A short guide to the most wonderful walks in a country of unspoiled beauty
The United Kingdom definitely has some outstanding natural beauty to offer, from England to Scotland through to Wales and Ireland, but it is the latter that many would argue is the place to visit for serious walkers and ramblers. These people would have a point as well since Ireland is a country that has some incredible scenery, a great deal of history, and countless trails for people to walk in order to experience all of this beauty first hand. Island really has it all: beautiful coastal walks that demonstrate the brilliance of Mother Nature’s hand, several notable mountains for walkers to claim they have conquered, dingles, hills, canals, and many more wonders for walkers to marvel at. So whether you’re after a casual 7-mile trek through The Brandy pad, a spectacular coastal journey on the Burren Coastal Walk, or are feeling a little more daring with the 110-mile Dingle Way, there’s a walk to suit all levels of experience, ages, and fitness. This list aims to give you a general idea of the best walks that the magnificent country of Ireland has to offer.
The Kerry Way
The Kerry Way is one of Ireland’s longest walking trails, coming with signposts and beautiful views as standard. The length of the Kerry Way and its significance amongst the different walks that Ireland has to offer means that it is extremely popular with hikers and walkers and fairly well-known amongst the rambling crowd. Instead of a linear walk that takes you to a completely different part of the country, The Kerry Way is a loop that takes you around the Iveragh peninsula; it originates and ends in Killarney, a popular destination for tourists in Ireland.
For those hoping to scale the heights of the mountains that Kerry itself has to offer – Kerry is after all home to some of Ireland’s highest peaks – this trail may be a little disappointing since it doesn’t extend to the peaks but rather skirts around the lower edges of the mountains. The shape of the trail is designed with a purpose in mind: to present visitors with a wide array of different scenery so that one essentially gets an idea of the variety offered by the Irish countryside. This is no short walk either: we’re talking between 7 and 9 days of serious rambling with an incredible number of fantastic places to see along the way. You’ll witness the Killarney Lakes, touch on variety of mountains, and even witness the wonderful south coast that offers an almost tropical feel with palm trees.
A great list of bed and breakfast hotels can be found on this Kerry Way website, all with competitive rates and a fine resting experience waiting for you after you come home from a long day’s walk so that you can rest up for the next.
The Dingle Way
The Dingle Way is another trail that extends around a picturesque peninsula and is one that stands out amongst thirty or so others. Tralee is the commencement and completion point of The Dingle Way; this is the capital of Kerry and is itself worthy of exploration if you can spare the time. One can expect some serious variation in this walk, perhaps even more so than when walking the Kerry Way. Slieve Mish has some wonderful foothills to trek, though this scenery will change relatively rapidly, revealing the base of Mt. Brandon and eventually on to views of the Atlantic Ocean.
Archaeologically speaking, The Dingle Way is a trove of excitement since you will get to see some of the finest spectacles Ireland has to offer: ogham and standing stones, beehive huts, and the Gallarus Oratory (for those that are ok with taking a detour which extends the walk by a fair distance) are just a few examples of the wonders waiting for walkers on the Dingle Way.
This is another example of a fairly extensive trek, weighing in at around 8 to 9 whole days providing that you are fit and well at the time of embarking. Families wishing to take on a hiking holiday may wish to consider renting a spacious holiday home for a few nights such as this Dingle holiday home. Those travelling with fewer numbers in their party may be interested in somewhere like O’Flaherty’s B&B.
Situated near the town of Westport, Croagh Patrick is a walk that deviates from the (relatively) steady nature of both the Kerry and the Dingle way. The village of Murrisk is the starting point for the main route, which takes walkers up to the summit of this 2507 foot wonder of nature. It is recommended that those who do not enjoy touristy levels of traffic make their pilgrimage in months other than those of the summer. You will find many embarking upon actual pilgrimages to the chapel that sits on the top of the mountain.
Climbing Croagh Patrick is no easy affair. It is a steep climb (the Gaelic word “Croagh” translates as “Sharp Mountain”) which may take some less experienced walkers by surprise. One can take the edge off by sinking a Guinness at the legendary Campbell’s Pub at the foot of the walk, a building that is hundreds of years old and oozing with the tales of thousands of determined souls which have conquered the peak.
Accommodation when visiting Croagh Patrick is almost a must due to the tiring nature of the climb. It is recommended that you find a convenient hotel to stay at such as Newport House or the Clew Bay Hotel. There’s nothing like coming down from the peak of Croagh Patrick knowing that you don’t have to travel far before you can get some serious rest.
Ireland appears to be jam-packed with these loop-style walks, but Diamond Hill offers such beauty that the shape of the trail will in no way affect your experience in a negative fashion. Beginning at the visitor’s centre at the Connemara National Park, the walk takes you along fully signposted and properly-paved paths through Sruffaunboy Nature Trail and on to Diamond Hill. You have views all around of spectacular sights: the Twelve Bens mountain range, Kylemore Abbey, and the summit of Mweelrea are all fantastic sights that make the journey worthwhile.
Hotels.com has a fine selection of accommodation that can be your base camp for the walk such as the Diamond Hill Country House.
The Grand Canal Way
This particular walk is a refreshing change from those mentioned above. Though the canal itself was closed in 1951, it has been restored and today is home to The Grand Canal Way, a walk that takes people through grassy surroundings, town paths, and tarmacadam canal-side roads. One can fully enjoy the canals as they pass by as well as viewing many lochs and cottages. You will find that the landscape hasn’t been spoiled even by modern agricultural methods and that the many towns and villages along the way provide fantastic respite as well as a various places to stop for refreshments on your journey.
The Grand Canal Hotel Dublin is a fantastic choice when choosing high-quality accommodation that is convenient for your walking needs.