Bucket List Walks in Ireland
We’re truly blessed with the natural landscape in Ireland and the picturesque walks and trails that we all can enjoy each weekend. If you’ve already enjoyed our walking suggestions in Wicklow, Cork and Galway and are looking for a route to take your walking to the next level, take a look at these Irish bucket list walks that you simply must try.
Also, because there’s nothing better than celebrating with friends after you’ve ticked a great hike off your list, we’ve found a few comfy spots to wind down in afterwards.
Carrauntoohil, Brother O’Shea’s Gully Route
A must for anyone who is determined to conquer Ireland’s most formidable peaks, Carrauntoohil rests in the Macgillycuddy’s Reeks and is the country’s highest mountain.
Believed to derive from either Gheraun-Tuel or Corrán Tuathail, early references to the mountain source the name as referring to the sickle of, or sharp ridge of Tuathail, an Irish male’s name.
One of the most famous ways to take on this beast is to take the route that includes a trail segment known as the Devil’s Ladder. Like with many aspects of the Carrauntoohil hike, this sharp ascent is best attempted by walkers with lots of hiking experience. In our route, we’ve included the slightly more manageable Brother O’Shea’s Gully Route.
In our opinion, Carrauntoohil is a hike that is best done in conjunction with a guided tour. Kerry Climbing is one organisation that brings groups up the mountain at various times of the year.
Duration: 7 hours
Start location: Cronin’s Yard, Co. Kerry
End location: Cronin’s Yard, Co. Kerry
Parking: Cronin’s Yard, Co. Kerry
Co-ordinates: 483623.226 587412.096
The journey starts at Cronin’s Yard, the spot that has long been considered the starting point for all things Carrauntoohil. From here, head up the gap through the valley for 3 km in a south-easterly direction. At the entrance to the valley, the route forks, with one trail heading around the lake to your right and one to the left. For the Brother O’Shea’s Gully follow the route around the lake. After approximately 2 km the route stops in front of the cliff face and then veers slightly to the right where the trail takes an extremely steep climb for 1km until you reach the ridge. From this height, you must walk carefully towards the summit for 400 metres. Be sure to stop and take a photo to capture your achievement.
From the summit, you can navigate the ridge and head towards the other peak of Cnoc na Peiste which is approximately 800 metres from the summit of Carrauntoohil. On this journey, you will spot multiple options to descend, some of which are incredibly steep with a risk of loose rocks. Look for a trail that lines up between the two lakes to start your return journey to Cronin’s Yard. If you deem it to be too steep for your climb, continue along to Cnoc na Peiste looking for an easier descent route along the way.
From here it’s 2.5 km to the start of the valley where you first took the fork in the road. Continue to the starting point.
For Afters: Kate Kearney’s Cottage
Kate Kearney’s Cottage, a bar and restaurant full of character and well known for its Traditional Irish Nights is just a 9 km drive from Cronin’s Yard. If it’s just a coffee you’re after, there’s the Coffee Pot next door. With plenty of outdoor seating and parking, this little corner of activity is also a handy spot to park and have a picnic.
(GPS Co-ordinates: 52.0400° N, 9.6315° W)
The Glen of Aherlow, The Trek to Lough Curra
The Glen of Aherlow, refers to an expansive valley that includes the River Aherlow and the Galtee Mountains and Slievenamuck Hill. One of the most photographed areas in the Glen of Aherlow is Lough Curra, a picturesque lake that is cut into the Galtees. The steep ascent to reach the water will give walkers the impression that they are approaching the mouth of a giant cauldron. If you are with younger walkers and wish to take on a more manageable route it’s possible to ignore the mini loop when you commence the trail below and head to the forest, taking a left instead of a right when heading towards the lake.
The Glen of Aherlow hosts two annual walking festivals each year, the two-day Winter Walking Festival over the last weekend in January and the three-day Summer Festival over the June bank holiday weekend. You can find more information here.
Distance: 10 km
Duration: 3 hours
Start location: Galtymore Parking Area
End location: Galtymore Parking Area
Parking: Galtymore Parking Area
Co-ordinates: 587194.579 627721.448
The route starts at the Galtymore Parking Area and is clearly signposted (52.400990, -8.1858616). It’s off a minor road that runs parallel to the R663.
Head 1 km south from the car park into the forest trail until you see a right turn that will take you on a mini loop west. After another 1 km the mini loop exits the forest into open space and you will see a river. The river runs south to Lough Curra.
If you are wearing suitable gear you could follow this river as it climbs towards the lake, but for a potentially dryer route, look for the trail to your right (heading south) that runs higher but parallel to the river.
Keep heading south against the direction the river flows until you reach Lough Curra. It’s about a 1.5 km walk from your position. It sits like an infinity pool as if it was cut into the mountain side. Once you have stopped for a sandwich or a selfie, walk 500 metres east, along the bottom of the lake and then take the trail descending north back the way you came. The steep descent reaches the forest area once again after 1.7 km. From here you can follow the trail through the forest back to the car park.
For Afters: Gallahue’s Restaurant & Bar
Close to Ballylanders GAA Club and just off the Kilfnane Road, Gallahue’s Restaurant & Bar is your closest watering hole after your trek to the idyllic Lough Curra. Don’t be surprised to meet other walkers celebrating their different Galtee Mountains conquests.
(GPS Co-ordinates: 52.371511, -8.345886)
Errigal Mountain, An Irish Icon
Errigal Mountain is a beautiful sight in the Donegal skyline, looking like it was picked up from a landscape in South Africa or Australia and then transplanted in Ulster. On a sunny day, the quartzite peak contrasts against the blue sky, leaving the mountain crying out for a photograph. Errigal Mountain is located in Gweedore, the largest Irish speaking area the country. It’s also one of Europe’s most densely populated rural areas.
The mountain itself has been used as a setting for stock footage in music videos and Hollywood films. Although not Ireland’s tallest mountain, it is a contender for the most iconic.
The mountain can be climbed without the help of a professional guide but the trail on the very top of the mountain is very narrow and extreme care is needed when standing at the summit.
Type: Point to point
Distance: 6 km
Duration: 2 hours
Start location: Mount Errigal Hike Parking on the R251
End location: Mount Errigal Hike Parking on the R25
Parking: Mount Errigal Hike Parking on the R251
Co-ordinates: 592770.527 920778.586
It all starts at a parking spot on the side of the road of R251. From here a trail leads up the mountain, and brings you in between the main summit and a smaller ‘second summit’ to the east. The safest way to the top, is to walk for 1.5 km from the car park until the climb flattens out onto a shelf. Once you have reached this plateau, face west and you will clearly see the trail that leads to the summit.
There may be just 1km more to go to the summit along a clearly identifiable path, but it is a very sharp ascent with step drops on either side. From here you will see some of the most breath-taking views in the whole country. Take your time to soak it in, but know that on a busy day there isn’t a lot of space to stand up at the summit so if there’s heavy foot traffic, it may be time to start moving down again.
Take care on the way down from the summit. The care needed to navigate the loose rocks and slippery surfaces make the descent to the car park almost as time consuming as the initial ascent.
For Afters: Gweedore Court Hotel
If you’re craving more of the tranquil views you’ve just enjoyed on the mountain, be sure to stop into the Gweedore Court Hotel on your drive home. You’ll also find the Errigal View Pet Farm across the road if you’re with the little ones. You’ll find this location by heading west on the R251, from the Mount Errigal car park.
(GPS Co-ordinates: 55.048738, -8.223043)
Lugnaquilla, Conquering Wicklow’s Highest Peak
A level above the leisurely Spinc Walk, Lugnaquilla is a testing trail for walkers looking for a Sunday challenge in Co. Wicklow. Once you reach the 925 metre summit, you will be rewarded with views of other peaks in the region and the lush greenery of the surrounding area. Keep an eye out for goats, deer, hares and frogs as you make your way through the bog land areas towards the waterfall and up the hill.
It’s advised to bring a map when you take on Lugnaquilla because when the clouds settle, it can be easy to lose your bearings on the route and get into difficulty. You can find information on guided walking tours in the region here.
Distance: 15 KM
Duration: 6.5 hours
Start location: Uphill turn past the youth hostel on Glenmalure Road
End location: Glenmalure Road
Parking: Glenmalure Car Park
Coordinates: 703122.950 691933.402
Start at the car park on the Glenmalure road and travel northwest until you reach a left turn after 1 km that takes you up the mountain. Follow the trail west for 2 km up through the middle of the valley. Once the track stops head right of the face of the waterfall. From here make your way up the hill and walk southwest behind the waterfall and enjoy the views of the valley you have just walked through.
Walk 2 km from Lugnaquilla towards Cloghernagh, then follow the trail back down to the Glenmalure road. This section is another 3 km, and once you reach the road it’s just another 2 km north to the car park.
For Afters: The Glenmalure Lodge
A hotspot in the Wicklow Way, Glenmalure Lodge sees many a coach stop off in and drop tourists off for lunch or a longer stay. The B&B is complete with a restaurant and bar and boasts open fires in the winter and live music most of the year.
(GPS Co-ordinates: 52.957636, -6.353446)
If you have any suggestions of walking routes that you think people should know about we’d love to hear from you on our Facebook page.