Kayaking at Devenish credit Blue Green Yonder
Kayaking at Devenish credit Blue Green Yonder

5 Sustainable Experiences in Ireland to Enjoy

Are you looking for sustainable experiences to enjoy in Ireland?

Perhaps you are conscious of leaving your carbon footprint on Ireland's natural landscape.

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For those of you planning a trip, one of the best ways to do that is to venture into Ireland’s natural green environment and then seek out the lesser-known spots around the island.

Traveling in the off-season ensures that you won’t encounter as many people and as a result, there’s less waste around, keeping Ireland’s 40 shades of green as pristine as possible.

Eating food that is sourced a couple of miles down the road and engaging in activities like walking, hiking, cycling, swimming, and sailing are just some of the activities that go a long way to keeping your trip as sustainable as possible.

Here are the top 5 sustainable attractions and experiences that you can avail of in Ireland these days.

Be sure to scroll to the bottom to see some additional experiences.


1. Devenish Island, County Fermanagh

If you love the outdoors, two new sustainable experiences in County Fermanagh are worth taking.

Paddle Into the Past is a kayak trip, organized by Blue Green Yonder, an adventure company based in Enniskillen that offers sustainable-friendly outdoor activities.

Enniskillen Castle in Co. Fermanagh from the water. Photo: Matt Dean, https://www.flickr.com/photos/143733090@N05/ https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/

Take a relaxing paddle past Enniskillen Castle situated on the banks of the River Erne and then on to Lough Erne and Devenish Island where you’ll be greeted by guides dressed as ancient monks.

Devenish was once a holy place of worship founded by St. Molaise in the 6th century.

A guide dressed as a monk talks to tourists at Devenish Island, one of the 5 sustainable experiences you can expect to find in Ireland. Photo: Brian Morrison, Tourism Ireland.

It is considered one of the finest monastic sites in Northern Ireland.

Learn about the ancient beliefs of the people who lived here, including their devotion to Érann, the water goddess who was the inspiration for the naming of the lake and the Erne Waterway.

While the Vikings tried to plunder the monastic community (like they did with so many others across Ireland), a perfectly preserved 25-foot-high round tower withstood the damage.

old buildings what is Fermanagh famous for
The monastic site at Devenish Island in County Fermanagh's Lakelands. Photo: Tourism Ireland.

You can climb all five stories of it by using its internal ladders.

An Augustinian abbey and the house of St. Molaise are also evident, as well as the 13th-century church built in honor of the saint and called St. Molaise’s Church. Beside the ruined abbey is a beautifully carved high cross.

Click on Book Now from the Blue Yonder website to obtain tickets for the Paddle Into the Past tour.

If kayaking is not your thing, you can get to the island thanks to the silent all-electric, eco-friendly pontoon boat called Island Discovery, which is run by Erne Water Taxi.

The Island Discovery water taxi at Enniskillen Castle. Picture: Ronan McGrade Photography & Film.

The 1 1/2-hour Private Devenish Island Experience takes off from Enniskillen Castle, taking in part of Lower Lough Erne, stopping off at the monastic site, and then exploring the many other islands on the lake (there are close to 200 of them!).

Other experiences that you can take on this sustainable form of transportation include the Whiskey and Blues Experience, a Lakelander Food Experience, and the Island Town Experience with a local historian.

Enjoy Yoga on Devenish Island

Let yogi Shauna McMorrow of Aurora Yoga take you to the island by boat, and once there, she’ll lead the way in a yoga experience that promises to reconnect you to these holy grounds.

The idea is to show how the ancient customs and traditions of this unique, protected place can resonate with people, even in today’s hurried world.

Look at the company’s Instagram post below to get an idea of this super chill experience.

Both are among 5 sustainable experiences in Ireland that you should consider if you are interested in reducing your carbon footprint on the environment.

Bookings for each are taken up until the end of September each year.


2. The Burren, County Clare

The Burren Ecotourism Network in County Clare has long been a vocal proponent of sustainable tourism, making the region one of the 5 sustainable experiences in Ireland you shouldn't miss.

It’s no surprise of course given the unique landscape that is on its doorstep.

The Burren along with the Cliffs of Moher is part of a UNESCO Global Geopark that covers an area of about 530 square kilometers (204 square miles).

It is located on the Wild Atlantic Way and includes villages and towns such as Corofin, Kilfenora, and Lisdoonvarna.

Tourists are encouraged to explore the region on foot or by bicycle.

Visitors taking a walk in The Burren. Photo courtesy of Marie's Burren Experience Guided Walks.

In her Burren Experience guided walk native Marie McGauran, a Heritage Studies scholar will take you on a journey, bringing you to some of the most remote and beautiful parts of the Burren, including historical landmarks.

The Burren Farm Experience is another eco-friendly attraction in the Burren region that focuses on the work that the O'Rourke family does on its 500-acre beef farm, helping to preserve this unique landscape.

Bronagh and Cathal O'Rourke on their farm in County Clare. Photo courtesy of Burren Farm Experience Facebook.

Take a guided walk, do some wild cooking on a fire pit, participate in yoga by the lake, or even stay in a bell tent on the property.

Book an experience on the Burren Farm Experience website.

The Burren Food Trail will give you an opportunity to explore the region’s farmers' markets, cafes, restaurants, and gastropubs, in addition to exploring its unique and ancient farming system.

Some of the delicious food that you can expect when you sign up for the Burren Food Trail. Photo courtesy of Burren Food Trail Facebook.

The trail is broken up into various categories, including The Market Garden Trail, The Farm to Fork Trail, Taste of the Ocean Trail, and The Nature Child Trail.

You’ll find opportunities to taste the best of locally grown ingredients in various B&Bs and hotels in the area, as well as wild food walks on land and along the shore, in addition to oyster shucking and more.

If you’re looking for accommodation that practices daily sustainability, you’ll find it in this region of Ireland.

The eco-friendly Falls Hotel and Spa in the Burren region of County Clare. Photo: Tourism Ireland.

Check out the Falls Hotel and Spa, which has been awarded carbon-neutral status by Green Hospitality Ireland.

The hotel is using a number of waste reduction efforts, such as taking water from its own well, harnessing power from the nearby River Inagh, and planting 350 native Irish trees on the grounds.

No chemical cleaning products are used there and compostable cups and straws are frequently in use.

Photo: @klenovaphoto

This means that as a guest, you'll leave no carbon footprint during your stay.

In addition, you'll be encouraged to do your part by reusing towels, using less water, turning off lights and heat, as well dividing garbage into separate bins in your hotel room.

Another County Clare accommodation that does its part to be eco-friendly is the Lodges at Sea View House Doolin, which is known for its use of locally sourced, home-grown ingredients.

Discover More Eco Tours in Ireland

3. Exploring Northern Ireland’s Hiking Trails

Whether you have a few hours, a full day, or a weekend, you can experience the beauty of Northern Ireland in a sustainable way by taking a guided hike with The Inside Trek.

people standing on a rock 5 sustainable experiences in Ireland
Walkers on Slieve Binnian, part of the Mourne Mountains range in County Down. Photo: Tourism Northern Ireland.

There are many different hikes to choose from, which vary in length from 2 to 10 hours, depending on your enthusiasm and fitness level.

Here’s a brief look at three of them.

  • Runkerry to Giant’s Causeway: start this 5 ½ to 10-mile trek at Runkerry Beach along the Coastal Causeway and meander along the jagged cliff tops, across an old steam engine railway line, and through the dunes above the beach.
  • Murlough Bay and Fair Head: a 9-mile trek that takes in Northern Ireland’s tallest cliffs and a gorgeous bay, with views out to Rathlin Island and across to Scotland.
  • Glenarrif: a 6-mile jaunt through the Queen of the Glen (part of the Glens of Antrim) where you’ll be immersed in forest and then open ground, with more amazing views of the County Antrim coast.

Owners Andrew Magowan and Michael Laverty, both lifelong hikers, are proud of the fact that all of their hikes are carbon conscious.

green fields, cliffs and ocean 5 sustainable experiences in Ireland
Murlough Bay with views of Rathlin Island. Photo: Philip McErlean, https://www.flickr.com/photos/64320477@N05/ https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

And you don’t need a car to get them either.

They can collect you from literally anywhere in Ireland, drive you around and then drop you back, all in the comfort of their 5 or 7-seater vehicles.

The beautiful Sallagh Brae landscape. Photo: Tourism Northern Ireland.

On longer hikes, they can arrange accommodation and suggest quality take-out food to bring with you on your journey.

The history and legends of the areas you’ll be walking in are all explained while you’re on the hike, in addition to information on the region's flora and fauna.

Half-day hikes start at £50 per person, with one-day hikes costing £85 per person. Multi-day guided hiking vacations (accommodation included) for a group of 4 start at £999 per person (5 days/4 nights) and £1,549 per person for 8 days/7 nights.

The cost of the tours includes all equipment, transportation, food, and drink. There is no minimum group size either.

All in all, these hikes are an affordable and worthwhile vacation activity and one of the 5 sustainable experiences in Ireland that I would highly recommend.

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4. Discovering Leitrim Slowly

Sustainable attractions across Ireland come in many forms and one of them can be found in County Leitrim where slow travel means more than just eco-friendly accommodation, healthy food, and leisurely activities.

people kayaking Blueways in Ireland
Kayaking on an Irish blueway in County Leitrim. Photo: Tourism Ireland.

Ireland’s emerging slow travel tourism specialty is also shining a spotlight on a part of the country that might be off the beaten track but is the perfect place to enjoy rural Ireland's sustainable attractions.

Here are some sustainable experiences that you may want to check out while traveling through Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands.

    • Adventure Gently offers guided tours of the waterways of Leitrim in Canadian canoes. Locations include Lough Gill, the Shannon Blueway, The River Bonet, the Boyle River, Lough Key, and more.
    • Explore Angling with Fish Tracker – let UK native and now Leitrim resident Dave Price of Fish Tracker help you discover the secret loughs, lakes, and rivers across Leitrim and neighboring Roscommon, Longford, and Cavan. Boat hire (fully insured) and equipment are included in the price of this sustainable adventure.

    • Ard Nahoo Yoga Retreat – enjoy a day retreat or an overnight stay at this peaceful location in Northern Leitrim. Activities include yoga and a soak in an outdoor hot tub. Three self-catering cabins are available for visitors. They include the Hawthorn, the Holly, and the Willow. Enjoy a 2-night/3-day adventure at the Ard Nahoo Yoga Retreat from €323 per person. Bespoke retreat packages are also available.

5. Experience the Ulster-Ireland Section of the International Appalachian Trail

Fancy walking on part of the world’s largest trail network?

The Appalachian Trail brings to mind hiking from Maine to Georgia, but did you know that it extends from the U.S. to Canada, Iceland, and across to the island of Ireland?

map of a trail 5 sustainable experiences in Ireland
A map of the Ulster-Ireland International Appalachian Trail, among the 5 sustainable experiences in Ireland to enjoy. Image courtesy of Monreagh Heritage Centre.

Of course, there are no mountains between those countries today, but before the earth’s continents were defined, the earth was one big landmass, and their mountain ranges were similar.

The newly upgraded trail begins on Donegal’s west coast, starting at the Sliabh Liag cliffs, and then passes through the Sperrin Mountains into areas hugged by the Coastal Causeway and across the beautiful Glens of Antrim.

The trail finishes at the port of Larne in County Down.

Spanning 279 miles, the route isn’t for novices, but it’s safe to say that you could do at least part of it, and what a sustainable adventure that would be.

In fact, there are several sustainable experiences to avail of on the Ulster-Ireland International Appalachian Trail. Here are just a few of them.

  • The Ulster American Folk Park Experience – follow in the footsteps of emigrants who left Northern Ireland during the 18th and 19th centuries in this sustainably-friendly tourist attraction.
  • Learn Irish and Walk the Hills of Donegal – explore the Sliabh Liag Peninsula while learning a few words of Irish (Gaelic). Suitable for both novice and experienced hikers. The cost is €210 per person.
  • The Emigrant’s Walk – walk in the footsteps of an emigrant leaving Ireland during the Great Famine. Local famine expert Cathy O’Neill will guide you up Carntogher Mountain, where many famine emigrants were known to have walked on their journey to the New World. An optional lunch is available at Friel’s Bar & Restaurant, the site of an original soup kitchen and where you will see an authentic famine pot. The cost per person is £35 (walk only) and £55 for the walk and lunch.

  • Full-Day Causeway Coast and Glens Driving Tour – take a journey along the Antrim Coast Road with the help of experienced tour guides and marvel at the breathtaking scenery along the way.

Other Sustainable Adventures

How about an e-board water scooter adventure courtesy of Erne Adventures.

boys on stand-up paddles 5 sustainable experiences in Ireland
Photo: Tourism Ireland.

The electric-powered water scooters are stable, reversible, and easy to maneuver and make for a great way to sustainably explore Lough Erne and Enniskillen, Ireland's only island town.

Travel in style — and sustainably too — along Ireland's longest river, The River Shannon on the Carrick Day Boats that are 100 percent electric vehicles.

3 paddle boats 5 sustainable experiences in Ireland
The Carrick Day Boats moored at Moon River in Carrick-on-Shannon. Photo courtesy of Leitrim Tourism Facebook.

You can book a ride at Moon River in Carrick-on-Shannon.

The boats are designed to be safe and easy to drive, providing the perfect stress-free boating experience to enjoy in the midlands region of Ireland.

Journey past the picturesque Jamestown, Cootehall, and the village of Leitrim. Feel free to moor up at the quays of any of these towns and stop for a bite to eat.

Hop on a water bike at the Carafin Lodge Lakeside Getaways Ireland in County Cavan.

three people on water bikes 5 sustainable experiences in Ireland
Visitors enjoy the hydro bikes on Carafin Lake in County Cavan. Photo courtesy of Carafin Activity Park Facebook.

The hydro bikes are 100% pedal-powered, non-polluting, easy to ride, lightweight, and safe and stable with up to 400 pounds of flotation capacity.

Anyone can ride these fun bikes and explore County Cavan’s Carafin Lake and the surrounding area.

Would you be interested in these 5 sustainable experiences in Ireland? Let me know in the comments below.


Colette is a County Sligo native who created Ireland on a Budget to provide her readers with money-saving tips on how to get to Ireland and then save even more when they're there. She's a professional copywriter who lives in the New York area with her husband and two children.

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