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Fields of glorySport and Recreation


Ireland is renowned as a land of sport and it has much to offer the visitor either as a spectator or participant. Perhaps the most important feature of the country's sporting life is the number and variety of activities associated with the horse which has a special place in Irish life going back to antiquity.


Clarabeg, County WicklowEquestrian Sports

Horse-racing is a favourite sport in Ireland and there are 233 days of racing in the year spread over the 27 racing tracks all over the country including two in Northern Ireland. For the enthusiast, there is ample opportunity to watch great horses and top-class riders in action. During the April to August period evening meetings are held at a number of venues and an interesting feature in recent years has been the introduction of Sunday racing. National Hunt or racing over jumps is especially enjoyed by Irish racing crowds (the first steeplechase is reputed to have been run in south Co. Cork in 1752); the meetings at Punchestown (Co. Kildare) and Fairyhouse (Co. Meath) are the highlights of the jumping season and attract large enthusiastic crowds. A Full list of Irish race meetings is available. Click Here

Trail riding is the most popular form of Irish equestrian holiday. The variety is in line with the different types of terrain in which the trail rides are located but these tend to be located in the most scenic parts of the country. Usually the trail rides are designed for riders who wish to stay at one accommodation but daily transfers to different starting and finishing points ensure that a new route is covered each day.

Riding centres: There are many centres offering horse-riding holidays in a range of accommodation from farmhouse to manor style country house. Some specialise in hunting; others offer tuition and cross-country riding through scenic areas.

Showjumping: Ireland is noted for its show jumpers and some of the most noted horses on the international scene, if not actually owned and trained in Ireland, were bred in Ireland. The Dublin Horse Show is the highlight of the year and horses and riders from all over the world compete.

Horse-drawn caravans: A holiday in a horse-drawn caravan provides both transport and accommodation for a holiday in a slow, relaxed manner, which offers the best opportunity to enjoy seeing the country and meeting its people. The holiday provides clean accommodation and adequate cooking facilities. The horse has been chosen for its suitability and the visitor will be instructed on harnessing and horse care and on selected routed and overnight stops.

Fishing Faughan Anglers Association, Clooney Road, Derry

Ireland is noted for the quality and variety of its fishing and enthusiasts have been coming here for a long time to enjoy their sport in its teeming waters.

In many countries owing to industrialisation and consequent pollution, rivers, lakes and the sea no longer hold the numbers of fish that were once available but Ireland's lack of industry has ensured that its waters still carry enough fish to provide good and exciting sport for both the dedicated angling holidaymaker and the amateur who may just want to while away a few hours during a touring or based holiday.

Salmon and Sea Trout Angling on rivers and lakes is possible from as early as New Year's Day but angling opens on most rivers and lakes between February and April. A State, or in Northern Ireland, a Fishing Conservancy Board or Foyle Fisheries Commission licence covering salmon and sea trout is required plus a permit from the Department of Agriculture or owner of the water. It can be obtained from most tackle shops and from the regional fisheries boards. In the West of Ireland, the Connemara and Mayo fisheries are the most well known and for generations have attracted the expert game angler to pit his expertise against the elusive salmon and sea trout in the area.

Brown Trout River and Lake Angling centres are much more widely distributed through the country and it is much more a late spring and summer month activity. No State licence is required in the South but reasonably priced permits are required on club-controlled lakes, stocked and managed by the fishery boards. Many Irish rivers and lakes do not require any permit but in Northern Ireland the FCB or FFC licence and a permit from the Department of Agriculture or the owner of the water or a club is required.

Coarse Fishing or angling for Pike, Bream, Rudd, Tench, Roach and Perch is available all over the country and except in Northern Ireland does not require a licence or a permit. Ireland is famous for the size and the fighting qualities of its pike and it is a favourite catch for the Continental fisherman. The dace is only present in the Blackwater but provides great sport for those fishing with light tackle. Lough Melvin on the border between Counties Fermanagh and Donegal has brown trout, the separate trout species of ferox, gillaroo and sonaghan, and an Ice Age predecessor of the trout called the char.

Sea Fishing: Ireland is the outstanding sea angling holiday centre of Europe and has successfully hosted most of Europe's top sea angling competitions. All around the coast there are well-developed sea angling centres which have all the facilities required by even the most dedicated competition angler or the ordinary holidaymaker who just wants to fish or to help his children to do so. In Ireland sea fishing can be divided into 3 categories:

(1) shore angling which the complete beginner can enjoy from rocks, beaches or piers;
(2) inshore angling which is carried out from small boats within bays and inlets;
(3) deep sea angling which calls for small motor vessels and heavy tackle to cope with the bigger fish that one is likely to encounter.

GolfCounty Louth Golf Club, Baltray, Drogheda, County Louth

Ireland has nearly 350 uncrowded golf courses about half of which are 18-hole. These courses are spread throughout the country; every town and village with a population of more than 1,000 is likely to have its own course. Visitors are always welcome though in the courses near the cities, it is best to try to get a game outside the weekend when members are more free to play and the tees can become rather crowded.

Green fees in Ireland are generally very reasonable, ranging from IR£15-IR£30. Golf is playable all year round though it is best in the April to September period.

The committed golfer can on a circuit of Ireland, visit those championship links courses which have been praised for their quality by some of the leading players in the game - courses such as Portmarnock, Royal Co. Down, Royal Portrush, Rosses Point, Lahinch, Ballybunion, Killarney and Royal Dublin. is available.

Walking and Cycling Dingle Way, Tralee, County Kerry

There has been a great increase in the number of visitors to Ireland who want to get away from it all and to view the country from an aspect that is not possible for the more motorised tourist to obtain. To cater for this demand, many areas of the country have been opened by the provision of waymarked trails through the loveliest areas in Ireland. It is hoped eventually to create a walking route all round the country; to date 12 trails totalling 200 km have been completed and another 9 are in the making or planned. The trails are clearly waymarked at all junctions and are provided with stiles and footbridges as necessary. They give the visitor the chance to sample every aspect of the Irish Countryside.

Cycling is another way of seeing Ireland which has been popular since the country opened up to tourists. Cyclists may travel as individuals, as couples or in small and large groups and special holidays are being sold to cater for the demand. Ireland is traffic free compared with Britain or the Continent and for this reason is attractive to cyclists who also enjoy the scenic beauties of the countryside and the friendliness of the people they meet. The road surfaces, particularly in the main tourist areas, are good and there are adequate facilities for spares and repairs in even the most remote areas. Cycle rental facilities are fairly general and prices are reasonable. The tourist information offices will provide a list of recommended cycling tours which can embrace the whole country if that is what the cycling visitor requires.

Hurling and Football

The visitor to Ireland is likely to return home without having had some contact with the activities promoted and fostered by the Gaelic Athletic Association which was founded in 1884. All round Ireland, the visitor is likely to come across crowds of people either going to or coming from a hurling or Gaelic football game in which the crowds' village, town, county or province is engaged. The games which are amateur and highly organised are played by all ages from school child to adult. While Gaelic football is played country-wide, hurling, which is the more traditional and whose roots go back to pre-Christian times, it is played in a smaller number of counties. Efforts to extend hurling to a wider playing fraternity have to date not been successful; it seems that the traditional feel for the 'caman', the stick with which the game is played, is difficult to pass on. While Gaelic football is a game which combines aspects of soccer and rugby and is very like Australian football, which may or may not have derived from it, hurling is distinctively Irish. It is a spectacular game calling for speed, skill, fitness and commitment, and the Munster and Leinster Finals and the All-Ireland Semi-finals and Final are when the game is seen at its best. These games are played throughout summer and the visitor who takes in a hurling game during the holiday is assured of an experience he will not easily forget.


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