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Skywalker Emma leads the way as Kerry gets set to sale new heights

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IRELAND’S longest “skywalk rope bridge” has been introduced along the Ring of Kerry. This new visitor attraction, at Kells Bay House & Gardens, is poised to further boost visitor numbers in the county.

Kells Bay House & Gardens is renowned worldwide as the breath-taking tropical jewel on the Ring of Kerry and it is about to become even more popular with the opening of Ireland’s longest rope bridge.

Five months’ work at Kells Bay House & Gardens culminates in the opening within the next fortnight of the aptly named ‘The Skywalk’ visitor attraction. The Skywalk rope bridge spans 112 feet and has been erected over the stunning Delligeenagh River at a height of approximately 36 feet. The new attraction is just an hour from Killarney on the Skellig Coast on the breath-taking Wild Atlantic Way.

Planted 160 years ago, the Kells Bay estate already includes a profusion of rare, Southern Hemisphere plants, a breath-taking waterfall, tree sculptures and bamboo gardens and is home to Ireland’s largest palm tree, an 11 tonne specimen with a 7.5 metre trunk.

While Kells Bay House & Gardens is already a haven for gardening enthusiasts, The Skywalk is set to further broaden its appeal to younger visitors, families and tours. It will be a major boost to the site which already attracts 10,000 plus visitors annually and provides up to 10 jobs in the local community at peak times. It is hoped that visitor numbers will exceed 15,000 with the addition of The Skywalk. It will be officially opened on April 7 by Sir Tim Smit, famous for his work with The Lost Gardens of Heligan and the world-renowned Eden Project in the UK, and opens to the public the following day, April 8.

Owners Billy and Penn Alexander say the inspiration for The Skywalk came from trips they made to the rainforest and jungle plant exploration over several years. Similar constructions are popular throughout South-East Asia where this type of bridge is often referred to as a Burmese Rope Bridge, Billy Alexander explained.

“Whereas all the site preparation, foundations and steel work from which the bridge is suspended was completed using local materials and expertise, the bridge was fabricated and hung by a team of specialists from abroad,” Billy said.
The multiple gold medal winner at the Annual Bloom Garden Festival says they continue to invest in the attraction and they hope it will further boost tourism in what is an exceptionally beautiful and unspoilt part of the world. Since they bought Kells Bay House & Gardens in 2006, they have invested €2 million plus in the site.

The Gardens at Kells Bay are situated at the start of the Skellig Coast, at one of the most spectacular vistas along the Wild Atlantic Way.

“The Gardens are the key driver in encouraging visitors to turn off the N70 Ring of Kerry road and discover the beautiful beach, the pier the mountains and seclusion that Kells has to offer. Over the last decade we have overcome many fiscal and floral challenges at Kells Bay and with the advent of the Skywalk, we stand on the cusp of securing the future of this fantastic place,” Billy added.

Billy’s wife, Penn, was born in Southern Thailand and began cooking at an early age. She opened the Sala Thai restaurant in the refurbished hunting lodge on the site in 2013. It is now renowned as one of Kerry’s finest dining experiences and offers breath-taking views of Dingle Bay from the Terrace Café.

The hub also includes Kells Bay Gardens Plant Centre. It is very much an enthusiast-owned nursery that specialises in the import of Tree Ferns and other rare and unusual exotics from around the world. The current plant range is comprised largely of unusual and rare plants from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Brazil, China, India, Mexico and Chile.
All of the plants on sale are growing in the gardens and the staff have first-hand experience of all the plants in stock.
 


 
Above: Skywalker Emma O’Connor (7) was one of the first children to try The Skywalk. PICTURE: VALERIE O'SULLIVAN

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Fossa’s marathon man competes in Vienna

By Sean Moriarty They are a familiar sight on training sessions out the Fossa way, but last weekend two Killarney marathon runners made themselves known in Vienna, Austria. Tony Harty (Fossa) and Seamus Murphy (Milltown and Glencar) train together and travel together to international marathons all over the world. On Sunday they contested the Vienna Marathon […]

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By Sean Moriarty

They are a familiar sight on training sessions out the Fossa way, but last weekend two Killarney marathon runners made themselves known in Vienna, Austria.

Tony Harty (Fossa) and Seamus Murphy (Milltown and Glencar) train together and travel together to international marathons all over the world.

On Sunday they contested the Vienna Marathon with Tony recording a personal-best time of 2hrs and 45mins. He finished second in the Over 45 category and 27th overall, while Tony completed the course in 3hrs and 3mins.

“You won’t see one of us without the other,” said Tony.

Niall Thompson of Killorglin was also competing in the event.

Tony is a member of the well-known Harty family of Waterford. His two brothers Phillip and William and sister Rebecca all raced for Ireland.

Tony took up running later than his siblings and contested his first marathon in 2015 when was 39-years-old.

Now 45 he cannot stop running and takes in at least two overseas marathons every year as well as Irish and local events.

“It is all part of the experience,” he told the Killarney Advertiser. Both he and Seamus have previously contested marathons in Barcelona, Valencia and Rotterdam and he intends to return to Spain in early December for another crack at the Valencia event.

He prepared for Sunday’s race by winning overall at the Churchtown 5-mile race in Cork last month and the Antrim Half-Marathon a few weeks ago.

“Vienna was very hot, up to 26 degrees, and lots of people were suffering,” he added. “Vienna was supposed to run in April but it got deferred. We prefer running in cooler conditions. Valencia will be around 10 degrees in December which is ideal.”

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Jordan’s new role with St Paul’s

By Sean Moriarty Killarney’s Paralympic hero Jordan Lee is to take on a new role with Scott’s Lakers St Paul’s Killarney Basketball Club. Jordan began his sporting career with the local basketball club where he created history by becoming the first amputee athlete to represent their country at international level. The High Jumper then switched […]

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By Sean Moriarty

Killarney’s Paralympic hero Jordan Lee is to take on a new role with Scott’s Lakers St Paul’s Killarney Basketball Club.

Jordan began his sporting career with the local basketball club where he created history by becoming the first amputee athlete to represent their country at international level.

The High Jumper then switched to track and field and qualified for the Tokyo Paralympics where he made history by becoming the first Kerry athlete to act as a flag bearer for an opening ceremony and lead an Irish team into an Olympic Stadium.

Now back home and preparing for the next Olympics in Paris, he has returned to his first love and will join the backroom staff at the local Division One basketball club ahead of their National League campaign which begins next month.

His father Jarlath Lee is head coach with St Paul’s.

“Jordan is joining us as our strength and conditioning coach,” Jarlath told the Killarney Advertiser.

INTERNATIONALS

Meanwhile, Scott’s Lakers St Paul’s Killarney Basketball Club National League team will have a distinctive feel to it this year after securing the services of three overseas players it for the season ahead.

The club’s biggest signing is Canadian professional Ben Miller. It was originally hoped that the former two-time Manitoba Player of the Year would play for the local side last season but the pandemic got in the way and the National League was never played. However, he did play two training games this time last year before returning to Canada until travel restrictions lifted.

“He is a good guy, very approachable and very good with the young members,” Jarlath said.

The club has also signed Bulgarian International Emilian Grudov.

The 20-year-old has already represented his home country at U16, 18 and 20 level.

“He is young, athletic and very good offensively,” added Lee.

The returning Lithuanian Dianius Varanaukus completes the club international line up for the 2020/21 season.

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