Last updated on November 24, 2023
Many visitors to the Irish island first fly to Dublin, rent a car and drive it to the west coast, where they drive the beautiful Wild Atlantic Way and see some of the beautiful sights. End the evening comfortably in the pub and let the relaxed serenity of the island affect you….
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Sounds too relaxed already? Almost boring?
If you’re an athletic type, you’ll be restless by the third day of driving at the latest – too little exercise! Your body wants to get out of the tin can and stretch!
No problem, you can be helped! Luckily, there are many beautiful hiking opportunities in Ireland, so you can hike for a few hours on almost every day’s ride.
For your inspiration, I’ve put together a virtual Ireland round trip with daily short hikes for you below. A few sights and pretty towns are also included.
You will walk around the southern part of the island and see many of its most beautiful corners. For the northern part of the island I will also write a second article…
By the way, my family and I have our second home in Ireland. I run a motorcycle rental business there in the summer (www.easycruiser.tours) and in our free time we like to hike. Since we are located directly on the Wicklow Way, we also offer accommodation for hikers.
Then let’s get going:
Day 1: Dublin to Bray
On the first day you won’t have that much time. Arrive, take over the car, half day already walked. No problem: Just outside the southern gates of Dublin start the Dublin Mountains, the northern foothills of the Wicklow Mountains.
Near Enniskerry you will find Powerscourt House and Gardens. This is probably the most magnificent historic estate in the region and the good thing about it is that it is surrounded by a huge park! I mean really huge!
There are several ornate gardens, but also many acres of beautiful forest with ancient and sometimes exotic trees. As soon as you walk a few meters away from the castle, you already leave most of the tourists behind and are in the green. In addition, there are beautiful views of the mountains and you can easily spend an afternoon here.
If that’s not enough, you can drive a bit further to the beautiful Powerscourt Waterfall and add a few more meters there.
If you’re not a fan of sightseeing at all, you can alternatively climb Great Sugar Loaf. It is located south of Bray and the entry is from Glencap or Red Lane.
Overnight stay: In Bray or Greystones, preferably within walking distance of the beach.
Day 2: From Bray to Laragh
Slept well? Wonderful, then you have mer time and energy to walk today!
For example, you can do the Bray-Greystones Cliff Walk. It leads between both places along the cliffs. You can go back by Dart, which is the local train in the Dublin area. Or you can take a cab. You can also turn around and walk back at some point along the way, the walk is nice in either direction.
Alternatively, you can drive a bit into the Wicklow Mountains, to Lough Tay. There you can leave the car and climb up to the J.B.Malone monument. Mr. Malone founded the Wicklow Way, the oldest long distance hiking trail in Ireland, which runs here. From the top you have a beautiful view of the mountains.
You can walk a bit further and climb Mount Djouce – up one side, down the other and back the same way.
Overnight stay: For example in Roundwood or Laragh.
Day 3: From Laragh to Portlaoise
Just outside Laragh is Glendalough. Glen-da-Lough comes from the Celtic and means valley of the two lakes. The valley is a dream! Surrounded by steep rock faces it has a magical effect. And so there used to be holy places of the Celtic druids here, before a monastery was built in the early Middle Ages.
You will find there a fabulous round tower, some old monastery buildings and many Celtic crosses. The whole thing lies in the middle of lush greenery by a secluded brook. A few minutes walk further you come to the first lake – a small beach, a beautiful lake and mountains around it – just beautiful.
There are several nice hiking trails there. Walk the spinc trail. To the left up the mountain there is a waterfall and a bit further you follow a boardwalk through the forest until you reach the rocks above the lake – fantastic views reward you! Follow the path around the second lake and through the remains of an old mine back to the starting point.
Overnight stay: Continue your journey and spend the night in Portlaoise.
Day 4: From Portlaoise to Blarney
West of Portlaoise are the Slieve Bloom Mountains. This small low mountain range is lower than the Wicklow Mountains, but still a hiker’s paradise. There are many different hiking trails of varying lengths there, mostly through woodland with streams and creeks. Run yourself out and take your time.
Via the M7 and M8 you continue towards Cork. You can exit in Cahir and visit the beautiful Cahir Castle. The old Norman castle is still well intact and is nicely situated by a stream. Next door there is a good café that invites for a lunch snack.
In Blarney there is another castle, actually it is a massive old castle ruin. The charm of it: It is surrounded by a very large and very beautiful park – so you can easily add another hour or two on foot.
Overnight stay: In Blarney.
Day 5: From Blarney to Bantry
Now we go to the wild Atlantic coast! Bantry Bay is a very beautiful bay. On the southern shore is the long stretched out headland of the Sheep`s Head Peninsula.
Drive to its tip and visit the Sheep`s Head Lighthouse. The small lighthouse is beautifully situated above the cliffs and the view of the sea is magnificent.
There is a long distance hiking trail on this peninsula, the Sheep`s Head Way. You can do any part of it as a day hike.
There is a very good Irish blog that I will refer to a few times. It is called Tough Soles. Ellie and Carl have hiked all of Ireland`s 40+ long distance trails and have created great maps to download (and print). You can find the maps for the Sheep`s Head Way here.
Overnight: In Bantry or surrounding area.
Day 6: From Bantry to Killarney
Today you have the choice if you want to hike Beara Peninsula or Killarney National Park.
This is really not an easy choice, because both are fantastic! In Killarney National Park you will find the highest mountains in Ireland – over 1000m high, and many hiking trails. Also the beautiful Gap of Dunloe, the also beautiful Black Valley and the Torc Waterfall.
The coastal road is the famous “Ring of Kerry”, at its tip are the impressive Kerry Cliffs Portmagee. Also the north coast of the small Valentia Island has its charms.
But especially in the summer months Killarney National Park and the Ring of Kerry are very touristy and heavily visited.
Beara, the peninsula south of it, between Glengarriff and Kenmare, is from my point of view just as beautiful and much less visited. If you want to walk in peace, the Beara Way, or any part of it, is a good recommendation. You can find the maps of the Beara Way here.
A little tip: The peninsulas all have a ridge inland that flattens out towards the headland. So you can choose how steep or difficult you want to walk.
Overnight: In Kenmare or Killarney.
Day 7: From Killarney to Tralee
The Dingle Peninsula is also a gem, really: beautiful coastal stretches and lots of open views.
First drive unreasonably Inch Beach. A long white sandy beach surrounded by mountains and cliffs. The surf cafe invites you for a snack and the beach invites you for a first walk!
You follow the coastal road always along the cliffs to Slea Head and around the tip of the island. Enjoy this beautiful coast!
Afterwards you can find a route to walk, for example along the coast to the north. Cliffs and sandy beaches alternate there and the walking is rather easy, but simply beautiful!
By the way, I took the title photo to this article on Dingle, a bit behind Slea Head.
Dingle also has a long-distance hiking trail: you can find the maps of the Dingle Way here.
Overnight stay: In Tralee
Day 8: From Tralee to Galway
Again, you’re spoilt for choice: you can walk a multi-hour cliff walk at the Cliffs of Moher, or hike the barren lunar landscape of the Burren. or a bit of both!
Take the ferry at Tarbert across the Shannon. Continue via Lahinch to Moher Tower at Hag`s Head. There begins a longer coastal path that leads past the Cliffs of Moher to Doolin. The small path leads directly along the cliff edge and the cliffs rise at their highest point 214 meters above the sea! Thousands of sea birds live and breed in the cliffs.
You can walk one way and take a cab back, or you can just drive to the Visitor Centre, park there and walk the path back and forth a bit, north or south.
Continue on to the Burren, which is a rocky limestone area just south of Galway Bay. The coastal road around the Black Head Lighhouse is a dream!
There are also several caves to visit here. Ailwee Cave is absolutely worth seeing with its stalactites and stalagmites. There is even the skeleton of a cave bear to see. A bit further up the hill you come to the Poulnabrone Dolmen. This 5000 year old “barrow” is one of the most beautiful and best preserved dolmens in Ireland.
Up there on the Burren you will also find hiking trails that will take you through the lunar landscape for a few hours.
Overnight stay: Galway or surroundings.
Day 9: From Galway to Dublin
From Galway you can drive back to Dublin, or continue your tour north. I will write an article about hiking in the north and link it for you below.
On the way to Dublin you can stop in Clonmacnoise. This beautiful old monastic site resembles Glendalough with its round tower and an impressive collection of beautifully decorated Celtic crosses. However, it is very open on the banks of the Shannon – really nice to see.
Overnight stay: Dublin.
And that’s about it for your virtual tour! But a walking tour of Dublin can be fun, and if that’s too urban for you, go for a run for a few hours in the really big Phoenix Park. There even deer live completely free – in the middle of Dublin!
I hope I could make you a bit curious about the Emerald Isle in the Atlantic?
That’s nice! Here are a few more reading tips for you: