The Best Adventure Holidays in Ireland

sea stack climbing is one of the top adventure holidays in Ireland

Whether you want to captain your own cruiser on the River Shannon, or climb Ireland’s tallest sea stacks in Donegal, I’ve got 20 great adventure holidays in Ireland to suit all tastes and budgets.

 

Did you know you can actually climb ‘Dun Briste’, the sea stack in Down Patrick Head? I didn’t either when I visited it last week! Fancy yourself as another Bear Grylls? You can book a bushcraft skills course in Cork, where you will overnight in the wild, in a shelter that you have built… Perhaps you are looking for a digital detox  – why not enjoy a three-day canoe and wild camping holiday in Kilkenny, for just €120? There are so many great adventure holidays in Ireland that I was not aware of – I can’t wait to get out and try some of them myself. 


 

Being cooped up at home for so long has given us all a new found appreciation for outdoor activities. I have never seen so many people take up cycling or sea swimming, and wetsuits and SUP boards are like hens teeth! Staycations have never been so popular and I have had many requests from people looking for adventure holidays in Ireland – here are my top 20.

 

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1. Climb Ireland’s tallest mountain – Carrauntoohil, Co. Kerry

 

 
 
 
 
 
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And then I woke up

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Standing at 1,039 metres in the middle of the MacGillycuddy Reeks lies Ireland’s tallest mountain. I still can’t believe I actually climbed this many years ago. I’m not sure so I would be able to do it now, but I would certainly like to give it another try. The climb should take between 6-7 hours round trip, depending on your fitness levels, but the views from the top are definitely worth it. 

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Read: Top Airbnb Glamping sites in Ireland
 

 

 

2. Go Skydiving in Edenderry, Co. Offaly

adventure holidays in Ireland - skydiving

Release your inner action hero and try a skydive this year! Skydive.ie are a non-profit organisation that offer full training from beginner level to advanced. You can go solo, take a tandem dive, you can even complete an Assistant Free Fall course. Many choose to skydive for charity, but you can also choose to skydive for fun, prices from €199.

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3. Drive the Causeway Coastal Route, Co. Antrim

 

 
 
 
 
 
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As well as boasting a stunning coastline, the Causeway Coast is a great destination for adventure holidays in Ireland. You can visit the Giants Causeway, walk across the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, try a sea safari with Aquaholics or if you really want to up the adrenaline, try coasteering – a combination of rock climbing and jumping into the sea.
 

 

 
Although currently closed, the Gobbins cliff path walk is one of Europe’s most unique cliff walks – hopefully this will re-open again soon. The best way to unwind after a day’s outdoor pursuits is to indulge in a seaweed bath at Sea Haven therapy in Ballycastle or enjoy a whiskey tour at Bushmills Old Whiskey distillery.

Read: A magical few days on the Causeway Coast

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4. Go Sea Stack climbing in Donegal

Sea Stack climbing is probably the most adventurous activity available in Ireland. I was amazed to learn that you can actually climb Dun Briste, the sea stack I visited recently at Down Patrick Head. UniqueAscent.ie “will take you to places that have been visited fewer times than the moon” – now thats a pretty cool claim to fame. You don’t need any previous climbing experience, in fact 80% of people that Iain Miller, (the world’s only professional sea stack climber), takes out have never rock climbed before. They also offer a host of other outdoor adventure sports including abseiling and coasteering. Voted Tripadvisor’s top outdoor activity in Donegal, if you are looking for adventure holidays in Ireland – look no further. 

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And you might find some cool places to stay here:

Read: 20 luxurious Airbnbs in Ireland near the beach
 

 

 

5. Captain your own cruiser on the River Shannon

A river cruise is a more relaxed way to explore Ireland’s towns and villages, but you also get a great sense of achievement by captaining your very own boat. You don’t need a license to rent a cruiser, and you can enjoy the freedom of deciding where or when to stop. Self-drive River Shannon cruisers range from 2-10 persons and can be hired in Carrick-on-Shannon, Athlone, Lough Ree and Banagher, Portumna and Whitegate on Lough Derg. 
 

 

 
You can also enjoy the lakes around Lough Erne, in Co. Fermanagh. They tend to be quieter than the Shannon, so you really get the feeling you are exploring on your own. Cruisers can be hired from bases in Tully Bay, Aghinver, Enniskillen, Killadeas, Carrybridge and Belturbet. Day trip rentals are also available.

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6.  Surf, Cycle & Climb in Mayo 

 

 
 
 
 
 
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We are just back after a fabulous few days in Mayo and I was blown away by the stunning beaches and the amount of outdoor activities available. It seemed everyone was either surfing, SUPing or biking! The Great Western Greenway is in Mayo and stretches 42km from Westport to Achill – you can also decide to cycle part of the way.
 

 

 
If you like hiking, why not climb Croagh Patrick while you are there. It takes about four hours round trip, so it is something that even older children can enjoy too.

Mayo is also home to 11 Blue Flag beaches, there are five in Achill. Achill is Ireland’s largest island, and it’s one of the best places to enjoy watersports. Check out PureMagic.ie who run various courses and one off surf lessons. They also have a lodge where you can stay, and I’m told their pizza is the best in Mayo too! 

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7. Hike Ireland’s highest sea cliffs in Co. Donegal

Slieve League Cliffs Donegal
Image by Holzauge222 from Pixabay

Donegal’s Slieve League Cliffs (or Sliabh Liag) are three times higher than the Cliffs of Moher, yet many people I speak to haven’t even heard of them. I should point out that they are actually the highest cliffs on the mainland of Ireland, the Croaghaun Cliffs on Achill Island are slightly higher, but who’s counting!  There are many walking / hiking trails to choose from, and there is even a car park near the top if you are not feeling the urge to climb. You can read more about the the various trails and viewing points here.

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8. Visit Skellig Michael, Co. Kerry

One of Ireland’s oldest sites is now one of our top tourist attractions. Skellig Michael is one of only three UNESCO world heritage sites in Ireland, and is one of the famous locations in Star Wars, The Last Jedi. However it is not the easiest place to get to, visitor numbers are restricted and the boats only visit the island if there are calm seas.
 

 

 
The boat trip is 45 minutes long and sea-sickness is common, so be prepared! You also won’t find any toilet facilities on the island and the terrain is rough, so bring comfortable shoes. You need to pre-book your experience by phoning one of the local boatmen. However, if you are unable to step on to Skellig Michael, Portmagee or Valentia Island offer superb views of the islands too.

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9. Drive the Beara Peninsula & take a cable car to Dursey Island, Co. Cork

I love driving the Beara Peninsula. The colourful towns of Allihies, Eyeries and lively Castletownbere are just some of the reasons. But did you know that the Beara Peninsula is also home to Ireland’s only cable car? It connects the mainland to the tiny island of Dursey. Catch stunning views of Ireland’s south coast 30 meters below, before rambling around the unspoilt island of Dursey. You may even see some whales or dolphins who often frequent these shores.

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10. Go scuba diving along the Wild Atlantic Way 

adventure holidays in Ireland
Photo Sebastian Pena Lambarri, Unsplash

Unfortunately we don’t have the warm temperatures of the Indian Ocean on our doorstep, but we do have surprisingly good dive sites. Baltimore in Cork is not only a gorgeous port town, but it is also home to the MV Kowloon Bridge which sank here in 1986. The wreck is home to an abundance of flora and fauna, as well as a variety of marine life.
 

 

 
Brandon Bay in Kerry has a Gulf Stream that keeps the water relatively warm. Divers are often seen swimming with dolphins and basking sharks, and whales are also a common sight here.

County Clare is home to two of Europe’s top 10 dive sites, Fanore, and Diamond Rocks in Kilkee. Diamond Rocks gets its name from the quartz crystals that glisten when the sun shines on the rocks.
 

 

 
Donegal’s Tory Island is renowned for its excellent visibility and the wreck of HMS Wasp, while Killary Harbour between Mayo and Galway is a natural fjord and is a unique place to dive. There are many other dive sites in Galway, check out Scubadivewest.com who are based in Connemara. 

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11. Take the Stairway to Heaven Walk, Co. Fermanagh

 

 
 
 
 
 
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The Cuilcagh Boardwalk trail, a.k.a the Stairway to Heaven walk, is located in Co. Fermanagh. The boardwalk was originally built to preserve the area’s blanket bogs, but it was soon adopted by hill walkers and now attracts 20,000 visitors every year. The walk can take 3-4 hours, depending on your fitness level, and there are steps to reach the viewing platform at the top – but it’s worth it for the ‘Gram… Why not combine that with a luxury stay in the 5-star Lough Erne Resort afterwards?

lough erne resort

Read: Living it up at Lough Erne Resort

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12. Try coasteering or canyoning

Coasteering is a combination of climbing, jumping and swimming along the coast. It is an extreme sport that has gathered huge momentum over the last few years. It wasn’t until I visited the Causeway Coast a few years ago that I heard about coasteering. CoasteeringNI offer a wonderful setting in Ballintoy, which also happens to be one of the Game of Thrones filming locations. Nevsail in Kilkee Co. Clare also offer coasteering, as well as kayaking / coasteering packages.
 

 

 
Gorge Walking or Canyoning is an adventure sport that will see you hiking through streams, sliding down gorges and doing whatever is necessary to reach the bottom. Eclipse Ireland in Kenmare, Co. Kerry have a combined coasteering and canyoning activity that lasts 3-4 hours, price from €65, while Epic Ireland in Galway offer one or five day adventure tours including coasteering and canyoning.

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13. Enjoy white water adventures or canoe camping in Kilkenny

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Award-winning company Go with the Flow offer white-water adventures, eco safaris and lots more in Kilkenny and Carlow. The White Water Thrills & Spills activity will see you negotiate weirs and rapids in their Canadian Canoes. Prices from €40 per adult and €30 per child. You can also rent canoes for two or three days and wild camp along the River Barrow. A three-day Canoe Trail and Wild Camping costs just €120 and you will be supplied with a tent, canoe, paddles, buoyancy jacket and storage barrel – is this not the perfect digital detox?  See more here.
 

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14. Take a Bushcraft Skills course and be self sufficient in the wild, Co Cork

adventure holidays in Ireland - camping
Photo by John Salzarulo on Unsplash

You will feel like Bear Grylls after completing this two-day Bushcraft Skills course in West Cork with OutdoorsIreland. You will learn how to forage, fish, and cook your own food, how to build a fire, and you will overnight in the wild in a shelter that you have built. Cost from €250 per person and beginners are welcome. Killary Adventure Company also run a bushcraft and survival skills day time activity which is suitable for children age 8+ and costs just €52 per person.

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15. Go mountain biking and wake boarding in Ballyhoura, Co Limerick & Co Cork

mountain biking one of the adventure holidays in Ireland

It seems that everyone in Ireland is cycling these days, so why not go a step further and try mountain biking instead? The Ballyhoura Mountain range has the largest mountain biking trails in Ireland. Trailriders Bike Rental/Shop is based at the trailhead of the 92km Ballyhoura Bike Trails in Co. Limerick, and Co. Cork. There are trails for beginners as well as serious bikers.  
 

 

 
Pay a visit to nearby Ballyhass Lakes too, it is home to Ireland’s largest wake boarding facility and offers ziplining, ringo rides, axe throwing and lots more. We visited Ballyhass last year during our trip around the Munster Vales. 

Read: Top things to do in the Munster Vales

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16. Learn to surf in Lahinch, Co. Clare

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Whether you are a beginner or want to improve your surfing techniques, you can book a three-day weekend surf course with Lahinch Surf School. Lessons are held in waist deep water so you don’t need to be an amazing swimmer, and each lesson lasts two hours. Prices from €90 for three lessons.

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17. Go cycling and sea kayaking in Co. Waterford

 

 
 
 
 
 
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The Waterford Greenway is our most famous cycle way, it is 46km long and stretches from Waterford City to Dungarvan. We cycled a small portion of it last year (from Durrow to Dungarvan) and loved it. We booked with Garvan Cummins, aka TheGreenwayMan. Garvan campaigned at length for The Waterford Greenway and provides information and insights that you may not find elsewhere.
 

 

 
We stayed in the coastal town of Dungarvan. It has a great food scene and is close to one of Ireland’s lesser known scenic areas – the Copper Coast. Home to the UNESCO Global Geopark, this coastline stretches from Dungarvan to Tramore and can be explored by car or bicycle.

Pure Adventure offers sea kayaking trips along the Copper Coast which offer the opportunity to get up close marine life and encounter sea stacks, caves, blow holes and lots more. 

Read: Top things to do in the Munster Vales

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18. Go Off Road driving and lots more at Todds Leap, Co. Tyrone

 

 
 
 
 
 
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There are over 20 action-packed activities available at Todds Leap Adventure Centre, including Off Road Driving, Clay Pigeon Shooting, a 500m ZipLine, a Giant Swing and a Free Fall Drop Zone. There are glamping snooze boxes and log cabins on site, which makes it ideal for families and groups, but if you fancy a more luxurious place to rest your head, Castle Leslie Estate is less than a half-hour drive away.

Read: Captivated by Castle Leslie

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19. Learn to kitesurf on Duncannon Beach, Co. Wexford

kite surfing - adventure holidays in Ireland

HookedKitesurfing offer a wide range of kitesurfing lessons from three hours to three days. The water in Duncannon is shallow so it’s ideal for beginners. The Zero to Hero private course consists of three hour lessons, done over two or three days, depending on the wind. All equipment is provided, with prices from €380.
 

 

 
Duncannon beach is located on the Hook Peninsula, so make sure you pay a visit to Hook Lighthouse, the world’s oldest working lighthouse, and if you are looking for a great place to stay nearby, I can recommend Dunbrody House Hotel. 

Read: My review of Dunbrody House

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20. Combine adventure with a spa break in Delphi Resort, Co. Galway

delphi adventure resort in Ireland

Delphi Resort is one of Ireland’s best known adventure resorts. You can take part in over 20 different outdoor adventure sports, with the added advantage of staying in a four-star hotel. Kayak the Killary Fjord, surf the Wild Atlantic Way, or brave the Zip’n’Trek aerial course. Surrounded by 200 acres of forest, Delphi Resort is a nature lovers paradise, and their thermal suite is the ideal place to heal any aches and pains at the end of the day. 

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I hope this post on adventure holidays in Ireland will help you plan your next break away. Note this post was published on 30th July 2020. While every effort is made to ensure that facilities and costs are accurate, please check with the individual company before making any holiday plans.