7 Best Coastal Hikes In Ireland
Ireland’s Atlantic coast impressed us with scenic drives and scenic hikes! Those alone would have been enough for us to fall in love with this country. And they were enough for us to love it in spite of the weather that made us scream for a sunny Mediterranean beach sometimes. So let us show you the best coastal hikes we found in Ireland – all with amazing panorama and lots of grazing sheep in front of the beautiful backdrop.
In addition to these hikes being so fabulous, there’s another thing they have in common: they’re all relatively short and easy. You can make some of them longer and more strenuous, but the shorter version is very impressive, too. Visiting Ireland as 5 months pregnant, this time I felt relieved that I didn’t need to work that hard for those amazing views. But let’s see where they are:
Slieve League Cliffs, County Donegal
Dropping 600 metres into Donegal Bay, Slieve League Cliffs are the tallest in Ireland. And they impressed us even more than the famous Cliffs of Moher!
We arrived to the first parking lot dedicated to the cliff walk. Even though the first section of this walk is on a paved road where we could even drive, we chose to walk. And we did it right. We enjoyed the casual walk with the amazing views and took tons of pictures until we reached the second parking lot and Bunglas Viewpoint.
Bunglas Viewpoint is a small wooden platform with the best views of Slieve League Cliffs. Or that’s what we thought. But after continuing the steeper, dirt trail along the coastline, we realized that the viewing platform was the point from where we only had better and best views. 😀 Views of the cliffs. Views of the turquoise bays. Views of the below lakes and the ocean. Views of the storm above the cliffs.
We followed the cliffs for a while, then we realized that it was getting late so we turned back. Too soon.
Cliffs of Moher, County Clare
Even though we liked Slieve League Cliffs more, it’s not to say that the Cliffs of Moher don’t deserve the fame. Rising 100-200 metres above the Atlantic Ocean and being home to more than 20 bird species, they are spectacular!
We arrived to the visitor center and started our hike towards the south. The southern portion of the coastal walk is said to be the most scenic, and it didn’t disappoint. Hag’s Head at the end was our favorite spot – we had a great view of the coast and the high cliffs, and also caught a glimpse of several seabirds, including a puffin.
After arriving back to the visitor center, we started to hike a bit northwards, too. However, we couldn’t tell much about those views since everything was soon covered by dense fog. While we were waiting for the weather to clear up (which didn’t happen), we went into the visitor center to look around. It was a good idea, not just because it was cosy and warm inside, but the exhibitions about the cliffs are also quite interesting. There’s even a 3D cinema so that you can watch the cliffs from every angle –
in case you couldn’t see anything outside due to the fog.
The parking lot at the visitor center is a paid parking lot. We paid 8 EUR per person for the day (at the time of our visit – May 2019). We were happy that the parking lot is really large, so we easily found available space to park. Also, it was funny that the ranger at the toll gate told us he has been to Lake Balaton and loved it so much once he noticed we are Hungarian. Is our Lake Balaton really this famous? 😀
Kerry’s Cliffs, County Kerry
Kerry’s Cliffs are one of the highlights on the Ring of Kerry scenic drive. These 300 meters high coastal cliffs are great to observe seabirds and get nice views of the Skellig Islands in the distance. It takes about 10 minutes to walk to the closest viewpoint from the parking lot. Some other viewpoints are also located nearby. There are no hiking trails there, it’s rather just a walk with some benches on the way in case you’d like to have a scenic picnic.
There’s entrance fee to access Kerry’s Cliffs. We parked our car first and then bought our tickets at the beginning of the path (4 EUR per person – in May 2019).
Eask Tower, Dingle Peninsula, County Kerry
This one is a lesser known path on a small peninsula opposite of the colorful small town of Dingle. It leads through private farmland, however, the owners let the hikers cross their land for a small fee (2 EUR per person). It was a 45 minutes walk up to the ruins of an old tower with amazing views of Dingle, the coastline and the Skellig Islands in the distance. It was a nice stop during our drive around Dingle Peninsula.
Dunmore Head, Dingle Peninsula, County Kerry
Another stop during that drive was the westernmost point of Dingle Peninsula: Dunmore Head. We parked in the Slea Head parking lot at Coumeenoole Beach. It was windy as we got out of the car. It got even windier as we started walking. It took about 20 minutes to reach the tip of Dunmore Head. The landscape was wild and magical. Steep cliffs. Lush greenery. Countless pink wildflowers. The whistle of the wind, the song of the waves.
Horn Head, County Donegal
The cliffs at Horn Head rise to a height of 180 metres above the Atlantic Ocean. The Wild Atlantic Way brought us to this peninsula in remote Donegal county. We left our car at the parking lot at the end of the road, and continued on foot by the cliff edge. It’s not a long walk, it takes an hour or two, and the trail is quite obvious. It leads to the tip of the peninsula, passes remains of a lookout tower and offers astonishing views all the way. It’s also a good place to watch sea birds.
Howth Peninsula, County Fingal
This was our goodbye to Ireland before heading to Dublin and the airport. The lively fishing village of Howth is about 40 minutes drive from Dublin. This makes it a popular day trip from the capital. I guess, locals like it just as much as tourists, and it looked quite busy on that sunny Saturday when we visited. When someone is looking for a nice cliff walk close to Dublin, Howth Peninsula is the place to go.
There are several parking lots around the peninsula. We used the one at the end of Balscadden Road. It’s a dead end, and the coastal trail towards Baily Lighthouse starts right there. We hiked to the lighthouse and back in about 2-3 hours. The path is well-maintained and mostly flat, with some steeper sections. The views, the flowers and the sea birds (okay, the sunshine, as well) made is beautiful. We even saw a seal playing at one of the beaches below us.
Do you have a favorite coastal hike?