Travel presenter Ciara Whelan rounds-up the best outdoor activities on our doorstep
Ciara Whelan is a first-time mama; proud owner of one baby girl and her dada, five cats and fifteen pairs of Converse. She is a keen tea drinker, though it has been nearly eleven months since she got to finish a full cup. When Ciara isn’t playing peek-a-boo or singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, she makes her bread and butter producing TV commercials and programmes, the latest of which she also presents alongside her partner Jon Slattery for TV3. The Holiday Show currently airs every Wednesday at 8pm.
Ireland is stunning and we’re lucky to have some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world, but it’s probably only with age that many of us really begin to appreciate it.
Here are 10 of my favourite things for the most active and adventurous in your gang. These will help get your brood out of the house and into the great outdoors over mid-term and the Easter holidays. In fact, they’re so much fun, I would even recommend them for big kids too. Plus, they're only a hop, skip and jump away, so could make the perfect pursuits for Valentine’s Day.
Just 40 minutes from Dublin, Brittas Bay Surf School offers the perfect introduction to one of Ireland’s biggest growing sports. The waves on the East Coast are ideal for beginners and there’s no better outdoor activity to try, even on the dreariest of Irish days. You may as well have fun in the water if you're going to get wet anyway.
Yes, hovercrafting. Race your nearest and dearest, on a hovercraft, around an outdoor track at Foylehov, near Limavady in Londonderry. Under 14s need to ride with an adult but otherwise, you’re on your own. Be warned, it is VERY addictive.
Coasteering is orienteering on the coast and involves scrambling along the shoreline, climbing up cliffs, jumping off ledges and diving into deep pools. If that sounds pretty terrifying you’d be right, but under the guidance of Michael at Mór Active, it’s amazing what you can achieve. Totally and utterly exhilarating, this is a day you’ll never forget.
Georgia Shiels and her four-legged friends at Bantry Bay Pony Trekking make the perfect companions for a trek up the hills. The kids will love the trek itself and Mum and Dad will appreciate the views at the top. There’s no better place to see the whole of the West Cork coastline. Make sure to tell Spotty, Amber and Brains I say ‘Hi’.
Stand-up paddle boarding
Stand-up paddle boarding (or SUPing as it’s known) at Hooked Kitesurfing is a great activity for anyone who wants to get active on the water without too much of an effort. It looks pretty cool and is surprisingly easy. The boards are huge with little chance of falling in and it’s a lovely way to explore the Wexford coastline.
Ireland has a number of permanent orienteering courses and with some of them offering a free downloadable course map, there’s no easier way to give it a go. Orienteering is really just a grown-up version of a treasure hunt and a great way to get out, get moving and have some fun.
Ziplines and tubing
Blackwater Outdoor Activities in Cork offers loads for adrenaline junkie. My favourite activities were definitely the ziplining and tubing along the river. Both were so much fun and a lovely way to see the gorgeous Blackwater Castle Estate from two completely different angles.
Is sibling rivalry getting the better of you? Throw the kids onto two opposing teams at 32-acre Ambushed Paintballing near Mullingar and they’ll soon sort out their differences, as well as tiring themselves out. Paintballing is for the over 16s only but Splatmaster gives the same exciting experience for the over 9 year-olds.
The Kilkenny Activity Centre knows the value of team sports and one of their most popular team building exercises involves getting dressed in a zorb, then bouncing and bashing the other team around a soccer pitch. After that, scoring goals is a bonus. They also offer Splatball and a brilliant (and very smelly) assault course.
Inflatable water park
Baysports in Hodson Bay near Athlone has the biggest outdoor inflatable water park in Ireland, and yes, it looks as cool as it sounds. If you’ve ever wanted to take part in your own version of Total Wipeout, now’s your chance.