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To celebrate the ATTA’s ten year anniversary, founder Shannon Stowell and Chris Doyle, Executive Director in Europe, spent ten days riding along Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way on motorcycles. In between the nearly 2,000 kilometers they rode, they stopped and visited local operators and participated in uniquely Irish adventure activities like bog diving, coasteering, lighthouse abseiling and kayaking under the stars while being serenaded by local musicians.
An afternoon at Old Kinsale Head lighthouse had the perfect combination of adventure elements, according to Stowell: activity, nature and culture. Climbing and abseiling were definitely the active part of the adventure, but they also watched seabirds by the thousands and peered down at basking sharks in the ocean below. For culture, a tour at the end of the afternoon was conducted by a third-generation lighthouse operator. “He took us all the way to the lens in the top,” said Stowell. “We were able to stand there and talk about how it works, what he had seen in his years there and what it was like to raise a family in such an exciting environment.”
The ATTA sent a storytelling team along with Stowell and Doyle to document the adventure potential of the island. Photographer Lukasz Warzecha fired off over 7,000 snapshots while Boulder, Colorado-based filmmaker Evan Swinehart had the video camera rolling. Their images and footage will be used to help tell the story of Ireland’s dramatic Atlantic coast and its efforts to attract adventure travelers from all over the world.
Warzecha has been living in the U.K. for the past ten years. As a photographer he has the opportunity to travel to many amazing locations, but whenever a client requests a moody landscape, he knows that North Wales or Scotland is the place. He assumed Ireland would be the same. The flight from his studio in Manchester to Dublin is only an hour long but he had never visited.
“The Wild Atlantic Way assignment has opened my eyes to a different Ireland,” he said. “It’s a country of rugged landscape and spectacular coastline, interesting people, and most importantly to me as an adventure photographer, home to more exciting activities than you can imagine. After ten packed-full days, I feel like we haven’t even scratched the surface!”
The itinerary along the Wild Atlantic Way had the team cliff jumping and kayaking and riding long twisting roads along the coast. But the adventure wasn’t all in the activities. Warzecha recalls shooting portraits on Inishmore in the Aran Islands. He saw a man strapping a wooden fin to his back. Intrigued, he struck up a conversation with the man who told him he’d been swimming with the same dolphin for over 20 years. “That fact was fascinating enough,” said Warzecha, “but seeing him swimming with that dolphin just blew my mind.”
Ireland of course wasn’t a random destination for Stowell and Doyle to go celebrate ten years of the ATTA. The Wild Atlantic way and the region of Killarney will host the Adventure Travel World Summit in October of this year. The motorcycle trip was coordinated with help from Failte Ireland, the National Tourism Development Authority, who will host the 2014 Summit.
This short “scouting” trip to Ireland’s Atlantic Coast proved to Stowell and Doyle and the storytelling team that the location is exactly right for adventure, with the critical mix of activity, culture and nature the ATTA uses in its definition of adventure travel.
The spirit of the trip and the images that are trickling in from the storytelling team are providing the inspiration needed to get through the next three months until the industry meets up in Ireland. In addition, the stunning images will ensure that the unseasonably sunny June weather the team experienced will live on forever.
To all of those joining us in Ireland this fall, these images should tide you over.