‘There’s something about this spot that always makes me feel like I’m on holidays’
In part three of our Everyday Adventures series, in association with Jaguar Land Rover, Operation Transformation’s Kathryn Thomas takes Liz Dwyer on her favourite Dublin road trip
It’s 9.30am when I meet Kathryn Thomas outside a production studio in Dublin 2. The area is thick with commuters still rushing to their desks, yet Thomas has already put in a day’s work. “They only finished editing tonight’s episode of Operation Transformation (OT) at 2am, so I’ve been in the studio since the crack of dawn laying down tonight’s voice-overs,” says Thomas, who is full of the joys of spring despite the sleep deprivation.
This time of the year is particularly full-on for Thomas because of the filming schedule, but even if you take Operation Transformation out of the equation, she still has enough balls in the air to make you feel dizzy. Last March, Thomas became mum to baby Ellie, a role she relishes, and one which she’s managed to work around her TV appearances, running Pure Results, (a high-end health and fitness retreat which she’s expanding to Spain this Easter) and launching KT Bump Fit, a fitness app for pregnant women.
Fortunately for me, Thomas has booked in some downtime this morning, so we are taking her new Jaguar E-Pace for a spin to Killiney, Co Dublin. We’re planning to walk the beach and do some yoga as it’s one of Thomas’s favourite spots to decompress.
As we set off through the early morning Dublin streets, Thomas tells me how much she loves driving and how obsessed she is with fast cars. “My family always slag me, saying I’m a ‘petrol head’, but I love a long run in a powerful car on the motorway, which is handy as the team leaders for OT are all in opposite corners of Ireland this season, and I have this amazing Jag, so I’m quite happy to clock up the miles.”
The day before, Thomas had driven eight hours up and back to the most northern tip of Donegal for just 40 minutes of filming. “I use the time in the car to catch up on all my work calls – checking in with my agent, the production team, the girls in Pure Results and the app guys. My sister lives in LA and my brother is in the Isle of Man, so I always call them when I’m on the road. We get to have really long chats, which would never happen if I rang from home, as there are just too many distractions.”
Ellie is Thomas’s preferred travel companion in the car these days, and, where feasible, she likes to bring her to overnight work gigs, “I think in her 10 short months on this planet, she’s already stayed in at least 30 hotels with me. Driving definitely lulls her to sleep and she seems to love the car, but I know she’ll be happier when we move her from the rear-facing baby seat to the forward-facing seat, as she’s just like her mum and wants to be in the thick of things and see what’s going on.”
While Ellie is the perfect passenger, Thomas’s fiancee, chef and restaurateur Padraig McLoughlin, is a different kettle of fish. “He’s a very nervous driver and drives really slowly and cautiously. And he listens to country and western tunes in the car, whereas I’m more of a Beyoncé or AC/DC gal.”
But like countless couples, it’s trying to work out directions that really sets the pair off. “We rarely fight, but if I’m in charge of navigation, we will invariably end up pulled in on the side of the road shouting over why he can’t just follow the sat nav.”
Speaking of Padraig, Thomas says, she’s been loving the freezing mornings of late, “as he’s out there with the kettle de-icing his windscreen while I’m turning on my car’s heating and the heated seats, from my cosy bed, using this app that Jaguar has made to control the technology in-car, from your phone remotely. So when I get into the car, it’s all toasty warm. That is one luxury I will never be able to live without again.”
Thomas’s life is hectic at present, so her Jaguar E-Pace doubles up as a mobile dressing room as she often has to change and get ready in the car between events. “This Wednesday coming, I’m shooting OT in a forest in the morning, Ellie and I are going to a kids' launch in the afternoon, and then I’ve to go straight to a red-carpet event I’m working at that evening. So I often change and glam up in the car. Thank God there is buckets of room in the back and the boot is huge – which is a deal-breaker for me as I’ve to cart around my kit, Ellie’s buggy, all her paraphernalia, loads of outfits, shoes, make-up and bits 24/7.”
The boot is also packed with sports gear and equipment, and Thomas makes sure to always have some weights, a kettlebell and a yoga mat with her, so she can fit in a quick workout no matter where she is. “Be prepared, or be prepared to fail, isn’t that what they say? When I’ve the gear with me I’ve no excuse not to exercise. I try to fit in a workout at least every other day – I do it for my head more than my body these days, as working out definitely helps keeps me sane.”
Travelling is one of Thomas’s other passions and she became a household name in Ireland when she fronted RTE’s travel show, No Frontiers, from 1996 to 2001. The show saw Thomas partake in all sorts of holiday adventures, from diving to abseiling, but her favourite activity is packing up the car and heading off on a good road trip.
“I’ve driven all the famous ones – Route 66, the Garden Route, the Great Ocean Road – be it through work or off my own back. The most amazing journey of all was the Glacier National Park in Montana’s Rocky Mountains. It is more than a million acres of mind-blowing scenery, nature and wildlife. You have these spectacular mountain peaks and valleys, cascading waterfalls, and the best sunsets I’ve ever seen. I just remember driving around these hairpin bends with Tom Petty on and thinking ‘wow, this is literally heaven on earth.’”
Closer to home, she finds the drive up and around the Vico Road to be almost as exhilirating, particuarly on a crisp winter’s day like this one, with crystalline views of the sea and the coastline around every bend.
“I live in the city centre and work there most days and even though I’m from Co Carlow, I’d like to be by the sea every day if I could. I have an affinity with it and find it calms me no end. That’s the great thing about Dublin though, you’re in the middle of this cosmopolitan city yet within half an hour you can be up the mountains, or out here by the sea, and you feel like you are a million miles away from work.”
As we reach the Vico Road, the sun suddenly comes just in time for us to march down the hundred plus steps to White Rock beach for a few downward dogs and a long walk. Thomas stops and urges me to pause and drink in the beautiful moment. “There’s something about this spot that always makes me feel like I’m on holidays. They say Killiney Bay is just like the Bay of Naples, but if you ask me it’s much prettier and far less congested with tourists. When the sun is shining I’d take right here over Italy any day.”
Everyday Adventures is a five-part series of in-car interviews with Jaguar Land Rover brand ambassadors as they take us to places that mean something special to them. Accompanied by Irish Times journalist, Liz Dwyer, we’re taken on a journey with each personality, discovering their ideas and inspirations.
This week TV presenter Kathryn Thomas drives to one of her favourite spots in the capital, Killiney, Co Dublin, in her Jaguar E-Pace.
Beautiful by design and dynamic to drive, the E-Pace is Jaguar’s first compact SUV. With a driver-focused cockpit sitting at the heart of a family-focused interior, E-Pace takes the rewarding Jaguar driving experience and adds everyday practicality.
Plan your own urban escape. Visit jaguar.ie to take a closer look at the E-Pace, now available with 2.9 per cent APR finance or a purchase contribution of €1,500.
About Jaguar Land Rover
Jaguar Land Rover is built around two iconic British car brands: Land Rover, the world’s leading manufacturer of premium all-wheel-drive vehicles; and Jaguar, one of the world’s premier luxury sports saloon and sports car marques. The 2019 range of Jaguar and Land Rover vehicles is available to test drive from our state-of-the-art landmark showrooms across the country. See jaguar.ie and landrover.ie to locate your nearest retailer.