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Top 10 hiking and trail running routes in Ireland

Rachel’s top 10 routes for hiking & trail running in Ireland

I fell in love with trail-running while working & exploring in France. Upon my return to Ireland I rediscovered my home country with new eyes. Curious and excited I discovered the hidden gems of the Irish west coast and spectacular trails along the Wild Atlantic Way. Soon I knew the best tracks all over the country and became an expert for trail running in Ireland.

Ireland is an amazing playground for everyone who likes being in the outdoors. Its mountain ranges and hills reward your accent with incomparably stunning views. The rugged coastline awakes a sense of being wild and free. Numerous trails and tracks can lead you through unspoilt landscapes to discover historic sights and natural wonders.

A few years ago I took my passion for the Irish outdoors another step further and founded ‘Rachel’s Irish Adventures’. My mission is to get people off the beaten path and to experience Ireland’s natural wonders beyond the common tourist trail. By offering customised tours for hiking and trail running in Ireland I now share my love for outdoor adventures with like minded people from all over the world.

You can choose from numerous beautiful options for hiking and trail running in Ireland. There are routes for every fitness level and preference. All you sometimes need is an experienced local trail runner to point you in the right direction. I’m delighted to share my gathered expertise about hiking and trail running in Ireland with you. Get it touch if you are looking for more information about a tailor-made tour or customised hiking and trail running experiences.

Here is a small collection of some of my favourite routes for hiking and trail running in Ireland.

1. Carrowteige, Co. Mayo

Distance: 18km looped coastal trail

This is possibly my personal favourite place to go trail running along the Wild Atlantic Way.

Carrowteige is a peninsula located in the Gaeltacht region in the northwest of county Mayo. It’s rugged coastline, variety of terrain, beautiful golden beaches and pure tranquillity takes me into another world.

2 people standing on the cliffs of Carrowteige in Ireland - top 10 trail routes hiking and trail running in Ireland

2. Slieve League, Co. Donegal

Distance: 3km pilgrim path out and back

This hidden gem has not yet been put on the tourist radar and it’s massive dramatic cliffs are nearly 3 times higher than the Cliffs of Moher.

It’s for good reason that the National Geographic named Donegal as the coolest place on the planet!

Hikers on Slieve League - top 10 trail routes hiking and trail running in Ireland

3. Keem Bay, Achill Island, Co. Mayo

Distance : 7km circular hike

If you are looking for a challenging hike with a 360 spectacular scenery over Ireland’s highest sea cliffs, then this is for you !

The reward at the end is a dip in the sea and an ice-cream while chilling out on the golden sandy beach also shared with the sheep.

Achill Island - top 10 trail routes hiking and trail running in Ireland

4.    Clare Island, Co. Mayo

Distance: 12km coastal loop

I really feel at home on Clare Island. Once I get on that ferry at Roonagh Pier, I know I’m about to escape onto a magical island.

This island is a paradise for those that love the outdoors and just enjoying nature at its best.

There are so many trails to choose from and if you are like me, you will just create your own and leave the watch at home.

It’s highest point is Knockmore at 462 metres and the island measures around 7km west to east and a maximum of 4km north to south.

Hiking on Clare Island - top 10 trail routes hiking and trail running in Ireland

5. Knocknarea, Co. Sligo

Distance: 4.5 km up and down

I just love to bring groups to hike up this 300 million year old limestone mountain and enjoy the stunning views over Strandhill onto Donegal.

At the summit lies one of Ireland’s most impressive unexcavated passage tombs which was an important ritual focal point since Neolithic times. It is also said to be the burial grounds of the legendary Queen Maeve.

View over the coast from the top of Knocknarea with some hikers on decent - top 10 trail routes hiking and trail running in Ireland

6. Nephin Mountain, Co. Mayo

Distance: 7km, 806 metres

Nephin Mountain Trail is my local mountain and I’ve grown up looking at it every day from our Bed & Breakfast as it provides the perfect backdrop over Ballina town.

This is the second highest mountain in Connacht and is the ideal adventure if you are looking for an open mountain challenging hike.

There are several ways to approach the mountain and as of yet there are no marked trails so unless you are good with a compass and map, you need a guide.

The views over the many lakes, the islands and as far as Donegal are just breath-taking.

The top of Nephin Mountain - top 10 trail routes hiking and trail running in Ireland

7. Inishturk Island, Co. Mayo

Distance: 8km coastal off road loop

Get ready to be blown away by the stunning rugged cliff lined coast and amazing local welcome.

Inishturk is 15 km off the West Coast of Ireland, it’s 5km x.5km and there are currently 51 inhabitants living on this treasure island.

This island is a heaven for the great outdoors and ideal for a full day of hiking and exploring but I always recommend to stay the night so you can go to the local community pub,  mingle with the locals, listen to traditional music and hear the stories and legends that have been passed down through the generations.

View over Inishturk harbour - top 10 trail routes hiking and trail running in Ireland

8. Croagh Patrick, Co. Mayo

Distance: 6km, 764 metres

If you are coming to Ireland on a hiking trip and you want to tick the ultimate box, then you have just got to summit Croagh Patrick, Ireland’s holy mountain.

It’s a challenging climb but wait until you see the view from the top!

The church at the summit lies at 764 metres and the panoramic view over the 365 islands of Clew Bay are something you need to experience!

Rachel running a race up Croagh Patrick - top 10 trail routes hiking and trail running in Ireland

9. Glendalough Spinc Trail, Co. Wicklow 

Distance:  9km

Glendalough is within close driving range of Dublin and attracts thousands of locals and visitors to take advantage of it’s well maintained walking trails and enjoy the beauty that comes with it.

The Spinc Trail is 9km long and takes you on an adventure through a wooded area, up 600 wooden steps and you are rewarded my magnificent views over the upper lake.

The loop continues accenting over Poulanass Waterfall and back into Glendalough Valley and finishing up at stone ruins of a monastic settlement originally built in the 6th century by St. Kevin.

A group hiking up Glendalough - top 10 trail routes hiking and trail running in Ireland

10. The Giants Causeway, Northern Ireland

The Giant’s Causeway certainly does attract a huge number of tourists but this route will get you off the beaten track and approach the famous Giant’s Causeway from a non-traditional approach.

Starting off at the spectacular Carrick-a-Reade Ropes, follow the stunning coastline towards the idyllic setting of Ballintoy Harbour where Games of Thrones scenes have been filmed. You’ll then pass the golden sandy beaches of White Park Beach before passing a series of rocky bays to Dunseverick Harbour.

The views are postcard perfect, you will then descend the steps to the waters edge to experience the hexagonal basalt formations down to that make the Giant’s Causeway, Ireland’s first World Heritage Site.

the giants causeway - top 10 trail routes hiking and trail running in Ireland

Contact Rachel

Rachel’s Irish Adventures creates tailored-made holidays of a lifetime. Let us take you on a customised journey to discover spectacular scenery on breath-taking hiking trails and stunning cycling routes. A perfect mixture of being active, exploring Ireland off the beaten paths and experiencing the renowned Irish welcome.

We pride ourselves on providing exceptionally locally sourced artisan food and look forward to inviting you into our lifestyle to share our passions and culture.

To create your Irish adventure of a lifetime, contact us at: info@rachelsirishadventures.com