The best hikes in Ireland showcase all that the country has to offer. That means a whole lot of far-reaching coastal views and rugged, mountainous landscapes - neither of which are in short supply on the Emerald Isle. County Kerry is perhaps best known as being the adventure playground of Ireland - home to the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks, the highest mountain range in the country - but really, you’ll find beautiful walking routes all over the island.
Of course, the best hikes in Ireland are always going to be subjective, but what we’ve looked to do in this list is cover a variety of counties, and give you an idea of what you can expect around Ireland. While you may not be climbing Everest, it's worth remembering that the weather can turn quickly in Ireland, and so you need to be properly prepared for that, with all the appropriate hiking gear and the knowhow to safely navigate even if things get cloudy. Respect nature, and of course, remember that whatever goes up with you should come back down too.
Now, without further ado, here are just some of the very best hikes in Ireland.
1. The Coomloughra Horseshoe (Carrauntoohil), Co. Kerry
Length: Eight miles / 12km.
Starting Point: Hydra Track Car Park, Glencar Road.
County Kerry is the adventure home of Ireland and the Reeks District within that is truly a wonder; home to great surfing, cycling and home to the biggest mountains in the country.
Carrauntoohil is the highest mountain in Ireland, and can be found in the MacGillycuddy's Reeks. From the top of Carrauntoohil you can actually look out over 10 of the 12 highest mountains in Ireland, and the mountain range is also home to some of the finest ridge walks in all of Ireland. Now, the traditional “Devil’s Ladder” route up the mountain is certainly a great hike, but the Coomloughra Horseshoe is something else; a knife-edge ridgeline walk, with high-cliff views which are spectacular throughout.
The iconic circular route covers eight miles, ascends around 1300 metres and will take you over the summits of the three highest mountains in Ireland (and the only three over 1000m in the country) - Carrauntoohil, Beenkeragh and Caher. From the Hydro Road you'll rise to the dramatic Coomloughra bowl, where you can look up at the ridgeline you'll be walking. Most people do the route clockwise to get the hardest climbing done early, meaning you'll hit Beenkeragh, Ireland's second highest mountain, first then Carrauntoohil and then Caher.
You'll get great views of Lough Lochtar and Coomloughra Lough from the top, walk the remarkable Beenkeragh Ridge, and from the top of Carrauntoohil you can look out not only over the other peaks but the whole country - to the waves crashing against the Atlantic Coast.
Being so high, and right next to the coast, the weather is pretty variable on Carrauntoohil and despite the fact this is only an eight-miler, it’s a route not to be underestimated. If you’re after something even bigger though, we’d also highly recommend having a look at the MacGillycuddy's Reeks Ridge Walk, a 26km route which traverses the full range of the Reeks. It's another of the best hikes in Ireland.
Kerry Climbing are the people to go to for mountain guiding in the Reeks (with expert guide Piaras Kelly), and elsewhere in County Kerry, you’ll find the remarkable Dingle peninsula and the Dingle Way, a long-distance, 112-mile long walking trail well worth your attention (if only for Dingle whiskey!).
2. Climb Lugnaquilla, Co. Wicklow
Length: 10 miles / 16km roundtrip
Starting Point: Glenmalure Youth Hostel.
If you’re looking for the best day hikes around Dublin, you can do a lot worse than grabbing the DART (the local railway system) out to the Howth Cliff Walk, where you’re all but guaranteed to see some seals, or taking the DART over to Greystones, where you can connect the stunning Bray Head Cliff Walk with a hike up Bray Head itself and then over to the adorably-named Little Sugarloaf and Great Sugarloaf. Bray Head is a 241m coastal hill which looks down over the picturesque town of Bray and its coastal promenade, then out to Dublin in the distance and back in-land, to the aforementioned Sugarloafs.
This is a really great hike, with rugged, wild views which belie your close proximity to towns and cities, and it’s certainly worthy of your attention.
If you do end up in Bray, don’t leave without grabbing a Guinness at the wonderful Harbour Bar.
You can also head into the Dublin Mountains for day hikes in Dublin, of course. But if you’ve got a car, we’d suggest driving a little further (about 80-90 minutes from Dublin) into the mountains of Wicklow - a county known as a “Ireland’s Garden” for good reason - and hiking up Lugnaquilla. This is Ireland’s highest mountain outside of County Kerry, and on a clear day, from the summit, you can see not only out to the Sugarloaf but to the mountains of Munster in the south west and even out to Snowdon, the highest mountain in Wales.
The hike itself will take you through forest, up the rocky Fraughan Glen, which will get your legs pumping but provide great valley views in return, and then through marshland to the top of Lugnaquilla. If you choose to stay a few nights at the back to basics Glenmalure Youth Hostel, be sure to explore the nearby Glendalough, a well-trafficked but beautiful valley nearby. There are fantastic hikes on the Spinc Cliffs and easily-accessible, dramatic lake views.
3. Cliffs of Moher Cliff Walk, Co. Clare
Length: 8 miles / 13km
Starting Point: Doolin
The Cliffs of Moher might be the most famous cliffs in Ireland, but while a whole lot of people come to visit each year, a significantly smaller percentage actually venture beyond the visitor centre and tackle the full Cliffs of Moher Cliff Walk.
Running from Doolin to Hags Head, near the town of Liscannor, this is one of the most beautiful stretches of the long-distance Wild Atlantic Way route that runs down the west of Ireland. There’s a reason the views are so famous. The 13km route is relatively straightforward and not as physically demanding as a lot of the other trails on this list. As you’re right on the coast for the duration though, the weather can turn quickly, and rain or heavy winds can make the walk feel a bit intense and dangerous - especially if you’re standing at the edge of a 214m cliff.
Look out for Moher Tower on Hags Head and O’Brien’s Tower. There’s a hop-on, hop-off Cliffs of Moher shuttle service which runs from designated car parks, making this walk easy to do in parts (or abandon if the wind gets too much!). The whole thing should take four to five hours.
4. The Causeway Coastal Walk, Co. Antrim
Length: 31 miles
Starting Point: Ballycastle
Running from Ballycastle to Portstewart, the Causeway Coastal Walk is one particularly scenic stretch of the 1000-mile Ulster Way which runs all around Northern Ireland. The walk is usually done in two or three days, but… well, we thought the whole thing could make this list anyway.
This is a hike that’s particularly accessible by public transport almost throughout. From Ballycastle, you'll head to the sea and look out all the way to the Mull of Kintyre in Scotland and to the north, on the white cliffs of Rathlin Island. From Ballintoy you'll head to the scenic Dunseverick Castle and from there, it's to the world famous Giant's Causeway, where 40,000 hexagonal, interlocking basalt columns await. It really is an otherworldly, remarkable place.
This is the real highlight, but the route continues on to Portballintrae, via Bushmills Distillery, and then onto the seaside resort towns of Portrush and Portstewart. Grab an ice cream at Morelli's to reward yourself for the effort.
5. The Glencoaghan Horseshoe Walk (The Twelve Bens of Connemara), Co. Galway
Starting Point: Ben Lettery Youth Hostel
Ireland loves a horseshoe, there’s no doubt, and this is surely one of the most famous in the country and one of the best hikes in Ireland. On the Glencoaghan Horseshoe you’ll find yourself summiting a good few of the 12 Bens of Connemara; including the peaks of Derryclare, Bencorr, Bencollaghduff, Benbreen, Bengower and Benlettery, which range in height from 577m to 711m.
The ascent is steep but the views from the first peak of the day, Derryclare, over several of the mountains you'll climb, is really beautiful. It doesn’t let up from there, either. The peaks are rugged, rocky and close together, which makes for a really dramatic day out in the mountains.
Anti-clockwise is the favoured route here due mainly to the multitude of scree covered slopes, which you'll be descending rather than ascending more often than not if you travel this way. This means you also climb Ben Lettery itself late on, with great views not only back over the route you've just walked, but also over the Ballynahinch Lake below. It’s a great way to end the day.
The hills aren’t huge but put together you’ll rack up about 1500m of ascent, so don’t underestimate it. If the clouds roll in, navigating can be tricky too, so (as is the case for all the routes on this list), you want to stay alert to the weather and be confident in mapping skills.
6. Glengarriff to Adrigole, Co. Cork
Length: 10miles / 16km
Starting Point: Entrance to Glengarriff Nature Reserve.
The Beara Way is a long-distance hiking route in Counties Cork and Kerry which is well waymarked, takes you around the Beara peninsula and is best done over a week, or possibly even a little longer. It'll take you through mountains on the coast and you'll find plenty of historical stops throughout too.
We’re focusing on the best day hikes in Ireland here, so we’ve picked out one section of the Beara Way trail to try. The stretch of the trail from Glengarriff to Adrigole is usually done first, but it’s one of the most beautiful and challenging stretches on the entire trail.
What's great about it is that you get a real sample of the different elements of the route. You'll see forest, walk through the Coomerkane Valley, with rugged cliff, mountain and sea views. You'll visit the highest point of the Beara Way, climb the Sugar Loaf Mountains (different to those in Wicklow), and look out on Bantry Bay, and you’ll get all of this in one four to five hour day hike.
7. The Cushnabinnia Horseshoe (Galtymore), Co. Limerick / Co. Tipperary
Starting Point: Car Park at Clydagh Bridge.
Sitting on the border of Limerick and Tipperary you’ll find Galtymore, another of Ireland’s 900m+ peaks, and the biggest inland mountain in the country. Combine Galtymore with Cush and Galtybeg for the amazingly-titled Cushnabinnia Horseshoe and you’ve got yourself an incredibly scenic, if challenging day in the mountains. If you look up Galtymore then you’ll soon find the most common route up the mountain is via the Black Road, but ask those in the area and they’ll tell you that this misses out the best views of the North Face.
Another horseshoe - we love a ridgeline, and we love a route that takes in multiple peaks - this is a challenging 13km circular which your legs will be telling you is a whole lot more. You'll first hike up the steep peak of Cush, where you get great views of the rest of the route. Next it's Galtybeg which, again, is going to ask a lot of you physically, on a steep hillside. The lookout from the top of Galtybeg is an absolute beauty, though it won't be too long until you're climbing again, to the top of Galtymore and Limerick/Tipperary, where you'll find your summit cross and 360-degree views. This is a tough, rewarding day out.
8. Slieve Donard walking route on Mourne Mountain, Co. Down
Length: 9km (return)
Starting Point: Donard Car Park
Slieve Donard is the highest mountain in Northern Ireland and sits right on the coast above the town of Newcastle in County Down. The mountain stands high above the Mourne Mountains, a range with 12 peaks above 600m.
It’s not the most strenuous walk, and you get a lot of great views for the work you do put in - so it’s a real win, win. From the Donard car park you can get up to the 850m peak and back down again in about four or five hours. You'll pass the Glen River a couple of times, walk the saddle between Slieve Commedagh and Slieve Donard, and then follow the picturesque Mourne Wall, an iconic stone wall which runs from the exposed saddle all the way to the summit. You’ll ultimately look out all the way to the Isle of Man, the Irish Sea and you might even spot some peaks on the UK mainland if you're lucky with the weather.
The Donard car park is south of Belfast, but it’s only around an hour drive, so this is very doable as a day trip from Belfast. Slieve Donard was unfortunately the sight of some huge wildfires in April 2021, which also affected the Glen River Valley and Thomas Mountain.
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