As a wilderness hiking guide at Wilderness Ireland since 2018, some of my favourite trips to guide have been on either the Dingle Way in southwest Ireland or the Wicklow Way in the East. In the light of that experience, I’d like to share some practical advice on what to expect, how to prepare and what to bring either of these trips. As this advice is tailored to hiking in Ireland in general, it is also relevant to most Wilderness Ireland hiking trips.
When it comes to hiking long distance trails in Ireland such as the Dingle Way or the Wicklow Way, expect easy to moderate hiking along a mixture of quiet roads, forest tracks, lanes, agricultural land and even open hillsides. You can look forward to wonderful scenery, pure air, close encounters with farm animals such as sheep (of course!), cows and horses, coupled with comfortable accommodation and excellent food.
Whether you’re tasting the fresh local fish, a traditional meal like a hearty stew or chowder, or any of the other options, expect plenty of chances to taste local culinary delights.
While hiking Ireland’s long distance trails, you will have the opportunity to connect with the landscape in a unique fashion and enjoy the companionship of your fellow travellers. However, fine weather is definitely not guaranteed. In any week in Ireland in summer you may encounter warm sunshine, rain, fog and wind sometimes all on the same day.
Spring weather is mild, but the days are lengthening and consistently drier. The landscape is buzzing with life and colour, with flowers blooming and bustling wildlife.Find out more
Summer promises long days, pleasant temperatures, and festivals galore. The countryside transitions from vibrant green to breath-taking purple as the heather blooms.Find out more
Autumn is a time of colourful landscapes and glowing skies. Witness some of Ireland’s most beautiful autumn sunsets and taste flavours unique to our autumn months.Find out more
If the conditions are right, marvel at the snow-dusted landscapes during Ireland’s winters. Crunchy snow underfoot, roaring fires in the cosy pubs, and beautiful starry skies.Find out more
As a guide, these are a few tips to follow for those readying to hike one of Ireland’s long distance trails. These are hiking holidays, so build up your fitness in the weeks and months prior to your trip. Get out walking several times a week.
Start off with shorter distances, perhaps 5km (2 miles) on flat ground and gradually increase the distances you walk until you can comfortably cover 10 to 12 km (6 to 8 miles) over variable terrain. Try to include uphill sections in your walks and wear the boots you intend to bring to Ireland (more about boots below).
Firstly, footwear. It’s essential to get this right as blisters could ruin your holiday. As a guide, in my opinion, waterproof light hiking boots such as Meindl Ohio 3, Lowa Renegade or Keen Targhee II are the best option for long distance trail walking given the variety of surfaces that you will encounter. Mountaineering boots tend to be heavier with a stiffer sole which makes road walking uncomfortable.
The key point with boots is to make sure to wear them in well before your holiday. You will also need several pairs of summer hiking socks. Pro tip – as a guide, I use a two-sock combination when hiking with a thin liner sock inside a thicker sock.
Learn more about hiking footwear here.
Rain gear – a waterproof jacket is also essential as are rain pants. The weather can change several times a day – we like to boast that we can get all four seasons in one day! – so rain pants which are easy to put on and take off over boots are best. These will usually have full length zips in the legs. They may be a bit more expensive but are well worth the extra bit.
In addition, you will need a few pairs of trekking trousers, tee-shirts (not cotton, either synthetic or merino wool), a warm mid-layer such as a puffy jacket or fleece, a beanie, light gloves, a sun hat and sunglasses. I prefer to wear trousers rather than shorts to minimise the chances of picking up ticks and to protect the lower legs from brambles, nettles and other plants.
A pair of short gaiters can also help. Remember to bring your water bottle and a day pack to carry your lunch and extra layers. One last thing, we usually eat lunch on the trail so a foam sit mat would make this more comfortable.
For the evenings, casual clothes and shoes are fine. Simply bring whatever you are comfortable in, as Irish restaurants generally don’t have a strict dress code. Bring comfortable clothes, extra layers (it can be cool in Ireland during the evening) and cosy shoes to change into, as you’ll want a break from your boots each evening. Pack your sense of humour and your spirit of adventure and you’re good to go!
Learn more about what to wear in Ireland here.
We have a number of long distance trails in Ireland throughout the island. These trails range in length, difficulty and terrain. Our favourites are the Dingle Way, the Wicklow Way and the Causeway Coastal Path. Each one brings something different to the table. See below for information about each of these paths.
Wrapping around the ever-popular Dingle Peninsula, the Dingle Way offers a plethora of beaches and sandy, coastal vistas, combined with cheerful villages and ancient archaeology. Hikers will also get the chance to cross the saddle of Mt Brandon, and walk along the headland to Ireland’s westernmost point, Slea Head.
Learn more how to visit it yourself.
On the east coast, the Wicklow Way winds through the lush forests and heather-capped hills of the Wicklow Mountains National Park. This walk also offers hikers the chance to visit historic locales like Glendalough monastic site or the lavish Powerscourt Estate and its impressive gardens and cascade.
Learn more how to visit it yourself.
The Causeway Coast follows a 52km-long section of Northern Ireland’s coast, with the jewel in the crown being the Giant’s Causeway itself. On this hike, expect clifftop paths, stunning ocean panoramas, castle ruins like Dunluce Castle, distilleries, and of course the stones of the Giant’s Causeway itself.
Learn more about how to visit it yourself.
Interested in further reading? Learn more about Ireland’s long distance trails in our guide to Ireland’s best long distance trails below.