Kayaking in Dublin and Wicklow
Up and down, over and back, nearly falling out on one side, then nearly falling out the other, water splashing in my face, I felt like I had almost no control over where I was going but somehow I continue to stay upright and get through what seemed to me like rapids from the Zambezi but were probably more like the water flowing down your drive after a short rain shower! This is a novice (me) kayaking in County Wicklow on the Avonmore with the river levels being relatively high. You get a great rush of adrenaline when heading through big rapids taking big strokes and ducking to avoid trees. The ducking though is avoidable which if I was any good I wouldn’t need to be ducking at all. One of the major advantages of kayaking in Dublin or Wicklow besides the exercise is that you get to see scenery that very few people can see. There is plenty of time to take in all the colours of the surrounding countryside between the thrills. The village of Laragh, right beside scenic Glendalough, is a focal point for kayaking in County Wicklow so you could combine some history with activity if you so pleased.
County Wicklow is only just south of Dublin and if you are up for an active few hours or weekend then kayaking is one of the great things to do around Dublin whether with the seals on the sea in Dalkey or down the rapids in Wicklow.
I had only done a few kayaking lessons nearly a year before on a moving river but this faster flowing, more dynamic river was all new to me. We met up in Laragh, Co. Wicklow with Jenny, our guide and she kitted us out with any gear that was required and with all safety gear and safety talk out of the way our first job started. This was to bring our own surprisingly heavy kayak down to the river front. A major achievement in itself! After getting attacked by acorns from the trees overhead (it was lucky we had helmets on! Really!) we finally got to put our excitement to good use and headed down what looked like a very fast flowing river to me. After our initial foray and basically the river taking me where it wanted me to go I got to the safety of the shore in an eddy. An eddy a sheltered piece of river where the water is almost still usually behind a rock, on a bend etc. I then saw the most experienced kayaker from our group floating separately from his boat down the river. Not a good sign. Now as I was to discover over the next 2 days that it is not the rapids that turn most people over but the ‘eddy line’. What is that you ask and how is it worse than ferocious white water rapids? As I said the eddy is basically still water and the eddy line is the line where the flow changes to the main flow of the river so there are two different speeds of water very close to each other. My first foray out of the eddy and yes you guess it I got to see how cold the water was outside my kayak! After much flailing around I got to the shore, Jenny got my kayak across and then after 10 exhausting minutes the lake of water was finally all out of it. In all 3 out of 6 of us ended up in the water after 5minutes on the water!
Some may think this is ridiculously dangerous activity to be volunteering for but in fact it is not at all and falling out of a kayak is as common as falling over in skiing or dropping your toast. It’s just what happens and it eventually makes you better. When the kayak tips over you automatically pop out so there is no fear of you getting stuck. Kayaking rivers in Ireland are not wide or too deep and so you are never going to be more than 20mtrs from the shore plus you have the buoyancy of a lifejacket and wetsuit to keep you afloat. It’s all good. Worst comes to the worst you keep going and end up at the pier on the coast in Arklow and a boat will definitely get you……..only messing!
The rest of the day we practiced some skills of getting in and out of eddies (very important!) and headed down the river where there were way less casualties over the next few hours. The great thing about kayaking is that regardless of the weather you can do it. If it rains it doesn’t matter are you are protected from water anyway. By the end of the day I was much more confident in my ability and the Zambezi didn’t seem half as terrifying.
After a very well earned night’s sleep we awoke to panic as Jenny knocked on our door to say we need to be at the river in 10minutes. The clocks had changed during the night due to daylight saving and despite unticking the box for ‘automatic update’ on our phones and doing it manually, the phone decided it knew best and went back another hour anyway! We eventually made it and got onto a different part of the Avonmore River this time with slightly more experienced kayakers. This time though I was wise to eddy lines and managed to negotiate both them and the protruding trees for a large part of the day. Kayaking is not all go and there is plenty of time for gazing at the beautiful woodland surrounding you. I was there in autumn which meant that the trees were turning to rustic reds and golden brown which contrasted well with the green fields and the white water on the river. Some of the biggest rapids were left to last and with Jenny guiding us down it was great to see how much you improve and how confident you become after doing it for two days.
Despite being exhausted after 2 days I managed to celebrate with a few drinks!
Practicalities – About Kayaking in Dublin and Wicklow
- €1 =€1, USD$1=€0.77
- Language – English
- Kayaking – I did the kayaking with www.kayaking.ie. Jenny does beginner lessons in Lucan, west Dublin at the weekends also and does kayaking on the sea in Dalkey to see the seals living right by the city.
- Buses: Dublin Bus (www.dublinbus.ie) is the city bus company and has an extensive network. Bus Eireann (www.buseireann.ie), Kavanagh buses (jjkavanagh.ie) are the nationwide bus companies that serves other towns and cities across Ireland. Their main bases are in busaras on Store Street in the city centre for Bus Eireann and for Kavanaghs.
- Laragh is 49km south of Dublin city centre in the Wicklow Mountains and is only 2km from the historic sight of Glendalough. Getting to Glendalough is easy if you have a car by going west to Laragh at Newtown Mount Kennedy or at Ashford when going south on the M11. There is no public transport to Laragh but St .Kevin’s tours (www.glendaloughbus.com) have a bus for €20 return from Dawson Street in Dublin at 11:30am each day.
- Accommodation – €45 per night for an average double room
- Population of Laragh– 500