Ballyhass Adventure Group has been a long time in the making and has had many iterations in the last 35 years. A family based business that was born on the coast and established in Kinsale Co.Cork. We started by building a small marina outside the Trident hotel in Kinsale and offered one of the first Yacht charter business in Ireland. For several years we charted yachts along the west coast of Ireland and got our first taste of the leisure seasonal industry in Ireland. Short intense seasons seemed to be something we thrived on. With the success of the yacht charter business we expanded our marina experience and built castlepark marina on the other side of Kinsale Harbour. Still to this day Castlepark is one of the biggest marinas in Ireland servicing annual berth holders and visiting boats from all over Europe.
It was in Castlepark that we started to diversify and spread our wings a little. We developed a hostel and restaurant alongside the marina to better service the berth holders. It was also accompanied by a fleet of deep sea angling boats, small boat charter and scuba diving centre. It was here we got a taste for providing outdoor experiences to visitors and locals alike. We were always trying to take advantage of the sort season while also providing as much employment to the local community as we could. It probably has driven our thinking and lifestyle to this day.
It was in the late 90's when the opportunity to buy Ballyhass Lakes outside Cecilstown came to the fore. The drive to buy it was based on a location to offer our deep sea angling clients that might have had their day charter cancelled due to poor weather. The season was so short loosing 20% of your bookings to bad weather was killer. Ballyhass could well have been an option to give our clients a place to fish on the down days. It was an old disused quarry from John A Woods. There was some staff there that were stocking the lake with rainbow and brown trout so we knew the lake was more than capable of fish life, even holding a breeding stock of fish which to this day is rare in a fishery. There was a second reason that perhaps we could have expanded our scuba diving business and model it off other similar popular locations in the UK. Obviously an old quarry isn't the most interesting of things for a diver to swim through. To get over that in the UK the sink, helicopters, train carriages, tanks, cars, trucks to make artificial reefs and give the divers interesting locations. To think there could have been tanks at the bottom of Ballyhass!!
Around the same time that Ballyhass came on the cards the opportunity to sell our business in Kinsale came up and the timing was right. We developed it as much as we could, it was time to give someone else a go and see how they could push it.That meant that Ballyhass was now our full time focus. We throw ourselves into it. Deciding that the waters were better suited for fishing and the fact that we were in a fishing strong hold at that time it made sense for us to fully focus on the fishing business. It wasn't long before we were the leading trout freshwater fishery in the country. The crystal clear waters were an amazing asset. On any given weekend we could of had up to 100 anglers on site for the day. To Better capture this market we developed 11 4 star holiday homes on site. We were going to target the angling business abroad, especially looking at UK, French and German anglers to North Cork. This was 2006....
2006 was not the best year to be developing an accommodation project. The market fell away to nothing and investment was thin on the ground. Mid week anglers essentially disappeared. We needed to diversify or die. What could we do midweek Monday - Friday? We were already offering outdoor experiences and activities so a relatively small investment allowed us to get a fleet of kayaks on the water and clean up some of the natural cliff faces to an introductory rock climbing and abseiling. It was then we stumbled upon just how suitable the site was for large groups. Teachers, Sports teams and Youth clubs were blown away by this new multi activity centre opened up on their doorstep out of nowhere.
After having a few good seasons it was time to get back to work and push on within the outdoor industry. We saw that the large groups had very limited options in the industry in this country. If we were to capitalized on this sector we needed to expand. We added a high ropes course with three different activities along with installing two 170m over water ziplines, still to this day some of the most impressive in the country. It was a tough start in the sector as times were hard and schools were unwilling to change well worn programmes with other centres. It was a tough sale, but ultimately the site itself and the variety of activities set us apart. Our group activity business went from strength to strength and we started to get a name for ourselves. We now needed to start offering something to individuals who wanted to come back and have the same experiences with their friends and families that they had in their group tour.
Our next biggest advance was Ballyhass Wakepark. Ireland's largest cable wakeboarding installation was a leap into a similar industry but one that was still new to us. There was some big learning curves and now having a atmosphere where people wanted to stay on site and get memberships etc. changed our perspectives quite a bit. Community became a bigger part of our culture. A lot of what we did and planned revolve around the ultimate goal of creating an amazing place to enjoy the outdoors. The wake park has been evolving ever since. Obstacles have been added each season and Ireland's biggest cable wakeboarding events have been held here over the years. In 2018 we held the Ballyhass Open. This was a custom designed competition that attracted professional wakeboarders to compete for cash prizes for the first time ever in Ireland.
It was the following season in 2016 where we launched the Ballyhass Outdoor Project. We were established enough to start thinking bigger about the adventure industry. We want to have a lasting impact on the country's well being and obviously want to do this through the outdoors. It is a complete drive for healthy outdoor lifestyles that includes scholarship programs for local students, poster awareness campaigns, champion days out and corporate structures to get employees outdoors more often. It has become the core of our ethos and will continue to drive our business forward for many years to come. Check out the full details here
2017 saw our next big venture. Something that was a bit more inline with our traditional products of water sports. Ballyhass Mallow installed the first of its Aquaparks. A floating inflatable obstacle course that would allow up to 50 participants on the water at anyone time. Huge obstacles were installed in arguably the most unique and suitable site for an Aquapark in Ireland. This potentially has had one of the biggest impacts on the business since arriving to Ballyhass. In our first season we had over 10,000 participants through the aquapark alone. This has expanded us into new products and started to make Ballyhass a household name in the Munster region.
The success of the aquapark in 2017 directly impacted on us setting up our second centre in Ballyhass Coachford. Our most exciting progression to date sees go off site for the first time since Kinsale all those years ago. We are amazingly excited about the possibility of our new centre. In year one we added a second Aquapark course that can hold up to 60 participants at one time. This saw an additional 10,000 participants go through the course in the first year. The access to the Lee Valley and Inniscarra lake is what really makes this site unique. We have access to over an 11 km stretch of water with amazing wildlife and scenery. We have major plans to open this up to expeditions and adventure tours. We have already started doing rentals of sit on top kayaks and a newly bought fleet of stand up paddle boards. The future is exciting for the Ballyhass Adventure Group. We do hope you keep up to date with all the goings on. Hopefully we can have a positive impact on the lifestyles of people in Ireland in the not to distance future.
Non one could have seen a worldwide pandemic arrive at our doorstep. April 2020 for us and for alot of other businesses will go down as the toughest to date. Our corner stone product our school tours season of nearly 15 - 20,000 students cancelled overnight. The future looked bleak. Thankfully Ireland is resilent and we were able to open to what turned out to be another incredible year. We diversified once again in our journey and offered more individual and small group activities including learn to courses, evening camps, day passes and lots more. We could not be more greatful to all our friends and clients that came through in the summer of 2020 we cant tell you how much you helped us out.
Out of the gloom can come great opportunity. We were able to strike up a partnership with a fantastic outdoor construction company in Holland. Funcha! With them on board and in between continued and long lasting lockdowns we were able to build a massive High Nets Course that is the first of its kind in Ireland. Ballyhass Coachford is the location and we can now say that both our sites can offer land, water and height activities as part of the Ballyhass product.
We will continue to diversify and follow our mission to get everyone outside. 2021 sees the launch of the Ballyhass Adventure pass. A membership style ticket that gives families and clients a 30% discount across all activities on both sites. We hope to provide the best outdoor experience possible through accessibility, affordibility and education. We hope that we will see you on one of our sites soon.