Hit the road – Ireland’s long distance walking routes

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There are over 40 medium and long-distance walking routes in Ireland which are known as National Waymarked Trails. The trails offer a variety of walking and can be completed in full or tackled in sections. There is a concentration of trails in the South-West of Ireland but there are great walking options available right around the country. We take a look at a selection of those trails.

The Dingle Way
There can be no doubting the beauty of Dingle, the northernmost of the major peninsulae in the Kingdom of County Kerry. The peninsula offers a varied and dramatic landscape of sandy beaches, spectacular mountains and rolling hills combined with some genuinely breath-taking views out to sea. In 2006, the peninsula was named ‘the most beautiful place on Earth’ by National Geographic Traveller magazine. Dingle is also home to some of Ireland’s greatest archaeological sites and is steeped in history and scattered with the ruins of ancient dwellings, forts, churches, and castles.

The Dingle Way takes in the full variety of this landscape combined with a rich archaeological story along the 162 kilometre route. The circular route begins and ends in Tralee and in between, it crosses a mixture of mountain, field and cliff paths as well as quiet country road and over 20 kilometres of beach walking. The bulk of the route is over low-lying land with the exception of the section that crosses a saddle between Brandon and Masatiompan mountains which, at 640 metres, is the highest point reached by any of the National Waymarked Trails in the country.

The recommendation is that you give yourself at least 8 days to complete the full route.

Highlights:

  • Dingle Town. Take some time to enjoy the good food, good music and famous atmosphere.
  • Breath-taking views across the Iveragh Peninsula.
  • Expansive views from Slea Head to the Blasket Islands.
  • Explore some of the finest archeological sites in Ireland

In Numbers:

  • Distance: 162km (76k on road).
  • Ascent: 2,480 metres.
  • Time: 8+ days

The Wicklow Way

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Completed in 1982, The Wicklow Way was the first of Ireland’s National Waymarked Trails. First proposed by JB Malone in 1966, the trail remains one of the busiest in the country with up to 24,000 people a year trekking the most popular sections.

The trail forms a 129 kilometre route that traverses the whole of County Wicklow and crosses the Wicklow Mountains, Ireland’s largest continuous upland area and an area renowned for diverse and wild scenery. It runs from Marlay Park in southern Dublin through Wicklow and ends in the village of Clonegal in County Carlow.

The trail passes through a variety of landscapes from suburban parkland to forest trails, scenic mountains and finally rolling countryside. Along the way are many of the treasures that the Wicklow Mountains are famed for including steep glacial valleys, upland lakes and waterfalls as well as fabulous Glendalough with its famous 6th century monastic site.

In places, the trail follows forest tracks and quiet country roads to avoid private land but there are long sections through truly remote upland areas. Indeed, the route avoids most towns and villages making most of the daily walking a tranquil and undisturbed experience. It should be noted that some sections can be wet and muddy

The trail tends to stay away from very high ground but it does cross White Hill which, at 635 metres, is the highest point along its path.

It is recommended that you give yourself round 7 days to complete the full walk. It is interesting to note that the record for covering the entire distance of the Wicklow Way is a barely believable 12hours 25 minutes, a feat achieved by runner Eoin Keith on 25th May 2013.

Highlights:

  • Views over Powerscourt Waterfall, the highest waterfall in Ireland.
  • Glendalough, ‘the valley of the two lakes’ with its early medieval monastic settlement.
  • Arguably the finest view in Wicklow over Lough Tay from the J.B. Malone memorial.

In Numbers:

  • Distance: 129km (39k on road).
  • Ascent: 3,220 metres.
  • Time: around 7 + days.

The Kerry Way
4388932045_434117d005_bThe Kerry Way is situated in the Iveragh Peninsula, the largest of Kerry’s Atlantic peninsulas and home to the famous Killarney lakes with their stunning backdrop of rugged mountains. The dramatic landscape of the peninsula includes the two highest mountains in Ireland, 1038 metre high Carrauntoohil and Caher, standing at 1001 metres.

At 230 kilometres, the trail is the longest of Ireland’s Waymarked Trails with its circular route circumnavigating the peninsula as it loosely follows the famed Ring of Kerry, starting and finishing in the busy tourist town of Killarney. Along the way, it passes through other notable towns such as Sneem, Waterville, Glenbeigh and Kenmare,

Although Kerry is notable for the aforementioned high mountains, the Kerry Way avoids the higher ground to allow good progress through a diverse and varied landscape. From the start, the walker is treated to numerous visual delights, from the lakes of Killarney to remote and desolate mountain moorland, hidden valleys, towering views of the highest mountain range in Ireland and panoramic ocean views along the semi-tropical south-coast.

The way covers a variety of terrain including tarmac roads, rugged moorland, forest paths and farmland and old trails. Parts of the trail can be very isolated and off-road sections can be very wet and muddy.

With an aggregate ascent of approximately 5300 metres, the walk is certainly a challenge and contains some long and relatively steep sections. The highest point is reached at Windy Gap at an elevation of 385 metres.

Highlights:

  • Muckross House and Killarney National Park, the first National Park in Ireland.
  • The picturesque small towns of Kenmare, Sneem and Cahirciveen.
  • Dramatic mountain landscapes between Black Valley and Glencar.

In Numbers:

  • Distance: 214km (77k on road).
  • Ascent: 5,310 metres.
  • Time: around 9 + days.

The Burren Way
The Burren Way stretches 127km from Lahinch to Corrofin and along the way, takes in the best of what this remarkable landscape has to offer.

The distinctive ‘glaciated karst’ landscape of the Burren forms a magical and mysterious landscape in which to roam. Now a UNESCO supported Geopark, this seemingly bare and barren landscape is home to some of the world’s rarest flowers as well as to a rich variety of fauna.

The trail is mainly over quiet tarmac roads and forest paths and tracks.

It should be noted that there are some sections along busy road and that there are a few short steep climbs involved.

Highlights:

  • The remarkable and beautiful landscape of The Burren.
  • Spectacular views from the top of Mullaghmore, a magnificent hill of contorted limestone.

In Numbers:

  • Distance: 114km.
  • Ascent: 540 metres.
  • Time: around 5 + days.

The Sheep’s Head Way
The Sheep’s Head Peninsula is certainly one of Ireland’s treasures. Recognised as an European Destination of Excellent, this narrow strip of land extruding out into the Atlantic boasts amazing scenery, serene loughs and panoramic coastal views.

The Sheep’s Head way stretches to 88 km following old tracks and roads around the peninsula from Bantry along the north side of the peninsula to the scenic lighthouse at its head and back along the south side.

One of the delights of the peninsula is that you are never very far away from expansive views of the Atlantic Ocean as you walk.

Highlights:

  • Walking the heathery Seefin ridge rising to 300 metres, the highest point on the trail.
  • The picturesque lighthouse that marks the head of the peninsula.
  • Those almost ever-present Atlantic Ocean views – make sure to pack the camera!

In Numbers:

  • Distance: 88km.
  • Time: around 4 + days.

Have you walked any of the Long Distance Routes in Ireland? Let us know how you got on and please feel free to share some photos. You can get us at info@walkingandhikingireland.com.

2 comments on “Hit the road – Ireland’s long distance walking routes

  1. Jennifer Rooks says:

    I am walking the O’Sullivan March in 2016 over 5 weeks, has anyone walked the 500 klms??

  2. admin says:

    What’s the route Jennifer?

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