Are we there yet? The 2013 Guide to Challenge Walks in Ireland

We all love a walk of one sort or another. Maybe your preference is for a gentle stroll in your local forest park or a leisurely ramble along the beach. Perhaps the more adventurous of you enjoy spending a few hours tackling one of the many beautiful mountains and hills around Ireland.

However, there is another breed of walker who seek their thrills from something a bit more substantial. For these hardy souls, the adrenaline rush only kicks in during a full day spent skilfully navigating difficult and treacherous mountainous terrain in the most testing of conditions. This is the breed of walker for whom blistered feet, aching limbs and near exhaustion are all key ingredients of a good day out. We are, of course, referring to The Challenge Walker.

There are a number of challenge walks that take place throughout Ireland each year. Each of these walks provide a unique and thorough test of both fitness and endurance as well as mountain and navigation skills. Normally organised by local walking clubs, the challenge walks are a great way to test yourself. We warned however, the walks are most certainly not for the ill-prepared or faint-hearted! Indeed, preparation and training are key should you wish to successfully tackle any of these walks.

We take a look at some of the challenge walks taking part in Ireland in 2013.

At a Glance – Dates for your diary in 2013

24th – Slievenamuck Walking Marathon
30th – Comeragh Bogtrot

13th – Maamturks Challenge
20th – Knockmealdown Crossing

18th – Blackstairs Walk
25th – Clare Burren Marathon Challenge

8th – Galty Walk (Gus Tobin Memorial Walk)
15th – Oxfam Trailtrekker Challenge
30th – Galtee Challenge and Crossing

TBC – Mourne Seven Sevens
10th – Western Way Marathon

21st – Mourne Mountain Marathon
28th – Causeway Coast Marathon

The Maumturks Challenge 2013

Saturday 13th April 2013
Widely regarded as one of the toughest challenge walks in the calendar, the Maumturks Challenge Walk is organised by the NUIG Mountaineering Club and takes place in spring of each year. Now in its 38th year, this is a very well established walk and stories of the challenge that awaits those who partake are epic.

The walk covers over 24km of tough and unforgiving mountainous terrain with a total ascent of 2336 metres, over twice the height of Carrauntoohil. It begins between Maam and Maam cross and ends in the beautiful village of Leenane at the head of Killary Harbour. There are cut-off points at Lough Mham Ochoige and the aptly named Col of Despondency at 2pm and 5pm respectively. Unfortunately, participants who fail to make the cut-offs will be requested to make their way to the nearest designated exit point.

The route is renowned for rapidly changing weather and poor visibility so it is essential that participants have excellent navigation skills and are carrying appropriate equipment.

If the description hasn’t put you off, pre-registration for the event is available with the details at

Slieve Bearnagh, Mourne Mountains

Slieve Bearnagh, Mourne Mountains

Mourne Seven Sevens 2013
August 2013
The Seven Sevens is undoubtedly one of the classic challenge walks in Ireland and another essential in the Challenge Walk Calendar. The walk takes in the seven higher mountains of the Mournes with entrants allowed choose their own route. This tough and unrelenting walk attracts large numbers of entrants each year.

Starting in Donard Park in Newcastle, most competitors will summit Slieve Donard first before choosing either a clockwise or anti-clockwise route. The main provision is that Ben Crom Dam must also be visited during the walk before the cut-off time of 2:30pm to ensure walkers complete the walk before darkness.

This is a hugely popular walk which takes in all the classic Mournes including Donard, Commedagh, Bearnagh and Binnian. If the task of walking the route seems too straightforward to you, there is also the option of running the circuit as part of the popular fell-running race that takes place on the same day.

See for details

Knockmealdown Mountains

Knockmealdown Mountains

Knockmealdown Crossing 2013
Saturday 20th April 2013

Another of the classic Walking Challenges in Ireland, the Knockmealdown Crossing is a walk that traverses the spectacular Knockmealdown range tracing the border of Tipperary and Waterford. Hosted by Peaks Mountaineering Club of Clonmel, the walk is a mighty 29.5 kilometres in distance with a total ascent of 1,606 metres. The walk starts out along the Avondue Way which is a national waymarked trail. This is an excellent walk requiring a very high level of fitness and experience and it is essential that walkers have the ability to self-navigate.

There are also a number of guided walks being organised on the same day.

See for details.

The Oxfam Trailtrekker Challenge 2013
Saturday 15th June 2013
The Oxfam Trailtrekker Challange is a hugely popular event that takes place each year in the Mourne and Cooley Mountains. Previously a 100km walk, the challenge now offers a 25km and 50km option. Unlike some of the other walks, this is a team event with teams encouraged to train and fundraise together as well as to provide encouragement to each other when the going gets tough!

This is a very enjoyable and well organised event and the team element makes it perfect for someone dipping their toes into the world of Challenge Walking.  There is a requirement to raise a minimum amount of money per team with funds going towards Oxfam Ireland.

Full details are available at You can read Michael Kinahan’s great account of his experience of the 50km Trailtrekker option at If you are considering taking part, it’s well worth a read.

The Slievenamuck Marathon and Half Marathon 2013
Sunday 24th March 2013
The Slievenamuck Marathon and Half Marathon take place on Palm Sunday each year and are organised by the Galtee Walking Club. Now in its fourth year, the event is open to anyone who feels they have the required fitness levels to cover either the 42km or the shorter 21km course.

The location for the Marathon is the Slievenamuck Ridge, the long low hill which forms the northern edge of the scenic Glen of Aherlow. From many points along the way there are excellent views across the valley to the Galtee Mountains.

The Marathon course is the same as last year – in the shape of the figure 8 – and consists mostly of forest tracks and some farmland. Road walking is kept to a minimum – about 4 kms. The complete track is clearly marked by a series of white discs with black arrows.
Enquiries to or phone Rody at 087 2893505.

County Wall, Galtee Mountains

County Wall, Galtee Mountains

2013 Galty Walk (Gus Tobin Memorial Walk)
Saturday 8th June 2013
Another long-standing fixture on the calendar, the Galty Walk is a long distance mountain walk organised by Tyndall Mountain Club and Tullow Mountaineering Club.

The route covers 26 kilometres with a cumulative height of 1400 metres taking in the main ridge and peaks of the range including Temple Hill, Lyracappul, Galtymore, Grianan and Farbreaga. This is a very testing walk which takes in the best of the Galty mountains and attracts walkers from all over the country.

See for details.

The Comeragh Bogtrot 2013
Saturday 30th March 2013
A very popular event which takes place in the beautiful Nire Valley, the Comeragh Bogtrot covers a distance of 28km with a total height-gain of 862 metres. This walk is for self-navigating walkers only as it requires very high level of fitness and mountain skills. Entry to this walk is restricted to 20 walkers only and entry is strictly by pre-registration only.

There is also the option of a shorter self-navigated walk (22kms and height gain of 686 metres) and a guided walk which covers 17kms.

See for details.

The Blackstairs Walk 2013
Saturday 18th May 2013
The Wayfarers Association Annual Blackstairs walk is a 30.5 Km. (19.0 Mile) mountain walk along the Carlow-Wexford border. The walk involves a cumulative ascent of 1,670 metre and takes an average of 9 hours to complete. A certificate will be awarded to all those who complete or participate in the walk.
Pre-registering, while not mandatory, will help the organisers plan for the number of people who will be taking part and will guarantee you a place on the bus. Pre-registration is available at

Clare Burren Marathon Challenge
Saturday 25th May 2013
The Clare Burren Marathon Challenge is a road, green road and trail challenge across the beautiful scenic Burren. The full marathon is a very testing event which takes in some of Europe’s most unique landscapes and allows competitors savour the riches of the Burren in full bloom.

There is also a half marathon and mini-marathon event available. All three challenges start in Ballyvaughan at 9am taking you on and off road to the finish line on The Pier at Ballyvaughan.

All participants will be chip timed, receive a commemorative finishers t-shirt, finishers medal and a finishers certificate.

See for details.

Galtee Challenge 2013
Sunday 30th June 2013
The Galtee Challenge & Crossing is an event in Counties Limerick and Tipperary organised by Galtee Walking Club. This strenuous challenge traverses the main ridge of the Galty Mountains from west to east visiting all the peaks including Temple Hill Galty Mor, Galtybeg and giving fine views of the five corrie lakes.

The challenge requires a high level of fitness and preparation as well as a competency in navigation.

See for details

If we have missed any, please send the details onto us at