“When you pull back the nettles and rushes there’s some amazing stuff in Leitrim.”
So says Kevin Currid of Lough Allen Adventure Centre. He’s not kidding. Participants on his wilderness therapy experiences not only pull nettles back – they cook them and eat them too.
Paddling away from the rat race, they go on to learn lost arts like fire-making, navigation and shelter-building whilst camping on an island on the lake. “We suggest leaving the mobile phones behind,” Kevin says. “They complain at first, but they come back loving it.”
I get a taste of the therapy when Eamonn Briel – Leitrim’s answer to Ray Mears – shows me how to create fire using a flint-stick and a firelighter made of egg carton, wax and a larch cone.
After firing off the sparks, I bend down, blow into a little nest of strip-wood, and try to coax the flames up through the kindling. It’s a primal feeling – man makes fire! Booyaka!
Afterwards, we tuck into a nettle, chorizo and onion stew, washed down with an earthy mug of tea drawn from dandelion roots. It’s all surprisingly tasty.
Sure, you’ll be caked in mud and stink of campfire. But a trip into the great outdoors like this is fundamentally reinvigorating, you get to use cool knives and hatchets, and life is brought back to the basics – shelter, warmth and food. Therapy is the word, all right.
Another wilderness holiday option is a Bushcraft Ireland course in Co. Louth. Families are welcome too in a hands-on immersion aimed at teaching all the skills you need to survive in the open. Build a shelter, start a campfire and track wild animals including foxes and deers. Forage for your dinner, find water and cook in your own pit oven before sleeping under the stars…
Finally, there is The Living Wilderness Bushcraft School in Navan, Co. Meath. Several bushcraft adventures here allow customers to set up their own bushcraft camps and learn the skills to match.
071 964-3292; loughallenadventure.com; from €80pp per day.