Sometimes the most beautiful places are the ones that are right on your doorstep. After 20 years of exploring all corners of the globe in search of greener grass, this week, I went home to Ireland and discovered that what I’d been searching for was right under my nose in County Kerry.
The trip almost planned itself. A close friend was getting married in Kenmare, County Kerry just a few days before the kick off of the TBEX conference in Killarney. So I packed my dancing shoes and my camera and boarded a plane bound for home.
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An adventure or two were on the cards and I was spoiled for choice in Kenmare. I could have done a hundred things, but there was a clear winner for me. If you love road trips like I love road trips, you’d choose a drive along the Wild Atlantic Way too! I set off on my journey along the Ring of Kerry and the County’s incredible coastline.
Other people might have been disappointed with the grey skies and the dropping mist. They might have been tempted to hide away indoors where the blustering wind and the unforgiving rain couldn’t reach them. Not me. My photos may have suffered, but my enthusiasm certainly didn’t. With cobwebs freshly blown away, I ventured out along beaches and clifftops. I climbed to the top of crumbling castles and befriended sea-soaked puppies. I breathed in salty scents and let the sound of the waves crash over me.
Visibility was poor, making distant Skelligs even more mystical. Almost as if they were in a galaxy far, far away. Mildly disappointed that I hadn’t been able to snap the famous rocks, I took comfort in the thought that I would just have to come back for another visit. The idea warmed me.
After the wedding festivities at the very impressive Dromquinna Manor and a very special weekend in the village of Kenmare, I was ready for more adventures. Killarney did not disappoint. In fact, it did quite the opposite.
I attended #TBEXIreland, a gathering of 650 travel bloggers and content creators from all over the world. It was probably the exact company to be in to re-ignite my wanderlust. Following my great Greek Odyssey, I hadn’t had many photo days or adventures. I had fallen back into old work routines and long days and nights in the office. London life had gotten in the way. I had traded beaches and flip flops for crowds and undergrounds. You can probably understand why my imagination took a siesta.
Killarney’s Brehon Hotel was the perfect base next to the INEC where the conference was taking place. It was also the scene of the crime for unforgettable evening time partying with some truly inspirational travel writers, bloggers and all-round legends. Who knew that in a group of international revellers, the worst at Irish dancing would have been me! I’m afraid to say I let the team down. Sorry Ireland.
If the conference was a spark, the location was the kindling. I explored Kerry with a fiery passion and with the eyes of someone seeing it for the first time. I even skipped out on the conference to visit the Gap of Dunloe. It was a good choice. The sun had come out from behind the clouds for the first time all week and I was not letting it go to waste.
My smile must have been welcoming because everybody that I met along the way had a ‘hello’ or a smile to return. I chatted to a cheerfully content elderly man who was out for his walk. I asked if he was local, but he shook his head. He had driven almost twenty miles and he does it once or twice a week when he’s feeling up to it. The sun was shining, he told me, and there’s nowhere more beautiful than the Gap on a good day. He says it’s worth the drive every now and then. He’s right.
I continued on into the Black Valley, across rugged hills and along winding lanes with my grin still firmly in place. Snap happy – in fact everything-happy, I inhaled the Kerry goodness. I did a mental tally of all the money I might have saved on travelling the world all these years if I had just discovered Kerry first. Then I realised that I wouldn’t change a thing. I remembered why I travel. I remembered why I write. Then I got back in my car and headed back to the 650 other people who understand that feeling exactly.
And I felt like the luckiest girl in the world.
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