Looped walks cover the Beara Peninsula
near the village of Eyeries in County Cork.
Your clients may have strolled along Grafton Street in Dublin, but
have they walked the idyllic Glendalough Valley in the Wicklow
Mountains, just an hour south? They may have pub-hopped in Galway,
but if they are willing to rock-hop along the rugged terrain of the
Sheeps Head Peninsula near Bantry in County Cork, the lighthouse
views will take their breath away.
Tourism Ireland has recently unveiled a Walking Loop System,
with 14 circular routes ranging from leisurely hour-long nature
strolls to challenging all-day treks along coastal paths,
farmlands, bogs, mountains and moorlands. Ideal for travelers who
want to experience the Irish countryside up close, with its rolling
green hills, blackface sheep, blooming wildflowers and rugged
bluffs, the walks are an easy drive to the towns and villages where
visitors are likely to stay, such as Dublin, Killarney Town,
Limerick, Cork and Shannon.
Popular trails are well-marked, well-trod and easy to follow
like the nine-mile Muckross Lake Loop at Killarney National Park,
which passes Muckross Estate (a popular attraction), rings around
the lake through ancient forests and meanders along sandy coves and
gently ascends to a waterfall.
However, other routes, such as the Lighthouse Loops on Bere
Island (accessible by ferry) and Sheeps Head Peninsula are more
remote and rugged, with scant signage and cliff-top trails that
disappear in the boggy ground. For walkers who plan to get well off
the beaten path, it’s a good idea to contact the local tourism
office to hire a guide who won’t get lost even if the fog rolls in.
As a bonus, experienced guides can share local lore, point out
flora and fauna, as well as stone monuments and remnants of castles
that are thousands of years old.
New routes are continually being added to the Walking Loop
System. Detailed maps and trail descriptions of the walks are
available on the Ireland Let’s Walk Web site www.walking.ireland.ie/. The new “Walking Ireland”
brochure can be ordered (free) through the Web site.