Off the Beaten Path 10-12-2007

New ‘Walking Loops’ through the Irish countryside

By: Maryann Hammers

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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 The new “Walking Ireland” brochure can be ordered (free) through the Web site.


For clients who like the idea of walking but would rather not go it alone.

Connemara Safari:
Five- and seven-day walking tours in the west of Ireland and on the islands.

Croagh Patrick Walking Holidays:
Guided walks in the west of Ireland.

Go Ireland:
Easy-to-moderate hiking/walking, biking and cultural small-group adventures in Kerry, Clare, Connemara, Aran Islands and Donegal.

Killarney Guided Walks:
Two-hour, half- and full-day walks in Killarney National Park.

Seamount Farm:
Guided walks on Sheeps Head Peninsula.