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Its nickname of the ‘Emerald Isle’ didn’t come from nowhere. Ireland’s expansive green landscapes, stretching coastlines and rugged mountain ranges means this small island is not short of opportunities for you to admire the Irish countryside – if you don’t mind pulling up your hiking boots and hitting the hills, of course.
From Ireland’s ample choice of hiking trails and walking routes, it’s difficult to choose the best, as they are all admirable for their own reasons, attractions and quirks. But I can give you the best variety that you can choose from next time you get the urge to explore Ireland by foot.
North Antrim Cliff Path
This stunning stretch of coast is part of the much longer Causeway Coast Way. The route stretches from the iconic Giant’s Causeway to Dunseverick Castle and is actively maintained and owned by the National Trust.
A split view is what you’ll experience along this route, the best of both worlds if you will – the farmland and grassland on one side but stunning coastal cliffs on the other.
The route allows you to see two historic sites in Ireland in one fell swoop. Dunsverick Castle is an ancient monument, which was destroyed in the 1650s. Its gate lodge ruins are all that remain of the historic fort, which withstood the likes of Viking invasions and housed Fergus the Great.
The Giant’s Causeway is arguably one of Ireland’s most iconic sites along its coastlines. It’s sites including the Grand Causeway, Wishing chair and the Giant’s Boot have visitors flocking to admire these natural stone marvels.
It stretches just under five miles and is an easier walk that should be suitable for most abilities. Previous walkers have walked in one direction and back in around 3 hours. Terrain includes both gravel and grass, but its location along the cliffside means you must be prepared for strong, and slightly chilly, gusts en route.
Located in Killarney, County Kerry, the Torc Mountain walk is a circular route that takes around two and a half hours to complete stretching approximately 8km. The summit is 535m and, once reached, grants you a 360-degree view of Killarney, its National Park and its lakes.
You’ll need to be reasonably active to tackle this one – there are parts of the trail that are slightly strenuous and steep, and the tracks are uneven in parts. But a lot of people have no difficulty completing the route, and it is accessible to most. It has mostly clear paths and wooden sleepers line parts of it, but can be slippery when wet so beware. This route would be perfect for families or if you’re bringing the kids – let them find their feet and be wilderness adventurers!
Most people park up in the Torc Mountain upper car park to begin the hike, and if you’re looking for something that’s a notch up from your typical straight and narrow hikes, Torc Mountain is a scenic, mountainous climb for the adventurous hiker.
Benbulbin and Kings Mountain Loop Walk
Located near Sligo, the Benbulbin and Kings Mountain Loop Walk is an 8km hike, taking around 4 hours to complete, and is of a moderate to strenuous level for walkers. The route leads you to Kings Mountain and the cliffs of Benbulbin Head. The scenery is phenomenal, and Benbulbin Head is one of Ireland’s most spectacular rock formations, standing at 526m.
Upon reaching the summit, you’ll have spectacular views of the Wild Atlantic Way, and along the looped route, you can admire the magical flora and fauna that this route is well known for.
Cliffs of Moher Cliff Walk
Another coastal hiking trail is the Cliffs of Moher Cliff Walk. Located in County Clare, there are a number of great trails you can do in this area. I offer you two options, both giving an equally enjoyable Cliffs of Moher experience, with unmatched coastal views, but both varying in distance and time to complete.
The first stretches from the Cliffs of Moher along to Hags Head. This route would be more suited for those who are stretched for time or fancy a much shorter amble. It would take you roughly 2 hours to finish and stretches 5.6km in length. The route is moderately difficult, but this is mainly down to some parts of the trail being uneven or rough. The entirety of the route is exposed to coastal gusts, so this is something to be prepared for.
The other Cliffs of Moher coastal walk stretches 13km, and is an extension of the first trail. It stretches from Doolin to Hags Head, located near Liscannor town. The path is not too strenuous, however again, you’ll find uneven and rough patches, and its location right along the edge of the cliff means there’s no escaping the elements on this route.
It’ll take you roughly between 4 and 5 hours to walk, so is perfect for those eager for a longer hiking trail. And if you’re too knackered to walk the route back, there are shuttle buses available at the car parks of the Cliffs of Moher Visitors centre (which you’ll pass en route) and at Liscannor, but also at Doolin if you plan to do the route in reverse.
If you’d prefer a guided walking tour, this is also an option. Happening daily, they start in Doolin and finish at the Cliffs of Moher Visitor Centre, taking approximately 3 hours to complete. You can walk with a local along the coastal cliffs to experience the route for all it has to offer, learning about the local history and folklore of the area. Click here to find out more.
Located in County Galway, I’m listing this walk as an option for those who prefer scenic woodland trails for their hikes. It’s a loop trail stretching just under 6km and is an easy hiking trail suitable for all abilities, taking around 1 hour to complete.
It’s a serene forest walk, with the centre walkway being paved so equally accessible for all, but if you’re one to often venture off the main path – there are plenty of side trails for when a sense of adventure starts to call. And don’t worry about getting lost, as all trails lead back to the main route – so you can satisfy that sense of adventure without the worry of losing your way. This is also the perfect route to connect with nature, where you can explore the native species of flora and fauna along the trails, and experience the seasons.
From coastal ambles to woodland walks and mountain climbs, there are plenty of hiking trails in Ireland to suit all scenic preferences and walking abilities. Do you have a favourite hiking route you want to share? We’d love to know, in the comments down below.