7 of the best long distance hikes in Ireland

See the very best of Ireland while getting a great sense of satisfaction to boot.

By Heather Snelgar on 16 November 2016

There’s no better way to explore our beautiful island than by foot. You will be treated to the very best views of parts of the country that we bet you never even knew existed.

There are a huge number of trails, suited to all ranges of fitness and ability scattered all over Ireland. However, those looking for a challenge are especially well-catered for. A long distance hike is a great way to escape the madness of everyday life, taking on an adventure that will leave you with an immense sense of satisfaction.

 1. Ireland’s Coast to Coast

Distance: 595km

Stretching from Marley Park in Dublin all the way to Bray Head on Valencia Island in Co Kerry, this is one of Ireland’s toughest long distance walks. Linking up the Wicklow Way, the South Leinster Way, the Munster Way, the Blackwater Way and the Kerry Way, the majority of the route is along easy-to-navigate forest paths.

The facts: Planning this trip is not too difficult. You will need a map for each of the individual walking routes mentioned above. These are easily attained from the tourist boards. While these are great for planning the overall route (they include details of accommodation etc nearby), we would strongly recommend taking a set of Ordnance Survey maps and a compass with you too.

 2. The Kerry Way

Distance: 215km

If you are looking for incredible scenery, then we cannot recommend the Kerry Way enough. With views across the emerald green fields, out on to the crashing Atlantic ocean, there are few places in the world that can compete.

The facts: Starting and finishing in Killarney the route takes in the entire length of the Iveragh Peninsula. Taking the average punter 7-10 days to complete, you can choose to either camp or spend your nights in the plethora of B&Bs and pubs along the route. Maps of the Kerry Way are available from Failte Ireland. You will also need Ordnance Survey maps 78, 83 and 84.

 3. The Burren Way

Distance: 114km

Winding its way from Lahinch to Corrofin, the Burren Way covers one of Ireland’s most unique landscapes. The glaciated karst that makes the Burren so unique is bare and forms a great contrast to the piercing Atlantic below.

The facts: This trail mainly follows quiet tarmac roads, forest paths and tracks with a couple of lung-busting climbs thrown in for good measure. The walk usually takes about five days. There are good accommodation options the whole way along the route. You will need Ordnance Survey maps 51, 52, 57 and 58.

4. The Ulster Way

Distance: 1,000km

If you want to explore Northern Ireland then there are few better ways than by foot. The Ulster Way covers a whopping 1,000km, taking in the Mourne Mountains, the Antrim coast and the Sperrin Mountains. Safe to say, you can expect a couple of steep climbs along the way.

The facts: This looped route is made up of 658km of ‘quality routes’ which means they are on quiet roads, forest tracks or trail. The remainder of the route are what the website describes as link sections which can often be along busy roads – it is recommended that you opt to take public transport along these sections. The walk usually takes three weeks to complete. Full details are available on the Ulster Way website. 

 5. The Sheep’s Head Way

Distance: 88km

Protruding out into the Atlantic Ocean, the relatively narrow Sheep’s Head peninsula boasts panoramic coastal views, even from its highest point along the Seefin ridge at 300m above sea level.

In addition to the views you will also walk past the remains of an old copper mine, a blow hole, stone circles, standing stones, sheer cliffs, a Napoleonic signal tower and old churches. Down in the sea, you are also likely to spot dolphins, and whales too if you are lucky enough!

The facts: The Sheep’s Head Way follows old tracks and roads around the peninsula from Bantry along the north side of the peninsula to the scenic lighthouse at its head and back along the south side. The colourful villages of Kilcrohane, Ahakista and Durrus en route provide refreshments and accomodation. You will need Ordnance Survey maps 84 and 88.

More details are available on the Sheep’s Head website.

6. The Wicklow Round

Distance: 100km

The Wicklow Round is definitely the most challenging route on this list. With 26 peaks across the Dublin and Wicklow mountains to conquer, there is a staggering 6,000m of ascent involved. It is a self-navigated route, which has become a popular route amongst runners who aim to complete to whole lot in under 24-hours. Those who feel that is slightly beyond their capabilities can opt to take a few days to complete it at a more leisurely pace.

The facts: This route relies on very good navigation and good gear as it is not an easy undertaking. More details on the route are available on the IMRA website. 

 7. Sli an Earagail

Distance: 77km 

Winding its way under Errigal Mountain and out to the coast with views across to Tory Island, this is a beautiful walking route in Co Donegal. The circular route is relatively flat throughout with plenty of opportunities for sea swims along the way. Those in search of even more of a challenge can take on the entire Sli na nGall which covers 280km around west Donegal.

The facts: There are plenty of accommodation options along the route in Falcarragh, Derrybeg, Bunbeg and Gweedore. While it is a waymarked trail it is worth also having Ordnance Survey map number one with you. The route starts and finishes in Dunlewy.

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