Just outside Dublin, Ireland is the land of adventure

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A trip to Ireland is all about the scenery which is why, when we visited the country a few years ago, we weren’t overly disappointed that Dublin just was not our cup of tea. The countryside sparkles there, and even the coastal hike we took in Howth, just outside of Dublin, made us fall in love with Ireland and promise that when we came back, the trip would be all about nature hikes in the national parks and along the magnificent coastline.

And we will definitely return! With several international airports and only a short ferry trip from mainland Britain, Ireland is easy to get to plus, being relatively small, it doesn’t take long to get out of its cities and into the countryside which means we can be hiking, cycling, climbing and possibly even surfing or scuba diving that very same day. We had no idea way back then, but Ireland is a full on destination for adrenaline junkies!

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Ireland via J Voitus on Flickr

Walking and hiking

Ireland’s six national parks offer countless opportunities to explore this county’s incredible landscape on foot. Wicklow Mountains National Park, near Dublin, for example, offers a range of walks, from easy strolls to hill climbs, plus hikes for those with the equipment and experience to trek off-trail.

Travel east to discover Ireland’s other national parks. The Burren, in County Clare, is famous for its archaeological sites. Ancient remains include ringforts and over 90 megalithic tombs. If you fancy forest walks and wildlife, head for Killarney National Park, in County Kerry. This park is famous for its plants and animals, including wild Red Deer, and is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.

Cycling and mountain biking

Another great way to discover the Irish countryside is by bike. Again there’s something for everyone, from gorgeous stretches of rural roads to tough off-road mountain biking challenges. Alternatively discover the cities of Dublin or Cork on two wheels.

For mountain biking on the east coast, try the 14km Ballinastoe trail or the 8km Ticknock trail. If you’re a beginner then the Murrough trail is fairly flat and a great place to get off-road for the first time.

On the west coast, the Beara Peninsula offers a 183km circular cycling route. Mostly on country roads, tackle it at your own pace and attempt as much or as little of the route as you want. It’s a great way to discover the gorgeous villages and stunning scenery that this corner of Ireland has to offer.

Healy Pass, South Side, Beara Peninsula .Co. Cork. 16 November 1991
The Beara Pass Road via sludgegulper on Flickr

Surfing, diving and canoeing

With so much coastline and so many rivers and lakes, it’s no surprise that Ireland is a great destination for water sports enthusiasts.

Surfers are spoilt for choice, especially on the west coast which is battered by Atlantic waves. Head for the counties of Donegal, Sligo, Kerry or Cork for some of Ireland’s best surfing. Conditions are best in spring and autumn, although the water is warmest in August and September. Canoeists also have a variety of destinations to choose from. Killarney National Park allows canoeing on its lakes, although canoes must be pressure washed first.

Fast-flowing mountain rivers offer great white-water canoeing opportunities. This white-water river guide will help you find a location suitable for your level of experience. If you’re not quite so experienced and prefer a group trip on calmer waters, find out about organised recreational paddles.

Want to discover Ireland’s underwater beauty? Both the west and east coasts have some interesting scuba diving sites. Try the Aran Islands in County Galway, or for wrecks, Baltimore in County Cork.

Surf in Ireland
Surf in Ireland via James Qualtrough on Flickr

Climbing and caving

Ireland is packed with great climbing opportunities. Popular spots include Glendalough and Luggala in County Wicklow, Malinbeg and Cruit Island in County Donegal, and Ailladie and Murroughkilly in Burren National Park, County Clare. This is just a small selection of what’s on offer. For a full list, check out the Irish Climbing Route Database.

The Burren is also one of Ireland’s most popular caving spots. Here you’ll find the 16km long Pollnagollum system, the longest cave in Ireland. In the rest of the country, other recommended locations include Cloyne cave and Mammoth cave in County Cork, Crag cave in County Derry and the Aille River cave in County Mayo, which boasts one of Ireland’s longest underground rivers.

Burren via sedoglia on Flickr

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24 Hours in Dublin: What to See, Do and Eat

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Only have a short time in the Irish capital? There’s a lot here to see and do, even if you’ve only got a few hours to enjoy it. When planning vacations, it’s tempting to skip over certain cities because of a lack of time. However, if you’re flying all the way from North America to Europe and you’ve got at least 24 hours in Dublin, there’s a fair amount you can do to get a feel for the city and what it has to offer. And, since many tours of Ireland brush by Dublin, it’s worth looking at what to do in the Irish capital.

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The Guinness Storehouse

The No.1 attraction in Dublin is, of course, the Guinness Storehouse. Once used to ferment the dry stout that is, according to marketing, “good for you,” now the building is a first-class visitor centre, offering tourists — and locals pretending to be tourists — an introduction to the preparation and history of this iconic beverage. First of all, you’ll learn about the ingredients and the brewing process. Then you’ll learn how to taste the beer and find out how it was transported and bottled over the years. As Guinness’ whimsical and eye-catching logo has become popular with people who don’t even drink beer, it’s also interesting to see how the creative side of the business works. And, of course, you’ll get a chance to sample Guinness in the several bars in the building. The Gravity Bar on the seventh floor offers fantastic panoramas of Dublin while you enjoy the city’s favorite tipple. And, if you’re not in a hurry, you can also eat some famous Irish dishes here — many of them prepared with Guinness. Try the Guinness Irish stew, a dark and hearty beef stew with potatoes, parsnips, and — of course — Guinness.

Sandwich your trip to the Storehouse between visits to the Dublin Writer’s Museum and the James Joyce Centre or the James Joyce Centre and the National Gallery of Ireland.


The James Joyce Centre

The James Joyce Centre is a museum dedicated to Dublin’s most famous writer. James Joyce (1882-1941) was born in Dublin and wrote about his home city, but lived abroad for most of his life after his early 20s. At the centre, you’ll gain understanding of the man and his literature, and perhaps unravel some of the plot of books you misunderstood while in school. The centre also has a walking tour to take visitors in the footsteps of one of Joyce’s most famous characters, Leopold Bloom.

After visiting the centre you’ll probably be thirsty. You might take inspiration from Joyce, a notorious drinker who was fond of white wine. But, since that’s not very Irish, a cup of tea might be in order. While not as famous overseas as English teas, Irish tea is something you must try while in the city. Take it with some biscuits and dense Irish fruit brack, a kind of bread, for a true Dublin experience.

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Dublin Writer’s Museum

The Dublin Writer’s Museum is a small museum dedicated to Irish literati and might not be on everyone’s list. However, anyone interested in the cultural history of Ireland or any of the great Irish writers in particular should give it a look. The museum hosts occasional performances of selected literary works by professional actors. It is located in an 18th-century building on Parnell Square.

The National Gallery of Ireland

In addition to its wide selection of paintings and other work by Irish artists, the National Gallery of Ireland is also noted for its paintings from the Italian Baroque period and Dutch masters. Located in Merrion Square in the city centre, it’s easy to work into your itinerary even if you spent more time admiring the Guinness company’s handiwork than you thought you would. Admission is free.
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Grafton Street

By this time, Guinness, writers and fine art will have made you hungry, so it’s a good idea to search out a café or restaurant. Direct your feet to Grafton Street, a pedestrianized shopping street in the centre. After lunch you’ll find plenty of shopping opportunities for your souvenirs or other necessities for the rest of your trip. When ordering your meal, consider getting Irish Shepherd’s Pie for a filling repast. Made from ground lamb and vegetables covered with mashed potatoes, this is sure to warm you up in colder weather.
dublin molly malone irelandBy nightfall, Grafton Street becomes an important hub for nightlife. If you’ve got time before leaving Dublin, stop by a pub for a glass of whiskey and a chance to meet some locals.

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