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The 15 Best hikes in Ireland for Your Bucket List

by Roberto
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Ireland is a country that’s naturally perfect for hiking. Its coast is bordered by ranges of relatively low-lying mountains, most of which don’t exceed 1000 metres in height. There’s literally a hike for everyone, from short flat trails that follow the coastline to long-distance trails that travel through counties. With the help of some excellent bloggers, I’ve put together a list of some of the best hikes in Ireland. Let us take you around this wonderful country and some of its most scenic locations.

Croagh Patrick

Known as Ireland’s holy mountain, Croagh Patrick has been the site of pilgrimages long before St Patrick spent 40 days of Lent here, 1600 odd years ago. Climbing Croagh Patrick is a spiritual experience, even for those without faith. Unlike the other hikes on this article, Croagh Patrick is climbed by people of all ages, and fitnesses. Some climb it having never climbed a mountain in their life. The more devout, and those seeking divine help, often climb it barefoot.

Despite that, the hike up Croagh Patrick is one that should be considered difficult. The out and back route to the top is some 7.6 kilometres, with half of it over scree-covered ground. From the car park, it’s essentially a constant climb all the way to the top, with a total elevation gain of 750 metres. The average climb time is around 3 hours. Sounds tough, but it’s so worth it. The views over Clew Bay are some of the best Ireland can offer.

Croagh Patrick is 92 kilometres from the nearest city of Galway but is closer to Westport, a lively town that’s perfect as a base. It’s only an 8 kilometre ride on bus 450 from there to Croagh Patrick.

The Spinc Glendalough

Glendalough offers some of the most popular hiking in the country. Set in a glacial valley with two beautiful lakes, it is also the location of one of Ireland’s most famous monasteries dating back over 1000 years. The surrounding Wicklow Mountains have a huge amount of hiking trails, but the best of the lot is the Spinc trail. This ridge trail climbs from the valley floor, past a river, woodland, and waterfalls, before opening out on the mountain above. Far below the two lakes provide a simply sumptuous backdrop for your photos.

From there the trail wanders for a total distance of 10 kilometres, passing into the Glenealo Valley, and then tracking the route of the river of the same name. There’s more to see on this way too, in the ruins of an old miners village. It was so remote the miners called it Van Diemen’s Land; the old name for Tasmania. You might even spot some of the now feral goats that they left behind when the mines closed. The walk finishes with a peaceful stroll past Glendalough’s Upper Lake.

The Spinc Glendalough is a loop trail that is rated as moderate with an elevation gain of 450 metres. Most of this is in a series of switchbacks at the outset. There is some rough terrain when descending from the Glenealo Valley, but it’s all manageable with a decent fitness level. The smart move after the hike is to get lunch in the Wicklow Heather in Laragh, which serves the best food in the area.

Howth Cliff

by Tristan from Traxplorio.com

Howth Cliff Walk is perfect for a spontaneous hike during your visit to the Irish capital. It is located on the Howth Peninsula, north of Dublin. In addition to the trail, the peninsula is also home to a variety of attractions and restaurants.

How to get to the Howth Peninsula?

There is a bus line between Dublin and Howth. The trip takes 30 minutes.

The Howth Cliff Hike at a glance:

Difficulty: Easy
Length: 6 kilometers (loop) – There is also the possibility to extend the hike up to 12 kilometers.
Duration: 120 Minutes (depending on the speed of walkers)
Terrain: Paved walkways & solid earth paths

More about the Howth Cliff Hike:

The Cliff Path takes you along the beautiful Irish cliffs. Some caution is advised in windy weather and proper clothing should be worn. If you watch the sea carefully during the trail, you may be lucky enough to see seals. The Cliff Path is particularly beginner-friendly and navigation is very easy thanks to the many markings. You must always follow the green arrows. For about half of the hike, you walk along the coast until the path leads inland. After about an hour you will be on a small hill and you can enjoy a beautiful view from there.

It is also recommended to have a small picnic here. The second half of the hike leads through the upper settlements of Howth over different paths back down to the harbor where you started. If you are still a beginner, it is recommended to inform yourself about the right equipment before a longer hike. But even experienced hikers will find useful information on hiking packing lists.

The Howth Cliff Walk looking across Dublin Bay, One of the Best Hikes in Ireland

Sheeps Head Hike, West Cork

Shared by Aimee Stephens of Snap Happy Travel

Your hike begins in the colorful town of Bantry, which is approximately a 90-minute drive from Cork City.  Bantry is serviced by the 236 bus route from Cork City.

 The Sheeps Head Way is part of the Wild Atlantic Way tourist route in Ireland, often described as ‘one of the most scenic routes in the world’. The Sheeps Head is known for its stunning views of Mizen head and the Beara peninsula. If you’re lucky you may even spot dolphins and whales in the Atlantic ocean below.

 To walk the whole walk will take 6 days as it’s a huge 93 km in total. It is rated as moderate.  You can choose to hike one of the shorter loop walks on this trail if you’re short on time. The most popular loop walk is The Lighthouse Loop and at just 4 km and should take most walkers 2 hours to complete. It is rated as moderate and this coastal route is one of the most scenic loop trails.

 The longer 93 km route takes in stunning sights such as Mealagh Valley, Gougane Barra and the very photogenic Sheeps Head Lighthouse.

 The terrain of the Sheep’s Head Way is very varied; you will encounter wide  grassy paths, old boreens, several uphill climbs as well as quiet country roads. Plus, you’re sure to come across some more unique sights such as an old copper mine, a blowhole, stone circles, and several church ruins if you choose the longer walking route.

Looking out on the sea on the Sheep's Head Walk, one of Ireland's long distance hikes.

Carrauntoohil

Contributed by Ela & Beata from Stunning Outdoors

At 1,038 masl, Carrauntoohil is the highest peak in Ireland that ensures that the one who decides to stand on its top will have unspoiled views all around the MacGillycuddy’s Reek range and County Kerry.

There are various paths to its top. However, the one and most popular is via Devil’s Ladder. You could either return the same way or alternatively get back via Brother O’Shea Path. This will make it a circular walk and allows you to get back to the same place you started the walk from.

This circular 13 km long route starts at Cronin’s Yard, just outside of Killarney (about an hour and a half’s drive from Cork). It is a medium/hard hike, depends on your abilities and the weather conditions. The total elevation gain for the whole route is 957 meters and you should allow about 7 hours to complete it.

Both paths provide different experiences and views. Devil’s Ladder has a reputation of being more difficult than Brother O’Shea Gully actually the latter is more dramatic and trickier to navigate. The difficulty of Devil’s Ladder lays in the fact that it’s steep and the path is very eroded, requiring special care — especially when wet.

Make sure you go prepared as the weather can change rapidly. Enjoy the walk and fantastic views from Ireland’s rooftop.

The view from the top of Ireland on Carrauntoohil Mountain. The Devil's ladder is one of Ireland's more challenging hikes.
Carrauntoohil – part of the long distance Kerry Way

Doolin to Hags Head on the Cliffs of Moher

Contributed by Fiona from Travelling Thirties

The Cliffs of Moher are located on the West Coast of Ireland in County Clare, along the Wild Atlantic Way. The Cliffs of Moher are one of the most popular sites in all of Ireland. With more than 1 million visitors flocking to take in the views of the rugged cliffs and the Atlantic Ocean.

Not only do the cliffs of Moher offer beautiful views and make it to the top of many travelers bucket lists it is also part of one of the best hikes in Ireland.

As an alternate way of reaching the Cliffs of Moher and the hags head, many travelers choose to hike the 14km from the small towns of Doolin or Liscannor to the Hags Head, via the visitors center.

In the regular hiking sense, the hike is relatively easy and most stretches of the path are flat. However, the path can be uneven at times and you are hiking close to the cliff edge (214m in some places!) The path is exposed to the elements and the weather can be unpredictable. The wind and the rain can make the hike challenging and unpleasant so, if you are in Doolin or Liscannor for a few days check the weather and plan ahead.

Once you have hiked the 14km to the Hags Head you can either hike back or take the shuttle bus back to town.

Despite the challenges the scenery makes it worth it. Although the hike is suggested to take around 5 to 6 hours, plan for a little longer as the photo stops really do add up!

The Cliffs of Moher. An excellent Irish walk runs from Doolin to the Cliffs.

Dun Aonghasa in the Aran Islands

Written by Olivia from the Girl With Blue Sails travel blog

Off the west coast of Ireland and in the icy waters of the Atlantic lie the mysterious and rocky Aran Islands. Consisting of 3 small islands, the Aran Islands are remote, mildly inhabited, and surrounded in ancient history. The largest of the 3 islands, Inishmore, has a prehistoric stone fort called Dun Aonghasa, located at the peak of the island, overlooking the cliffs into the sea below. 

Almost all visitors to Inishmore embark on the 1.3 mile out and back trail that leads to the infamous fort. Called the Dun Aonghasa hike, it involves a 298 foot gain in elevation and a moderate level of difficulty. The trail is clearly marked by a dirt path and steps made from slabs of stone.

Inishmore and the other Aran Islands are located off the coast Galway Bay, making it convenient to catch a 30-45 minute ferry from Rossaveel or Doolin. Considering the travel and hiking conditions are dependent upon weather conditions, it is important to plan and book ahead of time. Spring and summer are the best times to visit in hopes of ideal weather, and, while it’s possible to catch a ferry in the winter, visitors should expect the waters to be choppy, and there to be some heavy flooding on the island. 

Once hikers reach the summit of the trail, they are faced with the historical remains of Dun Aonghasa, including stone doorway frames, and a massive stone outline of what once was the base of the walls. Peering out over the sheer drop of the cliff face while surrounded by an ancient fort dating back to 1100 BC is what makes the Dun Aonghasa hike one of the best hikes in Ireland. 

Dun Aonghasa in the Aran Islands is surrounded by magical stone walls. One of the 15 most scenic walks in Ireland.

Carrick A Rede

Written by Lavina from the Continenthop.com

The Carrick-a-Rede hike in Ballycastle begins at the Carrick-a-Rede and Larrybane parking site; however, there is a longer route you can take that starts at Harbour Road, Ballintoy.

There is a reception hut at the parking spot where you will need to purchase tickets if you want to cross the rope bridge; the hike is free. The walk from the parking site to the rope bridge is relatively easy to get to the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, with slight elevations in a few places.

On the way to the bridge, you will find colourful suspended boats, the Atlantic Ocean on your left, and you’ll also be able to see islands such as Rathlin Island on a clear day.  You can use the many telescopes present on the walk to view these as well.

To the right, you’ll find farmlands with numerous sheep grazing away and sometimes staring at you while you pass by.

On the walk, you’ll also find numerous steps cut out to make it easier. The rope bridge swings slightly while you cross it, making it quite exciting to cross it over to Carrick-a-rede island, where fisherman came to catch migrating salmon.

The walk from the parking spot is about 2 kilometres and takes about 30 minutes, one-way.
From Harbour Road, it is about 4 kilometres and takes about 45-50 minutes.

The bridge is about 15 minutes away by drive from the Giant’s causeway, making it a great area to explore, from Belfast the hike is about an hour away by car. 

The Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge is a short hike, but still among the most scenic in Ireland.

Diamond Hill

Written by Sarah from Thetalesoftinyboots.com

“What better way to soak up the views of Connemara, than by tackling Diamond Hill hike? This walk lies on the northern edge of Connemara National Park, with the car park right on the outskirts of Letterfrack – a vibrant village famous for its traditional Irish music.

Diamond Hill stands at 445 m, so it’s by no means the highest hike in Ireland. But what it lacks in height, it makes up for with outstanding scenery. 

The longest of the 4 available trails is 3.7 km and is certainly one of the most rewarding things to do in Connemara. Overall, the hike is moderate in difficulty, but with a steep unsteady surface towards the top, it would not be suitable for those with mobility issues. However, the lower two trails would be considered easy. One is a 0.5 km trail through the woods and the other, a 1.5 km loop around the area. 

While it shouldn’t take too long, distractions caused by the panoramic views of Galway are enough to stop you in your tracks – multiple times! Leave yourself at least three hours to do the hike at a steady pace, leaving time to stop and admire the area.”

Looking over the Twelve Bens from the Diamond Hill hike in Connemara. Interested in more of Ireland's best hikes?

Clare island Hiking

Written by Sarah from Asocialnomad.com

The glorious Clare Island lies four miles off the Mayo coast marking the entrance to Clew Bay and is a great place for hiking while uninterrupted by traffic or crowds.  Access to the island is from Roonagh Pier and you can start hiking as soon as you step off the ferry.   There are two signposted loop walks on Clare Island – one long and one short.   The short loop takes just over an hour to hike the 3 kilometres loop and is suitable for all hikers with an elevation gain of just 90 metres over the whole distance. 

The longer loop is a little more difficult in terms of distance and elevation and will take up to 3 hours to hike the 8 kilometres with an elevation gain of about 140 metres.  Both these trails include walking on the tarmac road and green tracks.  There are few cars here on Clare Island and you’re unlikely to meet much if any road traffic at all.  For those who wish to hike a little further, extend the longer loop out to the seabird cliffs and the Signal Tower, Knockmore and the towering cliffs there.   You’ll add another 4 kilometres to your round trip by doing this. 

You can pick up food and drink at the community centre near the harbour before starting your hike, or stop at the store en route to the Signal Tower.  Alternatively, it’s recommended to carry a picnic and filter water bottle.  What makes this one of the best hikes in Ireland is that you’ll actually get to enjoy the countryside and wildlife without interruption.  Be sure to make time to see Granuile’s Castle at the harbour before leaving the island. 

Clare Island- an amazingly scenic island off Ireland's coast with an excellent hike

Skellig Michael

Written by Erica from Tripscholars.com

One of the most striking hikes in Ireland is the dramatic ascent of the island, Skellig Michael. Sixth Century monks, desiring lives of solitude and contemplation, established a small colony here. They chose a location at the end of the known world that was very difficult to reach. The monks created breathtaking stairways in the steep hillside and built unique beehive huts near the top. This rich history eventually established it as one of the two UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Ireland. The island is also a delightful nesting ground for puffins, gannets, and other waterfowl.

Indeed, the views are so unique that it is the fitting setting for Luke Skywalker’s otherworldly retreat in, The Force Awakens. Curious hikers will want to learn more before their trip.

Skellig Michael remains difficult to reach for the modern hiker and advanced planning is essential. Only 180 people are allowed on the site each day, and all trips are weather-dependent. Book a tour with one of the authorized boat companies at least one month in advance (preferably much longer). Trips last about 6 hours with 2.5 hours for your hike and cost around €100. Almost all boats leave around 9:00 am out of the charming seaside town of Portmagee.

Most of the 715-foot elevation gain is made on the 640 ancient, steep, rock-hewn steps created by the monks. The hike is only one mile, but it is considered moderate because of the steepness and the danger.  It is only recommended for children over 12 and for hikers in relatively good health who aren’t afraid of heights since people have died on this hike.

Hikers who make the journey are treated to unparalleled views of the island, nearby Little Skellig, beehive huts, and often hundreds of nesting Puffins. It is easily one of the most astounding hikes in the country and is definitely worth the extra effort. 

Skellig Michael- Star wars, Beehive huts, puffins- just a few reasons why its one of the best hikes in Ireland.

Torc Mountain

Recommended by Alice from Adventures of Alice

Torc Mountain is a 7.1 kilometre moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Killarney, County Kerry, Ireland that features beautiful wildflowers and the rare Torc butterfly. The trail can be hiked year-round and is one of the best places for hiking in the British Isles. It’s great for bird watching with nature enthusiasts of all levels being able to enjoy its beauty.

The Torc Mountain and Torc Waterfall comprise a lovely forest path within Killarney National Park, which offers stunning views that overlook the beloved Killarney Lakes. Sweeping you past the ever-beautiful Torc Waterfall, you’ll continue on up the mountain through quiet moss-covered forests and past rushing streams. Part of Kerry Way trail is dotted with Irish mythology which makes sense as in Irish torcs means ‘boars’

Torc Mountain Path is dotted with Irish mythology. In Irish, torc means ‘boar’ and the mountain’s name comes from a magical boar that was killed by an Irish hero – Finn McCool – who also created the Giant’s Causeway. 

The hike up to the summit of Torc Mountain is 4.6 miles or 7.5 km long which will take about 2 hours 45 minutes each way if you stop for photo breaks at any point on your journey; it becomes even more enjoyable when listening to water cascading down Torcs Waterfall during this time as well.

Torc waterfall- the highlight of the Torc Mountain Hike

Slieve Donard

Shared by Cazzy from DreamBigTravelFarblog.com

There are certainly a lot of things to do in Northern Ireland, but hiking Slieve Donard might just be one of the best. It is the region’s highest mountain at 850 metres tall and looms above the Mourne Mountains, Newcastle, and the Irish Sea.

The Mournes are a gorgeous mountain range in County Down, with Slieve Donard as the tallest and most popular mountain to hike. With a number of waterfalls along the way and the magical view on top, it’s definitely worth it.

The hike itself is only 9.2 km from the car park to the summit and back, which would take around 4-5 hours. The real challenge is in the incline that becomes quite steep in places, so you could consider this moderate to hard. Anyone with a basic fitness level would be able to do it, although not without getting in a good workout.

As you hike up Slieve Donard, look out for the impressive Mourne Wall. This 1.5m granite stone wall stretches out for 35 kilometres over 15 mountains! Completed in 1922, it was built to confine the catchment area and keep out farm animals. Walking this is another challenge in itself and will take around 9 hours.

The normal route starts from Newcastle, or the Donard Park car park to be exact. From here, just follow the path along and across the Glen River, where the adventure awaits! Or you can take the less challenging Bloody Bridge route; the car park is located about 5km before Newcastle. Another riveting history about this mountain lies in The Brandy Pad, a route that remains well-known today. Illegal cargo used to travel on horseback through this path back in the 18th century, when prohibited tobacco, wine, and spices were smuggled.

Slieve Donard is the tallest mountain in Northern Ireland, and one of the best hikes on the island. Visit the page for more.

Kinbane Castle

Written by Luke from WildAboutBC.com

Kinbane Castle on the Causeway Coast of Northern Ireland is a beautiful set of ruins that sits on a small headland that protrudes out into the Atlantic Ocean. This is a short but spectacular hike and it is one of the hidden gems of the North Coast. While most people know of the Giants Causeway and Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge, Kinbane Castle is much lesser-known and this means that it never gets too busy.

The route down to Kinbane Castle is along a steep set of stairs that are cut into the edge of the cliff. Once you reach the bottom of the stairs you can walk out along the headland and explore what is left of the castle ruins. From the castle, you also get amazing views out to Rathlin Island and Dunagregor Iron Age fort.

The dramatic ruins of Kinbane Castle, built in 1547 by Colla MacDonnell, are perched right on the edge of the limestone headland and are absolutely beautiful. A narrow earth path will take you to the end of the headland where you can look back and see the castle with the lush green coastline towering above.

The hike back up the stairs is quite steep but not too difficult as it isn’t that long and I would rate it on the easy side of moderate due to the steps. This short hike is only 1 kilometre roundtrip, has 70 metres of elevation gain, and with some time spent exploring the castle ruins and the headland, should only take 45 minutes.

Perched upon a rocky outcrop, Kinbane Castle is a short hike but a spectacular one.

Slieve League  

Contributed by Allan from It’s Sometimes Sunny in Bangor  

Found in the fairly remote parts of County Donegal, along the famous Wild Atlantic Way, Slieve League is famous for its rather magnificent views of some of the tallest cliffs in all of Ireland. The hike itself isn’t overly challenging at just 601 meters (1,972ft) at its highest elevation, but the sea views are unbeatable and there are many walks to cover in the area. At the furthest points, the trail is 2.8 kilometres in length and there are many ways to approach the hike with some lesser-known than others.

For a beginner, it would probably be best to drive straight to the upper car park itself which is found right next to the cliff views. However, many visitors do not realise this as an option as there is a gate blocking the way and most people will start out at the lower car park which adds at least 30-minutes to the overall hike. Otherwise, this gate is only to stop the local sheep from escaping and it’s simple to just open and pass the gates to continue to drive to the cliffs.

For those planning to stay the night, there is a handy guesthouse (Slieve League B&B) which is within walking distance of the cliffs, otherwise, the nearest town would be Killybegs. Despite being one of Ireland’s most scenic attractions Slieve League is free for entry year-round although there are always rumours that this may change. 

The Slieve League Cliffs are among the highest in Europe, and the views from them don't get much better anywhere. One of the most beautiful hikes in Ireland.

Did we miss your favourite Irish hike?

Let me know all about it in the comments below.

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