Ireland has some of the best wild places in Europe so get out and explore it. Here are ten of the best short-distance walking routes around, to do just that!
From the peaks of Wicklow county to the rugged scenery of Connemara, walking is a great way to explore the beauty of Ireland. The backdrop is always stunning and there’s a great sense of satisfaction when you reach the summit and get to appreciate the full beauty of the countryside from a height. The routes chosen below can be done in a day and are suitable for most people with a reasonable level of fitness. If you want to tackle some of the longer routes then you can break it up into sections and walk the route over the course of a few weeks or months.
1. Coumshingaun Loop, County Waterford
This 7.5km walk is a moderately difficult trail that takes in the majesty of the Coumshingaun Corrie lake in all its glory. The route will take about four hours as you’ll be walking up to the top of the 365m high cliffs that tower around the water to form a cove. The route starts and ends down the road from Carrick-on-Suir, at Kilcooney Bridge. The views are stunning and worth getting out of breath for.
2. Coomloughra Horsehoe, County Kerry
This walk is a hardcore undertaking, it will take six to seven hours and features plenty of ascents across the 12km route. The Coomloughra Horseshoe walk takes in several of Ireland’s tallest peaks, including the infamous Carrauntoohill. You’ll spend plenty of time up on the exposed ridges of the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks range, so tackle with care. A word of warning, do not take on this route in high winds or other bad weather.
3. Benbulbin and Kings Mountain Loop, County Sligo
This is an 8km loop that takes you through the farmlands of Sligo and up on to the stunning table of Kings Mountain. The area is steeped in Irish mythology as Benbulbin was thought to be home to many Fianna warriors. The loop will take three to four hours, making it a perfect half day expedition.
4. Croagh Patrick Pilgrim Path, County Mayo
Over a million people take on Croagh Patrick annually and you’ll find pilgrims making the climb even in winter. The mountain is thought to be sacred as Saint Patrick was believed to have fasted for forty days at the summit. There is a small chapel at the peak marking this achievement. Starting from the village of Murrisk the walk gets steep quickly and can be strenuous until you hit the top. On clear days the views are fantastic! Our advice is to go before the summer months as the peak can get crowded during the tourist season.
5. Cliffs of Moher Cliff Walk, County Clare
The Cliffs are one of Ireland’s biggest natural tourist attractions and this route takes you along the edge for great vistas of the Atlantic. As you make your way along the headlands you’ll find yourself exposed to the elements so be careful in adverse weather conditions. The route covers 18km and can be done at a good pace in around five hours. Along the way, you’ll be able to see Galway Bay, the Aran Islands, and Aill Na Searrach.
6. Hare’s Gap, County Down
The Hare’s Gap showcases the Mourne Mountains at their most daunting. It was once the favourite route of smugglers bringing in their wares after making land on the east coast. The route is tough going and it culminates with an ascent up to the Mourne Wall. The views are spectacular and this walk offers a great introduction to Northern Ireland’s premier mountain range.
7. The Spink Loop, Glendalough, County Wicklow
The Glendalough lakes and monastery sites are located just an hour outside Dublin meaning there’s little excuse not to get out and explore them. The Spink is a strenuous 9km route that will take you between three to four hours to hike. Start at the Visitors Centre and make your way up the fairly tough ascent, don’t worry though there are plenty of viewing points to stop and catch your breath at and take in the surrounding beauty.
8. Causeway Coastal Path, County Antrim
This 16km trek starts and ends with two of Northern Ireland’s most popular tourist spots – the Giant’s Causeway and the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. The route will take over half a day but is mostly flat so isn’t too troubling. It is part of the longer Causeway Coast Way route that stretches along the northern coast from Portstewart to Ballycastle. You can start the route from either landmark but we would recommend arriving at the Causeway in time for sunset. The route is well signposted making it very easy to navigate.
9. Old Head of Kinsale Loop Walk, Cork
The Old Head is a stunning headline jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean. This 6km loop will take you around the cliffs for the best ocean views. Look out for the Old Head Lighthouse built in the 17th century and the remains of the Lusitania passenger ship, which was torpedoed by a German U-Boat during WW2. If you want a relatively easy walk with unparalleled views, then this is your best bet.
10. Inishowen Head Loop, Donegal
The Inishowen Peninsula is often referred to as ‘Ireland in Miniature’ as it’s got so much to offer. This 8km coastal loop will take you two to three hours along bog roads, laneways, rough tracks and minor roads. The coastal loop starts at a car park area at a World War 2 Lookout Tower on Inishowen Head, where on a good day the west of Scotland is visible.The peninsula remains a relatively undiscovered part of Ireland and its wild and rugged beauty is sure to leave you wanting more.