Ireland: Visitors' Info

What to Do in Ireland

This list does not include Sightseeing, as that is the main reason for using our ByRoutes.

Activities

Walking, jogging and running are very good ways of exploring beautiful parts of Ireland. Whether strolling, trekking or fell running, respect the Countryside Code. Farmers are not always friendly. The most popular routes are well maintained and signposted. There are several excellent long-distance walking routes, e.g. the Wicklow Way, the Kildare Way, the Kerry Way, the Beara Way, the East Munster Way, the Ulster Way.

Natural parks and forestry plantations often have interesting nature trails.

Wildlife observation is rewarding. Associations such as the Dublin Naturalists Field Club welcome visitors on their organised excursions, and outsiders’ sightings can also be incorporated into their nature distribution surveys.

Bird Watching is popular. The spring and autumn migration seasons are particularly good times to see interesting species, and several arctic birds winter in Ireland.

Dublin Zoo and Fota Wildlife Park are both excellent places to see exotic animals, including several in danger of extinction in the wild.

Bicycles (including racers, tourers, cross-country and mountain bikes) are easy to hire, and a great way to see the countryside. Although cycling in Dublin can be quite dangerous, the municipal authorities have recently introduced a new public rental scheme similar to that of Amsterdam, Paris, Barcelona etc.

Roller-skating, roller-blading and skateboarding are also popular.

Horseback excursions are easily arranged at riding schools, which also cater for various equestrian sports, including hunting and hunter trials in season, show-jumping, dressage and even Polo; there are also pony trekking centres in scenic areas.

Horses / ponies & traps / sidecars with jarveys can be hired in many tourist centres such as Killarney, ideal for those feeling lazy or romantic.

Ireland’s golf courses are famous.

Pitch & Putt, invented in the 1930s in Foutainstown, a County Cork seaside resort, has a large following, “although you won’t see many doctors or solicitors playing it“. The dress code is casual, hoodies optional.

Dolphin and whale spotting trips are all the rage now.

Glass-bottomed boats are rare in Ireland, as the island lacks spectacular coral reefs, but can be found in a few seaside resorts near old shipwrecks etc.

Fishing: Ireland is renowned for its excellent freshwater angling (either from the shore of a river or lake or from a boat, with or without a ghillie). Licences are required to fish for salmon and sea trout, and a rod licence is obligatory in Northern Ireland for other types of fishing too. 

Sea angling, including shark hunts, can also be arranged. 

Beach fishing is popular at many points along the coast.

Beach / Dune Buggies are occasional pests.

Water sports: in summer, Ireland’s beaches can become quite crowded with people swimming, water-skiing, surfing, windsurfing, boardsailing, snorkelling and scuba diving. Although the Atlantic coast is warmed by the Gulf Stream from Mexico, Irish seawater never really reaches a comfortable temperature, and wetsuits are commonly worn all year round. Many of the shallower lakes do warm up noticeably in the sunshine.

Sailing clubs / schools flourish on both inland lakes and at seaside resorts; some are “prestigious”, others more democratic.

Rowing boats, motor boats, speed boats etc. are widely available for hire, as are Jet-skis, which should be banned.

Adventure Sports centres and clubs organise canoeing, kayaking, white-water rafting, and orienteering, rock climbing, potholing / caving / speleology etc.

Mountaineering: the best mountains for climbing are said to be Croagh Patrick (763m) in Co. Mayo and Hungry Hill (686m) and Mt Gabriel (407m) in Co. Cork. The sport is also commonly practised in Co. Wicklow and Co. Donegal. Several climbers are killed every year in the McGillicuddy Reeks in Co. Kerry and other ranges.

Ballooning is a lovely way to get a bird’s eye view of the landscape.

Flying, gliding, parachute and hang-gliding clubs are run from small airfields across the country.

Archery, target and clay pigeon shooting ranges exist, as do venues for “skirmishes” (paintballing) and airsoft games.

Bowls – public parks often have greens / lawns for what the English call Crown Bowls, rather like petanque on grass. In rural parts of Cork, you may be able to follow or even participate in a game of road bowls.

American ten-pin bowling alleys are quite popular.

Croquet lawns also exist.

Public Sports Facilities (swimming pools, tennis / squash courts, handball alleys etc.) provided by local authorities and schools are often as good as, and cheaper than, those in hotels and private clubs, especially in Northern Ireland.

Winter sports such as skiing, snow boarding, sledging etc. are uncommon, as there is rarely enough snow.

Ice-skating has become popular (on artificially maintained rinks, both outdoors in winter and indoors all year round)

Game shooting, beagling and hunting (fox, hare, stag, drag) are the traditional “gentlemanly” pursuits in the colder months. Some people enjoy following these activities from a distance, on foot. Hunt saboteurs are not unknown.

Martial Arts, both oriental and western, are popular amongst urban Yisoms (Youths In Search Of Meaning).

Yoga, t’ai chi chuan and other relaxation techniques / disciplines are practised in centres dotted all over Ireland.

Spiritual Havens of prayer and / or contemplation / meditation, from Roman Catholic retreat houses to Buddhist communities, are not hard to find.

Shopping

Shops in Ireland have become increasingly Americanised, often for the better, and EuroMalls with 24/7 supermarkets have sprouted across the country, but there are still some distinctive venues and events:

Craft / design centres provide direct links between artisans and customers.

Art galleries, antique shops, antiquarian and 2nd-hand bookshops, curiosity shops and flea markets can be interesting and fun.

Antique and artisan goods and homemade cakes, jam, bread etc. can often be bought at markets

Household, art and furniture auctions can be an excellent way of picking up bargains.

Smoking

  • Cigarettes, cigars and pipe / rolling tobacco are extremely expensive, so it is advisable to carry your own supply from abroad.
 
  • In the Republic, smoking is prohibited in all workplaces, including pubs and restaurants, but many have outdoor smoking areas. (Prison cells, psychiatric wards, cars and hotel / guest house bedrooms are currently exempt, although many of the latter impose their own smoking ban).
 
  • In Northern Ireland, as in other parts of the UK, smoking is prohibited in pubs and restaurants.
See also our list of Amenities, arranged by county / location.