Active Ireland

Ireland's more than pubs and green rolling it, surf it, scale its rocky summits.
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Its people are friendly, its hills are green, and the land is rich in history. Perhaps enough reason to go Irish, but you can get more exercise on this lovely isle than raising your mug. Here's our preview of Ireland's active adventures.

If it's the beauty and culture that bring you to Ireland, what better way to see the land than on a bike. You can ride most of the country in a couple of weeks (with a little help from a van). The terrain is varied enough to be interesting, but most routes are relatively gentle. Distances between villages are short, so you're never far from an inn or hotel if the weather turns sour. A string of inexpensive hostels and family B&Bs make it very affordable. Or, if you want to splurge, spend a night in a regal castle serving up history along with world-class cuisine. Bike tours, complete with lodging, local guide, and sag wagon support, are offered by a number of excellent companies. And Ireland is one of Europe's best bets for the independent traveler—the countryside is safe, the roads are well maintained, and a warm bed or friendly pub are always a short ride away.

Canal Cruising
Navigate Ireland's historic heartland via a network of rivers, canals, and loughs that criss-crosses the country. The River Shannon, the longest in Britain and Ireland, is the backbone of this network, and supports the most popular of the cruises, running down the Shannon-Erne Canal from Enniskillen south to Killaloe. The gentle pace of a river trip affords ample time for side visits to castles, horseback riding, or golf (great resorts dot the route). Canal cruises are ideal for families with small children—kids love the constantly changing scenery and enjoy fishing or biking along the waterways. Options range from piloted, luxury barges (such as the Shannon Princess), to cozy self-drive motor launches, perfect for a honeymoon couple. A cruising vacation can run from as little as $100 per day to more than $2,300 per week for the luxury barges, but that will get you all the amenities, including gourmet chefs.

Caving (or "spelunking") enjoys a strong following in Ireland. This combination of rock climbing, orienteering, even scuba diving, takes nerves of steel, but the thrill of discovery in that pitch-black darkness is the reward. And Ireland's rocky landscape has much to discover. Many major cave systems are within a few hours' drive of the larger cities. The three most popular caving venues are the Fermanagh/Sligo region, Clare (around Burren), and County Cork, with lesser systems in County Kerry (Castle Island) and County Kilkenny (Dunmore Cave). Caving, particularly in uncharted grottos, can be a very hazardous activity, so we recommend you go with a knowledgeable local guide. Both The University in Limerick and University College (Dublin) maintain active caving clubs.

Published: 17 Oct 2000 | Last Updated: 14 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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