I usually greatly dislike ‘do x before you kick the bucket’ guides.
The reason I’ve used it in the title of this guide is that, realistically, these are hikes that you’ll need to spread out across a number of years.
Unless you’ve a heap of free time on your hands – if that’s the case, I’ll buy you 5 pints of your choosing if you manage to complete each of the below in under 6 months!
Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way is home to many a magical (and challenging) hike and walk.
We’ve teamed up with the folks at Hillwalk Tours to take you through six of the best Wild Atlantic Way Hikes that suit all experience levels.
1 – The Burren Way
You’ll find the Burren, arguably the most unique landscape on Ireland’s west coast, in County Clare’s Burren region.
You’ll often hear those that visit describe walking here like ‘visiting the moon’.
The Burren Way kicks off in the gorgeous little seaside town of Lahinch (loved by surfers the world over), and the trail passes through the village of Liscannor and then along the magnificent Cliffs of Moher (you’ll get to see them for free as you’ll avoid the car park) to Doolin.
The route continues up along the hills above the Atlantic to Fanore and then on towards the most north-westerly point of the Burren – Black Head, before passing through the little town of Carran and then finishing in Corofin.
2 – The Dingle Way
The National Geographic Traveller Magazine once ranked the corner of Ireland that the Dingle Way takes explores through as the “most beautiful place on Earth”.
You’ll be about 50 steps into this walk and you’ll realise why.
Those that tackle the Dingle Way will be taken on a coastal route of the Dingle Peninsula – a walk that’ll shock the senses in the best way imaginable.
This route is packed with endless photo opportunities. From Dun Chaoin Pier (emblazoned across countless Irish calendars) and Slea Head to Inch Beach and so much more.
3 – The Sheep’s Head Way
Our next hike takes us to one of the more remote sections of the Wild Atlantic Way.
The Sheep’s Head Way is a roughly 93km long trail that circles the stunning Sheep’s Head Peninsula in West Cork.
This peninsula is one of Ireland’s true hidden gems. The area around Sheeps Head is peaceful, unspoilt and home to some of the best scenery that Ireland has to offer.
The route kicks off in Bantry and takes hikers along the lonely north coast of the peninsula towards the lighthouse at ‘Sheep’s Head’ at the tip of the peninsula.
From here, it loops back to cover the southern section of the trail, taking hikers through the villages of Kilcrohane and Durrus, before heading inland and turning back north to finish in Bantry.
4 – Connemara
Taking in parts of the Western Way, this route gives you the option to head inland slightly while still tracing the path of the Atlantic Ocean.
Ascending through Maumeen Pass, you’ll follow in the footsteps of St. Patrick, arriving at a tiny pilgrimage church tucked into the rocks of the Maumturk Mountains.
This marks his most westerly journey into the beautiful Connemara region. Wheeling north through the Lough Inagh Valley, hikers emerge onto Killary Harbour, Ireland’s deepest fjord with mountains soaring above on either side.
The trail can also be followed northwards into Mayo with an optional side trip to another pilgrimage site likewise associated with St. Patrick – Croagh Patrick.
Don’t forget that you can also pop over to the Aran Islands to hike around Inis Mor. On a clear day, Kilmurvey Beach looks more like a turquoise paradise in the Mediterranean than a beach in Ireland!
5 – The Kerry Way
Our next hike takes us to the longest hiking trail in Ireland – the Kerry Way.
Roughly paralleling the ever-popular Ring of Kerry, those exploring on foot can experience the beauty at a much slower pace, and without contending with the army of tour buses that swarm the area every summer.
For me, the highlights on the Kerry Way include the Lakes of Killarney, the MacGillycuddy Reeks (home to Ireland’s highest peak – Carrantuohill – which makes for an arduous side-trip for the more advanced hikers out there) and views towards the Skellig Islands.
A visit to Skellig Michael is a great addition to your adventure, but make sure to book one of the limited boats well in advance.
6 – The Beara Way
You’ll experience one of the most unique modes of transport in Ireland if you choose to head off on the Beara Way.
A ride in Ireland’s only cable car to to Dursey Island is one of those things you need to experience if you’re in this neck of the woods.
Local farmers still take sheep and calves over in the very same cable car with fully grown cows only being banned in recent years due to weight restrictions.
The Beara Way hiking route is another peninsular route, with the tongue of land jutting out into the Atlantic located partially in County Kerry and partially in County Cork.
While still easily accessible to hikers of all skill levels, the journey is more remote and less touristed than the Dingle and Kerry Ways, making it a real hidden gemstone along the Atlantic Way.
If you follow our West Cork road trip, you’ll hit a couple of the spots mentioned above towards the end of the 4 days.
That’s a wrap!
I’ve the Beara Way pegged as my first hike of 2019, but it’ll be later in the summer before I get to tick off the next on my own ‘to-conquer’ list – Connemara.
Which one do you fancy trying out first? Let me know in the comments below!
The folks at Hillwalk Tours offer plenty of brilliant self-guided hiking experiences.
Explore Ireland by foot during the day and rest your head in a carefully chosen B&B at night.