Adventure By Jonathan Hermann

Ireland: Hiking the Emerald Isle

Thanks to a dramatic coastline that inspires at every bend, along with an endless ocean  of emerald hills punctuated with Celtic ruins, Ireland is an ideal destination to explore on foot. Hiking along clear, bubbling streams cutting through fresh pine forests, tracing rocky shores past fishing villages and ancient huts, and stepping onto the surreal limestone flats truly connects you with the Irish culture, its friendly people  and exciting history. Here’s a ten-day hiking itinerary that takes you deep into this  nation’s natural glories.

DAY 1 - Dublin

Arrive in the country’s capital and take a short 30 minute ride to The K Club, a Protravel SELECT property in the idyllic Irish countryside of County Kildare. Spend the afternoon exploring the 550-acre estate, possibly teeing off at one of its two championship golf courses, strolling along the stunning Victorian walled garden or fishing on the River Liffey.

DAY 2 – Powerscourt Gardens & Glendalough

From one splendid estate to another, today’s adventure begins surrounded by the vast gardens of Powerscourt House, which dates back to 1300, before heading out along the gorgeous Wicklow Way. Stretching roughly 79 miles through the Wicklow Mountains, the Wicklow Way winds through lush pine forests before descending to enchanted Glendalough—Gaelic for “the valley of two lakes”—a charming monastic site built in the 6th century.

DAY 3 – Wicklow Way & Avoca

Today’s hike continues on through the Wicklow Way, following trails that rise and fall with the evergreen hills, past waterfalls and rushing streams, to a panoramic viewing point of Glendalough that will never be forgotten. Afterward, a short drive takes you to Avoca to wander through the historic town where the country’s gold rush began in 1796. Then off to Mount Juliet, a Protravel SELECT property in Thomasville that is widely considered to be one of the country’s finest estate houses.

DAY 4 – Rock of Cashel & Killarney

After a morning exploring the Timeworn Ramparts, Cathedral and Chapel at the Rock of Cashel, head off to Killarney. Your hike today begins in the gardens of Muckross House, a 19th-century estate set in Killarney National Park, where you can trek lakeside past meandering cows and under ancient bridges to discover 65-foot-high Torc Waterfall. 

Ireland Torc Waterfall

DAY 5 – Gap of Dunloe

Options await you at the Gap of Dunloe, a slim valley that cuts the Purple Mountain ridge from Macgillycuddy’s Reeks, Ireland’s highest mountain range. You can take off on a seven-mile trail on foot with a hiking guide, or hop on a mountain bike and follow a 30-mile circuit through the Gap and around Killarney’s pristine lakes. Take the boat ride from Lord Brandon's cottage back to Killarney, where you’ll get a gorgeous, up-close view of Ross Castle, before heading to Sheen Falls Lodge to end the day with a toast from their extensive whiskey collection.

DAY 6 – Ring of Kerry & Carrauntoohil

While most tourists simply drive around the Ring of Kerry, you’ll experience more of this breathtaking region by staying on foot. Trails abound here, where you can hike along the winding, rock-strewn shoreline to stop along the way to visit historic Christian monasteries and Iron Age forts. Experienced hikers head straight for Ireland's highest peak, Carrauntoohil, the top of which provides possibly the greatest views in all of Ireland.

DAY 7 – Dingle Peninsula

Windswept hills, rocky coastline and numerous archaeological sites make the Dingle Peninsula a truly unforgettable region. On a highlight-heavy, 11-mile hike from Ventry to nearby Ballydavid, you’ll pass by ancient beehive huts, the mesmerizing remains of Dún An Óir fort and a famous early church built of  unmortared stone.

Ireland Dingle Peninsula

DAY 8 – The Burren

Before leaving Dingle, spend the morning trying to decode the Ballintaggart Ogham Stones, nine giant stones etched with enigmatic, prehistoric symbols. Then off to the Burren, a dramatic landscape of massive, exposed limestone. Here you’ll hike to the spectacular remains of Corcomroe Abbey, a hidden gem set in a sheltered valley, where your cameras will go in overdrive attempting to capture the ancient beauty of the peaceful site.

DAY 9 – Aran Islands

If you’re having trouble understanding the Irish accent, your comprehension will not improve after you step off the ferry onto the Aran Islands, where Gaelic is still the common tongue. You won’t need to understand to enjoy your hike up to Dun Aengus on the island of Inishmore. Perched on the edge of a 300-foot-high cliff, this mysterious semi-circular ring fort provides both astonishing views over the Atlantic as well as an intriguing glimpse into Ireland’s prehistoric past.

Ireland Aran Islands

DAY 10 7 BEYOND – Ashford Castle

What better way to end an unforgettable, ten-day hiking or biking tour of Ireland than to stay in an 800-year-old castle. Set in 350 acres of woodland on the shores of Lough Corrib, this historic Protravel SELECT property has been voted Best Hotel in the World. Spend your time here watching hawks soar at Ireland's first School of Falconry, enjoying a round of golf or using your 100 USD Food & Beverage credit feasting in the dramatic atmosphere of The Dungeon.