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The wild side of life in Kerry

The wild side of life in Kerry

Fenit faces into the Slieve Mish Mountains across the calm waters of Tralee Bay

It used to be that when we were growing up, the Jackeen wags on Hill 16 would taunt their country cousins with the chant: ‘Kerry for the holidays and Dublin for Sam’. Like migrating birds each summer these two tribes swapped terrain as the Dubs headed for Kerry and the football fans of the kingdom flocked to the Big Smoke for the latest instalment in the intense rivalry between the clans, led by Micko and Heffo.

For the time being it seems it’s definitely Kerry for the holidays, but let’s not go there…
I have been visiting the kingdom ever since I cycled the Ring of Kerry as a young teenager in1974.
However, I have never been to Fenit. Every time we came to that fork in the road at the Blennerville Windmill we always hung a left. To the right is the road less travelled, to Fenit. Turns out the loss was all mine.

By a  pure fluke of circumstances this weekend I ended up tagging along to attend the inaugural and simply amazing Wild Mind Nature Festival in Fenit. It was a revelation.

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The intriguing ceiling of  the cozy and cool yurt  which was the perfect venue for many of the nature festival events
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Mike O Neill introduces ornithalogist Ricky Whelan of BirdWatch Ireland for his hugely popular talk, ‘The Secret Life of Crows’.
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Wild Mind in Fenit, let’s hope it returns for second helpings next spring
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Not even the heavy downpour could dampen the enthusiasm and interest in Darach O Murchu’s foraging and cooking demo
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One of the displays in Fenit courtesy of the Kerry branch of the Irish Wildlife Trust

Wild Mind was an encyclopaedic montage of everything good natured and eco-friendly under the sun. The eclectic programme, the brainchild of the enthusiastic Mike O’ Neill and his team, was an unapologetic homage to Mother Nature in all her shapes, forms and manifestations. It was intoxicatingly brilliant and a blockbuster success on its first outing, with standing room only at most events, most of which were free of charge and family-friendly, many held in the cosy surrounds of a funky yurt. There were talks, walks, water sports, workshops coming out of the rafters and all within easy reach of each other in the compact hub or the village harbour. (You can check out all the details at as the impressive array of events, special guests, and speakers is far to long to list off here.)

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With proper care and nurture I can really see #WildMindNatureFestival growing into something special – organically of course!!

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Fenit itself is a friendly spot with a warm welcome written all over the place and the smiling face of the locals. There are no barriers at the car park, everyone is chilled out and a carefree vibe offers safe harbour to the visitor in a far less fussy or frantic fashion than perhaps other more renowned resorts.
Fenit boasts a beautiful and safe blue flag beach renowned for its swimming and sailing traditions snuggled down facing the spectacular panorama of the Slieve Mish Mountains and Mount Brandon. There is a smashing children’s playground, a spacious car park (which shares its berths with boats in dry dock), and a well maintained public toilets block.

Fenit is only 13km out the road from Tralee, on a route dotted with interesting looking seafood restaurants. There are plenty of walking and cycling options, but if you fancy a surf you may head to Castlegregory or Inch Beach, which is my own preference, about a 45 minutes pleasant drive away the opposite side of Tralee Bay. There is however, a good stand-up paddle board set-up and gear for hire in Fenit itself.

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Wild Mind Nature Festival, which promises to inform, inspire and immerse you in our natural environment, simply must be back for second helpings next spring, but in the meantime when you come to that fork in the road, hang a right and check out Fenit. I certainly will.

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Mike O Neill on the left is the driving force behind Fenit’s first Wild Mind Nature Festival
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About The Author

John Whelan

John Whelan is a vastly experienced midlands based journalist and editor who has contributed extensively to the country's leading national and regional titles, as well as broadcast outlets. He runs the media services company, Communicate Ireland John is a keen camping and campervan enthusiast with an interest in music, culture, heritage and outdoor pursuits. He has written for the Sunday Times, Sunday Independent and the Woman's Way on these topics. He is also an author, and his latest book, The Last Beekeeper, reflects his love of nature, the landscape and our shared responsibility to protect the environment. The Last Beekeeper is available to preview and purchase at Safe travels...

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