Last updated on November 25, 2023
When you think of adventure travel, you probably don’t think of Ireland first – and maybe not even later.
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Adventure in Ireland?
And I admit that the term “adventure” is much overused. So what is an adventure?
Survival in the rainforest, a long-distance trek in Alaska, or perhaps a haphazard hike in the Pyrenees?
A weekend trip by bike and wild camping in the Thuringian Forest – is that a weekend adventure?
Most of us will probably not swim the length of the Amazon. And that’s why we are a bit milder and say that an adventure should at least contain something uncertain, unplanned and surprising.
Such haphazardly adventurous trips can also be made in Europe. And they don’t have to last very long. There is even a term for it: “micro-adventure”.
Micro-adventures can be done on foot, by bike, on horseback, or even by boat.
And you don’t have to fly to South America or Africa, you can do it in Ireland!
By the way, we live in Ireland (second home) and run our motorcycle rental business here during the summer months (www.easycruiser.tours). We also have nice guest rooms (www.the-view-accommodation.ie). We have traveled the island over and over again for many years and therefore know it very well.
Why a Packraft?
If you want to fly to your destination and be mobile there, a packraft is a good choice. These are inflatable mini kayaks that you can easily carry in your backpack.
The paddle can be plugged in several parts and thus a packraft can be easily transported on a plane, train, bus or even on foot!
“A bathing inflatable boat – existed in the past” – not quite, because a good Packraft is much more stable and stiff, can therefore be paddled better and can also tolerate light white water.
Of course, a high quality Packraft is much more expensive than the children’s inflatable – but it can also do much more.
You can go to the Decathlon website (www.decathlon.de) and have a look at the Itiwit Packraft 100 or the Itiwit Packraft 500, then you will get a good idea what we are talking about.
The River Barrow
A wonderful river for paddling with partly easy white water and many weirs is the River Barrow in Ireland. It is the second longest river in Ireland after the Shannon.
Its source is in the Slieve Bloom Mountains and it flows into the sea south of New Ross and east of Waterford – near the beautiful Hook Lighthouse. From Athy, the River Barrow is navigable for 65km – all the way to the sea!
The numerous weirs can be navigated with a maneuverable kayak – or packraft if the water level is right, but you can also easily portage around them. It’s nice that the packraft is so light!
The River Barrow was an important trade route in the past, connecting the coast with the inland. Even today, the river is navigated by narrow barges that are converted into residential vessels.
Downstream, the current helped move the barges, but up the river? Horses had to pull the barges. This was called tow-pulling. They did this by walking on towpaths right along the shore.
These old towpaths along the riverbank are now hiking trails and so from Robertstown to St. Mullins you have the choice of paddling, or hiking a bit – with your packraft in your backpack.
Best time to visit
Water levels can vary greatly depending on the season. In the winter half-year it rains in Ireland much more than in the summer half-year. Then the river can have too much current and not be navigable.
In midsummer it can have very low water levels due to drought. A little current is good to keep the packraft moving well.
Later in the spring, and late summer and early fall, the prospects for a good but not too strong current are usually best.
Travel, accommodation and shopping
Ireland has a lot of good long-distance bus connections, and virtually every major town or city is connected.
From Dublin Airport, you can easily get to Robertstown by bus (coach) via Newbridge. You can also start in Monasterevin, Athy or Carlow or in Leighlinbridge.
Is there anything to eat? In Ireland always! You will pass through several very nice villages, where you can fill up your supplies.
Wild camping is generally not allowed in Ireland, but is generally tolerated along typical long distance hiking routes or waterways. As long as you don’t disturb anyone and take your trash with you, you won’t have a problem.
Along the River Barrow there are also campsites, B&Bs, piers with sanitary facilities and along the way you will always find a piece of mowed meadow where you can pitch your tent.
That’s too much planning – where’s the adventure in that?
Well, you can just start somewhere, spend the night somewhere, stock up somewhere and eventually you will be there.
Where? Yes exactly, that will also be a surprise!
So it’s a bit adventurous after all!
But if you want to get some information in advance, have a look at this well done website: www.waterwaysireland.org.
A nice video of a River Barrow trip you can find on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aq_HTL2AvCE
I wish you a lot of fun on your Ireland adventure!