32 wonderful winter walks in Ireland, one in every county

Want to stretch the legs? You don’t have to cross your county boundary to find a great walk

Blow off the cobwebs of lockdown with a weekend stroll. Now is the perfect opportunity to explore the walks available in your own county. Photograph: Getty Images

Blow off the cobwebs of lockdown with a weekend stroll. Now is the perfect opportunity to explore the walks available in your own county. Photograph: Getty Images

 

Our wings may have been clipped time and again this year, but finding ourselves out of Level 5 lockdown certainly feels like freedom. And while we are asked not to move beyond our counties right now, this passing cloud can have a silver lining, if we use it to explore with fresh eyes that which surrounds us.

So, why not make a resolution to complete the walk listed below for your county?

You may be pleasantly surprised to discover that distant fields aren’t necessarily greener, while lining up outings in other counties for when Level 3 restrictions are lifted.

Munster

Derrynane Mass Path, Co Kerry
Getting there: From Caherdaniel take the N70 (Ring of Kerry road) signposted Derrynane House and park in the first public carpark.
Description: Moderate level outing with a mix of forest trails, beaches, mass paths and quiet roads. Rough ground in places, so come prepared.
Time: 2.5 hours
Distance: 7km approx

The Lighthouse Loop, Co Cork
Getting there: From Bantry take the N71 and then the R591 to Durrus. Follow the minor road signposted through Ahakista and Kilcrohane to the trailhead.
Description: There-and-back walk from Bernie’s Café to the lighthouse requires only trainers. Follow the red arrows to complete the full loop and enjoy magnificent views over Bantry Bay. Boots required here.
Time: 2.5 hours
Distance: 5km

Eamon an Chnoic Loop, Co Tipperary
Getting there: From Thurles follow the R498 and the R503 to Pendy’s crossroads where a sign points to the trailhead in Upperchurch village.
Description: Easy to moderate outing, traversing minor roads, green lanes and small fields at the beating heart of rural Ireland. Some steep ascents. Boots required.
Time: 2 hours
Distance: 8km

Mullaghmore, Co Clare
Mullaghmore, Co Clare

Mullaghmore, Co Clare
Getting there: From the village of Corofin take the Kilfenora road. Go right at Kilnaboy. Pass a school and go right at a parking place. Park near Lough Gealáin.
Description: Offers a big mountain feel and immense views for modest effort. Rough underfoot conditions require sturdy footwear. Follow blue arrows.
Time: 3.5 hours
Distance: 9km. Map. Ordnance Survey Ireland (OSI) Discovery sheet, 52

Ardmore cliff path, Co Waterford
Ardmore cliff path, Co Waterford

Ardmore Cliff Path, Co Waterford
Getting there: From the N25, (Cork/Waterford Road) take the R673 to Ardmore.
Description: Undemanding ramble offering spectacular clifftop views and a sense of reconnecting with history. Includes the famous Ardmore monastic site. Care required near the cliff-side.
Time: 1.5 hours
Distance: 4km

Blackrock Loop, Ardpatrick, Co Limerick
Getting there: From Kilmallock follow the R512. Beyond Ardpatrick take the second right and continue past the mountain bike trailhead. After 2km, park in an elongated carpark.
Description: Outing that mainly follows tracks, and offers expansive views. Includes some boggy terrain so boots required.
Time: 3 hours
Distance: 11km Map - OSI Discovery Sheet 7

Leinster

Barrow Towpath, Co Carlow
Getting there: From the village of Borris, take the R702 for Goresbridge and the R705 left for Graiguenamanagh. Start from Barrow Bridge, Ballyteigelea.
Description: Easy outing following the Barrow to St Mullin’s with good underfoot conditions throughout. Return transport required.
Time: 3 hours
Distance: 14.5 km

Abbeyleix Bog, Co Laois
Getting there: Start from Abbeyleix Manor Hotel, located just south of the town on the N77.
Description: Follow purple arrows along a well-marked path that allows boardwalk access to the heart of the bog.
Distance: 8km
Time: 2 hours

Lough Boora, Co Offaly
Getting there: From Tullamore take the N52 for Birr. At Blueball, turn right onto the R357. Continue until encountering signs for Lough Boora.
Description: Easy, waymarked trail following red arrows along well-constructed walkways through a fascinating nature reserve. Ideal for families.
Distance: 9km
Time: 2.5 hours

The Nore Valley, Co Kilkenny
Getting there: Walk begins from the six-arched bridge in Bennettsbridge, which lies on main N700 between Kilkenny and Thomastown.
Description: Memorable, 11km outing following the serene River Nore past many relics from Kilkenny’s industrial heritage. Finishes at the heart of the Marble City. Return transport required.
Time: 2 hours
Distance: 11km

Battle of the Boyne Walk, Co Meath
Getting there: Leave the M1 at Junction 10. Follow signs for Slane and then go left for the battle site.
Description: An unchallenging outing on mostly level terrain. Ideal for history buffs.
Distance: 5km
Time: 1.5 hours. Map. Downloadable at: battleoftheboyne.ie/Walkways

The Spink Loop, Co Wicklow
Getting there: Take the N11 from Dublin or Wexford to Ashford. Follow the R763 to Glendalough.
Description: Moderately demanding walk with a steep ascent requiring reasonable fitness. Navigation skills unnecessary; just follow the white arrows.
Time: 3.5 hours
Distance: 10km

Foxboro Trail, Tintern Abbey Loop, Co Wexford
Getting there: From the R733 take the L4041 and after 1km go right at the entrance to Tintern Abbey. Continue to trailhead beside the Abbey.
Description: Follow the white arrows and then tag the Tintern River through a serene deciduous forest. Some climbs involved so sturdy footwear recommended.
Time: 1 hour
Distance: 4km

Old Rail Trail, Co Westmeath
Getting there: The Old Rail Trail starts at Garrycastle on the eastern edge of Athlone.
Description: One of Ireland’s lesser known greenways, the Old Rail Trail links Athlone to Mullingar. A great family outing is to walk or cycle the 14km from Athlone to Moate and enjoy a picnic lunch. Cycle or get a taxi back.
Time: 2.5 hours
Distance: 12 km (one way)

Commons Loop, Carlingford, Co Louth
Getting there: From Junction 18 on the MI, follow the R173 to Carlingford. The trailhead is beside the Tourist Office.
Description: Follow the green arrows as the walk ascends onto the foothills of the Cooley Mountains. The route then crosses the lower slopes of Slieve Foye with memorable views across Carlingford Lough to the Mourne Mountains.
Time: 1.5 hours
Distance: 4km

Circuit of Center Parcs, Co Longford
Getting there: Center Parcs lies about 3 miles east of Ballymahon. Take the R392 from Ballymahon and follow signs for Center Parcs.
Description: Route follows a walkway, developed by Center Parcs as a gift for the local community. This state-of-the-art trail tags the forestry that surrounds the extensive site, but only offers tantalising glances of the holiday complex.
Time: 1 hour
Distance: 4 km

Ardgillan Demesne, Skerries, Co Dublin
Getting there: When heading north from Dublin on the MI Motorway, Ardgillan is signposted from Junction 5.
Description: Ideal for small kids, since the 3.5 km path is buggy friendly, this walk rewards with monumental views over the great turreted castle to the Irish Sea and the Cooley and Mourne Mountains beyond. Follow the perimeter wall by continually going left through alternating woodlands and meadows.
Time: 1 hour
Distance: 4km

Killinthomas Wood, Rathangan, Co Kildare
Getting there: Take Exit 13 off the M8 Motorway and follow the signs for Rathangan. The wood is 2km outside the village on the Edenderry road.
Description: Offering a variety of signposted walks in an area of outstanding natural beauty. These woodlands, famous for bluebells in early summer, are relatively unknown.
Distance: 10km (shorter options exist)
 Time: 2 hours

Ulster

Glencolumbkille coastline, Co Donegal
Glencolumbkille coastline, Co Donegal

Tower Loop, Glencolumbkille, Co Donegal
Getting there: From Donegal follow the N56 to Killybegs and then the R263 to Glencolumbkille. Trailhead is nearby the firestation.
Description: Rough underfoot conditions in places are rewarded with stunning coastal views. In mist, navigational skills may be required. Full protective clothing required.
Distance: About 10km
 Time: 3 hours. Map - OSI Discovery series, Sheet 10

Slieve Beagh, Co Monaghan
Getting there: From Monaghan take the R186 and continue through Ballinode and Scotstown. Go right at a sign for the trailhead at Sliabh Beagh Hotel.
Description: Waymarked as the Tra Walk, the route offers memorable mountain scenery while presenting few navigational difficulties or hazards.
Time: 3 hours
Distance: 10km

Slieve Gullion, Co Armagh
Getting there: From the A1 south of Newry, take the B113 and follow for about 3 miles. Go right at the junction signed Courtyard Centre.
Description: Demanding outing following a high mountain path over the great whaleback summit of Gullion from its south to its north cairn. Navigation skills required, while walkers should be kitted out for high, exposed terrain.
Time: 3.5 hours
Map: OSNI, 1:50,000, sheet 29

Stairway to Heaven, Co Fermanagh
Getting there: From Enniskillen follow A4 Sligo Road, join A32 after 3 miles, follow signs for the Marble Arch Caves.
Description: Consisting of a low track, a boardwalk and a spectacular 450 step ascent, the stairway offering unforgettable views over several counties from its summit platform.
Time: 2.5 hours
Distance: 10km

Slievenaslat and the Lake Loop, Castlewellan, Co Down
Getting there: In Castlewellan, the forest park is signposted from town centre.
Description: Follow the arrows up a steep but relatively short climb to the summit of Slievenaslat and be rewarded with splendid views of the Mourne Mountains. Afterwards, descend to Castlewellan Lake and return to the trailhead by circumnavigating these still waters.
Time: 2 hours
Distance: 8km

Glenariff, Co Antrim
Glenariff, Co Antrim

Glenariff, Co. Antrim
Getting there: From the Ballymena bypass take the A43 Ballymena to Waterfoot road. You reach Glenariff Forest Park after 12 miles.
Description: Combining waterfalls and scenic trails, the route is fully waymarked. It is suitable for those with reasonable fitness and is memorable for its captivating views and spectacular waterfalls.
Time: 3 hours
Distance: 12km

Ladies View, Gortin Glen, Co Tyrone
Getting there: Gortin Glen Forest Park is located six miles north of Omagh just off the B48.
Description: A short but strenuous walk, it initially follows the pretty Poulan stream before rising to a superb viewing point at 350m before returning through serene conifer forests.
Time: 1.5 hours
Distance: 4km

Downhill Demesne, Castlerock, Co Derry
Getting there: Downhill Demesne lies on the A2 linking Coleraine with Limavady. It is signposted as a section of the renowned Causeway Coastal Route. (Admission charge applies).
Description: Starting at the Demesne entrance follow signs for iconic Mussenden Temple perched high on a cliff edge. For breathtaking views along Ireland’s North Coast and to the Western Isles of Scotland. Continue along the clifftop until a stile on the left leads you downhill back to your start point.
Time: 1.5 hours
Distance: 4km

Burren Looped Walk, Blacklion, Co Cavan
Getting there: Take the(N3) from Blacklion. Turn left towards Glangevlin and then take the road signposted Burren Forest.
Description: Walk starts at the forest entrance and continues through meadows with exposed limestone pavements to the Cornagee viewpoint. It offers an excellent panorama of the U-shaped valley of Glenfarne before the trail returns to Blacklion.
Time: 2 hours
Distance: 8km

Connacht

7 Woods Walk, Coole Park, Co Galway
Getting there: Coole is located 4km north-west of Gort, It is signposted from Exit 16 on the M18.
Suitability: Easy circuit following walker friendly terrain by woods and a lake made famous in poetry by WB Yeats.
Time: 1.5 hours
Distance: 5km

Boyle to Lough Key, Co Roscommon
Getting there: Walk starts from a riverside park which is located at the centre of Boyle, Co Roscommon.
Description: Newly opened and extremely scenic route doubling as a walkway. It conveys you elegantly past Boyle Marina, on by the Boyle Canal and then through attractive woodlands to gain magnificent Lough Key Forest Park.
Time: 2 hours
Distance: 8km

Ben Bulben, Co Sligo
Ben Bulben, Co Sligo

Ben Bulben Loop, Co Sligo
Getting there:
 From Sligo take the N15 road past Drumcliff village. Go right at a signpost for Barnaribbon. Keep left again and this bring you to the trailhead.
Description: Attractive, but easy woodland walk offering stunning scenery and awe-inspiring views of Ben Bulben towering above the trail.
Time: 1.5 hours
Distance: 5.5km.

Glencar, Co Leitrim
Getting there: Glencar Waterfall is situated 11km west of Manorhamilton. Follow the N16 to the trailhead at Glencar Waterfall.
Description: A there and back walk that follows a path from the shores of Glencar lake to the viewing point of Doneens. The reward offered is incredible views to Knocknarea, the Leitrim Hills and Glencar.
Time: 2 hours
Distance: 7km.

Cong Woods, Cong, Co Mayo
Directions: From Galway city, take the N84 for Castlebar to Headford and follow the R334 to Cong.
Description: Follow the red walking arrows on easy, woodland terrain with echoes from the Quiet Man movie along the way. There is also the option of a cave descent that kids will love.
Distance: 5km
Time: 1.5 hours

John G O’Dwyer’s latest book Wild Stories form the Irish Uplands is published by Currach Books

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