How to work with the infamous Irish weather, when is the best time to travel and how to otherwise fully enjoy your hiking holiday, find out in our thirteen best tips for hiking in Ireland.
Hiking is the best way to discover Ireland in a natural and conscious way. Anyone who loves to feel the earth beneath them while fresh sea air is blowing around their noses is in the right place on one of the many long-distance hiking trails on the Emerald Isle. However, some local knowledge always helps to increase the enjoyment so here are our top tips for your Ireland hiking holiday.
1. The best sights
World-famous Irish attractions such as the Cliffs of Moher and Giants’ Causeway are ideally located directly on long-distance hiking trails. So if you’ve always dreamed of watching the sun sink behind gigantic cliffs, then a multi-day hike is the ideal way to really immerse yourself in the nature around you.
2. The right equipment
The weather in Ireland can be humid, but it is not extremely cold or hot due to the Gulf Stream. That means for your packing list that rainwear and waterproof footwear should be at the top. Wind protection is also important because many hiking trails are close to the coast.
Sunscreen, sunglasses and gloves are a must in a hiking backpack at any time of the year. Polar equipment and shorts, on the other hand, can normally be left at home.
3. The right time
Forecasting the Irish weather and making recommendations for a specific travel time is a risky business. However, the following trend has emerged in recent years. The period with the most pleasant temperatures and little rainfall is from April to June.
In June, you can also enjoy the longest days in Ireland. Due to its northern location, it doesn’t get dark until after 10 p.m. around the summer solstice.
4. Weather forecasting service
The Irish weather service Met Eireann provides reliable forecasts every day. These are subject to frequent changes, but are often accurate in the morning of each day.
A special tip is the Norwegian weather forecasting website yr.no. This site is known locally in Ireland for it’s accurate hourly forecasting.
Of course, the locals along the trail are often the best weather forecasters knowing how the clouds will pass over the mountains from years of experience.
5. Spoiled for choice
If you are looking for an outstanding hiking trail, you are truly spoiled for choice in Ireland. The 43 waymarked hiking trails in Ireland led you into the heart of the Irish countryside and sometimes far from civilization. Whether you explore the filming locations of Game of Thrones (Antrim and Coastline), marvel at monastery ruins from the sixth century (Wicklow Way), discover the “most beautiful place in the world” (Dingle Way) or get to know a unique limestone landscape (Burren Way) entirely up to you.
6. Muesli bars and other hiking provisions
Trekking routes often take you away from people, cities, and shopping. In order not to carry too much weight, high-energy snacks are recommended as hiking provisions.
Fortunately, there is usually a small supermarket in villages, such as Centra or Spar. Often these offer an amazingly good selection of delicious energy bars and muesli bars. Made from raw and sugar-free ingredients such as nuts, seeds and fruits, Cliffbars, Nakedbars and Natasha’s Raw Food bars are not only delicious but also healthy.
7. High-altitude hiking: only for advanced hikers
A big difference to it’s European counterparts is that hiking does not have a long tradition in Ireland and many hiking trails were only established towards the end of the 20th century. With a few exceptions, peaks are almost never accessible via a marked hiking trail.
In addition, the subsoil in mountain ranges is often boggy and impassable. Also, don’t be fooled by the seemingly harmless altitude. Although all mountains in Ireland, apart from the highest one Carrauntoohil, are less than a thousand meters, most of the time they start from sea level. So the climbs are still considerable.
A good knowledge of the mountains, such as using GPS or excellent map reading skills, and sturdy shoes are necessary if you want to climb the Irish mountain peaks. At mountainviews.ie you can find tested GPS routes and recommendations from other hiking friends for free download.
8. Inspirational blog
Apart from our own Walking Hiking Blog, if you are looking for further inspiration for a hike in Ireland, Ellie Berry and Carl Lange’s blog toughsoles.ie is highly recommended. The young couple set out to walk all 43 trails in Ireland in one go in 2017. They completed this project in 2019 and continue to now walk shorter routes around Ireland.
9. Book early
There are only limited sleeping places in rural areas of Ireland. On long weekends, so-called bank holiday weekends, demand also rises from Irish weekend vacationers. So if you don’t want to stand in front of closed doors after a long day of hiking, it is definitely worth booking early. You can then relax and look forward to the time ahead in nature.
10. Experience culture
There is at least one pub in Ireland even in the smallest of towns. And there you can often enjoy fantastic live music. It is not for good reason that the Irish are considered the most musical nation in Europe. Especially in remote regions like Connemara or Kerry, traditional Irish culture and the Gaelic language are still well preserved and alive.
Do not miss this unique experience, you will get out of bed early enough to hike. And “Craic” (fun, Gaudi) are a central part of Ireland’s culture.
11. Dogs and sheep
Many hiking trails in Ireland run on private land and legal battles between hikers and landowners occur time and again. There are a number of reasons for this, but one is the protection of cattle and sheep herds. It is therefore important not to damage fences and follow the leave no trace principles.
12. Day trips
Day hikes in Ireland are unfortunately a bit of a chore to organize. The bus connections to national parks and rural areas near areas of wilderness are often seldom and poorly signposted, especially when it comes to the way back. There are always cheap offers for rental cars if you dare to drive. Otherwise, it might be worth booking a local tour.
Almost every somewhat larger town in Ireland has a tourist information office that will provide you with qualified and free advice.
Since many of the signposted routes are multi-day tours, find out beforehand which section is particularly beautiful or whether national parks offer shorter circular routes. Diamond Hill in Connemara or routes in the Wicklow Mountains are examples of great day trips into the great outdoors.
13. Coastal paths
If you love the sea and enjoy hiking holidays, Ireland is a godsend. In the south-west of Ireland a number of peninsulas jut out like giant fingers straight into the Atlantic. Around some of these peninsulas, for example Dingle, Beara and Sheep’s Head, there are hiking trails that completely circle them.
So you will often hike along the coast and are rewarded with spectacular views of mountains and sea.