Updated: Oct 15, 2018
Ever since a trip to Norway in 2011 and completing my first decent hike holiday among the Norwegian Fjords I have had a true love for Hiking. I remember crying while hiking the famous pulpit rock in Norway as I was so afraid of heights. Now I love heights and I’ve learned that life is about focusing on what we desire rather than what we fear. Since then I have really got past the fear but still get that sense of adventure and accomplishment.
Returning back to the Irish Landscape and array of walking and hiking routes that Ireland has to offer has been one of the best things about moving home. From the various hikes I have done over the last few months I have also realised that Autumn and winter conditions is probably my favourite time of year to get the hiking boots out. The landscapes are a lot more diverse, once wrapped up the temperatures are perfect for doing long treks.
So here my favourite walks to date and no doubt I will continue to add to the list:
Tonelagee, Wicklow Mountains.
Grade: Moderate Time: 3-4 hours
One of great things about living in Dublin is being such a short distance away from the Wicklow Mountains National Park which has some of the best hikes in Ireland. One of my favourite hikes in the Wicklow Mountains is Tonelaegee also known as the love heart lake. If you are looking to get away from the crowds of Glendalough this hike is less well known by tourists therefore it is a lot quitter but still absolutely stunning. The main path for this hike is hard to find therefore a lot of off path is required which I usually prefer.The hike starts from the carpark located at the top of Glenmacnass waterfall. Click here to see a map of the route.
Coumshingaun lake loop hike, Comeragh Mountains, Co. Waterford.
Grade: Moderate. Time: 3-4 hours.
Without a doubt this is my favourite hike in the South East of Ireland. If you love both mountains and ocean then this is the hike for you. As you make your way up the steep accent you have the ocean on your left hand side and the dramatic lake to your right. The jewel of the Comeraghs, the glacial lake is said to be one of the finest examples of a corrie lake (coum in gaelic) in Western Europe.
I think this picture says it all.
If your not feeling very energetic on the day I would suggest walking to the bottom of the lake. To get there from Cork or Waterford take the turn for Mahon Falls on the N25, if coming from Waterford it’s a right turn a little past Kilmacthomas, from Cork it is a left turn after Lemybrian. Once you get to mahon bridge, take a right and head down that road for about 3 miles, you are looking for a left turn into a parking area at Kilclooney woods. From the car park head trial heads off to the right through woods and then over a stone wall to make the climb to the top .
Slievemore Mt, Achill Island.
Grade: Moderate Time: 3-4 hours.
The minute I drove into Achill I knew I had to hike Slievemore. The mountain dominates the island and stands at 672m above sea level. It offered breathtaking, panoramic views over the entire island. I started the hike close to the pure magic lodge located on Slievemore road, Dugort. From talking to a local farmer there is a much easier and less steep path that starts from the village of Dooagh. But I do love a challenge. The views this way are simply spectacular. If you interested in the history of this area I would suggest picking up a map in the town with the points of interest including the abandoned village known the remnant village from The Great Hunger. When I got to the base of the Mountain I did a loop walk through the small villages of keel and Dooagh. This reminded how exploring for me is always best by foot, people watching, seeing locals , and looking at local architecture. I spent nearly 8 hours walking and hiking. Stopping to take it all in, taking some photos, talking to locals and enjoying the sun. On walks like this its best not be in any rush but to truly enjoy it all.
If I had more time I would have hiked Minaun and Croaghaun. Achill is a hill walking paradise.
Mount Brandon, Dingle, County Kerry.
Grade: Moderate Time: 4-5 hours.
Dingle is one of my favourite places in Ireland without a doubt. The landscape, the coast line, the music, the food. Cited as the “most beautiful place on earth” by the National Geographic and voted amongst the “top 100 destinations in the world” by Tripadvisor Dingle is known worldwide for its beauty, charm and Irish heritage & culture. It’s definitely my happy place. Dingle is approx a five hour drive from Dublin.
Mount Brandon offers dramatic views stretching from Carrauntoohil west to the staggeringly photogenic Blasket Islands and then north to the surreal outline of the Aran Islands. Outside of the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks, Mount Brandon at 925m is the country’s highest peak and in many ways, it is the finest climb. The day we completed the hike was 22 degrees and sunny and we all agreed this was one of the finest views to be found anywhere in Ireland.We parked at Ballybrack carpark. The route all the way to the top is well posted.
Other walks in Dingle include Mount Eagle and the Slea Head Drive. You can with drive cycle or walk the Slea Head Drive. For me I find walking allows you to really take in this peninsula. My favourite parts to walk on this route are around Coomenoole Beach pictured below and the famous Dunquin Pier.
Spinc Trail, Wicklow Mountains.
Grade: Moderate. Time: 3-4 hours.
The Spinc ridge overlooks the spectacular Glendalough Valley with breath taking views not just of the Valley but as you climb high the vista over the Wicklow Uplands opens out around you. We were blown away by the scenery and even got to experience a mini snow blizzard at the top. We finished off the day having food and listening to some tradition Irish music at Johnnies Foxes Pub in the Dublin Mountains. One of Ireland’s oldest and most famous traditional Irish pubs and also famed as the highest pub in the country. We drove home that evening with huge smilies on our faces.
The easiest way to get to Wicklow Mountains is by car and took us approx an hour from Dublin. This walk starts at the Glendalough visitor centre and parking is available at the upper lake carpark.
Mount Leinster, County Carlow.
Grade: Easy- moderate. Time 1-2 hours.
I am very lucky to have such a gorgeous landscape close to where I grew up. If I was to ever to move home I would definitely love to live around the Mt Leinster area. It reminds of the landscape in Kerry and the rest of the west of Ireland. The rugged limestone and browns and purples of the mountain heathers and shrubs.
Getting to Mt Leinster is easy. Once you get to Borris in county Carlow there are plenty of signs for the Mt Leinster scenic Drive route. Once at the carpark I tend to do the walk in front of the car park instead of to the peak as its a better spot to get pictures of the sunset, like the pictures below.
Copper Coast Coastal Trail, County Waterford.
Grade: Easy Time: 1-2 hours.
The Copper Coast in county Waterford embraces the panoramic seascapes, cliffs, bays and coves between Dungarvan and Tramore as well as the villages of Bunmahon, Boatstrand, Dunhill, Annestown and Fenor. The area has a wealth of beautiful yet “undiscovered” secluded coves and beaches. If you are looking for a coastal walk that wont be thronged be people this is the walk for you. I luckily stumbled across this secret beach pictured below one evenings after hiking the coumshinguan hike and was simply blown away. Since returning home and re-discovering places close to where I grew up the Waterford Coast line has blown me away the most as I simple had no idea the beauty of the landscape down there.
This beach is close to the coastal village of Bunmahon which is approx. 30km from Waterford city on the Cork side. Starting at Bunmahon beach car park there is a small road to right hand side of the beach that will bring you to this beach, You can either walk down to the beach or walk along the cliff edges. I would suggest doing both. Both days I was there the sky was so blue and the views over the copper coast were breath taking.
Bray Head Coastal Walk, Wicklow.
Grade: Easy. Duration: 2-3 hours.
To get some of the most stunning views of Bray, look no further than Bray Head. I kept this walk for a day when I knew the sun would be shinning. It was the perfect day for it. It seemed the whole of Dublin thought the same. Just getting parking took forever. When I go for walks I do so to get away from the busyness of the city. So my cousin and I panicked a bit when we seen the conveyor belt of people headed towards the costal walk. Sometimes the most poplar walks are busy for a reason so don’t let the crowds put you off. A simple trick is to just veer off the main path. That’s just what we did. Once you get to to Bray head and start to walk Greystones the large throngs of people start to drop off. Most people walk to Greystones on the coastal walk below. Walking this way not only allows a quitter walk but enables an amazing view of the neighbouring mountains including the Great and Little Sugar Loaf. Instead of walking all the way to Greystones we turned around when the terrain flattened as we felt the best part of the walk was behind us. That gave us plenty of time to sit down and the take the sights in at the spot pictured below. I cant wait to do this walk in the summer evenings after work.
Stairway to Heaven, Cuilcagh Mountain, Cavan .
Grade: Easy to Moderate. Duration: 2-3 hours
This hike has been become a social media phenomenon in its own right since 2016 and I get people asking me about this hike the most. I really enjoyed this walk and the views of mountains, the richly coloured countryside and boardwalk is very picturesque. To be honest its not my favourite walk that I have done in Ireland but definitely worth a trip to tick it off the list.
We parked at the car park at Legnabrocky about 1 km from the road entrance to Marble Arch Caves. This car park can be quite busy and I would suggest doing this walk mid week if you want to avoid the crowds. From Dublin taking the M1 the trip took a little over two and half hours.
Cliffs of Moher, Coastal Walk, Co. Clare.
Grade: Easy Duration: 3 hours.
So the West of Ireland is definitely my favourite part of Ireland without a doubt. I really cannot wait to get over West and do lots of more hikes and walks this summer. I think this walk along the Cliffs of Moher is a walk I would never get sick of doing. Many people when they go the the Cliffs of Moher simply go the visitor centre when actually there is a 20 km coastal cliff walk stretching from Liscannon in the south, along the majestic Cliffs to Doolin in the North taking in breathtaking views of the Aran Islands and Galway Bay. Two years ago I did the walk south of the cliffs on a gorgeous sunny day and I completed the north walk to Doolin on a harrowing winters day and both days I was blown away with the views. I would suggest parking the car at Doolin, walking towards the cliffs and getting a shuttle bus back to the village and enjoy dinner in the town. The walk to Doolin is approx 8km.
Galtee Mountains, Co. Tipperary.
Grade: Difficult. Durations 3-4 hours.
The Galtees Mountains are a mountain range in Munster, located in Ireland’s Golden Vale across Cork and parts of counties Tipperary and Limerick. The day I went we planned to hike the main summit. We ended up getting distracted taking pictures at the Gap of Arherlow and got to the Galtee Mts very late in the afternoon. So instead of following any specific path we drove up the mountains past the main car park and hiked an unmarked path that led us to this amazing lake pictured below. For me these kind of hikes are my favourite. Not sticking to a path, exploring and wandering through the unknown.
And we caught this gorgeous sunset on the way down.
I am always planning hikes and trips away around Ireland so keep an eye out on my instagram for more suggestions.