In Ireland, it’s all about getting stuck in: whether you’re sweating it out in a marathon, kayaking downriver or sinking your boots into muddy grounds at a walking festival. After all, where else can you go from bogland to road to sandy beaches all within an hour? Ireland’s size makes it ideal for sporting adventures.
Running is more than just pounding the pavements here. Take the Dublin
Rock ‘n’ Roll Half-Marathon Race (August). This is BIG on the racing calendar, with people coming from 48 countries to participate - and you can bring your family to cheer you on as well! There’s a race to suit every level. Whether you pick the 5km, 10km or fun run, rock out to live music while you glide past Dublin’s iconic landmarks – Trinity College, the Ha’penny Bridge, and the Brazen Head, Ireland’s oldest pub, to name a few. And at the finish line? A concert in the Phoenix Park. Very rock ‘n’ roll.
If you’re all about the epic scenery and tough terrain, then head west to the
Connemarathon (April). Run through bogs, sleepy villages, past glassy lakes and lots of green and brown landscapes, all under the shadow of the mighty Twelve Pins mountain range. Your reward includes your very own t-shirt, medal and of course, the huge sense of achievement!
Belfast City Marathon
Looking to really push yourself? Try the
Belfast City Marathon (May): a run, wheelchair race, team relay and three different routes to choose from means you’re getting the best views of the city that built Titanic. Not to mention the Marathon Walk, an eight-mile walk specially introduced for ramblers: the perfect way to soak in the city sights.
If you want to take things at a slower pace and soak in the views, then try a walking festival. The
Ballyhoura Walking Festival (May) in Limerick, the oldest one in Ireland, started with a gathering of local walkers. Now, people flock here from all over the world. Its gentle paths and forest tracks mean it’s perfect for all ages. Along the way, guides will give you the inside scoop on local history and heritage.
Like your landscapes with a side of fantasy? Try the
Mournes Walking Festival (June). Northern Ireland’s highest mountain range was the inspiration behind CS Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia and exploring the Mournes on foot ensures you won’t miss anything. The terrain covers boggy grass, forest trails and mountain tracks. Did we mention it’s an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty?
The Burren, County Clare
Not enough fantasy there? With rocky trails, limestone landscapes and a sprinkle of legendary folklore, the
Burren Peaks Walking Festival (September) is all about getting up close and personal with the mysterious magic of the Burren: expect stunning flora, portal tombs, ring forts and lots of ancient curiosities.
Cycling is hugely popular in Ireland, and we’re not short of events to get you into gear. Try the world-famous
Ring of Kerry Charity Cycle (July), a 170km circle around the Ring of Kerry. Might be hard to keep your eyes on the road with the views: wild, unspoilt terrain like the glacial valley of Dunloe and the majestic McGillycuddy's Reeks, the largest mountain range in Ireland.
Meanwhile, the 170km
Giro d’Italia Gran Fondo Northern Ireland (June) recreates the mighty Giro d’Italia experience. You’ll get a full support team, and it kicks off at the iconic Titanic Belfast. Rolling roads, twisting turns and the jewel of the Grand Fondo – the climb up Monte Spelga Dam. Your reward is jaw-dropping views across Counties Down and Antrim.
Curadmír cycle (September) also takes you through Down and Antrim and it’s not for the faint-hearted: 579km over three days. The three stages include barren peat bogs, sharp ascents, sweeping valleys and lots of hairpin turns. Phew. But don’t worry, there’s a Rider Village at the end of each stage, with tents, hot showers and chill-out spaces.
There is nothing as exhilarating as an adventure race in Ireland. It’s physically and mentally tough, but you’ll reap the rewards. Not to mention enjoying the stunning scenery. Ranging from 27-70km, the
Killarney Adventure Race (September) is a run, cycle, walk and kayak adventure around some of the most dramatic and remote landscapes in the world: the majestic Muckross Lake and Devil’s Punchbowl are just two highlights. There are terrains to suit every level of fitness, from hill trails to bogs and forest tracks.
Killarney adventure race in Kerry
If you’re up for a challenge in the wild west, then head for
Gaelforce West (August) and the magnificent Connemara and Mayo landscapes: Killary Fjord, Westport and Croagh Patrick are all part of the 67.5km course and you’re spoilt for choice with terrain: sandy beaches, bogland and winding roads. It’s equally challenging and beautiful.
Feel no fear? Then you’ll love
Fearmanagh in County Fermanagh (October). Cycle, run and walk your way through limestone peaks and valleys, before the 304-metre near vertical climb to the top of Magho.