Walking routes of Ireland
For this month's 1 2 Traveller Seamus O'Murchu has donned his walking boots and took to the waymarked ways of Ireland, here he outlines his best walking routes of Ireland.
Ireland has a number of walking routes throughout the country with over 30 ‘waymarked ways' allowing you to experience up close the sweeping scenery of the Emerald Isle.
From Kerry to Ulster, Wicklow to Donegal, Ireland is criss-crossed by an extensive network of walking routes through some of the most beautiful and timeless rural countryside. Many of these routes were ancient pilgrims trails, others were used by Irish Rebels to evade the British and all have their own unique characteristics and provide their own unique experience of Ireland.
1 2 Travel have an excellent selection of walking tours throughout Ireland, catering for all levels of experience, where all your accommodation is booked and your luggage is transported, offering you peace of mind comfort and local expertise.
But just to whet your appetite, here are my six of the best walking routes in Ireland.
Starting at Marlay Park in Dublin, the Wicklow Trail runs for 132km into the uplands of the Wicklow Mountains National Park, before finishing up in the village of Clonegal in County Carlow. Opened up in 1982, the route is popular and takes in a mix of sheep tracks, bog roads, forest walks and mountain passes. Sections south of Laragh rise to above 500m and will require solid footwear. Along the route the Wicklow Way passes St Kevin's 6th century monastic settlement in the stunningly scenic Glendalough and the fabulous Powerscourt Estate with its impressive 18th century mansion and surrounding gardens.
Starting and finishing in the town of Killarney, the 214km Kerry Way is the longest footpath in the Republic of Ireland. Looping around the Inveragh Peninsula, the Kerry Way is virtually the Ring of Kerry by foot and winds through the Killarney National Park and Macgillycuddy's Reeks and past Carrantuohil, Ireland's tallest peak before hugging the coastline and passing by Cahirciveen, Waterville, Derrynane, Sneem and Kenmare before heading back to Killarney.
Some of the best walking areas in Ireland can be found in the Burren in County Clare. This sparsely populated area of limestone karst is criss-crossed with ancient tracks known as green roads, too narrow for cars, making excellent walking routes. Among these is the 35km Burren Way between Ballyvaughan and Liscannor traversing the unique landscape and flora of the Burren, stopping at the village of Doolin, a famous centre for traditional Irish music and an ideal place to spend a night, before passing the highlight of the route, the famous Cliffs of Moher.
This route on the Beara Peninsula in West Cork encompasses some fabulous coastal and mountain scenery in an area much less travelled than the Ring of Kerry. The Beara Way forms a similar 196km loop around the peninsula, weaving its way through the Caha Mountains, past the Sugar Loaf Mountain and Hungry Hill and stopping by towns like Castletownbere and Glengarrif. Parts of the Beara Way follow the route of Donal O'Sullivan and his ill-fated followers, who retreated from O'Sullivan's castle and were chased into the hills by the English. Of the 1,000 of O'Sullivan's followers who set out that winter only 30 returned. Sections of the route encompass Bere and Dursey Islands.
The Dingle Way is another peninsula route looping its way around the Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry. This 168km walk begins and ends in Tralee and takes in the stunning Mount Brandon and passes some of Ireland's finest stretches of beach at Inch as well as a number of sites of archeological interest. The town of Dingle provides an excellent base with a number of restaurants and lively bars with traditional entertainments.
The Ulster Way covers over 900km on its route around the 6 counties of Northern Ireland and County Donegal in the Republic of Ireland. It would take a month to walk the route in its entirety, but thankfully it can be divided into a number of shorter walks. The south eastern section is based on the Mourne Trail taking in the Mourne Mountains and Strangford Lough, the north eastern section passes through the wonderful Glens of Antrim and the famous Giant's Causeway Coastline and the Donegal section, skirts the Glenveagh National Park, through the Derryveagh Mountains with Mount Errigal (752m) and the Blue Stack Mountains outside Donegal Town and continues on towards Lough Erne outside Enniskillen.