Top 30 adventure breaks
Published 12/07/2015 | 02:30
Forget lying on the beach - climb a sea stack or jump out of a plane, and enjoy the thrill of extreme adventure
1 Kitesurf in Achill
You're on the edge of the world at Dugort in Achill, the country's largest island, where you can learn to ride the wind and the waves with the kitesurf dudes at the Pure Magic Lodge. Après surf at the Lodge is hopping, pizza is unbeatable, the music strong - you might well find yourself leading the session.
Where Pure Magic, 085 243-9782; puremagic.ie
When March to November
Price One-hour private kitesurf lesson, €75; foundation courses of four three-hour session, €395
Parking Free on site
Food Pizza a legend, the best coffee in Achill
Stay at B&B on site
2 Rockclimb in Dalkey
Cling to the side of a cliff - and learn to belay, set up rope systems, tie a knot - all in a weekend. Beginners' classes take place in a disused granite quarry, but there are enough knife-edge walls to challenge experienced climbers.
Where The Adventure Agency,
(01) 254-2754; adventure.ie
Start point Dalkey Quarry, Killiney Hill Park, Co Dublin
Price €180 for beginners' weekend (non-residential), courses run throughout the summer
Best Dalkey post-climb pub McDonagh's on Castle Street for a pint and toastie; Finnegan's on Sorrento Road for star-spotting.
3 Take to the water
Whistle down the legend-laden Boyne river on a raft or kayak, and see Newgrange just as the Vikings first saw it - by boat. There's plenty of time too for swimming.
Where Boyne Valley Activities, Trim, Co Meath,
086 734-2585/086 734-2586; boynevalleyactivities.ie
Start point Varies, depending on tour
Price €40pp for two hours (including drop-off and pick-up)
Best packed lunch From Slane Bake on Slane Main Street
4 Hike the Bangor Trail
This old drover's trail runs from Bangor Erris through Ballycroy National Park and the Nephin Beg range to end at Newport in Mayo. It's a tough 24/37km-long hike that threads through forest plantation. You can camp overnight in a mountain shelter along the route or pitch your tent under star-bright skies.
Where Start at the Brogan Carroll bothy at Letterkeen Woods, 12km from Newport, Co Mayo
Getting there Head from Newport along the N59 to Achill, after 1km turn right for Lough Feeagh/ Letterkeen; after 12km, turn left onto a forestry road just after a bridge, follow for 1km to the bothy
Pack A compass and copy of Joe McDermott's guidebook The Bangor Trail, Ordnance Survey Ireland Discovery Series, map 23
Food Ginger and Wild tearooms at the park's visitor centre, open daily, April to September; ballycroynationalpark.ie; or carb up at The Blue Bicycle, Newport
5 Zipline through Lough Key Forest and Activity Park
Play Tarzan (or Jane), and swing through 1.5km of rope bridges, tightropes, climbing walls, ladders and ziplines or brave the tree canopy on a BMX bike. Down on the ground, you can purr through 350 hectares of fine broadleaf forest on electric bikes or Segway.
Where Lough Key Forest and Activity Park, Boyle, Co Roscommon, (071) 967-3122; loughkey.ie
Open April to end August, daily; for outside summer hours see website
Food Lakeside Café on site
Stay at Camping and caravan site open to end August
6 Bushcraft survival weekend
Kippure Estate in the Wicklow Mountains is wild enough to merit a few survival tricks. Ex-military instructors will teach you how to light a fire à la Bear Grylls, build a shelter (and sleep in it), forage, track animals, even how to navigate the wilds at night.
Where Adventure Wicklow, Kippure Estate, Manor Kilbride, Blessington, Co Wicklow, (01) 458-2889; adventurewicklow.com
Price Two days and overnight with survivor instructors, €199
Food Glendalough Green in Laragh
7 Learn to surf in Strandhill
The northwest coast is a surf mecca with big bad breakers like Aileen off the Cliffs of Moher and The Peak at Bundoran. Start out nice and easy at Strandhill where the consistent beach breaks are just the speed for beginners.
Where Strandhill Surf School, (071) 916-8483; strandhillsurfschool.com
Price Adult, €35 for 3 hours, child, €25
Unwind at Try a seaweed bath at Kilcullen's in Enniscrone; kilcullenseaweedbaths.com
8 Bike the west
Explore the coastline of Clare by bike with a guide - a triathlete who has covered every inch during training. The 30km Half Loop tour winds through the scenery of the Shannon Estuary.
Where The Bog Road Bike Tours, 086 278-0161; bogroadbiketours.com
Start point Murphy Blacks restaurant, Kilkee, Co Clare, (065) 905-6854; murphyblacks.ie
Price Four-hour tour, €35 or €45 with bike hire, helmet and safety equipment
Food Packed lunch on request
9 Dive in Kinsale
If you've never dived, you can test the waters without undergoing the usual 4-5 day PADI training in Kinsale. Wade into the water from the shore or slip overboard in up to 1-2 metres of depth. Sign up for the full PADI course and you get a discount.
Where Ocean Addicts, Kinsale, 087 274-4992; oceanaddicts.ie
Price Half-day, €80 with instructor
Equipment All included
Best time of year June to September
10 SUP in Brittas
It may not have the adrenaline charge of carving a reef breaker but Stand Up Paddleboarding is a fine way to explore a cave-filled coastline, learn the basics of surfing and catch some waves.
Where Brittas Bay Surf School (between North and South Car Park, Brittas Bay, Co Wicklow, 086 739-6010; brittasbaysurfschool.com
Open Year-round; booking essential
Price €35 for two hours
Food The Tap, Ballard Village, Kilbride, (0404) 48887, will deliver to your caravan or tent; or stop in at The Bay Café, 2 Bayview, Co Wicklow
11 Coasteer in Kerry
Leap into the cold Atlantic waters from a sea cliff, swim through sea arches, explore caves, scramble up and over craggy outcrops - then do it all over again. That, folks, is coasteering.
Where Mór Active, 086 389-0171; moractivetours.com
Price €50 for 3 hours
Essentials Helmet, buoyancy and wetsuit provided but bring swimsuit, old trainers, change of clothes and towel
Food Bring snacks and a bottle of water
12 Have a whale of a time
Jump aboard the good ship Voyager, a speedy catamaran that leaves out of Baltimore Harbour, for a half-day tour of the feeding grounds of minke, fin and humpback whales, and dolphins.
Where Whale Watch West Cork, 086 120-0027/(028) 33357; whalewatchwestcork.com
Price €50 for a four-hour trip; booking essential
Essentials Dress warmly and bring swimming gear
Best time of year June to November
Food Jacob's Bar in Baltimore
13 Climb the highest mountain
Notch up the country's highest peak, Carrauntoohill at 1039m in Kerry's McGillycuddy Reeks with an experienced guide. Hike onto the peak itself where, on a fine day, the Dingle Peninsula and Kenmare are visible below.
Where 087 744-0523/087 932-3527; kerryclimbing.ie
Fitness level Good, expect a six-hour hike
Food Pack sambos and red lemonade
Relive it Kate Kearneys Cottage, Gap of Dunloe
14 Canyoning in Kerry
The Torc gorge in Kerry is deep, narrow and only accessible by river. Canyoning down it means abseiling down a tumbling waterfall, swimming across Gollum's Pool, taking in rock-slides, jumps and plunges, and kayaking through the lush Kerry landscape.
Where Outdoors Ireland, 086 860-4563; outdoorsireland.com
Start point Muckross Park Hotel, Killarney National Park, Co Kerry
Price €60pp for 3-hour trip
Food Bring your own picnic
Stay at Try Muckross Park Hotel (muckrosspark.com) or camp at Grove Lane Glamping (killarneyglamping.com)
15 Fish on the Blackwater River
Some of the finest salmon fishing in the country is on the Blackwater River that runs through Cork and Waterford. Hook up with champion fisherwoman Glenda Powell of Blackwater Lodge for a half-day lesson in fly casting.
Where Blackwater Lodge and Salmon Fishery, Upper Ballyduff, Co Waterford, 087 235-1560;
Price Private lesson, €50 per hour plus licence and fishing fee
Stay at B&B and self-catering on site
16 Climb a Donegal sea stack
There are nearly 100 windswept sea stacks jutting out of the frothing sea off Donegal's coast. To reach them you first abseil down a sea cliff, cross open water to land at their base and then, well, it's crampons on and up you go. No experience necessary.
Where Iain Miller, Unique Ascent, 087 758-4810; uniqueascent.ie
Equipment Provided, but bring packed lunch and sense of humour
Suitable for Six to 81-year-olds have done it
17 Horse riding in the west
See the wild west by horseback with a six-day trek through gentle forest in Galway, over the Slieve Aughty mountains to Lough Derg, and on to the Cliffs of Moher, and sleep in a renovated farmhouse.
Where Irish Horse Riding, An Sibin, Derryoran East, Whitegate, Co Clare, (061) 927-411; irishhorseriding.com
Price From €1,105 (shorter breaks can be arranged) includes 7 nights' accommodation, all meals and 6 days of tours
18 Island hop in Lough Erne
Paddle the labyrinthine channels, bays and islands from Upper to Lower Lough Erne, all 50km of it, with plenty of historical (and foodie) stop-offs such as Crom Estate, Enniskillen Castle and Devenish Tower along the way. Pack your tent for some wild camping or book into a bothy on Trannish Island.
Boat rental from Share Village, (048) 677-22122; sharevillage.org
Price £30 for single kayak, £35 for a double kayak per day, drop-offs available for a fee
Stay at On Trannish Island, Share Village, as above or at Lusty Beg Island,
(048) 6863-3300; lustybegisland.com
Maps, routes and useful info canoeni.com
19 Visit a megalithic cemetery
The Miner's Way is an 118km-long route winding through the lake-studded areas of counties Leitrim, Sligo and Roscommon that takes in centuries of Irish history along the way. Highlight? A high-sided limestone valley carved by a glacier that leads to the ancient Carrowkeel cairn complex, older than Newgrange and aligned to the summer solstice so that the setting sun lights up the back of the tomb. Visit yourself or go with archaeologist Auriel Robinson.
Where Maps of the Miner's Way & Historical Trail from irishtrails.ie or book a tour with Auriel Robinson of Sea Trails, 087 240-5071; seatrails.ie
Price Adult, €25; child, €10 for 3-hour trip
Start point Carrowkeel carpark, Co Roscommon
Food Coffee, tea and treats included
Best time to visit Summer solstice
20 Take the Turf Challenge in Killary
Schlep through mud, hurtle down waterslides, clamber up trees and through bog on this three-hour course that'll take you back to childhood fun. And if you've still energy to burn, you can try a 22m-bungee jump, ringo ride (a giant inflatable doughnut pulled by a speed boat) or wake-boarding on the fjord.
Where Killary Adventure Company, Leenane, Co Galway, (095) 43411; killaryadventure.com
Price Adult, from €46, child, from €40 for 1.5 hours
Stay at Camping and hostel-style on site
Best pub Gayners in Leenane where The Field was filmed
21 Raft on the Liffey
Start at the Strawberry Beds, just 20 minutes from Dublin's city centre, and flow 8km downriver through the Beds, over four weirs, keeping an eye out for wildlife and history until you reach Dublin town. Can you capsize? Yep, the guide can make that happen.
Where Canoe Centre, Mill Lane, Palmerstown, Dublin 20, (01) 626-4363; rafting.ie
Price Minimum group of four, €279, includes drop-off
Equipment Provided, just bring swimming togs, shoes and a towel
Best time to visit Spring and autumn have good water on the river
22 Mountain Biking in Tyrone
Build your mountain bike muscle at Blessingbourne Estate, with 13km of trails designed by Phil Saxena, the man behind the Beijing Olympics course. Choose from moderate blue trails or red trails such as Roller Coaster or Crocodile's Back.
Where Blessingbourne Estate, Co Tyrone,
(048) 8952-1188; blessingbourne.com
Price Entry fee to car park and trails, £5 Bike rental Available on site, booking ahead essential; Scott bike rental for three hours, adult, £15; child, £5
Stay at Self-catering available at the Estate
Best time to visit May to August
23 Wake-board in Dublin
Think skateboarding, then add water and a cable and you have cable wake-boarding. Twist and turn, jump and ride obstacles on your board as you're pulled on a cable between two towers.
Where Wakedock, South Dock Road, Grand Canal Dock, Ringsend, Dublin 4, (01) 664-3883; wakedock.ie
Prices Adult, €60 for 30 mins (includes all kit)
Best time Wednesday is club night with BBQ and rides
Refuel Herb Street, Hanover Quay, Grand Canal Dock, Dublin 2, (01) 675-3875; herbstreet.ie
24 Skydive in Derry
Jump from an aircraft at 13,000 feet and whistle through the air at 120 miles per hour harnessed to an instructor. Or start solo, daredevil you, with a 3,200-foot jump.
Where Skydive Wild Geese, Movenis Airfield, Carrowreagh Road, Garvagh, Co Derry, (048) 295-58665;
Price Solo static line course, £210; tandem skydive course, £260 - medical cert required for over-40s
25 Go fishing in Donegal
Fish for your supper, spot dolphins, killer whales, basking sharks and seal, and explore the unspoilt northwest coastline with a sea angling trip in Dowros Bay.
Where Tirconnell Charters,
087 245-8514/(074) 953 7031; tirconnellcharters.com
Start point Rosbeg pier or Portnoo Pier, Co Donegal
Price Full-day boat charter, €450, or €56pps (min 8 people); half-day boat charter, €300, or €75pps (min 4 people)
Equipment All rods and tackle, safety gear provided
Stay at The Nesbitt Arms Hotel, Ardara, (0749) 541-103; nesbittarms.com
26 Rally drive in Monaghan
Hit top gear at Rally School Ireland where you can rev it up around the purpose-built course. Choose from a Ferrari or high-performance Porsche 911, tog up in rally overalls and race against your personal best or a mate (with an instructor in the passenger seat). Where Rally School Ireland, Scotstown, Co Monaghan, (047) 89098; rallyschoolireland.ie
Price From €140 for half day to €450 for a full day, lunch included, no licence necessary
Stay at Castle Leslie, Glaslough, Co Monaghan, (047) 88 100; castleleslie.com
27 Freewheel through a forest in Limerick
For that whoosh of adrenaline, hit the trail at Ballyhoura Mountain Bike Trail, a 100km-long free-flowing forest run with board walks, twists, tight turns and technical rock and root challenges.
Where Ballyhoura Mountain, (063) 91300; visitballyhoura.com; coillteoutdoors.ie
Price Entry to car park and trails, €5
Open Year-round, Tuesday to Sunday
Bike rental Available at Trailhead with Trail Riders, 087 271-7330; trailriders.ie, booking essential, from €35 for a day with helmet, etc
28 Blokart in Bundoran
Get the wind in your sails with a blokart - a high-tech land yacht powered by the wind. Easy to master, you'll be racing your mates along the flat sands of Tullan Strand Beach in no time.
Where TurfnSurf Lodge & Surf School, 6 Bayview Terrace, Bundoran, Co Donegal, (071) 984-1091; turfnsurf.ie
Price Adult, €35, child (under 16), €25, includes transfers, lesson
Essentials Tracksuit pants, hoodie and old trainers
29 Follow the River Barrow
At 192km, the Barrow rises in Laois, and winds through Kildare, Kilkenny, Carlow, Wexford and out to the sea at Waterford. Trace its route with a walk along riverside ways with the Barrow Way, or speed along with a whitewater rush by kayak.
Where The Barrow Way starts at Robertstown, Co Kildare, see irishtrails.ie for helpful maps
End at St Mullins, Co Carlow
Best section Ballytiglea Bridge to St Mullins (Map 11-12, irishtrails.ie)
Food Try Mullichain Café
Guided kayak trip Go With the Flow, 087 2529-700; gowiththeflow.ie
30 Take the Wild Atlantic Challenge
At 42km, the Great Western Greenway is a great day out, but for more of a stretch, try the Wild Atlantic Challenge. Over three days, explore the beautiful Mayo coastline from every angle - by bike, by sea kayak paddling around Clew Bay's 365 islands and from above - by climbing the pilgrim mountain of Croagh Patrick.
Where Clew Bay Bike Hire, Distillery Road, Westport, (098) 24818; clewbayoutdoors.ie
Price €65pp including shuttle to start points, kayak and bikes (and moral support) rental
Best part The knockout views
* For more information see discoverireland.ie