Extreme sports in Ireland

Arch Stack, Maghery, County Donegal
Arch Stack, Maghery, County Donegal

In 1903, Samuel Cody pulled himself across the English Channel under the power of a kite. On the County Clare coast, his spirit lives on, in a rather extreme way

Wind is shaking the grass and a mixture of mist and rain sweep over the County Clare headland. It doesn’t look like a day for surfing. It barely looks like a day for stepping away from the fireside.

Someone should have told Wojciech Piotrowski.

Kite in hand, board under feet, the man behind Lahinch Kite Surfing is taming the Atlantic Ocean. Whatever the waves throw at him, he either crashes through it, or sails over it. It’s the kind of weather fishermen stay home because of. For Wojciech, though, days like this are why he wakes up in the morning.

Not so keen on challenging nature’s wilder elements? Don’t worry. Extreme sporting options in Ireland come thick and fast. Sometimes, they even come rocky.

Rock climbing

Donegal’s coastline is best described as vast. Its cliffs appear steeper and more jagged than any point along the Atlantic coast. Rock climber Iain Miller wouldn’t have it any other way:

“When I moved to County Donegal I never imagined just how rich and expansive the choice of rock climbing was going to be.”

Iain was so taken with Donegal’s coast that he based Unique Ascent there. But choice isn’t the only thing that attracted Iain to Donegal’s cliffs:

“In Donegal, you’re unlikely to meet anyone else on any of the crags across the county. That’s quite a contrast to mountain crags and sea cliffs across the UK, US and Europe, where it’s commonplace to sight queues of climbers patiently waiting their turn to climb popular routes."

And wildlife abounds. “Here, you’re more likely to have your company interrupted by deer, seals, dolphins, basking sharks, eagles and sea birds including Arctic skuas, razorbills, fulmars and cormorants,” notes Iain.

Grappling with Donegal’s cliff-faces might be a bit challenging for some. So if you’re after terra firma fun, head to the Mourne Mountains.

Mountain boarding

The Mourne Mountains make an impressive backdrop for any activity. Laying out a picnic rug in their shadow may give you goose bumps, but mountain boarding really ups the stakes. Not familiar with it? Think of it as a cross between skateboarding and snowboarding. Gary Parr of Surfin’ Dirt describes the experience:

“When you get the hang of mountain boarding it's such a rush. Sliding into turns, picking up speed and surrounded on all sides by the Mournes. It's a totally unique way to enjoy the outdoors."

They’ve even created nursery slopes for beginners, with advanced runs including jumps for the more advanced adventurer…

Only adrenaline junkies need apply

If two wheels are enough, then the mountain bike track at Blessingbourne Estate in Tyrone is for you. More of a water baby? Try scuba diving off Achill Island. Needs for speed are taken care of with white water rafting on Dublin’s Liffey, and paragliding above the Louth coast gets you closer to heaven. Literally.

So what’s the real attraction of extreme sports in Ireland? Just ask the team at Extremesports: “You've just got such a range of idyllic landscapes in Ireland. Mountains for paragliding, biking and zorbing. Then there are rivers for rafting, kayaking and canoeing. Of course, you’ve always got the mighty Atlantic Ocean for, well, whatever you fancy.

“The level of adventure is totally up to you. Find another landscape with that kind of variety and we'll be very impressed!”

Go on… we dare you!