The start of a new year can often mean the start of new routines. January is one of the most popular times for the year for beginning new exercise routines and one of the most popular activities is in the country is walking and hiking.
To help ensure you don’t break any new walking routine or if you need inspiration, we are bringing you a selection of some of the best walks/hikes you can do this year while you’re on your getaway breaks. We have 4 of the most enjoyable walks and hikes along the Wild Atlantic Way to suit all levels of fitness as well as a selection of hotel options to help with your planning.
1. Mount Brandon – Dingle, Kerry
Ireland’s most westerly mountain hike is also one of the country’s most loved ones and for good reason. Mount Brandon is the highest of The MacGillycuddy’s Reeks Mountain range offers a choice of trail options from challenging to strenuous. The Faha Ridge route will take approximately 5 – 6 hours up and down and takes in a mix of terrain from grassy inclines at the start to a rocky scramble nearer the peak. The hike takes in historical hotspots including the highest ring fort in Ireland and although some may consider it a tough trek, it will be well worth it at the summit where you will be greeted with some of the most stunning views you are likely to see in Ireland.
Where to stay?
Along with being one of the best mountain walks in Ireland, another great thing about this hike is its location. When you are asking yourself of the best places to stay near Mount Brandon there really is only one answer, Dingle. Dingle is one of the countries most loved town for a number of reasons, vibrant, rich in history and a selection of top hotels. Two of the best hotels in Dingle are Dingle Benners Hotel and Dingle Skellig Hotel.
Dingle Benners Hotel is an award-winning boutique hotel perfectly located in the heart of Dingle town and offers the ideal location for exploring. If you’re looking for luxury Dingle Skellig Hotel may be for you. Located on the edge of the Dingle Peninsula with views directly onto the water the hotel offers an award-winning restaurant and spa. Both Dingle hotels are brilliantly located within walking distance to the town centre and within a short drive of many attractions such as Dunquin Pier, Dunmore Head and Ventry Beach among others.
2. Torc Mountain – Killarney, Kerry
Staying in the Kingdom, Torc Mountain is located just 7km from Killarney town and offers a less strenuous alternative to Mount Brandon. Torc, although steep and uneven in places is a very manageable walk for anyone with a reasonable fitness level. There is a boardwalk for a large section of the trail which offers great grip but there are many sections of rock which can get slippery. There are a number of great viewpoints along the trail however none of them compare to the 360 degree views of Kerry, which include the Lakes of Killarney and, on a clear day, Dingle Peninsula. If you are looking for something even easier than why not take the very manageable walk to Torc Waterfall at the foot of Torc Mountain.
Where to stay?
If conquering Torc Mountain is you’re your goal Killarney is easily the best place to stay. Killarney hotels are plenty full with options to suit all types of travellers and budgets. Of the great selection of hotels in Killarney two fantastic options are the Killarney Plaza Hotel and The Heights Hotel Killarney.
The Heights Hotel in Killarney is within a 20 min of Killarney town and boasts elegant style at very affordable rates. The Heights Hotel gives you the warmest of welcomes from the moment you arrive when you arrive and boasts an award-winning carvery to help you refuel after your hike. If you are looking to indulge having mastered Torc Mountain, The Killarney Plaza Hotel is a great option. Sitting right on the edge of Killarney town centre the hotel expertly delivers in indulgence. With spa and leisure facilities, a choice of dining options and within a short walk from the towns famed nightlife.
3. Dunlough Fort (AKA The Three Sisters), West Cork
Not so much a hike as a leisurely stroll across farmland, Dunlough Fort is tucked away on the West Cork coast near to the popular Mizen Head Station tourist attraction. From the moment you park at the end sea view cul de sac you will question if you’re in the correct place because the wonderful thing about Dunlough Fort is how hidden it is. Your walk will take you through farm entrance gate and then through a subsequent side gate into a field. You’ll know you’re going in the wrong direction when you see sheep… Your walk will take you across fields with continuous Atlantic Sea views along a slightly worn path that will take you across a number of hills, and at just about the time you begin to question yourself once again you will be greeted by the magnificent ruins of Dunlough Fort with the sea to your left Dun Lough on your right. With the only sound being of waves crashing, this is one of the most peaceful spots in Ireland. Take your time to explore the castle or to wander out further (carefully) along Three Castle Head.
Where to Stay?
West Cork boasts a host of magnificent small towns and villages with great accommodation options with one of those being Baltimore. The sleepy town of Baltimore is popular for historical and geographical reasons. If you’re looking to explore the nearby islands or indeed the sea it is perfect place to settle for a few nights. Caseys of Baltimore is a family run hotel perfect for couple, families, and solo travellers. This West Cork Hotel boasts onsite beer garden, restaurant and even a brewery.
4. Connemara National Park, Galway
Connemara National Park on the very west coast of the country is great destination no matter age or fitness level. The park offers a selection of walks ranging from an easy 0.5km nature trail to a more strenuous 4km hike to the top of Diamond Hill. Terrain is mixed and suitable footwear should be worn.
Where to Stay?
Given the relative short length of the Diamond Hill hike you could comfortably make a day visit to Connemara and get a sample of its great offerings while staying closer to Galway. Choosing a hotel in Galway may be easier said than done due to the great selection of varied hotels available. Like Killarney there is a great choice of hotel styles and prices to help you narrow down your selection. One option that never fails to disappoint is the Ardilaun Hotel and Leisure Centre just outside the city in Salthill. This spacious hotel has an onsite leisure centre and spa and boasts patio area for those finer days and open fires to really give that cosy feel. Better again is that the hotel is pet friendly! If you are looking for places to stay along the Wild Atlantic Way, it doesn’t get wilder than Delphi Resort. This secluded hotel is just 30mins from Westport and 10mins from the heart of Connemara also offers spa facilities and an adventure hub which offers a host of activities such as Kayaking and surfing.