THERE was screaming and laughing in equal measure at the newly opened Clonakilty Park Adventure Centre this week ¬– and that was just from me.
The brand new obstacle course has been impressing both young and old in the grounds of the Quality Hotel.
This impressive wood- based obstacle course is attracting visitors from all over the county, despite being only opened just over a month.
From aerial trekking high ropes to a climbing tower with two challenging walls, to a ‘Power Fan’ jump, if it’s high-jinks you are after, then here they are, in abundance.
Costing in the region of a couple of hundred thousand euros to build, this impressive facility was the brainchild of Danny McCarthy, who had worked in both the cinema and the gym at the hotel.
‘Originally it was my idea and we all kind of chatted about it between ourselves and with the general manager about the possibility of building such a facility here,’ explained Danny. ‘We then went around the UK and Ireland looking at different adventure centres and getting ideas for our own one.’
Danny says the Clonakilty centre differs from most of the others in Ireland as a lot of them are located in forests, using existing trees, but this is a man-made course.
‘Plus it’s the only facility like this in West Cork. The only one that comes close is the one in Farran, but again that’s in the woods,’ said Danny.
The construction work, which took about two months to complete, was carried out by local firm, Hennessy Timber Group, who described the project as ‘one of their most exciting and challenging projects to date.’
‘We took ideas from adventure centres in England and our one is loosely based on one in Liverpool,’ added Danny. ‘We designed it ourselves and the whole process took about a year, which also involved get planning permission. We had a basic idea of what we wanted and we changed bits and came up with the final design, which we’re really happy with.’
The course has ten staff, as each session needs four to five staff on duty to man the different aspects of the course.
Essentially, it’s an obstacle course where visitors are fully harnessed and wear helmets. ‘You have a safe roller system which attaches you to the ropes and once you’re attached on, you can’t come off until you come all the away around,’ Danny explained.
What’s reassuring, too, is that if someone falls, they just hang in the air until they can pull themselves up or wait until one of the staff hoists them up. The key is – you can’t fall.
There is the Level 1 course, and you go all the way around and then you go up the stairs to Level 2 and go all the way around. You can also try the Zip Line, two climbing walls and the Power Fan Jump, which is like a bungee jump, but a lot more controlled.’
The feedback so far has been very positive from customers and the days are getting very busy, especially now that the school holidays are in full swing.
‘Obviously it’s not for everyone and some people find they are great until they get up there and then realise they’re afraid of heights but that’s ok too, that’s a pretty common thing,’ said Danny.
‘We’ve had schools, sports clubs and companies and we even have the staff from the Department of Marine next door coming in next week to try it out.’
The course can take the best part of two hours to complete, depending on how busy the session is, and Danny and his team allow people to go back over the course if there’s enough time.
‘What we found was that when it’s sunny the cinema here is very quiet, and we were looking for something that we could do outdoors in the summer that would bounce off each other. It seems to work, too, because when the weather was bad at the weekend and the cinema was busy, some of us were able to go up there and help out.’
But what do visitors really think of it? The McMahon family from Skibbereen (Emily, 10; Shakira, 13 and Kolena, 14 were trying out the course when we arrived, along with their friend Niamh Quinn, 13. Emily’s favourite was the Zip Line because she thought it was ‘really scary’ at first. ‘But then I went on it, and it was actually really, really fun. I found the Aerial Trekking High Ropes a bit scary because I thought I was going to fall but I didn’t. I love the place and I’d love to come again,’ she said.
Shakira also loved the Zip Line. ‘It’s longer than the ones that I’ve been on before. I loved the climbing walls too, which were fun – I’d definitely come back again. The high ropes were a bit scary cos I could look down and see the ground!’
Her friend Niamh thought it was really good ‘because there’s none of these in West Cork and it’s good to have one so more tourists will come to visit’. She particularly loved the climbing walls and the Zip Line. ‘The Power Fan Jump was fine and wasn’t scary at all, but it might be for someone who hasn’t jumped from that height before, but I was fine. I definitely would come back and the staff were great too.’
Kolena, who tried out everything, said the centre was very good. ‘I really loved the Climbing Wall because it’s good fun. I loved the Zip Line too, as I’ve been on a few before – but I’d definitely come back to this one again.
In true reporter mode, I also had to give it a shot. It did take some gentle persuasion for me to try the 100m Zip Line – a lot of persuading in fact. But once I was strapped into the harness gear by Danny, there was no turning back.
Perched at the top of the climbing tower, it was pretty daunting looking down and seeing how far I had to travel. I was all set to jump – except for my legs, which wouldn’t budge for some reason. After a few false and sweaty starts, I finally let go with a mix of fear and, eventually, exhilaration.
It was a surreal experience flying down the zip line and I loved it. But I also managed to somehow swing around, facing backwards, so our photographer Paddy couldn’t get a good shot of me. So it was back up again to re-do it and this time I felt like a giddy child, running back up the tower, determined to enjoy my second attempt. And I did too. I loved it. But then, just like the gang around me, I didn’t want to go home.
After much gentle coaxing, lots of tears, and a promise of a trip to the cinema, I reluctantly succumbed and returned the harness to Danny.
www.clonadventurecentre.ie email [email protected] clonadventure.ie or phone 087-4526329.