Ireland walking holidays: 15 best Irish hikes, treks and walks

Mar 28, 2018 BY Paul McWilliams

With a huge range of terrains, distances and scenery, Ireland walking holidays are one of the country’s main attractions. In fact, the best Irish hikes, treks and walks rank as some of the world’s most alluring trails.

Ireland walking holidays Wicklow Way one of the 15 best Irish hikes treks and walks Flickr CC Image by Rob Hurson

Expect lush and rolling countryside, rugged coastlines, mountain trails, rich history, fun towns and cities, friendly locals and plenty of Guinness. Walking in Ireland has got the lot, which combined with a great infrastructure and tourist facilities make it perfect for vacations.

Ireland walking holidays

In this article we’ll take a closer look at some of the best Irish hikes, treks and walks. Whether you like to hit the trail for many days or just a few hours, we’ve included the routes you should consider when visiting the Emerald Isle.

To make it a little easier, we’ve broken the walks down into three categories. Long distance multi day treks, shorter 2-3 day hikes and walks you can fit into a day. Choose your preferred distance, lace up your boots and off you go.

Top 5 long distance treks in Ireland

Dingle Way, County Kerry

111.8 miles/179 kilometres, 10 days

Have you ever wanted to walk through the ‘most beautiful place on earth?’ Well, that’s exactly what you get with the Dingle Way, according to the National Geographic Traveller magazine. They officially bestowed this title on the Dingle Peninsula in 2006. And subsequently it has come to the attention of Hollywood too, with one of the recent Star Wars films shooting on location here.

Of all Ireland walking holidays this is possibly the most iconic. There are various multi-day walk options. But to capture the full majesty of Dingle, the 10-day walk is highly recommended.

Ireland walking holidays Dingle Way one of the 15 best Irish hikes treks and walks Flickr CC Image by iadk

You’ll encounter plenty of archaeological monuments along the route, some of which date back to around 6000 BC. Pass standing stones, lush green pastures and heather-clad mountains – all of which sweep down to the rugged Atlantic coast.

Beara Way, Counties Cork and County Kerry

122.5 miles/196 kilometres, 9 days

Located on the most south westerly tip of Ireland, the Beara Peninsula forms part of the Wild Atlantic Way. Reaching far out into the Atlantic, Beara makes Dingle look busy in comparison, making this one of the best Irish hikes if you like your treks wild.

The trail takes you along country roads, past monuments and through tiny hamlets. The Gulf Stream means it never gets too cold, with pleasant weather throughout the year. And the colourful flora and fauna give the trail, and islands of Beara and Dursey, a magical quality.

Wicklow Way, County Wicklow

79 miles/127 kilometres, 10 days

Ireland’s oldest marked walking trail, pioneered over 40 years ago, the Wicklow Way is possibly the most well-known of Ireland walking holidays. It reveals some of the Emerald Isle’s most spectacular views, including Powerscourt Waterfall, Luggala, Lough Dan, Glenmalure and the historic Glendalough.

The trail starts from Marlay Park in Dublin and winds its way to Clonegal on the borders of Wicklow and Carlow. The 10-day trip passes through most of Wicklow County, known as the Garden of Ireland. It is easily one of the best Irish hikes if you want a long distance multi-day trek.

Ireland walking holidays Wicklow Way one of the 15 best Irish hikes treks and walks Flickr CC Image by Rob Hurson

Connemara and the Western Way, County Galway and County Mayo

77 miles/124 kilometres, 7 days

Also part of the Wild Atlantic Way, this walk stretches from Galway Bay to Killary Harbour, passing the Twelve Bens mountains and smaller Maumturks. Grey peaks tower over ancient bogs, creating some of the finest scenery in Ireland.

Many of Ireland’s earliest settlements were located here, and it was also the site of the worst of the great famine. Today, much of the landscape is forested, with few roads keeping things quiet. Your route will lead you past Croagh Patrick and on towards Westport, one of Ireland’s most traditional towns.

Burren Way, County Clare

70 miles/114 kilometres, 7 days

Stretching from Liscannor to Ballyvaughan, and passing the Cliffs of Moher, the Burren way traverses a landscape of limestone. Formed more than 300 million years ago and reshaped by glaciers, this is a unique terrain of waterfalls, caves and underground lakes.

The Burren Caves are a real highlight on this trek during Ireland walking holidays. Discovered in 1944, much of the caves remain unexplored.

Megalithic tombs dot the landscape, with ruined castles harking back to a more recent but equally enigmatic past. And the limestone comes to a craggy end as it tumbles down into the Atlantic – providing the perfect habitat for countless seabirds, including fulmar, puffin and razorbill.

Ireland walking holidays Burren Way one of the 15 best Irish hikes treks and walks Flickr CC Image by dorameulman

Best Irish hikes (2-3 days)

Tochar Phadraig, County Mayo

22 miles/35 kilometres, 2 days

Walking from Ballintubber Abbey to Croagh Patrick is one of the most enigmatic and alluring hikes in Ireland. It’s a pilgrimage route that goes back to Pagan times, taking in some of the country’s most important historic and religious sites.

Walkers should register at Ballintubber with the local priest, who will give you a route map and booklet containing some information. There’s a €10 donation which covers insurance and upkeep of the abbey, but this is a ‘must do’ during Ireland walking holidays.

The Great Southern Trail, County Limerick

23 miles/ 36 kilometres, 2/3 days

This walk will give you a unique insight into the forgotten world of steam travel. Accessing to a stretch of the West Limerick to Tralee railway line, which ran from 1867 to 1975. Community groups have kept the line open as a walking and cycling route and is one of the best Irish hikes.

At the moment you can only walk the stretch between the Palatine museum in Rathkeale (well worth a few hours) and Abbeyfeale. But the trail will eventually stretch to Tralee. You can almost hear the Great Southern and Western locomotives rumble past as you walk.

The Mourne Way, County Down

25 miles/40 kilometres, 2/3 days

Popping across the border into Northern Ireland, you can walk from the seaside resort of Newcastle in County Down, to Rostrevor on Carlingford Lough. It’s a moderate walk that passes the impressive Mourne Peaks. Some of the real highlights include the summit of Butter Mountain and the view from Hen Mountain.

Ireland walking holidays Mourne Way one of the 15 best Irish hikes treks and walks Flickr CC Image by Thomas O'Rourke

The Bangor Trail, County Mayo

23.5 miles/37 kilometres, 2/3 days

Following the path between Bangor and Newport in County Mayo, this is a remote hiking trail through the Nephin Beg Range. It was once described by the naturalist Robert Lloyd Praeger as the ‘very loneliest place in this country, for the hills themselves are encircled by this vast trackless bog’.

Don’t let that put you off though, as this is a chance to walk through some of Ireland’s last wilderness making it one of the best Irish hikes. But do watch out for the midges, which can be a bit annoying during Ireland walking holidays in this part of the Emerald Isle.

Barrow Way, County Carlow

10 miles/16 kilometres, 2 days

This charming flat walk alongside one of the great rivers of Ireland is well suited to all levels of walker. You’ll pass locks and cottages, with an array of incredible birdlife along the path including herons and kingfishers.

Start in the historic town of Borris and walk the 10 kilometres to Graiguenamanagh, before completing the journey to St Mullins. At only 16 kilometres it’s not long, but with an added climb of Brandon Hill it becomes one of the best Irish hikes.

This is just a small part of the Barrow Way and if you are in good shape it can be completed in a single day. The full trail runs for 120 km, so takes four to six days depending on your fitness.

Ireland walking holidays Graiguenamanagh one of the 15 best Irish hikes treks and walks Flickr CC Image by Bernie Goldbach

Ireland walking holidays: Top 5 day walks

Barnavave Loop, County Louth

8.5 miles/14 kilometres, 4 hours

This loop crosses the Cooley Mountains, a compact mountain range overlooking the Mournes. The trail follows a mix of forestry roads, grass tracks and mountain paths.

You’ll cross the peaks of Eagles Rock and Barnave, with some steep inclines near the start. But the hard work is worth it, with your reward being the great views across the Lough. On clear days you can even make out the Isle of Man in the distance.

With some boggy ground and open mountainside, this is a walk that is best suited to experienced hikers.

The Famine Walk, County Galway and County Mayo

10 miles/16 kilometres, 5 hours

Connemara has a wild and raw beauty that is hard to match, even in a country like Ireland. Dotted with lakes and mountains, it’s also home to the only fjord in the country, located at Killary Harbour. During WWII, U-boats used to hide in its deep waters before heading back out into the Atlantic.

All of the above factors combine to make this one of the best hikes in Ireland. You’ll follow the edge of the fjord, beside the towering Mweelrea Mountain. This was the one-time famine relief path (hence the walk’s name), a place that witnessed terrible suffering during the 1840s.

Ireland walking holidays Famine Walk one of the 15 best Irish hikes treks and walks Flickr CC Image by VicunaR

You’ll pass small cottages that have remained the same for generations. On your way you’ll visit a small harbour before returning to your starting point.

The Bog of Frogs Loop, County Dublin

7.5 miles/12 kilometres, 4 hours

The longest of four walks in Howth, you’ll start in the village but soon leave civilisation behind. It’s easy to forget you’re within 40 minutes of a major European capital city. In our opinion it makes this one of the best Irish hikes within easy reach of Dublin.

You’ll be reminded of Dublens proximity by the stunning views of Dublin Bay from the top of the Ben of Howth. In fact, you can see the whole coastline from Mournes in the north to the Wicklow Mountains in the south.

The path is quite close to the cliff edge in parts, so wear good boots with grip. And it’s worth downloading a route map and taking it with you, as there is a network of paths making it easy to lose your way.

Cronin’s Yard Loop, County Kerry

5 miles/8 kilometres, 3 hours

Starting at the bottom of Carrauntoohil, Ireland’s highest peak, this short day walk is at its best Irish hikes for sunrise. If you can go in midsummer, the walk towards the mountain will suddenly be backlit by the rising sun. The brilliant light will light up Carrauntoohil, which is often shrouded in silvery clouds.

Ireland walking holidays Carrauntoohil one of the 15 best Irish hikes treks and walks Flickr CC Image by maszopmz

This walk might only take a couple of hours but is spectacular. It’s an absolute must during Ireland walking holidays.

Starting and finishing at Cronin’s Yard (where there are changing rooms and a coffee shop) it will take you past the lakes at the bottom of the Devil’s Ladder – the traditional route up Carrauntoohil. With few other hikers around, and almost complete silence, it’s one of the best short walks in Ireland.

Dublin Tavern Tour, County Dublin

As far as legs will take you, until pub closing time!

Last but certainly not least is our wildcard entry of a tavern tour around Dublin. You can’t visit Ireland without a trip to the capital and there is no better way to explore it than on a pub crawl!

As Dublin’s most famous novelist, James Joyce, had his character Leopold Bloom point out in Ulysses, a “good puzzle would be to cross Dublin without passing a pub.” In our opinion a tavern tour is the best way to really understand Dublin – and have a great time.

Visit a few of the city’s historic pubs and you can learn about the past while enjoying the present. Perhaps start at the famous John Kavanagh pub (aka Gravediggers Bar) and go where the wind (or the Guinness) takes you.

We hope you found this guide to Ireland Walking holidays useful and entertaining. Be sure to check out our adventure discounts in Ireland as you could save a fortune.


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