Turns out, not only are people doing it, tourists are increasingly paying for the privilege. I was one of them recently, and after jumping into the uncertain abyss, I came away with the undisputed highlight from a week-long trip to the fabled island — not to mention newfound respect for the power of the sea.
Colloquially known as “coasteering” and first invented in nearby Wales, the amphibious activity combines rough sea swimming, intertidal caving, cliff-climbing and leaping from extreme heights into the exposed sea below. Avoiding impact with rocks, hypothermia and drowning is all part of the “fun.”
Soaring to the sea off Northern Ireland’s Atlantic coast.
Courtesy The Jungle NI
In truth, coasteering in Ireland is a lot safer, less extreme and more enjoyable than it sounds. For around $60 per person, local guides will typically fully outfit you with a warming wetsuit, safety helmet, protective gloves, water shoes, a mega life jacket and an exhilarating — and probably exhausting (in a good way) — itinerary.
All told, it’s a fantastic way to not only see the country’s famous cliffs and shorelines in a new light, but to gain a new appreciation for an often-hostile environment.
From County Cork in the southern peninsulas to the cliff coasts of Kerry, Clare and Galway in the middle, and then all the way up to County Donegal and Northern Ireland’s timeless Giant’s Causeway, nearly two dozen guiding companies provide coasteering tours around much of the island.
According to glowing consumer reviews and my own personal experience, here are some of the best locations to cliff-jump off the western edge of Europe.
The world-famous Giant’s Causeway is the draw for most tourists traveling this far north, but there’s plenty to discover along the whole of the Causeway Coastal Route.
“Game of Thrones” fans will recognize Ballintoy Harbour as the filming location for the Iron Islands, and you may need nerves of steel to handle the rush of adrenaline when coasteering on the island’s northern edge.
Over the border in the Republic of Ireland, if you really want to go out of your way to the most uninhabited and unspoiled areas in all of the island, look no further than County Donegal.
Rain or shine, coasteering offers an exhilarating adrenaline burst.
Courtesy The Jungle NI
For maximum adrenaline from high-jumping cliffs, head to Mullaghmore proper. For more mellow routes with a focus on sea-cave swimming, tours are also available at nearby Bundoran.
Situated on the northwest corner of County Galway, Connemara is a hotbed for Irish coasteering.
When you’re finished, consider soaking up the fairytale good looks of nearby Connemara National Park.
Note: To get a better idea of what you’ll be jumping from and into, talk to a guide before booking.
In the likely event you’ll visit the very popular and very scenic County Kerry — which includes Dingle, Gap of Dunloe and Killarney National Park — you’d be well-advised to add coasteering to your itinerary while there.
Whichever way you go, adventure tourism along the Wild Atlantic Way is burgeoning and bucking the tour-bus trend when it comes to seeing the legendary Irish coast.
And who would have thought that something as straightforward as coasteering could emerge as the most unexpected, intimidating and thrilling way to get your feet wet?