My happy places in the world are stark opposites to each other. Two of my most favourite destinations are hectic cities, New York and Tokyo, designed for weaving between crowds, seeking solace in inbetween streets and getting accustom to queuing for most activities.
In contrast to that, the third of my all time favourite destinations is a hidden spot in the Irish lake district. In the middle of absolutely nowhere, a willing two hour drive from Belfast and off the grid when it comes to any form of GPS direction. Finn Lough is where I was holed up this time three years ago with a group of friends.
Our lakeside lodge was walled with windows letting in the morning light, I sat on the floor in the kitchen daily just to make sure I was getting my fill of the scenic view.
We explored what we could through the day; walking around the lough, heading out further to hike up cliffs or driving the winding country roads in search of another activity. The evening was a more cosy setting inside, beers lined up and board games stacked, me still trying to pick out details of the view outside every time I headed up to the kitchen.
This exact day was when we ventured south of the border to visit Slieve League. The cliffs where there is 100% a visitor centre close to the top and where we definitely approached it from the wrong side, meaning a surprise hike while wearing Vans and a pretty thin sweater.
We were in hire cars, chuddering our way up a rocky dirt path before realising this track was meant for walking, not driving. We parked up and set out up the cliff. I'm not the most natural exerciser and a walking holiday isn't something I had on the agenda. Slieve League is 600m up a pretty rough terrain, with some springlike conditions at the bottom and heading into winter when you reach the top.
Off we tracked up the hill, mostly in single file and heads down to track the rubble underfoot. The view from the top was 100% worth it, even if it was glazed with fog, made even more brilliant by the unexpected adventure. This is also where we bumped into a few groups of people out for the adventure, despite not seeing anyone else on the way up.
The trek down was just as much effort, leaving me with a neck ache from having to keep my head on the footpath. That was our adventure for the day, before heading back via a beer stock-up, seeing off a couple of crates between us before the end of the night.
Having city life as my constant makes a countryside break all the more special. Waking up in absolute silence, having truly pitch black nights and planning for hibernation as the handful of shops are all a drive away.
I've written about a couple of my visits to Finn Lough on here before (catch-up on this trip and my first visit if you haven't already) and rereading them had me smiling along with the memories. While we're cooped up inside for the foreseeable, I've sought out happy nostalgia, particularly of the travel kind, to rediscover some of the ace trips I've racked up over the years. Inkeeping with the archive posts that keep popping up on Instagram, I might dig out a few more trips to take my mind away from the immediate.
Inspired by the greats at The Man Repeller.