After drinking Guinness and kissing the Blarney Stone, hiking and hillwalking are some of the most popular activities for tourists in Ireland, and with mountain ranges extending almost the entire perimeter of the Emerald Isle, you don't have to venture far away from the bright lights of Dublin to find yourself immersed in untamed wilderness.
Hiking allows you to travel the length and breadth of the country, experiencing all the best-loved locations and best-kept secrets. The wide variety of trails and official Waymarked Ways on offer means that walkers and hikers of all levels can enjoy the Irish countryside at their own pace.
And where better to finish off a long hike than at a traditional Irish B&B? With a warm atmosphere and plenty of local flavour, B&Bs can be found all over the country and are a great way to experience Irish life, as well as providing a comfortable, affordable place to relax and recuperate. And there's always the full Irish breakfast to help you kick-start a new day's walking!
Here is BedandBreakfastworld.com's guide to some of Ireland's most popular hiking and walking trails.
Giant's Causeway and the Causeway Coastal Route, Co. Antrim
The Causeway Coastal Route works its way along the Northern Irish coastline from Derry in the West to Belfast in the East, taking a suggested 5 days. The key attraction to be found en route is, of course, the Giant's Causeway, which offers undoubtedly some of Ireland's most impressive scenery and is Northern Ireland's most-visited landmark. The 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, formed by a volcanic eruption some 50 million years ago, are not only a National Nature Reserve but also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Giant's Causeway is approximately an hour's drive from Belfast.
The Dingle Peninsula and the Dingle Way, Co. Kerry
The Dingle Peninsula is the most western part of Ireland, and offers a dramatic scenery comprising sandstone mountains, high cliffs, farmland and sandy coves. An Irish-speaking area, the peninsula boasts 6,000 years of history which can be witnessed in nearly 2,000 archaeological sites. The highest point of the Slieve Mish mountain range is Mount Brandon, at 951 metres, which is also the highest mountain in Ireland outside of Macgillycuddy's Reeks. Among other trails, the peninsula is home to the 8-day Dingle Way, a 179-kilometre circuit which starts and ends at Tralee, passing through Dingle and other villages.
Ring of Kerry and the Kerry Way
The Ring of Kerry is a popular tourist trail in the west of Ireland, and refers specifically to a circular route which follows 3 roads a distance of 170 kilometres, encompassing the Iveragh Peninsula. The traditional starting point is the town of Killarney, and the ring crosses the Killarney National Park, a designated UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, as well as passing by Carrauntoohil, the largest mountain in the Republic of Ireland. Following roughly the same route is the Kerry Way, which at 215 kilometres is the longest walking trail in the country and normally takes at least 8 days to complete. B&Bs can be found all along both routes, in towns such as Kenmare, Waterville and Cahersiveen - follow the links below to book.
The Wicklow Way passes through some of the most beautiful scenery on the Republic of Ireland's eastern coast. Convenient for visitors wanting to combine an Irish hiking holiday with a trip to the nation's capital, the 127-kilometre trail starts at Marlay Park in South Dublin and extends through County Wicklow and into County Carlow, taking approximately seven days to complete. Sights to be seen on the way include Powerscourt Waterfall, the Glenmalure and Glendalough mountains, Knockree and the Greenan Maze.
Burren Way, Co. Clare
Located in County Clare on Ireland's west coast, the Burren extends over 250 square kilometres, although only a small portion of that belongs to the designated national park. The landscape of limestone karst seems at times otherworldly, and is full of ancient archaeological sites including numerous ring forts, megalithic tombs, dolmens, Celtic high crosses and abbeys. The Burren Way is a relatively short 45 kilometres, and passes close to the famous Cliffs of Moher.
With its extensive Atlantic coastline, County Donegal offers some of the most rugged landscapes in Ulster. Hidden away on the north-west coast it is often overlooked by tourism, and therefore boasts plenty of unspoilt countryside for walkers and hikers. The Donegal Way starts in Donegal town and follows the Bluestack Way through mountain scenery to Ardara. The trail then uses the routes of the Bealach na Gaeltachta (the Gaeltacht Way) to explore the rest of the county.
County Donegal is also home to Slieve League, whose impressive coastal cliffs are three times as high as the Cliffs of Moher in County Clare, and offer breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean.
Connemara Way, Galway
Returning to the west coast of Ireland, we find the Connemara Way, a 220-kilometre route which skirts the edge of the district of Connemara. Connemara is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean on three sides and offers a varied scenery of coastline, hills and bogland. Starting in vibrant Galway City, the trail travels west along Galway Bay and passes through Carraroe, Rosmuck and Carna before joining the much longer Western Way at the village of Recess (Sraith Saileach).
Sheeps Head Way, Bantry, West Cork
The Sheeps Head is a narrow finger of land stretching into the Atlantic Ocean from the west coast of Ireland. Covering approximately 88 kilometres, the Sheeps Head Way is a circular route that follows old tracks from Bantry Bay, around the headland and back. There are three villages, Durrus, Akahista and Kilcrohane, although hamlets can be found right along the peninsula to its westernmost tip, providing a real insight into rural Ireland.
Mourne Mountains, Co. Down
The 12 granite peaks which make up the Mourne Mountains are some of the most famous in Ireland, and are hugely popular with hikers, hillwalkers, climbers and cyclists. They were also the inspiration for the famous fictional land of Narnia in the Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis. Marking your arrival into Northern Ireland for those travelling up the east coast, the area surrounding the Mourne Mountains has been named an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and the highest point is Slieve Donard at 849 metres.
Find out more information about travel in Ireland at DiscoverIreland.com.
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By: Eleanor Brown