5 Bucket List-Worthy Hikes Through Ireland
The best way to explore Ireland is by foot on a hike. Set out on one of these five trails to discover what makes the Emerald Isle a bucket list-worthy destination.
Ireland frequently makes the list as one of the most beautiful countries in the world, but to truly appreciate it, you have to put on a pair of hiking boots, grab a map, and set out on the trail. These five hiking trails rank among some of the world’s most breathtaking routes and deserve a spot on your Emerald Isle bucket list.
1. Wicklow Way
One of Ireland’s most iconic trails, Wicklow Way starts from the parking lot at Marlay House in Marlay Park, just 90 minutes south of Dublin Airport, and continues south to Clonegal, roughly 79 miles (127 km) away. On the trail, you’ll pass mountain lakes, the remains of an early Christian monastery, and forests full of deer and other wildlife. If you’re lucky, you may even spy film crews at work—the area has served as a backdrop for countless movies and TV series, including “Braveheart.”
Most hikers spend eight to ten days completing the entire trail. Pack accordingly and overnight in the villages and small towns along the way. If you’re short on time, pick a section and hike just a portion of the trail.
2. Causeway Coast Way
In Northern Ireland, the Causeway Coast Way heads west from Ballycastle to Portstewart on a 33-mile (53-km) route showcasing some of the area’s best sites. Walk across the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, pay homage to Guglielmo Marconi at the memorial commemorating his first radio transmission test, and take a selfie on the Giant’s Causeway, where more than 40,000 hexagonal-shaped, basalt pillars from a volcanic eruption dot the coastline.
Although it takes two to three days to do the full hike, you only need to be of average fitness, and you can tackle the trail in shorter segments.
3. Dingle Way
The 111-mile Dingle Way loops through the farmlands of southwestern Ireland, along beaches and over the shoulder of Mount Brandon. Start in Tralee, and head clockwise to acclimate to the daily workout before ascending 1,968 feet (600 m) over the mountain. If you have the time and stamina, detour to the beehive-shaped Gallarus Oratory, an early Christian stone church.
You can find accommodations as you go in communities such as Dingle, or plan a day hike from one of them. For day trips, fill a light backpack with the essentials, including water, a first aid kit, and a compass (mobile phone reception is difficult in valleys). Given that it’s nearly always rainy season in Ireland, also pack a dry bag to keep your essentials safe.
4. Cronin’s Yard Loop
On the way to the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks mountain range and Carrauntoohil, Ireland’s highest mountain, Cronin’s Yard offers accommodations to hikers and provides access to two popular loop trails, Cronin’s Yard Loop and the Lisleibane Loop. The former, which is a perfect day hike in Ireland, takes a little over two hours, crosses the Caol and Gaddach rivers, circles Hag’s Lag, and travels through pasturelands dotted with bleating sheep.
5. Hare’s Gap
For a short but strenuous hike in Northern Ireland, challenge yourself with making it to Hare’s Gap. Once used to smuggle contraband like soap, leather, spices, and coffee, this in-and-out trail begins at the parking lot for the Trassey Track and threads its way uphill to the Trassey River before winding over bare rock and through a boulder field.
You’ll be rewarded with calendar-worthy landscapes along the way, and from Hare’s Gap, you can continue to the Diamond Rocks, granite pillars reminiscent of the Giant’s Causeway. Because the going can be rugged, make sure to pack your belongings in a durable weatherproof backpack or water repellent duffel.
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By Teresa Bitler on April 18, 2019
Teresa Bitler is an award-winning travel writer specializing in adventure, culture, and history. Her work has appeared in National Geographic Traveler, American Way, Sherman’s Travel, and many other high-profile outlets. To learn more, visit teresatravelstheworld.com.