Saturday Spotlight: Extreme Ireland

Given last Sunday’s post on climbing Croagh Patrick, it seems appropriate to devote the first Saturday Spotlight to my favourite Irish tour operator, Dublin’s Extreme Ireland.

For our first trip to Ireland, A and I scheduled most of our time in Dublin, but we knew we wanted to take a couple day-trips out of the city. “When will we have another opportunity to see the Cliffs of Moher or Blarney Castle or the Hill of Tara?” we reasoned.

After several hours of research spearheaded by my master-planner husband, we settled on three tours with Extreme Ireland: one to the Cliffs of Moher and The Burren; one to the Rock of Cashel, Blarney Castle, and Cork; and one through the Boyne Valley with stops at the Hill of Tara, Trim Castle, Loughcrew, Drogheda, Monasterboice, and the Jumping Church.

Right off the bat, we were impressed by the variety of destinations Extreme Ireland’s tours covered, and the ease and flexibility of booking — we could buy tickets online or in person at their office — but the best was to come. While Extreme Ireland certainly can’t take credit for the country’s lush terrain and rich history, it can lay claim to expertly curated day trips and some of the most knowledgeable, engaging driver-guides you’ll ever have the pleasure to travel with.

My husband, A, is notoriously hard to impress. But I knew even he was won over when half way through our Boyne Valley tour he turned to me and said, “You know, these guys do multi-day hiking trips, too.” Very high praise indeed.

Higher still: we returned to take one of those hiking trips the following year. We wouldn’t have climbed Croagh Patrick or Diamond Hill — highlights of my life so far — without Extreme Ireland, and for the planning and expertise of their guides, I’m extremely grateful.

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Into the Reek

The sun is bright for late September and the breeze drifting across Clew Bay is teasingly summery. This may be one of the last truly lovely days of the season, and we’re going to make the most of it.

“It’s not a bad climb,” we’re told, “But the last bit is quite steep.”

A and I are four days into our week-long hiking trip through the west and north of Ireland. Our legs are feeling stronger, more solid than they did after Monday’s climb up Diamond Hill in Connemara National Park, when they felt more like unset gelatin than limbs. Whether it was the ride up from Clifden or a temporary lapse in memory, we’re eager to get moving. This is what we’ve come for. Croagh Patrick.

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