Traveling Ireland is heaven on earth for hiking lovers, with so many different options to try. From April to September is when you will find the best conditions to explore the Irish trails, with less wind and a higher chance of clear views from the top. Dublin and Wicklow have some of the best spots in the country, with many loops easily accessible by public transport. To kick in the hiking season, we prepared a list of 7 of the best hikes in Dublin and surroundings and a guide on how to get there:
1) Fairy Castle Loop
The Dublin Mountains are a delight for anyone who loves a good hike and nice views! There are a few options to explore around that area, such as hiking the Three Rock Mountain, or the TickNock Hill. One of the most popular is the Fairy Castle Loop, an easy to locate trail at the heart of the mountains with amazing eyesight of Dublin City from above. The complete loop has 5.5km and takes usually two hours to be done since most of it is downhill or flat - with some uphill parts as well. To get there you will need a car, unfortunately, no train stations or busses lines are available for that area. It will take you around 20 minutes to drive from the Capital to arrive at the TickNock Car Park, where you can find the signs pointing to where the trail begins.
2) Killiney Hill
The Dalkey and Killiney Hill trail is another hike worth trying when visiting Dublin. Overlooking the ocean and surrounded by mountains and forest, it is one of the most stunning walks around the Irish Capital and can be accessed by public transport. The park is located 15 minutes from the Dalkey Dart Station, so any train leaving Connolly Station on the Southbound platform will bring you there in a 30-35 minutes trip. The complete loop is 2km long and gets even more special around spring and summer when wildflowers take over the views. It will take you around one hour to complete the trail, arriving at the obelisk located at the top of the hill. If you can, try going at sunset time since it is one of the best spots in town to watch it.
3) Hellfire Club
One of the most popular hikes in Dublin, the Hellfire Club Walk is a must at any time of the year. During winter you will often find some snow sitting at the top of the trail, and during the warmer season wildflowers are spread everywhere making the whole scenario even more picturesque. Also at the top, you will find one of the best views of Dublin City from the top, and an old structure of what used to be a lodge built around 1725. There are many legends about what the place was used to, and how it got to its current state, but none of them have been proven to be true.
Since the trail is located in the Dublin Mountains, it is hard to access by public transport, with no buses or train lines surrounding that area. It will take you around 45 minutes to arrive at the Hellfire Club Carpark by car. The place is usually busy during weekends, so try to visit it during the week or really early in the morning. From the parking lot, you will walk around 5.5km to complete the loop, which usually takes around two and a half hours.
Tip: this is generally considered a moderately challenging route, so make sure you have the right hiking dress code on before heading there! ;)
4) Ballinasloe Forest
If you enjoy spending time around pure nature and visiting places that look like out of a fairy tale movie, make sure to spare some time to hike the Ballinastoe Wood Walk. Located in Wicklow, it is a bit more tricky to be accessed by bus or train, so renting a car for a day might be a good idea (remember to prioritize the electric/hybrid ones!! ;), and it will take you around 45 minutes to get there. Park at the Pier Gates Car Parking, where you will see the start of the trail, and walk until you get to the JB Malone memorial, with amazing views of the famous Lough Tay (widely known as Guinness Lake, which has been used as a set location for some movies over the years – Vikings fans will recognize it as Kattegat village!!). The full loop is around 3.5 km and takes you no more than three hours to complete it and be back at the car. This hike is not very well marked, so make sure you keep an eye on google maps to keep on the right path.
5) The Bray Head
Bray is a coastal village located on the north side of County Wicklow, with some amazing spots if you like hiking. For amazing views of the ocean and Bray, you can try The Bray Head Walk, going all the way up 241m. It’s a fairly easy hike and should take you no longer than 40 minutes to get to the top once you start the trail. If you are leaving from Dublin, take a southbound Dart from Connolly Station to Bray Station, you will have to walk around 15 minutes before you get to where the hike start, at the end of the beach – the trail is well marked and you can easily find your way to it. At the top it’s located a huge concrete cross, placed there around nineteen fifty, that should guide you once you arrive in Bray, it’s visible from all parts of the town.
6) Howth Cliff Walk
If you are in Dublin, taking a day to visit Howth is a must! Located just 30 minutes from the capital, this little town has one of the best walks in the country, located at the top of the Howth Cliffs. To get there you can take a Northbound Dart at any central station in the city (Pearse, Tara, or Conolly), going all the way to its final destination, Howth. To reach the beginning of the trail, you will have to stroll through the village for around 20 minutes. There are signs everywhere pointing the way to the cliffs once you leave the station. You will know that you have arrived at the foot of the Cliff Walk when you see a big map explaining the different loops.
The purple route is 12km long and takes around 3 hours to be completed, offering phenomenal views all the way. That's the best one to try if you want to see everything that this walk has to offer, and also feel like you did some work on your body. Keep an eye out for the charming Baily Lighthouse, and for whales and dolphins, they can be spotted sometimes in the Ocean during the trail. You can see more tips about what to do and where to eat in Howth in our 4-day guide to Ireland!
7) Glendalough White Route
Glendalough is a glacial valley which hosts a lake of the same name, and is located in Wicklow National Park, just an hour from Dublin’s City Center. The place offers different options of what to do once you get there – it’s definitely worth visiting the Glendalough Lake, and choosing one of the many hikes to see the park from above. The White Route, or Spink Walk, is almost 10km and is a complete loop, taking around three hours to be done. The best option to get there without a car is by hopping on the Dublin-Glendalough Bus, leaving from St Stephen’s Green North every day at 11:30, and returning at 4:30, tickets are € 15.00 return. Once you arrive at the National Park there are signs everywhere pointing to the different hikes, so just follow the one for the White Route, the views are amazing and you walk through wildflowers and wildlife the whole way, just don’t forget your hiking appropriate shoes, since the path can be rocky in some parts, and very muddy depending on the weather.
Which of these hikes are you going to try first? :)