Last week we released a video about our Top 5 Beginner Long Distance Trail in Ireland, and this is the companion blog piece!
If you don’t know our project, we are walking all of Ireland’s National Waymarked Trails, a series of medium to long distance trails all around the country. As I write this, there are 42 trails on this list, with a total distance of over 4,000km. Right now, I’m going to share the five trails from this list that Carl and I would recommend to people who are getting into walking and would like to explore some new places.
1. Nore Valley Way
Distance: 11km (for each half of the trail)
Part 1: Kilkenny - Bennettsbridge
Part 2: Thomastown - Inistioge
The shortest of the National Waymarked Trails, the Nore Valley Way is a beautiful river walk that follows the river Nore as it leaves Kilkenny and meanders its way south. For anyone looking for an afternoon stroll, you can pick either section and walk out and back. For a short trail it offers a lot, and the trail is never boring as it twists and turns its way along the banks. It’s just a shame that the two halves don’t connect!
2. Barrow Way
Start/end points: Robertstown, Co. Kildare - St. Mullins, Co. Carlow.
Another river walk, but this time much longer!
The Barrow Way follows the river Barrow, which has a tow path all along its left bank as it was made navigable in the late 1700’s. One of three canal walks on our list, this one is our favourite by far as the vast majority of the tow path still grassy. We felt surrounded by nature the entire time we were walking the trail. And while incredibly beautiful, the walking itself is very easy as it is flat the whole way. If you don’t want to camp the towns and villages are spaced out at reasonable distances so that it’s possible to stay indoors every night.
If you do want to camp, the tow path is managed by Waterways Ireland who are very friendly to campers! So no stressing that someone is going to come along and make you pack everything up and leave. With the towns spaced out so well food and water are easy to plan, and there is an incredible amount of heritage along the way.
3. Lough Derg Way
Start/end points: Limerick City - Dromineer, Co. Tipperary
A slightly more adventurous trail, the Lough Derg Way would be perfect for a long weekend! Taking roughly 3 days (depending on your own distances), the trail takes you from Limerick’s inner city out to Lough Derg and up to the lakeside village of Lough Derg. It’s not a particularly mountainous area, but the trail still has an amazing variety to it, following small canals, crossing Tountinna Hill and the millennium cross, through farmland and along tiny roads.
Again, there are towns and villages along the way, and B&Bs all throughout the area because of the lake so staying indoors is possible. Camping on this trail would be a little tricky as it doesn’t go through many “wild” areas.
4. Dublin Mountains Way
Distance: 45 - 50km
Start/end points: Shankill - Tallaght
Another weekend trail, the Dublin Mountains Way makes the list for the ease of access. Starting and ending in different parts of the city, it’s possible to take public transport to either end, and a couple of points along the way! We did this trail over two days, day one taking us from Shankill to Kilternan, and then day two picking it back up at Kilternan and walking to Tallaght, which was a pretty long day. What amazed us was how close and easy it is to get some wild feeling places from the city by just hopping on a Dublin Bus (the two of us having lived in Dublin for many years already).
The trail is well defined the whole way, bring you up to some amazing views of the city from three rock, and (through one of Dublin’s best kept secrets) the reservoirs outside of Tallaght. There are also off-shoot loops that you can do for an afternoon out around the hellfire club.
5. Miner’s Way & Historical Trail
Distance: 120 - 160km
Start/end points: Looped trail in Co. Roscommon! Towns/places along the way include Boyle, Castlebaldwin, Geevagh, Arigna, Dowra, Drumshanbow, Drumkeeran.
It seems we can’t write a “favourite” list without mentioning the Miner’s Way & Historical Trail in Co. Roscommon. The longest trail on our recommendation list, this one won’t fit into a weekend. Shaped like a figure of eight, the bottom loop is the Historical Trail section, while the northern loop is the Miners Way section. In general, we found that the bottom section of the trail is easier walking than the top section - lots of beautiful forest walks through Lough Key forest park.
Because of the design of this trail it’s the kind of place where you can DIY your own route for however much time you have, and what places you want to visit. The Arigna mines are amazing (the Miners Way section following the old trail the miners used to walk to and from the mines), and there is so much history to the place I couldn’t believe I hadn’t really heard of Roscommon before doing this trail! Because it’s not a famous outdoor adventure location you can be pretty sure that the trails will be relatively quiet whenever you head out.
Let us know what your favourite trails around the country are! A great option for people looking for a day walk are the National Looped Walks, which are waymarked with a purple arrow. A website that we’ve used to find out about local walks and hill summits is mountainviews.ie, if you’re looking for something fun near you!