The Wild Atlantic Way tourist trail doesn’t get much wilder than County Kerry. And while driving the notoriously-narrow-in-places Ring of Kerry route could be considered a form of adventure travel in itself, 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 in tackling this climb, those who do manage to reach its peak will 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 just 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 accomplished wakeboarders.
In the East, your first port of call should be Kilkenny’s Castlecomer Discovery Park, which launched Ireland’s longest over-water zipline earlier this year – 300 metres long and 35 metres above ground at its highest point. The park – which also offers tree-top rope walks, boating and more – is apparently a favourite holiday spot of former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who likes to visit with his family. For those who’d like to get a bit closer to nature, the Kippure Adventure & Education centre on the edge of the Wicklow Mountains National Park run Bushcraft Survival Weekends, as well as providing clay shooting, paintball, kayaking and other adventure pursuits in some of the most beautiful countryside in Ireland. Cottages can also be rented on the grounds. In Dublin, the Howth peninsula is popular with kitesurfers.
County Sligo kind of has the market covered on adventure travel in the west, even having deemed itself the adventure capital of the entire island of Ireland. They might be right – its abundance of unspoilt coastline affords endless opportunities for water sports including free diving, kitesurfing, power boating, sea kayaking and standup paddle boarding, 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 only suitable for veteran surfers. Further inland, adrenaline-hungry visitors can also avail of abseiling, horse riding, biking, hill walking and more. Venturing south, the mountains of Mayo are just waiting to be hiked, including the province’s highest peak, Mweelrea.
Northern Ireland’s adventure pursuits range from the classic – boat trips, climbing, diving, etc. – to the refreshingly obscure, like blokarting (also known as land yachting). But 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, or put on your hiking boots and take your pick from the Mourne Mountains, the Slieve League Cliffs (Europe’s highest sea cliffs) or at least one of the Seven Sisters – a chain of peaks in the Derryveagh mountain range.