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    Hiking Irish Long Distance Trails: What to Expect

    By Tom Meehan
    More by Tom

    Tips from A Hiking Guide

    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.

    What to Expect on Ireland's Long Distance Trails

    Dingle Way hiking long distance trail Mt Brandon

    Hiking over Mt Brandon on the Dingle Way

    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.

    Irish Weather

    Long Distance Trails: How to Prepare

    Ireland long distance trails - hiking the Wicklow Way Glendalough

    Hiking along the Wicklow Way in the Glendalough area.

    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).

    What to Bring

    Ireland what to wear hiking

    Hiking Footwear

    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.

    waterfall on an Irish long distance trail

    Waterproof outerwear is a must while hiking in Ireland.

    Waterproofs

    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.

    Casual Wear

    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.

    Where are Ireland’s Long Distance Trails?

    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.

    The Dingle Way

    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.

    View This Trip

    Wicklow Way hike

    The Wicklow Way

    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.

    View This Trip

    Irish long distance trails - Causeway Coast hike

    The Causeway Coast

    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.

    View This Trip

    Not interested in joining a guided group trip? We also offer self guided hiking tours of the Dingle Way and Wicklow Way at certain times of the year. 

    Guide to Irish Long Distance Trails

    Interested in further reading? Learn more about Ireland’s long distance trails in our guide to Ireland’s best long distance trails below. 

    Read More

    Hike Ireland's Long Distance Trails

    Meet the Author: Tom Meehan

    “After 36 years in the maritime world, initially as a Naval Officer and Ship’s Captain and later as a Port Manager, I changed direction and left the office behind for a career in the outdoors as a Mountain Leader. When not out in the wilderness, I enjoy playing the guitar and singing with my friends in our weekly music session in the local pub.”

    View profileMore by Tom

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