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Camping in Tollymore Forest

Camping in Tollymore Forest

Summer in Ireland… it’s a fleeting experience, isn’t it? The warm months whisper past us before we can even remember what was to feel the comforting heat of the sun and the gentle lap of waves at our bare feet. Though the season is brief, we Irish have know to appreciate every drop of sunshine while we can, revelling in the joy of back-to-back sunny days, outdoor picnics and endless adventures.

There are so many wee pleasures to have during summer but of on my absolute favourites is camping. Sleeping outside isn’t for everyone but for me it’s one of life’s real luxuries to fall asleep under the stars. It might require a bit of forward planning (and hardy expectations) but when you get that rare weekend jackpot of sunny AND dry weather, well there’s no better place to be than the mountains!

It was about a month ago when we struck weather gold and packed up our car with (definitely too many) camping supplies. We hadn’t any real idea of where we were headed but we drove out of the city and towards the Mourne Mountains knowing we would be able to find a perfect camping spot up there.

We decided to go a little off-grid and try wild camping in an attempt to savour the most of the Irish wilderness. I can completely understand the appeal of campsite comforts (especially when you have kiddos to keep clean!) but I love that feeling of being a little bit cut off from the world. We aren’t too knowledgeable about the best wild camping spots so I just googled a few recommended spots and found this really useful website.

We decided to head for the Spinkewee River since it looked like the easiest for rookies. It was a few kilometres walk from the Trassey carpark where we had dropped off the car which meant we had to cull a few things we could live without for a night (a duvet being one of them!). Once we were packed up like pair of wee camels, we trotted off in search of the river, stopping only a few dozen times to catch our breath and swap packs!

We hiked along a country path which soon brought in to Tollymore forest. Old stone steps took us over gateways, passed ancient burial grounds and alongside towering piles of felled logs. We eventually found the river and set up camp and began collecting firewood to start dinner.

We tend to get ingredients for a one pot dinner and this recipe always does the trick. After dinner we ate s’mores, listened to some music and chatted until the fire started to die and the wind picked up.

The next morning we woke to the sound of rustling leaves and the river flowing near our tent. Andrew prepared some scrambled egg for breakfast while I went to wash my teeth down my the stream. It was such a beautiful morning; the blue skies promised a sunny day ahead and the breeze was just enough to keep us cool.

We went for a quick hike up the neighbouring mountain after breakfast and came across an abandoned farmhouse that had the best views towards the mountains. We took a detour down through a field, said “hello” to a few sheep and dipped back in to the forest canopy to visit some of the waterfalls along the Spinkwee River.

The Tollymore forest is such a treasure trove for any outdoor enthusiast. There’s mountain biking trails, hiking trails, historical buildings and rivers peppered with the most gorgeous waterfalls. After we’d finished our small hike we started the even bigger hike back to the car. It was a warm day and poor Andrew quickly regretted wearing his jeans – another rookie error!

The walk was beautiful though; we had blue skies above and nature hugging us at every turn. We had to stop for a few breaks but it didn’t matter, we were happy to soak in as much of that sunshine and mountain air as we possible could. After all, the season is brief and each summer joy is to be cherished.

My Irish Summer Bucket List

My Irish Summer Bucket List

I think most of us have a romanticised view of the summers of our childhood. The days were always warmer, longer and filled with adventure from the moment we woke up. The days stretched out before us in a haze of languid afternoons spent hiding amongst the fields, chasing the sun as it refused to go down. Being sent to bed was the worst punishment as the stubborn daylight continued to haunt us as we lay yearning to be amongst the laughter we could still hear outside.

 

As adults, the punishment now isn’t being sent to bed. It’s being sent to an office where we are forced to stay in and attempt to work while the stubborn daylight haunts us all over again. We are jailed by social responsibilities but are set free for the weekend and in order to make the most of the precious hours, we must think of as many fun things to do to save us from the guilt on a Sunday evening.

 

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Irish people can be a cynical bunch and many smirk at the mention of summer since the weather here is as reliable as our government. That sense of adventure has waned with age but Ireland has so much to offer and we can relive those childhood days, even if it’s just for the weekend.

 

I’ve rounded up a few things I want to tick off this summer in the hope that it might allow me to feel excited about the weekends and less flustered about feeling the need to fill every hour. Having these wee goals helps me look forward to the weekend and appreciate just how much this island has to offer – even when the rain tries to dampen my spirits!

 

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Go to a GAA Match

I’m an Armagh woman and the county football team was at it’s peak when I was a teenager. This meant that a lot of Sundays in the summer were spent on the side of a pitch, wearing the immutable orange jersey while screaming “Go wan Armagh!!” about a million times. I haven’t been to a game in forever and I miss the buzz of the crowd, the embarrassing insults the poor ref always endured and the terrible homemade sandwiches that were snacked on. This year I’ll make sure to don the jersey again and who knows, maybe Armagh might be within a chance of winning the Sam again.

Sleep Under the Stars

Falling asleep listening to the lullabies of leaves rustling or waves crashing might just be the tonic of the summer. I am a keen camper but I don’t make it enough of a priority to just pack up the car and get away for a night. But a night under the stars is always worth the hassle – even just for the melted marshmallows alone.

Run 5km

Running seems to be the trendy thing to do these days and for that reason I am severely unfashionable. I am not a runner and even though I have a good excuse not to be (the old CF lungs are easy to blame), I still really want to be able to run a decent distance. I have an aim to be able to run 5km in one session by the end of the summer so the practice will be starting this week. Just don’t expect me to to talk while I’m running – those freaks can stay well away from me.

Solo Picnic

I love a good picnic and Andrew and I will find time for one on weekends that will allow us to eat outside without being frozen. But this summer I want to take advantage of a little time to myself. Time to chill out, read a book or just listen to my own thoughts bumbling inside my noggin.

Island Hop

Although we live on on an island, there are still lots of little satellite islands that adorn our lovely coast and so I want to explore a few of them this summer. Last summer we visited Rathlin Island which was a blast and my first time seeing puffins up close (ish). This year I hope to visit an island or two off the west coast and get a good dose of that Atlantic air in to my lungs.

Surf

I learned to surf while living in Australia but only really stood up a few times. My lovely Aussie friends bought me a foam board as a birthday present and it has been shamefully lying in our box room gathering dust and no doubt feeling very depressed. This year the board will get wet and I will brace the ice-cold water that will surely have me wanting to dart back to dry land in an instant. I will be brave and I will try and stand up again even for just a second.

Attend the Fleadh

The Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann is an annual music festival that displays the best of Irish traditional music. I’ve never been but every year I promise myself that I will go. This year is no different but I hope to actual make it this time!

See a Play

I live in Belfast but it’s embarrassing how little I appreciate living in a city with a thriving culture scene. There are plays and musicals every week to take advantage of and so I will be sure to get my thespian head on this summer!

Host an Outdoor Cinema

We have a projector that has been lying lonely alongside my dusty surfboard which will be of much better use when hosting our own backyard cinema. I hope to string up on an old bed sheet, throw a load of cushions on the grass and gather some good mates for an old classic or two. Let’s just hope the weather plays ball!!

 

If I manage to get even half of these ticked off then I feel like I’m in for a fun summer!

Have you your own summer bucketlist? Is there anything you’re hoping to tick off this summer?? 

 

 

Camping on the Antrim Coast

Camping on the Antrim Coast

So my Halfway Summer Bucketlist has been sitting all sad and unticked since I wrote it as I have been waiting unpatiently for the last of the summer sun to arrive. Turns out I might be waiting a long time because the weather has been relentlessly grey and unaccommodating. August has been hammering past us though so it’s time I realised I live in Ireland and to not ever depend on the weather!

 

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Camping has been my biggest priority this summer; I’ve been aching to sleep outside and wake up hearing nothing, absolutely damn all as the sun comes up. We’re so lucky to be close to many beautiful spots where heading off for a night’s camping is super easy, shameful really that I’m leaving it until now to finally get moving!

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Halfway Summer Bucket List

Halfway Summer Bucket List

How is it half way through summer already? I’m not sure if it’s because it’s been raining so so SO much but I don’t feel like I’ve been able to take advantage of the longer evenings at all. I know I will be kicking myself in October on those dark dreary evenings when it’s not only wet but freezing too, so I decided to put a little bucket list together to motivate myself to get out there and use my time a little more wisely.

 

Go Camping

My love for camping began when I lived in Australia where conditions are a little more favourable for sleeping outdoors. Over there I had a swag (a cross between a sleeping bag and a tent) that I would take along on camping trips with friends to different beaches on the west coast. I’m fully aware that it takes a little more preparation/layers to camp in Ireland but it’s still my favourite way to unwind and escape from the pressures of daily life. As soon as there is a weekend that is looks at all like it won’t be a constant rain-fest I will be packing the tent up (and marshmallows) and getting out there under the stars.

 

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Go For A Surf

As a birthday present before I left Australia to return home, my dear friends bought my my very own surf board that has been sitting sad and unused in the corner for a year and a half. It’s a foam board so perfect for a beginner like me and I feel so guilty that it hasn’t been in Irish water. This summer I’m going to brave the seas, rent a very very thick wetsuit and get dunked a thousand times while I attempt and fail to stand! Surfing is so much fun and even though it’s frustrating trying to get to up on the wave, when I finally do I feel like I’m on top of the world.

 

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Go To An Outdoor Cinema

Outdoor cinemas in Ireland are about as common as giraffes in Ireland – we just don’t have the weather to have cool Grease-style drive-ins! Some places in Belfast do have big screens outside when the weather looks like it might be staying dry for more than a few hours so I’m hoping to catch a film at some point, fingers crossed! Any excuse to have popcorn really.

 

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Have A Picnic

We went to Rathlin Island a few months ago and I got to use my picnic basket for the first time there. It hasn’t been used since so I plan on having a little beach/meadow/back garden feast so I can show off my adorable basket a little more!

 

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Go For A Hike

I haven’t hiked in the Mourne Mountains since I was a child which is shameful since I live so close! I’m determined to get my thighs to work and be amongst the trees and to see Silent Valley for the first time. We’re so lucky to have some beautiful forests around us here so it’s time I took advantage of them.

 

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I’m keeping my list small and attainable but if you have any ideas on how you will be making the most of your summer please share! Always looking for more inspiration!