Ireland’s terrain is captivating and has a certain allure that make it one of the best hill walking countries in the world.
Adventurers all over the world are attracted to the undulating terrains, unforgiving hills and spectacular views on our best hill walks.
Hill walking in Ireland is more than a stroll; it’s full of history, challenge, folklore and fun.
In this blog, we’re going to tell you about some of our most famous and popular hill walks, as well as the benefits, history, safety and more.
Why Hill Walking in Ireland is Unique
Every county in Ireland has a story to tell, the hills appear to sing the verses.
Unlike anywhere else in the world, the Irish landscapes simultaneously confront the senses and the soul.
For starters, there’s the visceral appeal of rugged peaks rising suddenly from verdant fields, their summits frequently shrouded in the embrace of changeable clouds.
These are not ordinary hills; they are old keepers of tradition and history.
From the limestone pavements of The Burren to the quartzite of the Twelve Bens, there are historic stories that go back right to the very core of Irish history.
And not to mention the climate. You can, quite literally, experience all four seasons in one single outing!
Because of Ireland’s small size, there is also that real sense of belonging when hill walking in Ireland. That feeling of walking the same roads as your ancestors, or the warriors, saints and scholars we all read about.
If you’re seeking a bigger challenge, then maybe the best trail running routes is for you?
7 Best Hill Walking Spots in Ireland
This is Ireland’s oldest waymarked trail, stretching for 131 kilometres.
It begins in Dublin’s southern suburbs and makes its way through the stunning Wicklow Mountains to the tiny village of Clonegal.
Walkers are rewarded to breath-taking views of glacier valleys, pristine lakes, and ruins of historic monasteries along the path.
The tranquillity of Glendalough’s monastic site and the challenge of Lugnaquilla, Wicklow’s highest hill, are both unforgettable experiences.
This classic circular path circles the Iveragh Peninsula for 214 kilometres, providing magnificent views of both the Atlantic Ocean and the country’s tallest mountain range, MacGillycuddy’s Reeks.
The walk encompasses everything from Waterville’s sandy beaches to deep wooded regions.
With monuments like the Staigue stone fort and tales of Oisin and Niamh at Glenbeigh, it’s a deeper journey into the realm of Irish folklore.
This 88-kilometer circuit in West Cork follows the thin peninsula between Bantry Bay and Dunmanus Bay.
This coastline walk offers breath-taking sea vistas as well as historic features such as the old copper mines and the distinctive lighthouse at the peninsula’s tip.
Despite its attractiveness, it is rarely visited, ensuring a calm stroll.
This 52-kilometer track along Northern Ireland’s coast connects the bustling town of Portstewart with the lively village of Ballycastle.
Awe-inspiring vistas along the journey include the Giant’s Causeway, the old Dunluce Castle remains perched precariously on cliffs, and the perilous Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge.
This difficult path traverses many peaks in the Twelve Bens mountain range and is located in the heart of Connemara, Galway.
It’s a stunning sight, with its quartzite summits reflecting the light.
The 16-kilometer circuit provides vistas of beautiful valleys, huge lakes, and the Atlantic coastline.
This 77-kilometer loop traverses counties Laois and Offaly in the middle of the country.
Slieve Bloom provides a one-of-a-kind hill walking experience with its ancient woodlands, gushing waterfalls, and plentiful wildlife.
Its comparatively easy slopes, such as Arderin – the highest point – make it accessible to most, but the views from the top are unparalleled.
Croagh Patrick, sometimes known as Ireland’s “Holy Mountain” or “The Reek”, is located near the town of Westport in County Mayo and is much more than just a hill walking trail; it is a pilgrimage.
At 764 metres, it provides panoramic views of Clew Bay and its numerous islands.
According to legend, Saint Patrick fasted on the top for forty days in 441 AD, and hundreds of pilgrims have visited its slopes ever then, particularly on the last Sunday of July, known as “Reek Sunday.”
The climb to the peak of Croagh Patrick is a must-do for spiritual, historical, or recreational reasons.
The difficult hike through loose shale portions is rewarded with magnificent vistas that capture the raw splendour of Ireland’s west.
Most Essential Gear for Hill Walking in Ireland
Making sure you are prepared for the elements is really important when it comes to hill walking in Ireland.
It can be unforgiving, and the change in terrains and weather mean you need to be ready for anything.
Here are some of the most important pieces of hill walking kit you will need with you.
Waterproof boots/ trail walking shoes
Your footwear is at the heart of any hill walking adventure. Choose robust, waterproof footwear with adequate ankle support. Ireland’s rainy landscape and occasional bogs will make you grateful for dry feet.
The unpredictable Irish weather necessitates adaptation. Using moisture-wicking base layers, insulating mid-layers, and waterproof outer layers will keep you comfortable regardless of the weather.
A lightweight, robust rucksack with ample room for necessities such as food, water, and first aid is necessary. Those with padded straps and waist belts may effectively transfer weight, keeping you fatigue-free for longer.
While many routes are well-marked, it’s a good idea to bring a map and compass. You never know when you’ll want to stray off the main route, or when visibility will put your sense of direction to the test.
First aid kit
A basic pack containing bandages, antiseptics, pain relievers, and any personal prescriptions is essential. Being prepared can reduce possible disasters to small annoyances.
In cold weather, a warm drink can enhance spirits. An insulated flask can keep your tea, coffee, or soup hot for hours.
Fail to prepare, prepare to fail!
The appropriate gear makes all the difference for people new to hill walking or even seasoned trekkers wishing to enhance their kit.
Are you ready to take your hill walking to the next level? Check out Intersport Elverys’ extensive selection of hill walking apparel and footwear HERE.
Safety Tips for Hill Walking in Ireland
Hiking Ireland’s magnificent hill walking routes is a worthwhile experience.
However, because of the country’s unpredictable weather and the difficult terrains that come with hill trekking, it’s critical to prioritise safety.
Here are some essential pointers to make sure your journey is remembered for all the right reasons:
Check the weather
The weather in Ireland is notoriously unpredictable. Always verify local weather forecasts before venturing out, especially at higher elevations. Summit conditions can vary greatly from those at sea level.
Let someone know your route
Let a family member or a friend know about your journey, your route and what time you are expected to return. This has saved many, many lives all across the world if anything dangerous was to happen.
Keep to the paths
As much as the scenery and rugged terrain is beautiful, it’s also dangerous. There are sudden drops, slippy underfoot conditions and jagged rocks everything, so sticking to tracks and paths that are well used is the best approach, unless you’re an experienced navigator.
Bring your mobile
Keep that mobile charged in case you need to use it, while having a spare battery pack isn’t a bad idea either. And for the more traditional method to always have in your bad, a whistle is brilliant to help rescuers located you.
Know your signs
Learn to recognise mountain safety signs and markers. Being able to accurately understand them can keep you from wandering into potentially dangerous areas.
Don’t be out in the dark
You should always be aiming to finish your hike or hill walk by dusk, so it’s important to be aware of sundown times. It can easily catch you by surprise and make visibility much more difficult.
Carry essentials such as a torch, extra food and a first-aid kit. It’s always better to be over-prepared than to be caught off guard in a critical scenario.
Respect your limits
While pushing oneself can be satisfying, it is critical to know when to back off. Fatigue, the beginning of severe weather, or challenging terrain should be seen as signals to revaluate your course of action.
The Benefits of Hill Walking
Aside from the ability to immerse oneself in Ireland’s beautiful landscapes, hill walking provides a wealth of benefits for both the body and mind.
It’s an activity that goes beyond simple exercise, providing holistic benefits. Let’s look at some of these advantages:
A Physical Workout
Hill walking is an excellent cardiovascular activity that promotes heart health and aids in weight loss. The various terrains put different muscle groups to the test, improving overall stamina and strength.
Feel Mentally Refreshed and reduce stress
The tranquil surroundings and regular pace of walking generate a contemplative state, which relieves stress and anxiety. Nature is therapeutic, and walking helps declutter the mind, promoting clearer mental processes.
Hill walking can be a fun group activity. It provides an opportunity to bond with other trekkers or spend quality time with loved ones away from the distractions of everyday life.
Connect to nature
Many of us are disconnected from nature in today’s urbanised environment. Hill walking acts as a bridge, allowing people to reconnect with nature, enjoy its beauty, and realise its fundamental significance.
Boost your immune system
Regular outside exposure and physical activity have been demonstrated to boost the immune system, making one more resistant to infections.
Get better sleep
Physical exercise paired with the fresh mountain air might result in deeper, more peaceful sleep. Many hill hikers report improved sleep habits following their journeys.
Learn some history
Every hill and route has a story to tell. You learn about the area flora, animals, geology, and history as you travel, turning each walk into an educational experience.
Scaling a hill, no matter how big or small, provides a sense of accomplishment. It increases self-esteem and instils a positive attitude.
Hill Walking Events & Clubs in Ireland
For those who enjoy hill walking, Ireland has more to offer than merely gorgeous routes and trails.
A thriving community of hillwalkers organises events and develops clubs to bring people with similar interests together, ensuring that hill walking is more than simply a solitary pursuit but a social experience.
Here’s a look at some of the hill walking events and clubs in Ireland:
Hosted annually in the majestic Mourne Mountains, this festival attracts walkers from around the world. With varying levels of treks, from challenging routes to more relaxed walks, it caters to all. The experience is enhanced with evening entertainment and the camaraderie of fellow enthusiasts.
Set in the iconic Burren region, this event showcases the unique karst landscape, offering guided walks that enlighten participants about the region’s geology, flora, and history.
Established in the 1960s, the Irish Ramblers Club is one of the oldest hill walking clubs in Ireland. Organizing regular walks across various terrains, the club also offers navigation training and overseas trips.
Focused on promoting hill walking and the appreciation of Ireland’s natural beauty, the Wayfarers Association conducts walks every weekend, ranging from coastal trails to mountain hikes.
Not for the faint-hearted, this event in County Galway is a 25km mountain traverse that tests the mettle of even seasoned walkers. It’s a day of adventure, challenge, and unparalleled views.
Based in Tipperary, this club is centred around the Galtee Mountains but organizes walks all over Ireland. With a focus on promoting responsible hill walking, they also contribute to maintaining paths and conducting clean-up drives.
A unique event that takes participants through one of Ireland’s most remote areas in County Mayo. This 39km trail offers rugged beauty and a sense of true wilderness.
The amazing hills and mountains of Ireland are asking to be explored and we hope you have a much better idea of where and how to do it after this blog.
Hill walking, or hiking, in Ireland is a passion and a never ending journey of exploration and adventure that the whole family can enjoy.
Head over to Intersport Elverys if you’re looking for the equipment and gear to help you along the way.