50 wild things to do in Ireland
Over 10 weeks, Irish Times readers have told us about the best places and ways to experience nature in Ireland. Here are a few of the secrets they shared. We will reveal the winner on Saturday
FIVE GREAT ACTIVITIES
Mountain-biking dates: Ballyhoura is mountain-biking heaven, with highly-rated international-standard competition facilities (visitballyhoura.com). The trails don’t destroy the beautiful forest, with its tall deciduous cover, red squirrels and deer, and nesting hen harriers. Couples going mountain-biking on a date has turned out to be a thing: Kim and Kanye even turned up recently, apparently. visitballyhoura.com
Gorge-walking: Wetsuits, shoes, helmets and gloves on, you pick your way up a river canyon against the flow of the water. Swim in pools, haul yourself up slippery rocks, and swing from overhanging branches as you do so. One of numerous thrills available at Killary Adventure Centre in Connemara. killaryadventure.com
Electric-biking: We’ve been converted to this way of exploring the Irish countryside. All the fresh-air benefits without the hard work, and you cover more ground.
Stack-climbing: Cnoc na Mara, near Glencolumbkille, Co Donegal, is a 100-metre sea stack in one of the most inaccessible locations in Ireland. Gaining the summit is like being reborn into a world where anything is possible. uniqueascent.ie
Cave-camping: Let the rising tide of the sea seal you in to one of the dry sandy-floored caves at Maghera, Co Donegal. Do it once, and don’t be afraid of the descending night. Primal relief comes with daybreak in this magical space.
Donegal coast, Killybegs to Ardara.
FIVE COASTAL WONDERS
Killahoey Beach, Dunfanaghy, Co Donegal: Go horse riding, surfing or take beach exercise with surf school Narosa which holds a “surf fit” class on the strand. narosalife.com
Coral Beach, St Johns Point, Dunkineely, Donegal: At the tip of one of the longest peninsulas in Ireland is a pretty little pink coral beach offering stunning views across Donegal Bay, and as far as Co Sligo. The waters around the lighthouse at St John’s Point are very popular with divers.
Old Head, Westport, Co Mayo: Suit up and have helmets at the ready – coasteering at Old Head is not for the faint hearted. Explore caves and woodlands, go rock hopping and be prepared to be physically and mentally challenged as you end your trip with a daunting cliff dive into the roaring Atlantic. adventurewest.ie
Zetland Pier, Adrigole, Cork: Trek through overgrown brambles and apparent dead ends to reach this hidden paradise which exists for only a couple hours either side of low tide and is known only to clued-in locals. Long after the sand is swallowed by turquoise waters, you’ll still have the rocks on either side of the tiny inlet to jump in from.
Copper Coast, Co Waterford: Approach its beaches and caves from the water. You don’t see half of the amazing views from the road. Experience this impressive stretch of Waterford coast from kayaks, learn some local history while paddling in and out of the caves and tunnels. pureadventure.ie
Cape Clear, Co Cork
FIVE GREAT CAMPING SPOTS
Wild Atlantic Camp, Creeslough, Co Donegal: Between Creeslough and Dunfanaghy, the highlight of this newly opened “glamping” site is its “just for two” cosy wooden pods, fully furnished with lace curtains, rattan chairs and fairylights. wildatlanticcamp.ie
Pure Camping, Querrin, Loop Head, Co Clare: Trea and Kevin Heapes run an ecocampsite outside this small village on Loop Head, where you can pitch your own tent or stay in one of the pre-erected bell tents. purecamping.ie
Cladagh Glen, Co Fermanagh: Pitch your tent by the wooded glen beside the Cladagh river which carves its way from the Marble Arch caves through the limestone rock of this woodland paradise. Follow the walking trail to the scout centre, with toilet, barbecue and campfire facilities. cladaghglen.com
Mongolian Yurt Camping, Cape Clear, Co Cork: Take the 45 minute ferry trip from Baltimore out to Cape Clear, where you can rent a cosy yurt. yurt-holidays-ireland.com
Gorumna Island, Galway, in a Chausson campervan: Connected to the mainland by the Béal an Daingin Bridge, one of our readers’ entries made this trip an enviable one. From Omey to Claddaghduff, from Cleggan to Inishbofin – fuchsia laden hedges and deep warm evening swimming at the piers – who needs Greco-Roman shores when island hopping is available here outside our doors?
Skellig Michael, Co Kerry. Photograph: Getty Images
FIVE LESSER-VISITED ISLANDS
Inistrahull, Co Donegal: Six miles north of Malin Head is a 114 acre deserted island which the last inhabitants left in 1928. Now you’ll find ruined dwellings, old field systems, wild deer, eider duck, and a deserted lighthouse. Easily accessible from Malin Head, Bunagee or Portaleen.