Kayaking Around A Castle In Ireland

Ireland, Snorkels   /  
Kayaking around a castle in Ireland: Ross Castle

Ross Castle through a crystal ball | © Juliette Sivertsen




I stared at the tiny gap between the fearsome edges of the limestone rock and the water of the lake.

The task was simple enough – lie prone in our kayaks and drift through the crevasse to the other side. But, adding numb extremities, an icy breeze, a kayak paddle and a mild fear of enclosed spaces and the task became much more of a personal challenge.


Kayaking around a castle in Ireland: Out into the lake

Pre-limbo | Photo courtesy of Wild N Happy


The birds that had been perched atop the rock in the middle of the lake had left, but failed to take with them the potent stench of their droppings. I held my breath.

As we inched closer to the cove, the gap appeared to get smaller and more jagged edges of the limestone came into view. Sliding down into a horizontal position, I did my best to manoeuvre carefully and seamlessly through the cave.

The sound of my paddle scraping against the rocks suggested otherwise.

I took another breath, careful not to inflate my lungs too much in case the extra centimetre of height in my chest caught an edge and tipped me out. A sudden movement to the right or left would have certainly left me with a bloody nose, so I slunk deeper into the well of the kayak and closed my eyes for a second to allow the wave of fear pass over.

As I opened my eyes, I noticed a sliver of rock above me which seemed to have been sliced out, specifically for helping us achieve this passing.

The waves were gentle, but strong enough to push our kayak back into the side of the rock. Our guide was on the other side to help steer us through; my kayak partner and I relieved to have some assistance.

Finally, my world was filled with daylight once more.



The idea of kayaking around a castle in Ireland enchanted me from the moment I heard about it. A 15th-century castle in Killarney National Park, to be more specific.


Ross Castle at Night: Kayaking around a castle in Ireland

Ross Castle at night | © Juliette Sivertsen


As a New Zealander, I’ve grown up with buildings maybe only 100 years old, not several hundred. So when the opportunity arose as part of my trip to Ireland for the TBEX conference to kayak around Killarney’s Ross Castle, I jumped at the chance.

What I didn’t expect is that not only would we pass around the castle, we’d also be facing wind and rain, head out into the middle of the lake and under bridges and rocks so low, the only way to pass under was to lie back and stay perfectly still until you came out on the other side.

Oh adventure, I have missed you.

I couldn’t help think how proud John would be. Here I was, in Ireland, over 18,000 kilometres away from my home base in New Zealand – and away from my husband, the chief adventurer.

John’s forever trying to get me into caves and crevasses – on land and underwater – and most of the time I blatantly refuse.

But, this time, I was up for the adventure. Leaving poor John behind back in New Zealand, this was my first solo trip since he and I had got together.

I was a woman on a mission and prepared to break my scaredy-cat mould. I’m a comfortable and reasonably strong kayaker – just not so good with small, enclosed spaces with a high risk of slicing one’s nose off on rocks.

I had little choice – I was hardly going to be the only one in the group of around 20 who chickened out. So I put on my big girl pants – and the sense of achievement of navigating through a tiny spot in the rocks, in the middle of a lake in Ireland, gave me quite the buzz.


Kayaking around a castle in Ireland: Ross Castle kayakers

Photo courtesy of Wild N Happy




Once everyone had passed through, our leader at Wild ‘N’ Happy decided there was more action to be had – a race to the rocks.

“The winner gets an Irish coffee,” he said.


I’m not one to pass up a little competitive activity and my kayaking partner was as keen as I was.

We positioned our kayaks in a row and BOOM we were off to a flying start.


The kayak next to us steered right into us.


A kayak knocked us from behind.

We were off-course. We got stuck between everyone else’s kayaks.

With rain like icicles pricking us in the face, we mustered up every inch of strength to try and power forward.

The wind pushed us to one side and we had to paddle twice as hard on the left to steer us back in the right direction.

We passed a few others, beginning to gain precious ground (or water, as the case was), edging up to the paddlers in front.


The kayaker in front saw us advance. Resorting to dirty tactics, he deliberately splashed water with his paddle into my face.

A couple of kayak lengths ahead, the winners crossed the line.

The race was all in good fun, of course, although I was bitterly disappointed not to get an Irish coffee out of all my efforts. My feet were starting to freeze as I had decided to go barefoot in the kayak, rather than get my hiking shoes soaked.

We slowly drifted back through the canal, back under the bridge and around Ross Castle once more.

Soaked, frozen and hip flexors as tight as a guitar string, I felt alive.

Kayaking around a castle in Ireland: group shot

Team photo! Photo courtesy of Wild N Happy

What do you think about kayaking around a castle in Ireland? How would you have coped manoeuvring through those tight spots in the lake?


Kayaking Around Ross Castle in Ireland

Special thanks to Wild ‘N’ Happy for hosting me and the rest of the TBEX crew!


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  • TravellingSocio

    What an exciting adventure! If that’s what you were looking for, you certainly found it! I commend you for overcoming your personal fears to try something new and challenging. You can never look back and regret such an experience, no matter how scared (and frozen) you felt at the moment. And I hope you bought yourself an Irish coffee anyway, at the end of it all. #FlyAwayFriday

    • Thanks heaps! I do love adventure and pushing my limits. I didn’t get the Irish coffee but I did get an “Irish Twist” – which worked the same!

  • Tracy McConnachie Collins

    Well that looks like a lot of fun! Beautiful photographs! I get claustrophobic so not sure that I would have been brave enough to go under those rocks! Hats off to you! #flyawayfriday

    • It was great fun – despite the mild claustrophobia I have! Fortunately it didn’t take too long to go through.

  • I am a scaredy cat! And I hate cold, too. That adventure would not be for me. We are planning on touring Ireland next summer Killarney and the nearby Ring of Kerry, and Dingle are all places we hope to visit.

    • Ha ha it’s not for everyone! But I do love adventure – and the sense of accomplishment afterwards. Ireland is fantastic – Killarney is so beautiful!

  • Lara Dunning

    Love your photo of Ross Castle. I would be up for kayaking around the castle, and its nice they had everyone in double kayaks too. Sometimes we have to push ourselves to do things that make us uncomfortable and often it is never as bad as we think.

  • Kaylene Chadwell

    What an awesome experience! I love castles and kayaking, so this is something I really need to do! And I’d love to get back to Ireland, such an incredible place! Love your photos!

    • Cheers Kaylene! This sounds like a perfect mix for someone who loves castles and kayaking! Ireland is fantastic.

  • We’ve been to Killarney National Park but we’ve never even thought of kayaking in the area. To be honest, I share your own fears, and I still haven’t been able to overcome them! From your pictures, it’d definitely be worth the effort!

    • It’s a gorgeous part of Ireland! Hope to visit again one day. And kayaking sure is a unique way to explore Ireland!

  • Amy Butterfield

    How amazing does this sounds? Adventure indeed! I admire your inner warrior for making it thru that low passage, I would be knocking my knees! But the reward looks like it was so worth it. Such a one of a kind experience, I would absolutely try this! Now I’m kicking myself for not heading off to TBEX!

  • Carol

    All the photos and the narrative recreate the magic for us. Thanks for this article!

  • That sounds rad! Also gotta love Ireland for making any outdoor adventure that much harder with their rain and weather 🙂

  • Kerri McConnel

    I would LOVE to do this. I totally agree with you about the age of buildings, I think coming from Oz is one of the reasons why I love them so much. We’ll never see anything in our lifetime that old at home. Good on for you putting on your big girls pants and giving it a go! Looked amazing.

    • Exactly – I didn’t really realise how much I’d love the history side of things until it dawned on me that that sort of age doesn’t exist where we come from! A great experience though.

  • Vyjay Rao

    What an exciting experience. Your narration had me riveted and I was with you as you entered the cramped space between the rock and the water in your kayak, I could feel the icy spray of water as you passed through beneath the rock. The surge of excitement was felt by me as you set off in your kayaks in the race for an Irish coffee!

  • Melody Pittman

    What a fabulous TBEX trip! Looks like a blast. This is one of my favorite European castles in general. You’ve showcased it beautifully.

  • Love this, such a fun way to take in the countryside and also historic buildings from a unique perspective. Love kayaking so this would be perfect for us!

  • Haha, as soon as I saw the crystal ball, I was like JULIETTE! I love it! Anyway, kayaking around a castle sounds like it’s straight out of a fairy tail. Photos are gorgeous! Thanks for joining Fly Away Friday – hope to see you again this week! xo

    • Ha ha too funny! I need to do some more crystal ball photography but I forgot to take it with me on my last little trip!

  • Janine Good

    This certainly would be something I would love to try! I want to take a crack at kayaking and where better than Ireland with castles! hope to see you at Fly Away friday tomorrow!

  • Lisa Rivera

    I’m so gutted I didn’t get to kayak when in Killarney! Ross Castle is spectacular and I can imagine it was such a great experience! Love the way you told the story!

    • That’s such a shame it was such a cool mix of history and adventure! And yep, Ross Castle sure is spectacular.


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