Hiking in Ireland: Best Trails & Top Tips

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Hiking in Ireland

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Get ready for a rollicking romp through the heart of the Emerald Isle as we dish up Ireland’s top hiking trails, serving up everything from awe-inspiring coastal cliffs to serene, emerald-kissed hills. Whether you’re a rookie rambling enthusiast or a seasoned trekking warrior, a family seeking fun or a lone adventurer chasing multi-day thrills, we’ve got a trail with your name on it. Step into a storybook as you wind your way through our rugged coastline, ancient woodlands, and towering peaks, where every vista seems to leap straight out of folklore and famed films.

And the best part?

The Irish outdoors is open for business all year round, but nothing beats the radiant glow of an Irish summer or the rustic charm of early fall. So lace up those hiking boots and set your sights on the iconic Cliffs of Moher Coastal Walk, the entrancing Wicklow Way, or the magical Dingle Way, to name but a few. With hundreds of trails offering weeks – nay, months – of exploration, Ireland’s rolling countryside is your oyster. So come on, let’s dive headfirst into an unforgettable adventure through our mesmerizing landscapes!

Best Hikes in Ireland

Ireland, our emerald gem, is an open-air playground, teeming with stunning vistas and painted landscapes, a pure delight for hiking buffs! Whether it’s the untamed mountains that tickle your fancy or coastal cliffs that make your heart flutter, we’ve got trails for every kind of adventure-seeker. So buckle up, fellow wanderers, and join us as we journey through some of the top hiking trails in Ireland:

HikeLocationDifficultyDistanceDescription
Wicklow WayCounty WicklowModerate-Difficult79 milesIreland’s oldest long-distance trail, traversing through the beautiful landscapes of the Wicklow Mountains.
Carrauntoohil via Devil’s LadderCounty KerryDifficult7.5 milesA challenging climb to the summit of Ireland’s highest mountain with breathtaking views.
Ballycotton Cliff WalkCounty CorkEasy-Moderate4.5 milesA coastal trail offering fantastic views of Ballycotton Bay and its lighthouse.
Glendalough ValleyCounty WicklowEasy-DifficultVariesMultiple trails offering serene lake views and steep-sided glacial valleys. The Spinc and Glenealo Valley trail is particularly popular.
Croagh PatrickCounty MayoModerate-Difficult4.3 milesA traditional pilgrimage route with stunning views over Clew Bay.
Killarney National ParkCounty KerryEasy-DifficultVariesHome to Ireland’s highest mountain range, with a variety of trails suitable for all skill levels.
Diamond HillConnemara, County GalwayModerate4.5 milesA well-maintained looped trail with panoramic views of Connemara coastline and the Twelve Bens mountains.
MacGillycuddy’s ReeksCounty KerryDifficultVariesHome to Carrauntoohil, the highest peak in Ireland. Offers a variety of challenging trails with unparalleled views.
Mourne Wall WalkCounty Down, Northern IrelandDifficult22 milesA challenging route across 15 summits of the Mourne Mountains.
Coumshingaun Loop WalkCounty WaterfordModerate4.5 milesA looped trail around a spectacular corrie lake, offering panoramic views of the Comeragh Mountains.

Glendalough

Welcome to Glendalough, or the “Valley of Two Lakes”, an enchanting glacial valley nestled in the heart of County Wicklow. This Irish gem is a beautiful collision of history and nature, with hiking trails snaking their way through the landscape, offering challenges for all abilities.

For a true taste of Glendalough’s magic, lace up and tackle the Spinc and Glenealo Valley loop. This moderate 5.5-mile hike will lead you to vistas of the sparkling Upper Lake and the dramatically carved glacial valleys that will leave you awe-struck.

But the beauty here isn’t just in the landscape – keep your eyes peeled for deer darting through the undergrowth and birds fluttering in the treetops. At the heart of it all, the towering ruins of St. Kevin’s monastic city cast a serene and mystical silhouette that’s a sight to behold.

Just remember, though, Glendalough is a place of wild beauty, and the weather loves to dance to its own tune. So pack wisely, bring sturdy footwear, and be ready for an adventure where every step writes a new line in your Irish tale!

Wicklow Way

Ready for a grand adventure that’s as Irish as a warm pub on a chilly evening? Then say hello to the Wicklow Way, Ireland’s first waymarked long-distance trail. This 79-mile journey of discovery starts in the leafy haven of Marlay Park in Dublin’s south suburbs, and takes you on a wander through the wild heart of the Wicklow Mountains, before ending in the charming village of Clonegal in County Carlow.

As you hike this enchanting trail, you’ll weave through whispering forests, skirt serene lakes, and roam over rolling hills. Along the way, unforgettable sights like Glendalough and the majestic Powerscourt Waterfall are ready to leave you speechless.

Completing the Wicklow Way typically takes 7-9 days, depending on your pace and how often you stop to breathe in the scenery. Remember, this is a journey, not a race, so pack your sturdy walking boots, suitable clothing, and a trusty map or guide. The Wicklow Way is calling – are you ready to answer?

Carrauntoohil

For those seeking to conquer Ireland’s tallest peak, look no further than Carrauntoohil. Standing proud at 1,038 meters (3,406 feet) in County Kerry’s MacGillycuddy’s Reeks range, this mountain is not for the faint-hearted, – it’s a very strenuous hike but the rewards are beyond compare.

The most popular path to the summit, The Devil’s Ladder, is as challenging as it is captivating, with steep and often slippery terrain that’ll keep even the most experienced hikers on their toes. But once you’ve braved the climb, the pay-off is a panorama that’ll take whatever breath you have left right away – emerald green valleys, twinkling lakes, and rugged mountain ranges stretching out as far as the eye can see.

This is a strenuous trek that calls for good fitness, the right gear, and sharp navigation skills, especially when the weather decides to throw a curveball. So, if you’ve got the grit and the gumption, Carrauntoohil is waiting to reward you with a view that you’ll carry in your heart long after your boots have left its slopes.

Diamond Hill

Diamond Hill, located in Connemara National Park in County Galway, Ireland, offers an exhilarating and accessible hike. Its looped trail, totaling 4.5 miles, is well maintained with wooden boardwalks and stone steps.

The climb is moderate, with the summit standing at 445 meters (1,460 feet). At the top, you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views of the Connemara coastline, the Twelve Bens mountains, and the surrounding blanket bogs. You might also spot native wildlife such as red deer or Connemara ponies. Weather can be unpredictable, so come prepared with suitable clothing and footwear.

Croagh Patrick

Croagh Patrick, often known as ‘The Reek,’ is a 764-meter (2,507 feet) mountain in County Mayo, Ireland, and a significant site of Irish religious and cultural heritage. It’s traditionally climbed as a pilgrimage in honor of Saint Patrick, who, according to legend, fasted on the summit for 40 days.

The main trail is a challenging 4.3-mile round trip, with a steep, rocky ascent near the summit. Despite the difficulty, you’re rewarded with breathtaking views of Clew Bay and its 365 islands.

Mourne Mountains

Ah, the Mourne Mountains! Nestled in County Down, these stunning peaks are practically our neighbors – Seamus’ own backyard playground! Majestic and wildly beautiful, they’re the crown jewels of Northern Ireland’s landscape with breathtaking mountain peaks and a dream come true for any hiker.

Rising above them all, Slieve Donard stands tall at 850 meters (2,790 feet), its summit offering heart-stopping views that make every step worth it for serious hikers. The Mournes are generous hosts (with plenty of other mountain peaks), with trails to suit every adventurer. Fancy a tranquil forest stroll? You’ve got it. Up for the challenge of a thrilling mountain trek? Look no further.

For those with a healthy dose of grit and determination, the Mourne Wall Walk is a must-try. This 22-mile route crosses 15 summits, and is a true test of a hiker’s mettle as ou pass many fast flowing mountain streams. And fun fact – the beauty of these peaks was so spellbinding it even sparked the imagination of C.S. Lewis, inspiring his magical land of Narnia.

So come on then, pull on your boots, pack a spirit of adventure and join Seamus in the Mournes. Trust us, these mountains have plenty of stories to share and memories to create!

Cooley Mountains

Well we couldn’t now throw this one in could we?

Ah, the Cooley Mountains, our very own backyard paradise! Draped across County Louth, these majestic peaks are where we call home. They’re more than just mountains; they’re a source of endless adventure and a testament to Ireland’s raw, natural beauty.

The Cooleys provide the perfect playground for outdoor enthusiasts. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker craving a challenge or a casual stroller wanting a breath of fresh mountain air, the trails here cater to all. Each path weaves a unique tale, offering its own blend of lush woodland, picturesque loughs, and summit views that’ll make your heart skip a beat.

So, from our home to yours, we invite you to explore the Cooley Mountains. Strap on your boots, breathe in the crisp Irish air, and step into a world of stunning landscapes and captivating tales just waiting to be discovered.

Ballycotton Cliff Walk

The Ballycotton Cliff Walk, a tucked-away treasure in County Cork, is a stunning 4.5-mile journey from Ballycotton village along the cliff’s edge. From the trail, soak in heart-stopping views of Ballycotton Bay and its iconic lighthouse.

Though the path can be uneven, it’s a relatively easy walk – just remember your sturdy boots. Oh, and bird enthusiasts? You’re in for a treat with the variety of seabirds calling this coastline home.

Coumshingaun

Ah, Coumshingaun! Nestled in County Waterford, this spot boasts one of Europe’s most awe-inspiring glacial lakes. Tackle the Coumshingaun Loop Walk – a 4.5-mile trail winding around this spectacular corrie lake. It’s a bit of a climb, but trust us, the panoramic views of the Comeragh Mountains make every step worth it.

Killarney National Park

Killarney National Park, over in County Kerry, is a hiker’s paradise. This 25,000-acre wonderland is brimming with mountain trails, lake loops, and wildlife spotting opportunities – yes, we’re talking about the native red deer! And don’t forget to pay a visit to the historic Muckross House and Gardens while you’re there.

Hiking in Ireland’s Major Cities

hey, city dwellers – we’ve got you covered too! Sure, the countryside has its charms, but let’s not forget about Ireland’s vibrant cities. Whether you’re strolling through Dublin, Cork, Galway, or Belfast, you’re never too far from a delightful hike.

Dublin

Dublin is a bustling city with a rich history and culture. It also has a surprising number of hiking trails within its city limits. One popular option is the Phoenix Park, which is one of the largest enclosed parks in Europe. It has several walking and hiking trails that take you through wooded areas and past historic landmarks like the Wellington Monument and the Papal Cross.

Another great option is the Dublin Mountains Way, which is a 42-kilometer trail that starts in the city center and takes you through the picturesque Dublin Mountains. It’s a challenging hike, but the views of the city and the surrounding countryside are well worth it.

Cork

Cork is a vibrant city with a laid-back atmosphere and plenty of green spaces. One of the best hiking trails in the area is the Ballycotton Cliff Walk, which offers stunning views of the coast and the surrounding countryside. It’s an easy hike that’s suitable for all ages and fitness levels.

For a more challenging hike, head to the Sheeps Head Way. This 88-kilometer trail takes you through some of the most beautiful landscapes in Ireland, including rugged cliffs, rolling hills, and pristine beaches.

Galway

Galway is a charming city with a rich cultural heritage and plenty of outdoor activities. One of the best hiking trails in the area is the Connemara National Park, which offers a range of hiking trails for all levels of fitness. The Diamond Hill Loop is a popular option, with stunning views of the surrounding mountains and coastline.

Another great option is the Aran Islands, which are located off the coast of Galway. The islands have several hiking trails that take you through some of the most scenic landscapes in Ireland, including rugged cliffs, sandy beaches, and lush green fields.

Belfast

Belfast is a vibrant city with a rich history and culture. It also has several hiking trails within its city limits, including the Lagan Towpath, which follows the River Lagan through the heart of the city. It’s an easy hike that’s suitable for all ages and fitness levels.

For a more challenging hike, head to the Divis and Black Mountain trails. These trails take you through the rugged hills and mountains that surround Belfast, offering stunning views of the city and the surrounding countryside.

MacGillycuddy’s Reeks

MacGillycuddy’s Reeks, found in County Kerry, is Ireland’s highest mountain range, and an absolute treat for hikers. Carrauntoohil, the tallest peak at 1,038 meters (3,406 feet), offers a challenging but rewarding climb with extraordinary views.

The range boasts several routes, including the Coomloughra Horseshoe, a difficult 7.5-mile loop that takes in the three highest peaks, providing magnificent vistas of the surrounding landscape. Despite the rugged and often steep terrain, the sense of accomplishment upon reaching each summit is unrivaled. Proper equipment and navigational skills are crucial due to the changeable weather.

Natural Beauty and Wildlife

Ireland is a country of stunning landscapes and natural beauty, where visitors can immerse themselves in the great outdoors and experience the unique flora and fauna of this green island. From the rugged coastlines and towering cliffs to the rolling hills and verdant valleys, Ireland’s natural beauty is truly breathtaking.

One of the best ways to experience Ireland’s natural beauty is by hiking through its stunning landscapes. There are countless hiking trails throughout the country that offer panoramic views of the surrounding countryside, from the majestic peaks of the Wicklow Mountains to the rugged coastline of the Wild Atlantic Way.

In addition to its stunning landscapes, Ireland is also home to a diverse range of wildlife. Visitors can spot everything from red deer and wild goats to otters and seals, as well as a wide variety of bird species, including the majestic golden eagle and the colorful puffin.

Another highlight of Ireland’s natural beauty is its waterfalls. From the dramatic cascades of Powerscourt Waterfall in County Wicklow to the serene beauty of Glenariff Forest Park in County Antrim, Ireland’s waterfalls are a must-see for any nature lover.

Hiking in Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland, with its quilt of stunning landscapes and diverse terrains, is a veritable Eden for hikers. From the wild, windswept beauty of the Causeway Coast to the undulating serenity of the Sperrin Mountains, there’s a piece of this Irish paradise to tickle everyone’s fancy.

Take a stroll down one of Northern Ireland’s crowd favorites, the Causeway Coastal Walk. This hearty 30-kilometer ramble lets you feast your eyes on some of the most spectacular scenery in the country, including the mythical basalt columns of the Giant’s Causeway. As you navigate your way, expect a rich tapestry of rugged cliffs, sun-kissed beaches, and whispering echoes of history from castle ruins.

If your hiking boots are itching for a challenge, look no further than the majestic Mourne Mountains in County Down. The Slieve Donard walking route, a heart-pumping 5.6-mile ascent to Northern Ireland’s sky-kissing peak, offers a spectacular reward – a panoramic view that’s as exhilarating as the climb itself.

And the beauty of Northern Ireland doesn’t stop there – with a plethora of trails meandering through the Sperrin Mountains and beyond, there’s a perfect match for every hiking enthusiast, whether you’re a novice or a seasoned trekker.

So, what are you waiting for? Northern Ireland, with its jaw-dropping landscapes and that infectious Irish charm, is calling out for you to embark on your next hiking adventure. Pack up, lace those boots tight, and hit the trails. The beauty of Northern Ireland awaits you – one footstep at a time.

Ireland’s Coastal Hikes

Slieve League Cliffs

Imagine standing at the top of Ireland’s tallest cliffs, where the sky kisses the sea and the Atlantic’s mighty roar fills the air – welcome to the awe-inspiring Slieve League Cliffs in Donegal. Every step up this well-trodden trail gifts you with sweeping views of the pulsating ocean and the patchwork countryside, turning your hike into a feast for the senses.

This trail is a welcome path for all – whether you’re a seasoned mountain goat or a newbie hill walker, the Slieve League Cliffs are ready to etch a memorable story in your hiking journey. Fancy getting under the skin of the cliffs? We recommend a guided tour where the secrets of the cliffs’ history and geology unfold like a thrilling novel.

Causeway Coastal Way

Wind your way along the heart-stopping Northern coastline on the Causeway Coastal Way, a rambling 52-kilometer (33-mile) trail that’s packed with as much Irish charm as it is with spectacular views. The wild romance of the Atlantic Ocean, the rugged coastal cliffs, and the verdant beauty of our countryside are all part of this trail’s irresistible allure.

Along the way, step into a world of myth and geology at the Giant’s Causeway, a UNESCO World Heritage Site where ancient basalt columns stir the imagination. And let’s not forget the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge – if you dare to cross, you’ll be rewarded with a panorama that’ll leave you breathless. I’ll make a confession here, I cried like a baby when I went to cross it. Heights and me ain’t good bedfellows. Seamus of course, flew across it laughing!

Gobbins Cliff Walk

For thrill-seekers and adrenaline junkies, prepare to have your heart racing on the Gobbins Cliff Walk in County Antrim. This exhilarating jaunt takes you on a wild ride along a network of suspension bridges and tunnels ingeniously carved into the stunning coastal cliffs. With each step, the raw power of the Atlantic Ocean and the rugged beauty of the coastline unfurl before your eyes.

But be warned, this isn’t a walk in the park – the Gobbins Cliff Walk has its challenges and demands a hearty dose of grit and a decent fitness level for this moderate hike. So, if you’re up for an adventure that’s just as much a test of nerve as it is a feast for the senses, lace up those hiking boots and hit the Gobbins Cliff Walk. It’s a heart-thumping, jaw-dropping experience that truly captures the wild spirit of Ireland!

Rathlin Island

Rathlin Island, a rugged jewel off the coast of County Antrim, invites you to lose yourself in its wild beauty. This little slice of Irish paradise is a haven for critters of all sorts – seals basking on rocky outcrops, puffins waddling along the cliffs, and if you’re lucky, you might even spot a dolphin frolicking in the cool Atlantic waves.

FAQs on the Very Best Hikes Ireland Offers

Which famous hike in Ireland takes you over a quartz filled mountain range

The hike traversing the Wicklow Mountains, specifically over the Lugnaquilla and Mullaghcleevaun. Known for their stunning quartzite peaks, these mountains are part of the Wicklow Way, Ireland’s oldest waymarked long-distance walk. Lugnaquilla, the highest peak in the province of Leinster, is especially known for its quartzite scree near the summit. Its diverse geology and panoramic views make it a favorite among hikers.

Which trail has the most elevation gain in Ireland?

The trail with the most elevation gain in Ireland is typically the ascent to the peak of Carrauntoohil, the country’s highest mountain located in County Kerry. The climb from the base to the summit of Carrauntoohil involves an elevation gain of approximately 900 meters (around 2,953 feet). The most commonly used route is the Devil’s Ladder, which although the shortest, is also steep and can be challenging, especially in poor weather conditions. Please remember, proper hiking gear, including sturdy boots and weather-appropriate clothing, is essential, as well as good fitness and navigational skills.

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