Lists of long-distance trails in the Republic of Ireland
These are lists of long-distance trails in Ireland, and include recognised and maintained walking trails, pilgrim trails, cycling greenways, boardwalk-mountain trails, and interconnected national and international trail systems. Access is noted as the greatest obstacle to developing trails as Ireland has weak supporting legislation.
There are 43 National Waymarked Trails by the National Trails Office of the Irish Sports Council. Each trail is waymarked with square black posts containing an image, in yellow, of a walking man and a directional arrow, a symbol reserved for use only by National Waymarked Trails. The oldest trail is the Wicklow Way, which was opened in 1980, and there are now over 4,000 kilometres (2,500 miles) of waymarked trails Ireland. The most frequented trails are the Wicklow, Sheep's Head, Kerry, Dingle, Beara, Burren and Western Ways. The standard of many of these trails are below international comparison, with access noted as the greatest obstacle.
In 1997, the Heritage Council, started developing a series of walking routes based on medieval pilgrimage paths, and there are now 124 kilometres (77 miles) of major penitential trails: Cnoc na dTobar, Cosán na Naomh, St. Finbarr's Pilgrim Path, Saint Kevin's Way, and Tochar Phádraig. These pilgrim trails, and seven others, are supported by Pilgrim Paths of Ireland who follow the same guidelines for developing National Waymarked Trails.
In 2017, the 46-kilometre Waterford Greenway was opened for cyclists, and many others are planned or in development. Many of the National Waymarked Trails form part of larger long-distance and transnational trails such as European walking route E8, the Beara-Breifne Way and the International Appalachian Trail.
National waymarked trails
The establishment of the Ulster Way in Northern Ireland in the 1970s, prompted the creation of the Cospóir Long Distance Walking Routes Committee (now the National Trails Advisory Committee of the Irish Sports Council) to establish a national network of long-distance trails in Ireland. The committee included An Taisce nominee, J. B. Malone who had done much to popularise walking through an Evening Herald newspaper column, television programs and books. The first trail – the Wicklow Way – was based on a series of articles Malone had written for the Evening Herald in 1966., and was opened in 1980; it was followed by the South Leinster and East Munster Ways in 1984; the Kerry Way and the Táin Way in 1985; and the Dingle and Slieve Bloom Ways in 1987.
The work of the Committee was not supported by compulsory powers, and access had to be achieved by agreement with local authorities and private landowners,  which was not usually forthcoming. Most of the trails are therefore dependent on access from by the state: Coillte, the state-owned forestry company, is the largest single manager of any of the trails with more than 30 National Waymarked Trails making use of its property. Coillte provides and maintains 52% of all off-road walking trails and 24% of the total amount of developed walking trails in Ireland. Access issues mean that many trails have substantial sections on public roads. Author John G. O'Dwyer summed up the situation of trails using long stretches on boring public roads interspersed with monotone Coillte stika spruce forests.
A 2006 National Trails Strategy, by the Irish Sports Council noted that Irish trails fell well behind international standards, and that access was "the single most important" issue. A 2010 review of the National Waymarked Trails by the Irish Sports Council restated many of these issues and made recommendations on a new standard of trail called a National Long Distance Trail (NLDT), intended to meet international standards for outstanding trails. Five trails – the Beara, Dingle, Kerry, Sheep's Head and Wicklow Ways – were recommended to be upgraded to NLDT.
Influenced by the work of the Council of Europe on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela in the 1980s and 1990s, the Pilgrim Paths Project was set up by the Heritage Council as its Millennium Project in 1997. The purpose was to develop and support a network of walking routes along Irish medieval pilgrimage paths to raise awareness of natural and built heritage along these routes and to contribute to tourism and community development.
In 2013, Pilgrim Paths of Ireland (PPI) was set up as a non-denominational representative body for Ireland's medieval pilgrim paths, and represents 12 community groups supporting specific paths. PPI holds and annual National Pilgrimage Paths Week during Easter, and issues a National Pilgrimage Passport to finishers of the 5 main trails: Cnoc na dTobar, Cosán na Naomh, St. Finbarr's Pilgrim Path, Saint Kevin's Way, and Tochar Phádraig.
|Cnoc na dTobar||Kerry||Linear; Mountain||St. Fursey's Holy Well||Knocknadobar mountain||9.5 km (5.9 mi)||3.5 hours||Moderate|
|Cosán na Naomh||Kerry||Linear; Mountain||Ventry Strand||Brandon mountain||18 km (11 mi)||4–5 hours||Moderate|
|St. Finbarr's Pilgrim Path||Cork||Linear||Drimoleague||Gougane Barra||37 km (23 mi)||2 days||Strenuous|
|Saint Kevin's Way||Wicklow||Linear||Hollywood or Valleymount||Glendalough||30 km (19 mi)||7 hours||Moderate|
|Tochar Phádraig||Mayo||Linear; Mountain||Ballintubber Abbey||Croagh Patrick mountain||30 km (19 mi)||10 hours||Moderate|
The routes follow the guidelines for National Waymarked Trails, with black marker posts with a yellow pilgrim symbol; this image is based on a stone from a pilgrimage site in County Cork which depicts a pilgrim with a Celtic tonsure, wearing a tunic and carrying a staff. Beneath the symbol is a directional arrow inset with a cross of arcs, one of the main symbols of pilgrimage in Ireland.
|Great Southern Trail||Limerick; Kerry||Linear||Rathkeale||Abbeyfeale||35 km (22 mi)|
|Great Western Greenway||Mayo||Linear||Westport||Achill||42 km (26 mi)|
|Waterford Greenway||Waterford||Linear||Waterford City||Dungarvan||46 km (29 mi)|
A project has been initiated to create an 80-kilometre (50-mile) Connemara Greenway along the route of the former Galway to Clifden Midland Great Western Railway. The Dublin-Galway Greenway has also been initiated. The 280 km route is planned to be completed by 2020. Sections of the route follow the Royal Canal from Dublin, as well as the disused Mullingar-Athlone rail line. Funding has been made available for the development of a greenway on the former Tralee to Fenit railway line in County Kerry and the development of further greenways is under active consideration in other parts of the country. There is also a campaign to create a greenway on the Claremorris, County Mayo to Collooney, County Sligo section of the Western Rail Corridor.
Boarded mountain paths
The driver of their creation has been to protect the underlying ground (often delicate bogland) from erosion by hill-walkers, however, in most cases, the creation of the paths has also materially increased the use and popularity of the paths by the public. When the Stairway to Heaven was opened in 2015, it was estimated that visitors to Cuilcagh Mountain increased from circa 3,000 per annum, to over 60,000 per annum.
As of June 2019[update], there are five boarded mountain paths (also called Tóchars by the NPWS) in Ireland:
- Cuilcagh "Stairway to Heaven" (Cavan/Fermanagh). A 7.5–kilometre boarded path to the summit of Cuilcagh mountain (e.g. a 15–kilometre round-trip), that was opened in 2015 to protect the underlying bog, but has since become a significant tourist attraction in the area.
- Diamond Hill. A 7–kilometre boarded and stone path round-trip trail that starts and ends at the National Park visitor centre in Letterfrack in Connemara. The mountain was closed to climbing in 2002 due to severe erosion but was re-opened in December 2005 after the completion of a Euro 1.4 million wooden boardwalk and stone path trail to limit further erosion; since construction, only Croagh Patrick has a higher footfall in Connemara mountains.
- Djouce (Wicklow). A 4–kilometre boarded path consisting of railway sleepers was constructed during 1997–1999 to protect the underlying bog from erosion due to the popularity of the mountain hill walking; the path does not go all the way to the summit, and instead, a gravel-track is used.
- Glendalough "Spinc/White Trail" (Wicklow). An 8–kilometre "loop-route" on the mountains surrounding the Upper Glendalough Lake, that takes in the rocky The Spinc outcrop and associated views into the valley below.
- Torc Mountain (Kerry). A boarded path to the summit that enables hill-walkers to complete the longer 8–kilometre Torc Waterfall to Torc Mountain summit route without requiring any special mountain footwear or navigation skills.
Teresa Wall vs NPWS (2016)
The future of boarded mountain paths and trails in Ireland was put in doubt when a climber, Teresa Wall, successfully sued the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) in the Circuit Court for Euro 40,000 in 2016 for an injury sustained in on the Djouce boarded walk (she required seven stitches after tripping on the boardwalk and cutting her knee near the J.B. Malone memorial stone); however, her award was overturned in February 2017 following a High Court appeal by the NPWS, which rejected her arguments that a "trip hazard" is the same whatever the location.
Beara-Breifne Way is a walking and cycling route under development intended to run from the Beara Peninsula, Cork to Breifne, Leitrim following the line of Donal Cam O'Sullivan Beare's march in the aftermath of the Battle of Kinsale in 1602. The intended route will make use of the Beara Way; Ballyhoura Way; Suck Valley Way; Miner's Way and Historical Trail; Leitrim Way; and Cavan Way.
European walking route E8 is an international walking trail that extends from Dursey Island, County Cork to Istanbul in Turkey. In Ireland the E8 follows the Wicklow, South Leinster, East Munster and Blackwater Ways and parts of the Kerry and Beara Ways.
There is also a proposal to extend the International Appalachian Trail (IAT), an extension of the Appalachian Trail through Canada to Newfoundland, to all terrain that formed part of the Appalachian Mountains of Pangaea, including Ireland. It is proposed that the Irish leg of the IAT will make use of the Slí Colmcille and the Bluestack Way in County Donegal before joining the Ulster Way in Northern Ireland.
- Bangor Trail
- Malin to Mizen
- Wild Atlantic Way
- Lists of mountains in Ireland
- List of mountains of the British Isles by height
Notes and references
- "National Waymarked Trails". IrishTrails.ie. Irish Sports Council. Retrieved 18 June 2011.
- National Trails Office 2010, p. 54.
- "Guide to National Waymarked Ways in Ireland". IrishTrails.ie. Irish Sports Council. Archived from the original on 3 February 2011. Retrieved 18 June 2011.
- National Trails Office 2010, p. 18.
- Cullen, Paul (14 August 2006). "Wicklow Way – this route was made for walking". The Irish Times. p. 12.
- Stanley, John (30 November 1985). "Minister to open walking route". The Irish Times. p. 8.
- Dalby 2009, p. 10.
- Ordnance Survey of Ireland 1981.
- National Trails Office 2010, p. 8.
- Wilson 1989, p. 50.
- O'Dwyer, John G. (25 September 2010). "Keeping ramblers in the loop". The Irish Times. Retrieved 24 April 2011.
- National Trails Office 2010, p. 14.
- National Waymarked Ways Advisory Council 2006, p. 31.
- National Waymarked Ways Advisory Council 2006, p. 11.
- National Waymarked Ways Advisory Council 2006, p. 32.
- National Trails Office 2010, p. 24.
- National Trails Office 2010, p. 55.
- National Trails Office 2010, p. 25.
- O Caoimh 2004, p. 6.
- O Caoimh 2004, p. 2.
- "The Pilgrim Paths". Heritage Council. Archived from the original on 27 September 2011. Retrieved 10 August 2011.
- "Cnoc na dTobar". Pilgrim Paths of Ireland. Retrieved 3 June 2019. Italic or bold markup not allowed in:
- John G. O'Dwyer (29 June 2016). "Cnoc na dTobar Pilgrim Path: A walk for the weekend: Mountain magic underfoot". Irish Times. Retrieved 3 June 2019. Italic or bold markup not allowed in:
- "Cosán na Naomh". Heritage Council. Archived from the original on 27 September 2011. Retrieved 18 June 2011.
- "St Finbarr's Pilgrim Path, Cork". Pilgrim Paths of Ireland. Retrieved 4 June 2019. Italic or bold markup not allowed in:
- "St Kevin's Way". Heritage Council. Archived from the original on 27 September 2011. Retrieved 18 June 2011.
- "Tóchar Phádraig Pilgrim Passport". Pilgrim Paths of Ireland. Retrieved 2 June 2019. Italic or bold markup not allowed in:
- O Caoimh 2004, p. 8.
- O Caoimh 2004, p. 7.
- "Great Southern Trail". SouthernTrail.net. Retrieved 1 August 2011.
- "Great Western Greenway". Retrieved 1 August 2011.
- "Waterford Greenway". Retrieved 30 May 2017.
- Tierney, Declan (4 August 2011). "Old Clifden rail line to be turned into €6m cycle track". Connacht Tribune. Galway. Archived from the original on 13 August 2012. Retrieved 10 August 2011.
- "Latest section of Dublin-Galway coast-to-coast Greenway opens - Varadkar". DTTAS.ie. 27 June 2014. Retrieved 6 August 2014.
- Melia, Paul (27 June 2014). "Wheels in motion for 280km coast-to-coast cycle route". Irish Independent. Dublin.
- "Galway to Dublin greenway could be finished in five years". IrishCycle.com. 27 June 2014. Retrieved 6 August 2014.
- "€10m More For Cycleways". HospitailityIreland.com. 15 May 2014. Retrieved 6 August 2014.
- "Dáil Debates: Wednesday, 6 July 2011 – Other Questions: Cycle Facilities". KildareStreet.com. Retrieved 10 August 2011.
- Lucey, Anne (17 February 2015). "Green light for Kerry cycle route". Irish Examiner. Retrieved 18 February 2015.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 1 December 2016. Retrieved 30 November 2016.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- "Home". Sligo Mayo Greenway – A new opportunity for the West of Ireland. Archived from the original on 17 March 2011. Retrieved 10 August 2011.
- Francis Bradley (18 October 2008). "A nostalgic hike into the past". Irish Times. Retrieved 7 July 2019.
- Andrea Smith (2 May 2017). "Why this 'Stairway to Heaven' in Ireland has become a social media star". Lonely Planet. Retrieved 7 July 2019.
Nicknamed the ‘stairway to heaven,’ the boardwalk opened in 2015 with an aim of conserving pristine blanket bog and restoring damaged peatland that had been eroded by people walking through it.Italic or bold markup not allowed in:
- "New walking track on Diamond Hill". Irish Times. 6 January 2006. Retrieved 8 August 2019.
With the completion of the route, the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) of the Department of the Environment lifted a three-year ban on walking on Diamond Hill, imposed because of severe erosion on the mountain.
- Pail Cullen (25 October 2004). "Diamond Hill gets €1.4m pathway to summit". Irish Times. Retrieved 8 August 2019.
The ascent of "the Diamond" is one of the most popular climbs in Connemara. About 80,000 people visit the national park each year, and an estimated 10,000 attempt the climb.
- Michael Guilfoyle (29 May 2019). "Walk for the Weekend: A gem of a hike with views over lakes and beaches". Irish Times. Retrieved 5 August 2019.
- John G. O'Dwyer (17 May 2017). "The Spinc Loop: Walk for the Weekend: Haunting beauty of Glendalough". Irish Times. Retrieved 8 March 2019.
- Adrian Hendroff; Helen Fairbairn (22 October 2018). "Ireland's 30 best autumn walks – with a cosy meal or pint at the finish: Number 11 The Spinc". Irish Independent. Retrieved 8 March 2019.
This route is the most popular of nine waymarked walking trails in the Glendalough valley, and rightly so. It climbs through a forest to the top of a high cliff overlooking the Upper Lake, where the exposure and views take your breath away.
- Jim Ryan (1 October 2012). Scenic Walks in Killarney. Collins Press. ISBN 978-1848891463.
Walk 11: Torc Waterfall Circuit
- Grace Harding (21 January 2017). "Torc Mountain". The Idyll.
The combination of rocky path and sleepers will take you all the way up the summit. So unlike other mountains in Kerry, you won’t need any navigation skills.
- "Damages award to hillwalker who tripped on Wicklow Way is overturned". Irish Times. 17 February 2017. Retrieved 6 March 2019.
In a significant judgment concerning the nature of the duty of care of landowners to hillwalkers, Mr Justice Michael White found contributory negligence by Teresa Wall in relation to her fall. He rejected her arguments that a trip hazard is the same whatever the location.Italic or bold markup not allowed in:
- Mary Carolan (10 March 2017). "Hill-walker stripped of €40,000 award faces legal bill". Irish Times. Retrieved 8 July 2019.
Ms Wall, of Rathingle Cottages, Swords, claimed she tripped and fell after her foot snagged in a hole on a railway sleeper that was part of a boardwalk near the JB Malone memorial on the Sally Gap to Djouce trail on August 6th, 2013.
- Aodhan O'Faolain (17 February 2017). "Court overturns €40k damages award to hillwalker who tripped on Wicklow Way". Irish Independent. Retrieved 8 July 2019.
- "The Beara Breifne Way". Heritage Council. Archived from the original on 14 August 2011. Retrieved 17 June 2011.
- "Walking". Beara-Breifne Greenway Project. Archived from the original on 5 September 2011. Retrieved 17 June 2011.
- Dalby 2009, p. 38.
- "International Appalachian Trail (IAT) – Ireland". IrishTrails.ie. Irish Sports Council. Retrieved 17 June 2011.[permanent dead link]
- Dalby, Barry (2009) [1st pub. 1993]. The Wicklow Way Map Guide. Clonegal, Ireland: EastWest Mapping. ISBN 978-1-899815-24-1.
- Fewer, Michael (1996). The Way-marked Trails of Ireland. Dublin: Gill & Macmillan. ISBN 0-7171-2386-3.
- National Trails Office (2010). "Setting New Directions. A review of National Waymarked Ways in Ireland" (PDF). Dublin: Irish Sports Council. Archived from the original (pdf) on 31 May 2011. Retrieved 30 April 2011.
- National Waymarked Ways Advisory Council (2006). "Irish Trails Strategy: Promoting and developing activity in the Irish Outdoors" (PDF). Dublin: Irish Sports Council. Archived from the original (pdf) on 31 May 2011. Retrieved 10 August 2011.
- O Caoimh, Thomas (2004). "The Pilgrim's Path: Promoting Sustainable Development of Walking Routes through Sacred Sites in Ireland". Learning from World Heritage: Lessons from International Preservation and Stewardship of Cultural and Ecological Landscapes of Global Significance. 7th US/ICOMOS Symposium, 25–27 March 2004, Natchitoches, Louisiana, USA. Archived from the original on 6 October 2011. Retrieved 7 August 2011.
- The Wicklow Way (Map). 1:50,000. Ordnance Survey of Ireland. 1981.
- Wilson, Peter (January 1989). "The Expansion of Long-distance Walking Routes in Ireland". Irish Geography. 22 (1): 48–51. doi:10.1080/00750778909478786.