Let me begin by putting my cards on the table, I am Irish, so as a result it is not surprise that I think this great Island is the best in the world! I do also have a couple of decades of experience travelling the globe seeking out incredible rivers and waterfalls to hurtle myself off in my kayak so although I am biased I have sampled some of the best spots on the planet and I still think Ireland wins! But for the past 3 years I have been kayaking extensively in Ireland and if I wasn’t already convinced I am now, that this is the best place in the world to have an Adventure in a Kayak.
So in no particular order these are the 10 reasons you need to get your butt in a Kayak in Ireland, and when I say in Ireland I mean it, although the coast is great and I have had the pleasure of seeing it all by kayak, this is all about the incredible inland waterways and lakes which criss cross the island.
The slow pace of travelling by paddle power is a serene way to soak up the rolling hills and vast lowlands in the heart of Ireland. The extensive network of canals which link to the River Shannon allow you to move slowly and quietly through untouched parts of the countryside, leaving nothing but ripples in you place ensuring the next visitors will enjoy a similarly untouched experience.
The recent re-introduction of Sea Eagles to Ireland has resulted in 2 pairs now nesting on Lough Derg on the Shannon and with one pair breading for over 3 years the population is ever increasing. The opportunity to see these majestic creatures in flight is not to be missed and kayaking affords incredible viewing opportunities as we can tour near the nest sites without interfering with the habitats.
3. Water Quality
The River Shannon flows like a major artery through the heart of Ireland and is the source of drinking water to villages and towns along its length. as a result the quality of water is highly protected and not only does this provide an excellent amenity for leisure and recreation it also plays a major mart in ensuring the flora and fauna along the bank thrive giving rise to an incredibly diverse landscape.
Ireland has a rich history of world class kayakers and guides who have worked all over the globe. This is largely down to Canoeing Ireland and the excellent work they do in training high quality instructors to ensure those taking to the water for the first time are kept safe and have fun. The training program which is constantly developing to ensure best practice is maintained. In addition to the core principles of providing safe enjoyable experiences guides are now also training to interpret the landscape immersing (pardon the pun) clients fully in the rich history and heritage of the waterways.
5. Family Friendly
With a range of kayaks on the market to fit all shapes, sizes and ages there is no excuse not to include the entire family. There is nothing like packing the family into boats and heading off an adventure on the water together sharing an incredible experience and making great memories together.
6. All Season
In case you did not know Ireland gets a fair share of rain, regardless of season, and sometimes we get up to 4 seasons in one day. This may sound a little crazy but the upside is we are well equipped and prepared to get out and enjoy the great outdoors, so with a waterproof top and some warm layers you can get out at any time of the year to take on an a kayaking adventure.
7. Low cost
With a range of operators up and down the waterways offering guided adventures, equipment hire or outfitting for multi day trips, your kayak adventure need not be expensive. There are a range of cost effective ways to get afloat and with most companies providing all of the equipment you need all you have to do is show up and before you know it you will be on the water having fun.
The Access to the waterways in Ireland is one of our best kept secrets. Waterways Ireland who oversee the operation and maintenance of the canals, rivers and lakes do an incredible job of ensuring that there are clean and accessible points of entry onto to water and all at no cost! And the great news is the access is improving with new Blueways & Canoetrails being developed which include excellent navigation and safety information to ensure you can journey safely in new areas all over the Island of Ireland.
9. History & Heritage
The waterways are steeped in history, from myths of the Salmon of Knowledge, the invasion of the Vikings to the Siege of Athlone and Limerick there is a tall tale or historic monument around every bend. The Monastic settlements at Clonmacnoise and Holy Island are some of the most significant examples from the period and you can travel over 1,500 years back in time journeying between them as the monks would have in small craft.
For many jumping aboard a kayak for 2 hours will be a great challenge and there are plenty of places to do this. Others might find more appeal in the chance to kayak the longest river in the British Isles, the mighty River Shannon. At 360km this epic journey takes in some of Irelands largest lakes. If you find more drawn to historic canals why not navigate the length of the 200 year old Grand Canal or start on the north side of the Liffey in Dublin and travel west along the Royal Canal. Regardless of ability or experience with waterways stretching the length and breath of the island you will never be far from a waterways and never far from your next challenge!