The Reeks District in Co Kerry of­fers an ar­ray of ac­tiv­i­ties that sets it apart from its sur­round­ing towns, writes Ea­mon Donoghue

The Reeks District is the jewel in Kerry’s crown. Ea­mon Donoghue en­joyed the cul­ture, craic and in­cred­i­ble scenery.

The Irish Times Magazine - - INSIDE -

Keep your hips loose and your head straight on. Sound advice for kayak­ing along the Caragh Lake or tak­ing on Ire­land’s big­gest moun­tain, and a mantra in it­self for a trip to the Reeks District in Co Kerry.

An ad­ven­ture play­ground mix­ing the cul­ture, craic and the in­cred­i­ble scenery that Kerry is renowned for, the Reeks District has an ar­ray of ac­tiv­i­ties that sets it apart from its sur­round­ing towns and at­trac­tions.

Noth­ing quite cures an aching body like a creamy pint, a jig and a sing song. And noth­ing quite clears a sore head like the fresh ocean breeze or the sense of awe and achieve­ment as you look down from Ire­land’s high­est point on to the Din­gle Peninsula, Ken­mare Bay and even as far as the moun­tains of north Cork.

The Reeks District – stretch­ing from Ire­land’s high­est peak Car­raun­toohil to the Blue Flag beaches of Castle­maine Har­bour – is a 3 ½ - hour drive from Dublin and a mat­ter of min­utes away from Kerry air­port. Fly­ing in from Dublin was hand­i­est for me, with the views on the way into Far­ran­fore air­port mak­ing amends for what is a rocky take- off and land­ing.

A half hour’s drive from the air­port, hug­ging the Caragh Lake and just out­side the town of Kil­lor­glin, is the Ard na Sidhe Coun- try House Ho­tel. Built in 1913, the ho­tel now has 18 bed­rooms. There are no tele­vi­sions in the rooms – or any­where in the ho­tel – and aside from the news­pa­per that ac­com­pa­nies break­fast, you’ll be able to switch off en­tirely from the out­side world and just en­joy the crack­ling of the open fire, and the sur­round­ing gar­dens and views.

A charm­ing spot, it boasts hid­den gar­den trails, and is well- placed for fresh morn­ing swims. The nearby Red Fox Inn ( which is only a 15- minute cy­cle away) is a great spot for a pint and a few good Kerry yarns, but not too many – you’ve to pedal your way back.

The area’s main at­trac­tion, how­ever, is the Reeks, and on my first morn­ing in Kerry I took on the Coum­loughra Horse­shoe. This is a 12km hike/ scram­ble of Ire­land’s three high­est moun­tains – Beenker­agh ( 1,010m), Car­raun­toohil ( 1,039m) and Ca­her ( 1,001m). We climbed in that or­der, with a scram­ble along Hag’s Tooth Ridge sep­a­rat­ing the first two peaks.

Kerry Climb­ing guide and owner Piaras Kelly led my group up and fol­low­ing his lead al­lowed the free­dom of mind to fully ab­sorb the breathtaking views be­low and above. You can see the weather com­ing in and chang­ing ahead of you. And it changes a lot in Kerry.

Kelly set a steady pace to match the

group’s fit­ness, and in all it took seven hours. While it isn’t the most stren­u­ous thing you’ll ever do – com­ing down is the hard­est part – it cer­tainly re­quires a good fit­ness level. There is an al­ter­na­tive, much eas­ier climb which in­volves hik­ing only Car­raun­toohil.

Some tips: bring lots of snacks – sweets, sand­wiches, sports drinks, fruit – my Fit­bit had me down as burn­ing over 2,000 calo­ries. Bring plenty of lay­ers, to strip and put on as things get colder on the as­cent, and a stick will save your knees on the way down.

Once Ire­land’s three high­est peaks had been ticked off, there was only one way I was go­ing to get all those calo­ries back. The lively town of Kil­lor­glin, home to one of Ire­land’s old­est fes­ti­vals, Puck Fair, hosts no short­age of pubs. The pick of the bunch is O’Shea’s, or Falvey’s, where the bar man takes pride in serv­ing a “real pint, not like that sloppy stuff in Dublin. Drip­ping all over your hand”.

You’ll won­der have you stum­bled into a time warp, there’s no fancy decor or lay­out – just a cosy setting and lo­cals who are mad for a chat and a laugh.

As for food, Sol y Som­bra is a ta­pas restau­rant in a for­mer church that serves Span­ish favourites made with lo­cal ar­ti­san pro­duce. Starters and drinks there were fol­lowed by din­ner at the nearby Bian­coni Inn, which has been in Kil­lor­glin for 150 years, serv­ing pre­dom­i­nantly Ir­ish fare.

By the sec­ond morn­ing, sore joints and sore heads needed mend­ing. The folks at the Cap­panalea Out­door Ac­tiv­ity Cen­tre told us that early- morn­ing kayak­ing was the best cure, and while it was hard to fathom when pulling on a wet suit at 9am, once you get out on Caragh Lake it’s easy to un­der­stand. The fresh air, the splashes of wa­ter break­ing the to­tal si­lence, and the views of the rugged moun­tains and dot­ted small beaches and coves that sur­round the glacial lake leave you with a cleared mind. On my first ever at­tempt at kayak­ing, un­known to my­self I some­how man­aged to master the zig- zag.

We kayaked right up to Ard na Sidhe, where we had an af­ter­noon tea pit­stop, be­fore head­ing to Inch beach for some surfi ng l es­sons with Tim f rom King­dom Waves. Don’t let the cold At­lantic put you off. Snugly cov­ered neck to toe in wet suit and run­ning in and out of the wa­ter, you’ll be warm in no time. With the sun shin­ing off the salty wa­ter, you’re taken away by the waves and the mo­ment and time just flies by when you’re hav­ing fun and the com­pet­i­tive juices are flow­ing. This end­less stretch of golden sand is one of the Reeks District’s two Blue Flag beaches and it’s re­mark­ably quiet. A hid­den gem and the high­light of my visit.

Af­ter all that, we head to Jack’s Coast­guard Restau­rant in Cro­mane – Ge­orgina Camp­bell Seafood Restau­rant of the Year 2018 – which lived up to the hype. The for­mer coast­guard sta­tion has been con­verted into a pub/ restau­rant, with one side of the build­ings housing a typ­i­cal Ir­ish pub for the lo­cals, while on the other side, there’s a seafood restau­rant with stun­ning views.

Af­ter all that eat­ing and drink­ing, ex­er­cis­ing, and ex­cite­ment, the perfect way to re­store the en­ergy for the trip back was some Lomi Lomi Hawai­ian heal­ing by the River Laune at Aloha House. Lomi Lomi is an an­cient form of Hawai­ian mas­sage, blended with breath­ing ex­er­cises and flow­ing move­ments. Cou­pled with a yoga class, it was the perfect way to loosen out.

It was a hec­tic trip, and I was snooz­ing on the flight back to Dublin, al­ready plan­ning my next ad­ven­tures in the King­dom. Ea­mon Donoghue trav­elled as a guest of Reeks District tourism

With the sun shin­ing off the salty wa­ter, you’re taken away by the waves and the mo­ment and time just flies by when you’re hav­ing fun

The Coom­loughra Horse Shoe in the MacGil­ly­cuddy’s Reeks; surf­ing on Inch Strand and cy­cling in the Reeks. Main pho­to­graph: Va­lerie O’Sul­li­van.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.