Ireland’s beautiful green rolling hills are filled with amazing hikes that the whole family will love. We spent 2 weeks exploring the gorgeous green island on our 6 month backpacking trip through Europe.
Besides the beautiful hikes to do in Ireland, the delicious food and warm, happy people, will create a memory you will never forget.
We geared our hiking in Ireland towards family fun that even our two youngest (ages 5 and 8 at the time) would be able to hike with us, so all the hikes in this post are less than two hours total. Here are five of our favorite hikes in Ireland from our trip in June 2016 as well as some of our favorite Ireland destinations.
You can count on one thing when hiking in Ireland, at some point you will get wet. Don’t let that deter you though. Ireland is so lovely and beholds the nicest people you will ever meet. Come prepared with a good rain jacket and waterproof boots.
Enjoy exploring Ireland knowing that there is another thing you can count on when hiking in Ireland…there is always food and tea close by.
1 | Visit Glendalough Near Wicklow
This was the first hike we did when we got to Ireland and I feel like it really set the mood for Ireland. Ireland is lovely and picturesque and this hike was all of that. One of the things that makes hiking in Ireland stand out is how deep the greens can be and how dark the lakes are.
There are many hikes you can do in the Wicklow area. We chose the one from the visitor center to the end of the lake where the old mine ruins are.
What I liked about this hike was the diversity you get in a very short distance. First, stop to see the monastic ruins. Then, stroll along the pedestrian ‘Green Road’.
Finally, walk through the forest alongside the lake until you get to the old lead mines of ‘Miners Village’.
My kids enjoyed the information and animal displays at the National Park Information Office close to the Upper Lake. The people working it are ever so pleasant and helpful. This will definitely get you in the Irish spirit.
2 | Hike Carrauntoohil
This is the highest peak in Ireland. The day we were there was cloudy and we decided to take it easy on the little kids by not making them hike in the cold, rain, and fog to the top. We definitely recommend taking the path to see the amazing views top to see the surrounding valleys and lakes if the weather is in your favor.
Instead, we did the Cronin’s Yard Loop and experienced Ireland bogs first hand…cringing as our shoes sunk in the mud with every step. The lovely creeks, roaming sheep, and beautiful green hillsides with purple heather patches made the muddy shoes worthwhile. The kids will remember this hike in Ireland forever.
3 | Eat Great Food in Clonakilty
If you are a foodie you will love this town. The artisan food shop and bakery, Lettercollum, sells foods from local farms. We loved the jams, spreads, meats, and drinks, as well as made-to-order foods and pastries. There is also a great farmers market there on Saturdays. Stop by either of these lovely places and grab all your ingredients for a perfect picnic at Inchydoney Beach.
4 | Surf or Chill at Inchydoney Beach
Nearby, you can surf or relax at Inchydoney Beach. This was a great beach and we loved that it was close to the campground, Sexton’s Campground, which reminded us of Snow White’s cottage.
5 | Visit The Cliffs of Moher
Technically, you can pay to see the cliffs without hiking, but it’s so much more dramatic when you approach them from the coastline to the north.
Start from the town of Doolin and follow the trail. We chose to pull off about half way up the road and hike just a kilometer to the view point. Be careful though! The path is very narrow on the ridge and can get extremely windy.
6 | Explore The Burren
While you are in the area I recommend heading over to The Burren for some more hiking fun. The rock formation is unique and is probably the only place in Ireland that isn’t covered in green pastures.
7 | Visit King John’s Castle in Limerick
This was our favorite place to visit in Ireland. Limerick isn’t as far off-the-beaten-path and isn’t as crowded as Dublin, Cork, or Galway. We’ve visited a lot of castles through Europe and King John’s Castle still remains one of our favorites. The best part of Limerick for us was the Milk Market. It is one of the oldest farmers markets in Ireland. The Saturday market (though it is open on other days) is filled with local produce, baked goods, and delicious cooked sandwiches and sausages. A must see in Ireland.
8 | Hike Diamond Hill at Connemara National Park
This was our favorite of the hikes in Ireland. It starts at Connemara National Park and follows an easy path for the first kilometer. After that, the trail climbing quite steeply to the top ridge. The views of the lakes, valleys, rivers, and bog lands are quite beautiful.
This hike was a reminder to be prepared. When we started the hike, it was raining lightly and then it got really sunny and hot. Then, by the time we started the descent, it was hailing so powerfully on us, we were drenched head to toe. It felt as if we were going to have bruises from the impact of the hail! Five minutes later, it had passed and the sun was out again.
If you are going to be hiking in the U.K., this hike is a good warm up for getting comfortable with exposure, heights, and ridges.
9 | Drive the Wild Atlantic Way
Now, this isn’t much of a hike, but it does provide a different experience from the other four hikes and makes for a lovely afternoon exploring part of the Wild Atlantic Way. The stunningly blue water swirls in, out, and against the rocks forming a whirlpool of color. The grass grows in circular patches, reminding me of something out of The Lorax by Dr. Suess.
10 | Camp & Explore the Town of Ballina
We stumbled upon this town after a long day of driving. When we pulled into the campground we felt instant comfort. There was a large grass area, a very clean bathroom with hot showers, and laundry facilities. Since it seemed to never stop raining while we were in Ireland, it was nice that they had a large camper’s kitchen and a tv/game room that provided some warmth and shelter to relax and prepare meals.
We fell in love with the town especially the local bakery, called Billys Bakery, where we’d get scones, Irish soda bread, and the best chocolate cake I’ve ever tasted. They also sell delicious sourdough bread, but only on the weekends. Another great thing about Ballina is that it was only a twenty-minute drive to surf Easky or go to the beach at Enniscrone.
- Ultimate Guide To Hiking The Tour Du Mont Blanc
- Best Europe Itineraries: Top Destinations For Off-the-Beaten-Path Adventures
- How To Train For A Strenuous Hike