The Best Hikes in Ireland: The Kerry Way, The Burren, and 9 More
With well-defined hiking routes that vary from short ambles to long-haul treks, the adventures in the Republic of Ireland are accessible to all abilities. To the west of the country, they ramble the sprawling coastline of the Wild Atlantic Way, whereas the South is legendary for its winding paths up some tall but approachable mountains. You don’t even need to travel far for epic hiking routes—some of Ireland’s most picturesque trails are just outside Dublin, the country’s lively capital. The following list of 11 hiking trails has something for everyone and will get you in the mood to get outdoors and explore Ireland’s stunning landscapes.
Photo: Errigal, County Donegal, Ireland
Easiest day trip hike from Dublin
Dublin’s best-known and beloved trail starts at Bray, a coastal town in County Wicklow 20 km (12 miles) south of the capital, and winds along the water before finishing some 7 km (4 miles) later in Greystones, a charming seaside resort. The path is easygoing, making it suitable for all levels of fitness, and trekkers are accompanied by stunning views of the rippling Irish Sea and shrub-covered cliffs throughout the entire two-hour walk. Keep an eye on the water’s surface below; sightings of dolphins, harbor porpoises, and even basking sharks are not unheard of, especially during the spring and summer.
Best for bird watching
Follow well-defined and signposted paths that loop around the coastline of this north Dublin peninsula. For a gentle amble, take the shorter trail, marked in green, that takes only a couple of hours to complete; for more of a challenge, take paths marked in blue, red, or purple, which can take up to three hours to do. Whichever trail you pick, you’ll be treated to views of craggy cliffs covered in yellow gorse and the chance to watch thousands of noisy guillemots, razorbills, gulls, and gannets in their natural habitat.
Best for mountain climbers
Carrauntoohil, in County Kerry, is the central peak of the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks, Ireland’s highest mountain range. Stretching to 1,039 m (3,409 feet) tall, it’s also the loftiest mountain in the country. Several routes go to the top, but the most direct ascent, up a narrow, rocky gully known as the Devil’s Ladder, takes between five to six hours round-trip. The rough rocks and unpredictable weather mean it’s not for the faint-hearted, yet those who make it the top when visibility is clear are rewarded with breathtaking views of rolling hills dotted with lakes, and they will forever claim boasting rights to having climbed Ireland’s highest peak.
The pilgrimage to the iconic mountain
At 751 m (2,464 feet) tall, Mount Errigal is the highest of a chain of mountains known as the Seven Sisters, which are in the scenic County Donegal in the northwest of the country. While the surrounding peaks are made of granite, Errigal is made of quartzite, giving it a snow-capped look from a distance and a pinkish hue in the setting sun. Considered one of the country's most iconic mountains, it’s a steady two-to-three-hour climb to the top, where an exposed walk takes hikers along a narrow ridge with panoramic views of almost all of Donegal.
For views of Western Europe’s finest corrie
The best-known hike in the Comeragh mountains is a 7.5-km (4.6-mile) walk that loops around Coumshingaun, a lake inside a corrie (a circular hollow formed by glaciers) that’s considered to be one of the best examples in Europe. The trail leads into the surrounding mountains of County Waterford, offering an elevated viewpoint of the sparkling lake and heath-covered slopes below. It’s a surprisingly demanding route for a short trail and requires a strong head for heights—there is a sheer drop along the route that can be particularly hairy in icy or wet conditions.
The walk to Ireland’s "Table-Top" Mountain
Benbulben is a flat-top rock formation in County Sligo and was created by glaciers during the Ice Age. The hike on the north side of the mountain bears the brunt of the high winds and storms coming off the Atlantic Ocean. The south side, however, slopes gently up to the summit providing an 8-km (5-mile) trail that takes a moderate 2.5 hours to go up and back down. In addition to stunning views across the coast and over lush green landscapes, Benbulben is home to a unique collection of plants, some of which aren’t found anywhere else in Ireland.
Best for diverse terrains
The Dingle Peninsula, an area that fiercely protects its Irish language and heritage, juts out from the southwest Atlantic coastline. There are various looped and linear walking routes in Dingle that are suitable for all levels of hikers and the sights cover a variety of landscapes and landmarks. Highlights include flat walks along the cliffs with sweeping sea views, long treks across boglands, ambles on river trails flanked by woodlands and waterfalls, and heritage hikes that pass remnants of medieval sites and structures.
Best test of endurance
Snaking its way over counties Cork and Kerry, this 206-km (128-mile), nine-day path starts and ends in the tiny village of Glengariff. In between, it loops the Beara peninsula and passes cragged mountains, wide heathlands, important archaeological sites, and one of the most scenic coastlines in Ireland, the Wild Atlantic Way. There are several fishing villages and traditional towns along the way for overnight stops. Those who want a less intense trek can dip in at any point and complete a shorter section of the trail, or follow Frommer's' itinerary for the perfect road trip of the region.
Best for unusual landscapes
The Burren in County Clare is legendary for its diversity of landscapes and sites of historical and archaeological importance. While it's best-known for a limestone composition that gives the area its lunar-like appearance, the Burren has seven walking trails that snake through the hay meadows and mature woodlands of the Burren National Park and Slieve Carran National Reserve. Each trail varies between 30 minutes and three hours to complete and they are suitable for all levels of fitness.
Ireland's longest walking trail
Stand on the holiest mountain in Ireland
The 7-km (4.3-mile) trail, which winds up Croagh Patrick, is an important site of pilgrimage in County Mayo. On the last Sunday of July, called Reek Sunday, thousands of people march up the well-trodden paths to the summit in honor of Ireland’s patron saint, St. Patrick. Throughout the rest of the year, the trail is a lot less crowded and enjoyed by those who want to take in the views of the 365 islands scattered across the Clew Bay below. The mountain is considered so holy that even after a seam of gold was discovered inside it in the 1980s, authorities would not permit anyone to mine it. Despite the loose stones that litter the path, it’s a moderate hike, and it takes less than four hours to get up and back.