Five fab ways to get your adrenaline on in Ireland this year
You don't have to be a thrill-seeking sports fanatic to enjoy these new extreme activities, but it helps! Pól Ó Conghaile lists his top five places to get your kicks
Zorb your heart out
Zorbing is synonymous with New Zealand, but it's becoming more and more popular in Ireland too, with adventure centres in Carlingford and Westport, among others, introducing it in recent years.
Basically, it involves rolling downhill in a giant ball made of transparent plastic... at up to 30mph. You can be strapped into the zorbs or you can sit in a pool of sloshing water... it's great fun, but not for the faint-hearted!
Both places do a whole range of adventure activities, including zip wires, archery and rock-climbing, highlighting how popular these sports have become.
On yer bike like Kimye
Biking in Ballyhoura. Photo: Victor Lucas
Last summer we gasped in amazement as Kim Kardashian and Kanye West reportedly spent part of their Irish honeymoon barrelling down the mountain bike trails at Ballyhoura... leaving a generous tip.
Mountain biking has exploded in popularity in recent years, with trails in Ballinastoe, Co Wicklow and Ticknock (in the Dublin Mountains) among others. But the original and the best is undoubtedly the Ballyhoura Mountain Bike Trails.
Graded loops here range from a 6km starter trail to a 51km bone-rattler, and are all clearly marked with dummy-friendly signage. Whether a beginner or improver, the key is to stand up, float your body about, 'feather' the brakes (i.e. squeeze lightly and release several times in succession), and concentrate hard. Afterwards, you can wash the muck off your face in on-site showers... it's exhilarating stuff.
Details: visitballyhoura.com; bike hire from €35.
SUP-faris in Sligo and Leitrim
SUPforall.ie on Lough Gill
SUP (Stand-Up Paddling) is a cross between surfing and kayaking that sees participants standing on large boards to propel themselves through waterways and waves. It's reported to be one of the fastest growing sports on the planet... and it's bloody addictive.
"It's about Zen, not adrenaline," says David O'Hara of SUPforall.ie.
It's surprisingly easy, too. SUP involves standing on large boards, paddling as you might a canoe, and feeling the stress just melt away. I took a recent trip down the River Bonet towards Lough Gill. The SUP-fari took us out to the famed Lake Isle of Inishfree, the heart of Yeats Country.
LeitrimSurf.ie also does SUP trips on the new Shannon Blueway - along the old Lough Allen Canal at Drumshanbo.
Coasteering in Kerry
Coasteering in Kerry
What's coasteering? It incorporates a little bit of everything... rock climbing, jumping, swimming (the list goes on) and the beauty is anyone can do it.
"There are no obligations," as Michael Crawley of Mór Active in Kerry told me when I gave it a try near Cahirsiveen. "But for most people it's like climbing their Everest. The smile on their faces is the thing."
Squeezing into wetsuits, helmets, buoyancy vests and sneakers, we jumped straight into the Atlantic, shouting and whooping as the water flushed through our suits. From there, we set off on a wacky coastal obstacle course culminating in 'El Capitan', an 8-metre rock.
Details: moractive.com; €50 approx.
Get your snorkel on...
Snorkelling Ireland's blueways
Five Blueways (snorkelling and kayaking trails aiming to get visitors up close and personal with the marine environment) were launched last year in Galway and Mayo - at Boffin Harbour on Inishbofin, Killary Fjord in Leenane, Keem Bay on Achill Island, Mannin Bay near Clifden and Old Head at Louisburgh.
There's a surprising amount to see underwater off the west coast - scallops, wrasse, crabs, seaweeds etc - but be under no illusions, the water is cold. Average Atlantic temperatures range between eight and 14 degrees in Ireland.
You can take guided tours with companies like Scuba Dive West or Adventure West, but you can also just go by yourself.