Does Dublin leave you yearning for the great outdoors? Then get out of town with Dirty Boots Treks (& 01/623-6785; www.dirtyboots treks.com), a fantastic, brand-new outfit offering full-day excursions into the mountains south of Dublin. Dirty Boots has thought of everything. After a 9am pickup at the gates of Trinity College, your group (maximum eight people) will be transported in a 4x4 Land Rover into Wicklow Mountains National Park, deep in "the Garden of Ireland." Highlights of the easy-to-moderate hike might include spotting a herd of wild deer or taking a dip in a mountain stream. Treks are typically 4 to 5 hours of trail walking, with plenty of stops for conversation, photo opportunities, admiring the scenery, and a homemade picnic lunch. The day is capped off with a drink in a local country pub before returning to Dublin around 6pm. Later on, you can download photos from your trek from the Dirty Boots website and send them to friends back home. A full-day trek, including round-trip transportation and lunch (but not after-trek pub stop) costs €45 ($54) for adults, €39 ($47) for students. Didn't pack your hiking gear? No worries. For €9 ($11), Dirty Boots will provide a trekking backpack with hiking boots, gaiters, and waterproofs—all in your size. It's essential to book ahead, either by phone or online.
HORSEBACK RIDING For equestrian enthusiasts of any experience level, almost a dozen riding stables are within easy reach. Prices average about €25 ($30) an hour, with or without instruction. Many stables offer guided trail riding, as well as courses in show jumping, dressage, prehunting, eventing, and cross-country riding. For trail riding through Phoenix Park, Ashtown Riding Stables (& 01/838-3807) is ideal. They're located in the village of Ashtown, adjoining the park and only 10 minutes by car or bus (no. 37, 38, 39, or 70) from the city center. Among the other riding centers within easy reach of downtown Dublin are Calliaghstown Riding Centre, Calliaghstown, Rathcoole, County Dublin (& 01/458-8322), and Carrickmines Equestrian Centre, Glenamuck Road, Foxrock, Dublin 18 (& 01/295-5990). WALKING For casual walking, the Royal Canal and Grand Canal, which skirt the north and south city centers, respectively, are ideal for seeing both the city and neighboring areas. Both have been restored as marked trails for serious walkers, so you can't get lost. And because they stick to the towpaths of the canals, they are flat and easy. Moreover, both routes pass through a range of small towns and villages that can be used as starting or stopping points. For more information, contact the Waterways Service at Duchas the Heritage Service (& 01/647-6000).
The walk from Bray (the southern terminus of the DART) to Greystones along the rocky promontory of Bray Head is a great excursion, with beautiful views back toward Killiney Bay, Dalkey Island, and Bray. It's readily accessible from Dublin. Follow the beachside promenade south through town; at the outskirts of town, the promenade turns left and up, beginning the ascent of Bray Head. Shortly after the ascent begins, a trail branches to the left—this is the cliff-side walk, which continues another 5.6km (3/2 miles) along the coast to Greystones. From the center of Greystones, a train will take you back to Bray. This is an easy walk, about 2 hours each way.
Dalkey Hill and Killiney Hill drop steeply into the sea and command great views of Killiney Bay, Bray Head, and Sugarloaf Mountain. To get there, leave the Dalkey DART station, head into the center of Dalkey and then south on Dalkey Avenue (at the post office). About .8km (half a mile) from the post office, you'll pass a road ascending through fields on your left—this is the entrance to the Dalkey Hill Park. From the parking lot, climb a series of steps to the top of Dalkey Hill; from here you can see the expanse of the bay, the Wicklow Hills in the distance, and the obelisk topping nearby Killiney Hill. If you continue on to the obelisk, there is a trail leading from there down on the seaward side to Vico Road, another lovely place for a seaside walk. It's about .8km (half a mile) from the parking lot to Killiney Hill. WATERSPORTS Certified level-one and level-two instruction and equipment rental for three watersports—kayaking, sailing, and windsurfing—are available at the Surfdock Centre, Grand Canal Dock Yard, Ringsend, Dublin 4 (& 01/668-3945; fax 01/668-1215; www.surfdock.ie). The center has 17 hectares (42 acres) of enclosed fresh water for its courses. It's open from June to September.
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