A brief, but excellent, guide to Ireland’s Walking Festivals

Hill walking

Walking Festivals have become increasingly popular in Ireland for obvious reasons.  The friendly banter amongst walkers, the organisers who can guide you on the tracks less travelled and experienced guides who have access to the best routes only being the beginning. Pair that with refreshments along the way and transport to the start of routes it can all add up to a perfect weekend activity.

Walking festivals cater for both the novice and experienced walker and often offer a graded choice of walks, from leisurely strolls to tough hikes. Let’s take a look at some of Ireland’s best walking festivals

Bravely kicking off the walking year is the February Dingle Walking Festival in Kerry.  Get the weekend off to a jaunty start with a night walk on Friday 16th February. A choice of a moderate or easy walk on both Saturday and Sunday bring the intrepid hikers through the Dingle Way. The promise of the amazing views of Skellig Rock, Ring Forts, stunning beaches and beautiful mountain views should be enough to keep the chill out and spirits high.

Spend St Patrick’s weekend in the hills of Donegal at the Ardara’s Walking Festival. The hills of Donegal can still be a bit nippy in March, but the hardy walkers up there are out in their droves for short, medium and strenuous walks in some of Ireland’s most amazing unspoilt scenery.

The Holey Soles walking club in Leitrim plan to spend the Easter weekend climbing in the beautiful Glenade Valley for The North Leitrim Glens 23rd Hill Walking Festival. Registration is at Glencar Tea Shed and the fee of €10 – €25 includes transport to & from walk location, tea, coffee & scones at registration on both days. There is also the lure of home-made soup after Sunday’s walk. The views from the top of these amazing mountains are incredible.

The tenth anniversary of the Leenane Mountain Walking Festival takes place over the May Bank holiday. With a choice of guided walks led by qualified and experienced guides and aided by good humoured locals, witness some of Ireland’s most jaw-dropping scenery as you walk across the Mweelrea, Benbaun, Sheefry and Maumtrasna mountains. With the beautiful Killary harbour as a backdrop to the festivities it is no wonder that this is a very popular walking festival and enthusiasts are advised to book early.

Outdoor Carlow is a walking weekend organised by Tullow Mountaineering Club and The Blackstairs Ramblers Walking Club. The event offers a variety of guided walks throughout County Carlow in September. The proximity to Dublin makes this festival very inviting for many hikers.

If you fancy some longer guided walking days, walkinghikingireland.com have a number of self–guided and guided walking tours, including the Wicklow Walking Festival in October. ‘The Garden of Ireland’ is renowned worldwide for its scenic beauty and offers a variety of walking challenges – from woodlands and rolling hills to wild craggy mountain climbs making this festival extremely popular. Wicklow is home to the largest area of unbroken high raised ground in Ireland, approximately 50 km long by 40 km, covering almost the same area as that of Mont Blanc.

Walking Festivals are affordable and sociable and offer their support to local communities with a minimal impact to the environment. They are a wonderful way to enjoy the Irish countryside while improving your fitness levels.  This is just a small sample of the many organised walks on offer.

There are more to see here: The Ireland Hill walking guide

Remember, it’s important to kit yourself out properly if you are new to walking and hiking. Check out our blog ‘Hiking Tips for Newbies‘, for advice on your essential hiking kit.

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