Since being nominated for the prestigious Perrier Comedy Award at the Edinburgh Fringe back in 1998, Ed Byrne has gone on to become one of the country’s best known comedians. He’s a regular on Mock The Week, a veteran of three sell-out UK tours – and an outdoor nut to boot; he even has a column in The Great Outdoors magazine. We caught up with him on his current tour.
Growing up, what do you remember about your first outdoor experience?
My school was one of the few in Dublin to have a hillwalking club. My older brother was in it, so I joined as well. I remember my first experience being utterly exhausted on a mountain in the west coast of Ireland. It took me a while to get into it, because it was generally knackering, wet and cold. It was back in the early 1980s, and I had a 1960’s pack made of canvas. It killed my back.
What are your best places to explore in the UK?
The hill I’ve been up most is Snowdon, and I’ve completed the Snowdon Horseshoe quite a few times. I’m also a Munro-bagger, so I visit the Highlands of Scotland when I can. I’ve bagged 77 out of 282, which considering I live in Essex isn’t bad. And in the Lake District the Fairfield Horseshoe is particularly fun.
What has been your most memorable outdoors experience in the UK?
I write a column for The Great Outdoors magazine and I’ve done some interesting things for them, including barefoot walking with the ‘Barefoot Shepherdess’ Alison O’Neill. You’ve been exploring the outdoors for decades. Ever been in any tricky situations? I’ve been wild swimming in Red Tarn on Helvellyn. It was bloody freezing and I realised I’m not a very good swimmer. I wouldn’t recommended it without a very good wetsuit.
You’ve travelled the world with your comedy tours – where has been your favourite place?
A rafting trip down the Grand Canyon for 16 days – that was fairly incredible. And one of the best hikes was the Fjällräven Classic, a 110-kilometre hike along the incredible Kungsleden trail in Northern Sweden. I’ve also walked the Haute Route from Chamonix to Zermatt, a 9-10 day walk.
Is there a lot of comedy gold in the outdoor industry?
Nothing much that suits my sense of humour. But I do have a joke about knowing you’ve hit middle age when you wear your outdoor gear nowhere near the mountains. Nothing says you’ve turned your back on fashion more than going to the shops in a Berghaus fleece and Craghoppers trousers.
What’s in the travel diary for 2016?
Next year I’m touring all over the UK. I always try and knock off as many county tops as I can, and lately the tour manager and I have been to the occasional nature reserve and doing a bit of twitching. I just did Into The Wild, a TV show with film-maker Gordon Buchanan. He takes celebrities out into the country for the weekend. We did a show on urban wildlife and we saw badgers, foxes and the like. It inspired me to get some decent binoculars.
What other outdoor activities do you like?
I go skiing a lot, but I’m trying to get into canoeing more. My kids are a bit young to take up mountains, but they can sit in a canoe with me. I hope to do a canoe and camping trip soon. Who would be your ideal walking mate for a winter hiking expedition? I’ve walked a lot with the comedian Craig Campbell, the Canadian stand-up. He’s just had a hip operation so I’m waiting for him to get better.
- Ed Byrne is on tour in the UK until the end of May. See edbyrne.com for details.
In his own words…
The next Bear Grylls? A few excerpts from Ed’s TGO Magazine features.
…on sea-cliff climbing
“My left foot slipped out of a dependable-feeling crack and I fell against the wall with an audible “Ooof!” (I actually said “oof”. I didn’t think anybody said “oof”. I thought it was just coming you saw in speech bubbles in comic books)”
…on an outdoor first aid course
“The mnemonic used to remember CPR order is DR. ABC, which I’ve already decided is going to be my hip-hop name.”
…on learning orienteering
“He congratulates me on instinctively orientating the map correctly and I’m such a needy individual that I don’t admit that it’s just a coincidence.”