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Hiking in Ireland: 10 of the best routes and walking trails in 2019

It’s easy to get ‘off the beaten track’ in Ireland, and these scenic hiking trails are a great way to explore the country’s bucolic landscape. We’ve got directions, difficulty gradings and a few pro tips, so lace up those boots and take your pick from the best Irish walking routes!
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You’ll find walking routes up mountains, along the wild coastline and through glens, as well as plenty of long distance trails to get you out into the landscape – often with nothing but the beautiful scenery for company.

1. The Howth Cliff Walk, Dublin

The Howth Cliff Walk with colourful blossoms in the foreground
©Tourism Ireland

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 5 miles (8km)
Duration: 2–3hrs

Shrug off the city with a trip out to Howth – one loop of the cliff walk around Howth Head will obliterate those cobwebs. From the fishing village of Howth you’ll walk clockwise, heading east first to the Nose of Howth, before turning south across the sloping clifftops and striking upwards to The Summit, where thankfully you’ll find a cozy pub for refreshment.

The south-facing coast of the peninsula has the most spectacular views, down over secluded beaches and rocky islets, and passes the Bally Lighthouse, the last manned lighthouse in Ireland up until 1997. Dublin may be visible from Howth Head, but it feels like a distant planet compared with the tranquility upon the cliff edge.

When you’re ready to head back to the hustle and bustle check out this guide for all the top drink, shows and city sights in Dublin.

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2. The Glen of Aherlow, Co. Tipperary

A white sheep, clouds, the Glen of Aherlow
©Fáilte Ireland Copyright

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 6 miles (10km)
Duration: 3hrs

Nestled between the Galtee Mountains and the wooded ridge of Slievenamuck, the Glen of Aherlow has long been an important pass between Limerick and Tipperary. Several loop walks are waymarked here, including the 10km Ballinacourty Loop, which follows woodland trails to ascend onto Slievenamuck. Traverse its southern shoulder for lovely views of the Galtee Mountains back across the glen. The total ascent on this trail is 240 metres.

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3. Torc Mountain, Co. Kerry

Torc Mountain under a blue sky

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 4.5 miles (7.5km)
Duration: 2–3hrs

Want to climb a mountain? Torc Mountain is a straightforward one to tackle, with rewarding 360-degree views out over Killarney town and lakes, Muckross House, Killarney National Park and MacGillycuddy’s Reeks. It’s just 7.5km from the upper Torc Mountain car park to the summit and back, and the whole route takes around 2.5 hours to complete. There’s a clear path, made up in part of railway sleepers, so this is an easy walk for almost all fitness levels – though take care, the sleepers can be wet and slippery.

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4. Croagh Patrick, Co. Mayo

Croagh Patrick from a distance, crowned by a big white cloud

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 8 miles
Duration: 4.5hrs

Ask a child to draw a mountain and you’ll find yourself staring at a reproduction of this sacred summit, its pyramid-like shape standing tall above the south Mayo countryside. For more than 5000 years an annual pilgrimage has made its way up here, climbing the slopes on the last Sunday of July. Park at the Croagh Patrick visitor centre and follow the well-marked trail up to the peak, some 762 metres above sea level.

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5. Diamond Hill, Connemara, Galway

Diamond Hill bathed in warm sunlight
©Chris Hill Photographic 2011

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 4.5 miles (7km)
Duration: 2–3hrs

For a quick introduction to Connemara’s beauty, head to the top of Diamond Hill from the national park visitor centre. You’ll start out on Sruffaunboy Nature Trail before striking off for the summit along gravel footpaths and wooden boardwalks to climb the western slopes and reach the ridge. From the top look out along the Connemara coastline, spotting Kylemore Abbey’s gothic turrets and the summit of Mweelrea, the province of Connaught’s highest mountain.

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6. The Dingle Way, Co. Kerry

The Dingle Way offers views of the surrounding cliffs and sea
© Chris Hill Photographic 2014 / Tourism Ireland

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 111 miles (179km)
Duration: 8–9 days

The Dingle Peninsula was formed by glacial stresses and it left one humdinger of a landscape, all steep mountain ridges and plunging cliffs, rock stacks and recessed sandy beaches. The 179km, eight or nine day, Dingle Way is the best route to explore it, looping around the peninsula’s full extent from the town of Tralee. You’ll walk in the foothills of the Slieve Mish, around the cliffs of Slea Head and past golden sandy beaches, as well as passing through the town of Dingle. Small roads make up most of the trail and there are few ascents; you’ll be mostly looking up at the mountains, not climbing them.

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7. The Western Way, Connemara, Co. Galway

The Western Way
©Failte Ireland

Difficulty: Challenging
Distance: 34 miles (55km)
Duration: 2 days

Connemara is the very edge of Europe, a region of imposing peaks and boggy valleys. Get out among them on this two-day waymarked trail, beginning in the angler’s town of Oughterard. You’ll follow the western edge of Lough Corrib, one of the longest lakes in Ireland, before crossing into the steep-sided and beautifully scenic Inagh Valley, tucked in between the Twelve Bens and Maam Turks peaks. The linear 55km trail ends at the village of Leenaun on the shores of Killary harbour and is best broken overnight in Maam, which makes for two equally long days.

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8. The Kerry Way, Co. Kerry

The Kerry Way offers magnificent mountain and sea views
© Tourism Ireland

Difficulty: Challenging
Distance: 132 miles (213km)
Duration: 9 days

Got nine days to spare? Take on one of Ireland’s longest signposted trails – not to mention one of its most popular – by completing the Kerry Way. Taking walkers on a historic journey along old droving paths and coach roads, it starts (and ends) in Killarney before striking out around the Iveragh Peninsula, for waterfalls, subtropical plants and magnificent mountain views. Most people see this glorious landscape by coach; taking it in from two feet is far more rewarding.

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9. Slieve League, Co. Donegal

Spectacular views to the Atlantic and the surrounding countryside from the Slieve League
© Failte Ireland

Difficulty: Challenging
Distance: 6 miles
Duration: 4hrs

Want to see one third of Ireland, all in one go? It’s said that on a clear day you can do just that from the top of Slieve League’s epic cliffs, so high that the crashing Atlantic far below is rendered silent – this trail is one of Europe’s highest. Park at Bunglass and follow the path up and along the top of the ridge ,where you’ll meet the Old Man’s Track. Follow the narrow One Man’s Pass up to the top of Slieve League for those unbelievable views. Take care on misty days and if visibility is really poor, don’t attempt it. Vertigo sufferers should also give this one a miss.

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10. Burren Way, Co. Clare

A scenic rocky patch under the blue sky at the Burren Way
© Chris Hill Photographic 2015

Difficulty: Challenging
Distance: 71 miles (114km)
Duration: 5 days

Nowhere in Ireland is as spectacular as the Burren, a vast area of terraced limestone hills that drops abruptly into the Atlantic at the Cliffs of Moher. The 114km Burren Way offers walkers the chance to be dwarfed by this scenic wonderland, running from the coast at Doolin across limestone terraces bursting with wildflowers and passing Neolithic remains and ancient Christian churches. Though most of the route is along cattle droving roads and forestry tracks, there are some steep climbs. These are rewarded with jaw-dropping views though, especially from the top of Mullaghmore.

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Get behind the wheel and explore Ireland with our top 5 most scenic road trips next.

*Updated February 2019. Information correct at the time of publication but may be subject to change.

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