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Last updated : Nov 2009
Ireland Sports
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Horse riding

Equestrianism is one of the country's principal tourist attractions and facilities for horse riding are found all over. A full list of stables and riding holidays is available at the Irish Tourist Board.

The main racecourses are at Leopardstown, Fairyhouse (Irish Grand National every year), The Curragh (Irish Sweeps Derby) and Punchestown (an international cross-country, three-day riding course).

Hiking

Ireland’s sparsely populated countryside makes it great for walkers of all levels. The mild climate means that the mountains are accessible year round. The mountainous areas are towards the coast, which makes for dramatic seascapes, especially by the Atlantic Ocean.

Adventurous walkers may want to tackle Ireland’s highest peak, Carrauntoohil (1041m or 3415ft) in Macgillycuddy’s Reeks, in the far southwest of the country. Other mountains include Croagh Patrick (765mor 2510ft) near Westport in Co Mayo, a holy mountain and on the last Sunday in July, a place of pilgrimage. Its conical summit is silhouetted against the horizon for miles, as if a beacon to pilgrims. St Patrick supposedly drove all the snakes out of Ireland from this mountain.

The 12 Bens in Connemara has lovely hill walking, with views over towards the jagged coastline. The scenery of the Wicklow Mountains is barely an hour’s drive from Dublin.

There are 28 national way marked ways in the country, including the Beara Way, Kerry Way and the Wicklow Way.

Custom-made tours with a local guide can be arranged through Walking Cycling Ireland (email: wci@eircom.net).

There are a number of gentle walks for the less energetic. The guidebook, ‘Walking Ireland – The Way marked Ways’, available for free from the Irish Tourist Board, gives more information.

Cycling

Although some of Ireland’s coastal parts are mountainous, the valleys and the gently central plain are excellent for easy cycling. Roads are well maintained and most are quiet. Inland, the landscape is lined with small farms, and one is never too far away from civilisation if one requires it.

There is a high number of pre-celtic monuments in lonely places; owing to old Irish superstitions, they were not cleared away when the land was farmed. The Boyne Valley contains over 300.

Fishing

Being blessed with miles of streams and rivers and over 5500km or 3500 miles of coastline, Ireland offers excellent fishing. There is no closed season for freshwater angling, but the months from March to October are the best suited for bream, roach, rudd, dace and perch.

For coarse angling, there are new rules regarding share certificates; further details can be obtained from the Irish Tourist Board.

Game fishing requires a licence and a permit. The brown trout season runs usually from mid February or March until 30 September. Open salmon season is 1 January to 7 September. The sea trout period is best from June to 30 September or 12 October in some areas. Salmon licence's and or permits also cover sea trout.

Along the Atlantic coast, sea angling is possible from rocks, piers, in the surf or during a day’s boat fishing excursion which can be organised locally.

Golf

There are over 350 golf courses run by the Golfing Union of Ireland, and many come to Ireland specifically for a golfing holiday, where the course rates are cheaper compared with the UK. The courses are set both by the sea and inland – two-thirds of them are 18-hole.

Other

For those in pursuit of culture or to discover their roots, Ireland has much to offer. There are summer schools all over where it is possible to learn Gaelic and to pursue other courses in Irish culture. Courses include archaeological walks around Celtic sites, traditional Irish music, courses on literary figures such as Oscar Wilde, W B Yeats and Gerard Manley Hopkins, and popular culture and storytelling. A list of courses is available from the Irish Tourist Board.

These courses attract students and participants from all over the world. Genealogical centres will help those who come to trace their family history. The Irish Tourist Board also publishes a free booklet called ‘Tracing your Ancestors’.

The National Library of Ireland provides a free genealogy advisory service run by a panel of genealogists and an expert member of staff, which provides an overview of genealogical records and gives advice on specific family research. Further information is available (telephone: (1) 603 0200; fax: (1) 676 6690; email: info@nli.ie)

Pilgrimages to Ireland are burgeoning and visits to religious sites such as the Knock Marian Shrine in Co Mayo are very popular.

The national sports of Ireland are Gaelic football and hurling.
Useful travel links
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