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Places in Ireland: Top 5 Long Walks

Posted on Mar 24, 2014 by Michelle Hughes

Local Walking guide, Michelle Hughes, shares her favourite Places in Ireland: Top 5 Long Walks.

The Western Irish Hills (or should I say Mountains) offer two special qualities seldom found elsewhere in Europe. Firstly, they are empty. The walker can spend a day crossing them in solitude, without meeting another person with many ways still unmarked with trails. Secondly, they offer a wonderfully integrated scenery of peaks, lake and sea unequalled except in Norway and Scotland. Therefore my five favourite walks are in the west of Ireland between Kerry and Donegal.

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I have to admit it was difficult to keep it short and just choose five because there are so many. So my criteria was based on the walks I personally like when out for a good days walk, but the truth be told I could easily pick 5 others if I was walking with family and friends who were not perhaps as fit. So I guess I will have to do another five at some stage which are equally as beautiful but not as long. So here goes, four of the walks are not for the faint hearted as they are long and committing walks which require guides for no track markers are to be seen on these mountains.

One is well marked and shorter but spectacular. I have given each place three names… To be sure, to be sure, to be sure. No, not really. The first is what they are called on the maps. The second is the Irish name and it’s meaning.

1). The Glencoaghan Horseshoe

The first has to be in Connemara. The Glencoaghan Horseshoe. This classic route is just one of the many on offer in ‘The Twelve Bens’ mountain range. Not for the faint-hearted, 10 miles of walking and 5,000 feet of ascent will ensure tired muscles at the end of the day, but it is so worth it. Incredible views accompany you along the way. A great bonus is that it’s dry underfoot!

The six peaks are called; Beann Leitirigh (Mountain of the wet hillside), Beann Gabhair (Peak of the goat), Beann Bruighin (Peak of the hostel), Beann Coileach dubh (Peak of the black grouse), Beann Corr (Peak of the conical hill) and Doirin clar (Wood of the plain).

2) The Mweelrea Horseshoe


A close second is The Mweelrea Horseshoe. An Maol Riabhach, grey bald mountain, or bald king. The Highest mountain in Connaught, Mweelrea offers some of the best scenery in the west of Ireland.

  • To the west the long grassy slopes sweep down to magical white sandy beaches
  • To the east, the summit plunges nearly 2,000 feet below
  • To the south ALL the mountains of Connemara
  • To the north the rocky cone of Croagh Patrick (Ireland’s Holy Mountain). Wonderful.
  • The distance is between 7½ and 9½ miles, depending on the start and height 4,000 feet.

3) The Coumlouighra Horseshoe

Number 3 on my list is in County Kerry in the south west of Ireland.

As Ireland’s highest summit, Carrauntoohil is part of The MacGillycuddy Reeks . This range of Mountains contain 11 of Irelands 14 3,000 feet mountains. The scenery is so dramatic and extreme. The Coumlouighra Horseshoe is my choice here. It is 8 miles long with 3,800 feet of ascent, this route includes three of Ireland highest summits. Fantastic views and sheer drops including the spectacular arête crossing between Beenkeragh and Carrauntoohil. Very popular route so don’t expect solitude here.

4) Slieve League

Slieve League

Number four on my list is Slieve League, up in County Donegal. Sliabh Liag Mountain of the flagstones takes you along the highest sea cliffs in Europe at 900ft (300m). Good head for heights a must! This route: Bunglas to Malinbeg near Glencolmcille. ‘One Man’s pass’ is an interesting section along the way, described by Mike Harding, writer and singer, in his ‘Footloose in the West of Ireland’. “A yard wide at its narrowest point and about forty foot long, I would like suckers on my feet before I crossed it on anything but the stillest day”. Nothing can take away from the views, which are simply breath-taking. Distance of 6 miles and 2,000 feet.

5) The Maumturk Walk

The Maumturk mountains are located in the centre of the mountains of Connemara.

There is an annual event on the Irish walking calendar called, The Maumturk Walk which covers 15 miles over tough, mountainous terrain and with a total ascent of 7664 feet. A mighty challenge indeed, but there’s no need to do it all as there is a beautiful section from the Central Maumturks from Mau mean, marked by a path up to St. Patrick’s well (a place of pilgrimage to this day) to Letterbreckaun, Leitir Brecan, Brecan’s wet hillside. This section is 11 miles long with 3,600ft of ascent.

So here are my Places in Ireland: Top 5 Long Walks. Ensure you are well fit as here in Ireland the hills may not be high in comparison to our European or American neighbours, however they start from sea level and there can be few tracks so you are in fact walking over rough terrain. So as they say here, ‘Go N eiri an bothair leat’. May the road rise to meet you.

Interested in hiking around some of the most beautiful areas in Ireland, but don’t want to go alone?

Then how about exploring Ireland with a group of friendly hikers and a guided expert. Check below for more information and discover Ireland with us …

About the author

Michelle Hughes

I have been enjoying and working in the outdoors for several decades, from working as a trekking guide to managing an adventure centre. My first real adventure was sailing a junk from Darwin, Australia to Singapore, followed by sea-kayaking around the Bijago Islands off Guinea Bissau in Africa. I would still have to say that my ultimate adventure has been raising a family with my husband, Geo.

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