From scenic beginner trails to challenging upland peaks, the island of Ireland offers a massive variety of utterly beautiful hiking opportunities.
With hundreds of trails to hit for every level of ability, few countries can match the diversity, drama and convenience of Ireland’s emerald green landscape.
Lacing up those boots for a hiking holiday might still be on hold for now, but when it is safe to travel again here are just some of the best spots on the island to add to your bucket list.
For a seriously challenging hike with incredible views, it’s hard to beat Carrauntoohil in County Kerry. Standing at 1038m, this is the central peak of the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks, Ireland’s highest mountain range. Getting to the summit takes between four and six hours, but the reward is incredible views over the Killarney lakes. The Devil’s Ladder is the shortest, most popular and direct route to the top.
The Causeway Coast Way is a magnificent medium-distance hike that runs for 53km of coastal wonder between the seaside towns of Portstewart in County Londonderry and Ballycastle in County Antrim. Marvellously scenic and varied, it can be tackled in two or three days, or in smaller sections depending on your length of stay. It passes some of the best attractions in Northern Ireland, including the Giant’s Causeway, the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge and Dunluce Castle.
Carrauntoohil, County Kerry
For a hike roaming over some of the most gorgeous landscapes of Ireland’s Ancient East, choose The Wicklow Way. At 131km, it’s long-distance and usually split into seven sections – but there are plenty of accommodation providers along the way. There are rolling green hillsides, dramatic valleys, mountain views to see and sights such as Powerscourt Waterfall, Lough Tay and the ageless monastic settlement of Glendalough to explore. Traditionally, it is hiked north to south, beginning at Marlay Park in south Dublin and ending in Clonegal, County Carlow.
Situated on the highest point of the Divis and the Black Mountain hills above Belfast, the 7km Divis Ridge Trail is a moderate hike offering exhilarating views over the city, and on a clear day to the Antrim Plateau to the north, Scotland to the east and the Mourne Mountains to the south. The route is on relatively easy terrain amid a mosaic of grassland and heathland bog, and is home to a host of wildlife and archaeological remains.
Depending on your level of fitness, allow two to three hours to hike to the cone-shaped summit of Diamond Hill in County Galway, which rises to 445m. Strenuous but satisfying, the 7km trail runs through Connemara National Park on Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way. You will need to do some scrambling near the summit but, once past this, sweeping panoramas over the Connemara mountains, lakes, coasts and islands are revealed.
The most dramatic mountain pass in the Mountains of Mourne in County Down is The Hare’s Gap. The hike here is fairly short at 3.4km, but the impressive boulder fields lining the path, along with glacial cliffs and rolling mountains make it a stunning place to be. Dedicated hikers will be enticed to continue on to the many other peaks in the Mournes, which are shrouded in magic and majesty and have been the backdrop for Game of Thrones® filming, the inspiration for C.S. Lewis’s Narnia and the muse for much poetry and song.