Go Walk special: top-ten walks for Christmas

Make a plan to pack some turkey sandwiches over the holiday and try one of these 10 walks

 Hillwalkers make their way through Killarney National Park on the Old Kenmare Road which forms part of the Kerry Walking Way near Torc mountain. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Hillwalkers make their way through Killarney National Park on the Old Kenmare Road which forms part of the Kerry Walking Way near Torc mountain. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien


South Bull

Dublin: South Bull

A walk along the South Bull is a good way to get rid of the cobwebs. The start is at Sean Moore Park, Strand Road, Sandymount and continues along an obvious metalled trail towards the twin chimneys at Ringsend station. As you progress towards the chimneys the trail deteriorates and gets difficult for buggies, but it is worth persisting.

As you pass the twin chimneys, the industrial landscape assaults the senses. However, there are many interesting facts about our industrial past; the Industrial Heritage Association of Ireland will be happy to direct you to further information. Continue past the chimneys on a roadside path, which leads to the South Bull wall. Step onto the wall and continue to walk on granite 18th-century blocks. Press on to the Poolbeg lighthouse where you will be as far out into Dublin Bay as you can get – without a boat.

Distance/time: 9.5km/2.5-3hrs
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Torc mountain

Kerry: Torc Mountain

Torc Mountain lies within the Killarney National Park and the park’s authorities have constructed a route to its summit from the Old Kenmare Road, which makes it a very safe mountain to walk up. Start from the Torc Waterfall carpark on the N71. Follow the signs for the waterfall. Follow the trail past the waterfall to cross a bridge and then turn left onto a forest track. Push on with the Owengarriff River and Mangerton Mountain on your left and Torc Mountain rising on your right.

Continue for 100 metres and turn right onto the newly constructed pathway to Torc’s summit. There is only a 300 metre ascent to go along an easy path with plenty of zigzags before you reach the summit with great views over Lough Leane. Return by the same route.

Distance/time: 7.5km/2.5hrs
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walks donadea

Kildare: North Kildare bogs and Donadea Forest Park

Start from Roche’s pub in Derrycrib (take note of the architectural integrity). Head west for 650 metres. Turn left onto a narrow lane (south west); swing left (south east) until you reach a T-junction about 1km from the road. You are now in bog country with evidence of turf cutting all around. Go left and continue to another less-obvious T-junction and turn right.

Press on for another 2.2km where you will emerge on to a road with a row of estate workers’ cottages on the right known as the Range. The entrance to Donadea Forest Park lies across the Enfield – Prosperous road. Enter the park and at the next crossroads turn right on to the Aylmer Walk. The trail swings east and loops around the park and past the castle where you will find a log-cabin cafe. Continue past the castle to St Peter’s Church and follow a metalled road (500 metres) to the Maynooth – Derrycrib road. You will have a 2.3km walk back to your car. Hint: use two cars.

Distance/time: 11-12km/2.5-3hrs
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Walks loughbray

Wicklow: Lough Bray and Eagle Crag

Start from the quarry parking area adjacent to Lough Bray upper on the Killakee-Sally Gap military road. Make sure nothing is left exposed in your car. Cross the road and follow an obvious, mucky track down towards the lake. Continue over a hillock to the right of the lake where you will get good views over the lower lake and Glencree. Your objective is the obvious Eagle Crag, which will seem to be a serious challenge from this distance. On closer inspection you follow a well-worn, narrow track, which zigzags upwards and to the left of a prominent rock buttress. From here follow the lip of the corrie above the upper lake and back to the start. If conditions are bad strike out for the halfway point on the service road for the Kippure masts and follow the road back to the car.

Distance/time: 3.5km/1.5-2hrs
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Walks Inis Ni

Connemara (Galway): Inis Ni loop (Inishnee loop)

Start out from the bridge on to the island, where there is a mapboard. Follow the trail markers down the west side of the island. After 1.5 kilometres you will reach a three-way junction. Continue on with Roundstone Bay on the right. At the point where the marked route swings away from Roundstone Bay you have a choice of leaving the marked route and continuing to the southern tip of the island. You will have to return by the same route adding three kilometres to your walk. Otherwise, continue on the marked trail past Reilig Naomh Maitiu and back to the junction. Turn right to return to your car.

Distance/time: 6km/2hr (marked trail).
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walks bianini

Laois/Kilkenny border: Binnianea loop

Start from Cullahill carpark. Follow the purple arrow downhill for 200 metres and then uphill for 500 metres to reach a stile. Continue to follow the purple arrows until you reach a road. After nearly one kilometre keep left at a three-way junction and turn right onto Shirley’s Lane. Follow until close to a gate at the end of the lane. Turn left over a stile and into a forested area. With the purple arrows as your dependable guide cross a stream and enter Binnianlea Wood in Co Kilkenny. The guiding arrows will take you back across this boundary stream into Co Laois where you will continue to encounter stiles and forestry paths. Eventually, the path zigzags steeply downhill where you pick up a lane leading to a public road a kilometre from the start.

Distance/time: 12km/3hr.
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Walks jubilee

Wicklow: Jubilee Walk, Rathdrum

Start from the main street in Rathdrum. Head up the street beside the Corner House pub. Continue past the community college on the right and then turn on to a leafy lane on the right just before a group of dormer bungalows. This route – the Jubilee Walk – brings you past a famine graveyard and into Ballygannon Wood. Turn right, and on exiting the wood on the Rathdrum-Laragh road (R755), turn left and enter the forest opposite at its northern end. Continue to follow the Jubilee markers and on reaching the banks of the Avonmore River turn right and proceed until you break clear of the wood at Rathdrum Rugby Club. Keep left and contour around the pitches. A short road walk will bring you to the bridge at the northern end of Rathdrum. Turn right and head to your car.

Distance/time: 6km/1.5-2hrs.
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walks howth

Dublin: Howth

Start at Howth Dart station. Head east towards the end of the east pier and turn up Balscaddan Road. Follow this road to the end where the well-used cliff path will lead you past the Nose of Howth. Soon the Baily lighthouse comes into view. At this point you can escape up to the right for a quick cuppa in the Summit Inn. Continue around Doldrum Bay and Drumleak Point where it can be quite mucky, while at the same time being aware of the well-positioned properties on your right, with their enviable views over Dublin Bay.Soon you will reach the signposted, turn-off point for the Bog of Frogs. Continue on past this to Red Rock and Shelmartin Road. Press on along the coast road to a T-junction and turn left. A 10 minute walk will bring you to Sutton Cross close to Sutton Dart station.



Walks moher

Clare: Cliffs of Moher coastal walk

The trailhead for this linear walk is six kilometres west of Liscannor at Moher Sports Field. Start out in a northerly direction before swinging left to reach the tower at Hags Head. Turn right to follow the impressive line of cliffs towards the majestic Cliffs of Moher. The Cliffs of Moher Visitor Centre is nearby, where you can tarry for a while. From here, move on past O’Brien’s Tower with views over the Burren as you pass Aill na Searrach. Soon you turn right to join a farm road and briefly a public road before swinging back to the coastline. Beyond this the path becomes a green road, then a public road, with a 15 minute walk to Doolin.

Distance/time: 14km/3.5-4hrs (not including stop at visitor centre).
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Dublin Mountains: Barnaslingan Wood & the Scalp

The walk starts from Barnaslingan Wood carpark which was shut the last time that I was there. Instead, park at Carrickgollogan Wood carpark 300 metres away to the east. From the start take the trail going north from the carpark and through a fence. The trail swings northwest then west. After approximately 500 metres break off the trail onto a small path to the right and head for the Enniskerry road (R117). Turn left and stay on the narrow grassy verge before crossing through a gap in the wall on the left. Head away from the road and pick up a small trail heading off to the right towards and under a huge slab of rock. Continue past a boulder field on the right and shortly, you will find a steep, grassy slope on your left that leads to the top of the cliffs. From the top take one of the trails that heads east. Shortly, you will find a forest path that will lead you back to Barnaslingan carpark.

Distance/time: 2-2.5km/1hr (probably not suitable for young children)
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