If you enjoy the outdoors and you like to hike, then you will love Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way. Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way has a fantastic range of hikes on offer. Beyond the Glass Adventure Tours have been running Hiking and Biking Tours on Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way for many years.
In this blog, we describe the various hiking options available. We select our favorite hikes and show you popular hikes. Here we give you some of our favorite day hikes in Ireland: Forest trails, Parks and Gardens, National Parks, and Coastal Routes.
Over billions of years, geological forces have created the underlying bedrock of Ireland. While above ground, Ireland was shaped by the power of ice, ocean, and weather. This has resulted in the dramatic and spectacular landscape Ireland has today. Mo where is this rugged and spectacular landscape more pronunce than on the Wild Atlantic Way—a naturally created playground for you to explore.
Ireland’s forests are magical places to hike. The atmosphere and color of a forest are ever-changing with the seasons. In spring, bluebells and daffodils cover the forest floor, in late summer, blackberries and blueberries bring their bounty to the forest’s edge. In recent years, access to Ireland’s forests has been much improved, as has the development of paths and trails in the forests.
Kilmurry Woods, also known as Warrens Court Woods, is located near the village of Kilmurry about 30 minutes west of Cork city. I regularly visit these woods for a Saturday stroll or for an evening run. There is a car park and a trail map located at both access points to the woods. There is a 30-minute and a 90-minute hiking trail in the woods. Part of the trail runs on an old butter road that was used by local farmers to bring their butter to Cork city. The trees at Kilmurry Woods are a mixture of Oaks, Beech, Douglas Fir, and Noble Spruce.
Tomies Woods lies within the boundary of Killarney National Park. The woods are on the southern slopes of Tommies mountains and they run down to the edge of Lough Leane. Tommies woods are a 20-minute drive from Killarney town. The Woods contain some of Ireland’s oldest Oak woodland. As well as Oak, the woods contain a range of native tree species. There is beautiful scenery and one of the highlights is a wonderful waterfall known as O’Sullivan’s Cascades. There is a 6 km looped hike that takes about 2 hours to complete.
Ireland’s temperate climate allows for an incredible range of trees, shrubs, and flowers to grow in Ireland’s parks and gardens. There are parks and gardens dotted across the country which have wonderful paths and trails. Here is a selection of our favorite parks and gardens to walk in.
Garnish Island, also known as Ilnacullin, is an island garden. It is accessed by a 10-minute boat journey from the village of Glengarriff in West Cork. Over 80 years ago, the Island was a barren landscape, filled with rocks and a few wild plants. It was transformed into the jewel it is today by the owners Annan and Violet Bryce. They, along with renowned gardener Harold Pato and 100 locals, created the gardens. As you hike around the trail in these gardens, you will see beautiful flowers, plants, and trees, a Grecian temple, a clock tower, and a Martello tower.
The flow of the Gulf Stream ocean current keeps Ireland’s climate temperate year-round, particularly the climate of West Cork on the southwest coast of Ireland. Another great garden in West Cork is Glebe Gardens, Glebe gardens border Kenmare Bay on the northern part of the Beara Peninsula. The gardens are managed sustainably and with wildlife management in mind. Trees and shrubs that support the local wildlife, bees, and butterflies are favored here. If you want to visit a garden whose ethos is, let what is wild be wild, then visit Glebe gardens.
Ireland has a network of 6 National Parks. There are a series of hiking and cycling trails in the 6 National Parks. Wicklow National Park is located on the east coast of Ireland. It is easily accessible from Dublin. It encompasses much of the Wicklow mountains. It was established in 1991 to conserve the flora, fauna, and scenery of the Wicklow mountains. In Ireland, it is free to visit our National Parks. There is a car park, a cafe, and a visitor center at each park. There are a series of hiking and cycling trails in the 6 National Parks. By their nature, the parks are located in remote areas; you will need to have navigation skills if you venture off the set paths and trails in the parks.
The five other National Parks are located on the west coast of Ireland. Beyond the Glass Adventure Tours visit all five parks on Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way during our tours. The most northerly park is
The park includes the Derryveagh mountains, Lough Veagh, and Glenveagh castle. There are signposted hikes in the park where you will pass clear lakes, powerful waterfalls, and wild mountains. Moving south from Donegal, the next park is Ballycroy National.
Ballycroy National Park in County Mayo. It is set in the Wild Nephin mountain range, which is said to be Ireland’s only true wilderness. Much of the park is covered in blanket bog, which has a stark beauty. One of Ireland’s two dark sky reserves is located in Ballycroy National Park.
Connemara National Park is located near the village of Letterfrack county Galway. The twelve bens mountain range falls within the park’s boundaries. We love to visit the park to climb the gorgeous Diamond Hill.
The Burren National Park in County Clare, overlaps part of The Burren and Cliffs of Moher UNESCO Global Geopark. The Burren is characterized by its karst landscape and its exposed limestone pavement. It is rich in rare flora and fauna. It has Ash and Hazel Woodland and is dotted with temporary lakes known as turloughs. It has some of the most unique hikes in Ireland.
Killarney National Park is Ireland’s oldest national park. It is made up of the McGillycuddy’s Reeks, the highest mountain range in Ireland, the lakes of Killarney, and Muckross house and gardens. The park has abundant wildlife and is home to Ireland’s main red deer population and the recently reintroduced white tail eagle. Remember, that by their nature, National Parks are located in rem
Ireland’s Coastline Is over 7,500 Km long, so there is an endless choice of sensational hikes. Here are just a few of our favorite Coastal Hikes on Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way.
An accessible hike with spectacular views is Lúb na Cille – Dúnchaon on the Dingle Peninsula. It is a 5 Km looped hike that starts and finishes at the Blasket visitor center. The route is on green roads and through moorland. The hike passes the ruined schoolhouse that was used in the filming of Ryan’s Daughter. Near the schoolhouse is a great location to search for fossils which are embedded in the sandstone rocks of the area.
The Seven Heads peninsula hike is another favorite of ours. The entire length of the Seven Heads Peninsula hike is 42 km. We like to hike a 7 km section, starting in the village of Courtmacsherry. Courtmacsherry is 30-minutes from the town of Kinsale, the southern starting point of the Wild Atlantic Way. This is a linear route that runs alongside the ocean. The hike starts by entering the native Woodlands, it continues onto open farmland, then along quiet country roads to Broad Strand Beach.
During peak season, there could be a few thousand people visiting the Cliffs of Moher at any one time. Most of these visitors will spend their time within a 10-minute walk of the visitor center. To avoid much of the crowds, we recommend that you hike to the visitor center from either the Liscannor end or the Doolin end. There is a hiking route that runs the entire length of the Cliffs. There is no charge to access the path, but there are private car parks at the trail heads that do charge for parking.
A mountain can be defined as a series of high summits connected by high ground. While there are no spectacularly high mountains in Ireland, there are over 30 mountain ranges in Ireland with peaks above 1000 ft. Most of Ireland’s mountains do not have marked paths to their summits. There are some paths that are worn into the mountain. These can be criss-crossed by other routes or animal tracks; they often branch off or fade out altogether.
Some of Ireland’s mountains have fixed paths to their summit. This removes much of the navigational challenges associated with an open mountain hike. Here are two mountains which have paths to their summit:
Diamond Hill is located in Connemara National Park. There are three marked looped walks on the mountain. The red loop takes you to the mountain summit where there are magnificent views across the Connemara landscape and out across Killary Harbour.
Torc Mountain is located in Killarney National Park. There are two car parks from where you can begin the hike. The lower car park near Torc waterfall and the upper car park closer to the trailhead. You begin the hike on the Kerry Way in the direction towards Kenmare. After about 40 minutes there is a turning to the right, this is the path up Torc mountain. After this turn there is a clear path to the summit. At the summit of the Mountain, there are wonderful views across the lakes of Killarney and towards Ireland’s highest mountains the Macgillycuddy’s reeks.
Most of Ireland’s mountains do not have marked paths to their summits. They should only be hiked by experienced hikers with navigation ability. Carrauntoohil is Ireland’s highest mountain. It is 3044 feet high and forms part of the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks mountain range. The MacGillycuddy’s Reeks contain the 3 highest peaks in Ireland. Carrauntoohil, Ben Caoire, and Cahair. The closest towns to Carrauntoohil are Killorglin and Killarney. Connacht’s highest mountain is Mweelrea. Mweelrea is spectacularly located between the Doo Lough valley, Killary fjord, and the Atlantic ocean. Galtymore is Ireland’s highest in-land mountain, it is 919 M and part of the great Galtee Mountain range located on the border of Limerick and Tipperary. We regularly guide hikes on the Galtee mountains. Brandon Mountain is located on the Dingle peninsula in County Kerry. It sweeps down to the ocean as Brandon point and sauce creek.
A waymarked trail is a fixed path or trail that takes more than one day to complete. The trails follow the foothills of mountains, riverways, coastal routes, or a combination of all three. The routes on waymarked trails are signposted and have associated maps. Be aware that the trail markings may not be always visible or they may get damaged by winter weather. The waymarked trail network covers much of Ireland, with over forty waymarked trails across the country. Some of our favorite waymarked trails are in the west of Ireland on the Wild Atlantic Way.
The Kerry Way: The Kerry Way Runs along the Iveragh Peninsula, famously known as the Ring of Kerry. The route is 220 km long and it takes about 9 days to complete. It is a circular route and people generally hike the trail in an anticlockwise direction. The start and end point of the Kerry way is the town of Killarney. The route travels through the villages of Glenbeigh Waterville, Sneem, and Kenmare. There are some steep sections on the route but it does not travel over the high mountains.
The Dingle Way: The Dingle Way is located in County Kerry and runs along the Dingle Peninsula. The 160 km long Way starts and finishes in Tralee. There are some particularly scenic sections on the Dingle Way, particularly on the Slea head part of the walk. The route travels on the foothills of both Slievemish and Brandon mountain range.
The Sheep’s Head Way: The Sheep’s Head Way in West Cork is one of our favorite trails. The entire length of the sheep’s head way is 175 km which takes 6 days to complete, we like the 88 km loop that covers the sheep’s head Peninsula. The sheep’s head is a narrow peninsula that juts westward out into the Atlantic, between Dunmanus bay to its south and Bantry Bay to its north. The trail runs through off the beaten track locations. The trail goes through the villages of Kilcrohane, Ahakista, and Durrus. It passes the ruins of a disused copper mine and a wonderfully located lighthouse at the edge of the Peninsula. I love to hike on the sheep’s head trail. I also use sections of the trail for my small group hiking tours.