Ireland is a hikers paradise made up of 32 unique counties. At Hillwalk Tours, we specialise in self-guided hiking tours around Ireland and have created this post with interesting facts on each county and our pick for their best hikes!
Name in Irish: Ciarraí
Otherwise known as: The Kingdom
Population (approx.): 147,500
County Town: Tralee
Best Hike: This is a tough one – the Dingle Way and the Kerry Way are both spectacular and two of the most popular hiking trails in the country. The Dingle Way route also forms the majority of The Kerry Camino hike from Tralee to Dingle Town.
Trivia: In medieval times, there was a lot of trade between Dingle and Spain and many Spanish merchants came to live in Dingle. They are thought to have paid for the original St. James’s Church to be built which is why it is dedicated to St. James of Santiago de Compostela (patron saint of Spain).
Name in Irish: Gaillimh
Otherwise known as: The Tribesmen
Population (approx.): 258,500
County City: Galway is both the name of the county and of the city.
Best Hike: Our hikes from Galway to Westport along the Western Way take you through some of the best of Connemara’s scenery including the Mam Ean Pilgrim Walk while also giving the opportunity to visit and walk on Inis Mor. For a shorter option, check out Diamond Hill in Connemara National Park.
Trivia: Galway is regularly acknowledged as the cultural heart of Ireland and Galway City has won a number of awards for being one of the friendliest cities in Europe.
Connemara, in county Galway, is a Gaeltacht. This means that the Irish language is still spoken here on a day-to-day basis.
Name in Irish: Clár
Otherwise known as: The Banner County
Population (approx.): 117,200
County Town: Ennis
Best Hike: It has to be the Burren Way! The section from Liscannor to Doolin takes in the mighty and inspiring Cliffs of Moher and the route visits some of the most charming villages in Ireland including Lahinch, Doolin, Ballyvaughan and Corofin while also passing the unique lunar Burren landscape.
Trivia: The current president of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, grew up and attended school in County Clare.
Name in Irish: Corcaigh
Otherwise known as: The Rebel County
Population (approx.): 542,200
County City: Cork
Best Hike: Cork has no shortage of remote and rugged stunning coastal hikes, with both the Beara Way and Sheep’s Head Way fitting those criteria and offering some of the best “Off The Beaten Track” hiking in Ireland.
Trivia: Cork is the largest county in Ireland in terms of area, and the second largest in terms of population. Its population is half the amount of that of Dublin’s.
Name in Irish: Chill Mhantáin
Otherwise known as: The Garden County
Population (approx.): 142,300
County Town: Wicklow, although some other notable destinations are Bray and Greystones.
Best Hike: The Wicklow Way undoubtedly. This hike takes in the Wicklow Mountains and Glendalough, the ancient monastic site. There are also a number of other great routes to Glendalough including St. Kevin’s Way and The Avonmore Way. The cliff walk from Bray to Greystones is another lovely option.
Trivia: The DART (Dublin Area Rapid Transit) runs from Dublin to Greystones, connecting these two counties of Ireland. This makes County Wicklow a great commuter location for people working in Dublin.
Name in Irish: Aontroim
Otherwise known as: The Glen County
Population (approx.): 615,400
County Town: Ballymena – the actor Liam Neeson is from here.
Best Hike: The Antrim Glens and Coastline is a great hike as it takes in the magnificent Giant’s Causeway, Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge and the stunning coastal scenery of the Causeway Coast Way.
Trivia: The majority of Belfast, capital of Northern Ireland, lies in Antrim while the remainder is located in county Down.
Name in Irish: Sligeach
Otherwise known as: Yeats Country
Population (approx.): 65,400
County Town: Sligo Town
Best Hike: Ben Bulben, seen in the above picture, is a very difficult hike. The views at the top are worth it but it’s not recommended as a hike for the inexperienced.
Trivia: The famous Irish poet W.B. Yeats was buried in France upon his death. However, 9 years later, he was exhumed and re-buried in Drumcliff, County Sligo. Not one of the most known counties of Ireland, but doesn’t lack any charm.
Name in Irish: Maigh Eo
Otherwise known as: Mayo isn’t known by a nickname as much as the other counties, however ‘Maigh Eo’ means ‘Plain of the Yew Tree’.
Population (approx.): 130,630
County Town: Castlebar
Best Hike: Croagh Patrick is a popular pilgrim hike, with many people choosing to undertake it barefoot. Achill Island also provides a number of spectacular routes of various distances and difficulty levels.
Trivia: St. Patrick allegedly spent 40 days and 40 nights at the top of Croagh Patrick. It is said he was bothered by snakes during this time and so banished them all from Ireland.
Name in Irish: Ceatherlach
Otherwise known as: The Dolmen County
Population (approx.): 56,875
County Town: Carlow
Best Hike: The 114km Barrow Way starts in Kildare and finishes in Carlow. This is a great route for anyone looking for a gentle trail. There is also a nearby 15km loop which takes in the Blackstairs Mountain near the town of Enniscorthy, Wexford.
Trivia: Actress Saoirse Ronan was raised in county Carlow, although she was born in New York City.
Name in Irish: Cill Dara
Otherwise known as: The Lillywhites
Population (approx.): 222,130
County Town: Naas
Best Hike: As well as the Barrow Way mentioned above, both the Royal Canal Way and the Grand Canal Way pass through Kildare on their way to Dublin. These are all nice easy hikes to undertake if you fancy a stroll from Kildare to Dublin or Carlow in just under a week.
Trivia: Kilkea Castle in Kildare is the oldest, continuously inhabited castle in Ireland.
Name in Irish: Cill Channaigh
Otherwise known as: The Marble County
Population (approx.): 95,150
County City: Kilkenny
Best Hike: The Nore Valley walk offers a great walk along the banks of the river. The Castlecomer Loop is a nice easy and short walking option.
Trivia: Despite its small size, Kilkenny is actually classed as a city due to the fact that it has a cathedral.
Name in Irish: Baile Átha Cliath
Otherwise known as: The Dubs
Population (approx.): 1,345,000
County City: Dublin
Best Hike: The Wicklow Way leads from Wicklow into Dublin (starting or finishing in Marlay Park depending on your walking direction) so it has to get another mention on this list! The Howth Cliff Path is also a lovely short and easy option with beautiful coastal views.
Trivia: The oldest pub in Ireland, The Brazen Head, has been there since 1198.
Name in Irish: Tír Eoghain
Otherwise known as: O’Neill Country
Population (approx.): 178,000
County Town: Omagh
Best Hike: There isn’t a long distance hiking option in Tyrone but there are several nice shorter hikes and looped walks including the Derg Valley walks.
Trivia: The emblem of county Tyrone is a red hand.
Name in Irish: Muineacháin
Otherwise known as: The Drumlin County
Population (approx.): 60,500
County Town: Monaghan
Best Hike: Although Monaghan is one of the lesser-known counties of Ireland, it does have ‘The Monaghan Way. This is a 56km linear hiking route which takes approximately 2 days to complete.
Trivia: Monaghan is known as The Drumlin County. A drumlin is a small mound or hill, usually part of a group of small mounds or hills.
Name in Irish: Doire
Otherwise known as: The Oak Leaf County
Population (approx.): 247,100
County City: Derry
Best Hike: The highest point of Derry is atop Sawel Mountain, at 678m and offers great views or there are a number of coastal walks around Downhill.
Trivia: Depending on who you’re talking to, Derry is either Derry or Londonderry. It’s quite a political and contentious subject and you wouldn’t want to be saying the wrong one to the wrong man.
Name in Irish: Uíbh Fhailí
Otherwise known as: The Faithful County
Population (approx.): 78,000
County Town: Tullamore
Best Hike: The Offaly Way is 37km long trail, offering mountain, riverbank and, like many midland counties of Ireland, plenty of bogland hiking.
Trivia: Barack Obama’s ancestors came from Moneygall in county Offaly. He made a presidential visit to the small town, famously sipping on a pint of Guinness in a local pub.
Name in Irish: An Mhí
Otherwise known as: The Royal County
Population (approx.): 195,000
County Town: Navan
Best Hike: While not technically a hike, a walk around the prehistoric monument of Newgrange. It is dated back some 5,200 years, making it older than the Pyramids of Giza and certainly making it the oldest monument in all of the Irish counties. Balrath Wood is also a nice option which can be enjoyed year round.
Trivia: Every year, pilgrims flock to Newgrange to witness the Winter solstice there.
Name in Irish: Longfoirt
Otherwise known as: The Slashers
Population (approx.): 40,800
County Town: Longford Town
Best Hike: The Royal Canal Way stretches from Dublin as far as Longford – a great option hikes that brings you through several counties of Ireland. The new National Famine Way also passes through Longford on it’s way from the National Famine Museum, Strokestown Park, Co. Roscommon to the EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum, Dublin City.
Trivia: The Irish name ‘Longfoirt’ derives from the old Viking word for ‘Stronghold’.
Name in Irish: Ard Mhacha
Otherwise known as: The Orchard County
Population (approx.): 174,800
County Town: Armagh
Best Hike: There are many local walks through acres of woodland around Armagh but 82 mile signed Saint Patrick’s Way is a beautiful pilgrim trail between the Christian Heritage sites of Armagh and Downpatrick.
Trivia: Slieve Gullion is the highest ‘mountain’ in Armagh, at 573m above sea level.
Name in Irish: Cabháin
Otherwise known as: Breffni County
Population (approx.): 76,000
County Town: Cavan
Best Hike: The Cavan Way is just 26km long but is a great hike to take at a relaxed pace. It’s starts at Blacklion and ends in Dowra and is normally completed in one day.
Trivia: It’s said that Gulliver’s Travels was written by Jonathon Swift while he was on holidays in Cavan.
Name in Irish: Dún na nGall
Otherwise known as: O’Donnell’s County
Population (approx.): 158,700
County Town: Lifford
Best Hike: Mount Errigal is an impressive mountain, both on the climb and the view from the top. There are also a number of long distance trails in Donegal including The Bluestacks Way and Sli Cholmcille although they do involve a significant amount of road walking.
Trivia: Slieve League are dramatic sea-cliffs found in Donegal – dramatic enough to rival the Cliffs of Moher!
Donegal is also the northern-most of the counties in Ireland.
Name in Irish: Lú
Otherwise known as: The Wee County
Population (approx.): 128,400
County Town: Dundalk
Best Hike: The river Boyne is a famous river, giving its name to the Battle of the Boyne, and there are plenty of lovely walks and hikes along its banks. For more of a challenge, try the Slieve Foye Loop which brings you on the mountain sloops above Carlingford.
Trivia: Louth is known as ‘The Wee County’ because it is the smallest of the counties of Ireland.
Name in Irish: Iarmhí
Otherwise known as: The Lake County
Population (approx.): 88,400
County Town: Mullingar
Best Hike: The Royal Canal makes an appearance here again, as this route also passes through another of the Irish midlands counties. The Westmeath Way also offers a 33km route from Kilbeggan to Mullingar.
Trivia: In olden Ireland, both Meath and Westmeath made up the fifth province of Ireland. Today there are just four provinces in Ireland.
Name in Irish: Loch Garman
Otherwise known as: The Model County
Population (approx.): 145,300
County Town: Wexford
Best Hike: The Slieveboy loop is a lovely 12km looped walk that should take roughly 3 hours and 30 minutes to complete. There are also some nice shorter routes at Tara Hill.
Trivia: Hook lighthouse is believed to be the oldest operating lighthouse in the world, dating about to 1200 A.D.
Name in Irish: Fear Manach
Otherwise known as: The Erne County
Population (approx.): 61,800
County Town: Enniskillen
Best Hike: The Cuilcagh mountain walk is a great hike, worth the views and The Cuilcagh Boardwalk Trail is also known as “The Stairway To Heaven”. This walk has become extremely popular in recent years so arriving early is recommended.
Trivia: Fermanagh is sometimes known as the Lake District of Northern Ireland, with upper and lower Lough Erne creating fantastic views and landscapes.
Name in Irish: Dún
Otherwise known as: The Mourne County
Population (approx.): 531,700
County Town: Downpatrick
Best Hike: The North Down Coastal Path is a mainly flat, coastal scenic route for anyone looking for a lovely gentle coastal walk.
Trivia: The Mourne Mountain range is found in county Down, being mostly made up of granite.
Name in Irish: Laois
Otherwise known as: The Queen’s County
Population (approx.): 84,700
County Town: Portlaoise
Best Hike: Slieve Bloom is a fantastic hike and, on a clear day, you can see into the four provinces of Ireland from the top. The Slieve Bloom Way is an 84km circular route starting and ending at Glenbarrow.
Trivia: ‘Laois’ is actually pronounced ‘Leash’, to confuse any tourists that may visit.
Name in Irish: Luimneach
Otherwise known as: The Treaty County
Population (approx.): 195,200
County City: Limerick
Best Hike: Not known for its hiking trails, there are actually a number of lovely routes including the 64km Lough Derg Way (which ends in Tipperary) and the 90km Ballyhoura Way (which is shared with Co. Cork).
Trivia: Frank McCourt, author of Angela’s Ashes, was born and lived in Limerick.
Name in Irish: Ros Comáin
Otherwise known as: The Sheepstealers
Population (approx.): 64,400
County Town: Roscommon
Best Hike: Lough Key forest park isn’t technically a ‘hike’ but still offers a beautiful and relaxing environment for walking. The 118km Miners Way and Historical Trail circular route is also located in Roscommon and very well waymarked.
Trivia: The first president of Ireland, Douglas Hyde, was born in county Roscommon.
Name in Irish: Liatroma
Otherwise known as: The Wild Rose County
Population (approx.): 31,800
County Town: Carrick-on-Shannon
Best Hike: Mullaghmore is on the Mullaghmore peninsula of Leitrim and also located on the Wild Atlantic Way – a great location for a hike on one of the more lesser-known counties of Ireland.
Trivia: The county town of Leitrim is called so because it lies on the banks of the River Shannon.
Name in Irish: Port Láirge
Otherwise known as: The Crystal County
Population (approx.): 113,795
County Town: Dungarvan
Best Hike: Tramore beach in Waterford offers a nice and gentle looped walk around the beach but The Coumshingaun Lough Loop is generally considered the best hike in Waterford.
Trivia: The world famous Waterford Crystal took its name from this Irish county.
Name in Irish: Thiobraid Árann
Otherwise known as: The Premier County
Population (approx.): 160,400
County Town: Thurles
Best Hike: The Glen of Aherlow offers nice walking routes throughout the glen, with stunning views from some high points. The Devil’s Bit Loop also offers the chance to see the surrounding eight counties on a clear day with the summit at 478m.
Trivia: The Rock of Cashel is also known as St. Patrick’s Rock.
For more information on our self-guided hiking tours around Ireland, check out our website: www.hillwalktours.com