| ||ACTIVITIES and EVENTS|
Walking is one of Ireland's biggest attractions, and the country has miles of tailor-made walks. They include the Kerry Way, Beara Way, Ulster Way and Wicklow Way. It's a great way to open up the country and reach its most beautiful and fascinating corners. Cycling is another good way of getting away from the hordes, although some areas are prohibitively hilly. There are a number of excellent mountain-climbing opportunities, particularly Mt Gabriel (407m/1335ft) on the Mizen Head Peninsula, Hungry Hill (686m/2195ft) on the Beara Peninsula and Croagh Patrick (763m/2500ft) just outside Westport.
Ireland is renowned for its fishing, and many visitors come to the country just to cast a line. Permits are required (IR£5 a day), and a state national licence is required for salmon and sea trout. With a coastline measuring 5630km (3490mi), let alone its rivers and lakes, Ireland offers many opportunities for water sports. Good surfing spots include Easkey in the west of County Sligo, the Castlegregory Peninsula and Barley Cove on the Mizen Head Peninsula. The west coast offers some of Europe's best scuba diving, especially at Bantry Bay and Dunmanus Bay in County Cork, the Inveragh Peninsula in Kerry and around Hook Head in County Wexford. Sailing has a long heritage in Ireland, and the country has over 120 yacht and sailing clubs. The most popular areas for sailing are the west coast, especially between Cork Harbour and the Dingle Peninsula, the coastline north and south of Dublin, and larger lakes such as Lough Derg, Lough Erne and Lough Gill.
Many diverse events and festivals take place around the country over the year. February sees the Dublin International Film Festival. St Patrick's Day, 17 March, is a public holiday. In Northern Ireland, Easter is the start of the Orange/Protestant marching season. June 16 is Bloomsday in Dublin, with re-enactments and readings throughout the city. Listowel in County Kerry holds a Writers' Week literary festival during June, and there's a Jazz & Blues Festival in Belfast. July is when marching really gets into its stride in Northern Ireland, and every Orangeman hits the streets on the Glorious 12th to celebrate the Protestant victory at the Battle of the Boyne.
August is horse-racing month, with the Dublin Horse Show and races in Tralee in County Kerry. In the same county, at Killorglin, the ancient Puck Fair heralds unrestricted drinking for days and nights. The first weekend in August is the date for Ireland's major annual rock festival, at Thurles in County Tipperary. In September Cork has its Film Festival and Belfast has a Folk Festival. In October, Dublin has its Theatre Festival, Ballinasloe in County Galway hosts the country's largest cattle and horse fair, and Kinsale in County Cork is home to Ireland's gourmet festival. In Wexford the November Opera Festival is an international event. Christmas is a quiet affair in the countryside, though on 26 December the ancient practice of Wren Boys is reenacted, when groups of children, traditional musicians and Irish dancers perform at area homes, asking donations in exchange for a year's worth of good luck.
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