In these quiet, timeless and ageless areas you’d be forgiven for thinking that your the first to explore the trails. We've taken the work out of planning your next walk with a list of nine unmissable areas to explore.
Immerse yourself in one of the jewels in the crown of Ireland's Hidden Heartlands. The historic Beara Breifne Way begins in West Cork and weaves up through the Midlands ending in Blacklion in County Cavan. The walking trail is constantly being improved and expanded so it’s a simple and enjoyable route to navigate.
Walking along this world-class trail, you’ll be following the 14-day march undertaken by O'Sullivan Beara in 1603. In the aftermath of the Battle of Kinsale, he marched the survivors north looking for help and is believed to have fought in numerous skirmishes and ambushes along the way.
The core ethos of the Beara Breifne Way is collaboration. Sixty community groups orchestrated the walking trails making it one of the largest community projects ever undertaken in Ireland.
Make sure to order your passport from the Beara Breifne Way’s website. You can collect stamps with each completed section – a perfect memento of your journey along this historic route or a reminder to return to finish off an unexplored section. It's particularly fun for families and groups of friends – get one for each member and compete to see who fills their passport first.
Along the way, you’re never far from an interesting pit-stop or welcoming meal. The incomparable views and scenery speak to something ancient. Enjoy the untouched Irish landscape preserved in the face of centuries of subsequent modernisation.
Visit the lively, mountain-flanked town of Keadue, Roscommon – translates in Irish as "low-lying green hill", or Aughrim, Galway – the site of one of the most significant battles in Irish history: The Battle of Aughrim for those interested in Irish history.
To get started on the Beara Breifne Way, you can set off on the Miner’s Way part of the trail which includes some of the trail’s best attractions, views as well as places to stay and eat. Or plan your adventure with the Beara Breifne map, showing all 12 stages of this historical trail.
Beginning at the tourist office in Limerick City – behind the Hunt Museum – the Lough Derg Way stretches along winding, circuitous routes alongside the River Shannon up through to the marina in Dromineer on Lough Derg.
The route is a walker's paradise. Climb the rolling hills of Clonlara, and onto the visit the village of O'Briensbridge. It makes its way across the river to the ancient town of Killaloe – once the home of the 11th-century High King of Ireland, Brian Boru. Rest up with coffee and pizza in the Italian deli, Ponte Vecchio, or discover the heritage of the town at St Flannan's Cathedral, including its awe-inspiring early Christian oratory.
The southern section of the trail is made up of quaint canals and riverside passages, offering a glimpse into an often-unseen aspect of Ireland's landscape. Wander across the gentle, rolling trails or just sit and watch fishermen patiently cast out from the canal banks. The northern end – largely comprised of country roads – is a great place to relax in the ebb and flow of country life.
The trail winds up in the charming port town of Dromineer. Seize the opportunity to dip into the glistening waters of Lough Derg after a pleasant walk. There are plenty of water sports available to soothe tired feet. Savour a doorstop sandwich made with famous locally-baked bread while watching the sun settle on the harbour at Lough Derg House and Lake Café.
Explore the town’s castle ruins and relax with a dram in The Whiskey Still. Find out more about the Lough Derg Way, including how to get there, waymarking and what types of terrain to expect.
Tountinna, meaning the hill of the waves, is the highest point on the Arra Mountains in Tipperary and forms part of the Lough Derg Way. A hike to the top rewards you with panoramic views of Lough Derg and the wide valleys below. Rumour has it that when the great floods came the only people who survived were up on this hill.
The peak is accessible all by as you can drive there by taking a righthand turn just outside the historic town of Ballina on the Portroe Road. There’s a picnic area at the top where you can look out onto the four counties that meet at this convergence. Galway, Clare, Tipperary and Limerick are guaranteed to be seen on a clear day.
Much likey, this route is best explored over a few days. The entire loop clocks in at around 105km, but there are many warm and welcoming places to stay and bars and restaurants to refuel in along the way.
This route gives you a little taste of the breathtaking landscape of the region, not just in Ireland's Hidden Heartlands, but across the length and breadth of the island. You will pass bogs and wetlands, the iconic patchwork of Ireland’s countryside, farms and a hugely diverse ecosystem – with otters, herons and stoats – along the banks of the river.
The area's beauty is revealed further in what is known locally as the "nine friendly villages" of Ballygar, Creggs, Glinsk, Ballymoe, Ballintubber, Dunamon, Castlecoote, Athleague and Mount Talbot. Spark conversation with the locals to seek out their insiders’ knowledge of the trails and things to do nearby. Some friendly B&B owners have been known to pack picnics for their guests to tide them over until the next stop.
The scenery along this particular stretch is stunning. The landscape is punctuated by ringforts, castles, impossibly old churches, and the La Tené Stone. This beautifully carved, granite boulder, dating back to the Iron Age, is nestled at Castlerange.
The stately Victorian mansion, Clonalis House, is the ancestral home of the O'Connors, the last High Kings of Ireland, and is open to visitors throughout summer.
Each of the hiking routes scattered throughout Ireland's Hidden Heartland makes accessibility a priority. However, it’s a good idea to check that the particular path you’ve chosen can be used by each member of your party before embarking on their adventure. Walks across various types of terrain are suitable for even the achiest of knees, while the length of most hikes can be adjusted to suit your needs.
Bring comfy walking shoes, food, water, a map and a fully charged phone. And don’t forget to collect a stamp for your Beara Breifne passport once you’ve completed the Suck Valley Way.
The Leitrim Way is part of the larger Beara Breifne Way and is made up of a number of unique walking experiences. They range from the 3km long Aghacashel Looped Walk to the 12km Crummy Loop Walk, taking travellers along the shimmering blue waters on the eastern edge of Lough Allen.
The minor roads and country lanes can be easily explored in short timeframes, making them a perfect introduction for beginners to break in their new hiking boots! Along the way, travellers encounter everything from a famine graveyard to an ancient sweathouse built of moss-dusted stones.
The Drumhauver Bridge Loop, at 10km long, is ideal for the novice hiker who has a decent level of fitness. Stops are plentiful with Leitrim Village and Drumshanbo – once the centre of poitín production – being idyllic spots for a rest and a delicious meal to refuel weary travellers.
The 10km long Drumleague Lock Loop takes you towards Battlebridge Lock and extends to the now famous Acres Lake Floating Boardwalk. This section actually floats on top of Acres Lough which gives the walker dramatic views of the water. It’s the perfect route for a family of hikers or cyclists.
Discover even more about The Leitrim Way and link your walk up with the Cavan Way at Dowra to extend your journey.
On the Beara Breifne Way, there’s a great walk called Miner's Way and Historical Trail. This winding 118km route – taking around five days in total to walk – skims Lough Allen, Lough Arrow and Lough Key.
Stop off at the Arigna Mining Experience which tells of the mines that were once the lifeblood of Ireland’s north midlands for over four hundred years. Its deposits of coal and iron sustained not only the town but other cities. Iron mined from here was even used in the Ha'penny Bridge in Dublin.
The walk itself is incredibly accessible – you can make it as long or short as you wish. And the views of Kilronan Mountain Bog and Lough Allen make this walk very memorable.
The nearby dates back to the 12th Century making it a relative newcomer when compared to the fourteen passage graves at Carrowkeel Neolithic cemetery, which are estimated to be more than 5,000 years old.
There are also three mountain ranges to explore – Corry Mountain, the Curlew Mountains and the Bricklieve Mountains. The views from the summit remind you just how far you are from fast-paced living.
At 26km long, the Cavan Way in the western part of the county is a relaxing finale to the epic Beara Breifne Way. Give yourself about five hours to take in the sites on this hike through the gentle Cavan landscape.
This trail almost exclusively consists of rural country roads from where it begins in Dowra before ascending into the heavenly limestone landscapes of the Cuilcagh Mountains, passing through the expanse of the Burren Park before ending in the town of Blacklion. The views along the route – Lough Macnean to the north and Cuilcagh Mountains to the south are tremendous and the paths here are typically quiet – the ultimate draw of this enchanting region..
As your walk ends in Blacklion, County Cavan, reward yourself for your efforts with a sumptuous dining experience at MacNean House and Restaurant, Nevin Maguire's award-winning restaurant. A luxurious meal of scallops with pork cheek, or halibut with basil risotto, is a mouth-watering end to an unforgettable adventure on the Cavan Way.
Those considering the route can read about The Cavan Way's topography to understand how its post-glacial past shaped its limestone present.
This beautiful walk begins in the quaint town of Killashandra in County Cavan, and you can take the R201 northwards into the countryside. Enjoy the views from walks along the shores of Lough Toon, Tullyguide Lough and Lough Oughter. 6km of twisting roads hemmed in with verdant hedgerows will lead you into Killykeen Forest Park. Here, a 10km network of trails bring you around the inter-weaving lattice of waterways around Lough Oughter.
Pack a picnic to enjoy under the forest’s leafy shade and take the afternoon to enjoy the walk, cycle or canoe in the park. Clough Oughter Castle, part of the historic Kingdom of Breifne, stands alone in Lough Oughter and can be reached and explored through a guided boat trip.
On a peninsula jutting out into Lough Ree in County Roscommon lies the magnificent medieval town of Rindoon. Built in the early 13th century, this town is a remarkable preservation of our past like nowhere else in Ireland.
The Rinn Dúin Castle loop walk leads you through a Norman town that was deserted centuries ago. The abandoned town wall, towers, gatehouse, windmill, parish church and hospital all still remain, ready for you to explore. This 3km looped walk takes roughly an hour and it begins and ends at St. John’s House in Lecarrow, County Roscommon.
Across the Emerald Isle, you won't find any sights quite as unique, alluring or relaxing as on the walking trails in Ireland's Hidden Heartlands. So, if you’re looking for a hassle-free getaway, then journeying to the heart of this majestic country is a must.