Between the mountain ranges, national parks and the steep cliffs of Ireland's Atlantic coast, there lies a true paradise for hikers. Each region offers rugged experiences that will prove more adventurous than you might initially think as you gaze out over the undulating green hills. These 8 day-hikes will reveal the best of it all as you summit Ireland's highest mountain, walk the most spectacular cliffs on the Atlantic coast—and visit the westernmost point of the European continent.
As it’s Ireland, however, there are a few things you absolutely shouldn't forget, whatever the weather. A raincoat, waterproof trousers and waterproof hikings boots come high on that list as the clouds are known to turn at a moment's notice—even when the sun is shining. Get it right, however, and you'll soon be bathing in a sea of green hills and endless horizons.
Welcome to the west coast of Ireland; the country’s wildest side.
A short but rewarding hike takes you to Diamond Hill in Connemara National Park. As always in Ireland, rain and windproof clothing are an absolute must, as well as a good pair of waterproof hiking boots—even when the sun is shining.
The Lower Diamond Hill Walk starts from the Visitor Center and the Upper Diamond Hill Walk branches off to the summit at its eastern end. To start, follow the Upper Diamond Hill Walk clockwise, as signposted, and be sure to stop and enjoy the beautiful view over Ballinakill Harbor when you reach the small viewing point around half way up.
The last part of the climb leads steeply up to the ridge, from where another spectacular view down to Kylemore Abbey opens up. The peak is well marked by a cairn and offers some wind protection for a short break.
The descent starts on the other side of the summit, where the mountain range of the Twelve Bens extends in front of you. Offering incredibly impressive views, the route levels off a little after some serious steepness early on and winds you gently back to the Visitor Center following the looping paths.
Ashford Castle is impressively enthroned on the shore of Ireland's largest lake: Lough Corrib in the small county of Cong. A tour of the former estates of the famous Guinness family is also highly recommended!
You’ll set off from the parking lot in front of Cong Abbey, a beautiful example of neo-Gothic-Christian architecture, and trek your way through the woods north of Lough Corrib. Here, in addition to a variety of exotic plants that Lord Ardilaun imported from all over the world, you will also discover some small caves along the way before—continuing northwest—you’ll turn left and walk straight to the shore of Lough Corrib. Passing one of Lord Ardilaun's favorite places, this stage will present you with an incredible view over the many small islands of the lake.
After a break on a small beach, the way back takes you over the land of Ashford Castle. After crossing the bridge back towards Cong Abbey, it is worth taking a detour to the small Monk's Fishing House, where the abbey's monks used to have dinner before heading back to the parking lot.
Get recommendations on the best single tracks, peaks, & plenty of other exciting outdoor places.
The unreal landscape of the Burren (Irish: An Bhoireann "stony place") on the Atlantic coast of Ireland can best be explored on foot. Starting and ending point of the hike is the beautiful Fanore Beach.
From here, follow the path through the village and turn right following the National Loop Walk. The path leads through a cattle gate (just be sure to close this after you) and soon you will see the grey limestone of the karst landscape, which marks the Burren. If you wish, make a detour to Stone Fort Caherdooneerish, although the path over the stones is tough to see, so be careful not to stroll too far.
Back on the Loop Walk, shortly before the bend, a fantastic view of the Aran Islands opens up, from which the legendary Aran wool originates. Now the path changes into a narrow trail that leads through an area resembling a primeval forest. At this stage, you’ll be glad to be wearing long pants that’ll protect you from the prickly thorns that litter the path. And while this stage might prove tough, the occasional views of Galway Bay make the road more than worth it, before you turn right after a stone wall.
At this point, you’ll climb uphill to the Gleninagh Pass, where the karst landscape lies directly on the edge of the path. Take the opportunity to explore it a little off the beaten track before following the path down into the valley, passing a farm and uphill again on the right following the gravel path. Up here you will not only find the remains of a Celtic ring-fort but also a wonderful view down into the valley of the Caher River, which leads you downhill back to Fanore.
The Cliffs of Moher—one of Ireland's most famous tourist attractions—descend steeply over 200 meters. While most tourists roam not far from the Visitor Center, hiking along this spectacular stretch of Ireland’s coastline—one of the most beautiful in the country—is certainly something worthwhile.
A public bus to the starting point of this Tour runs several times a day between Doolin and Galway, passing the Cliffs of Moher. Starting at the Visitor Center, you’ll follow the"Cliffs Coastal Walk", a route established in 2013, along the coast to the south until you reach the striking Hag's Head: an old watchtower on a small promontory. From here you have a breathtaking view of the Cliffs of Moher.
Enjoy the view before you walk back to the cliffs, this time past the Visitor Center and further north. Soon you will leave the masses of tourists behind you and hike along the steep Atlantic coast, slightly downhill back to Doolin. And as an extra tip, head out a little later in the day to enjoy the extraordinary light of the setting sun.
If you don't want to walk the stretch between the Visitor Center and Hag's Head twice (although it’s worth the effort), you can take the bus to Liscannor and start from the south.
The Slea Head Drive is a section of the Wild Atlantic Way that leads to the westernmost point of Ireland, Dunmore Head. Although most visitors come by car, a walk along the beautiful coastline of the Dingle Peninsula is more than worthwhile—and we promise you that you’ll be glad you did when you see the sea.
You start at the parking lot of Coumeenoole Beach and follow the Dingle Way above the road to the east. From here you have a great view of the Atlantic Ocean and the coastal road winding along the green hills.
At Fort Dunbeg, an Iron Age Promontory Fort, turn onto the R559 and follow it back to Dunmore Head—just don't miss the 3000-year-old Beehive Huts on the way. Then, as you head back, you can also enjoy a great view towards Coumeenoole Beach and the Blasket Islands, which can only be reached by boat.
Oh, and speaking of boats—in 1982, the Spanish container ship MV Ranga capsized during a storm here off the coast. The wreck remains as a testimony to the forces of nature that reign here on some days.
Climbing Ireland's highest mountain, the Carrauntoohil (1038 m/3405 ft) is a true adventure and should only be attempted in good weather conditions and with sturdy mountaineering boots, rainproof and windproof clothing.
Starting from the car park, you’ll follow the well signposted Loop Way along the river up to the high plateau. There, the path branches off towards the mountain and meanders along a little bumpily between two lakes. At the end of the valley, the most strenuous and exciting part of the Tour awaits you: the Devil's Ladder. Here, the path seemingly comes to an end; it simply goes up steeply until the section becomes narrower and you step out onto the ridge. Now you have to cover a few more meters of altitude in a not so steep gravel field before you reach the summit with its wooden cross—at which point all that’s left is to enjoy the great views over Macgillycuddy's Reeks chain and the lakes of Killarney National Park.
For the way back there are several possibilities: If there’s poor visibility, we recommend descending over the Devil's Ladder (because you can't miss it). If the visibility is a little better, you can turn left first and walk along the slope until you meet the Brother O' Shea's Gully Route. Here, too, a steep climb at the height of the Lough Gouragh awaits you before the trail meets the Loop Walk and leads you back to the parking lot.
The old Irish aristocracy found a truly beautiful spot for their homes when they built Muckross House on the banks of Muckross Lake, now part of Killarney National Park. The hike along the shore of Muckross Lake starts at the parking lot directly on the N71 and leads you through a small forest past grazing pastures to the narrow stretch of land between Lough Leane and Muckross Lake. In the background, the highest mountain range in Ireland rises majestically before the rock falls into the lake.
On this Tour, you’ll circle Muckross Lake before heading up to Torc Mountain on the south side of the lake. The trail does not lead over the summit, but even from a medium altitude, the view over the lakes of the Killarney National Park is fantastic. On the descent, you will pass Torc Waterfalls, a popular destination along the Kerry Way, as well as the stately Muckross House - a museum representing the life of the old aristocracy.
On the way back to the car park, take a quick detour to the old ruins of Muckross Abbey monastery. Particularly mystical in the evening light, we promise you’ll be glad you did.
At Hungry Hill (Irish: Cnoc Daod, 2250 feet/686 meters) an exciting Tour awaits all who visit as you climb over the highest mountain of the Caha Mountains on the Beara Peninsula. It probably owes its metaphorical name to a novel by Daphne du Maurier, written in 1943.
Starting at a cattle gate (which you should of course close behind you), this circular hike follows the well-marked Beara Way for the first meters, before turning north and taking you up a narrow path to Hungry Hill. Here, although the path is not particularly visible, the 40-degree gradient between the rocks can be easily overcome, at which point you’ll traverse a short flat stretch of land and follow a wide strip of grass up the mountain to the foothills of Hungry Hill. From there you’ll already recognize the actual peak, which is marked by a survey point.
The way back leads you down a cobbled path between rough, wild rocks. Just look out for the red markings on the stones; they will show you the easiest way through the grey labyrinth. The two lakes which you’ll pass on your way down are useful orientation points. Once you’re past both, you’ll land out on a small road which leads down to the crossing with Beara Way. Follow the Beara Way back to the cattle gate.
Attention: This Tour should only be undertaken in clear conditions. Path markings can be tough to spot even on clear days, so don’t attempt this route in poor visibility.