What is the difference between hiking and trekking:
First things first, let’s understand what hiking and trekking is before we take a look at how you can get started, what you will need and the best hikes in Ireland you can experience.
Hiking is describes as the activity of a long walking in nature for recreational purposes, either on a trail or path. The key focus here is that it is recreational and of moderate difficulty, most people should be able to complete a basic hike without any prior training and it will be moderately challenging but overall enjoyable.
Trekking on the other hand is considered more challenging than recreational, treks are usually multiple days long and are often self-sufficient. Meaning you will bring all over your supplies for eating, camping and surviving in natures elements.
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If you’re new to hiking and don’t quite know where to start, you’ve come to the right place. Not only will this blog give you the ins and outs of Hiking and Trekking Adventures, but we also offer Free Guided Hikes in Ireland throughout the year. If you’re interested in finding like-minded people, who are interested in discovering hiking or already share a love for hiking, these hikes are the perfect opportunity to get involved in a fantastic community of hiking enthusiasts and hiking beginners alike.
If you’re limited by location in terms of hiking, you’ll be glad to know that most of our hikes also have a transport option available for a very affordable small fee.
Interested in hearing more about our DecaHikes? You can find more information in this blog.
Top 5 Hikes in Ireland:
In Ireland, we are absolutely blessed with rolling green hills and stunning scenery with hiking routes in every county (probably). From The Wild Atlantic Way, to Ireland’s Ancient East and not forgetting our Hidden Heartlands, regardless of location, you will likely find a hiking route wherever you are on the Emerald Isle. Our Hiking experts in our Baile Munna store have shared their favourite hiking routes in Ireland with us:
1. The Stairway to Heaven or the Cuilcagh Boardwalk, Fermanagh
Arguably, one of the most beautiful routes in Ireland (as the name might suggest). The Stairway to Heaven is a relatively straightforward route that is perfect for beginners. The route itself is easy to navigate and appeals to walkers and hikers of a medium fitness level.
The boardwalk route takes on average 2.5-3 hours to complete, including stopping at the top for some insta-worthy pictures of the stunning views. There are 450 steps in the Stairway to Heaven, but it is worth every single one!
There is parking available and it is recommended to do this route on a day with relatively clear skies to have full visibility of the breathtaking views.
2. Glendalough Spinc Trail, Wicklow
The Glendalough Spinc trail is definitely a favourite of Decathlon Ireland. We have now done this route as a guided hike twice with customers and both were a great success, with fantastic feedback from beginner and experienced hikers.
The route is a fabulously scenic hiking route in Ireland that is engulfed in history and of course, nature. The hike is roughly 9km in length and is of moderate difficulty, requiring a moderate level of fitness to complete. Although the route itself is challenging, the views are most definitely rewarding.
Our recommendation would be to just try it for yourself. Even on cloudy days, Glendalough is always a refreshing and interesting hike. The route does get busy in the Summer months, especially in good weather. But overall it’s always an enjoyable hike in Ireland.
The Spinc Trail route in Glendalough takes approximately hours to complete, without any breaks. There are some spots suitable for a brief stop for a snack and to take in the views, but bare in mind there are some exceptional food trucks in the Upper Lake car park, so if you really want to treat yourself after this moderately challenging route, you have some nice options to choose from.
3. Bray to Greystones Cliff Walk, County Wicklow
Beginner hikers, this one is especially for you. If you’d like to test out your fitness, break in your hiking boots or even just enjoy a hike that is suitable for newbies, the Bray to Greystones cliff walk is perfect. It is even considered the best scenic walk near Dublin.
The stunning coastal route is 9km one way, which would take 2-3 hours on average and it is most definitely suitable for beginner hikers. Be mindful when taking on this route, if you are driving it might be a good idea to stop at the halfway point and turn back (unless you plan on taking on double the distance).
Transport links via Dart to both Bray and Greystones by train make the 9km one-way route fairly accessible
4. Ticknock, Fairy Castle Loop, Dublin Mountains
Ticknock is the perfect family-friendly adventure hike, particularly The Fairy Castle Loop hike. This hiking route takes approximately 1.5 hours to complete. But if you have smaller children and you don’t want to do the full 6 km hiking loop, you could simply walk up to the three Rock summit. The views from Three Rock summit are equally impressive and well worth the effort, up to this point is also a tarmac path but it is steep, so although it is considered a buggy-friendly route, there is a sharp incline and buggy-pushing will be a challenge with a toddler.
If you continue on, to Two Rock Mountain, you’ll find the Fairy Castle – a Neolithic passage tomb measuring 27 metres in diameter by 3 metres in height, a historical, educational, adventure-filled hiking route for you and your family.
5. Carrauntoohill, Kerry
Now here’s one for the hikers who love a challenge. Carrauntoohill is the highest peak in Ireland and it is considered a difficult hike of 13km taking on average 4-5 hours.
Preparation is key for this one, as the route takes on what is known as the “Devil’s Ladder” to reach the peak. Bad weather and unpreparedness is a recipe for a bad day when it comes to this hike. But on a clear day with the correct gear, this is an achievable peak for experienced and determined hikers.
Top Tips for Hiking in Ireland:
Wear suitable footwear:
Hiking moderate to difficult terrain, or hiking in bad weather can lead to encounters with slippery and rough surfaces. Hiking boots or trail runners are specifically made for hiking terrains and have technical elements to ensure that they are suitable for hiking. Whether you prefer the additional ankle support a hiking boot has to offer or if you prefer a lighter option with a hiking shoe, there are other elements that make hiking footwear
Good grip is just one thing to look out for when buying hiking shoes or hiking boots. For example, waterproof hiking boots would be favourable in Irish weather conditions.
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Pack for all weather:
It’s fair to say that the Irish weather is very changeable, unpredictable and usually unfavourable towards outdoor activities, particularly activities that include exposed peaks. So it goes without saying, being prepared for any weather changes is essential when hiking.
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Get a Map and ensure you can read it:
Trails can sometimes be hard to follow, especially on the more difficult routes, so do your research before attempting any trail. Most maps can be found ahead of time on google, be sure to have it on your phone or a printed version (laminated or in a plastic folder to ensure that it doesn’t get ruined in any unfavourable weather, or even water spillages).
Hikers and cyclists in Ireland have no rights of access to privately owned land. If you come across locked gates, barbed-wire fences or "no walkers allowed" signs – these are legal and must be obeyed.
Leave no trace:
Anything you bring with you on a hike must come home with you. Let’s be kind to our planet and help ensure that these hikes can be enjoyed by generations to come.
Snacks & Water:
Pack snacks and water sufficient for the route you are taking. If you are doing a longer hike or hiking in the Summer or warmer months, ensure you bring enough water and even hydration packets. There are very few shops close to many of Ireland's best hiking routes.
In case of emergency:
Know the emergency numbers for Ireland. They are 112 or 999.
If hiking alone or in a small group, be sure to let people know where you are going and how long you expect to take, on many hiking routes you may lose connection. Always take precautions and be safe (a battery pack or power bank is also a great idea).
How long is a hike?
A hike can be any length or difficulty, to suit the individual. If you are new to hiking, a beginner hiking train would be anything from 5-7K of moderate incline or difficulty and depending on your fitness level it can vary in how long it will take you to complete this.
Important factors when trying to estimate how long a hiking route will take to complete, factors to consider are the incline, distance, difficulty and even weather. The popularity of the trail is also a good factor to consider when hiking, as busier or narrow trails can take longer sometimes. A good example of a busy and narrow hiking route would be Howth’s Cliff Walk in Summer months, the trail can get narrow at different stages and hikers going in both directions can cause small stoppages to allow others to pass. On other routes such as Glendalough’s Spinc Trail, hikers are encouraged to complete the loop in the same direction which limits these types of encounters from happening, but it can also be exceptionally busy in nice weather.
More blogs we think you’d like:
Advice from our Hiking Experts
Deca Hikes - Decathlon’s Free Guided Hikes