TEN AD­VEN­TURES IN IRE­LAND’S OUT­DOORS

From Cork to Done­gal and Kilkenny to Mayo, there’s plenty of ac­tiv­i­ties for thrill-seek­ers the length and breadth of the coun­try

The Irish Times - Weekend Review - - OUTDOORS - John G O’Dwyer

1 Is­lands, seals and caves, Cork

Kayaks are a sim­ple but won­der­ful in­ven­tion giv­ing the free­dom to ac­cess ar­eas of the coast­line de­nied to al­most every­one else. At­lantic Sea Kayak­ing is based on the mem­o­rable mar­itime coast of west Cork and takes ad­van­tage of this to ex­plore one of the world’s most beau­ti­ful marine en­vi­ron­ments. On a half- day trip, de­signed es­pe­cially for those with just a lit­tle kayak­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, you can ex­plore sea arches and caves, visit a seal colony, marvel at the marine life and ex­plore is­lands.

In­for­ma­tion: at­lantic­seakayak­ing.com

2 A thrill on the Fairy Hill, Tip­per­ary

Few ex­pe­ri­ences com­pare with the ex­cite­ment of rac­ing down­hill by bike with the wind through your hair. Fairy­mount Farm has be­longed to the Kenny fam­ily for gen­er­a­tions and some years ago they in­tro­duced moun­tain biking on Knock­she­gowna (Hill of the Fairies). Their selling point is Ire­land’s first up­lift ser­vice: bike and rider are trans­ported back to the sum­mit after each run. Fairy­mount is now a place where you cre­ate your own level of chal­lenge. You will start out ten­ta­tively on the easy green trail but may be amazed by how quickly you move on to the in­ter­me­di­ate trail or even the jumps trail where, with in­creased speed, you will ex­pe­ri­ence the thrill of go­ing air­borne.

bikeparkire­land.ie

In­for­ma­tion: 3 Swoop like a bird, Kilkenny

Ar­riv­ing at the new Castle­comer Dis­cov­ery Park your re­ac­tion is likely to be “wow”, for this is a place that of­fers a ton of fun for peo­ple of ev­ery age. There is a craft yard, an in­ter­pre­tive cen­tre, a fairy vil­lage, a boat­ing lake, walk­ing trails and even a tree-top ad­ven­ture. As moths to light, how­ever, adren­a­line junkies will be drawn to Ire­land’s long­est over­wa­ter zi­pline. There is a tense mo­ment be­fore the off, but then all is for­got­ten as you swoop over wa­ter and wood­land while en­joy­ing a vista that, up to now, was strictly the pre­serve of the birds.

In­for­ma­tion: dis­cov­ery­park.ie

4 Ire­land’s most fa­mous ridge, Kerry

In Fe­bru­ary 1987, Kerry men Con Mo­ri­arty and John Cronin as­cended the north­east face of Car­raun­toohil in search of good ice-climb­ing. To their as­ton­ish­ment they dis­cov­ered a pre­vi­ously un­known ridge they im­me­di­ately chris­tened Howl­ing. This ridge has since be­come Ire­land’s most fa­mous climb, a rite of pas­sage for hill­walk­ers mak­ing the tran­si­tion from the re­lax­ing en­deav­our of up­land ram­bling to the knee- knock­ing in­ten­sity of ver­ti­cal rock. To as­cend Howl­ing safely you need train­ing, how­ever, and this is pro­vided by lo­cal com­pany Kerry Climb­ing. Over an in­ten­sive day in Kerry’s MacGil­ly­cuddy’s Reeks you will learn rock climb­ing tech­niques. On day two, you make a guided as­cent of Howl­ing and cel­e­brate your achieve­ment on Car­raun­toohil sum­mit.

In­for­ma­tion: ker­ryclimb­ing.ie

5 En­ter the un­der­world, Fer­managh

Howl­ing Ridge on Car­rraun­toohil wasn’t the last ge­o­graphic fea­ture to be dis­cov­ered in Ire­land. Cave sys­tems are Ire­land’s last great chal­lenge with much still undis­cov­ered, so true ad­ven­tur­ers won’t be sat­is­fied with show caves, which are far re­moved from the de­mand­ing re­al­ity of real pothol­ing. Don’t go un­der­ground your­self, how­ever, for pothol­ing is filled with dan­ger from flash floods to rock­falls. In­stead, join an ex­pe­ri­enced in­struc­tor from Cor­ralea Ac­tiv­ity Cen­tre who will bring you deep into the Fer­managh caves to ex­plore a fas­ci­nat­ing un­der­world of rivers, wa­ter­falls and lofty cham­bers, where na­ture re­mains gen­uinely un­al­tered by the hand of man. Ex­plor­ing wind­ing pas­sages by head torch you will even wade through un­der­ground rivers. Later, in com­plete dark­ness, you ap­pre­ci­ate the pitch- black cave en­vi­ron­ment en­hanced. In­for­ma­tion: ac­tiv­i­tyire­land.com

6 Stack the odds in your favour, Done­gal

If ex­treme pur­suits are your thing, then sea stack climb­ing will cer­tainly push your but­tons. The tow­er­ing sea stacks off the Done­gal coast were ig­nored for cen­turies un­til Iain Miller saw their po­ten­tial. His com­pany, Unique As­cent, of­fers gen­uine thrill seek­ers an op­por­tu­nity to sum­mit Ire­land’s most out­stand­ing sea stacks as part of an adren­a­line-rich ex­pe­ri­ence. First, you de­scend sea cliffs. Then, it’s across open ocean to reach the base of the tow­er­ing stack. Fi­nally, it’s up the great ed­i­fice by rope to ar­rive on the tiny sum­mit. Sur­rounded by noth­ing but ocean and sky, this is likely to prove one of your t r uly out- of- t his- world ex­pe­ri­ences. In­for­ma­tion: uniqueas­cent.ie

7 Ex­plore an in­cred­i­ble shore, Antrim

See the his­toric Cause­way Coast like al­most no­body else by join­ing a coas­t­eer­ing ex­pe­di­tion or­gan­ised by dy­namic ad­ven­ture com­pany Cause­way Coas­t­eer­ing. A rel­a­tively new ac­tiv­ity in Ire­land, coas­t­eer­ing in­volves travers­ing the tidal zone of the shore­line by cliff jump­ing, boul­der­ing, climb­ing and swim­ming. There is no bet­ter way to get close and per­sonal with Ire­land’s most dra­matic and un­for­get­table coast­line than a coas­t­eer­ing ex­pe­di­tion in the area close to the Gi­ant’s Cause­way. This of­fers unique ac­cess to caves, hid­den coves and ti ny i slands along this world-renowned shore­line.

In­for­ma­tion: cause­way­coas­t­eer­ing.com

8 Walk the wall, Co Down

Walls that di­vide com­mu­ni­ties have re­cently been tum­bling but those de­signed to sup­port hu­man en­deav­our re­main. The Mourne Wall is one ex­am­ple, built a cen­tury ago to en­close the catch­ment area of the Silent Val­ley reser­voir, there is some­thing won­der­ful in the way it re­flects the Great Wall of China by un­du­lat­ing 35km over the high Mournes. An un­for­get­table out­ing is to fol­low the wall for its en­tire length and this is one ad­ven­ture you can DIY, as the wall of­fers an in­fal­li­ble nav­i­ga­tional guide. Be warned, how­ever, this in­volves 3,000m of as­cent so as­pi­rants need to be fit and well kit­ted. It can be com­pleted in one long 10-11-hour stint or over two, less de­mand­ing, days with one un­for­get­table night spent camp­ing wild.

9 Swim the Ser­pent’s Lair, Gal­way

Poll na bPeist is best known as the lo­ca­tion for the Red Bull div­ing com­pe­ti­tion on Inish­more is­land. Akin to a per­fectly sym­met­ri­cal swim­ming pool, it is fed with sea­wa­ter through un­der­ground cav­erns. A mys­ti­cal place of stone, it is an ex­am­ple of na­ture at its most vis­ceral and a won­der­ful place for wild swim­ming. This should be done only in good weather con­di­tions and, even then, be par­tic­u­larly care­ful when there is a swell in the ocean. Swim only as part of a group and have one per­son re­main on the sur­round­ing rocks to as­sist with leav­ing the wa­ter as this can some­times be tricky. Ask lo­cally for di­rec­tions.

10 The Quest in the West, Mayo

Elite Event Man­age­ment is a young Ir­ish Com­pany ded­i­cated to de­liv­er­ing wide par­tic­i­pa­tion in out­door ad­ven­ture. The com­pany is or­gan­is­ing the Quest Achill Ad­ven­ture Race on Septem­ber 8th. Tak­ing place amid one of the most com­pelling land­scapes on the Wild At­lantic Way, this epic ad­ven­ture in­volves run­ning, cy­cling and kayak­ing. And if your fit­ness isn’t quite what it should be, shorter races are laid on for those seek­ing a less chal­leng­ing op­tion.

In­for­ma­tion: ques­tad­ven­ture­series.com

Clock­wise from left: cav­ing in Co Fer­managh; climb­ing Howl­ing Ridge in Co Kerry; and div­ing in Ser­pent`s Lair on Inish­more. Be­low: the Mourne Wall in Co Down

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