The Emerald Isle with its incredible coastlines, ancient ruins and hidden pubs is the perfect place to explore on foot. Brimming with ruined forts, medieval castles and picturesque villages, hiking here is a great opportunity to immerse yourself in centuries of culture, as well as getting up close with nature.
Ireland has an array of exciting activities to offer adventure lovers - with opportunities for zip-lining and exploring the expansive coastline. Whatever your passion, hiking around Ireland promises the adventure of a lifetime. As experts on exploring Ireland and its great adventures, here Wilderness Ireland guides you through some must-see spots if you’re heading to Ireland - so grab your backpack and get exploring.
The Ring of Kerry
One of Ireland's best known circuits, The Ring of Kerry has scenic views aplenty. A breathtaking mixture of steep mountain ranges, glacial lakes and picture-postcard villages means you can enjoy a truly authentic Irish experience. Take a trip to the 15th century Ross Castle or grab your camera and look out for Ireland's only herd of red deer. There's adventure aplenty in this part of the world - so whether you’re looking to hike, fish or mountain bike, you’ll never be short of activities.
Rock of Dunamase
This majestic ruined fortress has an atmosphere like no other. Eerie and breathtaking in equal measure, these ruins date back to the ninth century - and views of the Slieve Bloom mountains make the ascent truly worthwhile. Standing at over 45 meters in height, the rock dominates the surrounding countryside - and hiking around here guarantees a rare moment of serenity, whatever the season. Tourists can reach the rock by heading along the M7 from Dublin towards Portlaoise, before spending a day away from the hustle and bustle of city life.
Read more: Is this the most beautiful walk in Ireland?
The walk from Leeane to Delphi and then on to Louisburgh is truly beautiful - passing by Doolough, the Sheeffry hills and the Connemara mountains, before finishing at the historical and lively town of Westport. Doolough is a long lake set against a backdrop of lush green mountains. Visitors can continue on passed the immense valleys for around 3km, arriving at Killary Harbour - where you can drink in the view and indulge in a homemade picnic.
Made up of three limestone islands across the west coast of Ireland, the Aran Islands are a 45-minute ferry ride from Galway, and home to 1200 residents whose primary language is Irish Gaelic. The Aran Islands are a true representation of traditional Irish life, brimming with wildlife. If you’re feeling energetic, you can hire a bike and cycle your way around these beautiful islands - while true adventure junkies won’t want to miss out on the annual Red Bull Cliff Diving Festival.
The Dingle Peninsula is a small thumb of land located in the Irish mainland’s most western point. Scattered with sandy coves and rocky cliffs, the Dingle Peninsula is one of County Kerry’s most-loved tourist spots. Dotted with wildlife, it's been said to be one the most picturesque places in the Irish mainland - making it of the most beautiful places to backpack around. After a long day exploring all that Ireland has to offer, watch from the amazing white beaches as the sun goes down.
Read more: Top ten nature trails in Ireland
For a less strenuous walking route, head for the Slieve Donard. Serene and calm, this waterside route runs along the Glen River. If rest and relaxation is on the cards, the Slieve Donard resort is a six-acre spa and hotel, where you can unwind after exploring the surrounding mountains. Read up on Irish folklore and get lost in tales of mythological creatures ahead of your trip. For a more challenging trek, tourists can head up the nearby Mourne Mountains.
The Wicklow Mountains National Park extends all across County Wicklow on the east coast of Ireland. The rounded peaks are covered in heath and surrounded by endless winding mountain roads - perfect for cyclists looking to explore. Follow the flowing streams to reach the deep lakes in the nature-filled valleys - where you’re free to camp under the stars. Take a trip through time with a visit to Glendalough Valley, where you can visit the monastic settlement of St. Kevin.
The Connemara Way is said to have the quietest countryside in Ireland. Surrounded by beautiful serenity, ‘Connemara’ translates as ‘The Tribe of the Sea’. The area stretches from Galway Bay up to a large harbor, where you can rest up and enjoy some fresh fish for lunch.
So there you have it; some of the best places to hike around when visiting the beautiful Emerald Isle. From the soaring cliff tops to the elusive valleys, Ireland has so much to offer both locals and tourists alike. What are you waiting for? Pull on your backpack and get exploring!
* This post was written by Howard Jeffs from Wilderness Ireland - specialists in adventure holidays throughout rural Ireland.