Ireland should, in my opinion, be renamed the adventure capital of Europe. For such a tiny island, there are so many incredible outdoor activities on offer. So many in fact that choosing what to do can often be overwhelming. To give you a steer in the right direction, we have compiled the ultimate list of adventure activities in Ireland that are definitely worthy of a place on any adventure junkie’s bucket list. We’ve even divided them up into the provinces for your convenience!
1. Go kitesurfing on Duncannon Beach, Co Wexford
You may not believe it but Wexford is the perfect place to kitesurf! Take a kite lesson with Hooked Kitesufing in Duncannon. A 1.5hr lesson consists of a bit of land-based instruction, theory and then into the water for some real fun! They also do powerkiting, where the kite pulls you across the sand on a mountain board or kite buggy.
In the depths of winter, they are known to head up to the top of Mt Leinster in the snow for a spot of snowkiting. They offer SUP lessons if you are looking for a more relaxed day out and run an annual kitesurfing festival Hooked Kitefest every summer, which offers an array of activities for young and old alike. With live outdoor music and DJ on the beach and kids activities galore, it’s always a great weekend to visit the county.
What to expect: A challenging but extremely rewarding lesson on a beautiful stretch of sand down in Wexford.
Essential info: Hooked Kitesurfing run a number of kitesurfing courses to suit your budget and ability. From their zero to hero course to discovery lessons and powerkite to SUP.
2. Experience the winter solstice at Newgrange, Co Meath
Newgrange is a 5000-year-old burial tomb in the Boyne Valley. Every year people gather at dawn to witness the rising sun light up the tomb on the shortest day of the year for the Winter Solstice.
What to expect: One of the most amazing things you will ever experience!
Essential Info: Access to the chamber is decided by a lottery. Everyone is welcome to go and stand on the outside of the monument. But the real magic happens inside, so get signed up at the Brú Na Bóinne Visitor Centre and pray to those pagan gods that you’ll be chosen.
3. Dive off Forty Foot at Christmas, Co Dublin
It’s a Christmas Day tradition around the country to brave the elements and have a Christmas day dip in the wild swimming spots of Ireland. One of the most popular is the jump off the Forty Foot in Sandycove, Co Dublin!
What to expect: The queue in the morning will be ridiculous so we recommend leaving it until the afternoon to take your place on the rocky platform.
Essential Info: If you don’t fancy the jump, there are plenty of easier ways to enter the water just around the corner in Sandycove itself.
4. Go sailing in Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin
If you have never sailed before, you don’t know what you are missing. You will never experience freedom bouncing on the frigid emerald water on a boat. It ticks all the boxes; adrenaline, social life, fresh air, skill and there are few better spots in Ireland to try it out than Dun Laoghaire. You’ll find all sorts of clubs and schools down at the marina that will help you join their wild world. One such club is Sailing in Dublin Club (SID) who offer year-round sailing for a low cost to literally anyone who wants to get out on the water.
What to expect: An enthusiastic and welcoming community of sailors ready to befriend you and teach you everything you need to know.
Essential info: The boatyard (Coal Harbour) is near the West Pier in Dun. For €370 per year SID provides a fleet of dinghies (1 and 2 person boats) and three yachts (max 7 persons) for sailing activities and competitions. Regular races and regattas are held year round. For the full review of our trip with SID click here.
5. Hike Leinster’s highest peak Lugnaquilla, Co Wicklow
Lug as it’s affectionately known is Wicklow’s highest mountain at 925m and is a tough but really rewarding climb. It is also Ireland’s highest mountain outside Kerry. Although it’s a difficult hike, it will reward you with majestic views.
On a clear day, you can see the pointy Sugar Loaf, a large swathe of the Dublin and Wicklow Mountains and the golden, sandy beaches along the coast of the Irish Sea. In the distance from the top, you might see south-west to the mountains of Munster and as far as Snowdonia in Wales. It’s roughly 10-16km up and down and will take you between 5-8 hours.
What to expect: In general, the mountain is more of a broad gentle giant, rather than a dramatic, pointy peak. It’s best recommended for intermediate/advanced hikers who want to tick off one of Ireland’s great climbs unless you’re being guided.
Essential info: The routes aren’t way marked so the walk requires navigation skills, particularly in bad weather and poor visibility. If it’s your first time, it may be best to join a walking group or go with a guide if you’re not up to navigating on your own yet. Check out our full guide for Lug here.
6. Have a lazy day on the river in the Midlands
Grab a group of pals, an old pair of trainers and hit the Midlands for a sedate, yet super enjoyable day of adventure on the River Inny. River tubing is not a common activity in Ireland but there is a lot of fun to be had. After sustained periods of rain (so on a regular basis here in Ireland), you can expect a couple of fun rapids to negotiate along the way. On the quieter sections of water, your guide will treat show you various acrobatic tricks you can attempt on the tube and you basically spend the day larking around having a lot of banter on the water.
What to expect: A pretty tame day out in a beautiful place with plenty of laughs thrown in!
Essential info: Check out Extreme Sports for full details.
7. Go rock climbing in Dalkey Quarry, Co Dublin
Although the indoor rock climbing and bouldering scene have exploded of late in Dublin, for those who prefer to venture outside, rock climbing in Dalkey Quarry is somewhat of a rite of passage. If you are up for a bit of crag climbing and reckon you are brave enough to abseil down a 20-metre high vertical cliff, this is the spot for you.
What to expect: Some seriously impressive views over Dublin Bay and south over the Wicklow Mountains while you pull yourself up that cliff face and abseil back down.
Essential Info: Adventure.ie runs half day Rock Climbing and Abseiling courses for anyone over the age of 10 years. Dalkey Quarry is located 10-minutes walk from Dalkey DART Station.
8. Moonlight paddling in West Cork
Voted as one of the top 10 alternative tours in the world by Trip Advisor, it is criminal to head to west cork without taking in a moonlight paddle with kayaking hero Jim Kennedy. Kicking off an hour before sunset you’ll be treated to silhouettes of seabirds on the bank, raw-red sunsets and the thick canopy of stars above as you make your way across either Castlehaven Bay or Lough Hyne in West Cork.
What to expect: An abundance of wildlife and encyclopaedic knowledge of the area from Jim.
Essential info: This tour is suitable for all kayaking abilities and costs €50 per person which includes the use of equipment. Check out Atlantic Sea Kayaking for more information.
9. Surfs up in Fanore, Co Clare
Fanore, in north-west Co Clare, is one of my favourite spots in Ireland. Its Gaelic meaning “fainne oir” translates to ring of gold which is in reference to the town’s beautiful sandy beach.
What to expect: Spectacular scenery, reliable waves, a quiet beach and a resident dolphin.
Essential info: Aloha Surf School, situated in the beach car park, offers board and wetsuit hire and lessons.
10. Climb Ireland’s highest peak – Carrauntoohil, Co Kerry
Carrauntoohil is the highest peak in all of Ireland and is at the centre of the MacGillycuddy’s Reek range in County Kerry. Worth doing in itself, just for the bragging rights. There are three routes; Devils Ladder route, Brother O Shea’s gully ( Cummeenoughter) route, Caher ( Coomloughra) route. The first been the most used.
What to expect: At 1,038m, the climb is a tough one, but on a good day, the views from the summit are incredible. The Devil’s Ladder is the ‘tourist’ route but has become badly eroded in places, so take care.
Essential Info: It’ll take about six hours to get up and back down. The start point is Lisleibane or Cronin’s Yard.
11. Visit the most southern point, Co Cork
Apparently Mizen Head is not the most southern point of Ireland, it is, in fact, the nearby Brow Head. You will get the to experience the brute force of the Atlantic from here. The area is dominated with wild and rugged beauty. If you are a film buff, you’ll be happy to know that scenes from Star Wars Episode VIII were also filmed here.
What to expect: No visitor centres, no crowds, just wildness!
Essential Info: Head to Crookhaven from Clonakilty to find it. Check the weather forecast before you go, as it is a fairly exposed part of the country!
12. Relax in style in Inchydoney, Co Cork
Inchydoney is a hidden paradise off Ireland’s west coast. Far from the crowds, it is a place where luxury and adventure collide. Splash out and set up camp in the famous Inchydoney Lodge and Spa, treat yourself to luxury by night in its spa and enjoy an incredible dining experience with locally sourced produce, then spend your days exploring the rugged beauty of West Cork by kayak, bike, or your own two feet. It is a place where people are kind, where the views are jaw-dropping, and where you can escape the monotony of life for a little while.
What to expect: It is the very best of Ireland. Spend your days’ surfing, whale watching, walking and kayaking. Then unwind in luxury at night.
Essential Info: Inchydoney Island Lodge and Spa is located in West Cork, just outside the town of Clonakilty. Roughly 50 minutes from Cork International Airport and Cork City, 2.5 hours from Shannon Airport and 3.5 hours from Dublin Aiport. Buses run daily from Clonakilty to Cork, where onward connections by Rail and Air can be made for those travelling without a car.
13. Take a ride in Ireland’s only cable car, Dursey Island, Co Cork
We bet you never knew that Ireland is home to a cable car? Situated on the Beara Peninsula in Co Cork, it is the only cable car to traverse open sea water in Europe. Open since 1969, the cable car was traditionally used to transfer people, sheep, cows and other supplies to Dursey Island from the mainland. These days, it also takes the odd tourist across too!
What to expect: A slightly hair-raising ride across the channel followed by blissful ruggedness on the island. Whales and dolphins are common visitors to the area and wild camping spots are plentiful
Essential information: If you are planning to head across to the island, be sure to bring your own supplies as there are no shops or restaurants. The cable car runs constantly from 9am-8pm during the summer months and costs €8 for adults. Check out Beara Tourism for more details.
14. Hit the trails at Ballyhoura, Co Limerick
Ballyhoura, Co Limerick, is the largest mountain bike trail network in Ireland. Offering a whopping 98km of trails you could spend an entire week here and still be exploring new routes on day seven.
What to expect: Breath-taking views of the Ballyhoura mountains, lung busting climbs, technical rocky sections and twisting singletrack.
Essential info: Trailriders, situated in the carpark at the trail head offers full day bike rental for €35. All of the trails are fully marked and graded from green to black in the same way that ski slopes are.
15. Kayak the Copper Coast, Co Waterford
A paddle along the Copper Coast is a must! Bathed in glorious sunshine, you glide along the calm, crystal waters of the Copper Coast, ducking in and out of caves and coves as you explore these epic cliffs from the water. The cacophony of colour will be forever imprinted beneathyour eyelids. The yellow of the cliffs and the sparkling green water as the sun dances on it is nothing short of incredible. The little inlets, coves, caves, blowholes, rock faces and seabirds circling overhead make for one special experience.
What to expect: Geology, mythology, wildlife, laughs, a workout, it is exploration at its finest.
Essential Info: Pure Adventure offers sea kayaking trips along the Copper Coast which runs along the Waterford Coastline. Phone: +35387 226 5550. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
16. Go on an overnight adventure on a deserted island, Co Sligo
Made famous by the poetry of W.B. Yeats, Lough Gill in Co Sligo holds a very special place in my heart. As a child, I spent two weeks of every summer at an outdoor activity camp just outside Sligo. Once during that two weeks, we were sent to Church Island situated in the middle of Lough Gill. We were tasked with choosing our mode of transport to the island (I soon learned that a kayak was a better option than the swim), building a shelter for ourselves and cooking our own food. It was absolutely fantastic.
What to expect: A small, deserted island in the middle of one of Ireland’s most picturesque lakes.
Essential info: Lough Gill is surprisingly underutilised with only one small tourist boat running tours of the lake in summer months. So if you are hoping to make your Church Island adventure a reality you will need to travel there with all of your own equipment in tow.
The best place to depart by kayak is Hazelwood. From there, the paddle around the island and back is just over five miles. Whether you choose to explore the island during the day or stay overnight is up to you. There is a small fisherman’s cottage on the island with a fire in which you can take cover if the weather does take a turn for the worse.
Check out the map of Lough Gill.
17. Visit the Worm Hole on Inis Mor, Co Galway
Pol na bPiest (in Gaelic), the Worm Hole, or Serpents Lair… all names for one surreal sea pool on the biggest of the Aran Islands, Inis Mor. It’s been put on the map in recent years by the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series, where athletes dive from up to 27 metres, three times the Olympic height. This natural rectangular shaped pool into the sea is a wonder to behold.
What to expect: It’s a stunning spot once you get there, but that is the issue, getting there! It’s far into the cliffs and requires some rock jumping and following some dodgy red arrows but with a bit of perseverance, you’ll find your way eventually!
Essential Info: To find it, walk east along the cliffs from Dún Aonghasa or follow signs from the village of Gort na gCapall. The Aran Island Ferries depart from Ros a’ Mhíl, a port 23 miles west of Galway City centre and costs €25 return per adult.
18. Cycle the Great Western Greenway, Co Mayo
The most well-known cycle route in Mayo is without a doubt the Great Western Greenway. The 42km route from Westport to Achill (or vice versa) is the longest off-road walking and cycling trail in Ireland. And it’s a stunner!
What to expect: A perfect way to spend a day off the road and in nature amongst rolling hills, stunning vistas and coffee shops galore!
19. Explore Delphi Valley, Co Mayo/Galway
The Delphi Valley is a beautiful, tranquil and remote spot in the depths of Connemara. It is definitely one to add to your Irish bucket list. Cycle, run, climb mountains, mountain bike to your heart’s content. If you stay in the four-star Delphi Resort or Wild Atlantic Hostel, they have a ton of activities on offer including a GoZip Forest Park, kayaking, surfing, coasteering, raftbuilding, SUPing, bushcraft survival, orienteering, a bog obstacle course, mountainbiking, a high ropes course, archery and yoga retreats. They even run events like The Delphi Tri Event and Delphi Challenge annually. We love it there!
What to expect: Every activity under the sun and breathtaking scenery.
Essential info: Delphi Resort is located in the heart of the scenically breath-taking Delphi Valley, near Leenane, Connemara, Co Galway. The resort is situated along the Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland’s 2500km coastal trail.
20. Wild Cooking, Co Clare
Ireland has ample opportunities for foraging and wild cooking if you know where to look. This wild cooking experience should be on everyone’s bucket list. The Wild Kitchen, based in Lahinch, offers an alternative adventure. Take a guided Wild Food Walk on land and seashore where you seek out delicious, edible, wild plants. Using foraged ingredients like seaweed, dilisk and sea spirulina, combined with watercress, pignuts, samphire and ramsons, you cook up one wild and wonderful meal.
What to expect: Tasty food and an adventure, wild cooking is an off the beaten track experience that you will remember forever.
21. Go for a surf in Co Clare
If you are anyway tuned into the Irish surf scene you’ll have heard of the monster waves been surfed beneath the Cliffs of Moher. In the right conditions, the most famous wave of them all, Aileen’s can reach 12m in height! Only the truly hardcore can ride this beast, but Clare is still pretty much the surf capital of Ireland. Surf schools are just bursting to teach you the tricks of the trade along the boardwalk of Lahinch. Take a lesson or if you are a seasoned surfer just rent a board (€10–€20) for a few hours, you can usually get foamies to decent hardboards.
What to expect: Even just heading to the cliffs to watch the local big wave surfers at work is awe-inspiring! But nothing substitutes the real deal, head to Lahinch for a little stoke.
Essential info: You’ll have your pick of providers, including the Lahinch Surf Experience, Ben’s Surf Clinic, Lahinch Surf School, and The Green Room Surf School. For a quieter surf head to Fanore in north-west Clare or Spanish Point.
22. Visit Clare Island, Co Mayo
Standing guard at the entrance to Clew Bay, Clare Island is a tiny mountainous island in County Mayo. Famous as the home of the pirate queen Grainne Uaile (Grace O’Malley), today just 145 people live here year round. But the diminutive island is a haven for adventure lovers. They’ve got coasteering, hiking, rock climbing, sea kayaking and snorkelling. All of which are available with Clare Island Adventures.
What to expect: An off the beaten track adventure with tons to entertain you while being immersed in the rugged beauty of the landscape.
Essential info: In summer, there are a number of ferry sailings from Roonagh Pier to Clare Island. The boat crossing takes about 25 minutes. In the winter, there are usually only two boats a day (morning and evening) Clare Island Ferry Co and O’Malley’s Ferries (Clare Island) Ltd. Check out our full guide to Clare Island here.
23. Climb Croagh Patrick, Co Mayo
Croagh Patrick (764m) is a peak steeped in history, religion and mythology. At 764m high and offering breathtaking views across Clew Bay it’s also a rite of passage for hiking enthusiasts. It is one of Ireland’s most stunning mountain climbs with its unique conical shape towering above the edge of the Atlantic Ocean on the rugged west coast. On a clear day, it offers panoramic views of the hundreds of tiny, green drumlin islands in Clew Bay, the Wild Atlantic Way, the gorgeous tourist town of Westport and surrounding mountain ranges.
What to expect: It’s a great route for people who don’t know how to navigate, but who want great views of the Atlantic coastline. It’s about 7km and will take 3-4 hours return.
Essential info: The start of the mountain walk is a short 10/15 minute drive from Westport town and most people come that way by car. There are also bus and train services to Westport from Dublin and Galway if that’s your preference. Check out our full guide to Croagh Patrick here.
24. Cycle a part of the Wild Atlantic Way
There is something about the feeling of a salty wind hitting your face. It is exhilarating. And luckily, living on a small island like Ireland we have an abundance of exposed coastal bike rides right on our doorsteps. A highlight, however, has to be the sections of the Wild Atlantic Way in north Donegal – if you cycled any closer to the sea, you would be in it! Departing from Rathmullen, you can wind your way up the coast, past Portsalon, right around Fanad Head before crossing Drongawn Lough and looping right around Melmore
What to expect: Quiet roads offering mind-blowing views of golden sandy beaches, dramatic cliffs and the crashing Atlantic with a few heart-pumping climbs thrown in for good measure.
Essential info: If you don’t own a bike there are plenty of bike rental companies dotted around the country. However, if you are looking to do longer rides, it may be worth renting a light road bike as it will make your time in the saddle infinitely more enjoyable. Biking.ie has a fleet of carbon road bikes available to rent in Dublin and Wicklow which you can take for up to a week.
Check out the Wild Atlantic Way for further information on the various cycling routes available.
25. Walk the One Man’s Path on Slieve League
This narrow scrambling path runs up the spine of Slieve League and leads you up to the highest sea cliffs in Ireland. These cliffs are also amongst the highest sea cliffs in Europe. From the highest point, it’s a staggering 609m (1,998 feet) drop into the Atlantic Ocean below.
What to expect: From the designated viewing points, the views are just incredible! On a clear day you can see right across to Sligo, Leitrim and the Mayo coast.
Essential Info: It’s only about a 10km round-trip, but you need to be a fairly experienced climber to tackle the ridge.
26. Hit the Causeway Coastal route in a VW camper
Nothing says freedom quite like the feeling of hitting the road in a vintage VW camper van. Enjoy a slower pace of life as you weave your way along this glorious coastal road. With its chocolate box villages, traditional fishing harbours, pristine beaches and epic geological and historic sights, you’ll find yourself stopping every few minutes to absorb it all. And if you don’t fancy squeezing yourself into a hammock for the night inside the van, you park it up and head for one of the many boutique guesthouses or hotels along the route.
What to expect: Follow our full Causeway Coast itinerary here.
Essential info: Happy Campers NI rents out a selection of VW camper vans from its base in Newtonards just outside Belfast.
27. Conquer your first sea stack, Co Donegal
It’s hard not to be wowed by Cnoc na Mara, near Glencolumbkille in Co Donegal. Standing at 100-metres, this sea stack provides an exhilarating experience. Standing on a pinpoint 100m above the ocean, 500m from the nearest point of land and 20km from the nearest main road, you are guaranteed to feel a million miles from civilisation.
What to expect: You will get to experience one of Ireland’s most remote climbs – standing on the pinpoint top of the sea-stack you will feel a million miles from anywhere as the sea surrounds you below.
Essential info: You need a good head for heights and some climbing experience for this one. In addition to Cnoc na Mara, Unique Ascent offers a number of additional routes to explore across the coast of Donegal, including 250m sea cliffs.
28. Explore the Mourne Mountains, Co Down
These Northern Ireland mountains are the perfect place for biking and hiking, camping and climbing! They are the highest and most dramatic mountain range in Northern Ireland and voted the ‘Best Walking Destination’ in Northern Ireland in WalkNI’s inaugural awards. They have 12 peaks rising above 600m and plenty of walks on offer to suit all ages and abilities. Slieve Donard is the highest peak for a great hike or for rock climbing head to Pigeon Rock or Fairhead.
What to expect: The very best of Northern Ireland, a place to play and quieten the mind.
Essential info: The Mourne Mountains are situated 50km south of Belfast and just over 100km north of Dublin. Translink operates a “rambler” bus service through the Mournes from May-August each year, Tuesday to Sunday. Activities in the Mournes Shuttle Services (AIMSS) provides a shuttle service to walkers in the Mourne Area. For more information or to book the shuttle service, contact Peter Magowan on +44(0)75 1641 2076.
29. Swim under the Carrick a Rede Rope Bridge, Co Antrim
This should be an absolute must on everyone’s to-do list. Departing from Ballycastle, skipper Richard from Aquaholics talks you through the myth and history surrounding this unique landscape. He also happens to have worked on Game of Thrones, which is a further bonus for fans of the show. Bob past Kinbane Castle and onto the Carrick-a-Rede Bridge, hopefully, you’ll spot a big pod of dolphins, minke whales or even a basking shark. The highlight of the trip for us, however, is undoubtedly the jump off the boat into the North Atlantic Sea. Swimming right between the imposing cliff face and sea stacks and under the Carrick-A-Rede rope bridge offers a completely different perspective on this famous attraction. It’s a whole lot of fun and highly recommended.
What to expect: Wildlife, adrenaline, fresh air and a chance to swim underneath one of Northern Ireland’s most iconic landmarks.
Essential info: Aquaholics runs two boat trips along the Causeway Coast. The Giant’s Causeway Coast and Rathlin Island boat trip departs from Portstewart Harbour and visits the Skerries, Dunluce Castle, the Giant’s Causeway, Whitepark Bay, Ballintoy and Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. It then heads over to Rathlin Island to the bird sanctuary and West Lighthouse before you get a 45-minute break on Rathlin. The trip costs just £50. The cheaper alternative is the Puffins Express and Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge boat trip. The two-hour trip is £30 per adult and just £15 for under 12s.
30. Visit the most northern point, Co Donegal
Malin Head in Donegal is Ireland’s most northern point. Head to Banba’s Crown at the very tip of it, to see the most northerly building on the mainland. The cliff top tower was named ‘Banba’ after the mythological patron goddess of Ireland. It’s got a fascinating history, built as a Napoleonic lookout tower and went on to be used by Lloyds of London to contact ships offshore during WWI and WWII.
What to expect: Rocks, shorelines and the highest sand-dunes in Europe. Plus, if you are very lucky, on a few nights a year you can see the Northern Lights from this point!
Essential Info: Make sure to grab a coffee or something to eat from the somewhat legendary food truck Caffe Banba that is sometimes parked up there.
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