Ireland is one of the best countries in the world for people who like to travel off the beaten path. We don’t have Mount Everest and we don’t have the Amazon rainforest, but Ireland does have an incredible array of wild spaces that are perfect for tourists looking for adventure. Ireland more than deserves its green reputation, with lush green fields, rolling hills, and deep, verdant valleys. The landscapes of Ireland have inspired some of history’s greatest poets and novelists, and they continue to inspire the guests adventurous to get out into the great Irish wilderness. This guide contains many of the best spots in Ireland to explore, and we hope it will serve as a bucket list for adventure lovers. If anything here inspires you to stop dreaming and start actively planning, check out our small-group tours of Ireland and our self-drive tours of Ireland.
Climb the Steps of Skellig Michael
Skellig Michael is the larger of the two Skellig Islands — the other is called ‘Little Skellig’. These islands are miniature mountains that jut abruptly out of the sea, with jagged cliffs and steep inclines reaching to their summits. Skellig Michael is so difficult to get to that it’s only accessible during the summer months and there are a limited number of boats that have permission to take guests there. Once on the island, you can climb the ancient steps built by Christian monks in the 6th century. The ruins of the monastery are found at the top of the steps and from here you can look out over the breath-taking ocean views for miles around. You sail to Skellig Michael from Port Magee in Kerry and if you’d like us to organise everything for you, Skellig Michael is part of our 7-day Ireland to Island Tour.
Walk the Cliffs of Moher
While Skellig Michael is off the beaten path, visiting the Cliffs of Moher is one of the most popular tourist activities in Ireland. But believe us when we say that these epic sea cliffs are popular for a reason! You’ll find the Cliffs of Moher on the coast of the Burren, in County Clare, and they feature on several of our tours, including our ever-popular 10-Day Ireland Tour. The cliffs carve their way along the coastline for roughly 14 km (9 miles), and they reach a staggering maximum height of 214 metres (702 ft). It’s always a brilliant experience to hike along the Cliffs of Moher, taking in the sights; you should also look out for the Twelve Pins (mountains) and the Aran Islands, which are all visible from this almost unparalleled vantage point.
The Giant’s Causeway
Moving all the way up to County Antrim in Northern Ireland, we have the famous Giant’s Causeway. A source of amazement and inspiration for geologists around the world, this fascinating rock formation was created between 50 and 60 million years ago when molten-hot magma met the frigid waters of the Atlantic Ocean. The cold temperature caused the magma to cool rapidly, creating bizarre hexagonal columns that appear so uniform and perfectly formed that they look like they were built or carved by people, or… giants. The myths around the Giant’s Causeway are perhaps even more fascinating than the geological explanation and it’s great to keep both stories of this startling and strange place in your mind as you hike around the area.
Brave the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge
The Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge is very close to the Giant’s Causeway, and it is very much a bucket-list item for guests — so make sure you take a little time out to walk this old rope bridge. While thousands of people cross this bridge every year (proving it is very safe), only the bravest souls can boast that they did not feel a single twinge of fear as they crossed this rickety rope bridge that wobbles and sways in the wind… If you want to be an intolerable show-off, you can even try to walk the rope bridge without grabbing on to the sides! Both the Giant’s Causeway and the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge are part of our Wild West and North Ireland 6-day Tour.
Walk Mizen Head Bridge to Ireland’s Southernmost Point
On the topic of crossing bridges, let’s throw the Mizen Head Bridge into the mix too. This striking bridge isn’t as wild as Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge, but it is visually striking. It’s also on the way to the most southerly point in Ireland. If walking to the southernmost point in Ireland isn’t worth sticking on your bucket list, we don’t know what is!
Climb Croagh Patrick
It’s a source of pride for Irish people that our patron saint is celebrated on St Patrick’s day in countries all around the world. Whether you’re religious or not, it is absolutely worth climbing the mountain named after Patrick himself: Croagh Patrick. You’ll find this 764-metre-high mountain in County Mayo. While it’s not as high as Carrauntoohil (more on this next), it still presents enough challenge for adventurous souls. This mountain is considered holy because St Patrick was believed to have spent 40 days up at its peak — much like Moses at Mount Sinai. Climbing Croagh Patrick could be considered a pilgrimage at any time of year, but it becomes a hub of excitement on Reek Sunday — the last Sunday of July. This is when people come from all over Ireland to climb the mountain. Some even make the climb in bare feet!
Carrauntoohil – Ireland’s Highest Mountain
For adventurous travellers, the ultimate bucket-list destination is to climb the tallest mountain in Ireland. At 1,038.6 metres (3,407 ft 6”), Carrauntoohil just about beats out Cnoc na Péiste to the top spot as the official roof of Ireland. Found in southwest Ireland, on the Iveragh Peninsula, this mountain is in the centre of the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks mountain range. The ascent and descent can both be done in a day, which negates the logistical aspect of camping and all of the equipment that comes along with this. The most popular route up the mountain is known as ‘The Devil’s Ladder’ because the Irish can never resist adding a touch of drama… This route is the shortest and quickest way up the mountain, but it’s also the steepest gradient.
Kayaking in Dingle Bay
Lastly, we’d like to add one of our personal favourite Irish experiences that perhaps doesn’t make it onto other tour operators’ bucket lists: kayaking in Dingle Bay. The Dingle Peninsula is outstandingly beautiful and should be on everyone’s to-do list, but many people who visit this area of outstanding natural beauty fail to make time to get out on the water. This, in our opinion, is a big mistake as you can enjoy Dingle Bay from a completely different perspective while also getting in touch with nature. There’s nothing like floating out on the ocean, listening to the waves lap against your kayak, smelling the salty sea air. You can go kayaking in Dingle Bay on several of our tours, including our 10-day tour mentioned earlier.That’s all we have time for today, but it’s clear that we’ve only scratched the surface of Ireland’s best adventure destinations. If you have any questions about the destinations and tours mentioned in this guide, please feel free to get in touch. We hope you will add at least one or two spots from this list to your own bucket list and that we’ve inspired you to get out into the wilds of Ireland, to embrace nature, and to seek out the best possible Ireland adventure!