If you’re unfamiliar with Ireland, hiring a local adventure guide isn’t a bad way to get started. Especially when you’re looking to try something new, like kayaking or stand-up paddling. If you’re seeking big adventure, this Ireland adventure guide will get you started while you learn to appreciate Ireland’s quirky ways.
Ireland has a very dramatic terrain, ranging from bulbous mountains to craggy coastline to wide-open fields and boggy marshlands. If you’re an avid hiker, you are in Ireland hiking trekking heaven. Believe me.
One of our personal favourites is The Dingle Way. It’s just one of over 30 long-distance trails, completing a circuit 179-kilometres long. It begins and ends in Tralee. Of course, you don’t have to hike the entire thing, but you can opt to do certain sections of the trail. The landscape here is stunning: you’ll find the foothills of Slieve Mish, the shoulder of Mount Brandon, endless pastoral farmland, and the beautiful Slea Head coastal area. There’s a lot to take in.
Other notorious hiking routes include the Beara Way, Wicklow Way, Sheep’s Head Way, and the Kerry Way. You’ll find hikes for all skill levels in the beautiful Connemara region, as well as in the Antrim Glens. Remember that the weather in Ireland can change quickly: it’s best to prepare for a diverse range of temperatures, and heavy precipitation! Ireland isn’t known as the lush “Emerald Isle” for nothing.
For those who are unfamiliar with the sport, it’s traditionally Hawaiian, but it’s spreading worldwide. Boards for beginners are little bigger than your average surfboard, and you use just one paddle to steer.
SUP is getting increasingly popular around the country, though, so if you’d like to try the sport elsewhere you’ll find several opportunities for doing so in places like Dublin or County Clare.
Kayaking the lakes is especially a popular activity, seeing as how Ireland has an abundance of them. The Lakelands area is worth noting for its wildlife viewing possibilities, and for its incredible, encompassing silence. Georgian mansions and eco lodges dotting the landscape aren’t hard on the eyes, either. The area is completely covered with rivers, canals, and estuaries. Fermanagh’s Upper and Lower lakes (and its 154 islands) is perfect for serene paddling.
And of course, if you prefer canoeing, all of the above apply too.
Surfing in Ireland has been around for ages, but it’s really only gathered steam lately. The surf around Sligo is particularly good, thanks to a number of favourable conditions, and professional surfers from all over the world come here to train or compete. Strandhill is one particular town where you’ll find a scene that looks like it’s straight out of a surf magazine: pubs and cafes lining the waterfront, massive stretches of beach, huge waves, and plenty of surfers out there in the thick of it all. And no, the cold does not seem to be a discouraging factor for these people.
Another great surf spot in the Sligo area is Mullaghmore, where you’ll find pros alongside amateurs all competing for waves. If you don’t have any prior experience, though, a surfing lesson is always recommended.
Cork is also home to the second largest natural harbour in the entire world: Cork Harbour. Did you know that Ireland even once had a pirate queen, known as Grace O’Malley? She navigated the coasts in the 16th century and commanded a whole fleet of ships. How’s that for girl power?
Ireland’s unique coastline makes for some excellent sailing, and you can either opt for a sailing tour or (if you’re licensed) take charge of your own sailboat. We promise the views are worth it.
Fishing and Angling
Shore fishing never fails to impress even the most experienced fishermen. It’s true that you’ll find many of the same species here that you might find in North America, but it’s all just so bountiful. At the Shannon Estuary, for example, you’ll find everything from Pollock to wrasse to rays. In places like Tralee, on the Dingle Peninsula, you might even snag a stingray or a tope from one of the area’s beaches. In County Down, the quantities of dogfish, mackerel, and Pollock are sometimes overwhelming. You could fish all day, with great success.
One of the benefits of cycling around Ireland is that you get easy access to many of the main attractions, like the Giant’s Causeway and the mountainous area of Macgillycuddy’s Reeks (yes, that is actually a real place). The highest peak in Ireland is found here, known as Carrauntoohil.
Another exciting option: an unused railway line known as The Great Western Greenway running from Newport to Mulranny in County Mayo has been reopened as a cycling and walking trail. It’s recently been extended to cover Achill Island and Westport, and it offers some of the most remote, rugged terrain you’ll find in the country.
You don’t necessarily have to rough it the whole time either. If you’re not camping out, it’s quite easy to find comfortable B&Bs along any route. What better way to end a day of strenuous cycling than falling into a soft bed?
With the right horse, riding in the country with its stonewalls, open fields, and pleasantly rolling hills all make for a wonderful horseback experience. And it doesn’t matter what your skill level is, you’re sure to find something that suits you just fine.