A season of Irish walks: time to get out and explore

Here’s a selection of organised walks around Ireland led by experienced guides

Sat, Aug 2, 2014, 01:00

The evenings are closing in a little and those depressingly familiar back-to-school ads have returned as a reminder our summer is ebbing away. Fear not, however, for opportunities to escape the materialistic clutches of 21st-century living continue to abound in the

countryside. If you see leisure time not as an escape, but as an opportunity to accumulate unforgettable experiences, late summer and autumn present an ideal time to explore the Irish countryside at its best, while also getting some worthwhile exercise. On the walks outlined below, you don’t have to worry about route finding, for all are led by experienced and knowledgeable guides. Choose from the dizzying choice of the fully organised outings for all abilities listed here, and then watch the multi-layered sagas of Ireland’s most captivating landscapes come alive before your eyes.

A pilgrim for a weekend

 Co Cork (August 16/17th)

Magnificent two-day, guided walk crossing three mountains and four valleys on a pilgrim journey with a long penitential tradition stretching back to the hazy dawn of Christianity in Ireland. This is an opportunity to explore a less-frequented part of Ireland on an infinitely varied route offering memorable views over Bantry Bay and access to a rich archaeological and spiritual heritage.

Departure: 9am. Distance: 33km. Duration: two days. Cost: €40. Includes: two lunches, bus transfers and walk guide. Start: Top of the Rock, 1km north of Drimoleague, Co Cork. Finish: Gougane Barra. Information and booking: topoftherock.ie Email: davidross316@gmail.com; Accommodation: Gougane Barra Hotel: 026-47069 or Elizabeth Ross: 028-31547.

In the footsteps of Kevin

Co Wicklow (August 23rd)

Celebrate National Heritage Week as you weave your way along St Kevin’s ancient trail to Glendalough. The undemanding terrain allows plenty of time to appreciate the inspirational Wicklow landscape. Opportunities to linger come with background information on St Kevin and the rich heritage of Ireland’s garden county. Distance: 11km. Duration: three hours. Cost: Free of charge. Meeting place: Glendalough visitor centre car park. Bus drops participants out to the walk start point. Information and booking: 086-4090289/ email: bebhinnramsay@gmail.com

The Irish Camino

Co Mayo (August 30th)

Ireland’s answer to the Camino is a prehistoric druidical pathway with many symbolic resonances from its pagan past. Christianised by St Patrick, it remains stubbornly untamed and much as it was for medieval pilgrims. Be warned, however – this is a demanding walk and in the true penitential tradition has a steep ascent coming at day’s end, but plenty of time set aside for reflection along the way. Departure: 8.30am. Distance: 35km. Duration: 10 hours. Cost: €10. Start: Ballintubber Abbey, which is located off the N84, 14km from Castlebar. Finish: Murrisk Car, Croagh Patrick, where participants are returned by bus to Balintubber. Information and booking: 094-9030934; email: info@ballintubberabbey.ie

Social climbing at its best

Co Down (September12th-14th)

For those who would like to explore Ireland’s border counties amid September russets, the Wee Binnian Walking Festival is just the ticket. Organised by a group that describes itself as primarily a social club, the renowned event offers nine fully guided walks to suit all abilities in the sublime Mourne and Cooley mountains and on fabled Slieve Gullion. Based in Newry, the festival combines a wide variety of walks with a social scene culminating in the famous Blister Ball on Saturday evening, Cost: £10, one day; £18, two days; £25, three days Information: 086-843 4440. weebinnians.com

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