Rachel’s Top Ten Irish Adventures for 2018
Are you looking for an exhilarating adventure for 2018? Whether you are looking for a multi-sport adventure race, open mountain run or cycling in the wilderness, there is an event for you in Ireland. Check our Rachel’s top ten Irish Adventures and tips for 2018:
THE RACE Donegal (March 2nd- 4th)
The RACE is aimed at providing the ultimate 24 hour test of endurance. It’s a 250km unsupported endurance event across the rugged landscape of North West Donegal. To complete the course, every warrior must kayak 15km, cycle 166km, mountain run 5km, road run 23km and trail run 42km through Glenveagh National Park to arrive back at the Gartan Adventure Centre. I absolutely love Donegal, not only for its wild untouched landscape but the Donegal people are just great ‘craic’. I’ve wanted to do this event for a couple of years but as I was living in France at the time, it just didn’t suit. After moving back to Ireland, I decided it was time to take it off the bucket list and I took on the challenge this year. It exceeded my expectations in terms of spectacular sceneries and the amazing atmosphere that comes with the event. I met lots of like-minded and inspiring people, some of which are now my best adventure buddies. For me, endurance events are as much about the social comradery as it is the physical endeavour and if I can make a weekend out of an adventure, all the better. My top tip for this event is to put in some long hours of training, it’s not about pace but it’s important to keep moving. This is a mental game so positive images of you arriving at the finish in Gartan, singing to the sheep around the Bloody Forelands and just being grateful to be able to physically and mentally participate in such an exclusive event. Choose the right gear for the day, it can be seriously wild and exposed in Donegal. I wore the same thing from start to finish and didn’t even bother putting on wet pants for the kayak. I’m not saying that’s the best option but it worked for me on the day.
Gaelforce Mountain Run (March 10th)
If you are looking for a spectacular open mountain run in one of the most rugged and wildest parts of Ireland, then look no further. The Gaelforce Mountain Run takes place over unmarked routes in the northern Maamturk mountains in wildest Connemara. This is a unique opportunity to access this stunning route with special permission being granted for the event by local landowners. This challenging course features steep ascents and boggy uphill terrain. There are three course options making it attainable for everyone, 22km expert, 13km intermediate and 12 introductory. I took part in the 22km course in 2016 and it was my favourite event of the year. I decided to do it last minute and drove from Ballina to Killary at crazy o’clock to get to the start-line. The atmosphere was so good that after the event I had a couple of glasses of wine, got chatting to a group of French and Spanish and ended up booking into the hostel for the night. My top tip for this event is to make a weekend of it and book into the Killary Adventure Centre hostel for the weekend. You could even extend the weekend and head out to the beautiful Clare Island, Inishturk or Inishboffin for an island experience. Take out insurance, they’re wild out there! Regarding training for the event, don’t be too hard on yourself, it’s a slow-moving event and technical so just take it at your own pace and enjoy the views. Be sure to wear trail shoes with good grips and bring an extra layer in case you decide to have a picnic at the top.
Nephin Up and Over (April 2nd)
2017 was the first year of the Nephin Up and Over event and if you want an open mountain challenge with spectacular views and the perfect Mayo welcome, here you have it!
You start off in the country village of Lahardane, run 5km on country roads until you hit the base of the mountain. It’s then an uphill to the summit, a downhill hop and jump over the bog holes and 5km run back to the pub for a soup and whiskey.
I can see Nephin mountain from my front door and it’s one of my regular climbs and where I take many of the Rachel’s Irish Adventures hiking tours. When I heard of this event, I was just delighted and was excited to join friends on the starting line and the fact that all money raised was for the local community, topped it off.
It was a fantastic event, sponsored by Nephin Whiskey and the atmosphere in the village was amazing.
My top tips here is sign up, if you are not used to open mountain running then hike it and just take in the views and soak up the atmosphere.
Maamturks Challenge (April 14th)
Maamturks Challenge is a 25km strenuous trek with 2300 metres of climbing in the unspoilt beautiful area of Maam and Leenane. This event was voted by Outsider magazine as Best Outdoor event for 2016 and it is certainly a worthy winner! The event is limited to 200 adventurers and the organization by 50 NUIG students is just outstanding. Participants are required to complete a full transverse of the famous Maamturks mountain range, a notoriously barren and rocky terrain. With ridges, cliffs and numerous valleys, this is a challenge to even the most experienced of walkers.
After making some new adventure buddies from Galway and Clare, we decided to take on this challenge as a bonding session. As we needed lots of time to get to know each other and share stories, we decided to drive to the starting line the evening before, park up and go for a 150km night cycle around Connemara and taking in the beautiful Sky road outside Clifden before heading into the hills at sunrise. Our night cycle took in the Gaelforce West night sportif route as well an extra exploration loop. The thrill of cycling at night takes you away to another land, we were lucky to catch a shooting star and a badger ran across the road too. I thought I might need my sun glasses to block the dirt but it felt like I was in a disco as I could only see the odd flashing like. I took them off for safety somewhere at Murrisk around Croagh Patrick and that was the end of my Oakley’s when they slipped out of my hand.
Arriving back at the base of the Maamturks before sunrise, we were off. The atmosphere was fantastic and everyone was so friendly. This is a tough hike and it is advisable to bring walking poles and extra clothing as it’s a long day out. My top tip is to register early as it does fill up, book into Leeann Hotel where the event finishes and it’s the perfect place to have a hot soup and sandwich and to add to it, Connemarra seaweed baths are located just beside it.
Connaught 600 (April 28th)
This is a 600 km self-supported cycle that will cover some of the most random and most spectacular back roads of Connaught. I discovered the Audax community in 2016 and I am now a converted randonneur. These events attract the upper half of middle aged men that are witty, serious picnic fans and have an everlasting engine. So, ladies if you are looking for the perfect hot match, join the triathlon club. However, if you are looking to discover a new world of incredibly friendly people that have no limits in life and bring their bicycle to bed, you have a match! The Audax events take you to discover places you will never find alone and hit distances you never thought you could reach on two wheels. They are self-supported events and are not for profit so usually cost about €5. You get a route card and find your own way around, picking up receipts in random shops and passing the occasional secret card check point to prove you did the entire route. My top tip for this event is to pace yourself, it is not a race and the goal is to enjoy the route, discover new places, meet more nutters and arrive at the destination in one or two pieces.
Coast 2 Coast (May 19th-20th)
Coast 2 Coast is an annual event organised by 26 Extreme that offers competitors 312km of spectacular cycling, paddling and trail running. Traversing Ireland in a west to east format the route of Ireland’s Coast to Coast starts in Enniscrone, Co. Sligo, just 6km from my house ‘Brigown B&B’ which is located along the Wild Atlantic Way. The route passes through unspoilt rural locations, through quaint villages and includes the most famous waterways in Ireland – The Shannon – Erne Waterway. To finish off the legs, participants will traverse the beautiful Mourne Mountains range to arrive along the promenade of Newcastle, Co. Down. This event can be done solo or in teams of two where you must stay with your partner throughout the entire course. If the NON-STOP version is just too hard-core, there’s an option of a two-day multi-sport version, Cycle Sportive or Mountain Race. I have done this event for the past two years and I’m still surprised why it’s not packed. It is the perfect transition for triathletes or people who do shorter 4 hour multi-sport events to break into the longer endurance events. There is no navigation necessary and you have your own support team so you don’t have to worry about anything, just enjoy the course. For the past two years, I have competed with a full female team. In 2016, I was with my amazing adventure buddy Linda O’Connor and support by ultra-runner Lilian Deegan and in 2017, I was with top class cyclist Fiona Meade and support by mountain runner Betty Walsh. My top tip here is to choose someone you want to get to know, who’s good fun and likes a sing song and just sign them up for the adventure and tell them after. I’ve made lifetime friends in this way, it’s an accelerated friendship technique!
Rogaine June 24th- 25th
This is an annual event organised by the Dublin/Wicklow orienteering club. It is a challenging fully self- navigated course that takes place in the vast area of the Wicklow mountains.
There are two courses, the 6 hour event has 8-12 controls and the 24 hour has 40-46 controls which competitors aim to find. In 2011, Paul Mahon asked me to take join him and his 2 team mates to do the Beast of Ballyhoura and as a training session, he suggested I do the 24 hour Rogaine with himself and other team mate Adrian.
I discovered after that this was a test to see if I make the cut for the team. Male teams are always searching for females so they meet the rules to compete in long distance adventure races and Paul is notorious for routing out the ladies.
Well I nearly died.. This was my first experience of such an event, leaping over and up bogs and ditches, chasing two lads with a map. I had no idea what I was signed up to. The guys don’t even bring water and just drink from streams or lakes, this was a new experience for me and I loved it. The feeling of freedom and not knowing where we were going, making our own trails and singing along the way. My top tip here is to find a good navigator, pack a nice picnic and enjoy the day out.
Dingle Adventure Race (June 30th- July 1st)
DAR 12 hour and DAR 24 hour involves hiking, kayaking and mountain biking in the most beautiful hidden locations of the Kingdom. The event is self-navigated for teams of 2, they must always remain together and find as many controls as possible within the time. DAR is organised by experienced adventure racer Noel O’Leary of Irish Adventures and although I have not yet had the opportunity to do this event, I have heard extremely positive reports. Hopefully I will get to participate in this adventure in 2018, what better way to explore and discover the best of Kerry! My top is to take a couple of days off the day job and enjoy the after party in the lively town of Dingle.
The Beast (August 2nd-5th)
The Beast is a 40 hour non-stop thriller event where you will discover your demons but not alone! Every team is made up of four warriors and this must include at least one female and one male. After several years in Ballyhoura and the surrounding counties, The Beast has now moved to the wild’s and beautiful scenic landscape of Donegal since 2017. This is an expedition style adventure which involves mountain biking, hiking, kayaking, swimming, rope work, special surprise activities and full orientation.
This was my first adventure race and what a way to start my addiction of expedition races. I was part of a team of 3 fantastic lads and I quickly realised these type of endurance events attract very like-minded people, those that are passionate about the outdoors, exploring new places, pushing boundaries, discovering new activities, sharing stories and just experiencing something different with fun people in spectacular surroundings. My top tip here is to join a team that have the same outcome in mind. Are they out to compete for the top place or stop off in the local pub for a sneaky pint? Is everyone easy going in the best and worst of moments and are your physical abilities fairly well matched? Do a few long training weekends together and get to know each other, you might very well meet the love of your life or your new best friends.
Quest Achill Roar (September 8th)
Who does not want a good weekend on Achill island? The Quest Achill Roar event is in my opinion the most scenic half day adventure race in Ireland. There are 3 course distances to choose from, 63km, 31km and 18km. The route along the Wild Atlantic Way incorporates trail running, cycling and kayaking where participants witness some of Ireland’s most breath-taking sceneries. This event is organised by one of Ireland’s most experienced adventure racers, Paul Mahon and is part of the Quest Series of Adventure Races. This event for me is all about the ‘craic’. I’ve done the 63km course twice and although I use Achill as one of my training grounds, the atmosphere of the event adds an extra element and brings it alive.
My top tip here is to book in for the weekend and keep some energy for the after party. If you are looking for some sociable trail running training in Achill, Rachel’s Irish Adventures has several tours in Achill during 2018 and if you get in touch, you are welcome to join in for a day or more.
Audax MTB 22nd September 2018
I thought I knew Mayo but I didn’t! In 2017, the Mayo 200 MTB XTRM was organised by endurance cyclist Eamon Nealon and is now on the Audax calendar of annual events. It is a 200km self-supported mountain bike event that takes in the most stunning off the beaten track routes in Mayo. Like all Audax events, this is self-supported and you follow a route card which has a number of check points. A friend Hugh asked if I’d do it with him as he had never cycled this distance on a mountain bike. The sun was shining and as the legs got more tired, we even started singing the Eurovision classics. The route was stunning, it was a mixture of National Park, quiet country roads, forest and bog. My top tip is to be prepared for a long day out, the challenging terrain may slow you down towards the end! Bring along a few euro in your pocket, there will be an ice-cream opportunity.
If you have any questions about of the above events, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Rachel’s Irish Adventures specialises in tailor-made training weekends that will get you ready for any event and most importantly, we’ll have great ‘craic’ on the journey!