Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Adventure Club Ireland Paddling Holiday

Strangford Lough in Northern Ireland, Britains largest tidal inlet with over 80 square miles of paddling playground is very appealing to kayakers and canoeists of all abilities. We chose this as the perfect destination for the first Adventure Club paddling holiday of 2010, a long weekend exploring the Lough with some great kayaking, wildlife and the occasional beverage or two!

The trip was led by John and Sam and along with Adventure club members Martin, Gerry, Sarah and Tom. Get well soon Michael who was due to join us aswell but had to drop out due to injury. We arrived at the Castle Ward estate on the shores of Strangford Lough on Thursday. This estate is owned and managed by the National Trust and includes a cosy campsite set in stunning surroundings where we spent our first night after a leisurely stroll around the area that evening!

On Friday morning we packed all our kit into the kayaks and set off. We spent the day exploring the area to the south west of the Lough where the Quoile River flows in enjoying light winds and hot sunshine before arriving at Salt Island, our base for the next 2 days. We chose to book to stay in the Canoeists bothy. Restored in 2008 this small cottage offers some basic facilities including running water, a wood burning stove and a well stocked kitchen! Some complained the room service wasn’t quite what they were expecting though .

Saturday morning started early with the plan being to paddle up the Lough on the flood tide returning on the ebb with time to practice some navigation along the way as the Lough is full of a myriad of small islands teeming with wildlife and some tidal flow. A perfect challenge for navigating! We worked our way up the Lough on the outside of the islands, encountering some small tidal races and often followed by the many Common seals that reside here. We managed to find the perfect spot for lunch “Daft Eddys” – a very fine and welcoming pub on Sketrick Island! After a well earnt lunch we headed back, this time taking a route meandering around the inside of the islands before returning to the Bothy in the early evening with over 30km paddled – a great day!

That evening we enjoyed dinner outside around a campfire taking in the stunning and tranquil setting of the bothy which overlooks the Mountains of Mourne, the mountain range we often see from the Isle of Man it was unusual to see them from a different perspective.

The weekend ended on Sunday with the return paddle to Castle Ward in sunshine and light winds, there was even time for some wet skills for some of the group before we headed in and packed up for the return ferry home from Belfast. On the way back we had time for a quick walk to view the “Narrows” a 5 mile long stretch of water that links the Lough with the Irish Sea, as such it is very tidal and a generator has been installed to harness this powerful energy. We didn’t paddle in this part of the Lough this time, maybe save that for another time!

The next Adventure Club holiday is the UK Rivers trip in November, we’ll also be organising a relaxed paddling holiday in Anglesey next May and the next trip to Strangford Lough will be arranged for late Summer 2011 once ferry timetables for next year are published! These trips are exclusive to members of the Adventure club.

"Ireland was awesome, the location was perfect with great paddling, and lots to explore, this was all made seamless by John’s planning! The scenery was stunning and seeing a common seal leap repeatedly right out of the water was amazing. I would go back without hesitation and look forward to future Adventure Club holidays!"

Hi Keirron

No doubt you have received feedback from others about the trip.

It was excellent. Strangford Loch is beautiful and very tranquil. We had good weather and although we covered a good few miles it was quite leisurely and relaxing.

The trip and all the arrangements were very well organised. John had obviously put much time and effort into checking details about travel, accommodation etc. He and Sam looked after us very well.

Thanks to everyone involved.

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