Ok, we’re aware of the hard facts. Ireland is flanked by the Irish Sea and the Atlantic Ocean and its outline shapes it like a teddy bear waiting to be warmly embraced. The main body of said teddy bear is occupied by green pastures, patterns of meadow-filled fields and, most importantly here, a host of wonderful waterways. Thankfully, mankind has pounced upon this range of watery resources and staged an array of varied enticing pursuits.
From the high-octane thrills of rafting to angling on a private lake, guest blogger David McEvoy picks his top trumps for watersport fun in Ireland.
Cruising Lough Neagh
Now, whether you buy into urban legends or not, they certainly can give a magical air to a place, even if it does hit your ears as a fabulously far-fetched tale. Fionn McCumhaill, the man credited with creating the Giant’s Causeway, kindly continued his work to the patch of Ireland where Lough Neagh now sits. If lore has it right, Lough Neagh was formed when Fionn plucked a chunk of the landscape from its roots and flung it at his Scottish rival Benandonner. Its dimensions credit it with being the largest lake in the British Isles, and, thanks to some decidedly water-friendly folk, it’s optimized as a great outlet for cruises taking in the whole length and breadth of its waterspace. Hop on the Maid Of Antrim, a boating beauty built to whisk you away on trips that bridge the gap between you and this mammoth splendor of nature. Pitstops include Shane’s castle, a WWI testing platform and a passing trip of where the Lough marries with the River Maine at Mainwater Foot. And while your sitting portside, shades atop your head, the ripple of lake water your soundtrack, spare a thought for Fionn. He is the facilitator after all, and according to mythical records and thousand-year-old word of mouth he missed his adversary that day. That chunk of land was since christened the Isle Of Man. Sounds like a fact to us, so we’re sticking to it.
Gone fishin’ in County Galway
So much of fishing is about sounds – the whirr of the line loosening, the whip as you cast and then the dainty little ‘plop’ as the fly sits on the water. In order to properly enjoy these sounds though you’ll need a very quiet canvas on which to work. The chances are you won’t find quieter than lakes and rivers around in County Galway Thanks to a major stocking programme of the three lakes and the Bundorragha River that feeds them, the chances of you heading home with a pink, pouting salmon or speckled trout in your box are high. In terms of tuition there’s only so much you can learn from watching ‘A River Runs Through It’ and that’s where Peter comes in. Peter O’ Reilly is the friendly fishing shaman who’ll be scrutinising your every cast during your tuition here and with his guidance your day’s fishing will be like shooting fish in a…. well, you know.
Rafting on the River Liffey
Ok, so the Liffey is familiar to us as that regal waterway that bisects Dublin City. But did you know that somewhere along her 75 watery miles she curves, she widens, she narrows and, most importantly, she quickens. The free-flowing folks at rafting.ie have navigated a really quite beautiful route (beginning in Lucan and ending in Palmerstown, ) along the Anna Liffey taking in a host of sites that generally remain quietly secreted. In between a good share of heart-pounding weirs, rafters will pass Shackelton’s flour Mill, the Wren’s Nest and Silver Bridge. It would be a mistake to regard the trip as a quaint little paddle however, something you might realise when you’re storming down a weir in a jumble of froth and you can’t even manage a yelp. Rafts take a mimimum of four people and a maximum of eight and all equipment is provided.
Kite surfing in County Clare
Flying a kite is one of those pursuits that looks pretty but lacks the edge to make it particularly memorable. However, when that kite is attached to you and you’re attached to a surfboard skipping along the watertop that little frisson of excitement just happens to surge right back. While it might seem like a rather newfanlged sport, kitesurfing dates back to 1903 when the, ahem, ‘aviation pioneer’ Samuel Cody dragged himself across the English Channel with a colapsable canvas boat and a large kite. As ‘gnarly’ as Cody’s efforts were it might calm some nerves to know that in today’s guise, kitesurfing is extremely safe and your initiation to the kite and water is modestly paced. in has been a surfing Nirvana for years now and for reasons known only to meteoroligists and Mother Nature, happens to garner some cracking gusts. Lahinch Kite Surfing offer Discovery and Intermediate courses and provide all equipment except wetsuits which are easily rented from various surf shops in the town.
Along with being tremendous fun, Ireland’s waterways have the tendency to look startlingly beautiful as proven by these shots taken by fans of the IAWI.