Killarney National Park was the first National Park in Ireland established in 1932. It´s on the outskirts of Killarney town and encompasses the lakes of Killarney and the surrounding Mangerton, Torc, Shehy and Purple Mountains.
Killarney National Park
It is a region noted for its wildlife, such as the introduced Sika Deer and the only remaining wild herd of Red Deer; its birdlife, of which there are 117 recorded species, and also its varied flora. The most notable of its birdlife is the re-introduction program of the White-tailed Eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla). Sadly we didn´t see one during our visit.
Apart from the wildlife aspect, the region is a mecca for those with a love of adventure and the great outdoors. Hillwalkers, mountaineers, rockclimbers, canoeists and fishermen have long been coming here in search of natural beauty and challenges. And in this mecca of the great outdoors, with its stunning scenery and natural beauty, is Outdoors Ireland run by Nathan Kingerlee who took us on an evening kayak trip on Lough Leane departing from Ross Castle.
The Man Himself
Nathan, on first meeting him, struck me as the Bear Grylls type, a man who spends more time outdoors than in. He even looks and sounds a bit like BG. His diet does not however consist of insects and raw snakes and frogs. His is a diet of adventure, dark chocolate, Earl Grey tea and I believe the odd cider at the end of a long day. And long days they are. He arrived at six thirty having already taken a group up Carrauntoohil earlier in the day on what must have been a misty damp ascent to the top of Irelands highest peak. He started pulling kayaks off the trailer for our group of seven as we helped organise wetsuits. Thankfully we didn´t have to jump out of a helicopter or anything but entered the water in the channel where all the fishing boats are. After a brief safety talk, which didn´t involve any “this could kill you” warnings we hit the water behind Ross Castle and headed down the channel to the lake.
Ready for Off
As you enter the lake you are struck immediately by the beauty of the woods and how the setting sun gives the mountains different colours and highlights the rock formations and trees. We proceeded to Swallow Island, a limestone formation with arches and caves sculpted by years of water. We were regaled with a legend of monks hiding from Vikings and lost treasure as birds chirped and twittered in the foliage of the rock.
Heading out into the lake the thing I noticed most was the lack of any houses in sight. The southern side of the lake is wilderness, land of dense forests, the dreaded rhododendron, the haunts of deer and eagles. It was as though we had been transported back to an Ireland before the dormer bungalow, the Celtic Tiger and the 4 Star lakeside hotel, spa and golf-course. All was as it should be in the wild.
Off into the Sunset
As I believe is Nathans trademark, we all pulled in near some cliffs where we were given dark chocolate and hot tea, pulled from the back of Nathans kayak. Meanwhile I was ruing the fact there was no sugar in the tea and that I´d forgotten my hipflask. But no matter…
Time for Tea
We continued on into the sunset to Inisfallen Abbey on the island of the same name where a deer was grazing on the lakefront. Seemingly they swim between the island and the mainland depending on where the grazing is best. The Abbey is reputed to be the first Irish university and it is here it is said Irish High King Brian Boru received his education. It was also a leper colony at one point. Passing Prisoners Island, Nathan gave us a bit more local history about the islands and Ross Castle. Sadly, it was about this time we went back to Ross Castle and our trip ended. I wanted to stay paddling into the night and see the dawn as well, but maybe another day.
If all of Nathans activities with Outdoors Ireland are like this, then they are fun, relaxing and some probably more challenging than others. He keeps a tight ship and is well organised. Safety is first but there is no pressure, no shouting, and he caters to all levels of skill and ability. I´ll be back, maybe for something a bit more challenging, like rock climbing or a hike up Carrauntoohil in the summer. If not just for the exercise, then for more of that dark chocolate. Cheers Nathan, it was a mighty evening.
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