Ireland’s Battle Sites & The Walks Around Them
Over the centuries, the Irish landscape has been the setting for countless historical battles, some of which helped shape modern Ireland. With this in mind, we’ve handpicked four walking trails near some of the most famous battle sites for outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy.
Battle of Kinsale
These days, the picturesque port of Kinsale is known as one of the most vibrant tourist spots in South West Cork. It’s hard to believe that the harbour town was once host to one of the famous sieges involving a ‘visiting force’ in Irish history.
The Siege of Kinsale marks a fascinating intersection between two conflicts; one between the rebel forces of colonised Ireland and England and the other the conflict between Spain and England.
In 1601, a Spanish armada destined for Ireland was split up by storms at sea, leading some boats to turn back. 4000 men reached the Town of Kinsale and held the position under siege from the English Navy for three months as they awaited assistance from the Irish rebels. After a harsh winter and a lack of reinforcements, the Spanish forces would eventually go on to surrender. The incident marked the end of direct Spanish support for the Irish Chieftains’ cause against the English Crown.
Recommended Walk: Old Head of Kinsale Loop Walk
Distance: 6 km
Duration: 1 hr 30 mins
Start location: The Speckled Door Bar and Restaurant, Kinsale Co.Cork
Parking: The Speckled Door Bar and Restaurant, Car park, Kinsale Co, Cork
Co-ordinates: 51.639729, -8.550532
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Starting at the car park immediately opposite the pub, follow the country road south for 2.5 km, taking in the panoramic views of blue sea.
From the loop walk it’s easy to imagine how spectacular the sight was the day the Spanish ships appeared on the horizon before passing Old Head on their way into Kinsale.
Ruins from an ancient Celtic fort and a 17th century lighthouse are also visible on the trail.
A view of the golf course awaits walkers at the turning point before the road curves around and returns back north. After 2.3 km take a right on the road and head 500m east until you reach the car park again.
Battle of the Boyne
The Boyne Valley near Drogheda in Co. Louth was the site of the infamous battle between two members of English royalty with a claim to the throne, King James II and William of Orange.
King James was a catholic king who opposed protestant reform in England and he also removed many high-ranking protestant officials from positions of power in Ireland. His followers were known as Jacobites. William of Orange was backed by leaders in England that wanted a protestant king. William of Orange could not ignore James II’s growing sympathetic following of Catholics in Ireland.
Although Williamite forces landed in the north of Ireland in late 1689, it wasn’t until July 1690 that the two armies fought at the Boyne Valley. After victory over James II’s forces, William of Orange and his men would later march onto Dublin unimpeded.
Recommended Walk: Towpath Walk
Distance: 3.6 km
Duration: 1 hr 10 mins
Start location: Oldbridge House, Battle of the Boyne Visitor Centre, Drogheda
Parking: Oldbridge House, Battle of the Boyne Visitor Centre, Drogheda Car Park
Co-ordinates: 53.723359, -6.423552
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Head east for 600 metres from the visitor centre and then follow the trail south for 300 metres until you reach a trail heading northwest towards the trees. Now head west to the river. Follow the river north for 200 metres until you reach a safe place to cross the river.
Stay on the ‘crossed side’ of the river for 1 km until you intersect with the L16014 road bridge. You can either cross here, if it’s safe to do so, or you can continue on for another 260 metres down the river and cross at the rocks. Once you have crossed, re-join the trail and head 600 metres west to the car park.
Battles of Arklow
Arklow was home to two well-known battles in Irish history. The first in 1649, involved the armies of Confederate Ireland and the English Parliamentarians and was one of many battles in a series of Irish civil wars over an 11 year period.
The second Battle of Arklow took place more than 100 years later during the Irish rebellion of 1798. This involved United Irishmen from Wexford, attacking the British stronghold of Arklow in County Wicklow. In both battles, Wicklow’s proximity to Dublin made it a priority location for the British to hold and defend.
Distance: 5 km
Duration: 2 hr
Start location: Glenart Castle Hotel, Co. Wicklow
Parking: Glenart Castle Hotel, Co. Wicklow
Co-ordinates: 52.808684, -6.193847
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Starting at the Glenart Castle Hotel, follow the path south for 600 metres, to reach the start of the loop.
Take the right turn after 330 metres (traveling southwest) and then continue on for 500 metres.
The path continues on west uninterrupted for almost 1 km, at which point walkers should take a right turn (traveling north) and continue on for 750 metres. The next right turn brings you onto the final stage of the loop, with the north path to the car park appearing after 1.1 km
Although an easy route to follow, this forest trail rises steadily and can be challenging at times for inexperienced walkers.
Battle of Collooney, Sligo
The Battle of Collooney took place in 1798 in the town of Collooney near Sligo Town. French troops partnered with Irish rebels to take on the British army and were victorious. It is often said that victory was achieved by the brave efforts of a man named Bartholemew Teeling, who is said to have broken ranks and disabled and captured a British cannon that had pinned down Irish and French forces for some time.
Recommended Walk: Union Wood Walk
Distance: 4 km
Start location: Forest entrance, off the R284
Co-ordinates: 54.213250, -8.470328
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Union Wood is close to Collooney, but can be difficult to find. From Sligo Town take the N4 to Carraroe. Take the first exit off the Carraroe roundabout and turn left at the church onto the R287. Take an immediate right onto the R284, following signs for Keadue. Union Wood is signposted on the right after approximately 4km.
Starting from the forest entrance, head south, with the lake on your right until you reach a crossroads after 500 metres. Take a left turn and travel south through the woods for 1km. The path will curve slightly, but ultimately continue south. Stay on the track for another 500 metres.
Once you emerge from the woods, continue 100 metres south, and then head for the area packed with trees in the northwest direction. Follow the trail north through the woods for another 400 metres until you come out into the clearing.
Head North for another 600 metres, this time sticking to the trail that runs alongside the forest but doesn’t enter the trees. Follow the trail as it curves to the east and continue for another 500 metres until you reach the road that leads you back to the R284.