10 adventure sports to do in Ireland
Back when we were kids life seemed like a giant obstacle course – running, climbing, jumping, racing, falling over, wearing our scars with pride. Nowadays it can sometimes seem like we’re in the slow lane and life is overtaking us at speed.
But more and more people are kicking back against complacency, choosing a life of adventure, exploring their limits, and perhaps even going a little bit renegade. Here are some of the most exciting and fun adventures you can have today in Ireland.
Quad biking is the perfect autumn/winter adventure sport. It’s noisy, muddy, bone-rattling brilliant where man and machine take on nature in the form of ditches, hills, streams, bridges and other obstacles. Participants can compete against friends in time trials and mastering skills such as reversing around obstacles at speed and balancing on seesaws. This thrilling four-wheel experience is perfect for individuals and couples as well as groups and no experience is necessary before mounting the all-terrain vehicle, as full training is given.
Just remember to wear appropriate clothing – long sleeve tops and trousers and a pair of strong, waterproof boots if you have them (helmets and gloves are provided). This is one sport you where the elements definitely add to the sense of adventure. www.quadattack.ie
Kayaking or canoeing conjures up images of paddling genteelly along a quiet waterway but it can be as far removed from messing about on the river as your sense of adventure permits.
Canoe Ireland lists a variety of disciplines including slalom, wild water racing, paddle surfing, marathon, freestyle and sprint - basically something to suit every age, ability and ambition including regular competitions for all skill levels. Canoeing and kayaking are Olympic sports full of drama and physical challenge with a significant frisson of danger.
Not surprisingly taking a Canoe Ireland accredited course is advised and participants can take assessments and gain qualifications while moving through the difficulty levels of the sport. These take place all over Ireland all year round. In a country surrounded by water and with a near unlimited supply of rivers kayaking is one of the most easily accessible of adventure sports and, in terms of personal challenge, one of the most rewarding. www.canoe.ie
It shouldn’t be too surprising that rock climbing and bouldering are increasingly popular in Ireland, basically a land carved out of rock. Thankfully the advent of indoor climbing in the late 1980s has meant that the death-defying feats of the world’s most adventurous climbers can now be mimicked in the safety and relative comfort of a well equipped and supervised hall. While you won’t get the breathtaking views afforded the outdoor climber you will be able to hone your skills - a mix of brawn and brain - before taking the leap into the great outdoors.
There are hundreds of amazing outdoor climbing locations around the country and would-be climbers can join a club, participate in hundreds of events annually and even compete in leagues. Bouldering is a form of rock climbing done without the aid of ropes or harnesses on surfaces usually less than 6 meters tall. It allows climbers to practice “problems” (routes) on large rocks or indoor walls featuring overhangs, horizontal traverses and other tricky technical challenges. Strength, agility and a good eye for problem solving are key. www.mountaineering.ie
Caving could be described as an adventure sport born out of scientific endeavor. Speleology is the scientific study of caves and caving offers the thrill seeker the chance to visit places few on earth have ever been before. It’s dirty, wet and cold and probably not for the claustrophobic but that’s also a huge part of its appeal. It’s primal, ancient and mysterious with the added benefit of enhancing your knowledge of geology, chemistry, physics and cartography.
Caving clubs offer newcomers an entry into what can be a dangerous and physically challenging pastime. Curious first timers will usually spend an hour or two underground with an experienced caver, often following the course of an underground river, admiring stalagmites and stalactites. Wear old clothes, strong boots, and bring gloves and a towel. Helmets and lights are supplied as are basic first aid supplies. The primary locations for caving in Ireland are Clare, Cork, Cavan, Fermanagh, Sligo, Leitrim and Kerry. www.caving.ie
Petrol heads can unleash their inner Jeremy Clarkson with an off road driving experience at one of the many venues or clubs around Ireland. Utilizing abandoned trails, streams, bogs, washouts, steep climbs and obstacles with terrifying names like “The Coffin” and “The Twister”, 4x4 driving will test the skills of even the most committed adventure motorist.
There are courses for novices and experts alike and you can bring your own vehicle or hire one depending on the type of competition or course. If you want to compete, Motor Sport Ireland run 4x4 events in Kerry, Cork, Wicklow and Tipperary all year round except July and August Competitions usually consist of driving three routes up to four times with the aim that drivers pass cleanly through “gates” situated at the most difficult parts of the course. It’s a dash of James Bond with an element of Bear Grylls behind the wheel in the great Irish outdoors – what could be more fun? www.motorsportireland.com
Sailing comes in two types, cruising and racing and it’s the latter which offers the most visceral of maritime experiences. Life on the ocean wave will rarely be so thrilling and interested landlubbers can dip their toe in the water with any of the dozens of sailing clubs around the country. The Irish Sailing Association offers courses and training at all levels through clubs and for every class of sea-fearing craft imaginable from dinghies, catamarans, and keelboats to yachts, powerboats, jet skis, and motor yachts. There are at least 40 classes of craft currently competing so there really is something for all ages, abilities and pockets. And don’t forget the impressive social side of sailing – there are regattas, fundraisers, competitions, and club events every weekend for when you can’t be in a boat but want to give your land legs a little workout drinking or dancing www.sailing.ie
Kite surfing dates back to the early 1800s but it was only in the 1970s that it began to take off with the advent of stronger, more controllable kites. It is, as its name suggests, an amalgam of kite flying and surfing with additional elements of wakeboarding, windsurfing and paragliding. Participants use their kite to harness the power of the wind and propel themselves across water on a wakeboard.
There are a variety of disciplines such as freestyle, wakestyle, wave-riding, course racing, and airstyle and the Irish Kite Surfacing Association runs accredited training courses and competitions through clubs around the country generally in-season from March to November. It is recommended interested adventurers take a three-day course to master the art and from there the sky is the limit.
Born in New Zealand and with a suitably futuristic name Zorbing, also known as orbing or sphering, is a high-octane downhill sport where participants are encased in a giant transparent plastic orb before being rolled at speed down the incline.
Non-harnessed orbs is the equivalent of a team sport, where orbs can carry up to three people while harnessed is for individuals seeking the crazy thrill of rattling down an slope inside an oversized see-through ball. Variations of zorbing are now popping up around the country including bubble soccer where participants where a zorb on the upper half of their body leaving their legs free to chase, control and kick a football.
Aqua zorbing adds water to the mix where zorb rollers allow participants to do walk on water while remaining dry inside the zorb. Zorbing brings out the inner child in everyone, offer a stimulating thrill while keeping players from the potential pitfalls of more adventurous physical activities.
It’s often said the Irish have a love affair with horses and we certainly punch above our weight internationally on the racing, eventing and show jumping circuits. Not so well known but increasingly on the radar is TREC, a discipline horse lovers around the world are increasingly taking to their hearts.
Developed in France in the 1970s to help develop the skills of trekking horses it comprises three elements: orienteering on a predetermined route up to 45 kilometers at different set speeds, control pace between walking and cantering on a 150 metre course and obstacles which feature hazards to be negotiated over three kilometers.
Some horse riding skills are needed but if you don’t have those, what are you waiting for?
Often used for personal development and team building assault courses can also offer an extreme physical challenge particularly when combined with mud runs, zip lining and other army-style obstacles. Numerous mud runs or adventure races have sprung up in Ireland over the last few years tempting those who want a more all round physical workout than a jog around the local park.
Events like Tough Mudder, MuckFest and Toughest Muckers offer a messy but exhilarating adreniline rush with a degree of team cameraderie not often found in boring old road racing as competitors attempt to traverse obstacles along a usually wet and muddy cross country course for up to 10 kilometers.
For those who like to stay a little cleaner there are plenty of vertical-based challenges in the form of high rope courses which come in a variety of forms such as static, dynamic, vertical and M-Belay and often ending in climbers ziplining back to the safety of terra firma. Those with a fear of heights or an aversion to getting their hands dirty need not apply
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