From Alpacas to Kayaking.
Staycations may be the only holiday I’ll enjoy in 2021, but my gosh was I delighted to make a getaway out of Dublin on my recent trip down to the Sunny South East. Hitting up areas of Co. Wicklow and Co. Wexford, I got to tick off a few things I’d not done before. It was an active and very fun staycation – the first but not the last of this year.
TRAVEL & ACCOMMODATION DETAILS
Myself and Lorna (of Fashion Boss) headed down south from Dublin on a Saturday morning with a total of a 2.5 hour drive ahead of us. We stayed in Shillelagh, nestled in a gorgeous hillside part of the midlands in Co. Wicklow. I would advise to nip by the shops before you head down this way, as there is very little retail once you’re in the woods.
We stayed at The Hunter’s Lodge, run by Philomena, whose idyllic lodge I booked via Airbnb. It’s made with stunning Scandinavian wood, which you smell throughout and is such a welcomed vibe. My room looked across the hills, and featured a comfortable double bed, vanity table & stool, wardrobe, plenty of cushions and a working radiator. The second bedroom features similar facilities with comfy twin beds and a view to the wildflower garden. The bathroom had a standing shower, toilet and sink with a handful of spots to hang towels too, as well as complimentary toiletries and hand sanitiser. The living room had a really comfy couch, blankets, rocking chair and beanbag, as well as a telly; while the dining table was surrounded by four chairs and fresh flowers in a vase atop. Outside there’s also a picnic bench and parasol on the deck, that adds to the privacy of this lodge and made for lovely al fresco dining.
Our host left us a number of foodie delights for dinner and for breakfast including a bottle of white wine, bread, jogurts, eggs, butter, milk, mini Kellogg’s cereals (so nostalgic!) and even apple pies as a surprise treat. The cupboards also had all the essentials for cooking such as oils and vinegar, pots & pans, cutlery & delph, glassware and the likes – it was such a well stocked kitchen and perfect for when I rustled up our fish dinner.
We were able to locate the lodge very easily, check-in and check-out were fuss-free, and driveway parking was very good. Philomena was such a wonderful host and I highly recommend to book in for a techy detox stay (no reception!) and also to enjoy the summer sunsets from the steps!
RECOMMENDATIONS – SIGHTSEEING
We spent two full days down in the Sunny South East in Wicklow on Saturday, and Wexford on Sunday, before coming back home. There were a number of things we did and places we visited, and though we only spent the weekend there it felt like a much longer staycation.
We first head to Brittas Bay for a lovely beach walk, dipping our toes in and enjoying the sunshine. Luckily, we didn’t hit any traffic, and parked for free on the roadside near the furthest south entrance to the beach. It’s always a great spot for catching the waves on a board, or getting for a swim, and I’ve heard beach runs make for even greater exercise!
Next we made our way to K2 Alpacas, for what was truly one of the cutest experiences ever! I’d always wanted to roam around with alpacas and this was my lucky day. It’s located north west of Brittas in Callowhill Upper, Newtown Mount Kennedy, which was a 30-minute drive with a little stop off at Rathnew Centra to reenergise. We booked online, and luckily got a time slot for the Saturday.
On arrival you’re checked in, instructed to await your group call and then get to venture onto the fields where alpacas, horses, ponies and sheep share the lands. Our guide and alpaca expert Janet was brilliant! She really knew her alpacas, had a great interactive storytelling persona and made us feel really comfortable when approaching the alpacas.
My little alpaca was named Elate, who is the youngest female cria (baby alpaca) of the group, and she was the best girl! Friendly, a bit talkative and a friend to her friends, I adored walking Elate. Our cria alpacas had recently been sheared so only their little heads were super fluffy…but they were still uber cute! We walked the hills of the K2 Alpacas farm for just under two hours, you do get to feed them, learn lots of fun and cultural facts, and after the walk are given complimentary drinks.
Alpaca Trekking costs €38 per person – and I advise to book well in advance! I also recommend wearing shoes you don’t mind getting dirty, although they do offer wellies as a footwear alternative.
On Sunday morning, we left the lodge and made our way over to Wexford Town, which was an easy 50-minute drive. A town I’ve not been to before, I loved having a wander through the streets and taking in the historical buildings and plaques, including their memorial to 1916 Rising Acting Commander Robert Brennan and Una Bolger.
The harbour and sea smells reminded me of Annagassan, Co. Louth where I spent my childhood summers with my paternal grandparents, is dotted with gorgeous boats as well as a few café and foodie docks. We stopped into Waffel Haus on Crescent Quay for the most delicious and indulgent bubble waffles – and also my first ever bubble waffle! I ordered mine with Kinder Bueno sauce, Kinder Country and Raffaelo. I’m still lusting after it as I write.
We then headed down to Hook Lighthouse at Hook Head, another 50-minute drive from Wexford Town. Located at the tip of the Hook Peninsula, it’s the most south-easterly point in Ireland I’ve been to, and what’s more, Hook Lighthouse is also the second oldest working lighthouse in the world, having stood for 849 years (as of 2021)!!! I loved learning about this structure, like how it’s made from limestone, dates from the 12th Century, was automated in 1996, and also features on the coat of arms of County Wexford. Plus, the views from the lighthouse are spectacular! Be aware that there was a lot of parked cars, holiday RVs, trailers and tents all along the way to the lighthouse entrance and you could find it hard to nab a car parking spot.
Our final activity of our staycation was Sea Cave Kayaking! We drove past the alleged ‘haunted house’ Loftus Hall on the way to 15 minutes to Fethard, where The Irish Experience have their check-in office & shop. Here, you’ll need to sign a waiver and COVID-19 check list, as well as pick up your wetsuit (if you don’t have your own). The shop has plenty more accessories you can buy but the Kayaking ticket includes your two-person kayak, paddle, wetsuit, life vest and helmet. Tickets cost €99 per two persons sharing a kayak.
We then drive ourselves down to Baginbun Beach, which is only 5 minutes away…BUT I advise to make your way to the beach well in advance of your tour time because the traffic congestion and lack of free parking spaces is rather chaotic! I half changed into my wetsuit in the car, wearing my swimsuit underneath, and wore my light runners too. Your feet and shoes will get wet, so wear those you don’t mind getting wet!
Our guides/instructors were Seán and Ryan, and they were just brilliant. On the beach, our group was given a quick lesson in how to steer the kayak, how to hold your paddle correctly, the do’s and don’t’s when on the sea, and a summary of what we’d be getting up to. What I really liked about Seán’s pre-sea tuition was how at ease he made me feel about being out on the water – FYI I have a fear of being under water and genuinely freak out if my head goes under.
But I’ve always wanted to kayaking…and now I have finally ticked it off my bucket list! Twas such an amazing experience and I’d do it again. We kayaked around Baginbun Head then one by one we went into a dark AF sea cave and I absolutely loved it! Especially I’m a big fan of caves as you may remember from my visit to the Doolin Cave and its Great Stalactite. Before we took our short break on Carnivan Bay, where the lovely Ryan had hot chocolates & Penguin bars for us (absolute legend!), I could spot Hook Lighthouse. We then headed back towards the beach taking our time, and throughout the two-hour experience I really enjoyed me and Lorna’s partner system, where I followed her lead on which paddle side we did, and we manouvered through the choppy waters to get to the calm side with ease.
Our drive back to Dublin was just over 2 hours, and though we were knackered, it was such an enjoyable 48 hours and I’d do all our activities again in a heartbeat!
PLEASE NOTE DURING ALL CLOSE-PROXIMITY ACTIVITIES ON MY TRIP, I DID WEAR A FACE MASK, WASH MY HANDS AND/OR USE HAND SANITISER, AND KEPT A 2M DISTANCE FROM OTHERS TO ABIDE COVID-19 GOVERNMENT GUIDELINES
Photographs © Nirina Plunkett & Lorna Duffy