Digital Detox in Derrynane: A family holiday short on smartphones
A holiday short on smartphones is a reboot for Nuala Woulfe and her family in South Kerry
It’s a baking hot July afternoon in South Kerry and the excitement as we park the car, and my three girls are introduced to their horses for a beach trek, is palpable.
“Have you ridden before?” Ellie, the young helper at Eagle Rock Equestrian Centre, quizzes my 11-year-old and two teens.
Excitedly, they rattle off their experience — they’ve cantered, the eldest did a little jumping, the second-eldest went on a trek in Tipperary down country lanes once before. Once boots and hats are gathered and horses mounted, I feel the frisson of excitement — the horses straining to be off; the girls pulling back on the reigns.
“It’s the heat; they know they’re going towards water,” Ruth, Eagle Rock’s instructor, explains before the girls head down the lane towards Derrynane Flats. I drive to a spot where I can watch them walking through shimmering blue water like a mirage, then working their horses to a trot on the sand.
Best of all? There isn’t a smartphone in sight.
That was the plan. It’s day three of our holiday in South Kerry, where we’ve taken a house in Waterville with no Netflix and only Saorview TV (there’s Wi-Fi, but I haven’t revealed the password). We’re not a technology-obsessed family, but I’m aiming for a bit of a slowdown and have deleted Twitter from my phone. In fact, bar some WhatsApp pics to my husband, and the odd glance for weather or directions, I’ve stopped looking at it completely.
The girls are in the same boat. The 16-year-old still has Snapchat and Instagram, but as she’s reading books and playing Monopoly and cards at night, I’m not bothered. And the two youngest are throwing themselves into physical activity.
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“She has a beautiful canter doesn’t she?” Ellie shouts as she and my eldest shoot across the sand. The only one allowed to build up speed, my 16-year-old nods and laughs. I watch as her body tries to recall those riding lessons in Tipperary.
When the adrenaline moment is over, they circle the dunes and direct the horses back home through the water again. “Can we do it again sometime?” is the first question out of my 11-year-old. “Did you take lots of pics, did you get some video to send Dad?” the 14-year-old asks. She isn’t at all bothered that it’s my phone, and not hers, taking and sending the images.
Later on, the Kerry countryside proves more distracting than any device. After riding, we stop for a bite at O’Carroll’s Cove and drive though tree-canopied lanes lined with fiery montbretia until Derrynane beach itself unfolds before us; an almost exotic strand, empty save for a small group playing football.
We’ve done other things on this holiday; visited the giant ferns and walked the rope bridge at Kells’ Bay Gardens (above), hit the Skelligs Chocolate Factory, swum in the outdoor pool at the Derrynane Hotel (before scoffing Cokes and crisps at the bar). But it’s Derrynane beach that entrances.
“The sand is so soft, the water is so clear,” the girls say. My eldest has an artistic eye, and she and I notice the amazing light as the sun sets on the ocean. I feel deeply relaxed walking knee-high in the gentle waves; and afterwards the 16-year-old and I skim books and catch the last of the rays.
“Why can’t we live by the sea?’ the 11-year-old asks when we leave Kerry. “It was OK, there was some good stuff,” the 16-year-old admits, dying to get back to friends. But I know she had fun. I saw her throw back her head a few times and laugh like a kid; I watched her take photos of that spellbinding scenery. Technology has its advantages; it was her phone that caught some amazing holiday memories.
How to do it
Stay: Nuala and her family stayed at Lough Currane Homes (loughcurranehomes.com), where five nights in a four-bedroom house cost €850. Free bikes are available to guests, and the houses are within walking/cycling distance of Waterville and Lough Currane.
Ride: Three riders cost €90 at Eagle Rock Equestrian Centre (eaglerockcentre.com) near Caherdaniel. The stables supply hats/boots. Advance booking is recommended here.
See/Do: A family pass for Kells Bay Gardens (top kellsbay.ie) costs €25. The gardens are famous for exotic botanicals and Ireland’s longest rope bridge (112 feet/34m). The Skelligs Chocolate Factory (skelligschocolate.com) is another treat at St Finian’s Bay.
Eat: For sea views, we ate at O’Carroll’s Cove (ocarrollscove.ie), a beach bar and restaurant near Caherdaniel. Guests of Lough Currane Holiday Homes also get a 10pc discount at The Sea Lodge Hotel in Waterville (sealodgewaterville.ie).
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