7 of the best walks in Ireland

For a small island, Ireland isn’t short on walking options. As well as burning some calories, it’s a great way to explore hidden parts of the country. All you need is a sturdy pair of shoes, a rain jacket and of course, some snacks. Here are some of my favourite walks in Ireland.

Lower Lake in Glendalough at dawn, County Wicklow, Ireland

1. Glendalough Lake Walk, County Wicklow

Difficulty: Easy
Just an hour from Dublin, Glendalough is a 6th century monastic settlement in the Wicklow Mountains. From the site along a side of the lake, the trail passes through pine woodland. It’s even more beautiful if you are enjoying an Autumn break in Ireland and can soak up the glorious colours of the turning leaves. Halfway along the route, the cave St Kevin’s Bed can be seen across the lake. Along the way you’ll pass some goats, and if you’re lucky, you might see some peregrine falcons in the sky. You can finish your walk at the car park, but I’d recommend heading into the Glendalough Hotel for some food and drink.

stairway to heaven, The Cuilcagh Boardwalk

2. Cuilcagh /Legnabrocky Trail (Stairway to Heaven) County Fermanagh

Difficulty: Moderate
Explore one of the largest areas of blanket bog in Northern Ireland. You’ll walk along a one-mile long boardwalk that was opened in 2015. Locals call it the Stairway to Heaven and when you’ve hiked it yourself, you’ll see why. There’s a steep climb to reach the summit of Cuilcagh Mountain but the views are worth it, pack a picnic and enjoy it from the top. Cuilcagh Mountain is located within the Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark so be sure to visit the caves while you’re there. There is so much more to explore in Northern Ireland, from Black Taxi tours to Titanic you are bound to find something that interests you.

Co Galway, Mweelrea Mountain And Killery Harbour

3. The Famine Walk, Connemara, County Galway

Difficulty: Moderate – Hard
Connemara has a wild beauty to it that is pretty unique. Connemara’s lakes and mountains will take your breath away (and not just from the walking!). This area is also home to Ireland’s only fjord, located at Killary Harbour. As you hike along the edge of the fjord you’ll have Mweelrea Mountain towering beside you, you’ll follow the infamous “Famine Road” which was built by men and women in return for food. The walk finishes at a small harbour – treat yourself to a drink in Gaynors, a colourful local pub. If you have more time, there’s a lot more to see and do in Galway.

Landscape around Torr head, Northern Ireland

4. The Causeway Coast, County Antrim

Difficulty: Easy
Widely regarded as one of Ireland’s best coastal walks, the Causeway Coast stretches for 33 miles, from Portstewart to Ballycastle, passing Dunluce Castle and The Giant’s Causeway. This is my personal favourite, and not just because I grew up here. For a less crowded walk, head just beyond it and you’ll find a secluded coastline rich in mythology and amazing views. Don’t miss Port na Spaniagh, a cove containing the wreck of the Girona, one of the ships from the Spanish Armada. If you have time, a visit to the nearby town of Portrush is worthwhile, especially in the summer months when it really comes alive.

Errigal, Donegal

5. Mount Errigal, County Donegal

Difficulty: Moderate
One of the most popular climbs in Ireland, Errigal is a scenic walk up Donegal’s highest mountain. Starting from a carpark on the R251 road, the route follows a popular and obvious tourist path, firstly across slightly boggy land before the route starts to climb on the steep shining scree with an accent of approximately 525m from the carpark to the summit. As one of Ireland’s most beautiful destinations, Donegal is a wonderful place to spend a few days.

Cill Airne, Ireland

6. Carrauntoohil Hike, County Kerry

Difficulty: Hard
For a strenuous hike with unbelievable views to boot, it’s hard to beat a trek to the summit of the country’s highest mountain. Standing at over 3,000 feet, Carruntoohil is the central peak of the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks, Ireland’s highest mountain range. This one is not for beginners though, the whole route takes between 4 and 6 hours. At the top you’ll be rewarded with incredible views over the Killarney lakes. There are several routes to the top but Devil’s Ladder is the most popular, direct and shortest. Taking on a challenge like this is only one way you can get off the tourist trail on your Irish vacation.

Waterfall Trail Glenariff Forest Park, Northern Ireland

7. Glenariff Forest Park, County Antrim

Difficulty: Moderate
The unique Waterfall Walkway, opened 80 years ago, has been significantly upgraded along its 3-mile length which passes through a National Nature Reserve. Starting in the mossy depths of a waterfall-filled ravine, it takes you up a long and winding climb to the edge of the Antrim Plateau. It’s steep in places, but that means you’re rewarded with views across the surrounding landscape and over the sea to Scotland on a clear day.

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Read next: Inside Ireland: County Galway.