On The QT

Lough Hyne, Baltimore

QT Blogger: Lauren Lucy Crowley

I was recently lucky enough to take a trip to one of my favourite places in the whole wide world. Nestled in a fold of hills, shadowed by a thick forest, 5km south west of Skibereen in West Cork, Lough Hyne is Europe’s first marine reserve, a saltwater lake connected to the sea by rapids.

Apart from warm summer days when the lake bursts into a hive of laughter as holiday makers soak up the rays of sun and jump in off the pier for a swim, the lake and its surroundings are total tranquility. Beneath a perfect sheet of dark blue silky water lies a world of eccentric, unusual sea creatures, sea plants and legends about Kings who lived there hundreds of years ago.

As part of the delicious “Taste of West Cork” food festival held annually, Atlantic Sea Kayaking organised an atmospheric moonlight paddle on the Lough.  After getting suited and booted with jackets and life jackets, and a quick technique lesson on land, we were paired off into double kayaks and pushed out onto the shimmering water.

Led by Jim Kennedy, (very experienced kayaker and owner of Atlantic Sea Kayaking), we paddled right across the water as he shared with us his vast knowledge about the Lough, and the local area. While the sky grew dark, and the air cooled, we used the light of the full moon to guide our way around the water looking at different types of seaweeds, in between sharing tales as old as time about King Labhra Loingseach, (who apparently had ears like a donkey!). As I sat back in my kayak, and looked up at the dark forest and the cosy lights of houses dotted around the lake, I felt as though I was also a character in a mystical storybook far far away!

Just as my eyes began to adjust to the dark, we were told to kayak towards the lights at the far edge of the lake… the closer we got the more magical it became. There were two musicians playing on a little pontoon beautifully decorated with candles and lanterns. I almost fell asleep it was so relaxing. The sound of the violins against the stream of water made it the most unique musical performance I’ve ever attended!

We turned our kayaks, and began to make our way back to the pier, when much to my delight; I noticed we were surrounded by bio-luminescence. This is the biochemical emission of light by living organisms, which causes the water to glow. It was as if thousands of buckets of glitter had been spilled into the lake, and each time I lifted my paddle out of the water, a glistening stream of a million tiny stars appeared. I was completely and utterly fascinated.

As if the trip couldn’t get any better, after reluctantly leaving the sparkling glittery water and our kayaks behind to return to land, there was an entire banquet awaiting us!!!

The outdoor midnight feast  included a crunchy kale and beetroot salad with seaweed, smoked salmon and cream cheese, quinoa seaweed salad, ginger chutney, pickled cucumber, grilled halumi, a selection of other cheeses and scrumptious bruschetta, along  with mouth-watering  Clonakilty handmade chocolates and homemade banana bread, all washed down with Prosecco or hot tea and coffee ! Yummy!!

Walking back to the car, full to the brim and delighted with my evening I couldn’t resist but jump into the lake to see the bio-luminescence just one more time. If possible it was even more spectacular under the water!

This trip was absolutely amazing, for sure a gem that out-sparkles the rest, and definitely one to add to your bucket-list!


  • Atlantic Sea Kayaking are open all year, with this special kayaking with music and banquet held once a month, further information can be found at: http://www.atlanticseakayaking.com/
  • Duration: Approximately 2.5hrs
  • Time: Begins one hour before darkness.
  • Price: €65p/p Includes all equipment and midnight feast after, (worth every cent!)
  • Attire: You don’t need a wetsuit for the trip, just layers of warm clothes and a hat! Waterproof boiler suits, jackets and life jackets are provided upon arrival!


Enjoy your trip!

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