What are the most beautiful hiking areas in Ireland? Last week we introduced you to hiking regions in Ireland located in the west and east. In this post, you will find out about the most beautiful hiking areas in Ireland down south and up north.
These hiking regions take you to filming locations of Game of Thrones, the “four fingers” of the south-west coast and even to the “most beautiful place in the world”.
Hiking areas in the North of Ireland
From the history of Ireland and England it emerged that the geographical north of the island belongs to two countries to this day. “Northern Ireland” belongs to Great Britain while Donegal belongs to the Republic of Ireland. So Donegal belongs to the political south, even if geographically it is at the top of the north-west!
County Antrim in the north-east of Ireland is one of the six counties that make up the United Kingdom. Belfast and world-famous sights such as the Giants’ Causeway attract countless visitors to Antrim. The rugged coastline, vast lakes such as Lough Neagh and Belfast Lough and the famous Glens (an area made up of nine valleys) make Antrim a first-class hiking region.
Fans of the popular Game of Thrones series will also be delighted by the opportunity to see filming locations such as Dunluce Castle, the Cushendun Caves or Ballintoy Harbor with their own eyes. You can walk on hiking trails to all of these locations.
The Ulster Way
Ambitious long-distance hikers may be delighted by the prospect of circling Northern Ireland on a 1,000km hiking trail For everyone else, Hillwalk Tours put together a great hike called Antrim Glens and Coastline. This follows the Ulster Way from Waterfoot through the Glens of Antrim to Ballycastle and from there, along the coast. It also includes highlights such as the Giants’ Causeway and the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge.
There are moderate and easy variants for this hiking trail, with daily stretches of different lengths. They last five to ten days, depending on your needs.
Day hikes in Antrim
If you fancy day hikes, Antrim has various hiking areas that have been awarded the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty rating. Here you can experience the Antrim landscape on shorter marked trails. The Lagan Valley Regional Park is one such area and offers nature experiences on hiking trails not far from Belfast.
In Belfast itself, you can discover Redburn Country Park. This offers short hikes of seven kilometers and views of the Antrim Hills. Other popular destinations for day hikers are the Woodburn Forest in Carrickfergus and the Carrick-a-Rede suspension bridge in Ballintoy.
Located in the north-west of Ireland, far from big cities and metropolitan areas, Donegal is perhaps the wildest walking area in the republic. Here are the highest cliffs in all of Europe that fall into the sea. The Glenveagh National Park, the Bluestack Mountains and the majestic Mount Errigal all make hikers’ hearts beat faster.
Hiking in Donegal, Ireland
An absolute highlight of a visit to Donegal is a hike along Sliabh Liag, the highest European sea cliffs. With a length of less than three kilometers, this path can be done in under two hours, but it brings you fantastic views of the elongated cliffs and the surf below you. Sliabh Liag is on the Wild Atlantic Way and the closest vilage is Carrick.
One of the most beautiful summit climbs in Ireland is without a doubt a hike up Mount Errigal. At 751 meters, this is the highest mountain in Donegal. Because of its free-standing location and its cone-shaped summit, many consider it the most beautiful mountain in all of Ireland. It takes a bit of courage to climb it: there is no marked path. However, a beaten path can be seen.
The Bluestack Mountains are a mountain range further south, near Donegal Town. A marked path leads you over 65km or 40 miles (approx. three days) into the heart of this wild landscape. However, this route involves a significant amount of road walking and some sections are not recommended to complete in poor weather conditions.
Hiking areas in the South West of Ireland
The south-west of Ireland is a true paradise for hikers. Lush, green landscapes like Killarney National Park with rugged mountain ranges vie for your attention. A special feature are the four peninsulas that protrude into the sea on the south-western corner of Ireland like the fingers of a hand.
Each of these peninsulas is lined with a circular path. The Dingle Way, Kerry Way, Beara Way and Sheep’s Head Way spoil hikers with views of the coast, peninsulas and mountain ranges. The highest mountain range, the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks, is also waiting for adventurous hikers in Kerry.
The County of Kerry is characterized by superlatives. The Kerry Way is the longest hiking trail in Ireland and takes you to the base of Carraountoohil, the highest mountain on the island. The Dingle Way is also in County Kerry and has been named “The Most Beautiful Place in the World” by National Geographic.
So in Kerry you are spoiled for choice, whether you want to walk along miles of golden sandy beaches in Dingle or explore the mysterious Black Valley on the Kerry Way.
Daily stages of these long-distance hiking trails or shorter routes in Killarney National Park are also ideal for day hikes.
South of County Kerry is County Cork, county of the city of the same name. The west of this region, however, has nothing urban. West Cork is famous for its stunning landscape and is a magnet for alternative lifestyles, with a variety of ecological and artistic projects.
Hiking in West Cork
The Sheep’s Head Way is great for coastal views. The highest point here is only 345 meters but much of the trail follows a ridge along the peninsula with coastal views all around. At 93km (58 miles), it is also relatively short. Another plus point about this remote and peaceful hiking trail is the climate. The Gulf Stream ensures above-average mild and dry weather here.
Those who love coastal paths will also feel at home on the neighboring Beara Peninsula. The Beara Way is a varied and beautiful trail that takes you through remote valleys, up to passes and to remote islands. From a distance you can see settlements, mountain slopes and lush fields at the edge of the sea and are led across lonely moors to the next resting place in colorful villages.
You can find a report on everything you need to about the Beara Way here.
Choose a cardinal direction
Each of the cardinal points in Ireland has a lot to offer hikers. In each region there is more than enough to discover for a hiking holiday and each of these areas has its very own character and history.
Even if, due to the supposedly small size of Ireland, the temptation to see as many places as possible on one trip is great, it is worth choosing an area and getting to know it properly. And not just because of the winding country roads that increase travel time.
You will be surprised how much beauty and diversity can be found in Ireland in such a small space. And no matter whether north, south, east or west, you can’t go wrong with your choice.