We love winter walks. The air is fresh, many trees and plants take on a beautiful new appearance, and the sunlight and exercise can keep the winter blues away
Here, we’ll take a look at some charming trails suited to winter walking, and then give tips on how to take the best pictures and keep safe on these chilly jaunts.
Easy Winter Hikes
These are the walks that you could do while digesting a Sunday roast. They’re well-worn trails, close to civilisation and without too much incline.
Ballyvaughan Wood Loop, Clare
This is one of the easiest walks around the Burren, bringing you over mud, grass and roads; through fields and woodlands. While there’s no incline, the surface can get a little muddy and craggy, so it’s not ideal for buggies and little kids.
Keep an eye out for the red paint markings and you won’t go astray. And prepare for a little dirt on your boots!
Phoenix Park, Dublin
An absolute gem (emerald?) in the heart of Dublin, Phoenix Park almost feels like it shouldn’t exist – so much open space, so close to the busy bus corridors, city and suburbs.
It’s a gorgeous place for easy walks in winter, from the hills overlooking Dublin 8 and towards the Dublin Mountains to the wooded glen by the little lake right up to Farmleigh, which is especially magical in the cold months.
Phoenix Park also features in our list of best places for dog walking.
Gougane Barra Forest Park, Cork
Forest walks are lovely in winter, as the trees provide some semblance of shelter from the elements and do wonders for your lungs and your wellbeing.
Gougane Barra Forest Park in Cork has several gentle strolls, but the easiest is The Slí Ghaorthaidh. This walk is a short, fascinating history and nature trail (we’re big fans of nature trails) that you can finish within about half an hour, suitable for all ages.
If that’s not enough, there’s plenty of forest park leftover – about 339 acres!
Early Morning Winter Walks
It might not always feel like it, but there’s always a reward for being an early riser. There’s something magical about being up before the rest of the world and enjoying a little piece of nature that feels like it was made just for you.
And, of course, in winter the sun rises later and later, giving you more opportunities to see the dawn break.
Here are some great winter morning spots…
Boyne Ramparts, Meath
This walk feels beautifully secluded and has the added benefit of historical context. In fact, key landmarks here include views of the Hill of Tara, Newgrange and Trim Castle.
Mighty ash and oak trees line the Boyne, which shimmers exquisitely when the sunlight hits it.
This is a wonderfully quiet spot, especially on winter mornings.
Torc Mountain, Kerry
Part of Killarney National Parks, this 2-3-hour uphill walk is immensely rewarding, especially if you’re there in the morning. The prize for making it up this small mountain is a stunning, 360-degree view of Killarney Town and lakes.
Bull Island, Dublin
Water and winter mornings go together like a hat and coat. And Bull Island gives you the opportunity to watch the sun paint the sea, especially at daybreak. If you can take the cold, it’s especially captivating when there’s ice and snow. Don’t forget those gloves and scarf!
Challenging Winter Hikes
This one is demanding, despite being relatively short, thanks to its steep incline. Once you reach the summit, you’re treated to an amazing amphitheatre-like view of the corrie (body of water) and the handsome, rocky land for miles.
This steep, rocky route can get tricky in winter and it’s a strenuous walk, so tread carefully.
The Bothy Loop, Mayo
Follow in the footsteps of sheep and cattle farmers along this trail, which incorporates droving paths from years gone by. The Bothy Loop combines the Bangor Trail and the Western Way. The latter was the droving path.
It’s a marked trail, but an isolated one, and it brings you to the remote lowlands of the Nephin Beg Mountains. This trail can get waterlogged and very muddy in winter, so check conditions before trekking.
Winter and Snow Photography Tips
Winter in Ireland is an especially good time to capture the country’s beauty. Here are some photography tips…
Keep your gear easily accessible
Whether it’s a phone or a camera with tripods and covers, you don’t want to be fumbling for it when a deer or a beautiful moment of sunshine is passing by.
Keep batteries warm and charged
Remember – batteries of all kinds don’t last as long in the cold weather.
Early morning is a good time for snaps
When the sun is catching the land and water at a 30-45-degree angle, that’s when magic happens.
Winter Walks Safety Tips
Ireland is a generally safe and fun country for hiking, even in the depths of winter. But there are some precautions to take, especially if you’ll be in the elements for a few hours.
Check weather conditions
Before heading out, take a minute to make sure the weather isn’t too hostile for walkers. A weather app is worth downloading for these quick pre-walk checks.
Aim to walking during the day
We know that the sun sets early in winter, but if possible, try to make the most of sunlight, don’t walk a strange and unmark route at night time, and (by the same token) if you’re going for a walk at night, make sure it’s a place you know well.
Wear the right gear
Tell people if you’re going off the beaten track
Thousands of people explore every corner of this country every day, and they’re rewarded with the joy of discovery and beautiful vistas. If you are going off the beaten track and will be out for hours, please tell a friend or family member. That will make it a lot easier to find you if you get lost.
It’s hard to believe you’ll get thirsty on a winter walk in this country, but it happens. Bring a bottle of water if you’re going to be out for more than a couple of hours.
What to Wear
This depends, naturally, on the type of day and weather you’re expecting. But if you’re going for a decent trek, you’ll want to be comfortable. As the adage goes: there’s no bad weather, just the wrong clothes!
If you want to stay warm, a good rule of thumb is to wear numerous small layers instead of one thick one. Your chest gets colder than your legs, so a good vest, a long sleeve shirt, a top and a jacket should be enough for Ireland’s maritime climate.
If you’re going to be crossing mud or rocks (which is likely if it’s a long winter walk in Ireland), a good pair of boots with thick soles is your answer. Please wear them beforehand to break them in!
Hat, gloves and scarves
Again, the need gloves and scarves will depend on the day itself and the forecast. But don’t leave the house without a hat!
See you on the walking trails!
Don’t forget to always prep before you head out, and remember, OSI has a vast range of maps covering every part of the country.