skip to Main Content
Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Search in posts
Search in pages
Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Search in posts
Search in pages
7 Of The Very Best Hikes In Ireland

7 of the Very Best Hikes in Ireland

The hikes described below are some of the very best hikes in Ireland. Some will take you a day, others a week. All with give you a great sense of the country. Even though Ireland is famous for its rain, that shouldn’t stop you from hiking here. I found it rarely rained for the entire day.

On the occasions that it did rain all day, I actually found it exhilarating to have survived the inclement weather. Remember there are no such thing as bad weather – just bad clothes. Go prepared and you’ll have one heck of a good time on this sampling of the best hikes in Ireland.

The long distance trails described are well marked
The long distance trails described are well marked

Here are what I think are 7 of the very best hikes in Ireland

Croagh Patrick 

Croagh Patrick is a sacred mountain not far from Westport in County Mayo. On the last Sunday in July, Reek Sunday, upwards of 15,000 pilgrims hike the mountain and some of them do it barefoot. While it’s not a particularly difficult mountain to climb, appearances can sometimes be deceiving.

When I tried it the first time I basically got blown off. After hiking for 90 minutes bent over at the waist John and I called it a day. The mountain was on the itinerary of my recent Wilderness Ireland trip. Although we could have hiked it in theory, it was pouring rain and it would have been a miserable day without any views to speak of – and that of course is one of the main reasons to hike it.

Croagh Patrick is just 764 metres (2,507 feet) tall. The trail is wide and the grade is reasonable for the first part of the walk. Then it steepens considerably and becomes a rock strewn path with uneven footing.

At the summit a chapel has been erected. It is on the summit that Patrick is purported to have spent 40 days and 40 nights fasting and in prayer back in 441 AD.

The view part way up Croagh Patrick - Photo credit: Duncan Warner
The view part way up Croagh Patrick – Photo credit: Duncan Warner
Enjoy views of the sea on the hike up Croagh Patrick - Photo credit: Rupert Shanks
Enjoy views of the sea on the hike up Croagh Patrick – Photo credit: Rupert Shanks

Cliffs of Moher Cliff Walk

While the majority of people just walk from the parking lot to the Cliffs of Moher (Aill Na Searrach) there is the option for experienced hikers to do a 20 kilometre coastal walk from Doolin in the north to Liscannor in the south.

Along the way enjoy superb views of the cliffs, Galway Bay and over to the Aran Islands on a clear day. There are other possibilities if you are short on time and/or energy.

From the Cliffs of Moher Visitor Centre it’s 5 kilometres to Hags Head, 12 kilometres to Liscannor and 8 kilometres to Doolin. Exercise extreme caution near the cliffs and be aware that fog, winds and rain can blow in and up at any time. The walk is challenging in place with steep ascents and narrow steps.

 Hard to beat the drama on a hike around the Cliffs of Moher
Hard to beat the drama on a hike around the Cliffs of Moher – one of the best hikes in Ireland
What a thrill to would be to see the cliffs in a wild storm
What a thrill to would be to see the cliffs in a wild storm as they’re impressive on a normal day

The Wicklow Way

The Wicklow Way is Ireland’s oldest way-marked long distance hiking trail and truly one of the best hikes in Ireland. It starts in Dublin and travels southwest through the hills of County Wicklow for 127 kilometres to finish in Clonegal.

To do the whole trail most people allow 8 – 10 days. The trail passes through a variety of landscapes including parkland, forest, rolling countryside and even mountains. Do it self -guided (order a hiking guide beforehand with detailed route finding instructions) or with a tour company.

Here’s a look at the itinerary with Wilderness Ireland to give you an idea of what a day looks like on the trail.

 The Wicklow Way is Ireland's oldest way-marked long distance trail - Photo credit: Wilderness Ireland
The Wicklow Way is Ireland’s oldest way-marked long distance trail – Photo credit: Wilderness Ireland
You climb 3753 m of elevation if you do the whole Wicklow Way - Photo credit: Wilderness Ireland
You climb 3753 m of elevation if you do the whole Wicklow Way – Photo credit: Wilderness Ireland

The Kerry Way – well-known and of the best hikes in Ireland

The Kerry Way is Ireland’s longest and best known sign posted walking trail with a total length of 203 kilometres (122 miles). It mirrors the Ring of Kerry, the driving version, but rarely does the Kerry Way reach the ocean.

It is primarily an inland route starting in the town of Killarney in southwest Ireland. Most people hike it in a counter clockwise direction and allow 8-10 days. Generally towns are nicely spaced and offer a variety of accommodation and restaurants choices though the selection is limited on the first few days out.

Enjoy diverse scenery ranging from dramatic peaks including MacGillycuddy’s Reeks, isolated valleys, beautiful lakes, wild moorlands and some spectacular coastal vistas. That’s what makes the Kerry Way one of the best hikes in Ireland.

The trail is generally well signposted and efforts are in place to fix areas of ambiguity. If time permits, a day off in Cahirciveen to visit the Skellig Islands might become the highlight of your trip. It was for me.

Read: A Guide to Hiking the Kerry Way in Ireland

One of the prettiest parts of the Kerry Way is the section in Killarney National Park
One of the prettiest parts of the Kerry Way is the section in Killarney National Park
Desolate valleys and pretty mountainscapes on the Black Valley to Glencar section of the Kerry Way
Desolate valleys and pretty mountainscapes on the Black Valley to Glencar section
For the most part the Kerry Way is easy to follow and signage is very good
For the most part the Kerry Way is easy to follow and signage is very good

Hiking the Dingle Way

The Dingle Way is one of Ireland’s premier long distance walking paths that offers some of the country’s best scenery. The 179 kilometre (112 mile) trail combines peaceful countryside with wild ocean vistas, cliff-tops and quaint towns.

The starting point is the town of Tralee in County Kerry. From here one heads out to Camp and then the rest of the Dingle Peninsula, typically in a clockwise fashion with some retracing of steps on the last day as you return to Tralee from Camp.

The walk is best done over seven or eight days so you can actually appreciate the experience. Expect to walk anywhere between 17 – 29 kilometres a day.

The hike over the side of Mount Brandon has the only serious elevation gain (650 m) though there are plenty of minor ups and downs along the way. Signage is pretty darned good.

Read: A Guide to Hiking the Dingle Way in Ireland

If you’d rather do a guided tour check out this trip.

Pretty walking along a cliff top section of coast
Pretty walking along a cliff top section of coast
Watch out for the prickly gorse bush which seems to be everywhere I went in Ireland
Watch out for the prickly gorse bush which seems to be everywhere I went in Ireland
7 of the Best Hikes in Ireland
There are a few places with big relief along the Dingle Way

Mweelrea Mountain – the highest mountain in western Ireland + one of the best hikes in Ireland

You’ll find Mweelrea Mountain near the village of Leenane. Topping out at 814 metres (2,700 feet) ensures there’s no risk of altitude sickness and in this part of the world you don’t have nearly the risk of thunderstorms that you do in the Rocky Mountains for example.

And yet this mountain needs to be taken seriously, especially when the fog rolls in. It doesn’t take long to get disoriented when you’re surrounded by a cloud of white.

On Mweelrea Mountain, it’s very dangerous on account of sheer drop-offs near the summit. Even though the mountain looks innocuous in the photos, people have died up here. And without a formal trail to follow in any direction, navigation can be a challenge at any time.

Read: Climbing Mweelrea: Western Ireland’s Highest Mountain

7 of the best hikes in Ireland
There are no signs pointing the way on Mweelrea Mountain
7 of the best hikes in Irleand
I’m always a happy camper when I reach the summit
7 of the Best Hikes in Ireland
The ridge off the summit is well back from the cliffs but some people may still find this section to be a challenge

The Twelve Bens

While there are serious hikers who aim to hike all Twelve Bens, quartzite peaks in the Connemara district of western Ireland, there is the option for mere mortals to comfortably knock off two or three Bens in a day. That’s exactly what our group from Wilderness Ireland did in late April.

We parked a short distance away from Kylemore Abbey, then started up a track that took us by an old lime kiln. From there it was a couple of hours to summit the first Ben, Benbaun – if I’ve got my map reading skills right since my phone decided to eat my notes.

From there it was an easy descent with a minor ascent to Benbrack, then a minor climb up Cnoc Breac before descending down to the N59 with a short walk back to the car.

Don’t expect well-marked trails with maps pointing to You are here markers on this walk. A detailed topographic map is a must in case the fog moves in. But these mountains deserve to be on every peak bagger’s bucketlist.

Visit: Hiking the Mountains of Connemara and Mayo for more information.

7 of the Best Hikes in Ireland
Great views in short order with our start near Kylemore Abbey
7 of the Best Hikes in Ireland
Testing the depth of a boggy section that’s easily avoided but fun to see on the way up the first Ben
7 of the Best Hikes in Ireland
Racing the storm but enjoying the views

Other ideas for hiking in Ireland

Another area that should be on your radar – and is now on mine is the Ring of Beara. While you can hike it – and perhaps combine it with the Kerry Way – you can also drive it. Paula from Contented Traveler said she enjoyed it from more than either the Dingle Way or the Kerry Way.

You’re going to need to eat too – right? Check out Irish Food reinterpreted for ideas on what to drink instead of Guinness and what to eat in lieu of Irish stew.

Ireland is a great country to visit if you’re into hiking. There are tours you can join though there are plenty of self-guided options as well. After my positive experience with Wilderness Ireland I’d recommend them in a heartbeat.

Click on the photo below to bookmark to your Pinterest board.

7 of the Best Hikes in Ireland

Leigh McAdam

Leigh McAdam is a Calgary based writer, author, photographer and social media enthusiast with over 61,000 followers. Her blog: HikeBikeTravel is frequently cited as one of the top travel and outdoor adventure blogs in Canada.

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta

This Post Has 0 Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Close search

Cart

Pin It on Pinterest