Leave the Guinness and Get Outside: Canyoning and Caving in Ireland

This is a guest post by my lovely friend Kaleigh Allen who I met at the TBEX Travel Blogging conference in Killarney, Ireland. Kaleigh is a travel and food blogger and the brains behind KK Travels and Eats. She loves getting out of her comfort zone and will try anything at least once, especially if it’s followed by a local beer.

When most people talk about Ireland, the first thing mentioned isn’t normally adventure tourism, but adventure is something Ireland has in spades. Of course, you can drink whiskey, explore castles and see the main Irish tourist attractions, but getting down and dirty in another country gives you a true sense of accomplishment and can make you feel more like a local.

Leave the Guinness and Get Outside:

Canyoning and Caving in Ireland

The West Coast of Ireland is the perfect place to start an adventure no matter what time of year. There’s hiking, biking, caving, canyoning, coasteering and so much more. Even further, you’re off the beaten track just enough where you get to experience this beautiful country in a deeper way. My West Ireland adventures started with a quick stop at the Cliffs of Moher. The cliffs are stunning and an absolute must see while in this area, but instead of parking in the main lot for a fee my tip is to park in town or off of the main road and take a short hike to the cliffs. There will also be less tourists this way!

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Go Deep! Caving in Ireland

From here, we drove to the Doolin area where we met our guide, Micháel, the owner of Epic Ireland. After some quick introductions and an awesome lunch at the Doolin Cafe, we followed Micháel along the coast and continued until the only people we saw were locals.

After gearing up in our hilarious protective caving gear, we began walking through tall grass until we stopped for a little pep talk. Then we started walking deeper into the forest. Each one of us were in awe of the nature around us. I felt like I was walking through a Disney movie where we went deeper and deeper in an enchanted forest. This enchanted forest was also full of danger in the form of bogs. If we didn’t step in the right place we could lose a boot, which luckily no one did.

After a short hike we made it to some running water and were told that we had to climb down the crevice. So we went for it! At the bottom of this small crevice, we prepped to go into the cave after all confirming that we were okay with the small space and darkness we were about to enter.

I followed directly behind Micháel as our group descended into the darkness with laughter and anticipation. After crawling and squeezing our way through most of the cave, Micháel informed us that we were to hold onto one another’s belts and turn off our headlamps. We were already very trusting of him so we did as we were told, which was followed by some shrieking and laughing. The shrieking was mostly coming from me since I had to lead everyone in complete darkness without knowing what was to come.

After what seemed like forever and was probably only a couple of minutes, my belt was being pulled so I had to stop. Of course this is right where water is rushing down the wall and completely engulfing my boot that continued to squish with every step. Luckily, after we got through this part and turned our lamps back on we all couldn’t stop laughing. We continued climbing and crawling until we squeezed our way through the last tight spot and made it back to daylight.

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The hardest part was yet to come because our fearless leader, Micháel, decided it was a good idea for us to find our way back through the forest. The difficult part is that every way looks the same, lush and green. We couldn’t agree on which way to go at first, but eventually made our way back through the forest where we all high-fived and celebrated the fact that we made it out alive and with all of our boots. After the short walk to the rental car, we quickly changed into dry clothes while laughing and reliving our adventure.

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Canyoning and Cliff Jumping in West Ireland

The next morning we were all buzzing with excitement for what was to come because none of us really knew what canyoning was. After Micháel picked us up, we began driving through Connemara.

If you’ve never been to Ireland or even if you have, you definitely need to visit this area. It’s breathtaking and makes you want to move to Ireland, or at least it makes me want to move there. We finally stopped off of a little dirt road and the only other living things we saw were a farmer, a sheep dog and their sheep.

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We geared up with wet suits (two layers for the girls), helmets and rubber socks. The water was very cold and no joke. Once again, we started with a little pep talk from Micháel. His pep talks were great because he gives you safety instructions all while making you laugh and easing those nerves.

All together, we then walked straight into the water instead of hiking along side it like most people do. I would have never thought to hike in the river instead of the soft grass next to it, but that’s why I’m not the guide.

Of course, I dove right in..literally because I stumbled on a rock and fell within seconds of getting in.

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We proceeded to work as a team to climb up and up and continued laughing with and at each other as we did. After what felt like hours, but was actually minutes, we could still see our starting point, which made all of us laugh at how slow we were actually climbing. We continued going up and slowly got far enough away from the cars.

After a couple of hours, we made it to rocks tall enough to jump from and we definitely took advantage of that or at least I did. Cliff jumping is one of my favourite activities and once I start I can’t stop. We continued climbing all while we were jumping and sliding off of the rocks. After a while, it was time to actually hike back down to our cars to change and warm up. Some of us may or may not have had a little bit of whiskey to speed up the heat [Spoiler alert: I definitely did].

On the way to get food we made a couple of photo stops. It’s hard not to stop while driving in Ireland because everything is so beautiful and scenic. We followed this up with a killer lunch, because after hiking up a river fish and chips is a requirement.

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Getting Dirty with Adventure Tourism in Ireland

This was my fourth time visiting Ireland, but my first time doing anything this adventurous while there. I was completely surprised and blown away by the vast ways to get down and dirty while also feeling more connected to the country than I ever have before.

Adventure is a must-do for me from now on when going back to Ireland and has even inspired me to do more research and find more adventurous activities in my future travels. This is not only a great way to see the country, but also an amazing team building or bonding adventure to have with friends or family that you’re traveling with.

If you’re adventurous or if you’ve never tried something like this before, then I wouldn’t hesitate in doing so. I already knew I would love this activity, but some of my friends had never tried anything like this before. They were nervous, anxious and a little scared before and somewhat during. But once we were done, they are were so glad they did it and everyone had the best time. It’s even some of our favourite moments from the entire trip and a few friends even said it was the most adventurous two days they had ever had. What a way to remember Ireland!

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