Menu

From the towering cliffs of the Wild Atlantic coastline, to ancient, glacier-carved valleys, forgotten peninsulas and the impressive peaks of the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks, Ireland is a walking holiday paradise.

In a place where the land and landscape have and remain an integral part of Irish identity, history and culture, every step gives you a first-hand understanding of the spirit of the Irish people and this magical place we call home.

Yvonne Gordon
By Yvonne Gordon

Ireland is one of my favourite places for a walking holiday – you have everything from short two- or three-hour walks along river banks or forest trails, to long-distance waymarked routes which are divided into sections and can take from two days up to 10 days to walk.

I love how varied the Irish terrain is – you can expect everything from fields and forests to cliffs and beaches, tarmac paths, mountain trails, canal towpaths, or even have all of these on one walk. Looped or waymarked walking trails are usually well organised, with a map and information at the trailhead, plus car parking.

I love the trails in some of Ireland’s five national parks as an introduction – trails are well mapped, you can pick a route on the day according to the weather and your energy levels, walking trails are looped and there’s usually a café at the end to have a nice cup of tea and cake in afterwards.

Where to go walking in Ireland

Our experts' top picks

Whichever corner of Ireland you find yourself in, you won’t have to travel far to find an empty beach or green fields for a breath of fresh air. There aren't many countries so perfectly-made for bracing hikes and easy-going rambles.

The Burren
The Burren

The Burren

Sara Mc Geough
By Sara Mc Geough

With its lunar-like landscapes, rolling hills and unusual rock formations, the Burren, in County Clare, is one of the largest karst landscapes in Europe and is a popular destination for walking holidays. Alternating between barren and lush, the Burren’s unusual geology provides an ever-changing backdrop for walkers.

Historic sites include standing stones and dolmens (megalithic tombs), such as Poulnabrone Dolmen near the Cliffs of Moher, and the remains of churches like Killinaboy, Temple Cronan and Kilmacduagh with its impressive 30m high tower. Visitors can explore (for free) the ruins of Newton, Leamaneh, and Gleninagh castles or pay entry into Dunguaire and Dysert O’Dea.

The charming villages and towns of Doolin and Lahinch are popular starting points and rest stops. If you fancy somewhere quieter with delicious local seafood from Galway Bay and home-baked goods, the quaint village of Ballyvaughan is another great option.

Walking trails range from easy and accessible to challenging and strenuous. The 114 km Burren Way can be completed in five to eight days. Day hikes in the area include several loop walks within the Burren National Park or along the coast and a trail along the Cliffs of Moher where bird spotters can enjoy looking out for kittiwakes, razorbills and puffins.

The Wicklow Mountains
Wicklow Mountain National Park

The Wicklow Mountains

Sara Mc Geough
By Sara Mc Geough

Wicklow Mountain National Park—Ireland’s largest national park and just a short drive from the capital city of Dublin—boasts some stunning walking through classic Irish countryside.

Trails range in difficulty from the popular 3.5 km Ballinastoe Forest Walk to the famous Wicklow Way, a 127 km trail which takes five to seven days to complete. Climb upwards for sprawling vistas or stay low and wind your way through ancient wooded valleys.

Highlights include views over Powerscourt Waterfall, Lough Tay and the Sally Gap. Historic sites of note include St.Kevin’s monastic settlement in Glendalough Valley and the mediaeval ruins of Kilbride Church.

The Dingle Peninsula
Dingle Peninsula

The Dingle Peninsula

Sara Mc Geough
By Sara Mc Geough

On Ireland’s southwestern coast, the Dingle Peninsula attracts walkers with rugged coastline, quiet beaches and interesting coves. Further inland, trails range from easy sloping hills to scrambles up cliffs and along ridges.

Circling the peninsula is the Dingle Way, a popular 179 km long-distance walking trail. Starting at the base of the Slieve Mish Mountains, the route takes seven to nine days to complete. Walkers can enjoy ocean views from Brandon Bay, vistas of the mountain range at Lispole and explore large sections of cliff-walking. Accommodation can be found in various villages such as Dingle and Tralee, as well as smaller harbour towns. The route can also be split into sections for shorter day hikes or weekend trips.

The Dingle Peninsula has some historical sites of note, such as the ancient Gallarus Oratory, a well-preserved early Christian church, standing stones and the iconic beehive huts at Clogher Head.

The Beara Peninsula
Beara Peninsula

The Beara Peninsula

Sara Mc Geough
By Sara Mc Geough

On Ireland’s remote and lesser-visited southwestern coast, the Beara Peninsula’s quiet, craggy coastline and windswept mountains make it ideally suited for walking holidays.

The Beara Way circles the peninsula and covers 184 km of trail. It takes about nine days to complete and features challenging climbs, steep descents, and stunning coastal views.

Some interesting sights to help break up a day of walking include the ancient standing stones at Allihies, the sea cliffs at Dursey Island and the harbour town of Castletownbere. Exploring the rare tropical plants in the nineteenth-century Derreen Gardens or catching the ferry across to Bere Island are some other great ideas for your rest days.

Connemara
Connemara National Park

Connemara

Sara Mc Geough
By Sara Mc Geough

Connemara, located in County Galway on the west coast, is an austere but picturesque landscape of bogs, coastline and lakes.

Connemara National Park is home to the famous Twelve Bens (Beola Beanna) mountain range whose most iconic peaks include Benbaun, Benbrack and Muckanaght.

A popular route in Connemara is the Diamond Hill Loop, a challenging day hike with panoramic views of the rugged countryside below. Other routes include the scenic Killary Fjord and the Inagh Valley with hikes up the quartz range to look out over the Lough. You can explore the gentler trails and historic gardens at Kylemore Abbey or test out your adventurous side kayaking or gorge-walking at Killary Adventure Centre.

Connemara is also known for its lively traditional culture. One of the few remaining Gaeltachts (Irish-speaking regions), it has a thriving folk music scene and hosts local festivals including the Connemara Mountain Walking Festival which features guided walks for a range of levels.

The best walking holidays in Ireland

Some popular and lesser-known walks

Unlike centre-based walking holidays, point-to-point (or inn-to-inn) long distance walks generally follow 'official' paths, typically on way-marked trails. You'll walk from inn to inn, with your baggage following behind via a luggage transfer service. The following are some of Ireland's popular long-distance walks and can be organised either DIY or with the help of a walking holiday company.

Durations are provided as a general guide—your precise itinerary and the number of days will depend on your own walking speed: a good walking holiday operator can help you devise the most suitable itinerary.

  • The Wicklow Way

    The Wicklow Way

  • The Kerry Way

    The Kerry Way

  • The Beara Way

    The Beara Way

  • The Dingle Way

    The Dingle Way

  • The Burren Way

    The Burren Way

  • The Slieve Bloom Way

    The Slieve Bloom Way

  • The Sheep's Head Way

    The Sheep's Head Way

  • The Western Way

    The Western Way

  • The Wild Atlantic Way

    The Wild Atlantic Way

Path winding through a boulder strewn valley leading to Mahon Falls in Waterford County Ireland

Hiking to Mahon Falls in Waterford County

Planning a walking holiday in Ireland

Everything you wish you’d known before you booked

Inn-to-inn vs centre based walking

Ireland has a well-developed walking industry and is geared up for self-guided inn-to-inn multi-day walking holidays, where your luggage will follow via a daily baggage transfer service. On some of the more popular walking routes it’s easy to organise your own baggage transfer, alternatively book a self-guided holiday with one of the country’s many operators.

For a more relaxed walking experience consider a centre-based walking holiday where you stay in the same location and embark on day-hikes at your leisure. On rest days, settle by the fireside with a pint of Guinness and soak in the timeless charm of a traditional Irish pub.

Book early

As is the case elsewhere, the tourism industry likes to chase customer demand and tends to promote the west coast and the more famous long-distance routes like the Dingle, Kerry and Wicklow Ways. As a result, accommodation on these popular walks gets booked up early during peak summer months and bank holidays. Plan well in advance, or choose quieter inland walking trails or away from tourist areas such as the Slieve Bloom Mountains (see FAQs) or the little-known 120 km Barrow Way which runs from Co Kildare to Co Carlow.

Be prepared!

Ireland is small but trails can still get fairly remote and visitors get caught out by the weather! No matter the forecast, make sure to bring waterproof layers, including a windbreaker and a waterproof backpack. The weather can go from sunny to a shower of hail in minutes. You won’t always have a phone signal and don’t expect lots of shops - I always bring a flask to stop for tea somewhere scenic.

Ireland walking FAQs

Your questions, our expert answers

Question

When is the best time of year to go walking in Ireland?

Answer

The best times to go walking are summer and early autumn – when temperatures are warmest and evenings are brighter, with maximum daylight.

Yvonne Gordon
Answered by Yvonne Gordon
Question

Which is your favourite region for walking in Ireland?

Answer

I love the southwest of Ireland, especially the peninsulas of Co Cork and Co Kerry, because you have the combination of amazing mountain and coastal scenery.


Yvonne Gordon
Answered by Yvonne Gordon
Question

What’s your favourite inn-to-inn long distance walk in Ireland?

Answer

The Dingle Way is a great one – a 180 km route which loops around the Dingle peninsula, taking in mountains, cliffs, beaches and countryside paths, with some dramatic sea views. You can stop at villages and take in views of islands like the Blasket Islands.


Yvonne Gordon
Answered by Yvonne Gordon
Question

What places do you recommend for a single location (centre-based) walking holiday?

Answer

The town of Killarney, Co Kerry is a good base – you can explore Killarney National Park, around the three lakes, with a mix of short walks or mountain tracks to explore. You are based in a lively town for food, accommodation and traditional music sessions in the evening.


Yvonne Gordon
Answered by Yvonne Gordon
Question

Can you recommend any easy walking holidays in Ireland for beginners?

Answer

The Burren in County Clare is relatively flat and has some relaxing trails which take in some of the area’s unique limestone pavement, with lots of rare plants plus the chance to spot wildlife. The short looped trails in the Irish national parks are good first-time options too.


Yvonne Gordon
Answered by Yvonne Gordon
Question

Can you recommend any quieter and less popular places for walking holidays?

Answer

The Slieve Bloom Mountains in Co Laois and Offaly – there are 16 different looped walks and you can do the three-day 70 km Slieve Bloom Way, with quiet walking tracks and paths, and great views from the mountain tops. Alternatively the canal towpaths in the midlands are also a nice, flat option.


Yvonne Gordon
Answered by Yvonne Gordon
Question

Are long distance paths clearly waymarked, are map reading skills required?

Answer

Paths are usually marked but it’s always good to have map-reading and navigation skills, in case a sign is missed, has been damaged, or in case of disorientation in poor weather. The Ordnance Survey maps are the best ones to use.


Yvonne Gordon
Answered by Yvonne Gordon
Question

Can I book accommodation and baggage transfer myself or would you recommend using a walking holiday company?

Answer

You can book yourself, but the advantage of using a walking company is that they can advise on maps, route timings and the best places to stay along a route – and in Ireland you’ll welcome insights on things like where to eat or the best evening activities.


Yvonne Gordon
Answered by Yvonne Gordon
Question

Are there baggage transfer services for inn to inn walking?

Answer

This depends on the walk – there are baggage transfer services for some of the well-known trails such as the Kerry Way, Dingle Way and Wicklow Way.


Yvonne Gordon
Answered by Yvonne Gordon

About the authors

Walking holidays in Ireland

Yvonne Gordon

Yvonne Gordon is an award-winning adventure travel writer based in Ireland. She writes for The Sunday Times, the Irish Independent, National Geographic, the BBC Travel, the Washington Post, among many others.

Walking holidays in Ireland

Sara Mc Geough

Sara is a travel writer, editor and adventure guide based in the West coast of Ireland. She guides for Wilderness Ireland, Trek Travel and writes for Her Sport Magazine.

Other guides you might like

Why Horizon Guides?

Impartial guidebooks

Impartial travel guides

Our guides are written by the leading experts in their destinations. We never take payment for positive coverage so you can count on us for impartial travel advice.

Expert itineraries

Expert itineraries

Suggested itineraries and routes to help you scratch beneath the surface, avoid the tourist traps, and plan an authentic, responsible and enjoyable journey.

Specialist advice

Specialist advice

Get friendly, expert travel advice and custom itineraries from some of the world's best tour operators, with no spam, pressure or commitment to book.