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Insider Guide to the Irish Camino – Ireland’s Pilgrimage Routes

Posted on Nov 24, 2017 by Darragh Devaney

Once known as the Land of Saints and Scholars, there is a rich heritage here, interwoven along ancient Ireland’s pilgrimage routes. 

Just as the Camino de Santiago follows Santiago (St James), numerous Irish saints lend their names and stories to these paths. Meander the green fields, remote summits, vast heathland and dramatic coastline while following ancient Ireland’s pilgrimage routes.

Motivations for hiking Ireland’s pilgrimage routes may vary – some pilgrimage hikers may be spirituality motivated. Others may be fascinated with the historical aspect, or even the importance of tradition, and the romantic notion that so many others have walked this path before. Still others may choose to hike Ireland’s pilgrimage routes in search of inner peace or mindfulness. Some may simply like the idea of a long distance way-marked trail.

Whatever it is that intrigues you, whether you’re looking for inward reflection or simply a beautiful place to hike, Ireland’s pilgrimage routes hold the answer.

Read on to discover the best of ancient Ireland’s pilgrimage routes traced across the land by the pilgrims of yesteryears through some of the most stunning corners of Ireland.

1. Croagh Patrick, Ireland’s Holy Mountain – Connemara 

Croagh Patrick hiking - Ireland's Pilgrimage routes

Sheep are your constant companion along the slopes of Croagh Patrick

Legend has it that it was from the summit of Croagh Patrick that St. Patrick banished all the snakes from Ireland. For over 4,000 years, pilgrims have climbed to the top of Croagh Patrick, not far from the cheerful coastal town of Westport, in search of splendid vistas as well as connection to land, myth and history.

From the summit, the 365 islands of the glittering Clew Bay – once strongholds of adventurers and pirates – are clearly visible. Thousands flock to this mountain on Reek Sunday, the last Sunday of July, for a collective pilgrimage en masse. Many take the pilgrimage so seriously that they do it barefoot!

Today, Croagh Patrick is popular with hikers from all walks of life, as it not only affords spectacular views, but also has strong historical connections to Ireland’s patron saint.

Hike Ireland’s holy mountain on our exciting adventure, Hiking the Mountains of Connemara & Mayo.

2. St Kevin’s Way, Co Wicklow

Hiking in Glendalough - Ireland's Pilgrimage routes

Hiking on St Kevin’s Path, founder of the ancient monastery in Glendalough

St Kevin chose one of the most inspiringly beautiful locations in Ireland to construct his hermitage in solitude. The twin lakes of Glendalough caught between the soaring Wicklow Mountains are internationally renowned for their stunning scenery. It was here, after 7 years of solitary contemplation, that St Kevin established a monastic settlement, the ruins of which are the final destination for this dramatic pilgrimage route.

An ancient pilgrimage route, this path is also one of the best ways to discover the magic of the Wicklow Mountains. Once an ancient centre of education, St Kevin’s monastic centre is now in ruins but is a spectacular foray into Irish medieval history nonetheless.

Hike through Wicklow and visit the ancient monastic and pilgrimage site of Glendalough on our new 2019 hiking trip, Hiking the Wicklow Way.

More About Hiking in Ireland

3. Glencolmcille, Co Donegal 

Hiking in Donegal near Glencolmcille - Ireland's Pilgrimage routes

Enjoying the view in western Donegal near Glencolmcille

Saint Columba (or in Irish Colm Cille, meaning ‘church dove’) was an Irish abbot and missionary credited with spreading Christianity in what is today Scotland. Although he founded the important abbey on the Scottish Isle of Iona, he was born in Ireland’s County Donegal. The area around Glencolmcille is interlaced with paths and Gaeltacht (Irish speaking) communities, forming a sort of pilgrimage route paying homage to both Ireland’s native language as well as an important piece of history – not to mention one of Ireland’s most eminent saints!

Also in Donegal, nearby is the ancient Pilgrim’s Path that winds up the back of the Slieve League cliffs. Not only does the Pilgrim’s Path lead to the ruins of a mass rock where Catholic masses were held during Ireland’s Penal Laws, but the trail also offers impressive views over the massive Slieve League cliffs (three times the height of the Cliffs of Moher). And the best part is that you’ll get the clifftop windy panorama all to yourself!

Hike pilgrimage routes in Donegal on our hiking trip, Hiking the Causeway Coastal Route & Donegal.

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4. Mount Brandon, Co Kerry

Hiking Mount Brandon - Ireland's Pilgrimage routes

Taking photos while hiking near Mt Brandon. Photo by: Valerie O’Sullivan

At the heart of Kerry’s Dingle Peninsula is the majestic Mt Brandon. Named after St. Brendan (Breanainn) the Navigator, there is a spectacular pilgrimage trail that takes you to the summit of the mountain rising out of the Dingle Peninsula. According to myth, St Brendan had a vision of a promised land while seated at Mt Brandon’s summit.

Inspired by this heaven-like vision, St Brendan set sail in search of his mystical land, disembarking on American soil in 535 AD (over 900 years before Columbus). Though we may never be able to prove it for sure, there are many who believe that the Irish discovered America!

Hike Mt Brandon and other impressive mountains on our deluxe trip, Hiking The Mountains of the Ring of Kerry

Or instead, try circumnavigating the beautiful Dingle Peninsula and hiking the saddle of Mt Brandon on Hiking the Dingle Way.

5. St Finbarr’s Way, Co Cork 

Gougane Barra, St Finbarr's Route, Ireland's Pilgrimage routes

Gougane Barra Forest Park, Cork

The rambling landscapes of West Cork are pocked with overlooked jewels. Crossing three mountain ranges and four valleys, St Finbarr’s Way is a journey into one of southwest Ireland’s forgotten corners. Taking in views over Bantry Bay and the West Cork coastline, the hike culminates at the ancient monastic settlement (now a quaint regional park) of Gougane Barra. It was here in the 6th century, on an island in the middle of the lake, that St Finbarr built his monastery.

Make your own pilgrimage to Ireland’s pilgrimage routes by hiking along one of these beautiful routes. Check out some of our tours below!

Hiking - The Causeway Coastal Route & Donegal

Hiking Giant's Causeway and Causeway Coastal Route
Location: Northern Ireland – Giants Causeway & Belfast
  • Hike iconic Irish landscapes including UNESCO World Heritage Site the Giant's Causeway, Slieve League Cliffs & Glenveagh National Park
  • Walk Ireland's most northernly peninsula and Star Wars filming location, Malin Head, where mountains meet sea.
  • Hike through Donegal, voted National Geographic's Coolest Place on Earth in 2017
  • Island hopping to Rathlin Island, in search of myths and puffins

Price: from €1,710

View Trip Details

Hiking - Dingle Way

Hiking the Dingle Way on the Dingle Peninsula, Wilderness Ireland
Location: South West – Cork & Kerry
  • Hike the Dingle Way, Ireland's most scenic long distance hiking trail
  • Explore a corner of Ireland once called the 'most beautiful place on Earth' by National Geographic
  • Meet local characters, listen to live traditional music and taste the delicious local food of Dingle

Price: from €1,795

View Trip Details

Hiking the Mountains of Connemara and Mayo

Hiking in Connemara
Location: West – Connemara, Burren & Aran Islands
  • Challenge yourself by summiting three of the west of Ireland's highest peaks
  • Join local guides who will help you to really get under the skin of this fascinating landscape
  • Follow in the steps of St Patrick as we follow ancient pilgrimage routes that date to pre-Christian times
  • Explore the wildest and most sparsely populated area of Ireland

Price: from €1,710

View Trip Details

Hiking The Kerry Mountains

The Ring of Kerry hiking
Location: South West – Cork & Kerry
  • Summit some of Ireland's highest mountains including Irelands highest peak, Carrantuohill
  • Listen to live traditional music and eat the best of food while staying in authentic accommodations
  • Traverse Ireland's southwest peninsulas of Dingle and Iveragh in the majestic Kingdom of Kerry

Price: from €1,995

View Trip Details

If none of these trips along Ireland’s pilgrimage routes are right for you, request a tailor made trip that suits your personal Camino interests.

About the author

Darragh Devaney

Meet Darragh who suffered an unfortunate watery incident but still loves the outdoors!

Read more articles by Darragh

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