6 Invigorating Coastal Walks

Slieve League cliffs, County Donegal

Salty sea air, soaring cliffs and sweeping views of the ocean – coastal walking in Ireland is an adventure in itself. Get stuck in to the very best the island has to offer with six great routes that take in everything from quiet, mountain-fringed bays to west coast islands

The Gobbins Cliff Path, County Antrim
The Gobbins Cliff Path, County Antrim

The Gobbins Cliff Path, County Antrim

Difficulty: Strenuous

Distance: 5km

Duration: Around 2.5 hours, guided walking

Wrapped around the sea cliffs of County Antrim – The Gobbins is the only guided adventure-walk of its kind in Europe. This incredible path snakes through dramatic tubular bridges and smugglers’ caves, and above crashing waves, and is a truly elemental experience. First envisioned in 1902 by enterprising Edwardian engineer Berkeley Deane Wise, The Gobbins was reopened in 2015 and its magic remains as captivating as ever. From your first step through Wise’s Eye at the path’s mouth, you can’t help but marvel at the ingenuity that brought this path to life over a century ago. 

Slieve League Pilgrims' Path, County Donegal
Slieve League Pilgrims' Path, County Donegal

Slieve League Pilgrims' Path, County Donegal

Difficulty: Moderate

Distance: 2.8km 

Duration: 1.5 hours

Wild, dramatic, majestic – the Slieve League Cliffs are among the highest sea cliffs in Europe, and if you’re looking for a walk that will take your breath away, this is it. Starting out steady, the path soon becomes rocky as it winds its way up to about 420 metres. Along the way, you’ll be treated to exceptional Atlantic views; racing skies, which can change from wispy blue to granite grey in minutes; and craggy rocky landscapes that tumble down to the sea. Bring suitable clothing and good footwear – the weather can turn quickly up here. 

Howth Head, County Dublin
Howth Head, County Dublin

Howth Cliff Path, County Dublin

Difficulty: Easy

Distance: 6km

Duration: 2 hours

Pack a sandwich, pull your hiking boots on and jump on the Dart (train) in Dublin city centre, and just 30 minutes later you’ll be in the fishing village of Howth. With a history that can be traced back to the Vikings, this lively little spot is known for its friendly harbour seals, seafood restaurants and breathtaking natural scenery. It’s also home to one of the best coastal walks around: the Howth Cliff Path. Running to around 6 kilometres, the trail starts at the Dart station before hitting some of the most exhilarating coastal scenery around. Expect sheer drops, jagged cliff-edges, heather-filled hills, boggy fields and a truly beautiful lighthouse perched at the end of the peninsula. 

Cliffs at Allihies, West Cork
Cliffs at Allihies, West Cork

The North Engine Loop, Allihies, County Cork

Difficulty: Moderate

Distance: 7km

Duration: 2 to 3 hours

The colourful West Cork village of Allihies is the perfect base for exploring some of West Cork’s best walking routes, and this one, which sweeps in a loop around the coast doesn’t disappoint. Bird-flecked cliffs, rocky fields, crashing waves and vast sea views mark the coastal part of the walk, which then detours inland. Passing by farm buildings, the route climbs up into the disused Mountain Mine area, which reveals Allihies’ past as a copper mining hub in the 19th century. Keep going and you’ll eventually loop back to the village, where music, food and pints await inside the bright-red O’Neills pub

Dundrum Bay and the Mourne Mountains
Dundrum Bay and the Mourne Mountains

Dundrum Coastal Path, County Down

Difficulty: Strenuous

Distance: 2.5km

Duration: 1.5 hours

Part of the longer Lecale Way walk, the Dundrum Coastal Path is a short and pleasant walk with lovely panoramas across Dundrum Inner Bay to the grey-blue beauty of the Mourne Mountains. Popular with birdwatchers, the path weaves along an old railway line through grassland, by brackish pools and sand dunes, and offers beautiful views of medieval Dundrum Castle. And while it’s stunning to do this walk at high tide, birdwatchers should wait until the tide is out, when the best of the birdlife can be spotted along the estuarine sands. 

Inishbofin West Quarter Loop, County Galway
Inishbofin West Quarter Loop, County Galway

Inishbofin West Quarter Loop, County Galway

Difficulty: Easy

Distance: 5km

Duration: 2 hours

Jump on the ferry from Cleggan pier in Connemara and you’ll soon find yourself on the small island of Inishbofin, which sits 8km out in the Atlantic. Large parts of the island are an Area of Special Conservation, which makes walking here a real joy. Starting at the pier, the Westquarter Loop leads around the western section of the island past blowholes and sea arches, cliffs, a beach and the haunting ruins of an Iron Age promontory fort. It’s an invigorating walk with great Atlantic views and a real feeling of isolation and escape. Heading back to Bofin Harbour, drop into the Inishbofin Hotel for a late lunch in the bar before catching the ferry back to Cleggan.

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