Ireland, with its vibrant green landscapes, quaint traditional villages, majestic coastlines, and mystical woods, never falls short when it comes to providing fantastic nature walks and challenging hiking trails. The scenery is so stunning it’s known across the globe, and it has become a beacon for nature lovers and adventurers alike.
When it comes to the best hikes in Ireland, the country offers a unique richness that stands out worldwide. Flanked by waterways, lush mountains, and rolling green hills, the Emerald Isle’s hiking trails are ripe for exploration. From relatively easy walks that tread ancient pilgrimage paths to more challenging hikes up some of Ireland’s highest peaks, there is something to suit all types of hikers.
But with such a wide variety of trails to choose from, the question of where to go can become overwhelming. That’s why we have curated a list of the top 10 best hikes in Ireland, considering factors like scenery, difficulty level, trail length, and any unique attractions each trail offers.
So lace up your hiking boots and prepare for an adventure through some of Ireland’s most scenic hiking routes.
- Ireland offers a unique richness of hiking trails for all types of hikers, surrounded by waterways, lush mountains, and rolling green hills, guaranteed to captivate nature lovers and adventurers alike.
- Some of the best hikes in Ireland include the Wicklow Way, the Kerry Way, the Dingle Way, the Sheep’s Head Way, the Beara Way, the Burren Way, the Causeway Coast Way, the Western Way, Slieve League Cliffs, and Twelve Bens Hiking Trail.
- Good quality, waterproof gear is essential for hiking in Ireland due to unpredictable weather conditions, including sturdy, waterproof hiking boots, layers and breathable fabrics, and reliable rain gear- a waterproof jacket and pants.
- It’s crucial to check the local weather forecast before setting out, even during summer, with the most suitable time for hiking typically being between April and October.
- To enhance your hiking experience, ensure you have a map and know how to read it; having a guide can also be helpful, particularly on challenging hikes to help you stay safe and learn about the local area’s cultural and natural history.
The Wicklow Way, Ireland’s first waymarked trail, leads trekkers through a mesmerizing landscape teeming with a wide variety of flora and fauna. Spanning a stretch of roughly 131 kilometers, this trail meanders through lush woods, sprawling parklands, and enigmatic valleys nestled in the enchanting Wicklow Mountains.
With an abundance of eye-catching landscapes complemented by glittering water bodies like Lough Dan in the backdrop, hiking this trail is nothing short of wonderous and is certainly among the best hikes in Ireland. The Wicklow Way truly comes to life with desolate yet captivating spots such as the tranquil Powerscourt Waterfall, the mysterious Lough Tay, otherwise known as the Guinness Lake, and of course, the sacred lands of the early Christian monastic site at Glendalough.
Although parts of the trail present a moderate challenge, it can usually be completed within a week’s time, making it a perfect option for those looking for an extended adventure in the serenity of nature’s wilderness.
The Kerry Way.
Winding through Ireland’s mystical southwest region, The Kerry Way is lauded as one of the longest signposted walking trails, and it is among the best hikes in Ireland. Traversing over 200 magnificent kilometers, this circuitous trail loop weaves through the dramatic Iveragh Peninsula, enabling hikers to witness the raw beauty of Ireland.
From breathtaking coastal views, snow-kissed peaks of Ireland’s highest mountains to enchanting Irish towns that echo history and tradition, trekkers can expect a soulful journey across the legendary Ring of Kerry. Spanning about nine days, the difficulty of this trail varies from one stretch to the next but is generally within the grasp of an averagely fit individual.
The Dingle Way.
Enveloping the majestic Dingle Peninsula, The Dingle Way beckons hikers into an unforgettable voyage of captivating beauty. Covering nearly 179 kilometers, each step taken on this trail uncovers the true essence of Ireland, graced by cryptic archaeological sites, sweeping coastal scenery, and the heartwarming harmonies of the region’s rich Gaelic heritage.
Landmarks such as the Gallarus Oratory, a marvel of early Christian architecture, and the noteworthy Blasket Islands are sure to leave trekkers in awe. Offering a delightful hiking experience that caters to most fitness levels, this trail can be comfortably completed in about eight to nine days.
The Sheep’s Head Way.
The Sheep’s Head Way, set on the namesake Sheep’s Head Peninsula, typifies the timeless romance of dramatic Irish landscapes. Nestled west of the charming town of Bantry, the hike enwraps an enticing 88-kilometer-long journey that awaits to welcome keen walkers into a utopia of quaint villages, enigmatic old ruins, and not to forget, the stunningly luscious cliff-top views.
A perfect blend of allure and tranquility, the trail presents facets of Ireland’s beauty that are often missed by many. A walk of moderate difficulty, the trails can be completed by casual hikers in about four days, revealing the raw, untouched beauty of Ireland’s southwestern coastal splendors.
The Beara Way.
Nestled among the mighty Caha Mountains and Slieve Miskish Mountains, the Beara Way enthusiastically beckons those seeking solace in nature’s lap. Encompassing around 206 kilometers of raw landscapes dotted with rustic townships, hikers are promised a diverse and engaging journey on this one of the best hikes in Ireland.
The trail chatters with nature, resonating with the calls of the abundant wildlife that decorate the trail while revealing captivating prehistoric stone circle sites and mystical standing stones. Taking about nine days to traverse at a moderate pace, the route offers a perfect mix of challenges and stunning encounters.
The Burren Way.
Encapsulating the incredibly diverse landscapes of Ireland, The Bureen Way is a magnetic force pulling nature enthusiasts towards its captivating path. Spanning a distance of approximately 114 kilometers, hikers enjoy an exhilarating journey marked by beautiful beaches, limestone pavements, and dense woodlands, all imbued with a unique sense of tranquility.
A significant highlight of this trail is the visit to the eminent Cliffs of Moher, Ireland’s most visited natural attraction, where the Atlantic swells crash against stunning cliffs – a sight to behold. On a slightly more moderately challenging level, this journey is usually ventured upon for about 5 days on foot.
The Causeway Coast Way.
Revered for the unique geological wonder, the Giant’s Causeway, the Causeway Coast Way is a testament to the breathtaking coastal scenery in Northern Ireland. Stretching along 51 kilometers of the coastal path, this trail exposes hikers to rugged cliffs, pristine sandy beaches, tranquil farmland, and deep green forests, finished off with iconic historic sites seeping with folklore and legend.
Additionally, the route takes hikers to the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, a thrilling crossing set nearly 30 meters above sea level. Complete with assorted landscapes and climatic conditions, the hike typically takes 2 to 3 days, making it a favorable choice for those looking for shorter getaways in Northern Ireland.
The Western Way.
The Western Way extends an invitation to nature lovers to soak in the breathtaking views of Lough Corrib, Killary Harbour, and the towering peaks of the Maumturk Mountains. Encompassing approximately 179 kilometers, the trail navigates through a range of habitats from bogs and heaths to woodland, offering walkers a mesmerizing amalgamation of scenic beauty.
Located in the western counties of Galway and Mayo, the trek is usually completed over a span of 7 to 9 days by individuals with an average fitness level and is regarded as moderately challenging.
Slieve League Cliffs.
Tucked away on the rough, rugged terrain of County Donegal lie the Slieve League Cliffs. These, some of the highest and grandest sea cliffs in Europe, offer a hike less traditional, perhaps, but no less remarkable. The overall walk is not overly long, amounting to a 7 km round trip.
Still, the dizzying heights combined with occasional high winds and rough weather conditions can create quite a challenging experience. Commanding breathtaking views across the Atlantic, Donegal Bay, and the Sligo Mountains, this hike is a testament to the wild and wonderful beauty of Ireland’s west coast.
Twelve Bens Hiking Trail
Nestled in the heart of Connemara National Park, composed of a rugged mountain range known as Twelve Bens, this trail is as challenging as it is rewarding. Adventure lurks around every corner as hikers ascend steep terrain, crossing peat bogs and navigating rocky terrain, only to be rewarded with jaw-dropping views atop each Ben.
The trails offer an immersive experience, allowing trekkers to witness firsthand the dynamic interplay of nature. The total distance and difficulty can vary depending on which – and how many – of the Bens you decide to tackle, but beware, this hike is not for the faint-hearted or ill-prepared. It is an invitation to the brave-hearted, ready to be entranced by the untamed beauty of Connemara.
Tips for Hiking in Ireland
Hiking in Ireland is a journey into a world of verdant landscapes, panoramic views, and enthralling trails that tell tales of time past. However, to truly relish this feast of natural beauty, it’s essential to be well-prepared and knowledgeable about Ireland’s changing weather, appropriate gear, and navigation on the trails.
Adopting safety precautions along with basic respect for nature can enhance your hiking experience and leave the Irish trails unspoiled for future generations. Here are some essential tips for hiking in Ireland.
A. The Weather and The Best Times to Go
The weather in Ireland is infamously changeable, so it’s crucial to check the forecast before setting out and be ready for all conditions, even in the height of summer.
Typically, the most suitable time for hiking is between April and October, when the weather is relatively warm and daylight hours are longer. However, certain trails, particularly the mountainous ones, can reveal their own unique beauty in other seasons too.
B. Necessary Gear You Should Prepare
Ireland’s unpredictable weather makes good quality, waterproof gear essential. Invest in sturdy, waterproof hiking boots that can stand up to muddy trails. Opt for layers and breathable fabrics to adjust to the changing temperatures quickly. Don’t forget reliable rain gear, too – a waterproof jacket and pants are a must.
A backpack to carry your food, water, and other necessary items is also essential. If you’re opting for longer hikes, navigation tools, a first-aid kit, and possibly even camping gear might come in handy.
C. Advice on Maps, Guides, and Directions
While many of Ireland’s hikes are well-signposted, having a map and knowing how to read it is a useful skill that can become invaluable, especially in remote areas.
You can also recruit the services of a guide, particularly on challenging hikes, to ensure you stay safe and secure while also learning about the local area’s cultural and natural history.
D. Safety Precautions and Things to Avoid
Before starting the hike, ensure you are aware of the trail’s length and difficulty. Always tell someone where you’re going and what time you expect to return. No matter how safe an area seems, don’t leave valuables unattended. Beware of wildlife and respect their space.
Lastly, adhere to the principles of ‘Leave No Trace’ to help preserve the natural beauty of Irish trails for generations to come. Never veer off the trail unless necessary: erosion from foot traffic can be an issue.
Remember – the aim is to enjoy the walk and the beautiful natural world around you while staying safe and respecting the environment.
Gear up for Ireland’s hiking adventure!
Ireland provides an array of picturesque hiking trails that captivate nature lovers and adventurers alike. With its diverse terrains, rich heritage, and breathtaking landscapes, the Emerald Isle truly offers an unmatched hiking experience.
What are the best hikes in Ireland? Be it the Wicklow Way’s mesmerizing landscapes, the dramatic beauty of The Kerry Way, or the spectacular views from the Slieve League Cliffs – each trail has its own distinct charm, invigorating the senses of hikers. Preparation, appropriate gear, respect for nature, and adherence to safety measures can definitely magnify your hiking experiences. So dare to wander!
As Clare Wanders quoted, “To those who can dream, there is no such place as far away.” Ireland’s warm embrace awaits you. So tie those hiking boots tight, and embark on an unforgettable journey as you explore the heart and soul of Ireland’s most enchanting walks. Gear up for an adventure you’ll fondly remember for a lifetime.
How difficult is each trail?
1. The Causeway Coast Way – 4/10: This trail is generally favored for shorter holidays, taking 2 to 3 days to cover the 51 kilometers path. Hikers enjoy the coastal terrain composed of rugged cliffs, tranquil farmlands, and sandy beaches.
2. The Dingle Way – 5/10: With a distance of nearly 179 kilometers, this trail can be comfortably completed in about eight to nine days. It caters to most fitness levels and offers rich historical and natural attractions.
3. The Sheep’s Head Way – 5/10: For casual hikers, this moderate-difficulty trail encompassing 88 kilometers is suitable and can be completed in about four days. Its allurement lies in the idyllic villages, captivating cliff-top views, and historic remnants.
1. Wicklow Way – 6/10: A moderate challenge due to its lengthy 131 kilometers stretch that is usually completed within a week. It rewards trekkers with serene landscapes peppered with flora and fauna and stunning sights like the Powerscourt Waterfall and the mysterious Lough Tay.
2. The Kerry Way – 6/10: This trail traverses over 200 kilometers, taking about nine days to complete. The difficulty varies from one stretch to the next but is mostly manageable for an averagely fit individual.
3. The Beara Way – 6/10: A moderately challenging trail that spans 206 kilometers and takes about nine days to complete. Its beauty is found in the raw, rustic landscapes and prehistoric stone circle sites.
4. The Western Way – 6/10: Located in the western counties, this 179-kilometer trail presents moderate challenges and can typically be completed in seven to nine days, offering a compelling mix of landscapes.
1. The Burren Way – 7/10: With stretches of beautiful beaches, limestone habitats, and dense woodland, this 114 kilometers trail poses a slightly higher challenge and usually takes about 5 days to traverse through.
2. Slieve League Cliffs – 7/10: The hike is not overly long, but the high winds and rough weather combined with the significant heights can make this 7 kilometers trail quite challenging despite its shorter distance.
3. Twelve Bens Hiking Trail – 9/10: Offering varying distances and difficulties depending on the chosen path, this trail is a challenging path through steep and rocky terrain. Suited for brave-hearted adventurers, this hike offers rewarding views from atop the mountains.
Everything you need for your next trip: