6 destinations for your perfect Ireland adventure

Achill Island, County Mayo

Like life in the slow lane with an adrenaline shot? Visit these activity-filled hotspots for the best of both worlds

1. Enniskillen, County Fermanagh

Set between Upper and Lower Lough Erne, Enniskillen is an island town with a zest for life. Take a boat trip to mystical Devenish and White Island, or go kayaking on these quiet waters. For thrillseekers, Corralea Activity Centre offers windsurfing, archery, climbing, caving and mountain biking. Hikers love the Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark's network of trails that twist and turn around ancient standing stones. The Enniskillen Water Activity Zone rents kayaks and stand-up paddleboards or opt for one of the “wee red boats” from Erne Boat Hire. Don’t fancy going your own way? Jump on the Erne Water Taxi and take a tour of Devenish Island to explore its Early Christian monastic site.

2. The Walled City of Derry

The Walled City on the River Foyle is the gateway to the Causeway Coastal Route and the Wild Atlantic Way. The coastline here is utterly romantic so take advantage and join Hill Farm Riding Stables for a gallop along the beach at Downhill, beneath Mussenden Temple. Kayak up close to the thousands of birds that frequent these cliffs or book a dive with Aquaholics Dive Centre and Sea Safari in Portstewart to explore shipwrecks. The Lough Foyle Trail is just over 16km (10 miles), past wintering birds and breeding seals, and the Sperrins are right on your doorstep, offering endless options and fantastic views for walkers and cyclists.

3. Waterford

The 1,000-year-old Viking city of Waterford invites you to make like a Norseman and take to the water, with a stand-up paddleboard tour of the city. Kayak north on the beautiful River Suir or try kitesurfing on Tramore beach. Follow the Copper Coast Geopark to explore sea coves peppered with fulmars and herring gulls. The copper mines that gave the area its name are now slightly eerie ruins, perfect for exploring on foot or by bike. Serious cyclists should saddle up and tackle the Waterford Greenway, a 46km (28.5 mile) old railway line from Waterford to Dungarvan (don’t worry – there’s a shuttle back).

4. Westport

This picture-postcard town isn’t just a pretty face. Loved for its nightlife and trad music (one of The Chieftains, Matt Molloy, owns a famously popular pub here), Westport is also beside the holy mountain, Croagh Patrick. This site attracts international pilgrims and hikers seeking spiritual solace or just the magnificent view over the scattered islands of Clew Bay. Try kitesurfing or windsurfing on the clean, exhilarating Atlantic waters around the islands; or head off along the Great Western Greenway, a 42km (26 mile) traffic-free route that takes walkers and cyclists through woods and bog, past coast and mountains.

5. Kinsale

The charming town of Kinsale on the Cork coast is always popular with sailors. Drop in to Kinsale Boat Hire and take a dinghy round the harbor, hire a boat and explore the coast, or go sea-fishing with a skipper out into the open water. You can also take advantage of those crystal clear Atlantic waters and try surfing or coasteering on Garretstown beach. If you prefer to stay on dry land, the lush countryside has plenty to lure walkers, cyclists and even artists. Visit 17th century Charles Fort, or head west for the 6km (3.7 mile) Old Head of Kinsale looped walk, which takes you out to the lighthouse and past 2,000-year-old Celtic ruins. With boats filling the harbor with the freshest of seafood, the town is famous for its excellent restaurants and cafés, but the Gourmet Festival each October is a real highlight.

6. Carlingford, County Louth

In the medieval town of Carlingford, on the Cooley peninsula, ancient Ireland and its legends of Cúchulainn and Fionn MacCumhaill press in close. Cycle to the Hill of Faughart to see St Brigid’s shrine, or hike up Slieve Foy in the nearby Mourne Mountains, where Fionn MacCumhaill is said to be buried. The 40km (25 mile) Tain Way looped walk ambles past cairns, passage tombs and early Christian monuments. Take a kayak trip around Carlingford Lough and see why the Vikings invaded, dial up the adrenaline at the Carlingford Adventure Centre, go birdwatching, or head to Ravensdale Lodge Equestrian Centre to explore this land of myth on horseback.

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