38 Deadly Hikes And Walks On The Wild Atlantic Way To Try With Friends In 2020

Slieve league hike
Photo taken by MNStudio (shutterstock)

We recently published a guide to 88 of the best hikes and walks in Ireland.

The guide took in everything from mammoth mountains, like Carrauntoohil, to handier rambles that still offer incredible views, like the Diamond Hill walk.

In this guide, we’re going to take you through some of the best hikes that the Wild Atlantic Way has to offer.

For some, you’ll need to be a seasoned hiker. For others, you’ll be able to conquer them without too much hassle.

1. The Croaghaun Sea Cliff Hike (Mayo)

Croaghaun Cliffs
Photo by Deejayw via WikiCommons

Next on the list is one of the best hikes in Ireland and it tends to get missed by many visiting Achill Island in County Mayo.

The Croaghaun cliffs are the highest in Ireland (the cliffs at Slieve League are the highest on the island of Ireland), standing at an impressive 688 metres (2,257 ft). 

If you’re not an experienced walker who knows their way around a map and a compass, consider a guided hike – there are no clear trails to follow here and if the weather changes abruptly, you could be in the deepest of shit.

The climb here can take between 4 and 5 hours in total (if you start on the southerly side and come back down on the northerly side).

2. The Rossbeigh Hill Loop Walk (Kerry)

Rossbeigh hill walks
Photo by Monicami/Shutterstock.com

The Rossbeigh Hill Loop Walk is one of the finest walking trails Ireland has to offer. On a clear day, the views out over Rossbeigh Strand and the surrounding countryside are out of this world. 

I’m currently sat in a very grey little housing estate in Dublin looking at the photo above.. it’s giving me serious FOMO (the fear of missing out…).

This walk can take between 3 and 4 hours depending on pace, and it offers a magnificent view out over the surrounding countryside.

3. The Gougane Barra Forest Walk (Cork)

where to go in Ireland
Photo by Brian Fox (this is his website and you’ll find him on IG here)

If you’ve never been to Gougane Barra in Cork then you’re in for a treat. This place is insanely special and it’s up there as one of the best places to visit in Ireland.

There are six different trails that you can head off on here –  the pick of the bunch (in my opinion) is a walk called ‘the Slí an Easa’.

This is a 1.8km trail that can take up 1.5 hours to complete and is pretty strenuous in places. This walk takes you high up into the mountains and rewards your efforts with spectacular views of the surrounding area.

4. The Benwee Loop Walk (Mayo)

The Cliffs at Benwee Head
Photo by Gareth McCormack

The North Mayo coastline is some of the most rugged that Ireland has to offer. It’s also in a corner of Ireland that still falls into the ‘Hidden Gem’ category.

There’s a 5-hour looped walk that you can tip off on here (here’s a guide) that’ll take you along a bog trail. 

Expect cliffs, waves, incredible coastal views and an unmissable encounter with the enormous Benwee Head (above).

5. The Knocknarea Queen Maeve Trail (Sligo)

Knocknarea Mountain Walk
Photo by Alison Crummy

The Knocknarea Queen Maeve Trail one of my favourite walks on our Wild Atlantic Way itinerary. It’s a 1.5-hour ramble that takes you up Knocknarea Hill.

This mountain dominates the Sligo skyline from many angles, so you should get a good look at it from the distance as you approach.

When you leave the car park, follow the path along the bog bridge all the way until you reach the summit. You’ll be treated to panoramic views of Sligo from the top.

6. The Bray Head Loop Walk (Kerry)

geokaun mountains kerry
Image © The Irish Road Trip

If you’re visiting Kerry, make sure to carve out some time to visit Valentia Island. It’s incredible. There are several different walks on the island, but the best is the Bray Head Loop Walk.

This is a 2.5 to 3-hour walking route that takes you up to Bray Head and along the coastline at the western end of Valentia. You’ll catch mighty views of the Skelligs on the horizon.

When you finish, make sure to take a spin up to the Geokaun Cliffs for one of the best views in the land.

7. Lough Coolaknick Loop (Mayo)

Sunset on Inishturk Island
Photo via Inishturk Island

Our next walk takes us to an island off the coast of County Mayo – Inishturk. This is a proper hidden gem on the Wild Atlantic Way that’s well worth exploring!

If you visit, give the Lough Coolaknick Loop a bash. This is a handy 5km walk that has a 150-metre ascent and it shouldn’t take you any more than 1.5 hours to complete.

The loop circles around the island’s Cairn Hill and offers gorgeous views of the islands and mountains of West Mayo and Connemara.

8. The Devil’s Ladder Trail (Kerry)

Climbing Carrauntoohil
Photo via Failte Ireland

Next on our list is Carrauntoohill – a mountain that’s home to one of the best hikes in Ireland. This is another one for the more experienced hillwalkers (unless you’re taking a guided climb with an experienced hiker/group).

Standing at an impressive 1,038.6 metres, Carrauntoohill in Kerry is the highest mountain on the island of Ireland. One of the most popular routes here is the Devil’s Ladder Trail

This hike begins in Cronin’s Yard and it’s one of the more accessible climbs on Carrauntoohill. It’s a 12km hike which involves some climbing and scrambling. Here’s a guide to the climb if you’re thinking about trying it.

9. The Knockomagh Hill Walk (Cork)

Knockomagh woods skibbereen
Photo © The Irish Road Trip

I did the Knockomagh Hill Walk with my aul lad a couple of years ago. It took us just over an hour to finish and the views out over Lough Hyne were cracking!

The trail here is pretty well maintained, and there’s plenty of places where you can stop for a bit and admire the scenery through the gaps in the trees.

When you reach the top there are several little spots to sit for a while, catch your breath and soak up the picture-perfect scene that lays in front of you.

10. The Horn Head Walk (Donegal)

horn head donegal
Photo by Chris Hill via Failte Ireland

We’re off to Horn Head near the little town of Dunfanaghy, next. There’s a nice and easy walk at Horn Head that’ll take you the guts of 2 hours if you stop to soak up the views.

It kicks off at the little lookout point (it has the large bronze-coloured Wild Atlantic Way sign so you can’t miss it) at Horn Head and follows a trail down towards an old Signal Tower.

The tracks here are along peaty ground, so expect them to be pretty wet under-foot. Although this walk is handy on a fine day, it shouldn’t be attempted in bad weather.

11. The Diamond Hill Upper Trail (Galway)

view from the hill
Photo by Gareth McCormack

Many people that visit Galway tend to never venture far from the city, which is a shame, as the best that this county has to offer lies in the Connemara region.

Connemara is also home to one of the best hikes in Ireland – the Diamond Hill walk. Take a second to look at the view from the top of Diamond Hill in the photo above… magic.

There are two different walks here; the first is the lower walk – a 3km walk that takes 1 to 1.5 hours to complete. The second is the upper walk, which stretches for around 7km and takes between 2.5 and 3 hours.

12. Eagle’s Rock (Leitrim)

eagles rock
Photo by Adam.Bialek/Shutterstock.com

Leitrim doesn’t get half the credit that it deserves. It’s a brilliant little county that packs a mighty punch, once you have a solid itinerary (here are loads of things to do in Leitrim).

Now, if you’re not familiar with Eagle’s Rock, it’s the largest free-standing rock tower in Ireland (only a handful of people have scaled it, apparently).

I’m not suggesting that you try to get up it, don’t worry. There’s a 2.5 to 3-hour walk here that offers sensational views of the surrounding countryside and beyond.

It can be a little tricky, however, and is definitely one for the more seasoned walkers among us. There’s a gravel path to follow from the nearby car park, but this will only take you so far.

There’s no clear trail across to Eagle’s Rock, so you’ll need to have your wits about you and find the best route to towards the top. 

13. The Sheep’s Head Way Cahergal Loop (Cork)

sheeps head walk
Photo by George Karbus

If you’ve never heard of Sheep’s Head, it’s the headland at the end of the Sheep’s Head peninsula in West Cork. This peninsula is a little chunk of paradise for walkers, with 20+ looped walks to choose from.

My favourite walk here is known as the Cahergal Loop. It kicks off at the Black Gate/Alice West Centre and takes roughly 3 hours in total to complete.

The folks at Discover Ireland have created a detailed guide to help you navigate the walk. Expect mighty views throughout.

14. Sruth in Aghaidh an Aird (Sligo)

Our next walk is one of the shorter Irish trails on our list and it takes those that saunter along its path up to see Sruth in Aghaidh an Aird, or ‘the Devil’s Chimney’ as it’s sometimes referred to.

It’s often said that this is Ireland’s highest waterfall. However, there’s also one similar on Carrauntoohill that runs during/after heavy rain.

The name ‘the Devil’s Chimney’ comes from when the waterfall gushes upwards following rainfall. There’s a 45-minute walk here that’ll take you up to see the waterfall and that’ll treat you to views of the surrounding valley and Glencar lake on your way.

15. Mount Brandon (Kerry)

summit of mount brandon
Photo by Colm K (Shutterstock)

You’ll find one of the best views on the Dingle Peninsula at the summit of Mount Brandon. There are several different routes for reaching the summit.

The only one that I’ve done in the past starts at Faha, a stone’s throw from the village of Clogane.

This is a strenuous walk that can take from 4 to 5 hours. It kicks off in the car park near Faha Grotto and it takes you up to the highest point of the Dingle Peninsula.

16. The Malin Head Coastal Walk (Donegal)

malin head donegal
Photo via Tourism Ireland

There are several different walks that you can head off on at Malin Head, but the 1.5-hour looped walk is arguably the most popular. On a clear day, you’ll be treated to views of Horn Head, Tory Island and plenty more.

It kicks off in the car park near Lloyd’s Tower and follows a decent path towards craggy cliffs. The walk then continues towards the most northerly point in Ireland – Banba’s Crown. Take a break here, let the wind pour over you and admire the mighty views.

I’ve heard of people spotting whales and sharks while doing this walk, so keep an eye out. It’s also said that this is the best place to see the Northern Lights in Ireland when the weather is just right.

17. The Gap of Dunloe (Kerry)

gap of dunloe walk
Photo By Stefano_Valeri/Shutterstock.com

There are several different walks and hikes around the Gap of Dunloe in Kerry and they tend to vary in length and difficulty.

I was here recently and we followed the road from Kate’s Cottage up to the Black Valley. It took around 1 hour and 50 minutes each way.

Bring a picnic and chill at the halfway mark. You could also get a jaunty (horse and cart-type thing) up to towards the Black Valley and then walk back.

18. The Benbulben Forest Walk (Sligo)

Benbulben county sligo
Benbulben: Photo by Chris Hill

We’re back to Sligo next for the Benbulben Forest Walk. This is a gorgeous 1.5-hour stroll that’ll treat you to glorious views of the table-top-like Benbulben, Donegal Bay, Slieve League, and Mullaghmore.

There’s some handy space to park (pop ‘Luke’s Bridge’ into Google Maps) and the walk is suitable for people of all fitness levels.

You’ll ramble through a secluded forest area that later opens up and treats you to spectacular close-up views of Benbulben Head.

19. The Pilgrim’s Path (Donegal)

Slieve league views
Photo by POM POM/Shutterstock.com

The chances are you’ll have heard of the Sliabh Liagh Cliffs in Donegal. They’re some of the highest sea cliffs in Ireland and they’re a fine spot for a walk with views.

The Pilgrims Path is a breath-taking 4km route that takes walkers to the plateau of Sliabh Liag. The walk follows an ancient path up a U-shape valley that offers remarkable views out over Teelin Harbour and beyond to Sligo.

Those that conquer this climb will encounter a waterfall, the remains of an old chapel, a panoramic view that takes in 7 counties and endless cliffs and coastline. This walk can take up to 3 hours in total and it’s one for experienced climbers.

20. The Killaspugbrone Loop Walk (Sligo)

Killaspugbrone Loop Sligo
Photo via Go Strandhill

As you’ve probably gathered at this stage, Sligo is home to an almost endless number of walks and hikes. The Killaspugbrone Loop is up there with the best hikes in Ireland.

This is a lovely looped walk that passes the early Christian site of Killaspugbrone church and that takes between 1.5 to 2 hours to complete.

If you give this a bash, expect to encounter a smattering of coastal habitats, including sand dunes, salt marsh, and pine woodland along with spectacular views of Ben Bulben, Knocknarea, Sligo Bay, and more.

21. The Doolough Valley Walk (Mayo/Galway)

doolough valley drive mayo
Photo by Chris Hill

The Doolough Valley is home to one of the best drives on the Wild Atlantic Way. If you visit, keep an eye out for a plain stone cross engraved with the words ‘Doolough Tragedy 1849’.

This memorial marks a tragic event that took place during the Great Famine during the mid 19th century. I’m not going to do this event the discourtesy of summing it up in a paragraph. Here’s a detailed account of what happened. 

A yearly walk is held along this route in memory of the Doolough dead and to highlight the starvation of the world’s poor still today. 

22. The Torc Mountain Walk (Kerry)

boardwalk on torc
Photo by Randall Runtsch/shutterstock.com

The first on our list is a hike up Torc Mountain near the buzzy town of Killarney in Kerry. There’s a mighty 7.5km scenic walk here that leaves from the Upper Torc car park and that takes 2 to 2.5 hours to complete.

The walk, which takes you to the summit of Torc Mountain, offers outstanding views of Killarney town, the National Park, Muckross House and the McGillicuddy’s.

You’ll also catch a glimpse of Torc Waterfall. There’s a clear path to follow on this ramble and a good chunk of it is covered by railway sleepers (the boardwalk in the photo above).

23. The Old Head of Kinsale Loop (Cork)

the old head of kinsale loop walk
Photo via Failte Ireland

The Old Head of Kinsale is a solid spot to stretch the legs and to soak up some of Cork’s only gooorgeous coastline.

There’s a handy 6 km (roughly 1.5 hours) loop walk at the Old Head that takes in spectacular views at every turn.

Take your time and enjoy the gush of Atlantic wind that’ll crash against you from every angle over the course of this ramble.

24. Croagh Patrick (Mayo)

croagh patrick
Photo by Gareth McCormack

Climbing Croagh Patrick on a clear day is hard to bate. The views out over Clew Bay from the summit are just out of this world.

A lot of tourists that I talk to are put off by the fact that it takes around 4 hours to get up and down it (can take longer depending on pace).

Don’t be. It’s from Croagh Patrick that, on a clear day, you’ll get one of the best views in Ireland. You can drop into Westport Town after for a bite and a post-adventure pint.

25. The Doolin Cliff Walk (Clare)

the doolin cliff walk
The Doolin Cliff Walk: Photo by Chris Hill

The Doolin Cliff Walk is one of the best ways to see the Cliffs of Moher if you’re looking for a unique experience that dodges the crowds at the main viewing points.

There are a number of local guides in and around Doolin that offer guided walks along this trail. If you’re looking to hear local tales and legends, try one of these for something a little bit different.

26. The Mount Errigal Loop (Donegal)

the summit of errigal in donegal
Photo by Mark Carthy/Shutterstock.com

We’re off to Donegal next to Mount Errigal, the highest peak in the Derryveagh mountain range.

The walk here can take between 2.5 to 3 hours, but allow for extra time to chill and admire the views.

Pop ‘Errigal Mountain Hike Parking’ into Google Maps (cheers to whoever added this!) and you’ll find the starting point for this climb. Now, hopefully it goes without saying, but you’ll need decent footwear for this climb.

You’ll need to cross boggy ground in places, and there’s nothing worse than wet socks! There are two different peaks to reach on this walk. Expect unbeatable views of the Derryveagh Mountains and the rolling Donegal countryside from the top.

27. Lady Bantry’s Lookout Walk at Glengarriff (Cork)

Glengariff walks cork
Source

You’ll find the magnificent Glengarriff Nature Reserve in West Cork, where it’s home to an endless number of adventure opportunities.

I’ve been here a couple of times in the past, and I can’t recommend the Lady Bantry Lookout Walk enough. It’s a moderate walk that takes around 30 minutes.

You have a fairly steep climb up through the woods to the top. From here you’ll have an incredible panoramic view of Glengarrif, Garnish Island, Bantry Bay and Whiddy Island.

28. The Letterkeen Loop (Mayo)

View from Ballycroy National Park
Photo by Fionnán Nestor

I know a group of lads that go walking in Ballycroy National Park in Mayo every year, and each of them say its not for the faint-hearted.

Established in 1998, Ballycroy National Park boasts 15,000 hectares of Atlantic blanket bog and rugged mountainous terrain.

There are a handful of different walks you can head off on in the park (ranging from 6 hours to 12 – here’s a full guide).

29. The Burren Way (Clare)

cliffs of mother county clare
Photo by Hillwalk Tours

The Burren Way is another one of the lengthier walking trails Ireland has to offer. It’s a 123km trail that takes 5 days to complete, so it’s definitely one for the bucket list.

This long-distance walk crosses the almost-otherworldly Burren region in Clare, which is one of the largest karst limestone landscapes in Europe.

The walk can be broken down into 5 different stages:

  • Day 1: Lahinch to Doolin
  • Day 2: Doolin to Ballyvaugan
  • Day 3: Ballyvaughan to Carran
  • Day 4: Carran to Corrofin
  • Day 5: Carran to Tubber

30. Mullaghmore Head Walk (Sligo)

mullaghmore head
Via Failte Ireland

Mullaghmore is a little village that boasts sandy beaches, ocean views and a skyline that’s partly dominated by the table-top-like Benbulben mountain.

The walk at Mullaghmore Head is roughly 8km in length and can take up to 2.5 hours. It kicks off from Mullaghmore car park and follows a mixture of footpaths, beach and country roads.

Over the course of your walk, you’ll be treated to views of Benbulben, Donegal Bay, Slieve League, the Dartry Mountains and, of course, Classiebawn Castle.

31. The Ballybunion Cliff Walk (Kerry)

the ballybunion cliff walk
Photo by mikemike10/Shutterstock.com

If you make Ballybunion your base while you’re exploring Kerry, you’ll be nice and close to a walk that’s perfect for an early morning.

The Ballybunion Cliff Walk is a handy 1-hour ramble that starts and finishes at Ladies Beach. If you visit during the summer months, keep an eye out towards the bay.

Dolphins are known to frequent the area in the warmer months. There’s also a big aul blow-hole with a bit of a mad story behind it.

It’s said that a local chief pushed his nine daughters into this blowhole after he learned that they were going to run away with some Vikings.

Expect magnificent coastal views from start to finish. Tip: extend the walk and stroll up to see the glorious Nun’s Beach (add 15 minutes onto your walk time).

32. The Glenveagh Derrylahan Nature Trail (Donegal)

Glenveagh National Park
Photo by Chris Hill

I love Glenveagh. It’s 16,000 hectares of pure and utter perfection.  For those looking to get a lungful of fresh air, there are several walks you can choose from.

My favourite hike here is the Derrylahan Nature Trail. It follows a gravel path and takes a little under an hour to complete.

This is another walk that’s ideal for those with lower levels of fitness. Expect excellent views of the beautiful Glenveagh Valley.

33. The Dingle Way (Kerry)

the dingle way walk
Photo © Hillwalk Tours

You’ll often hear of the Dingle Way referred to as one of the best hikes in Ireland. It’s 176km long walking route that snakes around the coast of the Dingle Peninsula, taking in some of the best coastal scenery that Ireland has to offer.

It takes 8 days to complete but may take longer depending on your level of fitness. That being said, if you’ve less time to play with, you can easily join the trail at any number of points.

34. The Beara Way (Cork)

things to do in allihies
Photo © The Irish Road Trip

Located south of the Iveragh Peninsula, the Beara Way is a 152km long circular route around the Beara Peninsula – a place that’s home to some of Ireland’s wildest scenery.

Like the Dingle Way and the Wicklow Way, the Beara Way is one of the longer hikes in Ireland.

It’ll take you between 3 and 9 days to conquer this one, depending on how much of the route you aim to conquer.

35. The Loop Head Cliff Walk (Clare)

kilbaha cliffs loop head
Photo © The Irish Road Trip

The cliff walk at Loop Head is one of the most overlooked walking trails Ireland has to offer. I’ve done this walk twice in recent years – on both occasions, we only met a handful of people.

The walk here kicks off at the little car park in front of Loop Head Lighthouse. Park up and ramble past the lighthouse and over to the right – you’ll find a big aul sea stack here.

When you’ve had your fill of the view, walk back in the direction of the car park and continue on straight ahead. You’ll be met by outstanding cliff views as far as the eye can see. 

This is a handy walk but extreme care is needed if you visit with kids. The cliffs are unguarded (naturally enough) and the wind here can be extremely powerful. If you’re looking for a lengthy walk, you can do a 5-hour looped walk from the lighthouse car park to Kilbaha.

36. The climb to the Caves of Kesh (Sligo)

caves of kesh
Photo by the gent that is Gareth Wray (you can buy a print if you fancy)

If you’re not familiar with the Caves of Kesh in Sligo, they’re a series of limestone caves on the side of Keshcorran Hill near the village of Keash.

It’s roughly an hour trip to get up to the caves and back down (leave time for soaking up the view) but you’ll easily spend half an hour more admiring the view from the top. 

This is a way-marked trail and it kicks-off from the car park of the Church in Kesh village. The walk to the top is steep and strenuous in places, so decent footwear is a must.

37. The Ballycotton Cliff Walk (Cork)

ballybunion cliff walk
Photo by Luca Rei/Shutterstockcom

The Ballycotton Cliff Walk is a brilliant 7km walk that’s not to be sniffed at. Although it follows a well-trodden path, it’ll take around 5 hours to finish.

The walk kicks off in Ballycotton and ends at Ballyandreen beach. It follows a cliff track with ocean on one side and meadows on the other. Aside from the distance, this walk is reasonably handy.

38. The Trail Through Ards Forest Park (Donegal)

ards forest park donegal
Photo by Martin Fleming

Our next stop is to Ards Forest Park where you can choose from nine different trails to head off on.

Over the course of your stroll, you’ll encounter sand dunes, beaches, salt marshes, saltwater lakes, rock face and, of course, plenty of woodland.

You’ll also happen upon the remains of four ringforts together with a holy well and a mass rock. Grab a coffee in Ards Coffee Tree and head off on your merry way.

What walks or hikes on the Wild Atlantic Way have we missed? Let me know in the comments below!

Howaya! Thanks for visiting the Irish road trip! This site exists to inspire and guide you on an Irish adventure that’ll give birth to a lifetime of memories (sounds very arsey altogether, I know!) You'll find everything from things to do in Ireland to where to stay in Ireland (unique and unusual places) if you have a nosey around!

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