Adventures in Ireland
If you’re struggling to awaken your post New Year get up and go, the Reeks District Big Five adventure challenge will set new horizons, both physically and mentally. Lucy Kane puts herself to the test…
In the heart of Kerry lies the Reeks District, packed full of adventures, stunning scenery and topped by undeniable charming Irish hospitality. As yet undiscovered by the madding crowd, 2020 is the year to visit before the secret gets out. Just a short hop from Luton to Kerry and only 20 minutes by road we arrived in the unassuming town of Killorglin, the base for our Big Five adventure challenge.
With five days to complete five adventures, it’s an exhilarating way to explore the little-known region of the Reeks. We were going to be climbing Ireland’s highest mountain, surfing, kayaking 6km, Stand Up Paddling and cycling 90k to get our certificates and names on the Reeks District wall of fame. With a busy family and work life, I haven’t had so much time for fitness let alone adventures, so with limited recent exercise but a keen sense of adventure, I approached the activities with trembling anticipation.
Challenge 1 #IrelandsHighestPeak
Facing the Devils Ladder, my initial bravado was waning. We were tackling our first big challenge; a 1039 metre climb up Ireland’s highest peak Carrauntoohil. The mountain routes up the peak can be rugged and we were scrambling some sections. So you need to be fairly fit to attempt the ladder and decent kit helps. But with our expedition led by Piaras from Kerry Climbing, we were guided expertly through the terrain. He knows every geographical inch of MacGillycuddy’s mountain range and stopped to share the history of the mountain whenever we paused to refuel and take in the scenery. Blessed with clear skies at the summit, we were rewarded with the vastness of the mountain range. The walk was heavenly, scenery breathtaking and views deeply contemplative.
Foodie Experience: My 7 hour round hike was fuelled by Skelligs Chocolate orange brittle, made locally in County Kerry. Outstanding essential fuel for hiking.
Challenge 2 # SurfsUp
The following day’s action took place on Inch Beach facing the Atlantic surf. The natural spit creates a beautiful wide beach to house the surf shack where we donned our wetsuits. The guys at Kingdom Surf trained us to leap athletically from our boards to standing in one swift movement. Not quite as gracefully, we ventured out into the surf to catch the waves to demonstrate just how tricky it is. After some really helpful technical pointers from our instructor, we were vertical and able to catch a wave or two to complete challenge number 2.
Foodie Experience: Jack’s Coastguard Restaurant, Cromane Beach. Fine seafood restaurant with views out to sea, local oysters and mussels, and the finest seafood chowder.
Challenge 3 #Kayak
As we paddled to the centre of Caragh Lake, hundreds of metres away from shore I realised two things. The unbelievable stillness and silence on the deep glacial lake, broken only by a comedy donkey braying. Secondly, I was going to definitely going to complete the impossible sounding 6km kayak. After all there was no other way back. Plus the water was exceptionally calm, our guide told us. “I’m from the tick of Kerry” he explained. Born in Kerry, his daily office has stunning views of the Reeks district mountains where he teaches teenagers and adults water sports on the lake. From the lake we had time to take in the scenic foothills of the impressive MacGillycuddy mountain range. Adding to the uniqueness of the Reeks District is the close proximity of the activities, giving us the chance to experience and view and experience the majestic mountain range.
Foodie Experience: Carrig House Hotel, Caragh Lake. Welcoming hospitality and exceptional menu from Jack and Mary. Offering fine views of the lake from the dining rooms of the country house lake-side hotel.
Challenge 4 #NightSUP
In the depths of the Kerry Dark Sky Reserve, we had the craziest and most serene experience learning to Stand-Up Paddleboard on Cloon Lough. As our eyes adjusted to the moon-lit lake, it was possible to get a sense of the wilderness around. Once on board and gliding out onto the lake, the easy action of stand-up paddling was quite relaxing. An opportunity to take in the dark skies and take in the clean, fresh air that this remote corner of South-West Ireland enjoys.
Foodie Experience: Ard na Sidhe, (meaning Hill of fairies) 4 star luxury grand hotel offers fine dining with beautifully presented dishes, plus evening drinks in the lounge. Afternoon teas available on the terrace.
Challenge 5 #90kCycle
This was the big one for me. It’s been a while since I’ve been on a bike and the length of the cycle was daunting. Not only that, the 90k includes three lung-busting cycle climbs. From our starting point in Killorglin, the instructors from Trail Flow Biking Adventures led us out of town to start our circumnavigation of the Ring of the Reeks. Quiet country lanes made cycling in pairs enjoyable, the instructors gave useful tips to improve our skills and help with those epic hills and by lunchtime at the top of the second peak I had this in the bag. Not quite. Climbing up the Gap of Dunloe was monumental but every second, aching muscle screaming ‘give up’ was worth the endurance. The last 10k downhill was exhilarating and possibly the most beautiful. Not only had I completed the toughest part of the cycle challenge but I was about to tick off the last of the Big Five. A sense of accomplishment, I had taken on the healthy challenges and beaten them physically and mentally, returning home with a revived feeling of #thisgirlcan. And my name engraved forever on the Reeks District Wall of Fame.
Foodie Experience: Dingle whiskey is widely available in pubs and restaurants in the area for essential post adventure debriefs. You can also enjoy a tour and tasting at the distillery in Dingle.
All of our adventures were centred around the Irish town of Killorglin. Kingston’s luxury bed and breakfast in the heart of town provided an excellent night’s sleep and breakfast that set us up for the day. The bar was always open for a warmer on our return from the great outdoors and some lively chat with the owners. Top foodie experiences provided a delightful balance to our day’s activities, the region offers some superb specialist fayre from specialist makers and producers to fine dining with fun nights out topped off with fine Irish Craic.
Reeks District Visitor Centre: www.reeksdistrict.com
Hike: Kerry Climbing www.kerryclimbing.ie
Cycle: Trailflow www.trailflowbikingadventures.com
Kayak and Stand Up Paddle Cappanalea, www.cappanalea.ie
Surf: Kingdom Waves www.kingdomwaves.com
Plan your stay:
Kingston’s B&B www.kingstonstownhouse.com
Caragh Lakehouse www.caraghlakehouse.com
Ard Na Sidhe www.ardnaSidhe.com
Carrig House Hotel www.carrighouse.com
Dingle Whiskey dingledistillery.ie
Jack’s Coastguard Restaurant – www.jackcromane.com
Skelligs Chocolate – www.skelligschocolate.com