Paddle power: pro tips on where to canoe and kayak in Ireland

What kind of holiday doesn’t need a car, bike, train, bus or boat? Correct: a paddling one.

Old Head of Kinsale, County Cork
Old Head of Kinsale, County Cork

To bring together a list of Ireland’s best canoeing and kayaking locations, we went straight to the people who know: the experts (and we got top tips while we were at it).

Canoeing

EXPERT: Chris Scott – Outdoor Recreation Northern Ireland

Location: Lough Erne Canoe Trail, County Fermanagh

Why it’s special: The maze of bays, narrow channels of slowing moving water and innumerable islands and peninsulas offer a superb venue for families or those embarking on their first canoe trip. There are brilliant wild camping opportunities and even island accommodation on Lusty Beg for that little sense of luxury.

Location: Blackwater Canoe Trail, counties Armagh and Tyrone

Why it’s special: Perfect if you enjoy the relaxed pace of life, this meandering trail journeys through peaceful countryside with the jewel in the crown being the National Trust's Argory, which makes for an excellent stop along the way.

EXPERT: Charlie Horan – Go With The Flow

Location: The Barrow River, counties Kilkenny and Carlow

Why it’s special: As you reflect in life on the experiences that have nourished your soul, that day you spent with your family canoeing down the Barrow river in County Carlow will always be a treasured travel memory.

EXPERT: Jim Kennedy, Atlantic Sea Kayaking

Location The Wild Atlantic Way (especially West Cork)

Why it’s special The entire coast from Cork to Donegal is an incredible kayaking destination. Along that coast my favourite area must be West Cork mainly because of its geography (it’s scattered with numerous islands and bays) and secondly the fact that it can be accessed all year round thanks to all of its sheltered areas.

EXPERT: Conor Smith, Irish Sea Kayaking Association

Location: Derrynane Harbour, County Kerry, including Deenish & Scariff Islands and Lambs Head.

Why it's special: From the road, this is arguably the best section of the Ring of Kerry drive. From the water, the scenery and views are even more spectacular.


Crystal clear waters at Connemara, County Galway

Location: Island Hopping, Ardmore, County Galway

Why it's special: Skip along a line of uninhabited islands with empty sandy beaches and a backdrop of the Twelve Bens and Maamturk mountains, to visit MacDara’s (the patron saint of the Galway Hooker) Island and church.


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Top three canoe travel tips: Chris Scott, Outdoor Recreation Northern Ireland

1. Follow the leader: hiring a guide is ideal for those with less experience, you'll uncover hidden secrets of each canoe trail and pick up some new skills along the way.

2. Be prepared: You don't necessarily come to the island of Ireland for a sun tan; with our changeable weather you'll need to pack both the wet weather gear and sun screen.

3. Protect your camera: you'll definitely want to take plenty of pics of all the sights along the way. Make a small and wise investment in a dry bag for your camera to ensure you can take those memories home.

Top three kayak travel tips: Conor Smith, Irish Sea Kayaking Association

1. With average summertime sea temperatures less than 15.5 C or 60 F, and much cooler at other times, it is important to dress appropriately. Prone to Atlantic swell and inclement weather, choose your location wisely and in accordance with weather forecast. Pack your sun lotion too, you just never know.

2. If you’re new to kayaking, a web search will provide you with a list of tour providers in different locations who will happily take you and your group and provide all necessary kit. For quick reference, information is available on the Irish Sea Kayaking Association website.

3. Don’t be shocked if, at sea, you’re joined by pod of dolphins as you drift along our beautiful coastline.

Fancy some more water fun in Ireland? You're in luck: we've got surfing (and windsurfing) spots galore as well as more stunning sailing ports than you can shake a stick at.

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