Ireland (Republic of Ireland)

Languages: English, Irish

Currencies: EUR · Euro (€)

Capitol: Dublin

Continents: Europe

Borders: United Kingdom

More useful information

Area: 70,273km2

Population: 4,994,724

Traffic/driving side: left

Landlocked country: No

Independent country: Yes

United Nations member: Yes

IDD Prefix: +353

Timezones: UTC

Last updated on April 4, 2024

Ireland the emerald isle has a lot to offer in terms of natural beauty. The name refers to the color of the vegetation on the island, green hills and fields. Despite the fact the highest peak has only 1038 metres (Carrauntoohil), you will find some of the trails very challenging and the landscape is unbeatable. So if you want to put yourslef on the path of natural beauty, here are in my opinion 6 most scenic hiking trails in Ireland.

So far from my experience – Most-challenging trail in Ireland (12 Bens/mountain peaks) Glencoaghan Horshoe Loop. On the photo: Ring of Kerry.

6 most scenic hiking trails in Ireland.

1. Carrauntoohil – County Kerry.

Carrauntoohil is the highest peak in Ireland located in County Kerry in Killarney National Park. There are several trails to the top of Carrantuohill with Devil’s Ladder being the most populat, shortest and traditional way up (alternative routes: Caher Route and Brother O’Shea’s Gully). 

Carrauntoohil is not only one of the most scenic hiking trails in Ireland but also one of the most challenging. Devil’s Ladder hiking trail is demanding and difficult but it’s absolutely a stunning expedition with highly rewarding views from the top. This is one of my favourite views over Ireland’s green valleys. Devil’s Ladder is definitely a trail for hiking lovers but do not approach the mountain without a decent hiking experience.

Devils Ladder route is hard and challenging. The beginning of the trail is flat and it’s hard to imagine it turns into a steep rocky path! Actually, I’m not sure if it’s even possible to go down the same way! Everyone is taking the long way back down.

No special equipment is needed to hike the mountain but be careful, the route has become more dangerous in recent years due to loose stones. There were a few times when falling stones passed really close to my head. Trekking shoes are essential! On the way to the top you’ll pass two beautiful lakes, shaped in human lungs (visible only from the top view). Once you complete the steep section take right direction toward the big cross.

Height: 1038 meters

Duration: 6-7 hours up and down

Difficulty: Challenging (reconsider in wet weather!)

Detailed information on hiking Carrautoohil via Devil’s Ladder shift here: Hiking Carrauntoohil

2. Glencoaghan Horshoe Loop – one of the most challenging hiking trails in Ireland.

I’d say it’s the toughest hiking trail in Ireland, challenging and exhausting! You need to be prepared for a challenging adventure heading this caldera, especially if the weather is not on your side. Plus a good fitness level is required! Weather is unpredictable, so you should always be prepared for bad conditions. Glencoaghan Horseshoe peaks are usually covered with clouds, so the visibility might be very limited.

There are six peaks on the way (12 Bens is the longer one). The walk should be done anticlockwise, as there are few steep rocky sections. I have to say the beginning of the ‘trail’ is completely not visible. If not 5 hikers ahead of me, I would struggle to find the way up. And let’s be honest, most of the trail is just sheep tracks, the road is not maintained and for the most of it it’s your choice which way to follow.

Starting point: I left my car on a tiny road – farming area, closer to the start of the trail. When you drive main road N59 west direction this is the tiny road right toward Lutty town (Google shows ‘Ten Bens Cottage’ there). This is the closest road visible on a map to Derryclare – the first summit of Glencoaghan Horseshoe Loop.

Alternative starting point: Most people start at Benelttery Youth Hostel. However, this starting point is not convenient for the finish, as you need to walk back 5 km to reach your car from the Benelttery Youth Hostel. People say there’s always somebody who will give you a ride back but I was so exhausted after the trail that I couldn’t imagine having this hustle.

Duration: 9-12 hours (depending on weather conditions)

Difficulty: Moderate/Difficult, good fitness level is a must!

Check for all detailed information on this trail: Hiking Glencoaghan Horseshoe loop/. 

Glencoaghan is not only among top 3 most scenic trails in Ireland but you will be also able to visit exceptional Kylemore Abbey Castle.

Can't miss landmark - Kylemore Abbey Castle!

Kylemore Abbey Castle is a stunning neo-Gothic Church with Victorian gardens.

You can easily explore the the west coast of Ireland with the below top rated tours!

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3. Slieve Donard, Northern Ireland.

This hiking route is about a 10 km climb to the highest peak in Northern Ireland, taking around five hours in total, with a stunning view of the surrounding coastline from the top. Your starting point would be Donard Car Park (Newscastle) from where you can access the Glen River route leading to the top of Slieve Donard.

Height: 850 metres

Distance: 10 km

Start: convenient Donard car park

Difficulty: Slieve Donard is not technically difficult. Doggy was first on the top! 😃 With a good fitness level, you wouldn’t have a problem climbing. The trail might get muddy but I did it in rainy weather and it was totally managable. The conditions were windy, cold and a little slipperry. All easy enough to manage.

What to wear: Depending on a season but if you are taking a hike in colder months you should definitely bring warm clothes. Always have rain jacket! It’s small enough to hide in your backpack and the best thing you can wear in wet conditions. Very good hiking boots – it’s a must. Hiking trails in Ireland can get muddy and slippery. Take good food package, snacks – nuts or protein bar (or flapjack).

While sll these scenic hiking trails in Ireland you should always consider weather forecast. The most magnificent trail in Ireland can change into a tough hiking struggle.

I always carry compass, fully charged phone & powerbank, whistle (easy to use in case of an emergency) and a thermos with hot ginger tea, lemon & honey – no better power source! 🙂

Hiking route to Slieve Donard.

The trail is well defined and maintained. The path leads along a beautiful forest Glen River. At this stage it is a pleasant walk until you reach the iconic Mourne Wall at the saddle of the mountain. The trails takes you along though a steep hill along the walls straight to the top. Slieve Donard is definitely among the most scenic hiking trails in Ireland due to magnificent views from the top including Scotland peaks, Wales and even my dream island: Isle of Man, where famous deadly TT motorcycle races are taking place. 

Few things to consider while hiking Ireland:

  1. If you are looking for a car rental – the best option & rates I can recommend is
  2. Traveling across Ireland you better have a medical insurance, I will always stick to SafetyWing.
  3. Accommodation is very expensive in Ireland – I really don’t know why – the standard is below European level, so I would advise to book well in advance on
6 most scenic hiking trails in Ireland - Mount Brandon

4. Howth cliff walk – stunning hiking trails in Dublin, Ireland.

Howth cliff walk is definitely one of the most stunning hiking trails in Ireland leading along magnificent cliff coastline. Walk the full loop to explore hidden rocky beaches and incredible wildlife – dolphins and seals hard to believe this all can be experienced in middle of a busy capital city – Dublin! You can’t miss visiting one and only Howth port. This used to be a small fishing village, while nowadays it’s one of the main tourist attractions of the island with unforgettable atmosphere and stunning cliff views. Howth peninsula is a great destination for a beautiful day trip – cliff walk. The longest path is around 10 km loop, but you can call in to see the town first. Views along the cliff walk spread across the whole Dublin Bay and Wicklow Mountains. 

(find a baby seal 😉

The starting point of the trail is a fishing and yachting port, where you can choose from plenty of delicious seafood restaurants. The queue for the most popular fish&chips takeaways can be enormous during weekends. But the fish burger or deep-fried cod is really worth waiting. Although I heard even though it’s a fishing village, all fish in takeaways is frozen. It’s extraordinary! The beautiful scenery of the village and the coastal paths attracts lots of tourists whole year round. But this is just more than a fishing village. It’s so cozy and unique. If you’re lucky you’ll see seals swimming around and bobbing up with their cute noses. And if you are very lucky you’ll even see dolphins. It happened to me to spot them one. 

Here are some lovely top rated tour options from TRIPADVISOR you may choose for an unforgettable Irish day-trip:

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5. Wicklow Mountains, County Wicklow.

Wicklow Mountains are the most famous hiking destination in Ireland with number of magnificent trails around the area. Lugnaquilla is the highest point of Wicklow Mountains – 925 metres and it’s a decent hike! But any other route offers spectacular mountain and valley views – Lough Tay Lake and most famous Glendalough are fantastic, perfect for a day walk. 

6. The Causeway Coast, Northern Ireland.

The north coast of the island is absolutely breathtaking. Causeway Coast consists of a number of spectacular attractions. Last time I was there I started with Kinbane Castle – a historic castle on a limestone headland. Don’t expect a huge heritage but it’s a nice spot to visit. Driving 2 km west direction there’s one of the most magnificent attractions I’ve seen in Ireland – Carric-a-rede Rope Bridge. It’s an unforgettable walk, 30 metres above the sea surface, through the rope bridge, linking the mainland with the small island. It might be a little scary experience if you are afraid of heights but keep focused on the breathtaking panoramic view over the wild coastline landscape and you’ll shortly find yourself on the other side of the bridge.

Giant's Causeway phenomenon!

Further next 6 km west direction, there’s one of the most famous attractions on the island – Giant’s Causeway. It’s a 3 km walk from Windy Gap to the Giant’s Causeway to see those incredible natural rocky formations. This phenomenon is to be seen only in two places in the world – Ireland and New Zealand.

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Driving 5 km west direction you’ll find the famous Elephant Rock, which at the end of the day… is just a rock 🙂

The last place on the way you must visit is – The Dark Hedges along Bregagh Road in Northern Ireland – the stunning tree tunnel you saw in the Game of Thrones!

Check for more hiking inspirations across Ireland:

Sassari Sardinia

Hey - I'm Eva!

Hiker, adventurous traveler and the author of this blog. My biggest joy is mountaineering and writing reportage travel stories here on this blog, to help you create a unique travel experience. Traveling is freedom, allows you seeing the world truly, meet communities, grow. Taste it!

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