Ireland is a satisfyingly wild place, where foxes and hares wander in and out of city limits, otters frolic in the rivers, seals bark on the beaches, and wildflowers blanket the countryside so thoroughly it looks like someone spilled the paint. It has spaces of extreme isolation -- in Donegal and County Mayo you can drive for long stretches on empty highways and walk for hours along a coastal headland without meeting another human. It can almost be unnerving. But you have to get out of the city to do it.
About a third of Ireland's 4.5 million residents live in Dublin and its sprawling suburbs -- and almost half its entire population lives within 97km (60 miles). Apart from a few other small cities, the remaining population spreads thinly across the rest of the island, putting very few demands on the environment. As a result, there are remarkably intact bird and wildlife habitats.
That's the way the locals like it -- they love the outdoors and spend as much of their time in it as possible. So what if it rains? That doesn't stop the Irish from golfing, hiking, fishing, and cycling. You're not made of sugar -- get outside.
A Bit of Adventure
If you're looking for more from your Ireland trip than just a bit of golf or hiking, you might want to try one of the country's adventure centers. These lively, youthful facilities offer a range of guided activities -- from rappelling to kite surfing -- in some of the country's most remote and beautiful settings, along with accommodations, food, and all you need for a holiday with like-minded folk.
The Delphi Mountain Resort, Leenane, County Galway (tel. 095/42208; www.delphimountainresort.com), is a popular option deep in the mountains of County Galway. There is almost nothing you can't do here; the resort offers courses in kayaking, windsurfing, and raft building, as well as mountaineering, abseiling, hiking, and archery. Everything is reasonably priced, and the atmosphere is laid-back and friendly.
Another option is Little Killary Adventure Company, Leenane, County Galway (tel. 095/43411; www.killaryadventure.com), which will take you on Hobie Cat sailing trips, or guide you through an exploration of the countryside by kayak, water skis, or on foot on hill- and coastal walking tours, straight up on rock-climbing expeditions, and more.
On the southern shores of Carlingford Lough, an hour's drive north of Dublin, the Carlingford Adventure Centre (tel. 042/937-3100; www.carlingfordadventure.com) offers residential and day courses in canoeing, kayaking, sailing, and windsurfing, as well as land-based activities such as rock climbing, archery, zip wire, and the ominously titled "Leap of Faith."
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.