Caving, plunging, wall-walking: Adventures in Ireland’s outdoors

From high peaks to deep caves, from Donegal to Cork, there is plenty of excitement on offer

The Serpent’s Lair during the first stop of the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series  on Inis Mór, Ireland. Photograph:  Dean Treml/Red Bull via Getty Images

The Serpent’s Lair during the first stop of the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series on Inis Mór, Ireland. Photograph: Dean Treml/Red Bull via Getty Images

 

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

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. Information: bikeparkireland.ie

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, woodland walking trails and even a tree-top adventure. As moths to light, however, adrenaline junkies will be drawn to Ireland’s longest over-water 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/

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.

Howling Ridge: To ascend the ridge safely you need training, and this is provided by local company Kerry Climbing.
Howling Ridge: To ascend the ridge safely you need training, and this is provided by local company Kerry Climbing.

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

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.

Go deep into the Fermanagh caves to explore a fascinating underworld of rivers, waterfalls and lofty chambers.
Go deep into the Fermanagh caves to explore a fascinating underworld of rivers, waterfalls and lofty chambers.

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

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 truly out-of-this-world experiences. Information: uniqueascent.ie

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 tiny islands along this world-renowned shoreline. Information: causewaycoasteering.com

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.

The Mourne Wall reflects the Great Wall of China by undulating 35km over the high Mournes. Photograph: Getty
The Mourne Wall reflects the Great Wall of China by undulating 35km over the high Mournes. Photograph: Getty

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.

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.

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

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