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Ireland’s gorgeous landscape and mild year-round temperatures make it the perfect location for a hike or stroll. The quiet country roads of Ireland are perfect for casual walkers, while the mountains and forests provide great trails for extreme hikers.
There are many established routes and trails throughout the country. You can take a guided walk through the beautiful Killarney Valley in Kerry, a looped walk through the woodland trails of the Walled Garden Loop in Co. Kilkenny or a strenuous climb up the Wicklow Mountains.
Ireland also hosts numerous walking festivals. For example, Castlebar in Co. Mayo hosts its International Four Days’ Walking Festival in July for walking clubs and individuals. The festival is all about walking, talking, rambling, music and fun.
The Mourne International Walking Festival, based in the pretty seaside town of Warrenpoint, Co. Down, takes place every June. Walkers gather from all over the world for scenic mountain rambles and ambitious mountain hikes in this picturesque area of the North.
From the mountains and glens to the loughs and canals, there’s a host of outdoor options for ramblers to choose from. Here are your choices:
Looped walks, or circular walking routes, can go anywhere in Ireland; along the coast, through mountains and across bogs and moorlands.
This type of walk is perfect for the visitor who doesn’t have time for a designated walking holiday, but still wants to stroll and take in the scenery.
There is a wide variety of looped walks including coastal, island, mountain and hill, bog and moorlands, historical and archaeological one-day circuits suitable for both serious and leisurely walkers.
Ranging from 3 miles to 10 miles, these walks focus on areas of outstanding natural beauty and historical significance.
To find a specific loop walk, click here.
There are a number of Irish specialist walking operators who can arrange your vacation, if you’d prefer to travel down that route (ha-ha).
As with cycling, going with a guide has lots of perks, particularly as it means you get the benefit of someone else’s expertise as you are walking.
You simply need to get up each day and walk with your knapsack. And if you can’t get out of bed the morning after a famous Irish pub session, you can take a lift to your next night’s accommodation with your luggage.
If flat land walking is too boring for you, not to worry; Ireland offers some challenging peaks and hills for you to climb.
Irish mountains may be a bit low compared to many of the world’s towering peaks, but some still present a hardcore challenge.
Note: Some climbing experience or a guide is necessary as marked trails are few and far between, and when the mist and fog swirls in, navigation can get seriously tough.
And to the experienced climber, the rough terrain and the unpredictable weather all combine to make the perfect climb.
To find any type of Irish walk, click here.
Pay attention – you’ll need to know this stuff before you set out on your hike!
Ireland might have a reputation for Rain, Rain, Rain, but in fact the country’s year-round mild climate makes it an ideal spot for walking. Prevailing southwesterly winds mean that winters are mild and summers are the perfect temperature.
Check out the Discovery Series of maps at 1:50,000 scale, available from your local tourist office or at the Ordnance Survey http://www.osi.ie/ websites. Maps are also available at a scale 1:250,000 in four sheets to cover the whole of Ireland and are great for walkers as they show most roads.
If you’re off on a trek through the Irish countryside, then make sure to show courtesy and consideration to everyone.
Much of the land is in private hands and access is only available with the owner's goodwill.
While most landowners don’t object to recreational users on their land, some do. So always comply with a landowner's wishes, always shut gates after you have opened them and observe the Countryside Code.
What You Need For Walking:
Strong walking boots with ankle and Achilles support
Thick socks, plus spares
Warm pants, sweaters and spares
Waterproof (ideally breathable) and windproof coat/jacket and waterproof over-trousers
Gloves and hat (for non-summer walking)
Shorts, sun hat and sunglasses (for sunny days)
First aid kit (plasters/band-aid, aspirins, etc.), insect repellent and sunscreen
Backpack to carry food and extra clothing (a plastic liner is useful)
Water bottle and thermos flask, sandwich box, map case
Walking poles, if you know how to use them
Sitting mat, for lunch stops
What You Need For Climbing:
Map and compass, (and make sure you know how to use them)
Whistle and torch
Survival equipment, like a tent, in case you have to spend the night
Upcoming Walking Events
Glenbeigh, Co. Kerry
April 10-13, 2009
Discover the beauty of Kerry in late Spring, on some of the best walks and climbs in the country, in the company of experienced local guides. You will stay in guesthouses or a hotel in the seaside village of Glenbeigh. Go Ireland can organize everything while you “take a walk on the wild side.”
North Leitrim Glens Hill Walking Festival
Manorhamilton, Co. Leitrim
April 11-12, 2009
Hillwalking festival with a range of guided walks including challenging hill walks and country rambles in the spectacular uplands of North Leitrim. All walks will take place in the magical North Leitrim Glens. Wonderful terrain is guaranteed whether it be the Leitrim drumlins, archaeological sites, seascapes, mountain lakes or heathery slopes. There is good conversation, craic and friendliness for all to enjoy.
Glenarm, Co. Antrim
April 26, 2009
This 8-mile walk starts in the village of Glenarm (located on the world-famous Causeway Coastal Route) and finishes at Slemish car park. Walkers are rewarded with some of the most spectacular views of the Antrim coastline, Scotland, Sperrins as well as North Antrim. Expect varied terrain, steep gradients and rough underfoot.
Achill Island, Co. Mayo
May 1-4, 2009 The 2009 Achill Walks Festival will take place over the May Bank Holiday Weekend in Ireland. It's a 6- mile walk and it will take about four hours. Full details soon on the Achill Tourism Web site.
Rathlin Island, Co. Antrim
May 2, 2009
Enjoy a short boat trip to Rathlin Island from Ballycastle and visit Northern Ireland's most spectacular seabird colony. Walk around the picturesque Church Bay and visit the Boathouse visitor center. Then take the bus to the West Lighthouse. The lack of traffic allows the sounds of nature to reign supreme and the island is alive with bird song. Enjoy the splendid views across the Causeway Coast and the Scottish coastline.
Warrenpoint, Co. Down
June 26-28, 2009
Set within the spectacular scenery of the Mourne Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the festival attracts walkers of all types and features a series of daily which cater for a wide range of fitness ability and experience. The 6-mile, 12-mile and 24-mile road and track walks along with 12-mile mountain rambles and mountain hikes, the festival offers an excellent opportunity for all types of walkers to come together to enjoy the walking and the local social scene: as walkers return to the festival center there will be a chance to relax over a pint and enjoy traditional Irish music.
Derry City, Co. Derry
July 1-August 31, 2009
The Cultural Trail uses the walk around the City Walls as a means of uncovering the wealth of history, culture, music, exhibitions, shows and special events that Derry has to offer. The two-month event features themed days suggested itineraries, including Maritime Mondays, Tuesday’s Talks and Tours, Family Fun on Wednesdays, Thursday’s Traditions Day, Friday’s Arts and Crafts and a host of Weekend Wanderings on Saturday and Sunday.
Castlebar, Co. Mayo
July 2-5, 2009
The walks in Castlebar are all about having fun and forging friendships that span the globe. Four days of walking, talking, rambling, music, song and dance. There are 6-mile, 12-mile, 18-mile and 24-mile walks, and a six-hour ramble. The walks appeal to both groups and individuals, and walking clubs from Ireland and from overseas are regulars. Military marchers in uniform come from a variety of countries.
Sperrins Region, Co. Derry/Co. Tyrone
August 7-9, 2009
Walkers will enjoy some of the best walking and rambling in Ireland, set against stunning scenery in the Sperrin Mountains. The festival caters for walkers of all abilities, from family walks to nature trails, all of which are guided by professionals. A range of social events will also take place for walkers to unwind in the evenings.
Mourne Seven Sevens Walk
Newcastle, Co. Down
The Mourne Seven Sevens Walk lets walkers choose their own routes among seven of the Mourne mountains. Walkers follow well-worn trails and stone tracks that partly trace the incredible Mourne Wall. The total distance of the Seven Sevens Walk is 17 miles, and the overall ascent is 8,185 feet.
Nire Valley, Co. Waterford
October 9-11, 2009
The Walking Festival features a weekend of spectacular walking, great talking and a feast of traditional music, singing and dancing in the Nire Valley, Co. Waterford. The Nire river tumbles down through the valley from its source high up in the Comeragh mountains to the smooth flowing Suir river near Newcastle. The Irish language was the spoken tongue here until the early part of this century and to this day many of the old Gaelic phrases and customs survive in ordinary everyday life.
October 10-11, 2009
If you are a serious rambler or just like to stretch your legs and enjoy the view, Carlow is a brilliant destination to explore on foot. The Carlow Autumn Walking Festival is a great opportunity for beginner, experienced or advanced walkers to enjoy the challenge of Carlows mountain treks or the peace of its woodland and forest parks. A beautiful and varied landscape, knowledgeable local guides and excellent accommodation all combine to ensure you enjoy a revitalizing autumn break. Each evening, you can join fellow walkers and enjoy traditional Irish music and song.
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