New Adventures in Ireland…and some in Scotland…and Spain too..

Keeping a blog is tough work. It takes time and effort. I am clearly lacking on that front. My apologies. From my stint learning about HOW to write for blogs, etc. I found it quite intimidating to start addressing Google adwords, etc. and structure blogs with the intention to build particular search engine traffic.

It’s all quite over my head to be honest but I guess it’s good to remember what inspired me to start up this particular blog site….to chase my next adventure and write to inspire others to get out there too!

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Having a ponder over the highest point in Malaga

Well, what a whirlwind of a summer it has been. For any of you who did happen to tune into my blog posts at all, you will have noticed a significant hiatus on postings. This is not necessarily to do with lack of adventure. Quite the contrary really, more a potent lack of initiative, fear of not writing well enough, having to construct using SEO techniques and a dash of laziness thrown in for good measure.

I guess I also got caught up in a tizzy, wondering where to go next, what to do with my life, what ‘real’ job I should work towards and generally just how to deal with the whirlwind that is my current lifestyle. In any case, to give a quick recap of where I’ve been, what I’ve been up to…

When I began this particular blog site I was helping to write English content and provide photography for a new website (due to launch soon I gather?) in Spain, with the loveliest young family who are mind-blowingly astute when it comes to social media ‘know-how’.

They were always happy to impart some of their knowledge to me, for which I was and am very grateful. Though if they read this they may be disappointed in the lack of key words…sorry Ben and Pippa 😉

As a bit of a social butterfly, I felt it was soon time to spread my wings and spend some time in a more sociable environment and not to be intruding on their important family time.

This was when I booked into Lights Out Hostel in Malaga and met some pretty cool people. That then lead to a random road trip adventure to Lisbon, getting only as far as Tarifa after falling in love with the seductive ambiance and laid back vibes of the little surf town.

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After Tarifa, I ended up performing a 3-piece set in one of my favourite little rock bars in Malaga centre – ZZ Bar. Chatting to the band, I told them I enjoy singing and they asked if I knew any U2. ‘Of course I do’, I told them (a little tipsy by this stage).

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Post-performance obligatory photo

So I ended up doing some rather rocked up renditions of U2 songs  – one after the other! Such a buzz. I can definitely see the allure of being in a rock band… maybe someday… Anyways, I think it went quite well as I had free drinks for the rest of the night, from the bar, the band mates and general audience.

Crazy, but brilliant night. I love Spain. Check out some brief footage someone took on their phone. Remember-  I had had a few beers at this stage!!

After my brief adventure there, I headed back to the UK to work as a chef with Workers Canteen at Camp Bestival in Dorset. I got the job from my random stint filling in as chef down in Antarctica after chef number 2 tore his achilles down there (see Antarctic Adventure.org for that story).

I guess my cooking must have been to a good enough standard for Halley Base chef and filler in for injured Rothera chef number 1, Chris, to recommend me to his good friend Connie, one of the three owners of Workers Canteen.

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At peak times we were serving over 700 people within a 2 hour period.
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That’s a lot of beans!

I spent nearly two weeks camping at Camp Bestival and getting up to all kinds of mischief with the gang I was working with. The breakfast and lunch shift I worked on was quite a handy one, cooking wise, compared to dinner. Getting up for that shift though, after a string of late, raucous nights was definitely the more challenging aspect of that job.

My overall claim to fame at the festival (as I also helped out in the VIP area) was telling Fat Boy Slim he did a great set – which he really did – and he said ‘thanks very much’. Hilarious. He’s such an idol. So normal.

Ah, I was so lucky to meet and work with some fantastically talented and warm-hearted people as I did with Workers Canteen – you know who you are!

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Ah, preparing the aul take away boxes

After a fortnight of mayhem and craziness, it was time to have a bit of quiet (well, quieter – toddlers can be very loud) family time up in Scotland with my sister and her young family and new canine addition in the form of a german pointer puppy, Sadhbh (Irish name. Pronounced sigh-ve) – endless hours of fun!

Next, time to catch up with some friends (Sam and Doug) from Antarctica over in Edinburgh. We managed to catch some of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, which was unreal. Went to see some French dude, who was very French with some seriously dry humour. He elicited a few chuckles from us but nowhere near as much laughter as Irish comic veteran, Tommy Tiernan.

Man, that guy is hilarious. Had us in tears of laughter. As for the festival itself? Well, I can’t believe I had never been before. The city was just buzzing. The streets were lined with eclectic artists, artisan eateries, tasty craft beer bars and just lots of positive energy about the place. Sign me up for next year please!

After Edinburgh, I realised that my funds were running on empty. In a panic, I applied to fill in as a temporary stewardess (I’d been out of the industry for over 2 years at this stage but desperate times n all that…) on board a yacht in Naples.

It was due to charter so had the allure of some much welcomed tips. Ah, it was only a month. I could do it for a month. I could do anything for a month – so I did! I  had forgotten just how tough the job is, but I worked alongside with a really lovely girl and a mouthy (but secretly very sweet) chef from Donegal, Ireland. That made it a little more bearable as we could have a good laugh together.

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The Yacht

Once my time was up, despite pleads from the Captain and owners to stay, I was off back to the UK…and happy to do so. My bank balance replenished, it was time to return home and continue to figure out the next steps in my illustrious life!

I went back to Scotland to pick up my car and to spend another bit of time with family – I finally took my niece for her first climb in the Three Wise Monkeys indoor climbing wall – she’s a natural by the way. Not an ounce of fear. Wish my aunty had brought ME climbing when I was 4 – I’d be scealling E9’s by now no doubt!

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Delighted with herself. Her favourite part was the pink harness!!

I then made the mammoth drive from Fort William, all the way to Cork in one go to arrive (approx 830km!) at just 40mins late for my friend, Joy’s 30th birthday party. I was nackered. A few whiskeys quickly helped to sort that out.

Next day, I drove to Lahinch to meet my other friend, Ruth where we were staying in Lahinch Surf Hostel.  We’d a great time surfing Lahinch strand and just catching up on things. We met Lisanne at the hostel, an amazing kiwi girl that was volunteering in the hostel.  We subsequently ended up hanging out a lot. She has just left us – which I’m very sad about! She’s a wonderful lady. We were actually all very sad to say goodbye to her.

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Me and Lisanne

Stuck on the wall of the hostel common area is a sign that says ‘Organic Farm, requires volunteers – in exchange free yoga, lunch and possibility of some veg’. That sounded great. It was exactly what I wanted. After spending so much time at sea, it was nice to get back to work on the land.

I gave up surfing that day in exchange for getting my hands dirty and doing some REAL work! I had no idea what to expect. Myself and Juliet (another volunteer at the hostel) almost gave up on the day after getting completely lost trying to find it that morning. I’m glad we persisted in the end.

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Waiting for the Wave at Aileen’s

The farm is called Moyhill. The amount of work the guys have put in to get it to where it is is beyond impressive, more along the lines of inspirational really. A group of big wave surfer buddies, many of them have given up the ‘dream’ of surfing around the world as a career.

Instead, they have opted for the quiet life. Simple. Back to nature. Back to how life really should be really. Together, they bought a plot of empty, wind-swept land and have turned it into a fertile fairground full of plump veggies, herbs and edible flowers. They also set up beautiful community garden where local folk can do a bit of gardening, pick some fruit, grab some veg or just sit and take in the tranquil surroundings.

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Tuesday Volunteers enjoying some rare sun post-lunch on the farm

Moyhill farm isn’t just an organic farm, that grows and sells veg – It’s a social hub for people to converge. The atmosphere is welcoming and homely, with people dropping by just to say hi and then off again. It seems to have created a really lovely community atmosphere and I can see why the guys love it so much.

The volunteer day of a Tuesday is a great opportunity to get involved, to temporarily feel part of this fantastic movement, to get a yummy lunch, to work a physically demanding day’s work, earn a well earned and satisfying sense of tiredness by the evening and just to feel part of something really positive.

It could be placebo, maybe not (I don’t think it is) but eating the food from Moyhill, it seems to taste so much richer and tastier than anything store bought. Maybe that’s elbow grease I taste…!

In any case, getting to see their way of life up there has really given me food for thought (non-intentional pun) on how I live my life, how I shop and how we, as consumers, can be the change we want to see by buying local, buying seasonal and opting for organic when possible. It’s a good thing. Some day it would be cool to have something like that with some of my good friends. But that won’t be for a while yet as I don’t even know what I’ll be at next week, let alone a years from now.

Anyways, after heading back to Dublin to see my mother I was itching to get back to the surf in the West. I soon found myself back on the road to Lahinch and booked into the Surf Hostel where Alexi, the most amazing, kind and laid back hostel owner you could ever meet, allowed me to volunteer there in exchange for accommodation…though I feel I need to do a LOT more work to repay him for his generosity!!

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Big family dinner in the hostel. Alexi’s parents cooked for us all.

It’s been lovely being back in the hostel way of life again, having communal dinners, always someone around to chat to or do stuff with, a guitar and sing-songs. As a person who finds it hard to sit still (you may have ascertained this by now) it’s such a luxury for me to find like minded people who are up for joining me on mini-adventures or just hopping in the sea with me on a daily basis!

I’ve been making the most of my time in the beautiful west of Ireland and the infamous landscape of the Burren. I remember learning all about it as a child in school but I only saw it for the first time last summer.

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Hostel family on yet another adventure in Remi’s van. Photo courtesy of Juliet.

Some of the latest Clare adventures have included walks in the Burren, a very enchanting visit in Lough Avella Farm in the heart of the Burren. The farmer and most captivating story teller, Harry who owns the farm took us back on a walk through Irish history, showing us ancient Irish and Druid remains such as Fulacht Fias (very old Irish cooking areas), holy wells and stone circles. He knows so much too about the local flora and fauna. It was a magical day. Great day out!

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Tea and cake at Lough Avella Farm

Dying to get out climbing again and no climbing partner to do it with, I called a guy called Brian who has a small company called Climbit.ie. He took me and Lisanne (can’t believe it was her first time – no bother to her!!) climbing in the Burren. For our last route we absailed down to a ledge on a sea cliff and began the route from there.

Incredible. There’s an unspoken beauty having the raging Atlantic ocean just below you, nipping at your feet and a towering dark limestone cliff hovering above. I couldn’t stop smiling.

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My little Golf beside the crag

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Oh – and I got another tattoo (sorry Mum) by one of the girls at the hostel who does them by hand – Toni. She finished it off for me as we sat on the Cliffs of Moher, with some wine and friends, watching the sun set over the Atlantic and barreling waves crashing beneath us. Its sort of an emblem to remind me of the life changing time I spend down south. I was hoping to get an Adelie, but they’re just not as cool as Emperor’s.

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Case and point for my lack of staying still argument – I write this blog from Kerry. Today, I scratched a proverbial itch and finally hiked the highest peak in Ireland, Carrauntoohil (and the two smaller ones beside it!), a route I’d been longing to do for a long time.

Not overly confident with my navigational skills (I’m working on them) there were a few moments of doubt on the ascent (I went slightly off route, on purpose to get some scrambling in -maybe not the brightest idea by myself) that I may have taken the wrong direction after not spotting a hut marked on the map, but it all worked out perfectly in the end. I found out later that the hut is quite hidden as it’s underground. Sounds cool though – it’s like a little bunker, with a stove, place to sleep and fire place.

I had the place to myself for the most part but met some lovely people at the summits – 2 of whom are regular surfers from Clare who know some of the same folk I do! (small world).

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Making friends on summits. I look incredibly short here!

Tonight I enjoy another hostel in another Irish town – Killarney…a town I haven’t been to since childhood with my Dad. It brings back a lot of nice memories. I think he’d be quite surprised if he were still around to see how much it’s changed!

Tomorrow, its back to Lahinch for a shorter stint this time. I’m the brand new owner of a 7’2 longboard and a shiny new winter wetsuit. Time to get wet me thinks!

Stay posted. I have the greatest of intentions to write up a piece about route options on Macgillycuddy’s Reeks for those that are visiting and have no idea how to do it solo (and not pay a guide!!!).

Peace out x

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