Ireland’s midlands and hidden heartlands offer a range of walks for every taste, fitness level and age.
Here, we’ve compiled some of our favourites, from the Derrycassin Woods of Longford to the Slieve Bloom Mountains. This is just one of our walk-related stories. For more, check out Ireland’s Paved Walks and Dublin’s Best Mountain Walks.
Longford – Derrycassin Woods
This is one of the most beloved local walks, and with good cause. It combines several varieties of trees in a beautifully dense forest; and it has a scenic, waterside stretch along Lough Gowna.
This is one of those walks that changes subtly and constantly throughout the year, thanks to its variety of trees and flowers. Tree species include Norway spruce, Douglas fir, ash, alder, oak, beech and Red Cedar. And you’ll see plenty of colour from the local flowers, including bluebells, rhododendron and more.
This is not a strenuous walking spot, and you can choose from three recommended strolls there; Nature trail, the Walled Garden Walk and the Main Avenue Walk.
Cairn Hill, also known as Corn Hill, is the highest point in the county, offering breath-taking views in every direction. It’s a challenging walk for some: it’s steep, and only paved for its initial 700 metres. After that, it can be stony.
But when you breathe in that air at 278 metres above sea level, it’s more than worth it.
Cairn Hill is of historical interest too. It hosts two discoveries that are believed to be among the oldest passage tombs in the country. And legend has it that Queen Maeve’s nephew Furbaide Ferbend is buried here.
Laois – Glenbarrow, Slieve Bloom Mountains
This whole mountain range is worth exploring, but Glenbarrow is especially appealing and scenic. Wear good footwear, as this can be a bit muddy and slippery. But if you like gorgeous waterfalls and steep valleys (and who doesn’t?) this is the walk for you.
It’s a strenuous walk if you want to see the whole of this site, but many just do a portion of it, stopping for a picnic at an appropriate spot.
If you’re lucky, you might catch some of the local foxes and badgers on walks of their own too!
Oughaval Wood, Stradbally
A much gentler journey, Oughaval Wood is a vast, lovely collection of forestry and historical landmarks. The walks are waymarked and not too challenging, often bringing you through the vast, dense broadleaved trees.
It’s also the site of an old graveyard, a site for masses dating back to the 17th Century and an ancient decorative building called Cobbler’s Castle.
Offaly – Croghan Hill
Croghan Hill has one of the best value-for-effort views in the country. You’ll be at the summit within half an hour (or an hour if you have kids) and rewarded with incredible views of Offaly and its closest counties (which feature elsewhere in this article!).
If only Croghan Hill could talk, it would tell us of its existence as a volcanic site once upon a time; and why bodies were found here that date back to the Iron Age. The most well known of these discoveries is the well-preserved, Old Croghan Man which was uncovered in the bog in 2003 providing fascinating insight into the life he may have lived somewhere between 362 and 175 BC.
The Offaly Way – The Slieve Bloom Way
This walk begins in Glenbarrow and encompasses much of Offaly. It’s an incredible 38 kilometre journey.
Highlights include the Ridge of Capard Mountains, the woodlands at Gorteenameale and the Silent River Valley.
If you don’t have a full four days to spare, there are segments to choose from. They include Cadamstown to Kilcormac; Kilcormac Riverside Park to Lough Boora Parklands; Lough Boora Parkland to Turraun Wetlands; and Turraun Wetlands to Lemanaghan.
Westmeath – Portlick Millennium Forest
Just 8 km from Athlone, and on the shores of Lough Ree, Portlick Millennium Forest is a very family-friendly, forest walk. It stretches to 5 km total, but has a few different trail options within that so you can either do a small portion or add the trails together and explore the 5 km.
It’s a haven for nature lovers, full with native Irish hazel and ash trees and with opportunity to spot wild foods and herbs such as sorrel, garlic and mushrooms.
Lough Derravaragh is probably best known for its association with the Irish fable, the Children of Lir, which tells the tale of how King Lir’s four children were turned to swans by their jealous stepmother. Seeing the swans out on the lake today certainly adds to the air of mysticism!
The surrounding landscape is made up of two remnant glacier valleys making for a spectacular backdrop.
This is another forest walk with an abundance of ash, oak, birch, alder and laburnum to take in. Find all these locations and more in the Discovery series below.
|Slieve Bloom Way|