Surfing the Irish Coastline

Hang Ten. It’s big wave season!

“Surfing leads you through life, especially when you’re young and with hope in your heart.”
Tom Blake

Ireland is home to some of the biggest and best waves in the world. From November to February is the most exciting time of year. It’s big wave season.

With some of the most famous waves in the world breaking just off the Atlantic shoreline, Ireland attracts the exclusive and brave tribe of extreme surfers, this time of year. Iconic waves like the Peak in Bundoran, County Donegal and the Aileen in the Cliffs of Moher, County Clare entice the world’s surfers to our wild coastline. The surfing is spectacular, the risks high and the adrenalin even higher.  The wave, Aileen has been described as the nearest thing to a ‘perfect wave’ but she is not for the fainthearted! Described by filmmaker Peter Clyne as “The mammoth waves that Aileen produces are dwarfed only by the majestic, unspoilt Cliffs of Moher”. Aileen’s Wave is somewhat of a mystical surf spot and you have to be extremely lucky to catch this perfect wave – it appears only a few times a year when the conditions are just right. It can reach up to 12 metres and attracts the world’s top surfers, hopeful for the thrill of a lifetime. Clare is not the only coastline promising the ride of your life. The waves at Mullaghmore are not for the fainthearted, reaching a staggering 15 metres when the conditions are right and making them one some of the biggest waves to hit the Irish coastline. With consistent good waves all year round, this incredible reef break off the cliffs at Mullaghmore is amongst the best big-wave surf spots in the world. Last February, Conor Maguire (Bundoran, Ireland) towed into an emerald wall of waves in Mullaghmore Sligo, becoming barrelled and escaping the foam ball monster. This feat makes him a contender for the prestigious Billabong Ride of Year Award. You can experience the thrill of it all here:

Surfing the waves in Ireland is now a mainstream sport but also a fast growing pastime and always an amazing tourist attraction. All along the Wild Atlantic Way and even on the east coast around Brittas Bay, surfing schools are providing hire of equipment, advice and instructions to a growing number of surfers. For a minimum outlay of money, this fantastic sport can be accessed by people of all ages and expertise. Surfing is no longer an elitist pursuit, nor the vocation of tanned hippy types.  Surfing is for all. Lahinch in County Clare has been welcoming surfers for decades and is one of the country’s most popular spots for learners and newbies to begin their life of catching waves. A welcoming town, full of summer fun and lots to do for families and surfers alike, Lahinch has built a tourist industry around surfing. Donegal also boasts fantastic waves. In Bundoran and Rossnowlagh, the surfing waves are only rivalled by the amazing views and unspoilt golden beaches. The Irish Tourist board says ‘Bundoran has been nicknamed the ‘surf capital of Ireland’ in recent years and it’s not difficult to see why. With an abundant choice of beaches, varying swells, varying sizes and with waves coming from every direction, Bundoran is a surfers dream. Watersports fans descend on this tiny seaside town all year round to catch some of the best that the west coast has to offer. Once you’ve tired yourself in the surf, enjoy the town’s pubs and live music venues.’ Sligo boasts amazing surfing too, not just at Mullaghmore, but at both at Strandhill and at Easkey. Strandhill is just ten minutes from Sligo City, famed for its food, music and welcome. Strandhill is one of the coolest surfing villages in Ireland. If you need to check out the waves or the weather, log on to Strandhill’s Surf School and check out their funky live surfcam .

The Atlantic Coast provides the most spectacular places for surfers to enjoy their sport but there are waves for surfing on the east coast too! Brittas Bay in County Wicklow is proving an increasingly popular spot for Dublin bound surfers. Hoards of boards on roofs are racing out every Friday evening to catch a wave and blow off the week’s hard work. Meath is also a growing surf spot for the commuter belt folk who need a surfing fix in between their sojourns to the Atlantic waves.

Surfing is wonderful exercise, but it does seem to call to something more in the expert practitioner. Something more spiritual, more zen which is experienced in the patience of paddling out to deep water, of facing each wave and mastering (or not mastering) and riding out the surf. Fun, spiritual or madness. The waves are not going anywhere and the surfers will keep on coming.

“Surfing soothes me, it’s always been a kind of Zen experience for me. The ocean is so magnificent, peaceful, and awesome. The rest of the world disappears for me when I’m on a wave.”
Paul Walker

Adventure Activities for People with Disabilities

Adventure sports for people with disabilities was once confined to relatively safe options.  Indifference to insurance considerations and public expectations, a disabled athlete was offered anything from an afternoon spent strapped to an inflated banana to a being led around on a docile pony.  There is, of course, nothing wrong with either of these pastimes and we pay homage to the joy they might bring to many.  But for the more adventurous, who seek that unique adrenalin rush and strive to reach the higher peaks, the desire is no different than for the more able bodied among us. Thankfully, the adventure sport options now on offer are many and varied.

Wexford woman, Edel Reck was one of the stars of RTE‘s ‘Two for the Road ‘programme, which matched an able bodied celebrity with a disabled person and sent them off to take part in extreme adventure sports together. Edel has Spina Bifida and it was the perfect role for her as she enjoys skydiving, ice-climbing, white water rafting, hot-air ballooning, wild camping, on safari and skiing.  Phew! For the television series she chose mountain biking.  “It’s adaptive biking,” Reck explains. “There are three types of adaptive biking – downhill, off-road and hand-cycling – where you propel the bike, and gravity does all the work. Off-road is the most difficult.”   But in an interview with the Irish Times she revealed her favourite sport is adaptive skiing. “It’s a bi-ski. A bit like a wheelchair minus the wheels; a kind of a bucket seat. There are two skis under the chair and you use poles.”    While most of Edel’s awesome adventuring has been done abroad, there is still plenty of opportunity to have unusual sports experiences here.

Persons with disability can now take part in all kinds of sports including kayaking, sky diving, mountain biking and rock climbing.  When we consider that all public spaces must now be wheelchair accessible, it is just a small hop, skip and jump or a few feet in a wheelchair to make any sporting business all inclusive.  Stand up Paddling is also very accessible with many companies offering the sport on both sea and lake.  Archery is also available, fun and strangely addictive.  For the more adventurous there is always a chance to fling yourself out of an aeroplane. Sure, why not? are among the many fearless daredevils who will facilitate you.

Nikki Bradley climbs the Sturrall

Another intrepid adventurer is Donegal’s own, Nikki Bradley.  Diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer at sixteen, Nikki is an adapted adventurer and motivational speaker.  A fitness enthusiast with a special interest in adapted training  Nikki  has been informed by her consultant that she is currently one of less than ten people worldwide,  to have lived through her condition. But she doesn’t just live it, she celebrates life! In 2013 Nikki set up a fitness based awareness campaign called Fighting Fit For Ewing’s where she regularly partakes in physical challenges to highlight the importance of exercise for rehabilitation. Some past challenges include travelling to Iceland in February 2016 to scale the Sólheimajökull glacier on crutches, attempting a Guinness World Record in Holland to become the fastest woman to complete a 5k on crutches and abseiling off the Fanad.  She has completed the Fan Dance on crutches- a 24km trek through the Brecon Beacons in Wales. A gruelling march usually reserved for the British Special Forces.   No set-backs for this inspiring lady.  Read more here:

Not everyone is ready for such extremes.  For those looking for a good ‘jumping off point’  for their own personal adventure, Awesome Walls in Dublin and Cork offer training, on an individual and pre-arranged basis, for people with disabilities.  Climbing in their indoor facilities is a great start to gaining experience and confidence before heading to the great outdoors. Check out The Adventure Project and Climbing Dojo , who also welcome people of all abilities.

Iain Miller of Unique Ascent is an experienced mountaineer, rock climber, a skilled guide and a patient instructor. His extensive and unique knowledge of rural, upland and coastal Donegal allowed him to author the current Rock Climbing in Donegal 2015 guidebook. He has made over 1000 first ascents of previously un-climbed sea stacks, sea cliffs and rock faces in both Ireland and Scotland. While catering for participants at all levels of experience and keeping safety at the forefront of all activities. Unique Ascent offers incredible experiences for all adventure enthusiasts.  “It is a very personal experiences for both the participant and the provider, for those considered completely able bodied or for those who face extra challenges. Safety is a priority and there is always a first contact filled with trepidation and great concern”.

We specialise in a holistic approach to learning and teaching to ensure that everyone receives the maximum and most rewarding learning experience during their courses and holidays with us. If it is feasible that we can work together, then the sky is the limit.” Iain Miller

At Outdoor Adventure Store we raise a quiet salute to the determined and optimistic individuals, who face the challenges of disability every day, but are still up for the added thrill of adventure sports.


Camping Disasters – Cautionary Tales for Happy Campers

Camping is tremendous fun. It is one of the best ways to commune completely and whole heartedly with nature. Immersing yourself in nature to watch small rabbits nibbling grass in the dewy morning or lambs skipping in a spring meadow. Camping, when it is well organised and approached with calmness and sensibility, is a real joy. There is nothing more memorable than a sky full of stars in the silence of a remote campsite. It’s a unique way to enjoy the wonderful natural world that surrounds us.

However, there are those campers who have had a totally different experience. The secret to good camping is good organisation. Sorry to be nerdy, but that’s just the way it is! Almost every adult has had at least one camping disaster.

Tent Calamities:  Forgotten tent poles and tent pegs will contribute to making your camping expedition totally intents… get it??… intents!! Seriously though, a badly packed tent with the ensuing mildew and lost tent pegs is a real disaster. Modern tents pop up easily and there should be no need to jostle about trying to access an internet signal to watch urgent YouTube videos on tent erection. But it still happens. Savvy campers have a practice run with the tent at home but those courting drama leave it to the universe and the universe laughs. The wrong tent is the start of most camping calamities. Choose from a wide range here

“Hours were spent erecting our tent, so large and complicated it required a degree in engineering”  

“We bought a tent. Didn’t know how small it would be. We’re both tall, 5’10 and 6’0 we were in a tent for midgets.”

Weather to Travel or Not:  Flash floods! Sideways rain! Howling winds! Sleeping outside brings the weather just a tad closer than we are used to. Camping in a snow storm is only fun if you have sub-zero gear and the experience and drive of the veteran camper. For the rest of us, it’s no fun at all. Check the weather before you leave home.

Woke up after a night of puking up my guts to find myself submerged in an icy river winding its way through my tent. It had snowed, in August. I was 8.”

Beasties and Creatures of the Night:  The tiny midgey can destroy a camping trip (bring midge nets). If you are afraid of creepy crawly things, flying things, climbing things and clawing things, don’t go into the woods. It’s where they live. You are the visitor and it’s their home. Thankfully in Ireland a nosy sheep is probably as wild as it’s going to get and grizzlies are only in your child’s imagination.

“Look mommy! Look at the big butterfly! “Yeah. Not a big butterfly. A bat had gotten into the tent and was flying around in a panic because it couldn’t get out. I think I’m still partially deaf from my mom’s screams.  Buzzfeed

Fire Fire!:  A shocking amount of novice campers set fire to their tents. Not deliberately, we are not talking about lazy music festival campers who cannot be bothered to pack up properly. No, just the regular camper trying to get the sausages cooked will frequently set the tent alight. In all honesty, most fires will not cook your food. (See our range of well-priced camping equipment to successfully heat the alphabetti spaghetti). Check out the local rules for setting fires, before you pour petrol on the campfire… 

“We kicked a flaming gas canister (the whole canister had caught fire) into the centre of the campsite field before it could set fire to our tent, car and children. Finally, we managed to put the fire out, but that didn’t impress our angry fellow camperWanderlust

Camping disasters make good stories. So, if the great outdoors becomes to be too much to bear, simply, throw the tent on the fire, horse the rest of your gear in the boot of the car and head for the nearest high stool. On the upside, you have a great story to tell the entire pub.

Hiking Tips for Newbies

Ireland is one of the world’s top hot spots for outdoor pursuits such as hillwalking and hiking. None other than the prestigious National Geographic Magazine describes Ireland as providing world class walking and hiking opportunities. A wealth of easily accessible areas of natural beauty and scenic views, coupled with a temperate climate, make Ireland the perfect place for backpacking and exploring. It’s no wonder that rambling, hiking and hillwalking are fast becoming one of the top leisure activity pursuits across all ages of the population.

If you are a new recruit to the hiking scene, be assured that you are about to embark on a wonderful activity which is as enjoyable as it is beneficial. There are proven positive physical and psychological health benefits attributed to walking in nature. It is a natural high, which is likely to see you climbing and walking for years to come. A low cost pursuit which leaves you feeling tired but happy is hard to beat.

We are pleased to list some simple, sensible and essential advice for novice hikers. Just a few pointers to take on board, before you head to the hills.

Start Easy:  Your first hike should not be the biggest challenge of the year. Nor should it be in the company of super fit hikers who will stride ahead and make you feel inadequate. Take it easy. Start with a gentle hike or an easy hill walk with companions who are near your own fitness level. There is a reason why most walking festivals have graded walks, A, B and C. Take it easy and stop to enjoy the view.

Good Footwear:  Ditch the sandals and invest in a good stout pair of hiking boots. An investment in a decent pair of walking shoes will pay off as they become your trusty friends on the highways and byways of this beautiful country. Good shoes will provide grip, support ankles and absorb knocks and shocks. Many of the accidents which happen on mountains and hilly ground can be attributed to bad footwear. Talk to your supplier about ‘breaking in’ the new shoes to avoid blisters on the first long haul hike.

No Bad Weather, Just Unsuitable Clothing:  Dress for the weather. You don’t need to spend a fortune on waterproof trousers and jackets and many stores have a range of good gear for starting off. It makes sense to buy lightweight in the summer and added layers for the more hardy summers and the wintry days. 

Comfortable Backpack:  The bag on your back should not chaff nor cause pain. Make sure your backpack can be adjusted to suit your body shape, with good lumbar pad, hip belt and shoulder straps. Check out some backpacks here>>

Go Lightly Through the World:  You might be tempted to pack a huge amount of food, liquids and other stuff. People always think that they need stuff. However, experience will show you that high energy food, such as chocolate and energy bars, are wonderfully lightweight and are perfect for perking up the flagging spirit. On a one day hike, a sandwich, piece of fruit and a treat is all you will need. Water is essential. Make sure you are well hydrated at all times.

Don’t Get Lost:  It happens. Avoid it happening to you and have a plan B, if it does. When starting out, a novice hiker would be wise to stay to the beaten track and trail. Plenty of good websites offer marked routes and trails. Pack a map and a compass and always make sure that your phone is charged to the max. Ireland offers much variety of terrain in the hills, mountains and coastlands, and simple trails are available in each county. Even on the frequently trodden routes, you can often be the only intrepid trekker’s onsite that day. You don’t need to go far from the road to find the wilderness.

Weather Wise:  Be ready to cancel your plans if the day does not live up to the forecast. Be ready to turn back if the weather changes. Seasoned hikers can hike across snow, ice, sideways rain and intense heat but it really is not much fun for beginners. If the cloud cover is swirling round your feet or the pathways are swimming in mud and water, it might be time for that rain check. Met Eireann Forecasts

Have Fun:  Decide whether you want to walk alone, with a partner or whether you want to check out local walking groups and organised walking festivals. The organised groups are great places to start off your walking career. Hiking and hillwalking is a not a walk in the park, but it does not have to be difficult. With some simple preparations and a lot of enthusiasm your fitness level will build quickly and the joy of the great outdoors will become the norm in your life. In no time at all you will be one of those annoying people posting fabulous social media pics from all kinds of inaccessible beauty spots.

People hiking

A Survival Guide to Stress-Free Festival Camping

It’s the height of summer festival season!

There is nothing more exciting than popping your tent up in a crowded field alongside thousands of other excited festival goers! The mood on that first evening is of cheerful expectant happiness. Throngs of cheerful revellers arrive, hauling their camping gear, food, drink and essentials across the muddy terrain. Only a hardy, well prepared few will look as fresh and cheerful on Sunday evening.

In our survival guide to stress-free festival camping, we offer some practical tips for pre-festival organisation and preparations that should see you warm, dry and fully functioning in terms of shelter for the weekend. How you organise the rest of things…well, that is entirely up to you!

What should I bring? 

Basics:  Some people literally bring the kitchen sink and some just arrive with the cursory bag o cans.  The best idea is somewhere right down the middle. You will need a tent, a roll mat, sleeping bag and a rain mac. Everything after that is a bonus. If you picture yourself sitting at the tent chatting into the wee hours with new found friends, then camping chairs are a real godsend. Thankfully, all of these items are now lightweight and easy to carry. A torch will reduce the number of tents you stumble into as you return in the wee hours with your happy head still bopping to the beat. Torches light the way to the loos (Don’t look down!! Whatever you do, don’t look down!). They help you find the paracetamol before it’s light outside. Head torches are the best, as they leave hands free.

Loo roll, sun-cream, insect repellent, first aid kit and wipes are basics too, for all the obvious reasons.  Keep it simple and keep it light. A lot of good camping stores offer festival camping deals. Check out these amazing offers:

Extras:  Consider a light weight, portable cooler for the beer and the water. Nothing like a cold one in front of the new canvas home. Portable power is also a good idea. If you don’t feel like queuing for the mobile phone providers to charge your phone, then bring along a good power pack. Forget about the solar powered options, even in countries with a lot of sun these are way too slow. Pack Bluetooth speakers if you fancy a private party!

Food at festivals is part of the fun experience. But, if you feel like making your own, there are simple folding stoves to heat the beans or make the tea. This option will add to the weight of the gear and it is worth remembering just how far away the bus stop or car park is. A wheeled cart or trolley will get many jealous glances from other festival goers.

A Light Footprint:  New technology in the structure and production of tents has made them simpler to erect. There is better rain proofing, wind proofing and they are so much easier to store. Resist the temptation to leave it behind on your last day. You are throwing away Sunday afternoons spent playing house with nieces and nephews. You are discarding somewhere pleasant to change your clothes on busy beaches. You will use it again, once fatigue and hangover have worn off. The space taken up in storage is small enough to warrant the effort of bringing your gear home.

Enjoy the Chilled Vibe:  Festivals are all about the craic. So, love life in your tent city. Frisbees, hula-hoops and giant bubble kits are a bit naff at other times but are totally on point for the festival scene. No doubt, your blue tent looks just like all the others in a sea of blue tents. Fly your flag!  Place a distinctive marker of some kind, church fete bunting, a flag or a giant flashing red arrow on the top of your tent so you can find your way home. Stay hydrated, stay patient and keep that chilled vibe to the forefront at all times. Rock on campers!

Crowds Enjoying Themselves At Outdoor Music Festival