9 Long Country Walks: Which of these will you do this year?

Remember that great healthy feeling of being fully alive after exercise. Take your pick of these one-day walks or more challenging multi day routes, walking through the forest, across mountains, along boreens through bogs and costal paths.  So what is unique about these walks? You can see and experience the following on your walks:

  • Gaze at Neolithic Rock art.
  • Observe a giant whale skeleton.
  • See the native Red Squirrel.
  • Spot the endless hedgerows packed with Fuchsia.
  • Wonder at the beauty of wild Orchids.
  • Explore an enormous, peaceful forest.
  • Experience the wondrous changing beauty of the Irish countryside.
  • Sample local muscles.

We have selected some walks in popular holiday destinations and will look at Donegal, Mayo, Galway, Kerry and Cork. It is also worth checking out the great walking videos of Tough Soles before you set out on your walk.

Donegal, Ards Forest Park – Red Trail

  • Strenuous grade loop walk.
  • Peace and tranquillity of the forest.
  • Ordnance Survey Discovery series, sheet 2 covers this route.

If you find yourself in the north west of Donegal, near the rural town of Creeslough, why not enjoy this restful forest walk. This trail starts and finishes in the Ards Forest Park which covers 1,000 acres. The traffic-free, peace and tranquillity in natural surroundings, is interrupted only by birdsong and the wind blowing through the trees. Remember to breathe in the unique scents of the forest as you walk around the trail and try to ignore your phone for a couple of hours.

Along the way do not miss the historical treasures; a Holy Well, a Mass Rock and a Standing Stone along with several lovely loughs.

For further details, here is the link: https://www.sportireland.ie/outdoors/walking/trails/ards-forest-park-red-trail?county=42&grade=All&length=All#list

Donegal, Bluestack Way

  • 65km over 3 days.
  • Moderate grade linear walk.
  • Breath-taking views over unspoilt countryside.
  • Ordnance Survey Discovery series, sheets 10 and 11 cover the Bluestack Way.

Leaving behind the ever-present hospitality of the bustling town of Donegal, this breath-taking walk takes you as far west as Ardara with an ascent of 1,230m along the way over the unspoilt countryside. You can set your own pace and this walk will definitely increase your connection with nature.

This linear walk runs along by the tranquil Lough Eske and between Binbane and Cloghmeen Hill which is about the midway point of the walk. It shows the wild beauty of the mountains of Donegal at their best. The ever changing light in the region together with superb views, wide open spaces, colourful hills and bog roads offer a beauty in this county that is difficult to imagine before you experience them. Make it a point to relax and appreciate this dramatic Donegal landscape.

Ellie Berry, from Tough Soles, introduces a video on the Bluestack Way which gives a glimpse into the trail. Here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fHXykcpll1k

For full details of the route, check out this link: https://www.sportireland.ie/outdoors/walking/trails/bluestack-way?county=42&grade=All&length=All#list

Mayo, Croagh Patrick Heritage Trail

  • 61km over 3 days.
  • Moderate grade linear walk.
  • Working Blacksmith’s Forge.
  • Ordnance Survey Discovery series, sheets 31 and 38 finishing on 30, cover this route.

The nearest town to the start is Balla, County Mayo, and this linear trail has an ascent of 310m. The route finishes up in Murrisk passing through quiet countryside, including bogs and boreens along the way.  Watch out for standing stones too. Balla is reputed to be where St Patrick rested while making his way through Mayo. Here are some interesting items to watch out for along your route.

  • Drop into the Clogher Heritage Centre if you would like to see a working blacksmith’s forge and understand the key role played by the blacksmith in the past. Here is the link: http://clogherheritage.com/
  • The townland of Boheh contains one of the best examples of Neolithic rock art and date to the same period as the carvings at Newgrange. The “Rolling Sun”, where the sun appears to slide down Croagh Patrick, can be observed twice a year at this site. Over 250 individual petroglyphs, which are stone markings, are carved into the stone. Here is the link: http://www.clogherheritage.com/cpht_dev/events1.html

On the final stretch of this walk you can see Brackloon Wood which is an Atlantic Oak woodland, and you might catch a glimpse of a rare white orchid. Should you be lucky enough to see this flower, please do not pick the orchid.

If you would like a glimpse of this trail before starting, then check out this link with Ellie Berry of Tough Soles.


Full details including car parking are included. Here is the link to this trail: https://www.sportireland.ie/outdoors/walking/trails/croagh-patrick-heritage-trail?county=47&grade=All&length=All#list#list

Galway, Portumna Forest Park-Bonaveen Walking Trail

  • 5km.
  • Moderate grade loop walk.
  • Red squirrel and Fallow deer.
  • Ordnance Survey Discovery series, sheet 53 covers this area.

This trail starts in Portumna Forest which covers almost 450 hectares. You will see a wonderful variety of trees along the trail and among them are Ash, Beech, Silver Birch and some Yew and Juniper. You might also catch sight of some of the herd of Fallow deer and Red squirrel in the forest.  Some parts of the trail can be narrow and twisting but you will be rewarded with wonderful views out over Lough Derg as you make your way along this trail. An unusual feature of the forest park is that it surrounds the local golf course. Be prepared for changeable weather along the trail.

Here is the link to the trail: https://www.sportireland.ie/outdoors/walking/trails/portumna-forest-park-bonaveen-walking-trail?county=45&grade=All&length=All#list

Galway, Western Way, Galway

  • 55km, over 2 days.
  • Moderate grade linear walk.
  • Stunning views of the Mamturk mountains.
  • Ordnance Survey Discovery series, sheets 37, 38, 44 and 45 cover this area.

The Western Way-Galway starts in Oughterard and winds its way through the windswept landscape to the pretty village of Leenaun and has an ascent of 533m. It passes along the shore of the popular Lough Corrib which is famous for salmon fishing. You should be able to see some of the many islands on the lake. This route winds around, beside and across the numerous peaks of the Maumturk mountains. The roads are generally quiet but can also be wet and boggy so be prepared. Plan your overnight accommodation as there are not many options available.  The evening sun in the west of Ireland has a unique beauty only seen in this part of the country.

Here is the link to the Western Way-Galway: https://www.sportireland.ie/outdoors/walking/trails/western-way-galway

Kerry, Fermoyle Loop-Sneem, Kerry

  • 5km.
  • Moderate grade loop walk.
  • Wild Fuchsia in hedgerows.
  • Ordnance Survey Discovery series, sheets 78 and 84 cover this area.

Once you leave the relaxed and ever popular village of Sneem, which is part of the “Ring of Kerry”, you will walk near the Sneem River for early parts of this loop. Wooded areas, minor roads and farm tracks make up this pleasant walk which has an ascent of 200m in the second half of the loop. Remember to take in the wonderful views along your way and keep an eye out for the wild Fuchsia growing in the hedgerows.

Here is the link to the Fermoyle Loop- Sneem: https://www.sportireland.ie/outdoors/walking/trails/fermoyle-loop-sneem?county=39&grade=All&length=All

Kerry, North Kerry Way

  • 45km over 2 days.
  • Moderate grade linear walk.
  • Atlantic costal views.
  • Ordnance Survey Discovery series, sheets 63 and 71 cover this route.

The bustling Kerry town of Tralee is the starting point. This 2-day walk takes you as far as the village of Ballyheigue with an ascent of 450m. The village is well-known for beautiful long sandy beaches. You can enjoy the breath-taking natural beauty with stunning sea views out over the Atlantic Ocean. As you walk along the quiet roads, both inland and coastal, remember to take in the sights and sounds of the unique Kerry landscape. This is a very rewarding walk for you.

The Tough Soles video has lots of useful and practical tips for this trail. Here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q_ooUSpwIbc

This is the North Kerry Way link: https://www.sportireland.ie/outdoors/walking/trails/north-kerry-way?county=39&grade=All&length=All#list#list#list

Cork, Sheep’s Head – Poet’s Way Loop

  • Strenuous grade loop walk.
  • Ordnance Survey Discovery series, sheet 88 covers this area.

If you are looking for quiet, traffic free roads and tracks in the Cork countryside, after a hearty lunch of local Bantry Bay mussels, then this is the walk for you. The starting point is Tooreen Point carpark at the tip of Sheep’s Head peninsula. A dramatically bare and rocky landscape, along with wind-swept coastal views, awaits you on this strenuous walk which takes you out to the tip of this peninsula. Remember that some sections may be boggy and be prepared for some steep rocky sections on the loop and an ascent of 350m. You will be rewarded with multiple photo opportunities.

Here is the link for the loop: https://www.sportireland.ie/outdoors/walking/trails/sheeps-head-poets-way-loop?county=26&grade=All&length=All#list#list

Cork, Kilbrittain Trails – Kiln walk

  • 5km.
  • Moderate grade loop walk.
  • See the massive whale skeleton.
  • Ordnance Survey Discovery series, sheet 86 covers this area.

You can see some of the best of the Irish countryside on this walk. The nearest village to start is Kilbrittain and the walk begins in the town park. Have a look at the giant Whale skeleton, over 65 feet long and with a jaw 18 feet long, displayed in the park before setting out on your walk. Around the half way mark you will walk close to the village of Timoleague and, in the distance, you will have a lovely view of the historic Timoleague Abbey, which dates back to the 13th century. As you make your way around you will discover pretty beaches, typical Irish farms and this walk includes an ascent of 290m.

Here is the link to this loop walk: https://www.sportireland.ie/outdoors/walking/trails/kilbrittain-trails-kiln-walk?county=26&grade=All&length=All#list

Would you like to find more walks throughout Ireland?

Where can you find details hundreds of available walks and which ones are most suitable for you? Well, Sport Ireland have done all the work for you with their excellent resource listing hundreds of walk throughout Ireland. Select your area, grade and distance from the amazing selection in every county with practical information and route mapping details. Here is the link: https://www.sportireland.ie/outdoors/find-your-trails