31 March 2011

Families In The Wild - Kerry

RTE's Families In The Wild is proving an interesting program with some good learning points emerging from it. Kerry looks fantastic, with wild mountain scenery, blue shimmering lakes and endless rolling Atlantic... Watch The Latest Show

It brings me back to what seems like a lifetime ago when I worked in Scotland, dealing with Prince's Trust Groups, tackling learning outcomes and issues through the medium of white water rafting, canyoning and team challenges...

What these three families are experiencing in terms of outdoor activities can be just as easily adopted by any other family in the country willing to spend some time together outdoors.

Even without the in-depth reviews; just the opportunity for a family to work together, communicate, raise issues and ultimately bond and share experiences can go a long, long way towards improving family relationships. A day spent kayaking and rock climbing as a family unit can have long-lasting benefits, far beyond the excitement and adrenaline created on the day...

30 March 2011

Starting & Progressing With Rock Climbing

I'm often asked 'How Do I Get Involved In Rock Climbing In Ireland?' or 'What Climbing Gear Really Is Essential?' It can be hard sometimes to become competent, confident and skilled in this exciting sport, especially at the beginning, when faced with an array of climbing courses, different disciplines and a vast selection of expensive climbing equipment!

Over the years of both climbing for fun and teaching rock climbing here's the logical process I find to work, along with the basic essentials of equipment which you need to invest in.

1. Do A Two-Day Learn To Rock Climb Course

2. Practice Your New Climbing Techniques On A Wall/Boulder

3. Buy A Harness, Helmet, Crab & Belay:
(Discount @ Kerry Outdoor Sports)
Harness - Lightweight, Padded, Plenty Of Gear Loops
Helmet - Lightweight, Plenty Adjustable, Head Torch Clips
Crab - HMS Crab With Screw Gate
Belay - ATC/Air Traffic Controller (Nothing Fancy)

4. Get On An Indoor Climbing Wall:
(Play At Height In Kerry)
Above Climbing Gear Will Cover You For Climbing Wall
Climbing Wall Is Also A Chance To Meet Other Climbers

5. Do A Two-Day Improve Your Climbing Course:
This Course Covers Climb Set-Ups Which Are Vital

6. Buy The Following Equipment For Top-Rope Climbing:
50 Metre Climbing Rope x 1
Medium Slings x 6
Long Slings x 2
HMS Crabs x 12
ATC Belays x 2
Nuts x 6 (Medium Size)
Nut Key x 1

7. Practice Rope Flaking/Coiling In Your Garden

8. Practice Top-Rope Set-Ups On Your Kitchen Table Legs

9. Use Your Climbing Gear & Skills To Top-Rope Climb Outdoors:
In Kerry/Gap of Dunloe - Use Brennan's Leap
In Dublin - Use Dalkey Quarry

10. Use Our Facebook Group To Ask Any Questions That Arise

Lead Climbing Is A Further Progression From This, However An Apprenticeship Must Be Built Up At Top-Roping Before Moving Onto Lead Climbing.

Mountain Meet-Ups!

With people sometimes having difficulties finding training partners for their map reading/compass practice days and not wanting to venture into the hills by themselves; we're arranging a Kerry & Wicklow Mountain Day for people to meet up and practice their skills in the safety of a group.

Outdoors Ireland instructors will not be present on the day, we're simply facilitating the meeting arrangements.

Wicklow Date: Sat 9th April
10am Meet : Wicklow Mountains

Kerry Date: Sat 16th April
10am Meet : Gap of Dunloe

To Participate Comment Under The Appropriate Facebook Post:
Facebook Group

29 March 2011

Our Customer Survey Made Public

Here's the results of a survey we carried out among our customers recently, looking for feedback on what we offer and the level of service we provide. From this feedback we wanted to find areas that we could improve and excel.

Enjoyment Of Course
(1-Poor & 5-Excellent)
23% : 4 out of 5
77% : 5 out of 5

Course Content (1-Poor & 5-Excellent)
36% : 4 out of 5
64% : 5 out of 5

Standard Of Instruction (1-Poor & 5-Excellent)
17% : 4 out of 5
83% : 5 out of 5

Professionalism (1-Poor & 5-Excellent)
24% : 4 out of 5
76% : 5 out of 5

Environmental Policy (1-Poor & 5-Excellent)
6% : 3 out of 5
6% : 4 out of 5
88% : 5 out of 5

Equipment (1-Poor & 5-Excellent)
5% : 3 out of 5
29% : 4 out of 5
66% : 5 out of 5

Booking/Payment Procedures (1-Poor & 5-Excellent)
25% : 3 out of 5
31% : 4 out of 5
44% : 5 out of 5

Value For Money (1-Poor & 5-Excellent)
50% : 4 out of 5
50% : 5 out of 5

Customer Service (1-Poor & 5-Excellent)
25% : 4 out of 5
75% : 5 out of 5

Ireland Green Travel App - Catherine Mack

• Ireland Green Travel App is written by leading Irish Travel Writer, Catherine Mack, who specialises in green and responsible tourism.

• Featuring over 120 entries of green accommodation, activities, transport options and local food experts, this guide will have you hiking, biking, canoeing and sleeping in some of Ireland’s lesser known green spots - lakeside lodges, yurt camps, island retreats, eco-castles, grand houses with more than just grand green gestures, yoga retreats and community-run hostels. Available for use on iPhone and iPad.

• Ireland Green Travel App covers both Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, providing a rare source of Irish travel information in one place, saving lots of online surfing. Belfast born Catherine loves to remind people that “the lakes, rivers, mountains and coastline don’t stop just because of a line on the map. The beauty just keeps going.”

• Each accommodation entry has details on how to get there without a car.

• Ireland Green Travel App has a handy Slow Travel guide for visitors who want to get to and from Ireland without flying, information on local rail and bus services, as well as how to bring your bike on them, again North and South of the border.

• As regular Ethical Travel Columnist for The Irish Times, Catherine is constantly updating her app as she travels the country and its islands, discovering new green treasures.

• “I was a bit resistant to the idea of writing a travel app at first” Catherine Mack admits, “as I am a battered old guidebook sort of a traveller really. However, the joys of being able to update it whenever I want, and knowing that people who have bought it will get those updates straight away, was a revelation. Also, being able to link directly to train timetables, Google Maps, walking or cycling trails, You Tube videos, and adding as many photos as I want, all in one tiny screen, has made me wake up to greener travel guidebook options. This way, it will always be a work in progress and, hopefully, travellers can get to see all of Ireland’s ever growing number of truly green gems, not just the emeralds.”

• Price €2.39, £1.79, $2.99. Published by Sutro Media.

For further information about Ireland Green Travel see preview http://sutromedia.com/apps/Ireland_Green_Travel or to request a download code for a review copy.

You can also follow Green Ireland Travel at www.twitter.com/greenirelandapp.

27 March 2011

Letter From O Donell's Pub

Received this great letter the other day from one of the places I stopped at on my journey - O Donell's Pub, in County Kilkenny.
Just continue scrolling down to see the other blog posts from our journey across Ireland...

23 March 2011

Wicklow Mountain Safety Promotion

If you've always wanted to get off the beaten track and explore the mountains properly, but lack the right skills; or if a map has always seemed like a random collection of squiggles, then our Mountain Safety Promotion is for you!

The one-day workshops will take place outdoors, in the Wicklow Mountains near Glendalough. All abilities will be catered for, from complete beginners to experienced walkers, together with experienced and qualified mountaineering instructors.

You will be given a crash course in map reading, compass bearings, navigation techniques and equipment advice.

Hiking boots can be provided, so all you'll need are waterproofs, map, compass and a sense of humor!

Promotional Price: €30 per person
10am - 430pm
Pre Booking Essential
Hiking Boots Provided
Beginners Welcome

Wicklow Dates:
Sunday 10th April
Sunday 17th April

To Book Contact:
+353 (0) 86 860 45 63

Best Photos Across Ireland

Photo: Lara O'Connell Photography

Photo: Lara O'Connell Photography

Photo: Lara O'Connell Photography

Photo: Pat Moore

To Read More Of Our Journey Blog Posts, Just Scroll Down

22 March 2011

Upcoming Places

Here's some of our upcoming adventure trips and training courses... Feel free to get in touch on info@outdoorsireland.com or +353 (0) 86 860 45 63 if you would like any more details.

Sat 26th & Sun 27th March
Mountain Skills 1 (Map Reading & Safety)

Sun 27th March
Kayak Trip on Killarney Lakes

Sat 2nd & Sun 3rd April
Kayak Skills Course (Level 2 Proficiency)

Sat 2nd April
Carrauntoohil Guided Climb

Sun 10th April
Mountain Safety Promotion in Wicklow

Tues 12th April
River Kayak Trip on Laune River

Sat 16th & Sun 17th April
Learn to Rock Climb Course in Gap of Dunloe

Sun 17th April
Mountain Safety Promotion in Wicklow

Sat 23rd & Sun 24th April
Mountain Skills 2 (Compass Bearings, Night Nav & Steep Ground)

Sat 23rd April
Carrauntoohil Guided Climb

Sat 23rd & Sun 24th April
Howling Ridge Course

Sat 30th April - Mon 2nd May
Bank Holiday Weekend:
Climb Carrauntoohil, Kayak Trip & Rock Climbing

15 March 2011

Day 12: Enniskerry - Stephen's Green

We'd a 5am start, passing this old tower as dawn was breaking.

I had no idea how long it was going to take us to travel across the Dublin Mountain Way to the Luas stop at Laughanstown and how long we'd spend wandering busy streets looking for the stop. We've just arrived at the stop, met four of the ticket inspectors, who bought us coffee and now have a bit of a wait until our ride arrives.

The Metro Herald did a piece on us this morning, with great images.

Photo: Lara O'Connell Photography

Photo: Lara O'Connell Photography

Photo: Lara O'Connell Photography

Photo: Lara O'Connell Photography

Reaching Stephen's Green this afternoon, after our 472km hike.

Day 11: Laragh - Enniskerry

This was our first glimpse of the Irish Sea and it was here really that it sunk in; the fact we had hiked across Ireland, from the Atlantic Ocean on the south west coast to the Irish Sea on the east coast...

This was a group of walkers we met coming over the Wicklow Mountains. It turned out they were actually previous customers.

These guys we met stocked us up with flapjacks and bananas!

We stayed this evening at Brook Cottage B&B in Enniskerry, near Powerscourt, where Cara was given the huge treat of being allowed to sleep inside!

Day 10: Tinahealy - Laragh

Another early start today following the Wicklow Way in absolutely torrential, lashing rain; crossing multiple fences and thundering streams. I listened to my little radio for a time, but ended up putting it away, afraid the rain would ruin it.

We met this really nice woman in the morning, who saw my flask strapped to my bag and insisted on re-filling it with tea for me, and giving the guys ginger nut biscuits. She also thrust a huge bar of dark chocolate into my hand as we said our goodbyes.

We came across this river later in the day with the bridge barricaded off and no way over for us, apart from wading, which we were forced to do. Wet boots and socks for the rest of the day!

Chris from Tudor Lodge B&B collected us in his Mercedes sparing us the final couple of hours of hiking and that night we certainly all slept well.

11 March 2011

Day 9: Shillelagh - Tinahealy

Liam at the Old Shillelagh B&B is an interesting guy, being probably the only person in Ireland making the ancient Shillelagh or 'Fighting Stick' the proper way, taking three years for the process to reach completion. We had an short day's walk today, so Liam spent the morning showing me the many different types of Shillelagh he makes and the processes they go through; from cudgels to clubs and from fighting sticks to luck charms...

I got myself a big blackthorn fighting one!

Later that morning a van pulled up beside us and John invited us into his nearby house, for ham sandwiches and tea, laced with sugar. Today was an easy day; a short walk later we arrived at our B&B and I popped into the village for a huge plate of bacon and cabbage.

Day 8: Gorsebridge - Shillelagh

Today we started from a spot high above Goresbridge, called 'Nine Rocks'. From here we had a fabulous down-hill descent for what seemed like hours, into a bracing stiff breeze.

Wind turbines thrummed nearby, peaking over the pine tops.

This is one of the scenic villages we passed through over the day, the church standing prominent over the clustered white buildings.

At one point during the day we seemed to disappear off the map, between two different map numbers, and wandered randomly east until stumbling across the tiny and quaint village of Clonegal, just across the Wicklow border.

Here we got chatting to several locals, including Brian from the hardware (and everything else) store and re-stocked on supplies, including water and peppermint cream. Brian thrust a bag of fresh lettuce into my hand for Lucy and as we retreated past the post office the post-master appeared with a piece of ham for Cara.

A long, long walk later, with some failed attempts at hitching, we finally arrived in Shillalagh, courtesy of Liam our B&B owner that night, who saved us the final couple of miles in his small Audi that somehow we all squeezed into with very little trace or mess!

10 March 2011

Day 7: Graiguenamanagh - Gorsebridge

View from my bedroom window at Waterside Guesthouse

Today was a quiet and relaxing day, following old tow paths along the River Barrow all day; meeting no-one apart from a few runners and dog-walkers.

We stopped for a pint upon arriving in Goresbridge, at the only pub open there that afternoon. Alice, the bar-tender, was engrossed in a game of cards with all the other bar occupants and served me in between her dealing and betting. Cara was allowed in beside the fire so I wasn't complaining though!

That night we stayed in The Almo B&B where Catherine made us more than welcome, cooking dinner, doing laundry and giving the guys a stable and hay.

8 March 2011

Day 6: Inistioge - Graiguenamanagh

I awoke to thick mist and church bells.
By the time we were ready to depart, the mist had burnt off and warm sunshine was pouring over Kilkenny.

Just as I was walking out of the Inistioge, Johnny and Jimmy waved me down and invited us back inside for a cup of tea. After tea, gold grain biscuits and morning papers we made a second departure.

Leaving town an elderly woman stopped and asked what we were doing. When I told her we were walking to Dublin she wanted to know if I was taking Lucy up there to sell her!

Part-way through the morning we had several encounters and chats with the local postman, Richard. By the time we descended into Graiguenamanagh that evening, the postman had our B&B alerted to our approx time of arrival and the postman's brother Tony, who runs a little pub called The Cozy Inn, on the look-out for us.

Here's a cross between a goat and a dog we met coming into Graiguenamanagh!

7 March 2011

Day 5: Mullinavat - Inistioge

Best Day So Far!

Today wasn't shaping up to be the best of days...
We got a lift from Mullinavat part-way along the busier roads that we would have been walking, but still had a long road section to complete that day.

I had tried for B&B in Inistioge but everwhere was closed, so we were facing into a major detour off our trail for a night's sleep, followed by a major detour back onto the trail the next day.

After a sunny descent through mature woods towards the Barrow River, which glinted through the trees at us, we came into the little village of Inistioge. Spotting O Donnell's Pub with the front door ajar, I made a quick decision to tie the guys to a tree in the village green and have a pint, before continuing...

Johnny, one of the two brothers who owns the pub, didn't initially believe me as I asked for a pint bottle of Bulmers, and a bucket of water for the goat, however after some convincing I received both!

The day suddenly took a turn for the better as Cara burst in through the front door and swrawled across the floor. Someone called Michael bought me a drink, so I bought him one back, then he bought me another. Suddenly I'd had four pints, all before 2pm in the afternoon, which I don't think I've ever done before - lovely feeling!

The pub was a busy place on a Monday afternoon, with a steady trickle of locals, mainly farmers, dropping in for a drink, on their way to and from their jobs, including Martin who dropped in on his way back from the vet, with a phuenomonic bull calf lying in his car...

Every pint of Guiness that Johnny, or Jimmy his brother, served had the persons name written in the white head...

Photo: Pat Moore

A little unsure as to my plans, but moving Lucy to the riverside park while I decided my next movements, I was approached by Richard, who offered to open his B&B - Woodstock Arms - for me that evening, despite the fact they were closed for the season.

Delighted with the turn of events, which relieved us of all pressure, I returned into O Donnell's to celebrate with Sean and Seamus, with whom I'd made good friends at this stage.

Later that day, as afternoon slipped into evening, we drifted (along with dog and goat) from O Donnell's into the bar of Woodstock Arms. Here Annette, Richard's wife, made me a mountain of toasted sandwiches and Sean and I had ourselves whipped at pool.

Photo: Pat Moore