LivingTravelThe 7 best destinations for hikers in Ireland

The 7 best destinations for hikers in Ireland

Walking is a popular activity in Ireland for both natives and visitors, but what are the best Irish routes to choose from? Here you will find seven of the best, namely six of the most popular signposted long-distance routes, and a combined suggestion of two-day trips through the most popular mountains in Ireland. Take your pick, but never forget to stay safe; in any case, good walking gear is essential.

The Beara Way – West Cork’s (and South Kerry’s) Best Route

Taking the hiker through the wild beauty of the rugged Beara Peninsula, past wild mountains and secluded beaches, Beara Way is ideal for getting away from it all. Although it has become more popular with individual walkers and organized groups in recent years, it is not as crowded as Wicklow Way, but it is not a splendid solitude either.

The total distance covered by the Camino Beara is 196 km; A shorter route of 116 km is recommended below. For this, you need to budget for a duration of at least 6 days. Only in this distance will you have to tackle climbs of (accumulated) 5,300 m, some on very steep slopes. The condition of the trails can be rated as generally good, around 40% are on paved roads, but some wilder sections can be challenging. Signage can be described as erratic, missing, or unreliable in some areas; never walk without a map and compass. Regarding maps, you should try to get a current number from Sheets 84 and 85 of the OSI Discovery Series.

The full Beara Way route is a circular course from (usually) Glengarriff in County Cork, but if you want to experience the highlights, narrow down to this hike:

  • Day 1 – 10 miles from Glengarriff to Adrigole, a steep hike at times so budget for 5 hours.
  • Day 2: 22 km from Adrigole to Castletownbere, again with some difficult parts and taking around 6 hours. You have the option of spending a day at Castletownbere and inserting an easy day of hiking on Bere Island.
  • Day 3: 12km from Castletownbere to Allihies through the Slieve Miskish Mountains, 3 hours of fairly easy hike. Allihies could be your base for a day if you want to visit Dursey Island, accessible only by cable car.
  • Day 4: 20 km from Allihies to Eyeries on old mining roads and old stones, budget of 6 hours.
  • Day 5: 22 km from Eyeries to Lauragh, crossing the steep flanks of Gortbrack, passing several prehistoric sites and almost subtropical vegetation, 6 hours of sensual pleasures.
  • Day 6 – 24 km from Lauragh to Kenmare, along the slopes of the Caha and Lough Inchiquin mountains through a landscape full of variety, 6 hours minimum due to some steep slopes.

Practical advice: always carry maps, a compass and enough food and drink for the whole day.

The Burren Way: Desolation and Wild Shores in County Clare

The Burren Trail is not a physical challenge, but it can be mental as you walk through a “lunar landscape” that even depressed the English conquerors, for lack of execution facilities.

The total distance traveled is 123 km, and you should budget for a duration of around 5 days. Throughout the distance, you will have to tackle mostly moderate ascents, without long, steep slopes. Trail condition can be rated good to very good, large parts of the Burren Trail are on paved roads. The signage can also be described as good. Regarding maps, you should try to get a current number from sheets 51 and 57 of the OSI Discovery Series.

Note that the Burren trail is not circular and there are many ‘detours’ from the main trail from Lahinch to Corrofin (80km), with some routes being used twice to get to the trails. Most walkers take a pick and mix approach with the Burren Way, but here is the full route with its trails:

  • Lahinch to Doolin: 18km along the coast atop the Cliffs of Moher, ending in Ireland’s overrated ‘folk music capital’. You should budget for a duration of approximately 4 hours.
  • Doolin to Lisdoonvarna – 12 km, taking you away from the coast, a walk of around 3 hours.
  • Lisdoonvarna to Ballyvaughan: 25 km via the Burren, with splendid views of the Aran Islands and Galway Bay. From 5 to 6 hours of tranquility, between two critical tourist points.
  • Ballyvaughan to Carron: 25 km of trail takes you further inland, passing many prehistoric monuments, for about 5 to 6 hours.
  • Carron to Corofin – 18km through a gray and uninspiring landscape… those not interested in the Burren can skip these three hours and also the day before, honestly.

Helpful advice, the Burren is gray in color and literally not easy on the eye, tiring and leading to a trance state. To avoid accidents on the roads, walkers should wear bright, colorful clothing. Always bring food and drink, there are no bars on the way!

Carrauntoohil and Croagh Patrick: a day of climbing

Those who want to climb a hill, for the view, or as a challenge, can find happiness in Kerry and May – Ireland’s highest and most important mountain is there to climb.

The ascent to the top of Carrauntoohil in County Kerry, with 1038m of the highest mountain in Ireland, is an excursion for those visitors who have experience in hiking and the right footwear to tackle the mountain. You should budget for a duration of around 4 hours for the promotion, 6 to 7 hours for the entire company. Trail condition can be rated good in many parts, but Devil’s Staircase is challenging without a defined trail. There are no signs, but you will see the trails left by other walkers. Regarding maps, you should try to get a current number from OSI Discovery Series Sheet 7.

Climbing Croagh Patrick, also known as ‘Ireland’s holy mountain’ due to its association with Saint Patrick, is basically a day trip when visiting County Mayo, up and down, following in Patrick’s footsteps. But even if it doesn’t take long, it will be exhausting. And sometimes dangerous if you do not watch where you step. You must budget for at least 2 hours for the ascent, the same for the descent. Throughout the distance you will have to tackle some very steep climbs, especially going up to the top of the mountain. The condition of the trail can be described as not very good, in frankly bad parts: the “path” is often made up of scree, ready to slide under the foot (and then the knees and / or the butt) at the slightest provocation. On the other hand, you will not need signs, the road is so busy that you cannot get lost. Recommended equipment includes food, water, and a sturdy cane – you can hire these at the foot of the hill in Murrisk, near Campbell’s Pub.

If you see going up to Croagh Patrick as a sporting endeavor, not a pilgrimage, you may want to avoid holy days, and especially “Reek Sunday”, the last Sunday in July is the focus of most pilgrimages, and the hill is packed. A block with the clergy, praying pilgrims of all ages and rescue teams and mountain doctors for those who overestimated their abilities.

The Dingle Way: A Classic Trek in County Kerry

Dingle, the town and the peninsula that surrounds it, is a tourist favorite, so much so that local councilors even petitioned the government not to use the Irish name so as not to confuse non-Irish-speaking visitors (i.e. 99.99%) . Dolphin Fungie is a great attraction, but to get away from the crowds it is recommended to walk down the Dingle Road.

The total distance covered by Dingle Way is 168km, and you should budget for a duration of around a week, depending on your physical condition. Throughout this distance you will need to tackle (cumulative) ascents of around 2590m, including some pretty steep steps. The condition of the trails can be described as good in general, the same goes for the signage. Regarding maps, you should try to get a current number from sheets 70 and 71 of the OSI Discovery Series.

Dingle Way is a circular route, with Tralee as the usual starting point, although the most exciting parts are to the west of Dingle Town:

  • Day 1: 18 km from Tralee to camp, along the foothills of the Slieve Mish entlang mountains.
  • Day 2: 17km from camp to Annascaul, with inch views (with a long sandy beach) and through the Gap of Maum, where an ancient standing stone serves as a trail marker.
  • Day 3: 21 km from Annascaul to Dingle, through Killmury Bay, and crossing the steep and high pass from Connor to Dingle, perhaps the most difficult part of the route.
  • Day 4 – 20km from Dingle to Dunquin, through Ventry Beach and Mount Eagle to Slea Head.
  • Day 5: 15 miles from Dunquin to Cuas, almost a level walk along the Atlantic coast, through Coumeenoole Beach (where “Ryan’s Daughter” was filmed) and Smerwick Harbor.
  • Day 6: 18 km from Cuas to Cloghane, using a military road that crosses the mountains, crossing them at a pass just below the top of Mount Brandon, then down to Brandon Bay.
  • Day 7 – 25 km from Cloghane to Castlegregory, following the north coast on an easier path.
  • Day 8: 25 km from Castlegregory to Tralee, still along the North Shore, then crossing the foothills of the Slieve Mish Mountains back to Tralee.

Quick Tip: If you’re walking the Dingle Way, be sure to book convenient hostels, B & Bs, or hotels in advance. For the trail between Cuas and Cloghane, please note that crossing the pass in bad weather is not recommended.

The Tain Way: Through the Cooley Mountains in County Louth

The Cooley Peninsula is one of Ireland’s most underrated areas of natural beauty, and the Tain Way (named for the ‘Cooley Cattle Raid’, an ancient epic poem) is perhaps the best approach to exploring it in depth. The total distance covered by Tain Way is around 40 km, so you need to budget for a duration of around 2 days. The route runs from Carlingford through Omeath and Ravensdale through the mountains, then crosses the Golyin Pass back to Carlingford. Throughout the distance, you will have to tackle some challenging but not difficult ascents. The condition of the trails can be described as “mixed”, from the trodden path to the paved path. The signage can be described as pretty good. Regarding maps, you should try to get a current number from OSI Discovery Series Sheet 36.

Quick Tips: The Tain Way is generally considered an easy trail, but it is not a picnic. Sturdy footwear and some weather-resistant clothing are a must, especially since conditions can change in a few minutes.

The Ulster Road: Around All of Northern Ireland

The Ulster Road is undoubtedly the most challenging of Ireland’s marked routes, by virtue of its length alone – explore the North West on no less than 1,000 kilometers of tracks, paths and roads. Here it is only possible to give an overview of the route. The condition of the Ulster Way, including the signage, is generally good – the entire system was overhauled a few years ago and is generally in good condition.

Unless you really want to spend a few weeks rambling in Northern Ireland (and a bit of County Cavan), choose the best of Ulster Way only. Highly recommended are the easy Lagan Towpath from Belfast to Lisburn (19 km), the impressive Causeway Coast Way (52 km from Portstewart to Ballycastle) and the Florencecourt to Belcoo route (16 km).

The Causeway Coast Way is (perhaps) the most exciting part of the Ulster Way, which leads along the north shore from Portstewart to Portrush, then past Dunluce Castle to the Giant’s Causeway, to the famous Carrick- Rope Bridge. a-Rede and finally via Ballintoy to Ballycastle.

The route from Florence Court to Belcoo (16 km) uses the Cuilcagh Trail through the UNESCO Geopark: through forests and paths, you will hike to Florence Court, then through Florence Court Forest Park to Marble Arch Caves, then to through exposed moorland 665 m above Cuilcagh Mountain, descending through Cladagh Glen to Blacklion and Belcoo, twin cities on the border.

The Wicklow Way: Dublin Gate Walk

Wicklow Way is one of Ireland’s best-known and most popular signposted routes, just outside Dublin and leading through stunning scenery with lush forests, waterfalls and tall windswept swamps. It actually starts on the outskirts of Dublin and then goes down to Clonegall via Knockree, Laragh, Glendalough, Glenmalure, Drumgoff, Aghavannagh, Tinahely and Shillelagh. With a length of 127 km, it can be tackled in a full week. The difficulty of the trail is changing all the time, but it is manageable for those with hiking experience. Although there are some strenuous parts, it must be said. Branding can be a bit unpredictable, mainly due to negligence (this has become a minor problem) and vandalism. For really decent maps, get OSI’s “Adventure Series” Wicklow map pack.

The entire Wicklow Way trail, broken down into manageable bits (for an experienced hiker), runs like this:

  • Day – Marlay Park to Knockree – 21 km – 7 hours
  • Day – Knockree to Roundwood – 11 miles – 6–7 hours
  • Day – Roundwood to Laragh (Glendalough) – 12 km – 4 hours
  • Day – Laragh to Glenmalure – 14 km – 4–5 hours
  • Day – Glenmalure to Moyne – 21 km – 7 hours
  • Day – Moyne to Shillelagh – 21 km – 7 hours
  • Day – Shillelagh to Clonegall – 19 km – 6 hours

Some safety tips: Even though the Wicklow Mountains are close to Dublin and, at first glance, they are a mere succession of minor hills, they have a great impact. As a raised plateau with some higher outcrops, they reach almost 1,000 m at Lugnaquilla. The most underrated danger here is a sudden change in weather, from bright sun to dense fog and clouds in no time. Not only will this allow you to lose your way easily, but it will also be tough on optimistic leisure walkers who show up in lightweight T-shirts and sneakers; There are a number of mountain rescue teams active in the area for this reason.

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