Last updated on November 24, 2023
Hillwalking – that’s what hillwalking is called in Ireland. Alpinists will be less impressed by the mountains, which are just 1000m high, but even these can offer difficult and strenuous climbs.
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For those who like a bit of exertion but don’t want to completely overdo it, Ireland has plenty of mountains that can be easily tackled with normal hiking gear and a bit of fitness.
You should have some hiking experience and a map and compass in your luggage. In Ireland, even on low mountains, bad weather or low clouds can quickly obscure visibility, making the sparsely marked path difficult to find. You should also always carry rain gear, plenty of water and food.
Many of Ireland’s mountains and hills offer fantastic panoramic views of the mountainous hinterland or the beautiful coastline, despite the moderate altitude. I’ll introduce you to some really beautiful but not so difficult hillwalking options in this article.
By the way, we live in Ireland (second home) and run our motorbike rental business here in the summer months (www.easycruiser.tours). We also have nice guest rooms (www.the-view-accommodation.ie). We have travelled the island again and again over many years and therefore know it very well.
Diamond Hill is only 442m high, but still offers great views of the Connemara coast with its offshore islands of Inishbofin and Inishturk.
There is a circular walk of about 7km to the top and another about half as long along the side of the hill.
So if you are in Connemara and visit the famous Kylemore Abbey, you are almost in the neighbourhood of Diamond Hill and can include its ascent in your holiday programme.
The 764m high Croagh Patrick is probably one of the most famous mountains in Ireland. The rocky Sugarloaf is located directly on the coast and its shape and texture make it stand out clearly from the surrounding mountains. According to legend, Saint Patrick climbed this mountain, fasted there for 40 days and built a chapel.
Today, this is a place of pilgrimage, climbed by thousands of pilgrims every year – some of them walking barefoot!
But you don’t have to…There are two main routes for the ascent, the best known and most used being the pilgrimage trail from Murrisk. There is also a less frequented route from the back. This follows the Croagh Patrick Heritage Trail for part of the way.
In both cases, be prepared for some steep sections with rock and scree and be sure to bring sturdy shoes. Allow about 4 hours for the ascent and descent. The route is short, but you will have to climb over 700 metres in altitude, as the starting point is almost at sea level.
At the top, you can enjoy the well-deserved view of the incredible Clew Bay with its numerous islets – 365 of them, one for every day, they say. I haven’t counted them yet, but you’re welcome to try 🙂 .
Another sugar loaf you can climb: Mount Errigal, at 751m, is the highest mountain in County Donegal, the most north-westerly county in Ireland.
There is a car park for walkers just off the R251 from where you can start the climb. However, in summer you won’t be the only walker here so it’s good if you can get an early start.
The hike takes about 3-4 hours, depending on your fitness and pace, and you need to be in good shape to manage the steeper sections. If the weather is good, you can expect a wonderful view of the Donegal mountains from the summit.
The Slieve Binnian and the Mourne Mountains
The Mourne Mountains in Northern Ireland offer many beautiful walks. One of these is the climb up the 741m high Slieve Binnian. The entrance is off the Head Road and there are several paths up to the summit. The bare granite rocks of the Mourne Mountains are mega impressive, as are the views of the Silent Valley Reservoir and the sweeping views of the coast.
The Table Mountains of Benbulben
The 536m high Benbulben is the landmark of Sligo. The mesa presents a broad wall of cliffs to the southwest and northwest, so as you drive along the coast you will see mainly rugged steep cliffs.
On other sides it is much less steep and that is where you will find the climbs. Besides Benbulben, there are other lower peaks, all connected by a plateau.
So you can choose between several more or less strenuous routes, all of which you can easily do in a few hours. At the top, you will be rewarded by beautiful views of the mountains to the east and the magnificent coast to the west.
Knockmealdown Mountain is the highest mountain in County Waterford. It lies in the Knockmealdown Mountains, which include other peaks, and marks the border between Counties Waterford and Tipperary.
At 794m, it is quite high, but as you start at about halfway up, the altitude gain is put into perspective. There is an easier path and a steeper path for the ascent and both can be easily done in a good half day.
Even if you are not an experienced hill walker, you can still get your money’s worth in Ireland’s mountains. There are great mountains here that are easy to climb with a bit of fitness and sturdy shoes, and where you can still experience the great feeling of having climbed a peak.
High above the countryside, in good weather, you can see far across the country, the mountains and the coasts and take home impressions that normal tourists to Ireland will never have.
I wish you lots of fun on your hillwalks in Ireland!