Ireland’s 10 Best Hiking Trail Attractions

April 26, 2021 by
POSTED BY April 26, 2021

Did you know that many of the top tourist attractions in Ireland are also part of national walking routes? On foot, you’ll see more of the landscape than just one spectacular location. You can also spend as much time as you like and find magical quite places away from the crowds. In this post, we outline our list of Ireland’s 10 best hiking trail attractions and which routes you can find them on.

1. The Cliffs of Moher (Burren Way)

  • Total length of the Burren Way: 98km (plus Black Head Loop 116km)
  • Section along the Cliffs of Moher: Lahinch to Doolin

The Cliffs of Moher are the tourist attraction in Ireland. In 2016, almost 1.5 million visitors came to the west of Ireland to admire the 200 meters of vertically sloping cliffs. Many bus companies offer day trips to the cliffs. But there are alternatives to a flying visit to the visitor center followed by a selfie on the cliff edge. The Burren Way covers the full length of this natural monument as part of the section from Lahinch to Doolin.

Cliffs of Moher, Burren Way

2. Glendalough (Wicklow Way)

  • Total length of the Wicklow Way: 130km
  • Section near Glendalough: Glenmalure to Laragh

The monastery complex of Glendalough is a popular destination for Dubliners as well as tourists. As early as the sixth century, Saint Kevin was one of the first Christians to build a monastery village in the middle of nature. Today visitors still enjoy the peaceful atmosphere and tranquility of the Glendalough Valley. Circular trails of various degrees of difficulty are suitable for day trips. The Wicklow Way brings you right to Glendalough as part of it’s epic journey through the Wicklow mountains.

Glendalough, Wicklow Way

3. Giant’s Causeway

  • Total length of the Ulster Way: 1070 kilometers
  • Section along the Giant’s Causeway: Ballincastle to Portstewart – called the Causeway Coast Way: 51km

According to legend, the Giant’s Causeway was created as a result of a duel between two giants. After Fionn mac Cumhaill had defeated his much bigger Scottish challenger using a cunning trick, the land bridge between Northern Ireland and Scotland was destroyed. The remains are a gigantic collection of hexagonal basalt columns that still attracts visitors to the Northern Irish coast today.

If you want to hike to this World Heritage Site, you can walk from Ballycastle to Portstewart on the Causeway Coast Way in two to three days . This is part of the much longer Ulster Way, which completely circles Northern Ireland.

Giant's Causeway Hillwalk Tours
The Giant’s Causeway World Heritage Site on the coast of County Antrim, Northern Ireland

4. Game of Thrones filming locations (Ulster Way)

  • Total length of the Ulster Way: 1070 kilometers
  • Section with different locations: Ballintoy to Dunluce Castle (near Portrush)

Significant parts of the hit TV show Game of Thrones were filmed in various locations along the Antrim glens and coastline. These include, for example, the famous dark hedges, the caves of Cushendun or the port of Ballintoy (see below photo). The dark hedges form a gnarled tunnel as the driveway to the Stuart family’s estate. Located in Stranocum, they are a few miles from the Ulster Way. Other places like the port of Ballintoy or Dunluce Castle are right on the way.

5. Skellig Michael (Kerry Way)

  • Total length of the Kerry Way: 214 kilometers
  • Section near Skellig Michael: Cahersiveen, across from Foilmore

Granted; Skellig Michael is an island and therefore not accessible on foot without superhuman skills. Nevertheless, you can get great views of this legendary island on the Kerry Way. This trail leads around the entire Iveragh Peninsula. The unique mixture of coastal and mountain landscapes offers hikers a rush for the senses.

Skellig Michael not only impresses with the fantastic views of the mainland, but also with a special story. In early Christian times, monks lived here in so-called beehive huts. Due to the high demand and a very limited number of visitors allowed, it is advisable to reserve boat tickets well in advance. You can take an extra night on your Kerry Way hike to visit Skellig Michael either in Caherciveen or Waterville.

Skellig Michael Beehive Huts
Beehive Huts, Skellig Michael

6. Ross Castle (Kerry Way)

  • Total length of the Kerry Way: 214 kilometers
  • Section from Ross Castle: Killarney to Blackvalley

Ross Castle is located on Logh Leane lake in beautiful Killarney National Park. The Kerry Way runs very close to the imposing 15th century family home of the O’Donoghue clan. This was one of the last fortresses Oliver Cromwell defied.

Surrounded by secluded forests in the shade of Carrauntoohil, the highest mountain in Ireland, this section of the Kerry Way is an unforgettable experience.

Ross Castle at sunset
Ross Castle, Killarney at sunset

7. Powerscourt Waterfall (Wicklow Way)

  • Total length of the Wicklow Way: 130km
  • Section near Powerscourt: Enniskerry

At the end of Wicklow Way, a special highlight awaits you not far from the marked hiking trail: the Powerscourt Waterfall. It belongs to the Powerscourt family estate of the same name and can be viewed daily from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. At 112 meters, this is the highest waterfall in all of Ireland and makes its visitors seem tiny.

The sequoia trees in the surrounding forest were planted two hundred years ago and can reach an age of up to 4,000 years.

Powerscourt Waterfall on the Wicklow Way
Powerscourt Waterfall on the Wicklow Way

8. The Old Bushmills Distillery (Ulster Way)

  • Total length of the Ulster Way: 1070 kilometers
  • Old Bushmills section: Giant’s Causeway to Portstewart

The Ulster Way not only has culturally and geologically sensational things to offer, anyone who appreciates the artful preparation of alcoholic beverages will also get their money’s worth here. The Bushmills Distillery is only a stone’s throw away from the Giant’s Causeway and has a very long tradition of whiskey making. High-proof spirits have been produced here since 1608. Visitors have access to the distillery Mondays to Saturdays between 10 a.m. (Sundays from 12 p.m.) and 4.45 p.m.

Bushfoot Strand Sunset
Bushfoot Strand at Runkerry House near Portballintrae in County Antrim, Northern Ireland

9. Muckross House and Gardens (Kerry Way)

  • Total length of the Kerry Way: 214 kilometers
  • Section from Muckross House: Killarney to Blackvalley

Even if Ireland is not lacking in stately homes and cute gardens, Muckross House stands out in particular. Perhaps this is due, among other things, to its location between Muckross Lake and Lough Leane, two of the lakes in Killarney National Park. Queen Victoria even visited the property in 1861. Another celebrity link is through Arthur Guinness, who bought Muckross House.

A visit to the house gives you a vivid insight into 19th century Ireland.

Muckross House. Photo: flickr_brianfagan. To the license.

10. Dun Aengus in the Aran Islands (Western Way)

  • Total length of the Western Way: approx. 200 kilometers

The Aran Islands are admittedly not officially part of the Western Way. But Hillwalk Tours enriches this beautiful and wildly romantic hiking trail with this highlight.

The Aran Islands are known for their cultural richness, the Irish language and the harshness of the living conditions. Located at the entrance to Galway Bay, the three Aran Islands have long been isolated from the rest of the world. They made such an impression on the writer JM Synge during his stays between 1898 and 1902 that he dedicated several plays and a non-fiction book to them.

Fort Dun Aengus is located on Inishmore, the largest of the islands. It consists of three dry stone walls and slopes down to one side into the sea. It seems so impregnable. The remains of Dun Aengus are over three thousand years old and are considered to be one of the best preserved sites from prehistoric times.

Dun Aengus, part of the West of Ireland/Connemara tour
Dun Aengus, Aran Islands

We hope that you enjoyed this guide to Ireland’s 10 Best Hiking Trail Attractions. If you’re interested in taking an Ireland hiking tour, just get in touch.