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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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Comedy drama ready for the stage

By Michelle Crean Get out your diary and book in these December dates as Dochas Drama Group is ready to take to the stage. What does a hypochondriac, a grumpy […]

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By Michelle Crean

Get out your diary and book in these December dates as Dochas Drama Group is ready to take to the stage.

What does a hypochondriac, a grumpy father and a confused visitor to the dentist, all have in common? You’ll have to come along to the Killarney Avenue Hotel on Monday, December 12, Tuesday 13 and Wednesday 14 at 8pm to find out.

The popular drama group will present their three new comedies featuring the work of playwrights Brian Bowler, Ger Madden and Mary Quirke.Come along for a night filled with fun and laughter. Just the right beginning to the festive season. Doors open at 7.15pm and tickets are available at the door. All tickets; adults, seniors, students and children are €10. Don’t miss a great night out.

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Teens theory is a national winner

Watch out Dallas as three local students are ready to take their science theory and blow the competition out of the water. Liam Waldron, Rachel Griffin and Luke O’Sullivan, Sixth […]

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Watch out Dallas as three local students are ready to take their science theory and blow the competition out of the water.

Liam Waldron, Rachel Griffin and Luke O’Sullivan, Sixth Year students from Killarney Community College, were named SciFest STEM Champions 2022 for their Group Theoretic Approach to Pythagoras’ Theorem.

The national finals of SciFest Ireland were held at the Marino Conference Centre in Dublin last Friday and they were attended by finalists from across Ireland.

The amazing trio will now go on to represent Ireland at the Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair (Regeneron ISEF) which will be held in Dallas, Texas in May 2023.

The students secured their place at the national final after they won the overall prize at the SciFest regional competition at MTU Kerry in May this year.

Their project takes possibly one of the most well-known theorems that everyone remembers from school, Pythagoras’ Theorem. It provides an alternate proof of it, while also highlighting how right-angled triangles naturally provide a link between two coordinate systems and how this special case can naturally recreate the Pythagorean Theorem.

Supported by Intel Ireland and Boston Scientific, SciFest was set up 17 years ago by Sheila Porter and her husband George.

It is the largest, most inclusive STEM fair programme for second-level students in Ireland.

“The aim of SciFest has always been to develop a love of STEM and of inquiry-based learning and every year it is refreshing to see how the students of today continue to love and enjoy immersing themselves in science, technology, engineering and maths,” Sheila Porter, SciFest CEO, said.

“As SciFest grows each year, we grow more excited to see what new experiments and technologies are thought of and created. This year, students have shown incredible innovation in how STEM can make a positive impact on society, with initiatives in farming, space exploration and healthcare.”

Each year SciFest awards a ‘Teacher of Excellence’ and this year Máire Spillane was the recipient for her work with Luke, Rachel and Liam. She accompanied them to both finals and could not be prouder of this huge achievement at national level.

Killarney Community College held a whole school assembly to congratulate the SciFest champions in school and the SciFest STEM Champions 2022 were met with rapturous applause from all students and staff.

Ms Spillane spoke about the importance of STEM subjects and acknowledged the fact that Killarney Community College offers all students the opportunity to study all four of the disciplines, Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths and how our students are encouraged to submit projects every year into SciFest. It may be a competition run by science teachers, but in KCC cross-curricular co-operation by teachers of all subjects, is practiced on a daily basis.

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