6 National Parks, 6 Hikes In Ireland

We like spending as much time in nature as we can, and it’s no different when we travel. Whatever country or city we visit, we usually do a research about national parks, nature reserves and mountains nearby. Our two weeks road trip in Ireland was also mostly about nature: the Wild Atlantic Way, coastal hikes, seabirds and those very green, windblown, foggy landscapes. And we happened to spend some time in each Irish national park. We’d like to show you 6 pretty hikes from these 6 national parks. They were teasers for us, and we hope they will tempt you, too.

6 national parks during two weeks? That’s a lot to cover. Even if we don’t count all the castles, cities, towns and other quirky and fabulous places we explored. And that also means we didn’t have time to get to know any of these national parks thoroughly. But that’s not what a two weeks road trip is for. It’s for getting to know as much of a country as we can and falling in love. We definitely fulfilled those criteria.

So we’d like to tell you why we loved these national parks so much. And what could be a better way of doing this than showing the stunning hikes we’ve done there?

Poulanass Waterfall & Spins & Glenealo Valley Loop, Wicklow Mountains National Park

Wicklow Mountains National Park, Ireland

Wicklow Mountains National Park is the place where Gerry and Holly fall in love in the movie P.S. I Love You. You bet it’s a romantic place. But in Ireland that means mystic foggy hills and chilly, dark lakes. And lots of rain. (I know that some consider rainy weather romantic. Like dancing barefoot in the rain. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to understand that, and it’s fine.)

We spent almost a full day hiking in Wicklow Mountains. It was our first hike in Ireland, and it put us in the mood for the rest of our trip. We started the hike at Glendalough Upper Lake Car Park, and we actually combined two trails to get the best of everything. The first one, the pink trail is a 45 minutes loop that passes Poulanass Waterfall. This lovely waterfall in the lush green forest was a great start. (A waterfall is always a great start, isn’t it?)

Then we continued on the white trail that ascends by Poulanass Waterfall. Hundreds of wooden steps led us to a viewing point that overlooks Upper Lake. From then on, the trail was quite scenic, with views of the lake and the surrounding hills, leading through Glenealo Valley. Fog descended and it started drizzling – and even that went well with this landscape. Welcome to Ireland. 🙂

Hiking essentials:
  • Trailhead: Glendalough Upper Lake Car Park
  • Routes: pink trail – Poulanass waterfall, white trail – Spins & Glenealo Valley
  • Length: pink trail – 1.7 km loop (45 mins), white trail – 9 km loop (~3.5 hours)
  • Difficulty: pink trail – easy, white trail – medium

Strickeen, Killarney National Park

Killarney National Park, Ireland

Killarney National Park is one of our favorites. It might have something to do with the fact that we saw it in sunshine. Surely, the Irish landscape goes well with the drizzle and fog, but a little bit of sunshine just makes everything prettier, don’t you think? Anyway, we do.

Though we drove through Killarney National Park and did several hikes and walks, our only longer hike was the one to Strickeen peak. It was hard to believe that it rises only about 440 metres above sea level. It looked like a real mountain, including the astonishing views: views of the glacial valley of the Gap of Dunloe as we hiked towards the peak, and a 360 panorama of Killarney National Park at the end.

The hike starts in the Gap of Dunloe. The starting point of the ascent towards Strickeen is on the right hand side of the road and is marked. From then on you only need to follow the zigzagging track upwards and enjoy the views.

Hiking essentials:
  • Trailhead: Kate Kearney’s Cottage, County Kerry
  • Length: 7.5 km
  • Difficulty: strenuous

Mullaghmore Trail, Burren National Park

Burren National Park, Ireland

If Killarney and Wicklow Mountains National Parks look exactly like how we imagined Irish landscapes, the Burren is quite the opposite. Its lunar-like landscape looked rather like Arizona, but in grey instead of red. (Hint: it’s limestone.) We chose the longest trail that Burren offers: a 7.5 kilometres loop around Mullaghmore mountain.

It started in a woodland, then we passed along the shore of Lough Gealáin and some grassland. But for the most part we hiked through the limestone pavements that were covered with vibrant blanket of wildflowers in May. We liked the Burren very much with all of its strangeness – actually, because of that strangeness!

Hiking essentials:
  • Trailhead: car park along R476 (about 3/4 mile north of Kilnaboy)
  • Route: blue route
  • Length: 7.5 km loop (~3 hours)
  • Difficulty: medium

Diamond Hill, Connemara National Park

Connemara National Park, Ireland

Our favorite place from Connemara National Park is magnificent Kylemore Abbey reflecting in the lake, surrounded by woods and blooming pink flowers. However, our hike to 442 metres high Diamond Hill looked promising, as well. The top of the summit offers views of Kylemore Valley and the Twelve Bens, even the Atlantic Ocean.

Connemara National Park, Ireland

Sadly, all were lost in the dense fog after we started our ascent from the visitor center. Even though we couldn’t see much, we continued the hike and hoped it will clear up a bit later. We suspected that we were surrounded by lush green hills. But how the landscape actually looked like was left to our imagination, especially after it started raining, too, and the wind blew it all into our faces. Well, I guess we experienced a typical Irish hike in the typical Irish weather.

Hiking essentials:
  • Trailhead: Connemara National Park Visitor Center
  • Length: 3 hours round-trip
  • Difficulty: strenuous

Lakeside & Glen Walk Loop, Glenveagh National Park

Glenveagh National Park, Ireland

One of the few absolutely bright and sunny days we got in Ireland resulted in an enjoyable full day visit to Glenveagh National Park. Its stone castle blends into the windswept landscape with bare hills, a large lake and countless ducks and geese. It even has a waterfall.

No wonder that we happily spent our day visiting the castle and walking on all the trails surrounding it. Lakeside Walk is a wide, flat path along the lake. It starts at the parking lot and leads us to Glenveagh Castle and beyond. The Viewpoint Trail starts at the castle, and it’s a short, steep trail that ascends above the beautiful landscape. As its name suggests, it rewarded us with great views.

From the Viewpoint Trail, we joined the Lakeside Walk again. At the end of the lake, it continues as Glen Walk and led us into a narrow valley and to the unexpectedly tall waterfall. Even though we couldn’t get very close to it because of the boggy terrain, it impressed from the distance.

Hiking essentials:
  • Trailhead: Glenveagh National Park parking lot
  • Length: Lakeside Walk – 3.5 km one-way, Viewpoint Trail – 1 km loop, Glen Walk – 8 km one-way
  • Difficulty: mostly flat and easy, only Viewpoint Trail is steep

Tóchar Daithí Bán Nature Trail, Ballycroy National Park

Ballycroy National Park, Ireland

Ballycroy National Park, established in 1998, is the youngest one in Ireland. And it’s the one we spent the least time in. We arrived late in the day and were yet to continue our drive towards the north that evening. So we ended up doing only a short walk, a 2 kilometres loop around the visitor center called the Tóchar Daithí Bán Nature Trail. It was nice, with views of Achill Island and the Nephin Beg mountain range, but not enough.

This national park would have deserved more. It’s a unique place, one of the largest blanket bog habitats in Europe. So, next time…?

Hiking essentials:
  • Trailhead: Ballycroy National Park Visitor Center
  • Route: boardwalk around the visitor center
  • Length: 2 km loop
  • Difficulty: easy

Have you been to any of the national parks in Ireland?


National Parks In Ireland
National Parks In Ireland

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By Beata Urmos

Bea is the co-founder of Our Wanders. She’s the writer and the trip organizer, and she’d love to help you plan your own amazing trips! She likes hiking, good novels and chocolate, as well. Her motto is: “A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.” (John A. Shedd)

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