After one of the longest lockdowns in Europe, Ireland is finally opening up. Next week, hotels and bnbs reopen, followed by outdoor dining the following week, with indoor dining, pubs, etc. likely returning in July. Museums and cultural sites are beginning to reopen, and for domestic tourists at least, there’s a lot to look forward this summer.
Obviously, not being able to travel and enjoy tourism is minor compared to the other things that have happened during this pandemic (I feel like this is so obvious I shouldn’t even have to mention it, but just to be clear that I’m not trying to place it on a similar level), but as someone who has spent the preceding years (and even the first half of 2020) travelling as much as possible, it has definitely felt weird to have not even left the county since September of last year.
Luckily I’ve gotten to do plenty of fun things around Kerry like trying another route up Carrauntoohil and hiking Crohane mountain, but I’ll be looking forward to doing more as restrictions loosen. For now even the tiniest trips offer a nice chance to get out and explore.
This past weekend, we took advantage of a sunny day and took a small drive just across the border into Cork to see the Beara peninsula.
The way the weather was this weekend, you’d be forgiven for thinking the southwest of Ireland was situated somewhere closer to Spain. Devastatingly, the dry, hot conditions have left a wildfire burning in Killarney National Park for the past three days and nights, but overall the warm weather has done wonders for everyone’s mental health and outdoor to-do lists. Now that the 5km travel restriction has finally been lifted and we’re free to roam around our county, a good-weather weekend was just what was needed to really take advantage of it.
While many folks in the area headed to the costa del Kerry to enjoy the sun in Ballybunion or Banna beach, Steve and I took to the mountains yet again for my third trip up Carrauntoohil.
Our original plan for the day was a looped hike near Sneem that I’d read about online, but when we saw the clear, cloudless skies, we couldn’t resist Ireland’s tallest mountain. Even on good days, the mountains are often covered in fog and mist, so you have to jump on your opportunities for views across the county when you get them.
With more vaccines arriving and covid cases going down (by the numbers they’re plateauing, but an increased number of tests and tracking of asymptomatic spread means that the positivity rate continues to drop encouragingly), we are once more starting to feel more optimistic about summer here in Ireland.
Next week, the 5km travel limit will finally be lifted and we will be allowed to travel around our own county. Luckily for me, I live Kerry, in one of the best counties in Ireland when it comes to beautiful nature and outdoor activities. Although there are many favourite spots in Kerry I’m looking forward to visiting again once the restrictions (and the weather) allow—Carrauntoohil, the Dingle peninsula, and the Old Kenmare road, to name a few—there are so many amazing places in Kerry I have yet to see that I’m really excited to explore. Here are a few of them:
Taking the ‘slow boat to Laos’ is a Southeast Asia backpacker classic, and also a misnomer. The boat actually starts on the Laos side of Laos/Thailand border, so technically you’re not taking it to Laos.
However, it’s still a must-do when you’re in the area and heading to Luang Prabang.
You can book a trip from anywhere in the northern region of Thailand, with many starting off in Chiang Mai or Chiang Rai and booking a package that takes them all the way onto the boat. We decided to make our own way across the border and spend the night before the boat journey in the tiny Laos border town of Houayxay. We took a bus from Chiang Rai across the border, and then teamed up with some other travellers for a tuk-tuk to Houayxay.
A note: I know it’s been almost a year at this point since I was in Southeast Asia, but time has been mostly meaningless for the last 10 months and I still have stories to share. Hopefully this will be helpful to people who are planning their travels for when the world is open again, and entertaining to everyone else in the meantime.
The one thing you have to expect when you make any outdoor plans in Ireland is, of course, rain. It’s definitely a plan for the worst, hope for the best scenario—if you go in thinking, even in the back of your head, that you might be lucky, you will almost inevitably be disappointed. Whereas, if you just assume that it’ll probably rain the whole time you are wherever you’re going, you may occasionally have a pleasant surprise. Over the weekend, Steve and I went up to Doolin, in Co. Clare, to look at a wedding venue (!). We were hesitant to book a place to stay overnight as we didn’t want to spend an extra day if there was going to be nothing but rain, but by last Wednesday when the forecast was still clear, we decided to chance it, and we definitely made the right decision.
If you’re looking for a hike around the Killarney area that offers a combination of great views and easy trails, you couldn’t get much better bang for your buck than Strickeen. The mountain’s name is anglicised from Stricín, or “little peak” (-een or -ín is a diminutive suffix as Gaeilge) but while the peak is indeed little (only ~380 elevation gain for a summit height of 440 meters), this 6.5km hike finishes with lovely views of the surrounds, the lakes of Killarney, and the rest of the MacGillycuddy Reeks, such as Carrauntoohil.