What's SUP?

A silver-lining in the dark-cloud of Covid is that the draw of the outdoors has, if anything, enhanced in the eyes of a lockdown weary public.

But no sooner had restrictions lifted, the heavens opened-up for much of the summer, sending holidaymakers bracing for their brollies.

There is a happy medium however.

Water excursions generally mean no matter how much rain there is, you're not going to get any wetter doing it.

Seeing foreign holidays sent packing, people becoming more appreciative too of activities available only short drive from their front-doors.

Cavan, effectively an hour-and-20-minutes from almost everywhere north of Athlone (Dublin, Drogheda, Sligo, Donegal, Belfast, Westport etc), is primly located to take advantage, with a key allure being the miles of meandering waterways and acres of glistening lakes.

Stand-Up Paddle (SUP) boarding is not a new phenomenon, but the appearance of dozens of wetsuit-clad enthusiasts rowing upright along the River Erne is still relatively novel.

The source starts at Cavan Adventure Centre, located at Inishmore, near Butlersbridge, which facilitates canoeing and kayaking experiences also.

According to owner Sean Thornton, around 80 per cent of present custom is people living outside the county, with a large proportion of that number from the Greater Dublin area.

Sandwiched between Inishmuck and Carrafin Loughs to the north, in the opposite direction, around three-and-a-half kilometres against the flow, is the landmark everyone arriving has high hopes of reaching- historic Clough Oughter Castle.

Bordering Killykeen Forest Park, a sprawling landscaped rightly designated and protected by Natura 2000 habitat, Special Area for Conservation (SAC), and Special Protection Area (SPA), the area is also contained within the wider Marble Arch Geopark.

Darielle Brady from Arvagh, Michaela McGrory (Letterkenny) and Megan Hampson (Sligo) are all final year nursing students at Sligo IT.

Sitting snug in their kayaks before paddling out, Darielle enticed her two friends to visit in order to show them “the most beautiful part of Ireland.”

Similarly, Mike Prendergast and Uisce Jakubczyk are from Co Dublin, made their arrival also by word-of-mouth.

Interesting it was a fellow Polish native who visited Cavan only weeks prior who sold them the idea of visiting Cavan. As part of pitch was the wonderful time spent by the family exploring the river.

Mike and Uisce subsequently spent two days expeditioning themselves, first taking in Clough Oughter, before venturing further still into the lake complex around Killykeen.

“It was really wonderful,” reports Mike of their shared experience.

“Even in the rain, it was lovely,” addresses Uisce. “Our friend told us about kayaking up the river and having a picnic at the castle, so we said why not? Now here we are.”

Séan accepts the sites to be behold around every river bend, to the backing-track of wind rustled reeds, ripples, and birdsong, is what sets this part of the country apart from everywhere else.

“Its very special,” says Sean. “The landscape here is in many ways unique, and to have an attraction like Clough Oughter there too, a focal point for people to paddle out to is incredible.”

Sean adds that “safety” is a major factor for families when considering new outdoor activities.

He says the mellowness of the River Erne is another appealing element for visitors.

“It's a quiet stretch of water, inland, and safe for families once they're kitted out. I have people ringing up asking about if its okay to bring a two or three year old, and so long as they're fit to sit still in a kayak for an hour or so, everything will be fine.

“But we have people of all ages coming out to us here. Its wonderful to have them, and great to see them enjoy themselves out on the water. The paddle-boarding is a big thing now, especially with younger people.”

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