Top 10 Wild Atlantic Way walks - a day out for every fitness level!
Get your boots on!
Looking for a great walk on the Wild Atlantic Way? Helen Fairbairn has the perfect book for the hiker's back pocket.
'Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way: A Walking Guide' is published by The Collins Press (collinspress.ie), and here, its author outlines 10 of her favourites.
From golden beaches to thrusting headlands and soaring sea cliffs, it's a selection that makes us want to get the boots on, with photos to match by Gareth McCormack.
1. Ards Peninsula, Co Donegal
This highly enjoyable, easy route explores a pleasant mixture of woodland and coastline at the tip of Donegal's Ards Peninsula. Highlights include a wooden boardwalk through the dunes, and 4km of sandy bays separated by rocky headlands. Terrain is firm throughout, and it all starts and finishes at historic Ards Friary.
Time: 2-3 hours Distance: 7km Difficulty: Easy
2. Tory Island, Co Donegal
Lying 12km off the northwest coast of Donegal, Tory Island is the most remote place to walk in Ireland. Its unique atmosphere and spectacular coastline make it an evocative and intriguing spot to explore. A 35-minute ferry crossing brings you to the island, then a figure-of-eight circuit carries you past the lighthouse to the sheer cliffs and razor-sharp arêtes of the north-east coast.
Time: 3-3½ hours Distance: 11.5km Difficulty: Easy
3. Slieve League, Co Donegal
The hike over Donegal's most majestic sea cliffs is a classic of Irish hillwalking. These are amongst the highest cliffs in Europe, and the scale of the scenery is simply breathtaking. The most popular route to the top is an out-and-back ascent from Bunglass. But beware – 500m of ascent and the sheer drop to ocean mean the trip is not for the fainthearted!
Time: 3½-4½ hours Distance: 10km Difficulty: Hard
4. Erris Head, Co Mayo
This short trip packs a remarkable punch as it makes its way around the northern tip of Mayo's Belmullet Peninsula. The cliff-fringed headland feels wild and remote, and is crowned by a First World War lookout post. A series of marker posts make route-finding a simple affair, but the fabulous Atlantic views are nothing short of extraordinary.
Time: 1½-2 hours Distance: 5km Difficulty: Easy
5. Inishturk, Co Mayo
A picturesque harbour, a modest mountain summit and 130m-high sea cliffs are just some of the highlights of the circumnavigation of this charming Mayo island. The day starts with a 40-minute ferry journey, and continues with the discovery of the Inishturk's finest natural features. The hike fits perfectly into a day-trip, but the welcoming hospitality of the islanders makes it tempting to stay longer.
Time: 3½-4½ hours Distance: 10km Difficulty: Moderate
6. Omey Island, Co Galway
Timing is critical for this walk, because the route starts and finishes by crossing a tidal causeway. Get the tide wrong and you'll be stranded on the island! Once safely across the sand, Omey is all about its history. Millennia of human habitation on this County Galway outpost have left remains including a medieval church, a holy well, and ancient bones protruding from a monastic graveyard.
Time: 2½-3 hours Distance: 8km Difficulty: Easy
7. Cliffs of Moher, Co Clare
This linear path carries you above Ireland's most famous sea cliffs. Almost a million people flock to these County Clare cliffs each year, but most never venture beyond the grounds of the visitor centre. This route lets you explore the full 13km of coastline between Doolin and Hag's Head, enjoying magnificent coastal scenery throughout.
Time: 3½-4½ hours Distance: 13km Difficulty: Easy
8. Mount Eagle, Co Kerry
Ancient ruins, spectacular coastal views and a mountain summit all feature on this highly recommended route at the tip of Kerry's Dingle Peninsula. In fact, it's hard to think of a route that packs more variety into 8km than this one. With clusters of beehive huts on the lower slopes and Great Blasket Island lying just offshore, fond memories are guaranteed.
Time: 3-3½ hours Distance: 8km Difficulty: Moderate
9. Bray Head, Co Kerry
This relatively short, signed circuit visits the most dramatic coastal scenery on the famous Ring of Kerry. Lying at the western tip of Valentia Island, Bray Head is wild and rugged, with a Napeoleonic signal tower that perches precariously above 240m-high cliffs. Fabulous coastal views include the twin pyramids of the Skellig Islands.
Time: 2-2½ hours Distance: 6km Difficulty: Easy
10. Sheep's Head, Co Cork
Wild scenery and a rather primeval atmosphere pervade the tip of this remote peninsula in County Cork. This fully-signed hike lets you explore the final few kilometres of land before the promontory finally concedes to the sea. A cliff-ledge lighthouse and a ridge-top traverse of Ballyroon Mountain are just some of the treats on offer.
Time: 3½-4½ hours Distance: 12.5km Difficulty: Moderate
Want to know more?
For full details of these and twenty other walking routes, see Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way – A Walking Guide by Helen Fairbairn, published by The Collins Press, price €14.99.
For more on the Wild Atlantic Way, see wildatlanticway.com.