by Kelly Donovan
With only 25 short days until i fly to Peru for the prestigious trek of Machu Picchu, i find myself becoming very excited and overwhelmed with my fundraiser plans. I guess i am only sitting down to reflect on my amazing weekend to Killarney today whilst writing this post. I have no doubts you spotted some of the unbelievable snaps from last weekends adventure on my social media channels, and what can i say except getting ready for my trek to Peru has been nothing but enjoyable and fun. First climbing the beautiful Glendalough followed by a weekend in Killarney climbing Ireland’s highest mountain Carrauntoohil. As much as i adore hitting the gym for a good sweat session, my mind has been refreshed exercising in the wilderness of Ireland, beautiful views, steep pathways, climbing over rocks and jumping over rivers. It actually brings a smile to my face even thinking of how much fun i had during both treks, and also how physically challenging they were. Both came with their own unique features and difficulties but were totally achievable and enjoyable.
I spend so much of my time preparing for competitions that i thought it would be sensible to prepare for my upcoming trek to Machu Picchu. As an individual who suffers with both asthma and rhinitis i find a lot of cardiovascular activity difficult, it doesn’t stop me though and i regularly include cardio in my week. Climbing mountains usually includes steep upwards pathways and steps, and obviously the altitude and reduced oxygen means breathing issues are to be considered. I wanted to prepare myself and my lungs as much as possible for exercise that is out of my comfort zone by doing as many local treks as possible.
Last weekend myself and my fabulous friend Ciara O’Doherty decided to take a little trip to Killarney. Not the typical girls weekend away which usually involves a night on the tiles and a furry hangover the next day. Nope not us, we decided to take on Ireland’s highest mountain Carrountoohil and reward ourselves with a special stay in The Europe Hotel
So last Saturday evening we decided we would take the pressure off our long journey from Dublin to Killarney by staying in a gorgeous little hostel just outside Limerick called Ballyhoura Hostel. Apparently there is a big stereotype that staying hostels are unclean and not an appropriate place to stay, the reality is they are a contemporary, affordable and modern way to visit a town or city. It was my first time to stay in a hostel and i would recommend it to anyone. It was a real savior to the trip and left us a short drive Sunday morning from Limerick to Killarney ahead of our big trek.
Sunday brought an early start with a 6am alarm and a short hour drive from Limerick to The Europe Hotel. On arrival we were welcomed by the friendly staff of the hotel, who kindly took all of our bags and offered us the option of enjoying the luxury buffet breakfast before our big climb. It was the perfect start to the day, fueling us with a nutritious breakfast and a welcomed kick of coffee. Myself and Ciara both decided ahead of the trip it would be sensible to link with an experienced guide, it seemed like the logical thing to do for two girls in their mid twenty’s. Our guide Eanna from Hidden Ireland Tours kindly met us at the hotel reception, and at 9 am we hit the road for Carrauntoohil.
By 9.30 am we were all on feet and trekking away, immediately blown away by the stunning views and endless greenery. Not long into the trek we were greeted by a busting bush that just happened to be purring at us. Out pops a sprightly little white and black cat, full of love and looking for a rubbing. I am sure you have seen my social media posts about the cat that we named Tom Crean already, but anyway this little fella literally climbed the entire mountain with us. It was the most unusual, surreal and hilarious thing to happen on this trek, our experienced guide Eanna even admitted that he has never even seen a cat in a carpark, let alone follow us over 3500 feet up a mountain. I guess never judge a book by a cover, because you never know what they are capable of. Tom Crean the cat blew us all away and as cheesy as it sounds, i will never forget him.
The day of adventure was enjoyed at our own pace, we stopped regularly for water and of course to take as many photos as possible. Our guide Eanna even shared some amazing folklore tales of the mountain with us including stories about mythical witches, which really added to the climb. The entire trek took about 7.5 hours which included regular breaks. It definitely had challenging sections but totally achievable for most people who are willing to get their hands dirty. For those who are looking for a more moderate climb, the mountain offers several routes. We OF COURSE took one of the most difficult routes, but man were we both proud when it was finished.
On return to The Europe Hotel we decided showers and rest were ESSENTIAL, so we relaxed and refreshed and enjoyed the facility’s of our room. As we were on the Europe 1 night experience our package included breakfast, dinner and a treatment in their Espa facility. Our post trek evening meal was enjoyed in the hotel brasserie restaurant over looking the beautiful view of the lake and mountains, followed by a much needed early night after the day trekking.
Breakfast at The Europe Hotel
Dinner at The Europe Hotel
Unlike most i decided to rise early and hit the gym at the hotel, might i say was better equipped than most regular gyms and was one of the most stylish i have been in. It offered an amazing range of free weights, machines, cable machines and cardio machines including a stepper. So if you found yourself over indulging the night before in the restaurants then you have option of hitting the active level for a workout.
After breakfast myself and Ciara also decided to take advantage of the free horse riding service around the grounds before our afternoon at the Espa. We really made the most of a one day experience by getting down early on the Sunday morning and then enjoying the facility’s all day Monday morning and afternoon.
The trip to Killarney ended with a luxurious afternoon in the Espa at The Europe Hotel. Including a full body massage, then relaxing in the thermal suite and vitality pool. Of course we had to get some photos.
What i have learned is that you don’t have to go away and follow the typical format to enjoy yourself. Ireland has SO much to offer in terms of beautiful mountains and scenery, and guess what ITS FREE. Obviously between myself and Ciara i would be the fitness nut, but none the less we both had a blast doing something physically challenging and appreciated rewarding ourselves after even more. My next trek will be happening in September in Peru and i look forward to sharing the journey with you. Unfortunately Ciara wont be making this trip, but will be involved in some big ones next year. I have an exciting fundraiser planned for Sunday the 13th of September,and i hope you will all get behind it!