Ireland, renowned for its green hills and stunning coastal landscapes, has recently witnessed a surge in the popularity of hiking as a family activity.
Across the country, Ireland boasts an extensive network of hiking and walking trails, offering something for every member of the family. Whether you’re seeking leisurely strolls along idyllic beaches, encounters through charming forests, or breathtaking views from towering sea cliffs, Ireland’s diverse terrain offers a variety of options that promise to delight the entire family.
So, lace up your hiking boots and prepare to soak in the magnificent beauty and rich history that make Ireland an ideal place for family fun.
Since the walks we have suggested are for families, many of them aren’t too strenuous. However, it’s always best to be prepared for anything, so remember to bring water, wear suitable boots or shoes, and ensure your phone has a full charge before you set out.
Glenveagh National Park in County Donegal is 16,000 hectares in size, with various terrain to wander through. Not only is it beautiful, but it’s well organised, which takes the hassle out of planning. Leave your car in the car park and hop on a bus service from there, which will take you to the best spot to start your ramble. We recommend the there-and-back Lakeside Walk, which starts from the bus stop close to the visitor centre. This stroll brings you along the idyllic shores of Lough Veagh, where you can look out upon the picturesque Glenveagh valley.
Glenveagh is full of scenic views and landscapes to enjoy on your walk, but it’s also a fantastic place to spot some wildlife. It’s home to the largest herd of Red Deer in Ireland, as well as otters, badgers and foxes, to name a few of the animals that call Glenveagh home. If you’re a birdwatcher, you might be lucky and spot a peregrine falcon, wood warbler, red-throated diver, or even a golden eagle.
Your walk ends at Glenveagh Castle, which is a must-see that dates back to the 1870s and offers a fascinating insight into the past. Just outside the castle lies the Gardens, which provide a striking contrast to the rugged surroundings of the wider national park.
Distance: 3.5 km/2 miles
Terrain: Gravel path
You can discover the marvels of Glenveagh National Park and the rugged beauty of Donegal and the Causeway Coast on our ever-popular group trip.
Set within the remote Connemara National Park is the Diamond Hill’s lower loop route, which offers views of the breathtaking Galway coastline and the bogland beneath it. The well-maintained trail is accessible with gravel paths, steps and a boardwalk. The scenery is spectacular, but make sure to keep an eye out for Red Deer, otters, and the Connemara pony. Also, look to the sky to potentially spot meadow pipits, robins and wrens.
After the hike, the Connemara National Park Visitor Centre ensures an effortless adventure with the family, as it offers a cafe and other facilities. The visitor centre also provides a place to learn about the park’s history, formation, and conservation and biodiversity efforts.
Visiting Clifden is a must-do to make the most of your time in Connemara. Clifden is a small, bustling town full of delicious seafood restaurants, cosy cafes, and lively pubs. Just outside the town is Sky Road, a viewing point of the Connemara coastline that you shouldn’t miss. Gazing out on the wild ocean while the sun sets will be a highlight of your visit to Connemara.
Distance: 3km/1.8 miles
Terrain: Gravel path with steps, boardwalk, old bog road
Benbulben Forest Walk lies just outside the busy town of Sligo. It’s a gentle stroll that offers views of Benbulben from the onset. The trail provides car parking and picnic facilities. The forest route is dotted with sculptures and artwork dedicated to the writer William Butler Yeats, who famously adored and was inspired by Sligo’s beauty. The mild trail weaves through a serene woodland with bright wildflowers, offering families a chance to immerse themselves in the tranquillity of nature.
After your stroll, you’re sure to be hungry, so head into Sligo town, where there are several restaurants and cafes to enjoy a delicious lunch. There are many options for food, whatever cuisine you feel like having.
Distance: 5.5km/3.5 miles
Terrain: Forest path
On the Loop Head Peninsula in County Clare sits the seaside village of Kilkee. Meandering along the dramatic Kilkee Cliff walk that hugs the Atlantic Ocean; this there-and-back trail offers families an opportunity to soak in the panoramic views of crashing waves, sea stacks, and the vast expanse of the blue sea. It is ideal for a family of any age, with the beach within walking distance from the start of the path and cafes and ice cream parlours to grab snacks for the walk ahead.
After the walk up the cliff edge, enjoy a dip in the ocean to cool down in Kilkee’s Pollock Holes when the tide is right. Afterwards, you can venture into the village for dinner and enjoy a scenic stroll along the beachfront.
Take a drive down the Loop Head Peninsula and visit the lighthouse that dates back to 1854. Walking around the lighthouse, you’ll notice the E-I-R-E marked on the clifftop in white letters. These markings were used during World War 2 to signal pilots that they were entering neutral air space. You’ll notice a few of these markings along the Wild Atlantic Way.
Distance: 2 km/1 mile
Terrain: Gravel path
Off the coast of Antrim lies a small island named Rathlin Island. Being one of the first inhabited islands off Ireland’s coast to Viking settlers, this island has a fascinating history. You’ll be able to embark on an enthralling family adventure along the Rathlin Trail. This walkway leads you from the Rue Point Lighthouse through to the other side of the island, Kinramer South. This track joins other walking trails on the island, so it can be extended if you want to discover more of the island. Kids and adults will be captivated by the views of the ocean and the thundering of the sea.
Another must-see attraction for visitors is the West Light Bird Sanctuary, which offers viewing decks to birdwatch rare seabirds such as puffins and razorbills. With its dramatic cliffs, sweeping panoramas, and seabirds, Rathlin Island provides a welcome escape from life’s fast pace.
Distance: 6.4 km/4 miles
Terrain: Gravel path and roads
Embark on a journey to Rathlin Island and the Northern Irish coast on one of our small group trips.
The Maulin Loop in Crone Woods, tucked away in County Wicklow, is a more challenging trail than others on this list, but the views will make it all worthwhile. You’ll be treated to scenes of Glencree Valley, Powerscourt Waterfall and the Great Sugar Loaf on your ascent. On a clear day, you may even be able to see as far as Dublin Bay. The trail is well-signposted and will lead you through peaceful forests on your way to the summit of Maulin Mountain.
If you’re looking for a livelier scene, Crone Woods is an hour’s drive from the centre of Dublin city. The capital city is full of food options and family activities to ensure your family never gets bored.
Distance: 6 km/3.7 miles
Terrain: Forest path
The Dingle Way in County Kerry is about 179 km / 109 miles long and takes in the length of the Dingle Peninsula. Although it sounds intimidating, we don’t intend for you to hike the whole lot! The Dingle Way can be broken into several sections to find the most suitable hike for your family. However, our favourite walk starts and ends at the Blasket Visitor Centre car park. This looped trail brings you along roads, coastal paths and sandy tracks, all against the backdrop of the Atlantic Ocean.
After your ramble, pop into the Blasket Island Visitor Centre to learn more about the fascinating history of the islands and the many writers and storytellers it produced, such as Peig Sayers. The visitor centre also offers a viewing platform to gaze upon the Blaskets.
Distance: 5km/3 miles
Terrain: Roads, coastal paths and sandy tracks
Explore all of the Dingle Peninsula on our week-long small group trip that leads you along the breathtaking Dingle Way.
Killarney National Park is home to serene woodlands, tranquil lakes, historic attractions and luscious meadows sprawled through a haven in County Kerry. There are many options for walking and hiking trails throughout the park, some more strenuous than others. Our pick for families is the looped Lakeside Walk. Follow the meandering path along the stunning lakes of Killarney. You can visit well-known attractions such as Muckross House and Muckross Abbey on your ramble. Muckross House, a 19th-century mansion, features furniture and decor from that period and meticulously maintained gardens. Muckross Abbey, on the other hand, dates back to the 15th century. Visiting the ruins of this monastic settlement is like stepping back in time due to its good state of preservation.
There’s no shortage of activities suitable for the entire family in Killarney National Park and surrounding areas. Hop into a jaunting car, rent a bike, or take a boat to explore the park in all its splendour. Pre or post-hike, pop into the Killarney National Park Visitor Centre at Killarney House & Gardens. The visitor centre offers insight into the flora and fauna of the park, as well as the biodiversity and conservation efforts. If you’re more of a history buff, you can also learn about the park’s past.
Distance: 5 km/3 miles
Terrain: Rough winding trail
Nestled in west County Cork, the Glengariff Nature Reserve is a haven of nature maintained by the National Parks & Wildlife Service since 1991. There are several trails through the reserve, which are well signposted. Our favourite one for families to stretch their legs is the walk to Lady Bantry’s Lookout. It is a short walk with some steep parts, but the views make it all worthwhile once you reach the lookout point. Look across the Cork coastline to find Garinish Island and Whiddy Island and have a panoramic view of Glengariff and Bantry Bay.
Glengariff Woods Nature Reserve feels like a world of its own – all you can hear is the rustling of leaves and the river flowing through the park, offering you peace and tranquillity while feeling truly one with nature. If you’re looking to explore more, you’re only a short drive away from Bantry, which offers many cafe and restaurant options for refuelling the entire family and points of interest, such as Bantry House.
Distance: 1 km/0.6 miles
Terrain: Forest path
Inishbofin Island, off the coast of County Galway, is accessible from the mainland by a ferry from Cleggan Pier. Steeped in history and surrounded by the stunning Atlantic Ocean, Inishbofin offers a tranquil escape from the commotion of everyday life. There are several trails for you to discover on the island, but we love the Middlequarter Loop. This route starts and ends at the pier, so you can begin your Inishbofin experience as soon as you hop off the ferry.
For such a small island, there are many opportunities for adventure on Inishbofin. If you’re a water lover, the beaches are pristine, and the clear water makes for excellent scuba diving. Not only that, but the sea cliffs along the Inishbofin coastline make for outstanding views of the wild Atlantic Ocean and the perfect spot to watch the sunset after a busy day of exploring.
Distance: 5 km/3 miles
Terrain: Minor roads, laneways, and bog roads
If you’re looking to explore Ireland’s West Coast with your family, we have the perfect trip for you.