Leinster is home to some of the most beautiful scenery in Ireland. From crashing waves and rocky cliffs to running streams in between glorious mountains, there is so much to explore on the East Coast. If you’re looking for a fun-filled, active weekend with the family, Leinster also has some family-friendly hikes that are sure to entertain kids and adults alike. Here are eight of the best hikes for all families in Leinster!
1. Coill an Fhaltaigh, Millennium Park, Co Kilkenny
Coill an Fhaltaigh is one of Ireland’s beautiful Millennium forests, expanding over 90 hectares in Kilkenny. The Millennium Forest project aims to restore 16 woodland communities nationwide by planting a tree for every household in the country, removing damaging invasive non-native trees and shrubbery and encouraging natural regeneration of native plants and flora. Some of the native oaks in this forest are over 100 years old!
Because of this park’s close vicinity to Kilkenny, it has become an extremely popular place for family walks and picnics. There are two looped walks in the park, the Green Walk (2.2km, 1.5 hr) and the Red Walk (3.3km, 2hr). Both looped walks are easily accessible and waymarked. The Green Walk provides a nice, short stroll through the forest, while the Red Walk takes you through the millennium forest section of the wood. The gradients are very gentle, with no steep inclines, making these walks ideal for all ages. There are also plenty of seats and resting areas for you to take a minute to soak in the beauty of nature, or maybe have a picnic!
Find more information, including trail maps, on their website.
2. Donadea Forest Park, Co Kildare
The Donadea Forest Park is the perfect choice for a sunny-day Sunday with the family. Home to the beautiful remains of Donadea Castle, this National Heritage Area includes historical features such as walled gardens, St. Peter’s church, an ice house and a boathouse. Walk through the stunning Lime Tree Avenue, planted in the 19th century, to enter the estate, then take a route to one of the three marked walks provided in the lush woodland.
The Lake Walk (0.8km, 30min) takes you around the shining lake of the estate, teamed with ducks, waterhens, and water lilies. Your kids are sure to enjoy feeding the ducks that call this lake home! The Nature Trail (1.6km, 1hr) winds through some of the man-made elements of the estate, including a 9/11 Memorial, a scaled replica of the twin towers carved in limestone. The Aylmer Walk (5.7km, 1.5hr) takes you around the entirety of the park, and is great if you’re looking for a bit of a longer walk! In terms of difficulty, all of these trails are easy and family friendly.
3. Dalkey and Killiney Hill, Co Dublin
Conveniently starting at the Dalkey Dart station and ending at another, the Dalkey and Killiney Hill walk is a perfect half-day outing for any family coming from the Dublin city centre. This walk is 2km and is relatively easy, except for a few very short, steep inclines (i.e. the very beginning of the walk has you climb up some steep stone steps known as the Cat’s Ladder). If you’re lucky to go on a clear day, the summit provides amazing views of the Bay of Naples, Sugar Loaf Mountain, the Wicklow Mountains, Dalkey Island and the Martello Tower.
As you walk back down, you’ll pass the quarry that supplied the granite to build Dun Laoghaire’s piers. Recently, it has become a hotspot for abseiling and rock-climbing enthusiasts. Then, continuing to head down, you’ll pass the incredible gardens Killiney Hill and end at the Killiney Dart Station. A picturesque walk for the whole family!
Find out more on Walking Routes Ireland.
4. Bray to Greystones Cliff Walk, Co Wicklow
The Bray to Greystones Cliff Walk is a 7km scenic coastal walk that takes you along Ireland’s gorgeous coastline. Beginning in the beach town of Bray, this walk is suitable for all abilities and takes about 2 hours to complete. Along the way, you will see budding flora and fauna as well as some bird of the sea. The water around the walk is home to some native dolphins, basking sharks, and black harbour porpoises — so make sure to keep your eyes peeled! The walk finishes a Greystones Harbour, a perfect place to grab a bite to eat and sit down for a pint. If you don’t wish to walk the journey back, simply hop back on the Dart or take the bus back to Bray!
5. Dunmore Woods Loop, Durrow, Co Laois
The Dunmore Woods is a plethora of country lanes, river banks, forestry paths and woodland hikes that takes adventurous families through gorgeous broadleaf and conifer woods, along vast farmland and even passed the ruins of the Dunmore House. This loop is 15 km long and will take approximately 3.5 hours to complete and will give you beautiful views of the Laois countryside as you traverse the land.
6. Howth Cliff Walk, Co Dublin
Howth is a bustling fishing town right along the harbour north of Dublin. With so many restaurants, shops and cafes, you can spend hours simply exploring this friendly town. However, lucky for you, there are also some amazing hikes that take you around the coast to see the stunning cliffs and ocean of Ireland.
There are four trails that you can take, all varying in length and difficulty. The longest of these trails is the Bog of Frogs Loop. This loop is a 12km course that first takes you along the cliffs of Howth where you will relish in the waves crashing against the stone and witness the lush green landscape of Ireland. The views of Lambay Island and Ireland’s Eye are spectacular, and the cliffs are great for birdwatchers and marine-life spectators alike! This path can get a bit narrow and muddy, so if you have small children, you might want to take one of the shorter paths available.
The other paths available include the Black Linn Loop (8km, 2.5hr), the Cliff Path Loop (6km, 2hr), and the Tramline Loop (7km, 2hr). The Black Linn Loop has you follow the red arrows along the cliffs to reach “The Summit.” The Cliff Path Loop also takes you to the summit but travels along a parallel path where you can admire the fantastic flora and fauna along the coast. The Tramline Loop will give you lovely views of Lambay Island and Ireland’s Eye. Wear appropriate shoes such as trainers or hiking boots, and maybe pack a snack to sit down and enjoy the view with a sandwich!
7. The Scalp Lookout Trail, Co Dublin
The Barnaslingan Wood is one of the most awe-inspiring natural features in the Leinster area. This narrow rocky pass was formed by an Ice Age glacial lake overflow, and there are many granite outcrops and boulders with steep slopes and dense forest to be seen.
There are two looped walking trails through Barnaslingan. The Pine Loop Trail (0.9km, 20 min) is an easy stroll through the forest and has a picnic bench and area to sit and enjoy the surrounding nature. The Scalp Lookout Trail (1.5km, 45 min) follows the Pine Loop Trail but then detours onto the Scalp lookout where you will see an incredible chasm of Ireland.
8. Glendalough, Co Wicklow
The Wicklow Mountains are just a hop, skip, and a jump away from Dublin, but their beauty and serenity will make you feel days away from civilization. There are nine way-marked walking trails in the valley of Glendalough ranging from a short half-hour stroll to a four-hour hill walk.
You will get to see the incredible valley of the upper lakes, sandwiched in between glorious mountains with a flowing river trampling over protruding rocks. It’s a steep incline to the top, but it is worth it. Take in the breathtaking view of the mountains and lakes — you might even get to see some wild deer along the way!
Find out more about all of the different trails you can take on the Wicklow Mountains National Park website.