Adventure in Dublin Kayaking in Dalkey, County Dublin Ireland
IRELAND

Seven Ways to Experience Real Adventure in Dublin

By on 18/12/2017

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think about Dublin as a destination? Let me hazard a guess… Guinness? Temple Bar? Trinity College? Of course, there’s a good reason (a few actually) why Dublin is well known for the ‘black stuff’, the nightlife and the city’s iconic university. But did you know that if you are looking to get active and get your adrenaline pumping, you can have real adventure in Dublin too?

Last October I was invited by Discover Ireland to uncover a side of the city that not that many visitors know about, and I had so much fun, that I’ve compiled a list of alternative ways to experience Dublin, both the city and the county, so you can experience it too.

Get your hiking boots on

Ireland is a hiker’s paradise, and believe it or not, so is Dublin. The city is surrounded by the Dublin Mountains, where you can find a lot of trails within easy reach that can be explored on day hikes.

Ben of Howth

One hike that is worth mentioning for the views across the Irish Sea and Dublin Bay, and an enchanting 4000 year old history, is Ben of Howth, by the fishing village of the same name in Dublin. Guided by Shane’s Howth Tours, we set off towards Howth Castle, the current residence of the heirs of the Lords of Howth. Through the Deer Park we got to the Rhododendron Gardens, with its collection of… well, you guessed it, rhododendrons, as well as other exotic specimens like palm trees and tree ferns, that were planted in the nineteenth century. The best time to see the rhododendrons in flower is May and June, but any time of the year it will feel like you’re hiking through a jungle with a touch of fairy magic.

Within the woods you will also find Aideen’s Grave, one of the oldest monuments in Ireland said to be the burial place of Aideen, an important figure in Irish mythology, and also a portal to the fairy world. This is easy to believe, with the mystical trees and light around this monument, it almost felt like fairies would appear at any moment. Especially after hearing the legends that surround the area about fairies and selkies, mytical creatures that live as seals but shed their skin to become human on land.

Dolmen ancient monument howth county dublin ireland

Aideen’s grave – An ancient monument or a portal to the fairy world?

We continued on to the top of the hill to find the incredible views of Dublin Bay with Bull Island to the south, and the Irish Sea and Ireland’s Eye Island to the north.

To get to Howth, you can take bus number 31 or the train from Connolly Station.

Hell Fire Club, Montpellier Hill

The other hike that I did is Montpellier Hill, south of Dublin, which has great views over the city and Glenasmole Valley, the last Gaelic speaking part of County Dublin. We were guided by Terry from Hilltoptreks, who knows the area and the dark history that this hill hides, like the back of his hand.

Glenasmole Valley green fields, Dublin Ireland

Glenasmole Valley, the last gaelic speaking area in County Dublin

We hiked to the top of the hill, where we found the site of an ancient cairn, a burial monument, and the infamous Hell Fire Club. With the club building now in ruins and such an eerie name, the place felt very spooky, and it became even spookier when we found out the history behind it.

Hell Fire Club, Montpellier Hill Dublin Ireland

The haunted Hell Fire Club

The Hell Fire Club was originally built as a hunting lodge in the 18th century and later became a gentleman’s club where all sorts of debauchery, like heavy drinking, orgies, witchcraft rituals, and even sacrifices took place. Some of the stones from the ancient burial mound were used for its construction, and shortly after its completion, the roof was blown off. Local superstition said that the Devil was involved in this, and there are lots of legends and stories surrounding the building, which is said to be one of the most haunted in Ireland. And it certainly felt that way!


More Spooky Experiences in Dublin

 


Go for a paddle and meet the local seals

If you like true adventure and wildlife spotting, then this is for you! Starting at Bullock Harbour in Dalkey, only 20 mins from the city, we set off led by Kayaking.ie into Dublin Bay for a paddle along the Dalkey coast. The sea was really choppy and the wind was against us so we had to work really hard to move forward. It was certainly a work out!

Kayaking itself was great fun, but the cherry on the cake was when we approached Dalkey Island, home to a colony of about 60 seals. We were able to observe some of the seals while they were lounging on the rocks, and some curious ones even took to the water to take a closer look at us! Unfortunately I didn’t take any photos of them, as the memory card on my GoPro got full before I got there. Bad planning on my part!

Kayaking in Dalkey, County Dublin Ireland

Kayaking towards Dalkey Island – Photo Credit: Bill Fink

Dalkey Island is a former Viking settlement, now uninhabited, with the remains of a church, a cairn burial, a gun battery and a Martello Tower, used for defence during the Napoleonic war. After we walked around the small island, and explored a little bit of its history, we jumped back on the kayaks to go back to the mainland – this time with the wind in our favour but the tide against us, so it was again fun and games. It was a fabulous day out and somehow we all managed to stay inside our kayaks with no incident!

After the paddle, stay in Dalkey and explore this charming village. The castle (there used to be 7 here!) is a great place to visit if you enjoy history, and I highly recommend the coffee at Mugs Cafe and the delicious food at the Dalkey Duck. You will have worked up an appetite!

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Are you a fan of adventure? Read about
Vang Vieng, Laos – an adventure tourist destination


Explore the Dublin Mountains on horse back

You wouldn’t necessarily associate Dublin with horse riding, but just outside Enniskerry in the outskirts of the city, you will find Killegar Stables, one of Ireland’s longest established horse riding schools and livery yards.

I’d only ridden a horse once before, but that was not a problem. The team at the stables gave us an introductory ride around the paddock and after a couple of rounds and exercises we were all ready to go.

We started the ride along a quiet lane and slowly went uphill along some beautiful green fields. I have to say that I’ve never seen green scenery like the one in Ireland. So vibrant and intense! Soon after we went into the woods, where we had a little bit of fun following the paths and avoiding getting hit by branches. Some of us managed it more successfully than others…

On the way back, we had the views over the Dublin Mountains right in front of us with their beautiful green fields. When we got back to the stables, I helped putting my horse Ceasar away. He was a very good boy but he had a bit of a competitive streak and didn’t like to be overtaken by another horse!


Book More Dublin Adventures Here

 


Master the skills of hurling

So you are in Dublin and you want to learn a new skill. How about learning to play hurling? But what is hurling? Hurling is an ancient gaelic game that has been played in Ireland for over 3,000 years. It is one of the oldest field sports in the world and it’s one of the most popular sports played in the country.

We went to see the O’Driscoll Brothers from Clash Gaelic Games, experts in this field, to learn all about this intriguing sport that is little known outside of Ireland. And learn we did! Through storytelling and jokes we learnt about the unique skills that make hurling so important and how it is at the centre of every community around the country.

But in addition to the history and tradition of this uniquely Irish game, we got to go in the field and try it out ourselves. We got to learn how to hold the hurley, the wooden stick with a flattened curved shape at the end used to hit the leather ball. We also learnt how to control the ball with the hurley, how to hit it, how to pick it up from the ground without using your hands, and most importantly, how to steal the ball from your opponent using the hurley.

It was a great team sport and we even had a competition at the end to see who could hit the ball the furthest. I didn’t even make top three, but had the best time!

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Enjoy the coastline on two wheels

Cycling is always a great way to explore a city and its surroundings, especially when you have a fantastic coastal road with magnificent views over the Irish Sea.

We picked up our bikes from the Irish Centre for Cycling in Malahide, just north of Dublin, after a visit to the magnificent castle and grounds. Lead by Shane, we set off and arrived at the coast pretty much straight away. We cycled and enjoyed the views of the sea to our left, stopping a couple of times to learn about the numerous castles and Martello towers that we could see along the coast.

A Martello tower is a small fort that was built across the British Empire in the 19th century as part of a line of defence during the Napoleonic War. The Irish east coast is peppered with these towers. There are also a lot of castles, which were built privately by the local lords to protect their land and sometimes their trade routes. Some of these castles and Martello Towers have now been turned into private residences, airbnb properties, and one of them is even a museum dedicated to James Joyce.

Malahide Coastline with Martello Tower County Dublin, Ireland

Martello tower in the distance

Climb and swing from tree tops

No matter how old you are, climbing a tree and swinging from it always feels like an adventure. And you can do just that right outside of Dublin, at Zipit Forest Adventures.

Zipit has a number of circuits of varying difficulty, with the easiest ones suitable for children. I started off on the Orange one, of medium difficulty, but challenging enough with the wobbly platforms, swings, ropes, and very cool ziplines. I then tried to go on to the blue one which is the next one up in difficulty. I say try because my little legs couldn’t get over the first hurdle! So I had to come back down after failing to reach the first step feeling a bit deflated, so instead I followed my fellow adventurers along the ground while they zipped and wobbled along the canopy.

Some of us (obviously not me!) even completed the red course, which is the hardest one. This course requires a lot of upper body strength and one of the obstacles is to cross from tree to tree over a rope while cycling a bike! Maybe I should have given it a go… (!)


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Segway all the way

And of course, ‘Segwaying’ through Dublin had to be included in this list. This novel way of exploring a city has almost become a bit viral and you’ll be pressed to find a capital city where there are no Segway tours.

We chose to explore Phoenix Park with CP Adventure. Before we got started, we had a couple of trial runs on the Segway. It took a few minutes and a few runs back and forth to get the hang of it. But it soon became very intuitive and natural to be moving on wheels while standing up straight. A very odd sensation that felt oddly natural.

Phoenix Park is the largest enclosed park in any capital city in Europe and it’s five times bigger than Hyde Park in London. It was rutting season when we were there so we got to see a lot of wild fallow deer around. And we got relatively close to have a good look at them… and them at us!

The park has fantastic views over Dublin and we were really lucky that the weather was really sunny and clear.


Getting around

Although you can get to some of these adventures by public transport, the best way to explore County Dublin is by hire car, which gives you the freedom of discovering out of the way villages and less accessible areas. For the best hire car deals, click here.

For more Ireland adventures, read about this epic road trip.

What would be your favourite Dublin adventure?
Let me know in the comments!


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Disclosure: A big thank you to Discover Ireland, who hosted me on this trip. As always, all views are my own. This post also contains affiliate links, that earn me a small commission but come at no extra cost to you. Thanks as always for your support!

Feature Photo Credit: Bill Fink

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30 Comments
  1. Reply

    neha

    20/12/2017

    Wow..never knew there are so many adventure activities available to try in Dublin . And that also amidst the nature. The views from Glenasmole Valley are also beautiful and the hiking train look like even a novice like me can try them. Will need to try out as many of these as possible when I go to Dublin

    • Reply

      Teresa

      26/12/2017

      Thanks Neha. There really is so much to do in Dublin! I will need to go back to keep uncovering more secrets! 🙂

  2. Reply

    Anthony

    21/12/2017

    So it looks like Dublin has everything the Friend’s like to do:
    Natural surroundings, history, adventure and local culture.

    Thanks for putting this list together we will make sure we reference back when we plan our visit to Dublin!

    Thanks for sharing. Keep travel blogging. Adventure is better shared with friends!

    • Reply

      Teresa

      21/12/2017

      Ah thank you! I’m so glad you enjoyed it and you think you’ll be able to reference back to it. Dublin definitely has it all! 😊

  3. Reply

    Carmen Baguio

    22/12/2017

    Love hiking and kayaking so those would be top on my list! I’ve never been on a Segway, and it looks like a fun way to tour a city!

    • Reply

      Teresa

      26/12/2017

      I’m a big hiking fan too and kayaking was fantastic! And the Segway tour! It was all so much fun! 🙂

  4. Reply

    Krupa

    22/12/2017

    Looks like Dublin has all the things to do under one roof. I am not so adventure lover, but this looks like must to do once in our visit there. Very well written. Thanks for sharing .

    • Reply

      Teresa

      26/12/2017

      Thank you so much. I’m really glad you enjoyed reading even though you’re not a big adventure person 🙂

  5. Reply

    Paula - Gone with the Wine

    23/12/2017

    Looks like so much fun! Dublin is beautiful. I would for sure love the horseback riding. That is a great way to explore the nature.

    • Reply

      Teresa

      26/12/2017

      Thanks Paula. It was fabulous fun! I would do it all over again. The horse ride was fantastic! 🙂

  6. Reply

    Constance

    23/12/2017

    What a variety of things to do in Dublin! I loved how you were able to show that there is literally something there for everyone. I also liked how a lot of the activities were unexpected and off the beaten path! Saving for the future 🙂

    • Reply

      Teresa

      26/12/2017

      Thanks Constance! I’m so happy you enjoyed it. And I only scratched the surface! 🙂

  7. Reply

    christina

    23/12/2017

    Truly a lot more to do in Dublin than one would think. We will be there in a few months and will definitely be returning to this page. I am excited about the potential hikes we can do. Thank you for sharing this.

    • Reply

      Teresa

      26/12/2017

      Thanks Christina! There’s so much to do in Dublin! Especially hikes. I wish I’d had more time to do a few more when I was there.

  8. Reply

    The Globetrotter Guys

    29/01/2018

    This was honestly such an interesting read! I would never have guessed that Dublin offers so many “outdoorsy” activities. My husband Ben would definitely love the horse-riding!

    • Reply

      Teresa

      29/01/2018

      Thanks guys! I was really surprised too by the amount of adventure Dublin had to offer. And everything within half an hour from the city centre! 🙂

  9. Reply

    Nofar Gluzman

    30/01/2018

    Well now I feel like I missed out on a lot of adventure last time I was in Dublin. Guess it means I have to go back now!

    • Reply

      Teresa

      31/01/2018

      It’s always good to have an excuse to go back to a place. Hehe 🙂

  10. Reply

    Gabby

    01/02/2018

    I have to send a big thank you for this post! I am not a huge fan of city trips – I like to combine it with the outdoors and I NEVER read posts on what to do outside of cities. I was actually thinking about visiting Dublin so I loved to read that there is so much to do outside of the city. Thanks for the great tip!

    • Reply

      Teresa

      02/02/2018

      Thanks Gabby! I’m so glad your enjoyed this post! You’re right that city posts tend to focus on things to do in the cities themselves, and it’s great to know what’s around them too. 😊

  11. Reply

    alexine

    01/02/2018

    Wow I would love to visit Dublin the same way as you did. These are great photos you have here. I would visit all places, my favorite would be in Zipit Forest Adventures. What a great experience for you. I’ll save this post for sure.

    • Reply

      Teresa

      02/02/2018

      Thanks Alexine! I’m really happy to hear that you enjoyed reading this. Zipit Forest Adventures was so much fun!! 🙂

  12. Reply

    Alex

    02/02/2018

    Wow. So many uncommon activities for me like hurling and horseback riding. And I want to explore The haunted Hell Fire Club!

    • Reply

      Teresa

      02/02/2018

      They were all sooo much fun! And the Hell Fire Club had a bit of an added spooky feel. A really cool place to explore! 🙂

  13. Reply

    Leanne

    10/02/2018

    Such unique finds! Those hikes sound amazing. I’ll be heading out for 9 days beginning next weekend and your post helped give me some suggestions. Definitely don’t want to do only touristy things!

    • Reply

      Teresa

      11/02/2018

      Thanks Leanne. The hikes were fabulous. I hope you get to experience some of these adventures when you visit 🙂

  14. Reply

    Emily Harper

    14/02/2018

    Hi Teresa,

    If I am not mistaken, Hell Fire Club was visited by Ghost Adventures during one of their lockdowns. They investigated Leap Castle which was believed to be haunted and filled with dark energies. Interesting place indeed. Maybe one day, I will get to visit this spot.

    • Reply

      Teresa

      18/02/2018

      Thanks Emily! I’m not sure I’d like to have a lockdown in the Hell Fire Club. I got frightened by one of my friends while I was there and it was daylight 🙈I’d love to visit Leap Castle, but again, in the daylight and with other people☺️

      • Reply

        Emily Harper

        20/02/2018

        Hi Teresa,

        I can only imagine how creepy it is to visit these locations! 😀 I am begging my best friend to come with me and explore this place in the dead of night. She’s been silent the whole time. LOL

        • Reply

          Teresa

          20/02/2018

          I have to say that I don’t blame your friend for being silent! Haha 🙈

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HI, I'M TERESA!

Hi! I’m Teresa, a London-based traveller and photographer who quit her job in the summer 2016 to explore the world. I’ve been to 39 countries and have ticked some adventures off my bucket list. I hope I can inspire you and motivate you to get out there and explore this beautiful world we live in. Follow my updates and discover the essence of travelling with me!

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