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The Sea & Me

October 22, 2020

I’ve always been drawn to the water – my parents used to call me a mermaid. I used to spend my summers in Wexford and would spend days on Curracloe Beach with my family and friends.

Some of my favourite childhood memories are of running along the sand dunes and playing in the sea until my lips turned blue and my teeth were chattering. Running up to my family, absolutely rattling, and grinning from ear to ear. I’d wrap myself in towels and have a sandwich (with extra sand) while staring out at the waves – bliss!

Since then the water has been a source of comfort and relaxation. Whenever I find myself stressed or overwhelmed, I’m drawn towards nature, especially the sea. I’ll sit listening to the waves lap against the shore and it instantly lifts me. I’ve recently discovered that this is a phenomenon called ‘Blue Mind’.

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After cutting short an ill-fated trip to Barcelona in 2013 (long story), Joe, my now-husband, and I wanted to make the most of our remaining time off and booked a trip to Lahinch, Co. Clare. It was then that I rediscovered the fun and joy the water could bring. We started travelling to Lahinch regularly to surf.

Finding Sea Swimming

In 2015, on the way back from one of our surf trips, I started feeling strange. My face felt numb, followed by my arm and then my leg. After a few months in and out of hospital getting every test under the sun, I was diagnosed with chronic hemiplegic migraines. They are a rare form of migraine that mimic a stroke. I get paralysis down my right side and have balance issues, as well as all the more typical migraine auras.

I’ve had a headache every day since June 22nd, 2015, have had to take a year out of work, and learn to walk again. 

Migraine, who knew?!

Around the same time, Joe was going through a pretty stressful time at work and had suffered a couple of panic attacks. He was hoping to find an east coast alternative to surfing that would help him get into a “flow state” and relax. At this point, I should say he was not a confident swimmer, despite being able to surf.

After years of slow progress with my migraines, I heard about a documentary called ‘100 days of Vitamin Sea’ which followed a girl with similar issues to mine using wild swimming to manage her illness. I thought, what’s the harm? We decided to try sea swimming as a kind of an experiment to see what, if anything, would happen. This decision was nothing short of life-changing!

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More Than Mindfulness

So on June 1st, 2019, we went for our first sea swim at The Vico in Dalkey. It was a bit of a choppy day, so I gingerly entered the surprisingly icy water and swam about a little. Joe, not being a confident swimmer, belly-flopped in and went hell for leather to get to the ladder. 

It was a short but transformative experience. 

I entered the water with the right side of my face drooped from paralysis and emerged like a new person. My body buzzing from the zing of the cold, and a full smile plastered across my face.

Don’t believe me? You can see one of my sea transformations for yourself in the pictures below.

Forty Foot Fans

We started going regularly, venturing to different swimming spots depending on the tide. The day after our wedding was no exception. We got married in Dun Laoghaire in September 2019 and started our married life with a swim at the Forty Foot. 

A dip in the sea has become an essential part of my ongoing battle with migraines. 

Outside of the physical benefits, we both saw the mental benefits. Joe’s stress reduced after a few weeks and when the migraine took away the control I had over my own body, sea swimming gave me some control back. 

We both emerge from the water lighter and happier, somehow transformed by the water. Having the Forty Foot within driving distance of our home has made such a difference to our lives – I only wish we lived closer.

There’s an amazing community spirit around the Forty Foot and Sandycove. When you’re in the water there are no judgments made about job title or status. Everyone is on a level playing field. All squawking and laughing, united in their internal battle to take the initial plunge.

I never grow tired of seeing grown men line up, totally carefree, to gleefully jump off the rocks into the water. Greeted every time with friendly “hellos” and reassuring fibs of “it’s lovely and warm once you’re in there”, as you walk towards the steps. There’s a special kind of madness that bonds everyone.

We really struggled without this connection during the initial lockdown as the Forty Foot was beyond our 2km. Counting down the days until we could be reunited with the embrace of the sea and the buzz of other swimmers brought to life after their dip.

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Helping My Healer

Spending all that time in the water made us increasingly aware of the volume of plastic in our seas and the negative impacts humanity was having on our world.

We knew we had to try and do our bit to protect the sea we love so much. This was the beginning of a move towards living a more eco-friendly and sustainable lifestyle.

Over the years, we’ve made changes to our lifestyle to reduce the amount of plastic we consume. We’ve also started doing our own #2MinuteBeachClean after our swims. I keep a produce bag and gardening gloves in my swimming bag – it makes it so much easier to do our bit. I plan to get something better down the road but this does the trick for now.

Doing my #2MinuteBeachClean

On the way back to our car we pick up any rubbish we see and put it in the public bins. Then it’s just a matter of flinging the bag and gloves in the wash with my swimming gear when I get in. The volume of litter and plastic you can pick up in a matter of minutes is truly heartbreaking. Finding seaweed entangled with countless pieces of plastic, you can’t help but think of how much must be out there.

It’s so sad to think that the people enjoying our coast are contributing so much to the damage. If you’re not able to fit in a #2MinuteBeachClean yourself, please ensure you leave no trace. If you can, please do them as often as possible. It may seem like a never-ending task, but if we all do our small part, we can make a difference.

We have recently started our own sustainable clothing brand called Against The Tide Apparel. With this, we hope to build a community of like-minded sea lovers who care for, and want to improve, the state of our planet and oceans.

The sea gives so much to us, we need to protect it and the wildlife that live there.

Dublin Things To Do

Stand Up Paddleboarding In Dun Laoghaire

September 3, 2020

Anyone who knows me knows I’m obsessed with the sea and a big believer in ‘Blue Mind’ (the mildly meditative state brought on when near, in, on, or underwater). You’ll regularly find me down at the Forty Foot, transformed into a big kid living her best mermaid life. One thing I wanted to try out for ages is stand up paddleboarding, so when I heard that the guys from BigStyle were opening their SUP school in Dun Laoghaire I was stalking their Instagram to see when we could go down. You’ll know from a previous post that I stayed in the BigStyle Atlantic Lodge last year and had an amazing time, so I knew we’d be in good hands.

Where in Dun Laoghaire?

You’ll find the lads in the car park of the West Pier in Dun Laoghaire. The stand up paddleboarding school is easy to spot as it’s made up of large shipping containers and looks unbelievable (see image above). It’s super accessible, there is loads of parking in the area (heads up: it’s paid, so bring a few euro for that) and if you’re on public transport, there are bus routes and a dart station a few minutes walk away.

What’s involved?

If you’ve tried stand up paddleboarding before, they offer rentals for €25 for an hour and a half (includes SUP, wetsuit and buoyancy aid). If, like me, you’re new to the world of SUP, you can book in for an hour and a half long lesson for just €45 (*pricing at time of posting). We went out in the evening to enjoy the sun setting at the end of our lesson.

We arrived down 15 minutes before our lesson, as requested. Our instructor Peter talked through all the safety measures, COVID measures, and kitted us out in our wetsuits and life jackets. With all of that done, we wandered towards the water. I was a little nervous because my balance isn’t the best and I’m possibly the least coordinated person on the planet but onto the water we went.

Dun Laoghaire Harbour is the perfect place to test out your stand up paddleboarding skills as it’s so sheltered and calm. When we got out on the water Peter showed us how to paddle properly and how to do some basic turns. We did a lap of the harbor, testing out some new skills along the way. I’ll admit, I started getting a bit cocky so Peter challenged us to try some more advanced turns and that’s when I came crashing back down to earth (or into the water in this case). I got my first full turn done, gloated, and then faceplanted into the water 🤣 Honestly though, it all just added to the fun and the experience.

By the end of the lesson, I was feeling really comfortable on the board and was confident that I could steer my way around and most importantly get back on if I fell off… 🤣 I’ll definitely be back down to the lads soon to rent some boards for some chilled out fun on the water. Check out the BigStyle website if you’d like to book in or find out more about stand up paddleboard lessons or rentals in Dun Laoghaire or the Atlantic Lodge.

Places To Stay

Unusual Accommodation In Ireland

May 14, 2020

Joe and I have been staycationing for the last few years, in-part for sustainability reasons – this included our honeymoon last year. We’ve traveled up and down the Wild Atlantic Way and have stayed in lots of places. Over the last year, we’ve opted to try out some more unusual accommodation options in Ireland. I’ll talk you through some that we’ve already tried out. There should be something unique for every type of traveler so I hope you enjoy it.

Bubble Domes In Fermanagh

Unusual Accommodation In Ireland: Exterior of the bubble dome in Finn Lough

We have a list of unusual accommodations that we’ll be working our way through but we wanted to go with some really special ones for the honeymoon. One of our top picks was staying in a Bubble Dome in Finn Lough in Co. Fermanagh and it was amazing!

Our Experience In The Bubble Dome

I initially thought that I might feel exposed in some way and struggle to sleep due to the clear walls on the dome. How wrong I was, I slept like a baby. Being able to see a million little stars in the clear night sky was spectacular on the first night. It reminded me of the camping scenes you see in the movies. Our second night, it was hammering rain, so we experienced the best of both worlds. The sound of the rain while curled up in bed with the electric blanket on was an absolute dream!

Dinner at Finn Lough

It’s far from your standard glamping, each bubble dome has luxuries like a Nespresso machine, speaker, and some of the thickest bathrobes I’ve ever come across. The food in the restaurant is to die for! Night one, we had an unbelievable three-course dinner and were surprised with some extra treats to congratulate us. We planned on eating out on the second night but after doing The Stairway To Heaven hike (and getting lashed on) it was nice to stay in one spot. Before dinner on the second day, we did the elements trail in the spa. The elements trail consists of floatation, saunas, hot tub and relaxation room, all while wandering through a forest – bliss! It’s the best spa experience I’ve had to date.

Finn Lough offers a range of unique accommodation options but I think the bubble domes are the most special. I’ve written a more in-depth piece, if you’d like to read my full run-through of our stay in Finn Lough.

Lighthouse Staycation On Clare Island

Unique Accommodation In Ireland: External shot of Clare Island Lighthouse

We had heard a lot about Clare Island Lighthouse and how amazing it is for a staycation. After having an unintentionally nautical themed wedding, we thought it would be a fitting place to visit on our honeymoon. We arrived over to the island the night before and stayed in O’Grady’s B&B. It was a gorgeous spot and allowed us to wander about and see the island before heading up to the lighthouse. The lighthouse itself is at the far side of the island to most of the other accommodation. It’s beautifully remote and so tranquil up there – and the views!

We were welcomed with a spread of tea/coffee and fresh-baked scones – this should be a thing everywhere. Our fantastic host, Roie, talked us through different things to do on the island. Once we were fed and watered we were shown to our room. If being in a lighthouse wasn’t quirky enough, we stayed in the sauna suite. (If you haven’t noticed from other posts – I love a good sauna and am a regular in Fad Saoil Sauna) Just take a look at how amazing it was…

Our Experience In The Lighthouse

After a little potter around this side of the island and an attempted swim, we had a sauna before getting ready for dinner. All guests meet in the main sitting room for a pre-dinner drink and chat. Once our drinks order was taken we were welcomed into the dining room. Dinner in the lighthouse is eaten at a communal table with the other guests. Honestly, I thought it would be weird but it was actually quite nice to have the chats. The food and company were lovely and we finished our evening with a sauna before bed – I’m aware have sauna issues.

In the morning I had another sauna (are you seeing a trend here?) and went over to the main house for breakfast. With full bellies, we set off on foot across the island to get the ferry back to the mainland. Our bags were transported over to the harbor, giving us the freedom to explore the island more. It’s a gorgeous remote landscape, we walked the whole circumference of the island and bumped into maybe 5 people. It’s a great place to go for some headspace.

Treehouse Glamping In Leitrim

Quirky Accommodation In Ireland: The exterior of the treehouse in Teapot Lane

Last summer, Joe’s family got him a gift of a staycation in a treehouse! Now, to say I was excited about how unique this staycation would be an understatement. Teapot Lane is a beautiful setup and the treehouse itself was like something out of Sylvanian Families. We were met with cute stained glass windows and a wood-burning stove – so cosy.

Unusual Accommodation In Ireland: Interior of the treehouse in Teapot Lane

Our Experience Living In The Treehouse

For the stay, we opted to lunch out and cook for ourselves in the evening using the barbecue in the deck. We were blessed with the weather so cooking out on the deck was actually really enjoyable. Full disclosure, I sat on the deck with a glass of wine watching Joe cook 😁 After dinner, we sat on the deck with our bottle of wine and watched the sun go down. There was a DJ playing in the communal area on the first night, so we went for a bop.

We slept so well in the pitch black of the woods, away from all synthetic light. In the morning, I woke to a chorus of birds just outside our door – bliss! We did the 13km Gleniff Horseshoe walk one of the days and did a little Geocaching on the way. . It is a beautiful walk (or drive) surrounded by lush green in every direction.

Unique Accommodation In Ireland: The outdoor shower in Teapot Lane

For this particular staycation, I have to give a special shout out to the shower! It was beneath the treehouse itself and had a window that opened out onto the woods. I never knew I needed to feel that freedom but, Jaysus, I really want an outdoor shower in my house when I get one – the notions on me. But seriously, you need to experience it for yourself. I left Teapot Lane feeling so centred and as though we had been there for a week rather than a weekend. On the drive home, we stopped off in one of my favourite spots, Shells Cafe in Strandhill for lunch. After that we grabbed an ice cream in Mammy Johnstons, just to finish the weekend on an absolute high.

If you’d be interested in reading more on this unusual accommodation in the west of Ireland, I’ve written a full blog on our treehouse adventure in Teapot Lane.

Unique Yoga Retreat In Mayo

Unusual Accommodation In Ireland: The communal area of The Atlantic Lodge

The BigStyle Atlantic Lodge has to have been one of my favourite getaways last year! We went for a yoga (or not just a yoga) retreat, and honestly, I left feeling like a new woman. Kris and the lads have built something really special in the lodge, we walked in the door and immediately felt like we were in an old friend’s house.

Our Experience In The BigStyle Atlantic Lodge

Each morning did yoga practice, followed by a hearty homemade breakfast and a chill-out. In the afternoon, we did a variety of activities, from surfing and hiking to massage workshops and acro yoga. There was plenty of downtime between activities, which was very welcome as we had been up to 90 in the weeks before.

The communal area was so comfortable and chilled without everyone sitting on top of one another. The rooms were more like a paired back hotel than a hostel. We had a private double room with ensuite and it was super comfy and clean. I don’t know if it was the bed or the fact that I got so chilled but I slept like a rock for the whole week.

Post surf, drying off in my room in The Atlantic Lodge

The combo of sea air and lounging by the wood-burning stove, paired with the activities had me feeling both invigorated and relaxed. One evening we went for a sea swim followed by chats and a couple of beers in the outdoor hot tubs, looking out over the bay – complete and utter bliss! The atmosphere and the guys down there make the whole experience, they’re more like a family than colleagues which immediately makes the vibe down there super welcoming.

For more information on the retreat check out my full review or thinking just heading down for the weekend check out the BigStyle website.

Unique Accommodation In Ireland: Hot tubs in the outdoor area of The Atlantic Lodge

I have plans to visit some more unusual accommodation options in Ireland when we are safe to travel again. Of course, when we do, I’ll let you know my thoughts but until then, are there any slightly different places that you’d recommend? I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

Sustainability

Easy Sustainable Swaps

May 14, 2020

I started my sustainability journey a few years ago. Between starting an allotment, hiking, and sea swimming I was growing more and more aware of the impact our lifestyle can have on the environment. While I’m not 100% perfect (nobody is), I’ve made some really easy sustainable swaps in my day to day life that will make a difference. I do my best to use as many Irish eco-friendly brands as possible but for those that aren’t Irish I buy through Irish retailers like, The Kind and Reuzi.

To start the journey, I stopped throwing out any of the empty bottles in my bathroom for three months. Now this might sound super sloppy but I did it to show myself just how much plastic was being produced in one tiny aspect of my life. Honestly, I was horrified at the end to see the mound of shampoo, conditioner, and shower gel bottles. Having that visual cue spurred me on to make some changes. Now this isn’t a call for you to throw out all of your things and replace them with more eco-friendly options! It’s more a case of slotting in the more sustainable option as your other products run out.

There can be some learning and adjusting as you navigate your way into a more sustainable way of living but here are some of the easiest sustainable swaps that have worked for me.

Shampoo & Conditioner

When running our little experiment in saving the bottles in the bathroom, I was heartbroken at the result. I used to seriously overuse my products and go through a shampoo and conditioner every week or two – I know, terrible! This has to have been one of the simplest sustainable swaps I’ve made. Instead of buying my usual bottles of shampoo and conditioner that I’d grab when doing the weekly shop I made the switch to solid bars.

There are so many gorgeous Irish brands making natural shampoo and conditioner bars. As with ‘normal’ hair products, it can take a little trial and error finding the ones that suit your hair. I’ve found that most Irish producers are happy to help you figure out what might work for you.

I tend to flit about on my shampoo and conditioners a but am currently using Dalkey Handmade Soaps shampoo and a Friendly conditioner. I’ve also used the Airmid and Three Hills Soap shampoo and conditioner bars and absolutely loved them. The cheeky bonus with using the shampoo bars is that they are amazing when traveling! You save space in your bag and if you are flying they don’t count towards your precious fluid allocation. (Terrible turn of phrase but I’m leaving it in 😳) You know what that means – more space for your other lotions and potions!

Shower Gel/Squirty Soap

The other biggie for myself and Joe was shower gel, we had been sharing bottles of shower gel and were going through roughly one a week between general washing and après sport/gym showers. The simple sustainable swap for this? Bars of soap of course! Handily, most of the suppliers that do shampoo and conditioner, also offer soap bars. There are some amazing natural soap companies popping up all over Ireland and they are just gorgeous.

The soap company I go back to time and time again is Dalkey Handmade Soaps. They are beautifully made and don’t turn to mush at the end like some brands can.

Hair Mask

I’ve never been big into hair masks but sometimes your hair just needs it. I’m noticing this more as I spend more time outdoors and in the sea. In the last few years I’ve attended natural cosmetics courses with Irish Seed Savers and have read up on natural beauty treatments in Fiann Ó Nualláin’s books to get ideas for more natural options. Instead of buying a new hair mask every few weeks, I made the sustainable swap to using coconut oil. Yes, the kind you use in your wok!

Simply melt it down, put it in the lengths of your hair, tie it up and stick a wooly hat on – this adds some warmth to help it soak in. Leave oil and hat on while you go about your business, no need to sit perfectly still to avoid drips. Once you’re done, stick your hat in the wash and wash your hair.

I find that you have to give your hair a double shampoo after but it feels great and looks so shiny when the treatment is done. Just to add, doing this treatment also has been approved by my hairdresser!

*Please don’t go out in the sun with your hair doused in coconut oil as you could essentially cook your hair…*

Toothbrush & Toothpaste

This was one of the easiest sustainable swaps I’ve made! Out with my usual plastic toothbrush in with a bamboo toothbrush. My favourite brand that I’ve used so far is Bambooth, I find the handle much more akin to a traditional toothbrush so it’s an easier adjustment. After gushing about it on my Instagram page, I was delighted to be asked to be their ambassador. For each toothbrush they sell, a donation is made to a different environmental charity depending on the colour purchased.

Now to the toothpaste, we’ve switched to Truthpaste as often as we can (unfortunately sustainable options can be a little trickier to get your hands on). I feel that my teeth are cleaner when I use it compared to traditional toothpastes. There are other brands like Georganics, that might suit you if you aren’t into Truthpaste – the texture, etc can take a little getting used to.

Deodorant

Deodorant is another easy swap, especially good for travel. I made the move from an aerosol deodorant to a cream alternative about two years ago and haven’t looked back. Again, this saves space when travelling and won’t take up much space in your handbag, if you want to take it with you.

I use both Warrior Botanicals and PitPutty, depending on which I can find when I need to restock. PitPutty comes in a range of scents and sizes. Both are available from most eco-friendly stores.

Moisturiser

For body moisturiser, I’ve made the super easy swap from a lotion or moisturiser in a plastic tube, to a more sustainable one in a jar, or even better, a moisturiser bar. The body moisturiser bar that I am currently using is one of the Janni Bars and I have to say, I love it! It smells of lavender so it gives off a super relaxing scent.

For my face, I use a Sukin Rosehip Oil and Green Angel moisturiser in the morning, both are in glass containers. At night, I use the Janni Bars Honey Glow Face Balm (also in glass). I started using this a few weeks ago and my skin looks so much better!

Food

This one can be trickier… but one really easy sustainable swap we’ve made is buying loose fruit and veg rather than those in pre-packed containers or using the plastic bags in the shop. Another gem we have found is Bunalun Organic Frozen Berries, which comes in a cardboard box. The frozen berries reduce food waste as they last so much longer. Plus, there’s the added bonus that they come in a box that can be recycled! This was a bit of a game-changer for me as I have berries in my porridge literally every morning.

There are more bits you can do when food shopping, like going to a bulk store like The Good Neighbour or The Source Bulk Foods. We regularly bring jars up to The Good Neighbour for our shopping at the weekend. This can be daunting to some, so even the little steps above, that you can do in your supermarket will make a huge difference.

These were some of the first changes we made when trying to shop and live more sustainably. They’re the foundations we started building on before changing other aspects of our lives, but the additional changes might be for another day. If you’re interested in switching to a more eco-friendly way of life, I’ve done a post on my favourite sustainable brands.

Have you tried out any of these easy sustainable swaps? Do you have any more that you would recommend? Let me know in the comments.

Things To Do

My Favourite Hikes In Ireland

May 1, 2020

I’m an absolute lover of all things nature, not only do my hikes help me physically with my fitness but they also do wonders for my mental health. There’s nothing that grounds me more than immersing myself in nature – the best reset button you could ask for! While we’re on lock-down and staying safe, I’ve been reflecting on some of my favourite hikes in Ireland and ones I would love to do again. I thought I’d share a few with you to give you either inspiration for when we’re free to roam again or just a bit of respite for a few minutes while you read.

Coumshingaun Lake, Co. Waterford

I visited Waterford properly for the first time last year and couldn’t finish the trip without doing the stunning 7.5km Coumshingaun Lake Loop. It’s a glacier lake nestled below sheer c-shaped mountainsides, that was more spectacular than I could have imagined. There’s a decent walk up to the lake itself if you’re not feeling a long hike but if you have the time and the energy, my god it won’t disappoint! We fluked it by arriving on a glorious sunny day which highlighted all of the tones on the hills and made the water glisten.

We walked up the left side of the lake – I huffed and puffed my way up but damn it I got there! The views were amazing from the offset but when we reached the top of the hill and couldn’t see an obvious way to the very top so we climbed up the rocks and over (probably not to be advised but we made it). After we got over the rocks we reached the sweet, sweet flat ground at the top and my god the view was absolutely spectacular! We took loads of breaks up the top for snackies and to take in our surroundings.

Sitting on a rock at the top, is still one of my favourite memories! So many times you hear about a hike and it just doesn’t live up to your expectations but the hike at Coumshingaun was simply not one of them. The walk down was a little tricky but we sat and dangled our feet in the lake when we got down – I only wish we had our togs!

It instantly became one of my favourite hikes in Ireland and I genuinely look forward to being able to do it again!

The Spinc, Glendalough, Co. Wicklow

While we travel around a good bit trying out different hikes and places to go, The Spinc has to be my favourite hike close to home (Dublin). Situated in Glendalough, Co. Wicklow, we can travel there with ease when we’re looking to get a decent walk in. We’ve done this 9km hike at all times of the year and in all kinds of weather (mild blizzard included) and I never tire of it.

I’m not sure which is the ‘right way’ to do the loop but we usually go down the left side of the lake and up the steps in the woods – this is where I test any changes in my fitness… Once at the top, you can follow the trail made of railway sleepers while you look down on the beautiful glacier lake. This trail can be quite busy in parts in comparison to Coumshingaun where we came across a handful of people in our whole time there.

One of my favourite times to do this hike is around Autumn as you can hear the deer calling during the rutting season. That said, if you manage a sunny summer day without too much of a crowd, it’s hard to beat.

The view from the Spinc route in

Cliffs Of Moher Cliff Walk, Co. Clare

If you follow my Instagram account you’ll know that there’s a special place in my heart for the Cliffs of Moher. When thinking of hikes in Ireland it might not be something that springs to mind, but the cliff walk from Liscannor to Doolin is a really nice ‘little’ jaunt. Stretching over 13km along the cliffs from the Hags Head at Liscannor to the beautiful town of Doolin. The walk offers so many different views of the cliffs but one key tip is don’t forget to look back too so you don’t miss any of the amazing views the walk has to offer.

Nearly every time I’ve been in Clare, we’ve done at least part of this walk. We’ve walked it in all weathers and it is breathtaking regardless of whether the sun is beaming down or it’s overcast. On cloudier days, the cliffs look so dramatic but when the sun is out and bouncing off the water below I could sit there for hours. I have to say my favourite time is at sunset, just see the picture below and you’ll understand.

There’s a shuttle bus that runs between Liscannor, The Cliffs of Moher Visitor’s Centre and Doolin so you can walk from one end to the other and get the shuttle back. We’ve done the full walk before, had a pint of Guinness in Gus O’Connor’s pub, and then shuttled our way back to Liscannor where we were staying at the time. Our regular walk there is from the Hags Head to the Visitor’s Centre and back, followed by some food in Lahinch or Liscannor.

The Cliffs Of Moher at sunset - Hikes In Ireland

Gleninchaquin Park, Co. Kerry

A few years back, we asked for recommendations for places worth visiting near Kenmare and Gleninchaquin Park was by far my favourite. In such beautiful surroundings, every route will be a treat. You are met with a spectacular waterfall as soon as you arrive and the park has six different routes to suit any level of fitness.

Our first trip was on a seriously humid day, but all the huffing and puffing (and giant hair) was worthwhile. Looking out across the valley and lakes while standing on top of a waterfall is just something else. The hike up and over the waterfall is 3.9km and will have you both on and off-trail, following little red markers dotted along the mountainside.

Sheep roam freely in the park – I may have got too close to one accidentally and saw a look in it’s eye that I never want to see again! Joe nearly fell over laughing at me running and squealing! So worth a warning, if you’re not into being up close to animals, this one might not be for you… I’ve had so much fun on this trail and I’d go back in a heartbeat.

The field before the waterfall in Gleninchaquin Park, Co. Kerry, dotted with sheep - Hikes In Ireland

Mullaghmore Mountain, Co. Clare

Of all of the hikes in Ireland that I’ve done, this one is the most unique in my opinion! Mullaghmore is a mountain in the middle of the Burren that looks like, what I can only describe as, a soft-serve ice cream. You set off across the moonscape of the Burren and follow little markers that stand out against the vast grey surroundings.

Again, with this one, there are a few different routes marked out but we followed the 7.5km one that would allow us to see as much as possible. There is a bit of scree and a little bit of climbing involved. It’s definitely not one for people with weak ankles unless in supportive boots as there are unsteady rocks throughout.

We hiked up and over the top of the mountain, offering views across the entire Burren from the summit. On our way back down you could see Fr.Ted’s house off in the distance. Queue, Niamh quoting Fr Ted and singing the theme song the whole way back to the car… I’m a great hiking partner – I swear!

I am starting my decent from Mullaghmore Mountin in The Burren - Hikes In Ireland

Have you tried any of these? I’m making a list for hikes in Ireland to try out when things settle down, please leave me any recommendations in the comments below.

Sustainability

My Top Sustainable Irish Brands

March 28, 2020

In these uncertain times, it’s more important than ever to support local. I’ve compiled a list of my favourite sustainable Irish brands that I think are well worth supporting. Not only do they offer gorgeous products but you’ll also be doing your bit for our local economy and our planet.

Huku

With people trying to stay fit when remaining home, there’s been huge demand for exercise equipment. Well, let me introduce you to Huku, the sustainable fitness brand. Huku’s products are made by hand, in Donegal. I use their balance board not just for balance, but push ups and bridge too. I’ve also been attempting to squat on it – admittedly the squat hasn’t quite been mastered just yet but something to aim for…

They also offer a range of yoga wheels (Huku Moons) that help with deep stretching and posture. With every product purchased the guys will plant a native hardwood tree in Glenveagh National Park. I’m hoping to join them for one of their tree planting days in the future (fingers crossed).

You can see the full range of Huku boards and moons on the Huku Balance website.

All Things Fiona-Lily

Saving end of line stock from landfill and turning them into beautiful beacons of positivity you can wear. She offers crew necks, t-shirts, socks, totes and has just releases a range of kids crew necks. Let’s face it, we could all do with a bit of positivity right now and just look how gorgeous her products are. Fiona Lily also owns a zero waste cafe called Simply Green in Ballyshannon, which is going on my must visit list.

Check out the full range of garments on the All Things Fiona-Lily website.

Yogandha Oils

We could all do with a little calm in our lives and personally I love to stick on the defuser with some essential oils to help me relax. That said, I definitely plan on trying out the Yogandha Oils. They offer roller aromatherapy oil that you apply directly to the body. If I can bring the same zen I get from the defuser with me wherever I go, I’m all in! They are 100% natural, vegan and in recyclable and post-recycled packaging making them a fab sustainable option.

You can see the full range of product and scents on the Yogandha Oils website.

Fresh Cuts Clothing

Fresh Cuts Clothing offer high quality ethical and sustainable basics for everyday wear. They have a shop on Drury Street but also have an online store for ease. I got a jumper from Fresh Cuts in December and I love and wear it so much I’m after buying a second of the exact same jumper. Army green oversized crew necks – I genuinely live in them right now. Joe has a pair of their jeans and some t-shirts that he loves. They are unbelievable quality and their jeans will definitely be one of my next purchases.

Browse the full collection of their products on the Fresh cuts Clothing website.

Warrior Botanicals

Warrior Botanicals is a herb and botanical craft studio set in West Cork, making small-batch natural skin care. I have used their deodorant cream on many occasions and love it. There is an added bonus that you can get your empties refilled in many sustainable stores nationwide. They also offer serums, oils and balms for face and body that I plan on trying soon.

View their full collection on the Warrior Botanicals website.

Reuzi

Reuzi is an online store to help you get all of your essential sustainable bits. They also have a bricks and mortar shop in Foxrock, Dublin 18. From shampoo bars and soaps, among other hair and skin care options, to kitchen and living supplies, they’ll have you covered for all your sustainability needs. I’ve bought from them before both online and in store and they offer a fantastic service.

You can find all of their amazing bits on the Reuzi website.

Grown Clothing

Grown create amazing sustainable clothing made from 100% organic cotton, hemp and recycled fibres. All of their creations are inspired by the sea. I have a t-shirt and a jumper from Grown and love them! They represent my interests in sea swimming, surfing and sustainability. The company also plant a native Irish tree for every garment purchased.

They also also offer a ‘gift a tree’ service in partnership with Moy Hill Community Farm, near Lahinch. Myself and Joe purchased a native Irish tree for each of our niblings (nieces and nephew) as part of their Christmas presents. We have also used this to offset some local travel.

You can see the full range of gorgeous clothing on the Grown website.

Bambooth

Bambooth is a great sustainable brand created by Irish Duo Niamh McGill and Joe Finnegan, and are a fab alternative to your standard plastic toothbrush. I’ve been using sustainable toothbrushes for over two years and Bambooth are by far my favourite. Each of the Bambooth’s four colours is linked to a different conservation effort so 10c per brush is donated to a conservation group. I was thrilled when they asked me to be a Bambassador for their Forest Green brush that is linked to the Jane Goodall Institute.They also come in a sustainably made tube, making it super convenient for travel.

You can get them in loads of sustainable stores, include Reuzi mentioned above, or on the Bambooth website.

Due South

Due South are a Dublin based ethical clothing company, using eco-friendly materials, ranging from 100% organic cotton to recycled polyester. They create great quality basics with designs that pay tribute to some of Ireland most recognisable landmarks. I have their Cliffs of Moher t-shirt which is super soft and a fab colour. Recently, I’ve been thinking of reviewing their designs to plan some future trips.

For their full range visit the Due South website.

The Good Neighbour

If you’re in the Dublin area, The Good Neighbour is a fantastic zero waste grocery store in Dundrum Village. We’ve started dong our weekly shop here and can get most of our bits in the store, while drastically reducing our waste.

You can bring your empty jars and containers with you, weigh them when you go in, fill with whatever you need and then weigh again before paying, At the moment they are offering an order for collection service. You download the order form online, fill it out and send to them and when your order is ready they will text you with a SumUp link for payment. You can then collect your order or text and someone will bring it out to your car.

Check out The Good Neighbour website for full details on their collection service and a list of products

The Burren Perfumery

The Burren Perfumery is a gorgeous little company, based in The Burren on the west of Ireland. They create beautiful perfumes and cosmetics inspired by the local landscape.

Having visited the perfumery on a trip to Lahinch, I can definitely recommend a trip. You can see all of the plants that go into making the products and they offer tours so that you can learn all about their processes. I’ve used some of their serums and creams and highly recommend them. I’ve been meaning to get some of their beautiful seasonal perfumes to change things up a bit.

To see the full range, see The Burren Perfumery website.

Do you have any sustainable Irish brands that you think should make the list? Let me know in the comments.

Leitrim Places To Stay

Treehouse Glamping In Leitrim

March 17, 2020

Over the summer, we had the pleasure of glamping in a treehouse in Leitrim – yes, that’s right, a treehouse! Teapot Lane is located on the border of Leitrim and Sligo, and just down the road from Bundoran, so there is loads to do in the area.

When we arrived we were met by the owners, who have a policy of being available should you need anything but not being intrusive at all. They showed us around our beautiful surroundings and guided us to our treehouse. In the treehouse, the wood-burning stove was lit (DREAM!), so it was super cosy. I felt like I was in the movies (or Sylvanian Families, minus the slide) rather than glamping. I immediately never wanted to leave!

Treehouse Glamping, Teapot Lane, Co. Leitrim

Go On Go On Go On

For me, being able to have a cup of tea anywhere I stay is a must. If there are no tea making fahilities I don’t want to know about it! Cue the greatest set up of all time… In the little kitchen area of the treehouse there was a kettle, Nespresso machine and a wine fridge (a bloody wine fridge!). I know I’m sad but that wine fridge brought me endless joy. It meant we could store little bits to eat (all the cheese) and real milk for the tea!! I’m a red wine drinker so no space needed in the fridge for that 🙂 Please don’t @ me for my wine fridge love

Treehouse Glamping, , Teapot Lane, Co. Leitrim

Night one, we (Joe) cooked dinner on the barbecue on the decking and I set up residence in one of the loungers to chill. We cracked open a bottle of wine and sat on the deck watching the sun set and the stars come out. Teapot Lane host a lot of hen parties, so there’s a DJ in the communal area on a Friday (bonus for us!).  The communal area bar is BYOB and you can stock yourself if you are there with a party. The DJ was great and had everyone dancing the night away in the middle of the woods. I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t love that!

Teapot Lane Communal Area, Co. Leitrim

Shower Of Dreams

The next morning I got up and had what I can only describe as one of the best showers of all time! I genuinely still think about it to this day. When glamping in a treehouse you don’t necessarily think of a private shower with windows out into the woods. In this set up you get a real sense that you’re showering outside – something I didn’t know I was into. The rainfall shower head was amazing and being that close to nature was just gorgeous. I was left feeling really (and weirdly) zen afterwards. Not gonna lie, an outdoor shower is now one of our ‘needs’ for when we get a house…Say it with me, FREEDOM!!

Treehouse Glamping Shower, Teapot Lane, Co. Leitrim

Now don’t get me wrong, this is still glamping! So I should warn you about the one thing I was apprehensive about before going – the compost toilet. Turns out they’re absolutely fine, especially in summer as it’s not too cold out there (its around the side of the treehouse). It’s also a private loo rather than shared with other guests.

Final Thoughts…

It was such a gorgeous weekend. There was something so relaxing and revitalising about waking up to the sound of the birds and just chilling out in nature. We were only there for a weekend but we both left feeling so relaxed and rested it seemed like a week.

Treehouse Glamping at Night, Teapot Lane, Co. Leitrim

There’s loads of options for accommodation, including yurts, a vintage caravan and a cottage that accommodates for those who are less into the camping/glamping side of things. If you’re booking in, they”ll also arrange adventures for you if requested – surfing, supping and horse riding can be arranged.

Being on the boarder of Leitrim and Sligo, there are so many options for things to do. Bundoran and Mullaghmore are nearby if surfing is your thing. On this trip we opted to do the 13km walk the spectacular Glenniff Horseshoe Drive which is approximately 30 minutes away.

If yoIf I’ve sold you on glamping in a treehouse and you’re thinking of booking a stay, check out the Teapot Lane website.

Dublin Things To Do

Mobile Sauna In Dun Laoghaire Is Bringing Sea Swims To A New Level

March 17, 2020

Sea swimming has taken on somewhat of a renaissance. There are amazing people who have been doing this for years but there seems to be new generation of sea swimmers – like myself – who are just getting into it. Most of us have decided to take the plunge due to the health and mindfulness benefits associated with it. 

Dublin (and Ireland) has an abundance of amazing swimming spots. The key ones for me include Sandycove, The Forty Foot, Sea Point, Hawk Cliff and White Rock. Each spot has its own character and community of dedicated sea swimmers. FYI, sea swimmers are some of the friendliest people you will ever meet. If you’re tight on time and can’t always work with the tides then White Rock and The Forty Foot are the spots for you. Both will allow you to swim at high or low tide without having to walk out for miles. Recently, Sandycove/The Forty Foot have been winning out over all others for me due to the addition of Dublin’s first mobile sauna – you heard that right, a mobile sauna!

My Swimming Experience

I started sea swimming in on the 1st of June this year, after hearing about a documentary called 100 Days Of Vitamin Sea. It follows a girl with chronic migraine using wild swimming in the treatment of her migraines. Naturally intrigued, after suffering with chronic migraine for nearly five years, I decided to give it a try…

From day one, I fell in love with the post-swim feeling! It also helps to relieve my symptoms which is amazing, even if it’s temporary. Over the summer we went to White Rock a few times a week and enjoyed bobbing in the water watching the Dart go by. As we swam, I couldn’t shift this nervous feeling that I wouldn’t be able to keep it up during the winter months – I’m well known for my cold blooded, lizard-like qualities. However, just in time for the colder months, Fad Saoil Saunas came to my rescue.

Post-Swim, Sandycove

Mobile Sauna

Fad Saoil is an amazing mobile sauna that can be found at the Forty Foot from Friday-Sunday every week. Offering you a toasty 15 minute sauna session for just €10. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of accomplishment after braving the elements and getting into the sea. However, I’d be lying if I didn’t say I’m loving the cheeky bonus of knowing that there’s a delish sauna to hop into afterwards. The sauna also has a large window facing out over the Forty Foot, so you get views across to Howth while you sit, soaking in the warmth – magic!

Joe in Fad Saoil Mobile Sauna

Our self-care routine over the weekend now factors in the sauna as a must. We swim in Sandycove for approx 10 minutes (this has dropped dramatically from our time over the summer) and then hop into the sauna for 15 minutes, before finishing with a quick dip in the sea to close our pores after. I can’t stress enough how much this sets you up for the day when done in the mornings.

Health Benefits

There are loads of health benefits associated with sauna use and cold exposure. I’m not an expert so here’s a video with Dr. Rhonda Patrick discussing some of the benefits with Joe Rogan, if you’re interested.

Booking for weekends opens on Tuesdays and can be booked on their website or through the GloFox App. If you’re like me and use the sauna on a regular basis, you can buy a block of credits at a discount. They can also be booked for private events – the magic of being mobile. If you’re interested in giving it a try, check out  Fad Saoil Saunas website to find out more and to book.

View of the Forty Foot at Fad Saoil Mobile Sauna
Mayo Places To Stay Things To Do

Not Just A Yoga Retreat On The Wild Atlantic Way

March 17, 2020

In September, we decided to honeymoon around Ireland, we wanted to stay local as we’re very aware of the carbon footprint that would be involved in doing long haul flights. There are so many amazing things to do right on our doorstep, so we decided to take advantage of it and offset our carbon footprint by planting native trees. We spent five days doing the “not just a yoga retreat” in the BigStyle Atlantic Lodge on the Wild Atlantic Way. We couldn’t have been happier with our decision.

Driving through Louisburg, we looked at each other with thinking “what did we get ourselves into?”. On arrival, that feeling totally lifted! We were welcomed into the lodge, which immediately felt like an old friends house. Kris and the lads have really created something magical on the Wild Atlantic Way.

The Atlantic Lodge is reminiscent of Irish College but for grown-ups. Once you step into the Lodge the rest of the world just kind of melts away. Thankfully, in this particular Irish College, the Irish and awkward dancing is replaced with surfing, hiking and outdoor hot tubs. I remember during my Irish college days, the food was questionable at best so I survived on a diet of Drifter Bars, brown bread and jam. But in the Lodge you are spoiled with an array of comforting and delicious vegetarian goodness. Porridge, paella, pizza and chickpea burgers to die for.

Our Arrival To The Yoga Retreat

Day one, we drove up from Lahinch, had something quick to eat and then prepared for our first surf lesson. Getting in the sea is one of my favourite things to do – nothing really bonds you with a group more than collectively being battered by the sea 🙂

Me Post Surf At Atlantic Lodge Yoga Retreat

I don’t know what exactly I was expecting from the rooms but it was so much better than what I had in my head. It was like a slightly pared-back version of a modern hotel room rather than a hostel. There was a fab ensuite and an incredibly comfy bed (probably made more comfy with the post surf tiredness). The walls in the rooms and corridors were covered in pictures of the guys adventures around the world. The style and pictures gave it a really personal touch, which I loved.

We went downstairs for a chill out by the fire while Pete, our fantastic yoga instructor, cooked us up a feast. This man is a miracle worker, he managed to get Joe to happily eat vegetarian for the full five days. We genuinely thought he’d be sneaking out for a steak at some point to keep him going. The pizza making workshop was so much fun. Everyone got hands on, rolled out a pizza and topped it with whatever hey fancied. We all had a couple of drinks and shared the pizzas as they came out of the oven.

Pizza Workshop At Atlantic Lodge Yoga Retreat

Yoga & Other Bits

Every morning we did a yoga class and followed it up with a hearty breakfast. Activities consisted of hikes, surf lessons, acro yoga (this was so much fun), a massage workshop and sea swims. There was a good amount of chill out time between activities which was great. Being forced to sit and chill was a blessing in disguise. During the down time, people just chatted, played games, read books and just completely unwound.

There was nothing about this yoga retreat that didn’t leave you feeling revitalised and centred again. We were there from Mon – Fri and when we left we were the perfect balance of rested and energised. It also isn’t your average yoga retreat as you are free to have a few drinks if you fancy it. One of my favourite moments was following up a sea swim with a couple of beers and chats in the hot tub while looking out across the bay, soaking in the Wild Atlantic Way.

Outdoor area with Hot Tubs At Atlantic Lodge Yoga Retreat

The key to this amazing place is the team that work here – they’re more like a family than colleagues. As I said before, it’s like being welcomed into an old friend’s home. With stunning views of the West Coast, this is a place I was genuinely sad to leave and I would go back without hesitation.

They also provide amazing surf and adventure retreats to Portugal, so you have the added bonus of some (pretty much guaranteed) sun. Regardless of the retreat you choose, you’re guaranteed to have the craic and return home reenergised.

If you’re looking for a yoga retreat on the Wild atlanticWay, I couldn’t recommend a stay in the Atlantic Lodge more, you can find all the info you need on the BigStyle website.

The lads are building a new stand up paddle boarding school in Dun Laoghaire this summer. I will definitely be down the second it opens and will report back.

View From Atlantic Lodge Yoga Retreat
Fermanagh Places To Stay

Bubble Dome Staycation In Fermanagh

March 17, 2020

In Autumn last year, we went on a magical staycation in Fermanagh. We stayed in one of the bubble domes in Finn Lough. My beautiful friends got us the stay as a wedding gift – they know us so well. It was a totally unique staycation, with amazing food and one of the best spa experiences I’ve ever had.

The Bubble Dome was so beautiful! I thought I would have trouble sleeping as I HATE the idea of being exposed like that but I was so wrong. I had some of the most restful nights of my life when we were there. The first night we had a clear night so we were just lying in bed looking at millions of stars above us. It was just stunning! On the second night it was raining so we lay there listening to the soothing sound of the raindrops – bliss!

Bubble Dome in Finn Lough, Co. Fermanagh
Views from the bubble dome

What’s In The Bubble Dome?

The bubble dome has a speaker, hair dryer, Nespresso machine and a wind up torch to allow safe travels through the woods. The torches were needed to ensure it was dark enough to see the stars. The bed was unbelievably comfortable and we were given the fluffiest robes I have ever come across in a hotel. There was also an electric blanket in the bed in case the night was chilly – I can’t begin to tell you how nice it is to watch the stars from a toasty bed. So when it came to our room I was happy out, so what about the food?

Roast loin of venison, Finn Lough, Co. Fermanagh
Venison

Food

The food in Finn Lough is some of the best I have had when away. The breakfast was fantastic, offering both a beautiful buffet and a hot cooked breakfast from the kitchen. Both nights we absolutely stuffed ourselves with unbelievably delicious dishes . I ate a lot of game on our stay and it didn’t disappoint. The venison in particular was a favourite. On our first night, we were spoiled with some extra sweet treats to congratulate us on our wedding – such a lovely touch.

Desert, Finn Lough, Co. Fermanagh
Dessert

On the second day, we went out and walked the Stairway To Heaven – how could we staycation in Fermanagh and not give it a visit? The walk is amazing but on the day we did it the heavens opened about 5 minutes into it. I had forgotten my proper rain gear that day so wound up soaked to the skin by the time we got back to the car. It was an amazing walk but I couldn’t have been happier when we got back into the car and remembered that we had booked the ‘Elements Trail’ in the spa in Finn Lough for that afternoon.

The stairway to Heaven, Co. Fermanagh
Stairway To Heaven

Elements Trail

We went to the spa area which is situated in the woods and were given talk through what was to follow. Again, the robe game in the spa was strong, they were weighty and amazing. The Elements Trail consisted of a 20 minute floatation, which was outrageously relaxing. We then walked through the wood for a dry sauna (with a dip in the lake). Another stroll through the woos took us to an aromatherapy sauna. Finally we did an 20 minute hot tub overlooking the lake and then chilled in a relaxation room. My body didn’t know how to cope with those levels of relaxation. We then stuffed our faces in the restaurant again and then back to the bubble dome to curl up and listen to the rain.

If you’re thinking of booking a staycation in Fermanagh I would highly recommend the bubble domes, visit the Finn Lough website to book.