If you are looking for ways to stay fit and healthy, enjoy all the beauty of nature and get away from the crowds, hiking offers the perfect solution. Ireland has natural beauty in abundance and a trail to suit every level of fitness. You can even take along your favourite online slots and play bingo games on your mobile when you need a breather. We’ve categorised the walks from easy to hard so you can choose which hike’s just right for you. Let’s start trekking.
Ballycotton Cliff Walk, Cork
- Level of difficulty: Easy
- Distance: 8 miles
If you’d love a gentle walk along a cliff track with the tumultuous Atlantic Ocean on one side and meadows on the other, then the Ballycotton Cliff Walk is for you. If you’re seriously unfit and want to improve your health, there’s no better way to do it than being surrounded by nurturing Mother Nature. There are seated viewpoints along the route, and you just might be lucky enough to catch sight of Peregrine Falcons sweeping overhead, or even a whale or two romping in the ocean below.
If you regularly play online bingo, you’ll know that it pays to prepare before sitting down to play by having a snack, a favourite beverage and your lucky charm to help you on your way. In the same vein, you’ll want to take along a waterproof backpack, water, food and energy snacks, as well as a small first aid kit. You’ll also need to download a GPS app on your phone and take a map as a backup. Always check the weather and invest in sports clothing that dries quickly and regulates your body temperature. Take a rain jacket and hiking boots that have been worn in, and don’t forget insect repellent. If you’re new to hiking or a particular area, ask around to see if there’s a local guide who would be willing to accompany you.
Cuilcagh Legnabrocky Trail, Fermanagh
- Level of difficulty: Easy to moderate
- Distance: 5.7 miles
Also called the Stairway to Heaven, this walk essentially crosses the biggest expanse of blanket bog in Northern Island using a mile-long boardwalk that was completed in 2015. The initial walk passes abandoned Irish cottages, dry stone walls and potato cultivation ridges that are all remnants of Ireland’s past before reaching the blanket bog with the Cuilcagh Mountain on the horizon. That’s the easy part.
The 2,185-foot climb to the summit of Cuilcagh Mountain requires moderate exertion if you’re reasonably fit. Put aside some time to spend at Cuilcagh Lakelands Geopark, formerly known as the Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark. The Marble Arch Caves were formed about 340 million years ago beneath the rolling green hills of Fermanagh. Today, knowledgeable tour guides offer visitors fascinating perspectives of this labyrinth of caves, sinkholes and subterranean rivers, the interior lit discretely to optimise each ancient feature.
Since the weather can change quickly on the Cuilcagh Legnabrocky Trail, it’s best to bring along rain gear. You’ll also want to download a map on your mobile before setting out because reception in the area can be sketchy.
Achill Island, Mayo
- Level of difficulty: Moderate
- Distance: 2.8 miles
Achill is an island connected to mainland Ireland by a bridge. This is how it’s been since the 1880s, which has allowed the landscape to remain largely unchanged for more than 140 years. You can choose to turn your visit into a day walk or a stay of several days. There’s plenty to keep you occupied no matter what you decide.
Your stroll will take you through villages and abandoned hamlets tucked into the folds of undulating hills. Stop at a pub along the way, visit the Achill Island Distillery or detox and unwind at the Achill Seaweed Baths, where you can reconnect with nature while relaxing in a seaweed bath.
For a more energetic outing, head for the Slievemore Loop that climbs to a height of 197 feet. Take some time on your way back to view a megalithic tomb, an ancient graveyard and a deserted village.
Dingle Way, Kerry
- Level of difficulty: Moderate to hard
- Distance: 101 miles
If you choose to walk Dingle Way, you’ll need to plan your trip carefully because there are around 30 different long-distance walking trails. If you were to walk the entire 101 miles, it would take you about nine days to complete. You’d set out from Tralee, heading west, then skirt the Dingle Peninsula to Mount Brandon before descending to Clogherhead. The trail then follows the southern portion of the peninsula before winding back to Tralee.
Moderate trails meander through the foothills of Slieve Mish and pastoral farmland, while the harder routes include hiking Mount Brandon, which you’re advised to do only when the weather is mild and visibility is good.
Dingle Way is also known for its archaeological sites, its standing and ogham stones and a scattering of beehive huts. The South Pole Inn at Annascaul is a nod to local Antarctic explorer Tom Cream and is a favourite stop-off point on the route.
Diamond Hill, Galway
- Level of difficulty: Hard
- Distance: 4.5 miles
Diamond Hill is a remote peak overlooking the village of Letterfrack, in the northwest corner of the Twelve Bens in Connemara National Park. You’ll need to be reasonably fit and have more than a little energy to climb the 1,460-foot mountain. The going is easier as you make your way along the lower to upper trails, but as you get higher, some scrambling and rigorous climbing is needed to reach the summit. But, oh golly, it’s worth the effort.
From here, you’ll be treated to sweeping panoramas of the Connemara mountains, lakes, coasts and islands. Don’t forget to take some breathtaking selfies as a reminder of an unforgettable experience!
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