Your ultimate hiking guide – explore 25 epic Irish trails
There’s nothing quite like the feeling of fresh air on your face and rugged terrain underfoot as you reach the summit of one of Ireland’s majestic mountains. Wander down woodland routes, escape to the coast on stunning seaside walks and conquer the highest peaks in the country, where spectacular views await.
Here’s the ‘Discover Ireland’ guide to some of the best walking trails and hikes in Ireland.
The best short walks and hikes in Ireland
1 | Hill of Tara Walk
Step back in time to when high kings ruled the kingdoms of Ireland on the Hill of Tara walk in Meath. The iconic circular ridges in the landscape mark the site where people in ancient Ireland believed sacred gods lived and, later it became famous as the place where St Patrick introduced Christianity to Ireland.
This short 1.3km looped walk begins at lively Maguires Café and passes by St. Patrick’s Church as you climb the short hill to Mound of the Hostages and Stone of Destiny. The loop brings you back to the start point in less than an hour.
In stark contrast to the pine forests found across the county, Mullaghmeen in Westmeath is Ireland’s largest planted beech forest. Explore 1,000 acres of amazing biodiversity with colourful plants, cheeky squirrels zipping through the undergrowth and flocks of birds nesting high in the treetops.
Mullaghmeen Forest has three looped trails, ranging from 3km to 8km and taking in the best sites and sounds of the forest, the longest route takes just over two hours to finish. Dogs are welcome if they’re on a leash and the gravel trails make this a great place for all levels of walkers to visit.
3 | Eagles Rock
As one of Ireland’s most unique rock formations, Eagles Rock in Leitrim is a walk that astounds even the most experienced of hikers. The area has a series of rock towers and pillars with Eagles Rock reaching a whopping 330m into the sky, making it Ireland’s highest free-standing tower.
This epic hike starts in the car park in Glenade and finishes 3km away outside Kinlough. Even though this route is quite short for regular hikers at an hour long, the 150m elevation gain and sections of rough ground make parts of the trail challenging.
4 | Errigal
Ascending the striking peak of Errigal in Donegal is a must for keen hikers. The sight of the angular peak reflecting in Dunlewy Lough is enough to inspire you to plan a trek to the summit. This trail is just over 4km and climbs for 500m, with the 2.5 hour long hike particularly steep in parts.
Some sections are quite open, loose and rough so this trail is best suited to these who don’t mind a bit of scrambling. The route begins in the boggy lowlands before becoming rocky and open until you’re rewarded with spectacular views at the top. If you don’t want your epic day to end, tag on the 2km stretch at Mackoght to experience even more hiking in Donegal.
5 | Ballyteige Burrow
Breathe in the fresh sea air on a walk along Ballyteige Burrow, just outside Kilmore Quay in Wexford. This 4.5km looped trail hugs the coastline and is flat throughout, unless you decide to climb one of the golden sand dunes for even better views of the Saltee Islands and Hook Head. Most should comfortably complete the loop in two hours.
This part of the country is popular with nature lovers as the warm climate provides a welcome habitat for all manner of colourful butterflies. Make time to spot some of the rare wild asparagus growing on the edges of the trail. If the Wexford coastline leaves you wanting more, you can continue walking on the sand split through the Ballyteige Burrow Nature Reserve for a further 9km.
6 | Ticknock
On the southern edge of the city, Ticknock is a fantastic escape for anybody based in Dublin, and beyond. Park in the foothills of the Dublin Mountains and begin your walk to the top through the pine forest. The route is a great choice for those looking for a quick jaunt as the forest road to the lookout is paved and pedestrianised.
With incredible views over the capital and Dublin Bay, you may get distracted from the 10km of walks to explore in Ticknock. The 5.5km Ticknock Fairy Castle Loop is a rewarding hike that takes no more than two hours to finish. Make sure you pose for a photo at Three Rock Mountain before making your way on to Fairy Castle.
Not only are you rewarded with an incredible view of Sligo Bay from the top of the Queen Maeve Trail in the Knocknarea Mountains, but there’s also the ancient cairn of Queen Maeve to entice hikers to the top.
The 6km long trail in Sligo has some steep sections as you climb the 300m to the top with surfaced paths and reliable mountain trails making the two hour long hike as easy as possible. Standing beside the 5,400 year old cairn at the summit, hikers can see Strandhill, Coney Island, Rosses Point and on a clear day, the stunning Donegal coastline.
Visit Galway and find one of Ireland’s most memorable lookouts from the summit of Diamond Hill in Connemara National Park. Standing tall on the outskirts of Letterfrack, Diamond Hill is a 442m high peak with stunning views out to sea of Inishbofin, Clare Island and Inishturk. The 7km Upper Diamond Hill Loop remains challenging throughout but the trail surface is a mix of gravel paths and wooden boardwalks, making the steep sections on the three hour long loop as manageable as possible.
The shorter Lower Diamond Hill Loop at 3km is a great option for those who want to experience some of the views without climbing all the way to the top. Head back to Letterfrack for a well-earned meal, or head on another hike in Connemara National Park and keep your active day going.
9 | Coumshingaun
The demanding 7.5km long hike around Waterford’s Coumshingaun Lough in the Comeragh Mountains is a spectacular trail filled with unique features that you won’t find anywhere else in Ireland. The natural amphitheatre, also known as a corrie, was formed during the Ice Age as a glacier eroded the mountain, leaving behind near vertical cliffs and an expansive lake.
The route leads hikers to sky high vantage points and then back down to the edge of the water, the route takes two to three hours to finish. Seasoned swimmers brave the chilly water for a quick dip while others journey to Coumshingaun to go rock climbing in summer and ice climbing when the temperatures drop.
10 | Slieve Foy Loop
Base yourself in the medieval village of Carlingford on a hiking break in Louth’s Cooley Mountains. Slieve Foy stands tall over the village and it takes about 2.5 hours to complete the Slieve Foy Loop – this hike is a mix of country lanes and open mountain top rambles, keep an eye out for roaming horses and flocks of sheep as you go.
Head out on this 9km route along moss green forest paths and admire the vistas over Carlingford Lough, where magnificent mountains meet the enchanting lough. Reward yourself with some famous Carlingford oysters on your return and enjoy a warm welcome from the friendly locals.
Get the best of both worlds on a gorgeous hike in Ballycotton, Cork. The Ballycotton Cliff Walk is a glorious coastal route with striking views of land jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean. Keep an eye out for pods of dolphins playing in the water and ramble along as countryside lanes from the village of Ballyandreen bring you back to your starting point in Ballycotton three hours later.
The loop is 9.25km long and climbs for a total of 180m, so this is a great choice for those who love hiking through rugged landscapes, but would prefer not to tackle steep mountains. The Ballycotton Cliff Walk is very popular and ideal for a midweek hike.
12 | Blackrock Loop
In Limerick, beautiful Ballyhoura is paradise for anybody who loves the outdoors with endless trails, the powerful Seefin Mountain and enough activities to keep any hiker busy for days on end. There are three looped walks here but the star of the show is the four hour long Blackrock Loop.
The 11km long trail is known for its challenging terrain that climbs to the peak of Seefin Mountain and passes by ancient cairns, before returning you to the car park in Greenwood Forest. If you still have energy left, the Nature Trail (2km) and Greenwood Trail (4.8km) are two more looped walks to extend your day. Detours are in place on the Blackrock Loop while work takes place on the trail.
13 | Nore Valley Walk
Set off on a walk from historical Kilkenny City to the charming riverside village of Bennettsbridge along the Nore Valley Walk. This 11km route passes by a limestone quarry through rolling farmland on the banks of the river.
There are a few sections of moderate difficulty on the walk and a handful of stiles to cross, but regular walkers enjoy every step of the 2.5 hour long walk. For a much longer day out, The Nore Valley Walk extends all the way to Inistioge in the south.
The best day long hikes in Ireland
14 | Croagh Patrick
As one of our Ireland’s most iconic hikes, reaching the summit of Croagh Patrick in Mayo is a rite of passage for experienced hikers. The loose stone paths, tricky ascent and 764m of climbing is all worth it once you’re standing at the chapel at the summit.
Croagh Patrick is of major religious significance with some passionate devotees climbing the mountain barefoot on Reek Sunday. If that’s not for you, lace up your sturdy hiking boots, pack some sandwiches and fill a flask with tea to take on the four hour long, 7km climb, giving you plenty of time to admire the view from the top.
15 | Mount Leinster
Towering over the Carlow landscape is the lofty peak of Mount Leinster. Standing at an impressive 794m high, it is the fifth highest summit in the province. There are a couple of routes to the top ranging between 7km and 10km, but the route from The Nine Stones is the most popular Mount Leinster walk.
The trail is consistent and reliable throughout, but it’s susceptible to poor visibility when the weather turns. Keep your eyes peeled for road cyclists tackling one of Ireland’s steepest roads as you approach Mount Leinster and don’t be surprised to see hang gliders taking flight from the summit. Give yourself six hours to climb Mount Leinster as some of the detours are well worth the extra steps.
16 | Carrauntoohil
In Kerry, the mighty Carrauntoohil stands at 1,038m high, it’s our country’s tallest mountain and the pinnacle of hiking in Ireland. There are three routes to the top, all of which involve tricky climbs, challenging scrambles, and testing ascents, but ultimately this is one route that keen hikers find hard to resist.
With a name like Devil’s Ladder, it’s safe to assume that this route up Carrauntoohil is going to be demanding although at 12km long and taking six hours to climb, it’s the shortest route to the top. The ‘ladder’ itself is a series of steep rocks that hikers clamber up to reach the cross at the top. The slightly longer routes of Caher and Brother O’Shea’s Gully both have their own mix of technical hiking and inspiring scenic views.
Visit the Cliffs of Moher in Clare for a gorgeously windswept day of walking. One of the most breathtaking places in Ireland, the 16km Cliffs of Moher Coastal Trail is one that appeals to accomplished walkers due to its exposed nature. The reward is a truly jaw dropping ramble from Liscannor to Doolin, five hours away.
Watch seabirds tend to their nests high in the cliffs, spot surfers catching the famous Atlantic Ocean waves and enjoy endless sea views and coastal towns. For an unforgettable walking holiday, explore The Burren Way and extend your stay in Clare.
18 | The Wicklow Way
No hiking list about Ireland is complete without The Wicklow Way. Originally a path for transporting cattle to Dublin, the trail through the Wicklow Mountains evokes images of layers of mountain peaks, hillsides alive with flickers of heather and gorse, and placid lakes shimmering like an oasis.
The Wicklow Way begins in Marlay Park and ends in Clonegal, a full 129km in total. Walking the entire route is a dream hike for outdoor fanatics, but if you’re looking for a special one day hike, the 22km section from Lough Tay (Guinness Lake) to Glendalough is an inspired choice.
19 | The Monaghan Way
Discover The Monaghan Way, a gentle walk through scenic countryside lanes with tumbling streams and stone walls, where the only sound is the chirping of birds in the treetops above you.
The 23km southern section is currently open for walkers while work continues on the remaining 41km. Explore old railway lines, peaceful country roads and incredible lakeside views. This is the perfect route for anybody who wants to escape from it all on a five hour long countryside outing.
20 | The Cavan Way and Cavan Burren Park
Hike through the raw landscape of the Cavan Burren Park with its unique geological features and imposing dolmens. Cavan Burren Park is one of the highlights along the 26km long Cavan Way which runs from Dowra to Blacklion.
The tranquil Cavan Way is quite flat with only a few stout drumlins and hills to navigate, making it a great choice for hikers who want to stretch their legs for a full day without climbing any significant hills. Explore Cavan Burren Park on its network of four short, looped trails that take in some of the park’s most notable features like the sinkholes and glacial erratics.
21 | Lough Derg Way
Amble along the edge of Lough Derg and the River Shannon watching the water glisten in the sun, as you make your way from Limerick City to Dromineer in Tipperary over three days. This is another amazing multiday hike that takes three days to finish the entirety of the Lough Derg Way’s 68km. The trail is in great condition throughout with some sections of moderate difficulty due to hills and elevation gain.
Enjoy the beautiful contrasts of vibrant Limerick City, packed with amazing places to eat and powerful history, and the harmonious and soothing Tipperary countryside.
22 | Slieve Bloom Way
Here’s one for the serious hikers out there. The Slieve Bloom Way is a three day long hike through the Slieve Bloom Mountains, with the 75km looped route climbing 1275m. Spend four days hiking through the valleys and climbing the ridges of the Slieve Bloom Mountains in Laois and Offaly for a challenging, but rewarding hike.
The route can be split up into 20 to 30km long sections, leading you through calm, country roads. Reward all your hard efforts with lunch at Kinnitty Castle in the charming town of Kinnitty before visiting Ireland’s only pyramid.
The Slieve Bloom Way is made up mainly of forest paths, hiking trails and picturesque boardwalks that sit atop the land and lead walkers through the landscape. The trail officially starts in Glenbarrow, Laois, but you can make your own route from any of the trailheads along the way.
23 | Suck Valley Way
Treat yourself to a multi-day walk along the idyllic trails and paths of the Suck Valley Way in Roscommon. Wander through sun speckled forests, skirt along the riverbanks and experience the warm welcomes in the tranquil villages on the route that takes five days to finish.
The entire Suck Valley Way is a 105km looped walk, beginning and ending in Castlerea that takes five days to complete and remains quite flat throughout. The single day walk from Glinks to Ballymoe is a rewarding 22km walk with a stunning lookout over Lough Loung, or if you want to tackle the most challenging section, try the 23km route from Castlecoote to Ballygar.
24 | Barrow Way
The 120km long Barrow Way in Kildare is a route regularly tackled by multi-day and day walkers who call it one of Ireland’s most scenic walks. The five day walk starts in Robertstown, Kildare Barrow Way follows the route of the Grand Canal until it reaches Athy where it meets with the River Barrow to St. Mullins in Carlow.
The trail is quite flat throughout with only some sections becoming difficult in extreme weather. Dogs are welcome anywhere along the trek as long as they’re kept on a lead, so bring your furry friend and explore this hidden gem.
25 | The Royal Canal Way
Following the mighty Royal Canal all the way from Cloondara in Longford to Dublin, the 144km Royal Canal Way is an epic six day walk from the peaceful centre of Ireland to our buzzing capital city. One of the main advantages of a canal side walk is that there’s few noticeable uphill sections.
The first section of the route, from Cloondara to Ballymahon is a fantastic choice for walkers who want to enjoy lovely Longford. This 25km route surrounds hikers with rich green landscapes in truly peaceful settings. If you have time, take a detour to the nearby Corlea Trackway Visitor Centre and see the roads that people walked during the Iron Age.
For more inspiration, check out;- Go Walking and Hiking in Ireland with Discover Ireland
ARTICLE AND IMAGES C/O; DISCOVER IRELAND