Walking back to happiness on the island of Ireland

Sheep's Head Peninsula Ireland's Atlantic Seashore:Collins Press:What sets Sheep's Head apart from the three neighbouring Peninsula's is it's remoteness, and unspoiled landscape. It is reputed to have the mildest climate in Ireland because of it's proximity to the Gulf Stream. The highest point on the peninsula is just 345m.The headland at the end of the peninsula between Bantry Bay and Dunmanus Bay. The Sheeps Head Way is a long distance walking route of 88km (55 miles) traversing Sheeps Head Peninsula Following old tracks and roads the route starts and finishes in Bantry and takes you to Sheeps Head at the tip of the peninsula. The Sheep's head way was officially opened by President Mary Robinson in july 1996. the walks are clearly defined, the trek takes you along ridges, moors and coastline routes. Altogether , it is easy terrain for the holiday walker. Suggested Walking schedule recommends, Bantry- fionn McCool's Seat, Kilcrohane, Durrus and return to Bantry. a Visit to Bernie Tobin's Cafe at the tip of the Peninsula is a must, the apple tart is well worth tasting. Bernie has been an advocator of the Sheep's Head Way, since it's inception and is often seen painting the walkers signposts on the the Sheep's Head.Photo:Valerie O'Sullivan

The island of Ireland has something to offer every kind of walker, from beach strollers to mountain hikers, long-distance trekkers to scenery-seeking ramblers.

Hundreds of waymarked trails cross the mountains, bogs and forests and stimulating walks run alongside rivers, cliff edges and beaches or wend through historic towns and picturesque villages.

The island is the perfect dreamscape to stride out for a walk that will reward you with a kaleidoscope of spectacular scenery. For now, you can close your eyes and imagine Ireland’s stunning scenery. But when it’s safe to travel again, here are some of the country’s best walks. 

The Wicklow Way in the south east is a 127km trail that passes shimmering mountain lakes, traverses steep-sided glacial valleys, forests and rolling hills and takes in the stunning ruins of the early Christian monastic settlement of Glendalough.

Or follow the spectacular 53km Causeway Coast Way on the island’s north coast passing the iconic Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, the atmospheric ruins of Dunluce Castle and the famous Giant’s Causeway UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Mountain hikers seeking a challenge should head for Carrauntoohil in the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks in County Kerry. It’s Ireland’s highest peak (1038m) and generally climbed through the ominously named Devil’s Ladder. From the summit the views are stunning.

For those who enjoy more casual walking there are also routes to suit every taste and fitness level.

A short break in Dublin should include a journey out to Howth Peninsula to enjoy the pretty coastal walk that overlooks Dublin Bay.

In County Cork, the Sheep’s Head Way looped walk offers tranquillity and beauty in equal measure and is just one of many stunning walks to be enjoyed along Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way.

Those who like to combine walking with a bit of history and legend thrown in should not miss the experience of The Gobbins cliff path walk in County Antrim. Reputed to be the most dramatic cliff walk in Europe, the route twists through tubular and suspension bridges hanging on sheer cliffs, up stone-carved staircases, through caves and down into under-sea tunnels. It’s accessible only as part of a guided tour.

And of course the island of Ireland is edged with mile after mile of golden beaches, each with its own character and all providing idyllic walking opportunities.  

So dream now of when you can travel again and look forward to the scenic beauty, fresh air, happiness and freedom that awaits you on the island of Ireland.