Walking Holidays in Ireland: 9 of The Best Routes

6 Jul 2019

Why should I choose Ireland for my walking holiday or vacation?

Stunning mountain landscapes, exhilarating wild coastal pathways, breath-taking sea-scapes, the emerald isle has it all.

On a self – guided hiking vacation you can walk at your own pace and immerse yourself in the history, heritage and culture of this ancient and proud nation sitting on the most western fringe of Europe.

Below, we list 9 of the best long distance walking trails from the North, South, East and West.

Mountain ways Ireland Group on Wicklow Way overlooking blue lake of Glendalough far below

1. The Wicklow Way

The Wicklow Way was Irelands first national waymarked trail, and much is owed to the pioneering rambler, J.B Malone for its existence. Mountain Ways Ireland recommends walking the route from South to North, starting in Clonegal, Co. Carlow the route in its entirety runs for 132 km ( 83 miles) and ascends 3,500 metres. 

The first sections meander along country roads and gently rolling hills before giving way to the granite massif of the Wicklow Mountains. The way, for the most part takes you around and through these forests and hills, finding hidden glacial valleys with great historical significance.

The Garden of Ireland as county Wicklow is known hides in one of her hidden glens the superb monastic city of Glendalough.

Pass above Irelands highest waterfall before finally reaching the Dublin Mountains and dropping down through beautiful old parkland to reach Irelands thriving capital city, Dublin.

Highlights on this trip include: 

  • Iconic 7th Century Monastic site of Glendalough 
  • Glenmalure Valley -Historic battle site and stunning U-shaped glacial valley
  • Explore Dublin city
  • Picturesque Lough Tay (The Guinness lake)
  • Lough Dan and the lakes of Glendalough
  • Wicklow Mountains
  • Dublin Mountains 
Mountain Ways Ireland - Walking Holidays in Ireland: 9 of The Best Routes - The Dingle Way Slea Head road winding down to sea with flock of sheep

2. The Dingle Way

The looped route which starts in Tralee traces the coastline of The Dingle peninsula for 179 km (111 miles) and ascends 2,900 metres overall. 

The terrain is very varied from road to moorland to farmland and rugged clifftop paths. Beach walking makes up a significant part of the way, more than 20 km. With one or two exceptions The Dingle way follows a relatively low-level route but at the same time skirts around some stunning mountain scenery.

The way passes through many villages some of which are active Gaeltacht communities where you can hear the native Gaelic in everyday usage.

Also known as The Kerry Camino, a logbook can be stamped at certain stations along the way just like on the Camino de Santiago.

Highlights on this trip include:

  • Irish speaking ‘Gaeltacht’ areas.
  • Star Wars movie location
  • National geographic traveller magazine most beautiful place on earth
  • Archaeological and historical points of interest
  • Inch Beach 
  • Conor Pass 
  • Annascaul Lake
  • Traditional Irish Music
  • Part of the Wild Atlantic Way
steps and rails down to ruins Dunluce castle by the sea Mountain Ways Ireland - Walking Holidays in Ireland,The Antrim Glens and Causeway Coast Walking Holiday

3. The Antrim Glens and Causeway Coast

The Antrim Glens & Causeway Coast Way is one of the gems of the North. The linear route which incorporates both The Moyle way and The Causeway Coastal Route takes in around 100 kms and can be extended further by visiting Rathlin Island.

The terrain is varied from forest paths, mountain glens sweeping to the sea, asphalt road, open moorland, farmland and rugged clifftop paths. There is a small but beautiful stretch of beach walking along white park bay. 

Apart from the Moyle Way section which does involve an overall ascent of 850 m (split over a couple of days) The Causeway Coast Way follows a relatively flat route. 

The way passes ruined castles and iconic places like the Carrick- a – Rede rope bridge and unique geological landscape of The Giants Causeway.

Take a ferry out to visit Rathlin Island, its upside-down lighthouse and impressive bird colony.

Highlights of this trip include:

  • Glenariff forest park and Glens of Antrim
  • Quaint villages
  • Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge 
  • Dunseverick Castle ruin
  • Game of Thrones filming locations
  • Bushmills oldest distillery in the world
  • Rathlin Island 
  • Giants Causeway UNESCO world heritage site
  • Relatively flat Coastal walk for much of the way
Colurful Alihies village nestled against against Mountain Ways Ireland - Walking Holidays in Ireland: 9 of The Best Routes - The Beara Way

4. The Beara Way

The Beara Way is one of Irelands best kept secrets. It is a looped walk on a narrow peninsula jutting out into the Wild Atlantic. The walk is approximately 160 km long with its main trailhead in the lovely village of Glenariff, Co. Cork.

This is possibly one of the most unspoilt walks in the south of Ireland. Set against the famed Bantry Bay, the colourful villages of Allihies, Eyeries and Castletownbere are really picture book.

This historic part of the country with its bronze age megaliths is the homeland of the old Irish O’Sullivan Beare Clan.The walk covers two counties of Cork and Kerry.

Highlights of this trip include:

  • The colourful fishing villages of Allihies and Eyeries
  • Mountain and Coastal paths looking out over the famous Skellig Islands
  • Take a boat tour to the Skelligs, a UNESCO world heritage site and star wars film location.
  • Kenmare, a great town for traditional music, a pint and a bit of craic
Karst limestone lanscape of the burren,Mountain Ways Ireland - Walking Holidays in Ireland: 9 of The Best Routes - The Burren Way & Aran Islands

5. The Burren Way and Aran Islands

The Burren Way begins in Liscannor and runs for around 114 kms .It crosses a unique Karst limestone landscape and when you reach the famous Cliffs of Moher and gaze out on the vast Atlantic ocean beyond you really do get that sense of standing in a place that has next stop – America !

Flora, Fauna, history and heritage really abound here. The cracked limestone pavements of the Burren create unique environmental conditions where rare wildflowers flourish.

This is a real pocket of archaeologically significant remnants from Neolithic Dolmens to Iron age Stone forts and early Christian sites.

The views from the high point of Mullaghmore are magnificent.

A mix of quiet country road, paths, forestry tracks and ancient cattle droving routes. 

Highlights on this trip include: 

  • The stunning Cliffs of Moher
  • Inis Mor – an historical Island in the wild Atlantic Ocean.
  • The impressive Stone Age Fort of Dun Aonghasa .
  • The Burren – a geologically unique karst limestone moonscape.
  • Doolin,Irelands mecca for traditional Irish music
Assleigh waterfall ,Mountain Ways Ireland - Walking Holidays in Ireland: 9 of The Best Routes - The Connemara and Western Way

6. The Connemara and Western Way

An area synonymous with John Fords, Hollywood brand of The West of Ireland. You can almost touch that Ireland of yester – year, the world of John Wayne and Maureen O Hara from the Quiet man. Ford chose this area for good reason. This 114 Km route crosses through stunning, remote and wild Irish landscape. This is home to the Tribe of The Seas,

The lofty mountain ranges of the Twelve Bens and The Maamturks stand sentinel over a wild remote landscape of bogs and small loughs. 

The Great Famine of the mid nineteenth century absolutely decimated this area and the tragic story of Doolough epitomises what happened here.

The Western Way runs from Oughterard in Co. Galway to Westport in Co. Mayo. 

Towards the end of the walk stands the iconic Croagh Patrick,a spiritual mecca for the Irish from Pagan times through to early Christian and right up until today. Beautiful Clew Bay with its plethora of ‘sunken drumlin islands’ lead us into the historic town of Westport.

This  vibrant town in County Mayo is famed from far and wide for its music, old world  Irish pub culture and fine restaurants.

Highlights on this trip include: 

  • The only true Irish Fjord, Killary harbour.
  • The Assleigh falls, famed for the scene from the film adaptation of John B.Keanes play, ‘The Field’
  • The town of Clifden, fine restaurants and home to the annual Connemara pony show.
  • Walk on the edge of the impressive Maamturk Mountain range
  • The beautiful Lough Inagh valley
  • The magnificent Twelve Bens mountain range.
  • The vibrant town of Westport with music, song and dance
Winding narrow road in a high rrocky mountain passMountain Ways Ireland - Walking Holidays in Ireland: 9 of The Best Routes - The Kerry Way

7. The Kerry Way

The Kerry Way at 210 km is one of the longest and finest walking trails in Ireland. A looped route that starts and finishes in Irelands premier tourist destination of Killarney. High mountain passes, remote valleys surrounded by high mountain peaks, beautiful old broadleaved forests, mountain lake and small quaint villages.

Killarney has arguably been the tourist capital of Ireland from the turn of the century and further back. The Kerry way is one of the most challenging long distance trails in Ireland.

The walk follows forest tracks, old historic green roads that people have trekked for millennia.
Some of the towns and villages that the route passes through include Kenmare, Glenbeigh, Cahersiveen, and Caherdaniel. 

Ogham stones, Iron age forts and early Christian sites line the route.

Highlights on this trip include: 

  • The Kerry way passes through the highest peaks in Ireland, The Magilicuddy Reeks.
  • The remote Black Valley
  • The 2000 year old Staigue Fort is one of Ireland’s best examples of a ring fort.
  • The Vista of the Lakes of Killarney from ‘Ladies View’ is so good that it was named in memory of a Queen’s visit
  • Muckross House and Gardens
  • Torc waterfall
gravel path on narrow sheeps head peninsula jutting out in the Atlantic sea Mountain Ways Ireland - Walking Holidays in Ireland: 9 of The Best Routes - The Sheep's Head Way

8. The Sheep’s Head Way

This is one of Ireland’s youngest established waymarked trails so retains the unspoilt character. This peaceful narrow peninsula is looped with a 100 km long trail.

There are stone circles, standing stones, ring forts, a Napoleonic signal tower and early Christian sites so a landscape that has been stamped by many cultures over thousands of years.

It was the landowners themselves who put this route in place, you can be sure of a warm Irish welcome at every turn.

The real gem here is the tranquillity.

Highlights on this trip include: 

  • Peaceful & unspoilt peninsula on the Wild Atlantic Way
  • The mildest climate in Ireland with its proximity to the Gulf Stream
  • Historical points of interest that tell a story spanning thousands of years
  • European destination of excellence
View of Slieve Foye Mountain towering above from Carlingford village Mountain Ways Ireland - Walking Holidays in Ireland: 9 of The Best Routes - The Mourne Cooley Gullion Way

9. The Mourne, Cooley, Gullion Way

This walk is a set alongside and across the border between the North and South of Ireland. A largely undiscovered area of outstanding natural Beauty. 

This route is unique mix of three waymarked routes which have still to be discovered by the tourist. The 6000 year old Sand dunes of Murlough bay and beach walking is a nice lead into this cross border walk. 

Follow forest tracks, passing location shoots for the ‘Game of Thrones’ and skirt through the foothills of the majestic Mountains of Mourne that sweep down to the sea to reach lovely Rostrevor.

The route then makes its way to the  beautiful medieval cobble streets of Carlingford village sitting on the shore of  Carlingford lough. 

An historic mountain pass leads us towards South Armagh and the Ring of Gullion. This area of outstanding natural beauty is without doubt one of the most significant historical areas of Ireland. Evidence of this rich historical tapestry is all around with the concentration of megalithic monuments but is most prevalent when you meet the people themselves.

Highlights on this trip include: 

  • Murlough bay and its 6000 year old Sand Dunes 
  • Dramatic Mountain landscapes
  • Passing below, Slieve Donard, the highest mount top in Ulster
  • Game of Thrones shooting locations
  • Medieval castellated village of Carlingford
  • South Armagh, The historic gateway to Irelands Ancient East
  • Unique Geological Ring Dyke volcanic landscape
  • The highest surviving Neolithic passage tomb in Ireland, older than the pyramids of Egypt and Stonehenge

Why should I choose Ireland for my walking holiday?

The greatest gem of all and the reason you should choose Ireland for your next walking holiday is the warmth and friendship of the people themselves.

History • Heritage • Culture • Great Food • Great Beer • The Irish Welcome and Great craic !

Escape – Embrace -Enjoy !

By Brian Hoey

Share this story