Use lockdown time to dream – and plan – for when restrictions lift. Here Helen Fairbairn offers some great escapes to bring you closer to nature.
In Ireland we’re blessed with fantastic opportunities for all sorts of wild walks. The satisfaction of a day spent tramping over mountain summits or discovering a remote coastal headland lasts for months. Don’t worry if you’re not an expert; contact a local walking guide, who will introduce you to the best locations and keep you safe too, once Covid restrictions lift.
Plan it: To explore the stunning landscape of Connemara, try Walk Connemara (walkconnemara.com; 087 629 1659). A custom-designed itinerary for your group costs €250 per day. In Kerry, try The Reeks Guiding Company (lodgeandreeksguiding.com; 087 239 9789), where prices start at around €50 per person to join a group hike up some of Ireland’s highest mountains.
2 Rock Climbing
Rock climbing is a unique sport that allows access to lofty vantage points that are usually the preserve of birds. Using strength and agility, you seek tiny holds in a cliff face as you work your way to the top. There are lots of safety considerations, but you’ll get to grips with the basics in a couple of days, then can begin exploring thousands of documented climbing routes around the country.
Plan it: Climbing courses can be geared to beginners, intermediates or experts. Unique Ascent (uniqueascent.ie) specialises in sea stacks and coastal routes in Donegal, price €250 per day for two people. Kerry Climbing (kerryclimbing.ie; 087 932 3527), concentrates on rock climbs in the MacGillycuddy Reeks, with group tuition from €85 per person.
3 Canadian Canoeing
Ireland has a remarkable array of inland waterways, and one of the most pleasurable ways to explore them is by Canadian canoe. By gliding silently across rivers and lakes, you slow down and become an integral part of the nature and landscape around you.
Plan it: Canadian canoeing isn’t hard – you can head off on your own, knowing just a few basic strokes and safety points. Begin with a guided trip – Adventure Gently (adventuregentlyireland.com; 085 182 1547) explores several scenic waterways around Leitrim, Sligo and northwest Ireland. It’s something the whole family can enjoy, with half-day trips from €125 for two adults. Multi-day adventures and skills courses are also available.
4 Horse Riding
There’s nothing quite like the exhilaration of cantering along a wild beach, the wind in your hair and the hooves of your horse pounding the sand beneath you. For beginners, a gentle hack along a forest trail can be just as exciting.
Plan it: There are equestrian centres across the country, offering horseback excursions over all types of terrain. Many stables offer a range of activities from a one-hour introductory hack for novices, to advanced trekking holidays for experienced riders. Dingle Horseriding (dinglehorseriding.com; 086 821 1225), for example, is an option in a beautiful location. A three-day trail holiday along Dingle’s wild Atlantic coastline costs €1,500 per person, with horse, accommodation and food all included in the price.
Coasteering is a great family activity, a combination of scrambling, jumping and swimming your way along the shore. Equipped with a wetsuit, helmet and buoyancy aid, you launch yourself off rocky ledges, swim through sea caves, leap off rocks. Brilliant fun.
Plan it: To try it yourself, contact Eclipse Ireland (eclipseireland.com; 064 668 2965) in Kenmare, Kerry. A half-day costs from €65 per person. At the other end of the country, Causeway Coasteering (causewaycoasteering.com; +44 (0)787 253 7550) charges from £40 for a similar experience in Co Antrim.