritage of the Boyne Valley and Ireland’s Ancient East. We offer a great way learn all about its history and culture, to take part in some refreshing activities and to enjoy great Irish scenery, accommodation, food and nightlife. Visitors leave with a smile, a renewed spirit, fond memories and a yearning to return. Why not join us on an adventure across 5,000 years of history? 

My greatest business achievement?

Opening a tour base in the town – it was a leap of faith but was the right move to make. I always remembered a comment from a senior member of Meath County Council about another tour company – ‘one needs a visible shop window’. We have one – in Market Street. 

What was the lowest moment?

A group had booked in to walk around Kells and changed their dates a couple of times, but I neglected to update it on my online calendar. So while they were waiting for me in Kells, I was obliviously running errands in Navan. It was an irretrievable situation; I could only apologise profusely. I felt so disorganised.

How do you cope with setbacks?

By thinking long term while focusing on day-to-day tasks. To get from here to there, I find it helpful to have a clear vision of where ‘there’ is. This long-term vision helps to allay my anxieties and helps me enjoy the journey. It helps me take peoples’ opinions on board without deflecting from the goal too. This helps for the days when something goes wrong when cash flow is low, or when I just want to put my head in a bucket and sob, conscious that the fate of all this relies on me.

What motivates you?

I think in possibilities, and I thrill in being able to make them work. This area has such a rich history that is undersold – and the more I read and learn about it, the better the story I tell gets. After every tour, I have enjoyed it so much that I nearly forget to get paid – now who could ask for better work than that? 

The Kells Experience

If I were starting again today, I would … 

I would have realised that the only limitations I have are the ones I place on myself.

What lessons have you learned in business that others could apply?

If you want to succeed, you must act. The action is paramount and takes precedence over all other things.  Don’t wait for someone else to do it for you. Focus doesn’t come naturally to me but has to be learned, refined and practiced.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help – we are all interconnected in some way – and someday I can extend the same help.

Treat every client and supplier as special, they are. And if you know someone starting out or who is doing a good job – send people their way! I have benefited from referrals from local businesses, and partnerships and collaboration are vital. 

How did you raise your start-up capital and how was that experience for you?

‘Start-up capital’ is an ambitious term! I more or less launched the project with no capital other than loans from family and some stipend from social welfare.

It’s tough at the beginning, and I often wish I had the resources that I see others with to sink into the start-up of a business. On the other hand, it makes me think creatively, so that is an up-side.

What would have made the start-up process easier?


What is your ambition for your business?

To be a sustainable tourism resource in the Boyne Valley and to continue to provide real authentic experiences for our visitors. This way, they will enjoy themselves and naturally recommend others to come here too. I would like Kells to be a shining jewel in the crown of Ireland’s Ancient East, as it deserves to be. 

If there was one thing you could change about business culture in Ireland, what would that be?

Perhaps to make it easier for small businesses like mine to raise finance. It was a disheartening trek from my bank (come back in six months), to the Local Enterprise Office (we don’t fund tourism-related businesses) to Microfinance (you need to show a turnover of €75,000).

I am now waiting for a couple of grant rounds to come into effect from Fáilte Ireland and Meath Partnership but in the meantime it means that instead of focusing on the business and the quality of the product, I am focused on bills and creditors and chasing monies.


Main image from Shutterstock