Top 5 Sea Kayaking Destinations in Ireland

Top 5 Sea Kayaking Destinations in Ireland

Ireland is a place of mystery, wonder, and history. Whether you’re traveling by land or by sea, there is something completely enchanting about its coast and waters. The variety of geological features, unique marine life, and rich past makes traveling by sea one of the absolute best ways to experience Ireland. 

And while you could charter a boat to take you on a site seeing tour, those who possess a sense of adventure will know that experiencing Ireland under their own power is the way to go! Sea kayaking offers the ambitious kayaker an opportunity to fully immerse themselves in Ireland’s beauty!

But where do you start? There are plenty of places to sea kayak around Ireland’s coast, but finding these locations can sometimes be difficult. However, don’t fear because in this article we’ve got the top 5 sea kayaking destinations on the beautiful Irish coast.

Whether you live in Ireland or plan to visit soon, be sure to check out one of these unmissable locations if you’re the keen kayaker.

  1. The North Sea Kayak Trail and the Giant’s Causeway, County Antrim

A bucket-list trip for the most adventurous of kayakers is the North Sea Kayak Trail and the Giant’s Causeway. Starting from Magilligan Point, those who decide to take on this trail in its entirety will find themselves in awe of the spectacular craggy outcroppings that make up the coastline as they slowly meander their way along the 70 nautical miles to the base of Glenariff. 

If that sounds overwhelming, don’t despair quite yet! Intermediate kayakers can definitely experience this trip as well and get to see the main attraction which is the Giant’s Causeway. This geological oddity was formed millions of years ago by volcanic activity, which formed strange hexagonal rock formations on the coast which make up the stuff of legends!

Less experienced kayakers can head out in groups or on a guided tour. There are also plenty of opportunities to cut the trip short. The full 70 mile trip doesn’t have to be conquered at once, it is possible to paddle small sections of the North Sea Kayak Trail in 10 to 20 mile sections. 

In either case, kayakers will delight in the abundance of marine life that call this area home. Playful seals and occasionally dolphins and basking sharks may make an appearance up as you make your way to the Causeway. Gannets will show off their fishing skills as they dive for fish from dizzying heights and the bass down below offer excellent sport for the avid angler. 

If you have the ability and experience, this is a must-see sea kayaking route!

Suitable for: Intermediate to Advanced 

Length of Route: 129.6 Kilometres

  1. Clew Bay, County Mayo

For those who are interested in a less intense but just as spectacular trip, look no further than Clew Bay. The waters of Clew Bay are dotted with 365 islands, which will give you endless opportunities to explore. 

Keep an eye out for evidence of the dramatic history of this bay! During the Middle Ages, Grace O’Malley reigned supreme over Clew Bay as the Pirate Queen. She used the numerous islands to her advantage in order to continue to resist English invasion. Evidence of her reign can be seen at her main base of operation – Rockfleet Castle.

After visiting Rockfleet Castle, be sure to make your way to some of the other 365 islands to view the unique limestone formations. Kayakers with a rich imagination can spot the different shapes that the drumlins take, from arrowheads to dragons!

Suitable for: Beginner to Intermediate

Length of Route: N/A

  1. The East Inishowen Sea Kayaking Route, County Donegal

If you’re looking for a challenging sea kayaking tour, make sure to include kayaking to Inishtrahull through the East Inishowen section of the Atlantic to your list. Located 9.26 kilometres off of the coast of the Inishowen peninsula, experienced kayakers will feel the effects that the complex tidal system and deep Inishtrahull Trench have on the currents as they paddle to the most northernly habitable land in Ireland. For that reason, only those who are very competent with sea kayaking should try this trip!

While you won’t find many people on Inishtrahull, you will wonder why more people don’t live there! The island is surrounded by dramatic cliffs that look over the Atlantic with just a lonely light house as a beacon for far off ships. 

When you’re done exploring the rocky coastline of Inishtrahull, be sure to stop by the famous Banaba’s Crown for some delicious baked treats and fresh coffee!

Suitable for: Advanced  

Length of Route: 9.26 kilometres

  1. The Copper Coast, Country Waterford

One of the most geologically unique sea kayak routes in Ireland is the Copper Coast. While you could get lost for hours upon hours on your own, definitely plan on going with an experienced guide or group of friends in order to fully experience the wonders that the Copper Coast holds.

You’ll follow the coast along, noticing the strikingly beautiful rock formations that were shaped both by natural and man-made forces. The Copper Coast got its name from the copper that attracted miners to the area to seek their fortunes. You’ll notice the different colours that the rocks display, both influenced by the tailings miners left behind and the natural reactions that the air has with the copper in the cliffsides.

For those with a sense of adrenaline, exploring the depths of the coastal caves and tunnels provides a sense of adventure, just be sure to check with a local guide before paddling into the cliffside. While you’re out in the open water, be sure look back to shore in order to get a good view of the green grasses above the cliffs that descend to the gorgeous, secluded, golden beaches below!

Suitable for: Beginner (with an experienced guide or friend) 

Length of Route: N/A

  1. Howth and Ireland’s Eye, Country Dublin

All levels of sea kayakers can enjoy something about touring Howth harbour and out to Ireland’s Eye due to the biodiversity and the amazing views (especially at sunset). Located off of the coast of Dublin, beginners can safely learn how to properly manoeuvre their kayaks before paddling out of Howth harbour and out to Ireland’s Eye.

Once out of the harbour, you’ll be treated to a rich abundance of marine life such as grey seals, puffins, guillemots, kittiwakes, and razorbills. As you make your way around the island, notice in how playfully and skilfully the birds dart around the cliffs and water! 

If you decide to make the journey during sunset, please remember to bring along a camera to capture one of the most magnificent scenes – Ireland’s Eye Island! Now uninhabited, Ireland’s Eye was once home to a small settlement. The old abbey still stands on the island that was constructed during the 1700’s. 

Kayaking to Ireland’s Eye via Howth harbour is not a trip to miss if you love history, wildlife, spectacular views, and a gentle challenge. 

Suitable for: Beginner 

Length of Route: 6 kilometres

Conclusion: Where Will You Go First?

Sea kayaking is one of the best ways to enjoy the coast around Ireland during the summertime. It’s a great way to get in shape, immerse yourself in nature, and test your skills and grit against the sea! 

Don’t forget to bring a camera in order to commemorate the amazing sites you see. You never know what you’ll see while out on the ocean. With the possibility of spotting basking sharks, bottlenose dolphins, porpoises, and seals, having a camera to hand is almost essential (if you want to capture those memories).  In fact, bringing a waterproof action camera, like a GoPro, in order to capture unexpected wildlife, epic fishing moments, and beautiful coastal scenery is a great way to reminisce on your trip for years and years to come! There’s nothing quite like being able to witness the playfulness of the seals, dolphins, sea birds, and fellow kayakers again and again!

Whether you’re an advanced kayaker or just a beginner, there is something for every level of paddler to enjoy on Ireland’s rugged coastline. If you’re unfamiliar with any area, be sure to hit up one of the many tour guide companies for directions or to hire an experienced guide to show you all of the hidden gems! 

Where will you explore first this summer?

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