An Adventure Traveller’s Guide to Ireland

Mullaghmore is an excellent spot for surfing
Mullaghmore is an excellent spot for surfing | © Shawn Williams / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Kate Phelan
18 September 2020

Ireland’s rugged terrain and wild coastlines make it a dream location for adventure travellers who don’t mind a little rainfall. From big-wave surfing on the western shores to summiting the country’s most majestic peaks, there is adventure to be had across the island. Here is Culture Trip’s guide to adventure travel in Ireland’s four provinces.

Munster (South of Ireland)

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Cliffs of Moher, Lough South, County Clare, Munster, Ireland
© David L. Moore - IRE / Alamy Stock Photo
The Wild Atlantic Way tourist trail doesn’t get much wilder than County Kerry. And while driving the Ring of Kerry route could be considered a form of adventure travel in itself (it’s notoriously narrow in places), hiking the area is considerably more rewarding – especially if you’re able to ascend Ireland’s highest mountain, Carrauntoohil, along the way. Although caution is advised when tackling this climb, if you do manage to reach its peak, you’ll be rewarded with some of the most dramatic scenery in the entire country. If Kerry is a little too off the beaten track, or you’d rather try one of the world’s fastest-growing water sports instead, Mallow in County Cork is home to Ballyhass Wake Park, Ireland’s largest cable wakeboarding facility. It accommodates both beginners and experienced wakeboarders.

Leinster (East of Ireland)

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In the east, your first port of call should be Kilkenny’s Castlecomer Discovery Park, which launched Ireland’s longest over-water zipline in 2016 – 300m (984ft) long and 35m (115ft) above ground at its highest point. The park also offers treetop rope walks, boating and more. If you’d like to get a bit closer to nature, the Kippure Estate Adventure Centre on the edge of the Wicklow Mountains National Park offers wilderness skills, clay shooting, mountain navigation, kayaking and other adventures in some of the most beautiful countryside in Ireland. It also has various lodges and hostel-style accommodation for rent. In Dublin, the Howth peninsula is popular with kitesurfers.

Ulster (North of Ireland)

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Tullan Strand, a 1 mile ,long surf beach extending north from Bundoran, County Donegal, Ireland. Image shot 07/2014. Exact date unknown.
© Paul Heinrich / Alamy Stock Photo
Ulster’s adventure pursuits range from the classic – boat trips, climbing, diving and so forth – to the refreshingly obscure, such as blokarting (also known as land yachting). However, the region is probably most famous for surfing; the town of Bundoran in County Donegal has been named one of the world’s best surf towns by National Geographic. After trying your hand at the legendary waves there, why not try hovercrafting on the Causeway Coast with FoyleHov? Alternatively, put on your hiking boots and take your pick from the Mourne Mountains, the Slieve League Cliffs (among Europe’s highest sea cliffs) or one of the Seven Sisters – a chain of peaks in the Derryveagh Mountains.

Connacht (West of Ireland)

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County Sligo kind of has the market covered when it comes to adventure travel in the west, even having deemed itself the adventure capital of the entire island of Ireland, and it might be right. Its abundance of unspoilt coastline affords endless opportunities for water sports, including freediving, kitesurfing, powerboating, sea kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding, while its rapid rivers make it perfect for whitewater rafting – see Adventure Sligo’s website for full details. Big-wave surfing at Mullaghmore is the ultimate adrenaline rush, but it’s only suitable for veteran surfers. Farther inland, you can go abseiling, horse riding, biking, hill walking and more. Venturing south, you can hike the mountains of Mayo, including the province’s highest peak, Mweelrea.

These recommendations were updated on September 18, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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