Welcome to Part Two of our guides to Ireland’s best walks! Today, we list 25 great summer walks all over the island
Here, you’ll find 25 one-day hikes chosen from the country’s most famous long-distance trails or way-marked ways by guidebook writer Helen Fairbairn.
The routes cover the entire country, and all sorts of terrain from beach to bog, forest to mountain top. But you don’t need to be a seasoned hiker to enjoy them — there are shorter trails for strollers or for families with young children to savour too.
All the routes are fully way-marked and can be tackled in one go, though you might find you want to walk the entire route across a series of weekends.
There are tips on what to pack from binoculars for bird-spotting to togs for a dip along the way, as well as where to download maps – and stop for snacks.
Lace up – it’s time to (safely) rediscover the great outdoors!
Hike: The Royal Canal Way to Castleknock station. This urban trail leads through the very heart of Dublin city, and is the first stage of a 144km, six-day waymarked way. Originally designed to transport goods between Dublin port and the River Shannon, the Royal Canal took 27 years to complete from 1790. Join the wide, paved towpath at the canal’s first lock; you start along the southern bank, though you’ll switch sides several times during your journey. Navigation is spectacularly straightforward; simply follow the signed, waterside path. Along the way you pass 12 locks, numerous bridges, and several unmistakable Dublin landmarks including the bulbous steel stadium of Croke Park. The grand finale is crossing the M50 on a spectacular aqueduct constructed in 1999 – the first aqueduct built in Ireland for almost 200 years.
Start at: Newcomen Bridge, North Strand Road, Dublin.
Finish at: Castleknock train station.
Get there: The easiest access is by train – Newcomen Bridge lies just 500m north of Connolly Station.
Level: Easy – signed, flat footpaths suitable for buggies.
Length / Time: 10km / 2-2½ hours.
Pack: A detailed description of the urban sights passed along the route from tripsavvy.com/the-royal-canal-way-in-dublin-1542418
Refuel at: The Twelfth Lock (the12thlock.ie), just before Castleknock Station, where all-day snacks and bistro meals are served in a canal-side terrace.
Hike: The Grand Canal Way from Adamstown to Sallins. The eastern-most section of the 124km Grand Canal Way, this is a tranquil and straightforward route that can be completed either by foot or by bike. Passing through rural farmland, it combines pastoral surrounds with the historic accoutrements of a 19th-century waterway. From Adamstown station, it’s 1.5km along roads to the official start of the route at Lucan Bridge, along the R120. The path is signed west along the canal’s wooded banks. Colourful barges, an old mill, arched stone bridges, several locks and a renovated lock-keeper’s cottage are just some of the landmarks you pass before arriving in the village of Sallins. Turn left at Sallins bridge to reach the train station 200m later.
Start at: Adamstown train station.
Finish at: Sallins and Naas train station.
Get there: Use Dublin-Kildare train services to link the start and finish points.
Level: Easy — a flat towpath with a combination of paved and grassy surface.
Length / Time: 14km / 3–4 hours.
Pack: A copy of Lenny Antonelli’s East of Ireland Walks on River and Canal, which describes the route in full detail.
Refuel at: Lock 13 Brewpub (lock13.ie), on the water’s edge in Sallins. Their home-brewed craft ale and signature burger are a great combo. Book ahead.
Hike: Bohernabreena Reservoir Loop. As well as providing a pleasant afternoon’s walk, Bohernabreena Reservoir offers an insight into Dublin’s industrial past. Constructed in the 1880s, a series of two reservoirs fill the wooded basin of the Glenasmole Valley. The upper lake supplies drinking water to Rathmines, while the lower, peatier pool once powered the water mills of the Dodder Valley. The walk is signed by orange arrows, and follows the Dublin Mountains Way for most of its distance. Beginning by following the access track south, past the lower reservoir. Climb alongside the remarkable brick spillway that connects the two reservoirs to reach the upper lake. Circle the upper reservoir on woodland tracks and trails before returning north to your start point.
Start and finish at: Bohernabreena Waterworks car park.
Get there: Exit the M50 at junction 12, then follow the R113 and R114 south to Bohernabreena Waterworks.
Level: Easy — signed and largely flat footpaths and tracks.
Length / Time: 8.5km / 2 hours.
Pack: A walking map downloaded from dublinmountains.ie, and wellies so children can splash at the water’s edge.
Refuel at: PeachTree East in Tallaght (peachtreeeast.com), where the brunch menu offers delicious pancakes or a spin on the breakfast bap. Book ahead.
Hike: Tibradden Mountain Trail. Another highlight of the 43km-long Dublin Mountains Way is the trip over Tibradden Mountain. Follow the trail marked by red arrows, zig-zagging uphill from the car park along a gravel path. Climb through stately pine forest, then emerge onto open mountainside. The 467m summit is a fine viewpoint over Dublin city and the Wicklow Mountains, but the real crowning jewel is reached via a wooden boardwalk: a prehistoric tomb and cairn. This is believed to be the burial site of Bródáin, hence the mountain’s Gaelic name Tigh Bródáin, or Bródáin’s House. The path continues across the summit, then ends on the eastern slopes. Turn around wherever you like to begin making your way back to the car park.
Start and Finish at: Tibradden Forest car park — also home to Zipit (zipit.ie)
Get there: Leave the M50 at junction 12, then follow the R113 and R116 towards Glencullen. If in doubt, follow signs for Zipit.
Level: Moderate — signed forest and mountain paths with 180m ascent.
Length / Time: 3km / 1½-2 hours.
Pack: A sense of wild spirituality for appreciating the summit tomb, and an overview map from dublinmountains.ie
Refuel at: Pre-order a pizza picnic or toastie to picnic with at the Hazel House (the-hazel-house.ie) in Tibradden, a craft shop and woodwork school.
Hike: Fairy Castle from Glencullen. Most walkers visit the 536m summit of Fairy Castle on a loop walk from Ticknock Forest. For something a bit different, try this out-and-back approach from Glencullen. It follows the Dublin Mountains Way, and is signed throughout. From the mountain bike park at the start, climb into forest, then follow a series of forest trails to reach the lofty shoulder of Three Rock Mountain. This is marked by several communication masts, and incredible views over Dublin city. Turn sharp left here, and continue climbing to the huge hilltop cairn of Fairy Castle. The cairn is a megalithic passage tomb, and a superlative vantage point that boasts a fabulous 360° panorama. To return to the start, simply reverse your outward route.
Start and Finish at: The car park for Glencullen Adventure Park, aka The Gap.
Get there: The Gap is located beside the R116 in Glencullen, County Dublin
Level: Moderate — signed paths and forest tracks with 250m ascent.
Length / Time: 8km / 2½-3 hours.
Pack: A camera for the fabulous views, plus a copy of the Section 1 map downloaded from dublinmountains.ie
Refuel at: The Gap Kitchen (thegap.ie), on Ballybrack Road, where hungry walkers and bikers tuck into burgers of every persuasion, and there are picnic tables set up outside in line with social distancing.
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Hike: The Barnavave Loop, in Carlingford, Co Louth. A varied circuit across open hillside and pine forest, this hike features fabulous views of coast and mountain. It makes a loop from the medieval village of Carlingford, tracing the route of the 40km Tain Way for much of its distance. Follow the red arrows out of the village, and into the forest plantation that cloaks the hillside to the north. Then double back along the upper edge of the trees, and climbs over open hillside on the rugged southeastern flank of Slieve Foye. Your reward is the 350m summit of Barnavave, which provides incredible views over Carlingford Lough to the Mourne Mountains. Descend southeast, then follow country roads back into Carlingford.
Start and Finish at: Carlingford tourist office.
Get there: Coming from Dublin, exit the M1 at junction 18, then follow the R173 to Carlingford.
Level: Moderate — signed forest tracks and mountain paths, with 400m ascent.
Length / Time: 14km / 3½-4 hours.
Pack: A budding interest in medieval buildings, plus a downloaded route map — search for ‘Slieve Foye Walks’ on visitlouth.ie
Refuel at: Ruby Ellen’s Tea Rooms in Carlingford (rubyellens.com), where sumptuous lunches are just the warm-up for decadent desserts.
Hike: The Giant’s Grave Loop, in Cadamstown, Offaly. One of several short circuits along the three-day Slieve Bloom Way, this walk crosses a mixture of river bank, forest track and open farmland, with an archaeological site thrown in for good measure. From the trailhead, follow the red arrows east along the road for 1km, then use an old laneway to reach grassy pastures ahead. Another stretch of country lane brings you to the Giant’s Grave, a megalithic tomb said to be the resting place of the warrior Bladhma, after whom the Slieve Blooms are named. Woodland paths and forest tracks carry you over Spink Mountain, then a final, delightful stretch along the bank of Silver River carries you back to the start.
Start and Finish at: Cadamstown trailhead, beside Dempsy’s pub.
Get there: Cadamstown is located along the R241, around 20km southwest of Tullamore.
Level: Moderate — signed paths, tracks and old laneways.
Length / Time: 11km / 2½-3 hours.
Pack: A map and route notes downloaded from slievebloom.ie, plus your social side if you want to join one of the regular guided walks.
Refuel at: Nearby Kinnity Castle (kinnittycastlehotel.com). Treat yourself to a post-hike meal in 13th-century splendour (book ahead) or try their ‘Antisocial Cafe’.
Hike: Djouce Mountain and War Hill, Wicklow. This route is a perfect taster for the wilder stretches of the six-day Wicklow Way. You follow the signs, paths and boardwalk of the long-distance trail for the first half the circuit, climbing 630m White Hill, then continuing across the eastern slopes of Djouce Mountain. Then strike west over unmarked ground, following the nascent Dargle River through wild Glensoulan. Climb War Hill, the loop southeast toward Djouce. Pass the Coffin Stone on your way to the 725m summit, whose trig point is set atop a rock outcrop. You are now at the very heart of the Wicklow Mountains, with fabulous views extending in every direction. Descend south to rejoin the Wicklow Way, which carries you back to the car park.
Start and Finish at: Lough Tay car park.
Get there: The car park is located along the R759 (grid ref: O169,075), and can be accessed via either the Sally Gap, or the R755 Kilmacanoge-Roundwood road.
Level: Difficult — a hill walk over open mountainside with 660m ascent.
Length / Time: 14km / 4½-5½ hours.
Pack: All your mountain safety gear, a full route description from Helen Fairbairn’s Dublin and Wicklow: A Walking Guide, and OSi 1:50,000 map 56.
Refuel at: Byrne & Woods Bar & Restaurant in Roundwood (byrneandwoods.com), for award-winning Irish pub grub. Book ahead.
Hike: St Kevin’s Way, Co Wicklow. This pilgrim path follows the ancient footsteps of St Kevin, who crossed the Wicklow mountains in late AD 500, before dedicating his life to spiritual contemplation in the lonely valley of Glendalough. After Kevin’s death, a monastery grew up in his honour, and this route traces the journey medieval pilgrims made to the site. The scenery is spectacular from the outset. Begin by heading southeast on a signed path. Skirt the edge of a forestry plantation, with ancient flagstones of the pilgrim trail still visible underfoot. After a short road section you pass a 19th-century lead mine, and begin to descend along the banks of the Glendasan River. A gravel track carries you to Glendalough’s monastic city, which is well worth exploring before finishing your day at the adjacent visitor centre.
Start at: Turlough Hill car park, Wicklow Gap.
Finish at: Glendalough Visitor Centre.
Get there: The Wicklow Gap lies along the R756 between Laragh and Hollywood; park 50m along the road to Turlough Hill.
Level: Easy to moderate — signed mountain paths and tracks that lead downhill all the way.
Length / Time: 7.5km / 1½-2 hours.
Pack: Your inner hermit for replicating the spirit of St Kevin, and a trail map downloaded from irishtrails.ie
Refuel at: Glendalough Hotel (glendaloughhotel.com), beside the monastic city. Book ahead and choose between The Barn for pizza and sambos, or bar food, or go for the full spread at the Glendasan River Restaurant.
Hike: The Barrow Way from Goresbridge to Graiguenamanagh, Co Carlow. One of the best sections of the 120km-long Barrow Way, this waterside path follows the twisting River Barrow through a verdant valley. This is Ireland’s second longest river, and in the late 18th century was made into a navigation, with locks that bypass every rapid and weir. This allowed commercial goods to be transported by barge from Waterford to Dublin and the River Shannon. The walk begins along the eastern bank, with natural river interspersed by regular canal locks. It’s a peaceful journey, surrounded by birds, flowers and trees. As you near Graiguenamanagh the valley grows steeper, with forested walls climbing on either side. A wonderful slice of nature.
Start at: Goresbridge.
Finish at: Graiguenamanagh.
Get there: Goresbridge lies along the R702, while Graiguenamanagh is on the R703, both southeast of Kilkenny. Kilbride Coaches connect the two villages and offer an easy way back to the start.
Level: Easy — a signed route along a flat, grassy towpath.
Length / Time: 14.5km / 3-4 hours.
Pack: A pocket nature book for identifying flora and fauna, and swimming togs for dips along the way.
Refuel at: Waterside Café and Restaurant in Graiguenamanagh (watersideguesthouse.com), set in a 19th-century corn store right on the banks of the Barrow. They also offer B&B for overnighters.
Hike: The Black Head Loop, Co Clare. The Burren is renowned for its unique geology, and the bare, terraced hills around Black Head are classic examples of the region. This circuit provides great coastal views, and close encounters with the 340 million-year-old limestone pavement. You follow purple arrows throughout, and join the Burren Way for a stretch too. Begin by heading north along the R477 for 1km, then turn right onto an old green road. Pass around Black Head, then climb over Gleninagh Pass on mountain paths. A series of tracks and trails bring you to a tarmac road in the Caher Valley, where you turn right and descend back to the R477. Now turn left to return to Fanore Beach car park 700m later.
Start and Finish at: Fanore Beach Car Park.
Get there: Fanore is located along the R477 coast road between Doolin and Ballyvaughan.
Level: Moderate — signed paths, tracks and laneways with 350m ascent.
Length / Time: 15km / 4-5 hours.
Pack: A pocket wildflower guide for identifying the unique flora, and a map downloaded from irishtrails.ie
Refuel at: O’Donohue’s Pub in Fanore. You can’t miss this bright blue pub just south of Fanore beach, which is renowned for its seafood and trad music. Check for updates on opening hours.
Hike: The Magheree Peninsula, in Co Kerry. Jutting north into Tralee Bay, Magharee is Ireland’s largest tombolo — a sandy ridge that connects a former island to the mainland. Sand is a major theme here; during 15km of walking, 11km is spent on beaches. The final strand, Magherabeg Beach, is also the longest in Ireland. Most of the route follows the long-distance Dingle Way, though waymarking posts can be sporadic. From Castlegregory the route circumnavigates the headland, heading up the east coast then back along the west. One of the highlights is visiting Kilshannig, a charming hamlet at the north-eastern tip of the peninsula. The circuit can also be shortened by 5km by starting and finishing at Sandy Bay.
Start and Finish at: Castlegregory Beach car park.
Get there: Castlegregory is usually approached via the R560. The car park is located at the end of a road signed for the local GAA club.
Level: Easy to moderate – flat beaches and country lane.
Length / Time: 15km / 4-5 hours.
Pack: Your swimsuit if the weather’s good, and a full route description from Helen Fairbairn’s Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way: A Walking Guide.
Refuel at: Spillane’s Bar, at the northern end of Magherabeg Beach (spillanesbar.com). Currently serving takeaway only – so enjoy a picnic of fresh mussels by the sea.
Hike: Derrynane Mass Path, near Caherdaniel, Kerry. A fine walk with a distinctly historic theme, this route starts at the ancestral home of Daniel O’Connell, the ‘Great Liberator’ who campaigned against anti-Catholic laws in the 19th century. It’s a scenic route too; the stunning coastline combines with a mountainous interior to create some extraordinarily pretty scenes. From the car park, head west around the beaches of Derrynane Bay. If the tide is low, you can visit the remains of a 1,300-year-old monastery on Abbey Island. The stone steps of an old mass path lead over a rugged hill before the route climbs inland. Join the famous Kerry Way walking trail for a stretch through woodland, then divert back to your starting point at Derrynane House.
Start and Finish at: Derrynane House car park.
Get there: Take the N70 to the village of Caherdaniel, then follow the signs for Derrynane House.
Level: Moderate — a signed route across beaches and laneways, with 180m ascent.
Length / Time: 6.5km / 2-3 hours.
Pack: €5 to visit Derrynane House (re-opens July 20), and a route map found by searching online for ‘Discover Ireland Derrynane Mass Path’.
Refuel at: Ahamore Tearooms in the grounds of Derrynane House (derrynanehouse.ie; cafe now re-open). Enjoy homemade scones in the subtropical gardens.
Hike: Dursey Island Loop, at the tip of Cork’s Beara Peninsula. This is one of Ireland’s most memorable walks, thanks to how you access it. To cross the narrow channel separating Dursey from the mainland, you must climb aboard the country’s only cable car. A tiny cabin that carries just six people across the 250m channel, it’s a unique introduction to an atmospheric island. The walk around the island is equally impressive. The entire route is signed as an off-shoot of the 206km Beara Way. You begin by following the island’s only laneway to its western end, then climb over the hilltops on your return. Historic landmarks include an old monastery and a Napoleonic signal tower, while stunning coastal views are standard throughout.
Start and Finish at: Dursey Island cable car station.
Get there: The cable car is located at the end of the road at the southern tip of the Beara Peninsula. See durseyisland.ie for the cable car timetable.
Level: Moderate — signed country lanes and mountain footpaths, with 300m ascent.
Length / Time: 12km / 3½-4½ hours.
Pack: €10 and plenty of courage for the cable car, and a route map from irishtrails.ie
Refuel at: Book O’Neill’s Bar and Restaurant (oneillsbeara.ie). Enjoy hearty food at bright-red landmark pub in Allihies.
Hike: The Poet’s Way Loop, on the Sheep’s Head Peninsula, Cork. Exploring the very tip of Sheep’s Head, this is one of 25 short hikes that complement the six-day Sheep’s Head Way. As well as visiting the lighthouse at the end of the peninsula, it extends east along both flanks of the headland, giving a fantastic impression of the wildest and most remote headland in southwest Ireland. Begin by following red arrows, past lovely Lough Akeen, to reach the lighthouse. Traverse the wild north coast of the headland, before climbing across the spine of the peninsula to its southern side. The route finishes with an enjoyable traverse of 239m Ballyroon Mountain before bringing you back to your start point.
Start and Finish at: Tooreen car park at the tip of Sheep’s Head.
Get there: Follow the road along the southern side of Sheep’s Head, through Kilcrohane village, to the car park at the end of the peninsula.
Level: Moderate — signed but sometimes rough footpaths with 320m ascent.
Length / Time: 12.5km / 3½-4½ hours.
Pack: Boots for the rough terrain, and more route details from Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way: A Walking Guide by Helen Fairbairn.
Refuel at: Bernie’s Cupán Tae café (027 67878) in Tooreen car park serves nosh in this wild spot. Phone ahead for up-to-date opening hours.
Hike: Lough Easkey Loop, Co Sligo. Lough Easkey lies in the heart of the Ox Mountains, a pretty and tranquil lake surrounded by rugged hills. The terrain is boggy — indeed the area’s blanket bog is protected as a special area of conservation in recognition of its flora and fauna. Walkers need to be prepared for soft ground, though you’re more than recompensed by the beautiful scenery overhead. From the car park, follow purple arrows onto a sandy track that runs around the northern edge of the lake. Cross a bridge over the Easkey River, then make an anti-clockwise circumnavigation around the lake. On the southern shore you join the Sligo Way, which leads to the road. A final 1.5km along the tarmac brings you back to the car park.
Start and Finish at: Lough Easkey car park.
Get there: Lough Easkey is located between Dromore West and Tobbercurry in Sligo’s Ox Mountains.
Level: Moderate — signed but sometimes rough lakeside paths and country roads.
Length / Time: 6km / 1½-2 hours.
Pack: Waterproof boots and gaiters to battle the bog, plus a route map downloaded from irishtrails.ie
Refuel at: Pop into the new Pudding Row, the Grocer (puddingrow.ie), in Easkey village, for takeaway goodies and picnic at the local sea pool, An Pol Gorm.
Hike: The Letterkeen Loop, near Newport, Co Mayo. If you were to seek the point furthest away from any public road in Ireland, you’d end up in the middle of Mayo’s Wild Nephin Ballycroy National Park. It’s a wonderfully untamed wilderness dominated by mountain and blanket bog. At the park’s eastern edge, a series of signed loop walks invite you to explore the landscape, and offer a taste of the area’s two long-distance hikes, the Bangor Trail and Western Way. From the trailhead, begin by following purple arrows between river and forest. The terrain is sometimes boggy as you continue over several hummocks and climb 311m Correen Beg. Enjoy fabulous long-distance views before descending back into the trees, and following an easy track back to the start.
Start and Finish at: Brogan Carroll Bothy, Letterkeen.
Get there: Head along the N59 to Newport, then follow signs for Lough Furnace and the Western Way.
Level: Moderate to difficult — signed but rough mountain trails with 310m ascent.
Length / Time: 12km / 3-4 hours.
Pack: Good boots to keep your feet dry, and a map downloaded from mayowalks.ie
Refuel at: Eat in or outside at picnic tables at Kelly’s Kitchen in Newport (kellyskitchen.ie). This family cafe has a wide menu – but don’t miss their own-brand sausages and black pudding.
Hike: Knockranny Woods, Roscommon. A stretch of mixed woodland on the shore of Lough Meelagh, Knockranny is a favourite recreation spot for locals. There’s a short loop walk through the trees, and the forest is intersected by the 118km-long Miner’s Way and Historical Trail. The best option is to follow the purple loop to the shore, then join the Miner’s Way and continue west along the water’s edge. After 2km or so, turn around and retrace your steps back to the purple loop, and complete the southern half of this back to the car park. Lough Meelagh is famous for its crannógs, which date from early Christian times, and St Ronan and St Lasair are said to be buried on Orchard Island. Add a Neolithic court tomb, a floating jetty and picnic benches, and the attractions for walkers and families are clear.
Start and Finish at: Car park at Knockranny Woods.
Get there: From Carrick-on-Shannon, follow the R280 and R284 north to Keadew. The forest is signed to the left just past the village.
Length / Time: 5km /1½-2 hours.
Pack: A forest map from coillte.ie/site/knockranny, and a tree-spotter’s instinct to identify the varied species in the woods.
Refuel at: Jinny’s Bakery and Tearooms in Drumshanbo (jinnys.ie) for brunch or lunch; Kilronan Castle (kilronancastle.ie) at Castletenison Demesne for the full spread.
Hike: The Western Way from Lough Inagh to Leenane, Co Galway. The entire Western Way is a marathon trail that stretches for over 200km. There are many scenic stretches, but this section in north Connemara is one of the best. Almost entirely off-road, it passes between the Twelve Bens and the Maumturks, two of Ireland’s most dramatic mountain ranges. Start in the townland of Illion, where the route leaves a tarmac road. Follow a stone track northwest along the Inagh Valley, passing around the open base of the Maumturks. The next 5km are spent along the tracks of a forestry plantation. The final section is the most beautiful, as you contour high above Killary Harbour — Ireland’s only fjord — before descending to the waterside village of Leenane.
Start at: Illion, Lough Inagh.
Finish at: Leenane.
Get there: Lough Inagh is located along the R344 Recess to Leenane road, while Leenane is on the N59.
Level: Moderate — signed paths and tracks with 180m ascent.
Length / Time: 15km / 4-5 hours.
Pack: Hearty snacks and OSi 1:50,000 sheet 37, or trail maps downloaded from irishtrails.ie
Refuel at: Blackberry Restaurant in Leenane (blackberryrestaurant.ie). Perfectly located at the end of the walk, this is a great spot for lunch or dinner, with local seafood a speciality. Book ahead.
Hike: The Gorumna Loop, Co Galway. Part of a maze of islets along the southern coast of Connemara, just reaching Gorumna Island is an adventure in itself. You’ll need to hop across bridges between two intermediate islands before arriving on Gorumna itself. Once here, it doesn’t take long to appreciate the unusual topography, with granite pavement and massive glacial erratic boulders visible across much of the island. This anti-clockwise circuit forms part of the long-distance Slí Chonamara, and is marked by blue arrows. Inland sections follow quiet roads and green lanes, while the coastal stretches follow shore-side paths. There are fine views to the Aran Islands, and you pass three small quays as well as the ruins of a medieval stone church at Trá Bhán, on the edge of Greatman’s Bay.
Start and Finish at: Tír an Fhia crossroads (grid ref: L 892,231)
Get there: Gorumna is reached via the R374, and can be accessed from either Spiddal or Maam Cross.
Level: Easy to moderate – signed coastal paths and quiet country lanes with 70m ascent.
Length / Time: 8km / 2-2½ hours
Pack: Your island-hopping spirit, plus a route map downloaded from Irishtrails.ie
Refuel at: The Courtyard Cafe (091 506 037) in Costelloe, on the R347 back towards Spiddal, serves up a great plate of fish and chips, or the full Irish, perfect for the post-hike pick-me-up.
Hike: Glencolmcille Circuit, Co Donegal. Glencolmcille is a place of unique character and other-worldly atmosphere, set amidst some of the country’s wildest coastline. There are several signed walks in the village, but the best option is to combine two routes to reach the deserted village of Port. Begin by following the blue arrows of the Tower Loop, passing several neolithic and early Christian monuments. Then climb a track to reach the imposing Napoleonic watchtower at the top of 200m Glen Head. From here, follow the coast north, past the striking arête of Sturrall to the beautiful and poignant lost village of Port. Now turn around and follow a bog track — signed as part of the long-distance Bealach na Gaeltachta — over Beefan and Garveross Mountain and back to the start.
Start and Finish at: St Columba’s Church, Glencolmcille.
Get there: Glencolmcille is located 24km west of Killybegs, along the R263.
Level: Moderate to difficult — largely signed laneways, tracks and open hillside, with 500m ascent.
Length / Time: 13km / 4-5 hours.
Pack: Food for an unforgettable picnic at Port, plus full route details from Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way: A Walking Guide by Helen Fairbairn.
Refuel at: An Chistin @ Cook’s Pantry in Glencolmcille. Enjoy great pizzas and the friendly vibe in the best café/restaurant in the village.
Hike: The Antrim Hills Way from Shane’s Hill to Glenarm, in Co Antrim. Following the best section of the Antrim Hills Way, this is the most rewarding upland walk in the area. It begins with an ascent of Agnew’s Hill (474m), then heads north across a series of summits between 300m and 400m high. The most striking formation you pass is Sallagh Braes, a basalt amphitheatre defined by vertical cliffs some 2km long and 100m high. The terrain is firm underfoot, and there are fine coastal views throughout. If you have two vehicles, you can avoid the final 3km of tarmac into Glenarm village. If not, use a local taxi or the Glenarm-Larne and Larne-Ballymena bus services to get back to the start.
Start at: Ballyboley Forest, Shane’s Hill.
Finish at: Glenarm.
Get there: Ballyboley Forest car park is located along the A36 at grid ref: J 314,992. Glenarm is reached via the A2 Larne-Carnlough road.
Level: Moderate to difficult — signed mountain paths with a 480m ascent.
Length / Time: 21km / 5-6 hours.
Pack: Your inner geographer for appreciating the mountains’ glacial heritage, and a full route description from Helen Fairbairn’s Northern Ireland: A Walking Guide.
Refuel at: The Londonderry Arms in Carnlough (londonderryarmshotel.com; re-opens July 17, booking advised). Revive at this 19th-century hotel just 4km north of Glenarm.
Hike: Sliabh Beagh Circuit, Co Monaghan. Reaching 380m high, Sliabh Beagh lies at the intersection of three counties and straddles the border between the Republic and Northern Ireland. It’s known for its remote moorland and vast tracts of blanket bog. The first half of this circuit follows the signed Sliabh Beagh Way, but the second, mountain section should be reserved for experienced hillwalkers with reliable navigation skills. From the car park, follow the Sliabh Beagh Way west for 3km to the edge of a forestry plantation. From here, the route is best suited to experienced hikers. Strike northwest across open ground, passing Shane Barnagh’s Lough to reach the unmarked summit of Doocarn. Enjoy the big views, then return to the start by heading east past an aerial, Loughanalbanagh and dry Lough Galluane.
Start and Finish at: Sliabh Beagh car park.
Get there: The car park lies on the southeastern side of Sliabh Beagh at grid ref: H 563,431. It’s accessed via a maze of lanes from the R186 Clogher-Monaghan road.
Level: Difficult — signed trails and open moorland with 230m ascent.
Length / Time: 11km / 3½-4½ hours.
Pack: Compass, boots and all your mountain gear, plus navigation knowledge and OSNI 1:50,000 sheet 18.
Refuel at: Sliabh Beagh Hotel, 4km away (sliabh-beaghhotel.ie; Fri & Sat only, booking required). Weekend bar food is a local favourite.
Hike: Slieve Gullion Loop, Co Armagh. Slieve Gullion is a mountain of many accolades. At 573m it’s the highest point in Armagh, and also the centre point of an extinct volcano. There are archaeological wonders here too — the mountain’s southern summit holds the highest neolithic passage tomb in Ireland, while the northern summit is home to a Bronze Age cairn. Long-distance walkers explore the area on the 58km Ring of Gullion Way, while this shorter circuit is a great option for day hikers. Begin by heading around the mountain’s southern slopes on forest tracks, then divert onto a mountain path that traverses the twin summits. Finish by following a series of country roads past Killevy Old Church and back to the start.
Start and Finish at: Slieve Gullion Courtyard Centre in Slieve Gullion Forest Park.
Get there: From Newry, take the B113 to Meigh, then follow signs for Slieve Gullion Forest Park.
Level: Moderate to difficult — signed country roads, forest tracks and mountain paths, with 500m ascent.
Length / Time: 12.5km / 3½-4½ hours.
Pack: More route details and a map found by searching for Slieve Gullion on walkni.com
Refuel at: Synge & Byrne café (syngeandbyrne.com), in Slieve Gullion Courtyard Centre. Fantastic nosh.
Hike: Ballyhornan Coastal Path, Co Down. This scenic walk explores the wild coastline south of Ballyhornan village. On its way it crosses sandy beaches, rocky foreshore and grassy banks, with 2.5km of tarmac at the end of the route. The entire walk is part of the long-distance Lecale Way, so it’s fully signed throughout. Despite the linear format, two vehicles aren’t necessary if you use Ulsterbus service 16A to get back to the start. From the wide sands of Ballyhornan Beach, head south past Gun’s Island. Pass a ruined coastguard station and several small coves before climbing to the top of grassy cliffs. The coastal section ends at St Patrick’s Well, where you turn inland and follow minor roads to Ardglass village.
Start at: Ballyhornan Beach car park.
Finish at: Ardglass.
Get there: Ballyhornan and Ardglass both lie along the A2 Clough-Strangford road.
Level: Easy to moderate — signed coastal paths and country roads.
Length / Time: 7km / 2-2½ hours.
Pack: Sun cream for the optimists and decent footwear for negotiating the sometimes rugged terrain.
Refuel at: Watersedge Coffee Shop (@waters-edgeglenarm), in Ardglass. Pick up a tasty lunch and home-baked treats to takeaway.
“One of my favourite walks in Ireland is a circuit, and so it can be begun at many points, but let’s say you start out in Dalkey village, a lovely place in itself, with a coffee from Mugs, Thyme Out or the Country Bake, maybe a delicious sandwich in your pocket from The Grapevine or a book from that truly wonderful bookshop, The Gutter.