New year, new you: Swims and sunrises to kickstart your 2018

Ellie O’Byrne suggests some interesting ways to spend January 1, to get 2018 off to a great start

Hook Head lighthouse at dawn: Is there anywhere better in the country to see the new year begin?

Whether you spend it on the sofa nursing the mother of all hangovers with a greasy takeaway and a movie, or whether you dive determinedly into a fervent “new year, new you” exercise regimen, New Year’s Day can often be a bit of a funny one.

With any luck, you’ve had some time to take stock in that lull between Christmas and New Year’s Eve: what did you achieve, survive, suffer or learn from in the past year? What do you want to carry forward into the next? What will the coming year hold?

Some of us want distracting from all this soul-searching, while some want to quietly, or even solemnly, mark the occasion. Whether you’re determined to keep the festive partying going for one last day or whether you’re keen to get on with the virtuous, disciplined and entirely worthy life you have planned for 2018, here are a few ways you could spend the first day of the new year:

Dublin New Year’s Festival

In the capital, the New Year’s Eve festivities spill over into a second day for the increasingly popular Dublin New Year’s Festival, which will see Irish acts Kodaline, Hudson Taylor and Keywest ring in the New Year at the Custom House Quay Countdown Concert.

If you don’t want the party to stop, on New Year’s Day, an array of celebrations will be presided over by Today FM presenter Phil Cawley, and will include music from the Garda Band, the Line Up Choir and the Hit Machine Drummers, as well as Flyboarders performing aerial stunts over the Liffey.

It’s a day out for all the family, free, non-ticketed, and will also feature face painting and pop-up performances from jugglers, mime artists and stilt walkers.

Dublin New Year’s Festival is on at Custom House Quay from 12pm-4pm on New Year’s Day. www.nyfdublin.com 

Beat a Retreat

Burren Yoga Retreat

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If you’ve been the hostess with the mostest for the entire festive season, the last thing in the world you might want to do is socialise for the remainder of the holidays. If the sound of silence is all you’re craving, maybe a retreat is in order.

Combining some down-time with a new year’s resolution to get in shape, there are several Yoga retreats on offer over the New Year; Burren Yoga retreats in Co Galway is offering a week of meditation, Vinyasa Yoga and walks in the incredible Burren landscape from the 27th of December until the 2nd of January: www.burrenyoga.com Dzogchen Beara Buddhist meditation centre, in the glorious wilderness of the Beara peninsula in West Cork is running a five-day retreat with guided meditations, discussion and plenty of down-time to enjoy the surroundings from Thursday the 28th of December until lunchtime on New Year’s Day: www.dzogchenbeara.org If your Christmas-straightened pockets can’t afford one of these options, and if Santa didn’t come through with a voucher, why not do the whole thing at home anyway? Light the fire, get out the juicer, switch off all digital devices, and give yourself the gift of a day of physical and digital detox.

Take the plunge

Participants in the Courtmacsherry New Year’s Day swim in aid of RNLI

The only dips most of us see in December are hummus multi-packs at Christmas parties, but you could brave the elements to join a traditional New Year’s Day swim. If you want to start the year as you mean to continue, and if “go for it” is your New Year’s resolution, plunging into the icy waters is as bold a statement as any.

Bray Lions Club are celebrating 35 years of Co Wicklow New Year’s swims this year, and have raised nearly €350,000 for their charities of choice. Email brayswim@gmail.com for more information.

Culdaff on the spectacular Inishowen peninsula in Co Donegal is one of the country’s longest-running New Year’s Day swims, and regularly plays host to over 200 brave souls, raising money for charities including iCare and Irish Cancer Research.

The Courtmacsherry RNLI charity swim in the scenic West Cork village is another popular option, and raises money for the heroic work of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution in saving lives at sea, a charity close to the hearts of every coastal community.

And speaking of safety, Irish Water Safety advise a “get in, get out, get warm” approach to winter swimming, and warn that the danger of hypothermia is all too real. Swimmers should ensure that they have an easy entry and exit point from the water, as energy is rapidly lost in the frigid water. They’re also keen to let swimmers know that it’s a myth that alcohol will keep you warm, so save the nip from the flask for after your dip.

New Year’s Dawn with a Sunrise tour in Wexford

Hook! #Ireland #hooklighthouse #Wexford #Winter #Christmas2017 #homeforchristmas

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As the sun rises on the first day of 2018, there’s no better vantage point to watch the dawn than in the glass watch-room on top of Hook Lighthouse in Co Wexford, the world’s oldest intact working lighthouse.

Early birds who don’t mind getting up in the wee hours will be rewarded with the panoramic view of the sunrise glinting over the Celtic Sea and the spectacular South-east coast, with a selection of breakfast canapés made from local produce, including Ballyhack smokehouse smoked salmon on homemade brown bread, as well as bucks fizz, prosecco, or tea and coffee.

Before the dawn, on arrival, a guided tour of the lighthouse takes in some of its history, from its establishment as a beacon by monks in the 5th century up to the lighthouse keepers who tended the light until an automated system was brought in in 1996.

The New Year Sunrise Tour at Hook Lighthouse is €45 per person (adults only). For booking via Hook Lighthouse, call 00353 (0)51 397055. www.hookheritage.ie

Walk it off

For those of us lucky enough to have family, calling up the entire gang and going for a big, brisk, multi-generational ramble is one of the nicest ways to herald the new year: wrap the oldest and youngest members of the tribe up against the cold, bring flasks and all the new wheeled Christmas gifts, and a sense of humour.

In Co Cork, the Timoleague to Courtmacsherry line is one of my favourites; starting next to the beautiful old ruined Timoleague abbey, the tarmacked old train line curves around past a tidal wetland that’s home to many bird species, towards the pretty woodland of Courtmac, where there are several cosy pubs if refreshments are in order.

In the Déise direction, The Waterford Greenway is 46km of much-vaunted new cycle and walkway, with many access points and parking options along the way, but less people know about the nearby Anne Valley Walk, a 2.2km linear walkway from Dunhill village to the ruins of Dunhill Castle. It’s fantastically accessible, and peaceful too, the perfect place to enjoy a little family time.

After all, in the words of an Irish blessing that seems less comically pessimistic with each year that passes, go mbeirimíd beo ag an am seo arís.


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