Excursions into the wilder places of the country will give travelers a greater appreciation of the verdurous marvels around them. While an entire itinerary need not focus on one place or activity, oftentimes certain regions are more suitable to particular diversions.
Adventure in Dublin
Some fun adventures within Dublin can be had with Viking Splash Tours (01 707 6000, www.vikingsplash.ie), which uses replica WWII amphibious vehicles to take passengers back to bygone days when Vikings roamed and ruled.
Biking around Dublin is another way to explore the city. Travelers wanting to rent should contact Neill's Wheels (085 153 0648, www.rentabikedublin.com) for daily and weekly packages.
In the summer, take the DART or the local city bus to one of the various beaches within reach from Dublin. The exurb of Dún Laoghaire has a notable walking beach at Sandycove, while Dollymount and Sutton are closer to the city center. Fishing is also an option along Dublin's east coast. Peruse the Fisheries Board (www.fishingireland.net) site for more information and read on to learn about the best fishing spots in the country.
Ireland's National Parks
The Emerald Isle abounds in protected habitats and boasts six national parks. While walking is one of the best ways to negotiate the terrain, other activities are available within or around these wilderness areas. Especially in summer, operators advertise fishing, cycling, canoeing, and horseback riding. To find out more about each protected wilderness area, browse through the county-specific chapters in this guide.
The six national parks of Ireland include:
The Wicklow Mountains National Park (www.wicklowmountainsnationalpark.ie) is the only national park near Dublin (besides Northern Ireland's Mourne Mountains). The heart of the park is Glendalough, where various monastic ruins can be explored, as well as an assortment of trails for day walks. The area is home to heath, peat plots, along with scenic lakes and streams.
The Killarney National Park (www.killarneynationalpark.ie) in County Kerry is best described as rugged, mountainous, and dotted with pristine loughs. The central focal point of the park is the Muckross House and Gardens. Biking around the park, taking a boat ride to Inisfallen Island, or a jaunting car around the nature reserve are some of the best ways to explore the park.
The Burren National Park (www.burrennationalpark.ie) in County Clare is an unfathomable moonlike landscape holding Ireland's (and some of Europe's) most diverse plant species. Walking around the extensive limestone is the best way to get around, while cycling various backgrounds to explore the environs is also possible.
The Connemara National Park (www.connemaranationalpark.ie) in County Galway is a fascinatingly remote and expansive conservation area filled with all the mountains, grassland, and bog that one could hope to encounter. The estate of Kylemore Abbey is a worthwhile trip after a walk around the trails. Biking around the Connemara countryside is an especially invigorating endeavor.
The Ballycroy National Park (www.ballycroynationalpark.ie) in County Mayo is the Republic's newest, currently least visited, and one of its largest parks. Set amidst the Nephin Beg Mountains, its not all bog land. The grassy knolls are home to abounding flora in summer; bird watching and fishing day trips are available for the outdoor enthusiast.
The Glenveagh National Park (www.glenveaghnationalpark.ie) in County Donegal is one of Ireland's most removed and spectacular wilderness preservations. Mountains, lakes, and an abundance of wildlife make it especially attractive to those exploring Ireland's northwest. Walking the well-marked trails is one way to access the remote areas where you will increase your chances of spotting red deer, golden eagles, and hare. Guided ranger walks are available from the tourist office.