Last updated on November 24, 2023
Doing a round trip with a rental car or camper in Ireland and doing a bit of hiking in between – is that possible? Yes – very well indeed!
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Not everyone needs a trekking tour lasting several days with a bivouac or a summit climb. But leaving the rental car for a few hours and stretching your legs is always good for you!
In fact, Ireland offers many beautiful landscapes in which you can hike – intensively or less intensively, as you like.
It’s a good thing that almost everywhere in Ireland there are opportunities for a short or long day’s walk.
I’ve put together a few nice options in the south-east of Ireland for you below. If you have a car available, you can do many of these walks as a day trip from Dublin.
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.
There are over 70km of sandy beaches in County Wexford. Most of them are interconnected. So you can easily walk several kilometres at a time and either park a second car at your destination (group), or have someone drive you one way.
Some of the nicest entrances are: Old Bawn Beach, Morriscastle Beach, Ballyconnigar Beach or Curracloe Beach.
Also special is The Raven, south of Curracloe Beach. A wonderful pine forest borders sand dunes, which in turn border a beautiful kilometre-long sandy beach – very nice to walk. There are signposted walking trails here.
The same applies to the Irish Heritage Park near Wexford, which runs through a beautiful woodland landscape where you can walk around for several hours in a very pleasant – and entertaining – way.
The Heritage Park is an open-air museum where you can learn a lot about the life of the people in this region, from the prehistoric settlers to the Vikings. The whole thing is very extensive and therefore very enjoyable.
Walking in the Wicklow Mountains National Park
The Wicklow Mountains offer a wonderful network of forest tracks. They are mostly restricted, but walkers are allowed to use most of them. Circular routes are often indicated at the car parks and entrances, sometimes with a map included.
With few exceptions, the wide gravel paths are easy to walk on, but there are also steep passages. The paths lead through the beautiful wooded areas of the Wicklow Mountains National Park.
There are also mostly narrow paths on the hilltops leading across the high moorland. Part of these are part of the Wicklow Way, a very well known long distance footpath. You can follow the Wicklow Way signs and do part of it as day walks.
Glendalough is located in the Wicklow Mountains. It is an early medieval monastery in a charming location. A narrow valley leads to two lakes framed on either side by high rocky mountainsides.
There are several marked hiking routes, from short and easy to longer and more strenuous. You can also get a map at the information office. The longer route “The Spinc”, which goes around the entire valley at altitude, is fantastically beautiful. Up there on the hills, you also have a good chance of seeing releasing sika deer.
Glenmalure is a narrow valley in the Wicklow Mountains, framed by rugged mountainsides. There, and in the neighbouring valleys, are a variety of walks, from easy to very difficult.
There are also several walks in the Blackstairs Mountains, not far from Bunclody. The Blackstairs Mountains are the continuation of the Wicklow Mountains and stretch almost to New Ross on the southern coast. A nice excursion leads from Nine Stones Viewpoint to Mount Leinster, which offers great views over the surrounding countryside. The 300 metres or so of ascent are done on a well-surfaced road and are therefore comparatively easy to walk.
A little further down, in the direction of Bunclody, is a wooded area where there are also several hiking trails.
Walking the River Barrow
The idyllic River Barrow is accompanied by riverside towpaths that are wonderful to walk. You’ll find beautiful stretches between Leighlinbridge and Graigenamanagh, for example.
The paths can be a little muddy in wet weather, but the beautiful river scenery makes up for it. The Barrow Way is a long-distance footpath. It stretches over 114 kilometres from Lowtown, County Kildare, to St. Mullins, County Carlow. Always along the river!
So you can take one or more sections of the long-distance trail as day tours!
Hiking along the River Nore
The Nore Valley Way also runs along the river. It is not yet completed, but there are already two sections, one from Kilkenny to Bennettsbridge and one from Thomastown to Inistioge. Both are about 10km long and if you are in Kilkenny you can try them out.
Walking in the Vee Valley
The whole region in and around the Vee Valley is well known among walkers. There are a number of routes of varying length and difficulty.
The mountains that frame the valley are quite high and strenuous to walk, but the views over the open countryside are truly spectacular.
There are also less strenuous walks and easier loop walks, such as the Duck Pond Loop and the Croagh Loop at Goatenbridge.
Some practical hints
You may find that it is not always easy to park at the entrances to the trails. Often the entrances are simply the entrances to the forest tracks and you don’t want to block the path of a logging truck!
The Irish just park on the side of the road, half in the bush and half on the road – you can join them. This is especially true on very small roads where there is little traffic.
Have I forgotten anything important?
Oh yes: I wish you lots of fun on your walks in the south-east of Ireland!