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Lists of long-distance trails in the Republic of Ireland facts for kids

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See also: Lists of mountains in Ireland
National Waymarked Trail Waymarker (Ireland)
The traditional "walking man" waymarker used to designate National Waymarked Trails in Ireland

These are lists of long-distance trails in Ireland, and include recognised and maintained walking trails, pilgrim trails, cycling greenways, boardwalk-mountain trails, and interconnected national and international trail systems.

There are 43 National Waymarked Trails by the National Trails Office of the Irish Sports Council. Each trail is waymarked with square black posts containing an image, in yellow, of a walking man and a directional arrow, a symbol reserved for use only by National Waymarked Trails. The oldest trail is the Wicklow Way, which was opened in 1980, and there are now over 4,000 kilometres (2,500 miles) of waymarked trails Ireland. The most frequented trails are the Wicklow, Sheep's Head, Kerry, Dingle, Beara, Burren and Western Ways.

In 1997, the Heritage Council, started developing a series of walking routes based on medieval pilgrimage paths, and there are now 124 kilometres (77 miles) of major penitential trails: Cnoc na dTobar, Cosán na Naomh, St. Finbarr's Pilgrim Path, Saint Kevin's Way, and Tochar Phádraig. These pilgrim trails, and seven others, are supported by Pilgrim Paths of Ireland who follow the same guidelines for developing National Waymarked Trails.

In 2017, the 46-kilometre Waterford Greenway was opened for cyclists, and many others are planned or in development. Many of the National Waymarked Trails form part of larger long-distance and transnational trails such as European walking route E8, the Beara-Breifne Way and the International Appalachian Trail.

National waymarked trails

J B Malone Memorial
JB Malone Memorial, Wicklow Way

The establishment of the Ulster Way in Northern Ireland in the 1970s, prompted the creation of the Cospóir Long Distance Walking Routes Committee (now the National Trails Advisory Committee of the Irish Sports Council) to establish a national network of long-distance trails in Ireland. The committee included An Taisce nominee, J. B. Malone who had done much to popularise walking through an Evening Herald newspaper column, television programs and books. The first trail – the Wicklow Way – was based on a series of articles Malone had written for the Evening Herald in 1966., and was opened in 1980; it was followed by the South Leinster and East Munster Ways in 1984; the Kerry Way and the Táin Way in 1985; and the Dingle and Slieve Bloom Ways in 1987.

The work of the Committee was not supported by compulsory powers, and access had to be achieved by agreement with local authorities and private landowners, which was not usually forthcoming. Most of the trails are therefore dependent on access from by the state: Coillte, the state-owned forestry company, is the largest single manager of any of the trails with more than 30 National Waymarked Trails making use of its property. Coillte provides and maintains 52% of all off-road walking trails and 24% of the total amount of developed walking trails in Ireland. Access issues mean that many trails have substantial sections on public roads. Author John G. O'Dwyer summed up the situation of trails using long stretches on boring public roads interspersed with monotone Coillte Sitka spruce forests.

Beara Way - geograph.org.uk - 263663
Beara Way, Kerry

A 2006 National Trails Strategy, by the Irish Sports Council noted that Irish trails fell well behind international standards, and that access was "the single most important" issue. A 2010 review of the National Waymarked Trails by the Irish Sports Council restated many of these issues and made recommendations on a new standard of trail called a National Long Distance Trail (NLDT), intended to meet international standards for outstanding trails. Five trails – the Beara, Dingle, Kerry, Sheep's Head and Wicklow Ways – were recommended to be upgraded to NLDT.

The Dingle Way - geograph.org.uk - 921111
Dingle Way, Kerry
Name County Format Start End Length
Ballyhoura Way Cork; Limerick; Tipperary Linear St John's Bridge Limerick Junction 89 km (55 mi)
Barrow Way Carlow; Kildare; Laois Linear Robertstown St Mullin's 100 km (62 mi)
Bealach na Gaeltachta – Slí an Earagail Donegal Circular Dunlewey Dunlewey 77 km (48 mi)
Bealach na Gaeltachta – Slí Cholmcille Donegal Circular Ardara Ardara 65 km (40 mi)
Bealach na Gaeltachta – Slí Chonamara Galway Closed
Bealach na Gaeltachta – Slí na Finne Donegal Circular Fintown Fintown 51 km (32 mi)
Bealach na Gaeltachta – Slí na Rosann Donegal Circular Dungloe Dungloe 65 km (40 mi)
Beara Way Cork; Kerry Circular Glengarriff Glengarriff 206 km (128 mi)
Blackwater Way (Avondhu) Cork; Tipperary Linear Clogheen Bweeng 94 km (58 mi)
Blackwater Way (Duhallow) Cork; Kerry Linear Bweeng Shrone 67 km (42 mi)
Bluestack Way Donegal Linear Donegal Ardara 65 km (40 mi)
Burren Way Clare Linear Lahinch Corofin 114 km (71 mi)
Cavan Way Cavan Linear Dowra Blacklion 22 km (14 mi)
Croagh Patrick Heritage Trail Mayo Linear Balla Murrisk 61 km (38 mi)
Dingle Way Kerry Circular Tralee Tralee 162 km (101 mi)
Dublin Mountains Way Dublin Linear Shankill Tallaght 55 km (34 mi)
East Clare Way Clare Circular Killaloe Killaloe 180 km (110 mi)
East Munster Way Waterford; Tipperary Linear Carrick-on-Suir Clogheen 75 km (47 mi)
Grand Canal Way Dublin; Kildare; Offaly Linear Lucan Bridge Shannon Harbour 117 km (73 mi)
Hymany Way Galway Linear Portumna Aughrim 55 km (34 mi)
Kerry Way Kerry Circular Killarney Killarney 214 km (133 mi)
Leitrim Way Leitrim, Cavan Linear Leitrim Dowra 27 km (17 mi)
Lough Derg Way Limerick; Clare; Tipperary Linear Limerick Dromineer 65 km (40 mi)
Mid Clare Way Clare Circular Newmarket-on-Fergus Newmarket-on-Fergus 148 km (92 mi)
Miners Way and Historical Trail Sligo; Roscommon; Leitrim Circular Arigna Arigna 118 km (73 mi)
Monaghan Way Monaghan Linear Monaghan Inishkeen 65 km (40 mi)
Multeen Way Tipperary Linear Milestone Tipperary Town 23 km (14 mi)
Nore Valley Way Kilkenny Linear Kilkenny Inistioge 34 km (21 mi)
North Kerry Way Kerry Linear Tralee Ballyheigue 45 km (28 mi)
Offaly Way Offaly Linear Cadamstown Lemanaghan 37 km (23 mi)
Royal Canal Way Dublin; Kildare; Meath;
Longford; Westmeath
Linear Ashtown Abbeyshrule 79 km (49 mi)
Sheep's Head Way Cork Circular Bantry Bantry 90 km (56 mi)
Slieve Bloom Way Laois; Offaly Circular Glenbarrow Glenbarrow 84 km (52 mi)
Slieve Felim Way Limerick; Tipperary Linear Murroe Silvermines 43 km (27 mi)
Sligo Way Sligo Linear Larrigan Dromahair 78 km (48 mi)
Slí Gaeltacht Mhuscraí Cork Linear Kealkill Millstreet 70 km (43 mi)
South Leinster Way Carlow; Kilkenny; Tipperary Linear Kildavin Carrick-on-Suir 104 km (65 mi)
Suck Valley Way Roscommon; Galway Circular Castlerea Castlerea 105 km (65 mi)
Táin Way Louth Circular Carlingford Carlingford 40 km (25 mi)
Tipperary Heritage Way Tipperary Linear Vee Gap Cashel 56 km (35 mi)
Western Way (Galway) Galway Linear Oughterard Leenaun 55 km (34 mi)
Western Way (Mayo) Mayo Linear Leenaun Ballycastle 124 km (77 mi)
Westmeath Way Westmeath Linear Kilbeggan Mullingar 33 km (21 mi)
Wicklow Way Wicklow; Dublin; Carlow Linear Marlay Park Clonegal 129 km (80 mi)

Pilgrim paths

See also: Pilgrim Paths of Ireland
Pilgrim Path Waymarker (Ireland)
"Walking pilgrim" waymarker

Influenced by the work of the Council of Europe on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela in the 1980s and 1990s, the Pilgrim Paths Project was set up by the Heritage Council as its Millennium Project in 1997. The purpose was to develop and support a network of walking routes along Irish medieval pilgrimage paths to raise awareness of natural and built heritage along these routes and to contribute to tourism and community development.

In 2013, Pilgrim Paths of Ireland (PPI) was set up as a non-denominational representative body for Ireland's medieval pilgrim paths, and represents 12 community groups supporting specific paths. PPI holds and annual National Pilgrimage Paths Week during Easter, and issues a National Pilgrimage Passport to finishers of the 5 main trails: Cnoc na dTobar, Cosán na Naomh, St. Finbarr's Pilgrim Path, Saint Kevin's Way, and Tochar Phádraig.

Name County Format Start End Length Time Difficulty
Cnoc na dTobar Kerry Linear; Mountain St. Fursey's Holy Well Knocknadobar mountain 9.5 km (5.9 mi) 3.5 hours Moderate
Cosán na Naomh Kerry Linear; Mountain Ventry Strand Brandon mountain 18 km (11 mi) 4–5 hours Moderate
St. Finbarr's Pilgrim Path Cork Linear Drimoleague Gougane Barra 37 km (23 mi) 2 days Strenuous
Saint Kevin's Way Wicklow Linear Hollywood or Valleymount Glendalough 30 km (19 mi) 7 hours Moderate
Tochar Phádraig Mayo Linear; Mountain Ballintubber Abbey Croagh Patrick mountain 30 km (19 mi) 10 hours Moderate

The routes follow the guidelines for National Waymarked Trails, with black marker posts with a yellow pilgrim symbol; this image is based on a stone from a pilgrimage site in County Cork which depicts a pilgrim with a Celtic tonsure, wearing a tunic and carrying a staff. Beneath the symbol is a directional arrow inset with a cross of arcs, one of the main symbols of pilgrimage in Ireland.

Cycle greenways

See also: Irish Greenways

As of March 2021, there are four greenway rail trails in Ireland:

Name County Format Start End Length
Great Southern Trail Limerick; Kerry Linear Rathkeale Abbeyfeale 35 km (22 mi)
Great Western Greenway Mayo Linear Westport Achill 42 km (26 mi)
Waterford Greenway Waterford Linear Waterford City Dungarvan 46 km (29 mi)
Royal Canal Greenway Kildare;Meath;Westmeath;Longford Canal way Maynooth harbour Longford, and Cloondara 130 km (81 mi)

A project has been initiated to create an 80-kilometre (50-mile) Connemara Greenway along the route of the former Galway to Clifden Midland Great Western Railway. The Dublin-Galway Greenway has also been initiated. The 280 km route is planned to be completed by 2020. Sections of the route follow the Royal Canal from Dublin, as well as the disused Mullingar-Athlone rail line. Funding has been made available for the development of a greenway on the former Tralee to Fenit railway line in County Kerry and the development of further greenways is under active consideration in other parts of the country. There is also a campaign to create a greenway on the Claremorris, County Mayo to Collooney, County Sligo section of the Western Rail Corridor.

The Royal Canal Greenway will be extended along the Royal Canal to Dublin to an expanded length of 144 km (89 mi).

Boarded mountain paths

Glenealo Valley Glendalough Ireland
White Trail, The Spinc, Glendalough.
Cuilcagh, Fermanagh - 33646510792
Stairway to Heaven, Cuilcagh.
Panorama from Torc Mountain (7) - geograph.org.uk - 777047
Boarded walk at Torc Mountain.

The Irish Office of Public Works (OPW) maintains a number of "boarded paths", often using railway sleepers, on some Irish mountains.

The driver of their creation has been to protect the underlying ground (often delicate bogland) from erosion by hill-walkers, however, in most cases, the creation of the paths has also materially increased the use and popularity of the paths by the public. When the Stairway to Heaven was opened in 2015, it was estimated that visitors to Cuilcagh Mountain increased from circa 3,000 per annum, to over 60,000 per annum.

As of June 2019, there are five boarded mountain paths (also called Tóchars by the NPWS) in Ireland:

  • Cuilcagh "Stairway to Heaven" (Cavan/Fermanagh). A 7.5–kilometre boarded path to the summit of Cuilcagh mountain (e.g. a 15–kilometre round-trip), that was opened in 2015 to protect the underlying bog, but has since become a significant tourist attraction in the area.
  • Diamond Hill. A 7–kilometre boarded and stone path round-trip trail that starts and ends at the National Park visitor centre in Letterfrack in Connemara. The mountain was closed to climbing in 2002 due to severe erosion but was re-opened in December 2005 after the completion of a Euro 1.4 million wooden boardwalk and stone path trail to limit further erosion; since construction, only Croagh Patrick has a higher footfall in Connemara mountains.
  • Djouce (Wicklow). A 4–kilometre boarded path consisting of railway sleepers was constructed during 1997–1999 to protect the underlying bog from erosion due to the popularity of the mountain hill walking; the path does not go all the way to the summit, and instead, a gravel-track is used.
  • Glendalough "Spinc/White Trail" (Wicklow). An 8–kilometre "loop-route" on the mountains surrounding the Upper Glendalough Lake, that takes in the rocky The Spinc outcrop and associated views into the valley below.
  • Torc Mountain (Kerry). A boarded path to the summit that enables hill-walkers to complete the longer 8–kilometre Torc Waterfall to Torc Mountain summit route without requiring any special mountain footwear or navigation skills.

Teresa Wall vs NPWS (2016)

The future of boarded mountain paths and trails in Ireland was put in doubt when a climber, Teresa Wall, successfully sued the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) in the Circuit Court for Euro 40,000 in 2016 for an injury sustained in on the Djouce boarded walk (she required seven stitches after tripping on the boardwalk and cutting her knee near the J.B. Malone memorial stone); however, her award was overturned in February 2017 following a High Court appeal by the NPWS, which rejected her arguments that a "trip hazard" is the same whatever the location.

Southern slope of Djouce, at the minor peak of White Hill, showing the OPW boarded pathway to the summit of Djouce (r)

Interconnecting trails

National

Beara-Breifne Way is a walking and cycling route under development intended to run from the Beara Peninsula, Cork to Breifne, Leitrim following the line of Donal Cam O'Sullivan Beare's march in the aftermath of the Battle of Kinsale in 1602. The intended route will make use of the Beara Way; Ballyhoura Way; Suck Valley Way; Miner's Way and Historical Trail; Leitrim Way; and Cavan Way.

International

European walking route E8 is an international walking trail that extends from Dursey Island, County Cork to Istanbul in Turkey. In Ireland the E8 follows the Wicklow, South Leinster, East Munster and Blackwater Ways and parts of the Kerry and Beara Ways.

There is also a proposal to extend the International Appalachian Trail (IAT), an extension of the Appalachian Trail through Canada to Newfoundland, to all terrain that formed part of the Appalachian Mountains of Pangaea, including Ireland. It is proposed that the Irish leg of the IAT will make use of the Slí Colmcille and the Bluestack Way in County Donegal before joining the Ulster Way in Northern Ireland.

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