10 of the best Christmas swims, walks and outdoor events
There is no shortage of events to ensure you get your outdoor fix over the festive season
The Christmas Day swim is an obligatory activity for many families across the country. If you haven’t tried it, we highly recommend it. Photograph: Alan Betson
It really is a most wonderful time of year. Family gatherings, indulgent feasts, lively sessions in the pub and the inevitable box set in front of the fire. As December rolls on, the enthusiasm for these activities heightens, until it reaches a crescendo, followed by rapid decline. Your family are driving you nuts, you feel guilty about the over-indulgence and you’re just dying to get out for a bit of peace and quiet. At the end of the day life is really all about balance.
If like most of us you sometimes struggle to motivate yourself to get out the door over the festive season, an organised event can be a great way to keep you on track and give you that extra push that you need to venture out into the outdoors on a cold winter’s day. And here in Ireland, there is no shortage of fun-filled events to ensure you get your outdoor fix over the festive season.
Here are 10 of our favourite events that are guaranteed to leave you feeling satisfied this Christmas.
1. The Christmas Day Swim (December 25th, 2018)
The Christmas Day swim is an obligatory activity for many families across the country. If you haven’t tried it, we highly recommend it. Certain spots across the country will attract thousands of people eager to throw themselves into the frigid waters of the Wild Atlantic or Irish Sea. The Forty Foot in Dublin is arguably one of the most popular spots for the Christmas Day swim with people queuing to get in the water. However, there are similar swims taking place across the country.
Other popular spots include: Bundoran, Co Donegal; Bray, Co Wicklow; Carlingford, Co Louth; Clontarf, Co Dublin; Derrynane and Fenit, Co Kerry; Salthill, Co Galway; Guillamene, Co Waterford; Rosses Point, Co Sligo; Myrtleville, Co Cork; Greystones, Co Wicklow; Skerries, Co Dublin; and Rosslare, Co Wexford.
2. The Goal Mile (December 25th, 2018)
The Goal Mile was established three decades ago and has now grown to become one of Ireland’s most popular annual fundraisers. The one-mile run is held on running tracks and sports fields across the country. In recent years, more than 30,000 people have taken part in locations across the country, raising over €200,000 for the charity. It’s a great way to work up an appetite ahead of the inevitable feast that will follow.
3. The Fat Turkey Run (December 27th, 2018)
Runners of all abilities – fast, slow, little and large – are all encouraged to take part in the Fat Turkey Run. Kicking off at 11am on December 27th, this scenic route will take participants from St Fintan’s Church in Sutton, all the way up Carrickbrack Road to the Summit Shop and on up to the Summit car park where there will be a water station, before turning back and returning along the same route.
The Fat Turkey 10km event is to support Suttonians Rugby Football Club and the IRFU Charitable Trust, which assists severely injured rugby players in their everyday lives.
4. Christmas Run – The Sugar Bowl (December 27th, 2018)
Ireland’s Mountain Running Association (or IMRA) will have its annual Christmas run on December 27th. The race covers a total distance of 7km with 400m of ascent. The route itself will take you not just around Wicklow’s iconic Sugarloaf Mountain but right up it too, which is guaranteed to leave you with a feeling of sweet satisfaction. This is the perfect event for those who are hoping to dip their toe into the world of trail running in 2019. It’s not too tough and there is always a great welcome from fellow IMRA members.
5. The Fanore Burren Christmas 5km/10km (December 29th, 2018)
What better way to burn off the Christmas calories than with a nice jaunt across the wilds of the Burren? Competitors can choose to walk, jog or run a 5km or 10km route. Both routes offer spectacular views and a great atmosphere throughout is guaranteed. Every year this race chooses a different theme. This year the event will be based on Biddy Early, Ireland’s famous traditional herbalist and east Clare legend.
6. ERP Christmas Cracker (December 31st, 2018)
This 5km road run starts and finishes on the track in Morton Stadium in Santry. There is huge emphasis on participation with race organisers strongly encouraging fun runners and walkers to come along and take part. The Christmas Cracker is guaranteed to have a great atmosphere and it’s an opportunity to get some fresh air before the New Year’s Eve shenanigans kick off. And, as an added bonus, you will also be raising much-needed funds for ALONE. Online entry is available throughrunireland.com.
7. The Christmas Westport Walking Festival (December 27th-31st, 2018)
Offering glorious views across Clew Bay, the Westport Walking Festival is a great way to fill the gap between Christmas and the new year.
The first day of walking will take you over Mweelrea, the highest mountain in Connacht, on a 10km route suitable for those with a moderate level of fitness. The second day will take you across a lower but possibly trickier 7km route over Leenane Mountain.
Walks are led by Gerry Greensmyth, a well-known and highly regarded guide. In the evenings you can relax and restore your aching muscles in the pubs of Westport, where you’ll hear some of the best traditional music in Ireland.
8. Dingle New Year’s Eve Cycle (December 31st, 2018)
Blow away the Christmas cobwebs and get yourself ready for the new year ahead on this wind-swept cycle around the Dingle Peninsula. Departing from the Marina Meeting Room in Dingle at 10am, this glorious 56km bike ride will take you through Ventry to Slea Head, continuing on the Wild Atlantic Way through Ballyferriter, Ballydavid and Cuas. Spectacular views are a dead cert and there’ll also be some refreshments in Dingle to look forward to upon your return if you are in need of a little extra motivation.
9. New Year’s Day Swim, Bray, Co Wicklow (January 1st, 2019)
There are few better cures for a New Year’s Day hangover than throwing yourself into the frigid waters of the Irish Sea. And to make it even more appealing, you will be doing a good deed by raising funds for local charities.
The swim kicks off at noon on Bray seafront with fancy dress strongly encouraged.
10. The Art O’Neill Challenge (January 11th, 2019)
The annual Art O’Neill Challenge is a must-do event for any hardy souls out there. Taking place on January 11th, ultra runners, hikers and hybrids will gather in the grounds of Dublin Castle at midnight to start this iconic race. From there, participants will follow in the footsteps of Art O’Neill and Red Hugh McDonnell’s infamous escape route back in 1592.
The 55km route winds its way out to Kippure by road where it then heads into the forests and across the peaks of Wicklow before finishing the following day at Glenmalure.
Heather Snelgar edits Outsider.ie, Ireland’s outdoor and adventure website – www.outsider.ie