Ireland’s natural areas are a beautiful mix of lush countryside and rugged mountaintops, all of which are laced with beautiful hiking trails. With such uninterrupted landscapes, hillwalking (as locals call it) is, unsurprisingly, a popular activity for both residents and visitors. Like the country’s history, the variety of trails is extensive, allowing travelers to see much of the country by simply walking or hiking. Here are nine hikes to get you started.

Photo by Shelby Unger.

Bray Head Cliff Walk

Traversing the Bray Head Cliff Walk doesn’t require much time in comparison to most hikes in Ireland, but its length doesn’t take away from the beauty of its coastal scenery. The walk is 4.5 miles (seven kilometers) one-way, making it suitable for hikers of all levels. Only 30 miles (50 kilometers) from downtown Dublin, the trailhead in Bray can be reached using public transport from the city, and there is even a DART line train in Greystones that will take you back to where you started in Bray.

Photo by Mary Korneeva.
Photo by Mary Korneeva.
Photo by Clara McNally.

Carrauntoohil Mountain (via Brother O’Sheas Gully)

There are several routes to choose from when tackling Carrauntoohil Mountain, which, at 3406 feet (1,038 meters), is Ireland’s tallest peak. In recent years, the Brother O’Shea’s Gully route has become a popular choice due to dangerous erosion on an alternate trail, Devil’s Ladder. Brother O’Sheas Gully is still a strenuous, eight mile (13 kilometer) accent, with portions of its trail requiring hikers to scramble over loose rock. But at the top, there is a view that rivals Ireland’s best — panning the towering and vast MacGillycuddy’s Reeks mountain range and beyond.

Photo by Kieran Dalton.

Coumshingaun Loop Walk

Situated in the Comeragh Mountains in the southeastern part of the country, Coumshingaun Loop Walk shows off one of Western Europe’s best corries (a lake formed by glacial activity during the last ice age). Roughly five-miles long, the loop is moderately challenging, but can be completed in two to four hours. Getting there is easiest by car, as the trailhead is only a 30-minute drive from nearby Waterford, just off the N25 highway.

Photo by Timmy Keane.
Photo by Timmy Keane.

Doolin Cliff Walk

Instead of simply taking a bus to visit the Cliffs of Moher, the Doolin Cliff Walk offers visitors an alternative. The five mile (eight kilometer) walk runs along the rugged coastline, offering unique views of the renowned area that was marked as a Special Protection Area for birds in 1986 and as a Refuge for Fauna in 1988. Getting to Doolin doesn’t present much of a challenge, as the 350 bus leaves Galway Bus Station periodically throughout the day.

Photo by Jari Vipele.
Photo by Voljta Zilka.
Photo by Traveling Atlas.
Photo by Annett Persdotter.

Killary Harbour Coastal Walk

On the west coast of Ireland is the country’s lone fjord. The walk is roughly 10 miles (16 kilometers) and one of the easiest on the list, although it may prove a bit tougher to access. The trail starts near the town of Tullyconor, just off the N59 on the way to Leenaun. Partially used as a relief road during the Great Famine, the trail crosses over farmlands and paved roads, gullies and waterfalls, and leads to the Killary Harbour, which, at the end, opens up to the glorious Killary Fjord. While hiking, keep an eye out for wildlife, given that the harbour and surrounding area is a popular place for sheep, swans, and even dolphins.

Photo by Nicolas Leconte.
Photo by Jamie Vaughn.

 

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Mount Errigal

Far north, in County Donegal, is Mt. Errigal, standing at almost 2500 feet (750 meters). Not far from the town of Gweendore (where accommodations and supplies can be found), lies a car park at the trailhead along the R251. The hike is short but steep, and traverses a colorful, yet soggy, bog before closing in on narrow, hillside crests for much of the final accent. Once at the top, you can enjoy a panoramic view of the surrounding area as you stand on the tallest point in the Derryveagh Mountains.

Photo by Chris Hill.

St Kevin’s Way – The Pilgrim Path

St. Kevin’s Way is a storied hike that’s been completed since medieval times. Requiring a full day, the 18 mile (31 kilometer) one-way trek brings you through what is referred to as the “Garden of Ireland,” a stunning scene of lakes, bogs, and monastic ruins, beginning in the town of Hollywood and ending in the valley of Glendalough. Although no public transportation runs through Hollywood or Glendalough, there is a private bus service that leaves from Dublin.

Photo by Amy of @captured.

The Kerry Way

Coming in at roughly 125 miles (200 kilometers), the Kerry Way is one of Ireland’s longest trails. Due to its length, the trail has numerous access points for users to explore smaller portions or plan shorter hikes. One popular starting spot is Killarney National Park, where the trail loops counter-clockwise around the Iveragh Peninsula, where the trail’s nickname “Ring of Kerry” comes from. During this route, hikers will see the rugged, mountainous landscape of the peninsula. And, like many long-distance trails in Ireland, The Kerry Way travels through busy towns with paved roads, which act as useful resting stops for hikers planning to complete the entire trek.

Photo by Amy of @captured.

Coming in at roughly 125 miles (200 kilometers), the Kerry Way is one of Ireland’s longest trails. Due to its length, the trail has numerous access points for users to explore smaller portions or plan shorter hikes. One popular starting spot is Killarney National Park, where the trail loops counter-clockwise around the Iveragh Peninsula, where the trail’s nickname “Ring of Kerry” comes from. During this route, hikers will see the rugged, mountainous landscape of the peninsula. And, like many long-distance trails in Ireland, The Kerry Way travels through busy towns with paved roads, which act as useful resting stops for hikers planning to complete the entire trek.

Photo by Matthew MConnell.

The Wicklow Way

Clocking in at just over 80-miles long (130 kilometers), The Wicklow Way is another epic Irish trek that will require thorough preparation. Winding through Wicklow Mountains National Park (the country’s largest), the trail is quite expansive, so most experts recommend setting aside a full week to tackle this walk, which travels through some of the most stunning scenery in the country. Littered with waterfalls, packed with dense forests, and pulsing with wildlife, be prepared to be awed by the natural beauty as well as the challenge.  

Photo by Eben Gourley.
Photo by Eben Gourley.

Header image by Steve Sheehy.

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Brad Donaldson is a writer and editor proudly based out of Halifax, Nova Scotia. Although his roots are in Canada, his desire to see more of the world frequently takes him away from home. His work, both as an editor and writer, has appeared in local newspapers and publications, most recently showcased through the co-founding of his former university's inaugural creative writing journal.