If you want to fully experience one of the most naturally beautiful places in the world then you must go Hiking in Ireland. The rolling green fields, stone fences, savage cliff coastlines and medieval castles make it one of the most awe inspiring locations for a great hike or country walk. It is one of the greenest place I have hiked in the world, right up there with my home area of the Pacific Northwest and Hiking the Banaue Rice Terraces in the Philippines.
Then you have the Irish themselves who are some of the friendliest people you will ever come across. Everywhere you go, whether a city or small village, you will find a pub filled with welcoming locals, music, dancing and stories of myths and legends. A perfect place to rest your feet and quench your thirst after a day of hiking the Irish hills and valleys.
So where do you hike in Ireland? Well the list is almost endless but to get you started I have created a guide to some of the most scenic hiking spots in Ireland and Northern Ireland. Here you will see some of the best this island has to offer while hitting up a few iconic photographic spots as well.
Best Hiking in Ireland and Other Unique Irish Adventures
1. The Cliffs of Moher
At over 700 feet tall these cliffs are magnificent to view. They are one of the most visited attractions in Ireland and can get busy during peak season. I suggest going early in the morning when they first open. There is a great walk along the cliffs. They do have a small wall barrier but this can be easily hopped over for a full cliff hike experience. Be careful as winds can be very strong when walking too close to the edge. You can literally fill up a whole card of images here.
Look below and see the power of mother nature slamming into the walls. Scenes from great movies like The Princess Bride (Cliffs of Insanity) and Harry Potter and the half blood prince have been filmed here.
Here is a 360 experience for the Cliffs of Moher
Galway is one of the best places to stay as a home base for seeing the Cliffs of Moher. A bustling center with so many pubs to explore when you are not exploring nature.
2. Ballybunion Cliff Walk
South of Galway is a little town called Ballybunion. Along the coast is a great walk along some beautiful beaches and picturesque cliffs. This walk has been used by visitors for the last 100 years. You can also explore a pretty castle and some lovely sand dunes. Most people can easily spend a couple hours here exploring.
3. Clogher Strand Beach
A must see stop when driving around the Dingle peninsula is Clogher Strand. There is a car park here and even on the calmest day, this little cove is spectacular to view. The rocky shore and cliffs are battered by wind and waves up to 26 feet high.
There is a wonderful hike from this cove along the countryside and cliffs to the Pier at Wine Strand. This is some of the best hiking in Ireland. This route takes about 3 hours, but you can make your way back via a road if you do not want as long of a walk. Many movie fans may recognize this area as the Irish countryside that Tom Cruise’s character was from in “Far and Away.”
Dingle is an iconic Irish village worth a stop itself. It has one of the biggest food festivals and also is home to one of the most famous Dolphin’s by the name of Fungie. Locals say this same dolphin has made this it’s home for the last 32 years.
4. Slea Head and Dunmore Head
Easily accessible from Dingle, this is the most western point in Ireland. You can park at Coumeenoole Beach and head up to see Coumeenoole Ogham Stone. This particular Ogham stone is believed to be a place of worship for someone named Erc to the goddess Duibhne(Dovinnias).
It is a bit of a hike up to the stone through fields of sheep and over a small fence, but the views from there are one of a kind. You have a heavenly view of the Blasket Islands to the west and nothing else until North America behind them. To the east you can view Slea Head beach and endless miles of green countryside. Put this one on your hiking in Ireland list.
5. Gap of Dunloe
The Gap of Dunloe is a scenic narrow mountain pass just outside of the popular town of Killarney, Ireland. A popular way to ride through the pass is with a jaunting car or pony guided by locals who live around the gap. You can also find some of the best hiking trails in Ireland here. Many also choose to bike through the area. There are even rock climbing routes in the area for those looking for a more extreme adventure.
The Dunloe gap is about 7 miles long and consists of 11 lakes connected by the river Loe and an old arch bridge called the “Wishing Bridge.” The gap was also a filming area for the movie “The Crying Game.” Killarney is your best bet for a place to stay in this area and is a wonderful town full of pubs, delicious food, live music and amenities. There is also the Killarney National Park to explore and definitely worth a visit when in Killarney. One of the largest parks in Ireland.
6. Bog of Frogs Loop
Dublin is an epicenter in Ireland. Many people just stay in Dublin for pubs, music and food but there is adventure just outside the city along with some great Ireland hiking. Within the town of Howth is a fairytale hike through enchanted forests and up to an amazing lookout. This whole area known as Howth Head was immortalized in James Joyce’s book Ulysses. One of my favorite Howth hikes is Bog of Frogs that winds through an enchanted forest of gnarly trees which locals say is full of fairies. Check out Shane’s Howth Hikes for guided Ireland hiking tours of this area. Need a spot for lunch? Don’t miss the delicious seafood at Octopussy’s Seafood Tapas Restaurant on the Howth waterfront. Coming from the Pacific Northwest, I know seafood and this is good seafood.
Need place to say in Dublin?
7. Dalkey Island
In the town of Dalkey just outside of Dublin you can kayak over to Dalkey Island with Kayaking Dublin. This drops you right into Lord of the Rings-like terrain. The kayak trip over is full of encounters with seals and beautiful coastline. Then you touch down on the island which is covered with rock and a spongy Irish moss. I chose to go barefoot and literally felt like a hobbit exploring the island. If overnight stays were allowed I may not have left.
The island was used by the Vikings as a holding area for slaves they had captured and a base for attacks and defense. This uninhabited island has been used for various purposes for 6000 years. It is now home to goats, seals, rabbits and legends. Want lunch in Dalkey? Look no further than The Dalkey Duck
Looking for more adventure? Zip It Forest Adventures may be what you need. Packed with fun and challenging routes for beginners to advanced. The Red Circuit is an upper body killer!
8. Hellfire Club (Mount Pelier Hill)
One of the most haunted buildings in Ireland wrapped up in witchcraft and satanic rituals. The Hellfire Club had multiple meeting locations around Ireland and some of the most influential and richest men in the country would partake in these gatherings. This old hunting lodge built by William Connolly is on top of Mount Pelier Hill. Locals share stories of debauchery, sacrifices and even the devil himself at this lodge.
The hike up to the lodge is gorgeous with views of Dublin to the North and the Wicklow mountains to the South. The lodge itself sits on an old burial site in which adds to the haunted tales and stories of satanic rituals. You can explore the building and feel the eerie presence of those who may have died at this site. Watch your step as the building can be damp and dark. There is a great company Hilltop Treks that does Ireland Hiking tours and can take you up to this spot and other hiking in Ireland
Watch a story told by Terry from Hilltop Treks about Hellfire Club here.
Looking for something extra to do in this area. How about horseback riding in Dublin overlooking the Wicklow Hills with Killegar Stables? They are a great outfit for beginners to experts and one of Ireland’s longest established riding schools. Take in the fresh Irish air as you trot through the countryside.
Prefer golfing to hiking? Check out this resort just outside of Dublin with golfing at your fingertips? Check out Portmarnock Hotel and Golf Links
9. Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge
Situated in Northern Ireland along the coast is a rope bridge not for the feint of heart. The bridge is 65 feet long and 100 feet above the rocks below. It connects Carrickarede island with the mainland. It is a nice scenic walk down to the bridge, there is a fee to cross it.
On the other side you can explore the old fishing dock and take the stairs to the top of the island. Upon returning across the bridge to your left you can follow the trail to a nice lookout spot for a great photographic view of the bridge and island. This will loop you back to the parking area. Not some of the best hiking in Ireland, but definitely a unique and beautiful area.
Plan to stay in Belfast? Belfast is a prime city to situate yourself when exploring Northern Ireland. You can visit Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, Giant’s Causeway, Dunluce Castle and The Dark Hedges all from Belfast.
10. Giant’s Causeway
One of Northern Ireland’s most visited natural wonders. An area consisting of about 40,000 interlocking basalt columns. This is the by-product of an ancient volcanic eruption and is now a UNESCO site. Legend denotes the columns are the remains of a route built by giants.
To get to the columns you must park above near the Visitors Center. Remember entrance to the Giant’s Causeway is free but use of any of the facilities like the car park requires payment. In slow season you may be able to stop for a drink or snack at the pub and use their parking area or find parking along the road or a wall near the visitors center. It is a bit of a hike down along the coast to get to the columns, but a fairly level road to walk on. Once there, you can spends hours climbing and exploring the area. One the weirdest landscapes next to Cappadocia, Turkey.
Are you a Game of Thrones fan? When you are on your way to the Giant’s Causeway or any other of the Northern Ireland Coastal locations, you can stop by the Dark Hedges. Used in the popular TV series Game of Thrones. The massive and unique trees curve over the road and give an eerie and medieval feel to them. Here is another article about Game of Thrones in Dubrovnik.
11. Dunluce Castle and Cliffs
The medieval Dunluce Castle sits right on the edge of the coastline of Northern Ireland. Something right out of Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings. On all sides of the castle are steep drops which made it an ideal fortification for early Christians and Vikings. There is a cool little bridge connecting to the castle plus a waterway escape to the ocean from under the castle. You can spend a good hour exploring the area and walking through the castle. Plus the area is beautiful for a cycle or a good ole Irish walk along the coast. Read about another Historic Trail here.
12. Glenveagh National Park
Glenveagh National Park is an adventurers paradise. In the county of Donegal in Northwest Ireland lies an oasis of trails, cycling, fishing, vast landscapes and a picturesque castle. In reality this area provides some of the most remote and best hiking in Ireland. Entry to the area is free, but services will be extra.
At almost 40,000 acres, this park provides countless hours of exploring. It consists of most of Derryveagh Mountians, the Poisoned Glen and part of Errigal Mountain. You can rent a bike with www.grassroutes.ie to discover more of the area. Fishing can be done on Lough Veagh from July 15th – September 30th. Contact www.donegalanglingholidays.com to arrange.
Derry, also know as Londonderry is just over the border in Northern Ireland, but provides a good home base for exploring County Donegal. It is a sight to explore by itself as well. It is a walled city with various 17th century architecture to see.
Another option for accommodations is Ireland ‘s Blue Book. They provide access to Irish Country House Hotels, Manor Houses and Castles for a more unique experience.
13. Slieve League Cliffs
Just over 2 hours from Derry, these Irish cliffs are said to be one of the best cliffs is Ireland. Larger and just as spectacular as the Cliffs of Moher. I am talking almost 3 times higher. You get wonderful views of Sligo Mountains and Donegal Bay from the top of the cliffs where the ocean devours the rock below.
If you are feeling like a little extra adventure, head onto One Man’s Pass which connects around to Pilgrim’s Path. This is one of Ireland’s best hiking trails in Ireland and goes along one of Ireland’s most impressive coastlines. The best part is this area is less explored than many other parts of Ireland, at least for now.
Thanks for reading. Another detailed article about an Ultimate Road Trip from Belfast to Derry, Northern Ireland is here. Let me know if you think any new hiking in Ireland adventures should be added. Always looking for a new adventure to try. Here is some of the Best Hikes Near Seattle, my hometown.
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