5 of Ireland’s most awesome looped hikes – All within easy reach of Dublin

Cooley Peninsula

Looped hikes are the best option for a satisfying and exhilarating day’s hiking.  The reasons are as simple as they are logical.  You have the joy of ending up where you started. Not having to turn back and retrace your steps to the starting point gives you a huge boost psychologically.  Turning around to retrace your steps can induce a drudge like feeling. The end, the goal or the summit is the actual end of the hike. Phew!  It’s also good to keep the views fresh and the road new as you wander through our wonderful green and pleasant land.  On the practical side, there is no need to park a second car at the finishing place or ask a kind friend to be your taxi back to your own transport when the walk is looped.   Looped walks are awesome.  Even better if they can be accessed from the Capital city for that day trip to nature. A day of trekking and home for tea!

We have picked out 5 of the very best, stress free, minimum hassle, maximum pleasure, looped hikes, within easy reach of Dublin City for your enjoyment.

Wicklow

The garden of Ireland is always a first choice for those city dwellers who feel the call for solitude, beauty and incredible unspoilt nature. We have included two of the many looped hikes in Wicklow.  The first is a little shorter at an hour and a half hiking and the second presents more of a challenge. 

Ballineddan Mountain lies on the edge of the Wicklow Mountains and boasts wonderful views of the inland plains of Wicklow, including Lugnaquilla, Camarahill and Slievemann.   It’s a moderately tough trek, so it’s important to dress appropriately and bring wet gear.  The guide books warn of a steep ascent, partly on untracked heather and grass, which leads to the mountain summit.  Other than this it’s a fairly easy climb for the experienced hiker.  The broad, bare, grassy summit offers little shelter on wild and windy days but on a fine day it is a great walk.   The views at the top are definitely worth the effort and the descent is gloriously looped to bring you back to your starting point.  The whole trek is less than 5km from start to finish.   Find the route here:

Maulin Mountain Loop near Enniskerry, Co Wicklow is a tough 3-hour hike more suitable for the more experienced hillwalker.   It consists mainly of forest track and gravel path and provides a challenging route across the slopes of Maulin Mountain, with magnificent views into Glencree and overlooking the adjacent mountains and valleys.  At one juncture there is an incredible view of Powerscourt Waterfall and the Great Sugar Loaf. Instagram heaven.  In the distance Dublin Bay and the sprawling city are clearly visible.   A 6km trail with a 350 m climb, this looped track is not a regular Sunday stroll.  Just a short drive from the Big Smoke and set in the stunning Wicklow Mountains, it is definitely one for the looped walk wish list.  See the route here   

Offaly

An hour and a half drive from Dublin to the beautiful Sliabh Bloom Mountains, near the village of Kinatty in Co Offaly, the Glenafelly Eco Walk is a moderate trail with plenty of flora and fauna and bubbling streams to delight.  It’s a food choice for family outings as it provides plenty of diverse nature and not too much in the way of difficult terrain. The walk begins with scenic forest roads and a hiking trail by the river bank and continues with a short climb through mature conifers before leading to a gravel forest road.  Lucky trekkers might see fallow deer, pine martens, badgers or foxes on this unspoilt wilderness trail.  The Eco walk takes about 2 hrs at a constant walking pace.   Full Route can be viewed:

Louth

The Cooley Peninsular has breathtakingly awesome views and great looped walks that are easily accessible from the capital city. Less than an hour and a half drive from Dublin, the little port of Carlingford is a starting point for most of these trails.  We recommend the Slieve Foye looped hike, which offers incredible views over Carlingford Lough including the epic mountains of Mourne, sweeping down to the sea, on the other side of the bay.  This is a tough 3-hour hike and is reviewed here  with an excellent map and a great write up.

 “Slieve Foye isn’t a mountain to be frightened of, but it’s one to respect — even at the modest height of 589m, you want decent weather and an absence of low cloud to make your way safely among its rocky outcrops…  What a mind-melter of a view, from the majestic Mournes to the far-off Wicklow Hills down in the south, the Ring of Gullion out west and the sail-dotted waters of Carlingford Lough and Dundalk Bay in the east.”

This article will have you packing the rucksack and heading north at the next available opportunity.

Dublin

Ticknock – Fairy Castle Loop.   Literally on the doorstep! No need to travel far to enjoy some good mountain trekking.  The proximity to the growing Dublin population does mean that you will probably share the trail with like-minded city dwellers escaping for an hour or two.   This is a small price to pay for the convenience and enjoyment of Ticknock and the Fairy Castle Loop.  A scenic looped walk on forest road and path through the Three Rock Wood and upwards to reveal amazing views of the city from Three Rock Mountain and Fairy Castle.  At the top, there is a 360 degree panoramic view with the city to the north and the Wicklow Mountains to the south.  From Fairy Castle a muddy track heads west before you turn north and descend along the edge of the forest and back to the car. It is rough enough terrain so very much geared towards properly equipped and experienced walkers.   Good stout hiking boots and wet gear are needed.   Just an hour and a half of moderate hiking is all it takes to complete this loop.  

References:

https://outsider.ie/ireland/looped-walks-ireland/
https://www.irishtrails.ie/trail/Ticknock—Fairy-Castle-Loop/431/
http://www.walkingroutes.ie/

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