Why not use the long days for long-distance walking?
There are many walking routes across the country that can be taken on over a number of days or in single-day sections
Lough Dan near Roundwood, Co Wicklow. It lies very close to the Wicklow Way, which runs from Rathfarnham in Dublin to the village of Clonegal in Co Carlow
With more than 16 hours of daylight each day at present comes the opportunity to explore our glorious island in a way that is next-to-impossible in the darker months. And what better way to do that than on foot? There is an abundance of long-distance way-marked walking routes across the country that can be taken on either in their entirety over a number of days or in single-day sections.
1. The Kerry Way
Ordnance Survey Maps: 78, 83 and 84
Kerry needs little introduction. Known the world over for its rugged rural beauty, it’s a popular destination for outdoor lovers. The Kerry Way, boasting views over emerald-green fields and out across the crashing Atlantic Ocean, starts and finishes in Killarney and covers 215km.
The trek through the Iveragh Peninsula can take 7-10 days to complete. There are a number of campsites and guesthouses to stay in along the route.
2. The Barrow Way
Ordnance Survey Maps: 49, 55, 61 and 68
This four-day walk along the river Barrow is still a hidden gem for anyone but the locals. The Barrow Way follows the surviving towpaths and riverside roads from Lowtown in Co Kildare to the idyllic little village of St Mullins in Co Carlow. The peaceful route winds its way through the sylvan landscape following the river.
You’ll find accommodation in one of the many quaint villages dotted along the grassy tracks of the Barrow Way. If 120 km seems a little too much to bite off, the 14km walk from the pretty village of Graiguenamanagh to St Mullins and back is a particularly scenic section of the route. And it has the added bonus of a refreshing dip in the river at the end of the walk.
3. The Beara Way
Ordnance Survey Maps: 84
The Beara Way in Cork and Kerry is a long-distance walking route around the rugged Beara Peninsula. The fully signposted route boasts spectacular views of the Atlantic, and is home to a high concentration of historical and archaeological sites. The Beara Way is fully signposts, and passes through the towns of Castletownbere, Kenmare and Glengarriff. The local guesthouses in the area are very used to hosting multi-day walkers looking to complete the entire route. Many of them will even transport your bag to your guesthouse for the following evening, which is a great bonus.
4. The Sheep’s Head Way
Ordnance Survey Maps: 84 and 88
Jutting out into the Atlantic, the Sheep’s Head peninsula in Co Cork is a must-visit for any keen hiker. As you amble along the route you will certainly not tire of the scenery. In addition to the dramatic cliff faces and crashing waves beneath, the route is also home to an old copper mine, a blowhole, stone circles, standing stone, a Napoleonic signal tower and a number of old churches. The coastline here has marine life aplenty, and it is not unusual to spot dolphins and whale diving beneath you.
Ordnance Survey Maps: E8 Coast-to-Coast Map Bundle
This is by far the most challenging route on the list, and one not to be taken on lightly. However, you will certainly get to see the diverse landscapes of Ireland as you walk the 620km from Dursey Island in Cork to Dublin. The route will take you through the counties of Cork, Kerry, Tipperary, Kilkenny, Carlow, Wicklow and Dublin, and on average takes people 25-30 days to complete.
Another coast-to-coast option is from Marley Park in Dublin all the way to Bray Head on Valencia Island, Co Kerry, covering a slightly shorter distance of 595km.
6. The Wicklow Way
Ordnance Survey Maps: 50, 56, 61 and 62
The Wicklow Way was one of the first long-distance hiking trails in Ireland, and it still remains the most popular one in the country. Don’t let that deter you though; if you are seeking solitude you’ll still find it here. With the exception of Glendalough, the chances are you won’t meet too many other walkers along the route. The way-marked trails include mountains, upland lakes, steep-sided glacial valleys, fast flowing mountain streams, forests and farmland. The route starts in Dublin’s southern suburb of Rathfarnham and travels down through Wicklow to finish in the picturesque village of Clonegal, Co Carlow.
7. The Burren Way
Ordnance Survey Maps: 51, 52, 57 and 58
Winding its way from Lahinch to Corrofin, the Burren Way covers one of Ireland’s most distinctive landscapes. The glaciated karst that makes the Burren unique is bare and forms a great contrast to the piercing Atlantic below. The trail mainly follows quiet tarmac roads, forest paths and tracks and a few sweat-inducing climbs to boot. The full route takes about five days to complete, but there are number of options for shorter single-day walks.
8. The Lough Derg Way
Ordnance Survey Maps: 58, 59 and 65
Spanning 64km, this route starts in Limerick City and ends in Dromineer, Co Tipperary. The trail itself follows the river Shannon and its associated canals all the way to the banks of glorious Lough Derg in Dromineer. Along the way you will pass through the towns and villages of Clonlara, O’Brien’s Bridge, Killaloe, Ballina and Garrykennedy, all of which offer an array of refreshment and accommodation options. The trail typically takes three days to complete.
Heather Snelgar edits Outsider.ie, Ireland’s outdoor and adventure website - www.outsider.ie