3 Best Beginner Hikes in Leinster
Summer is a great time to get out, breathe some fresh air, and explore incredible mountains, cliffs and forests. You don’t have to get very far out of Dublin to discover some beautiful hikes. We spoke with some of Ireland’s premier hiking experts to get their thoughts on the best beginning hikes in Leinster and what to bring. So go on! Get out and about and start exploring!
Lough Tay to Crone
Wicklow is one of Ireland’s most gorgeous hiking areas and is a must-see. This part of the Wicklow Way trail is in a remote part of Wicklow, which makes the views that much more marvelous. As Willie Whelan from Outdoor Adventure Ireland says, “This is Wicklow at its best.” Hiking along the Wicklow Way starting from the Pier Gates above Lough Tay provides incredible views of the lake situated between the mountains of Djouce and Luggala right from the start. Hikes that start off with incredible views are less common, so Lough Tay is definitely a perk of this hike! From here, the trail winds past the J.B. Malone Memorial and over White Hill into the forest and be-slimmer.net of the Deerpark and Djouce Mountain before approaching Crone car park. The views from White Hill are spectacular with the Irish sea to the East and Dublin to the North. Hauke Steinberg from Hillwalk Tours really summed up the perks of this hike,
“A great beginners hike with easy navigation, a good path and lots of varied scenery (lake, forestry, woodlands, upland) ending with a spectacular view of the waterfall before the final descent to the car park.”
For a shorter version, consider starting from the J.B. Malone Memorial car park and walking to White Hill and back.
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Bray to Greystones Cliff Walk
This Cliff Walk is recommended by Hillwalk Tours, Outdoor Adventure Ireland and Footfalls Walking Holidays as it provides some of the most breathtaking views of the Irish sea and surrounding cliffs, and is reachable in less than an hour from Dublin city center on the DART. This is a great walk since you don’t start and end in the same place, but can easily get back to your car if you drove or to the DART. The trail winds along the edge of the cliffs above the sea providing amazing views of rolling green hills merging with the rock formations above the sea and the sea itself. The trail does have a few inclined parts, but nothing too steep or long, and they are worth it for the oceanfront views.
Try to do this hike on a day when it’s not drizzling since there are no trees to provide cover. The cliff walk is 6.2 km, but breezes by with the changing views around every bend. As Christopher Stacey from Footfalls Walking Holidays sums up, this walk is a
“Low level walk that is very well marked and has some beautiful sea and mountain views.”
The trail starts and or ends (depending on which direction you go) in the center of both Bray and Greystones, so spending sometime in each on either side of the hike is a nice way to spend the rest of the day. In Greystones, the restaurant The Happy Pear is a fabulous choice for a delicious and healthy post-hike meal. Their black bean and sweet potato burger is a personal favourite!
Sugar Loaf Mountain
Sugar Loaf Mountain is a classic, and highly recommend by both Hillwalk Tours and Outdoor Adventure Ireland. Sugar Loaf is located a few kilometres from the Kilmacanogue Village, less than an hour drive outside of Dublin city center. The hike begins at the car park on Red Lane under an arch, and from there you’ll hike up the conical mountain and get phenomenal views at the top. The incline of the hike is not major until the end, where it gets steeper since you’re at 500 metres up. Willie Whelan from Outdoor Adventure Ireland points out a fun tid bit about the top of the hike,
“the hike feels exciting as near the top it gets steep and you have to use your hands, so it feels like you are climbing a mountain.”
Once you’re at the top and have taken in all the views of Wicklow and the coast, you can either retrace your steps for a shorter route, or continue south around the Sugar Loaf for a longer version, recommended by Hauke Steinberg from Hillwalk Tours.
Food is crucial for any hike, whether you just eat before and after or on the hike as well. Hiking requires sustained energy, and food is the way to get that energy and not feel weak or tired on your hike. Hauke Steinberg from Hillwalk Tours recommends porridge with some fruit (and muesli if you’re want it) as a great breakfast to set you up with lots of energy for hiking. Carbs are important before a hike, and porridge is a healthy and delicious way to get them. For food on the hike, it is not absolutely crucial to bring food for a shorter hike, but always a good idea to have at least a snack. Willie Whelan from Outdoor Adventure Ireland recommends a banana, chocolate bar, or protein bar as a snack. As he says, “the most important thing is that it tastes good and you’ll eat it.” Though these snacks provide calories and energy incase you need a little extra push. For a longer hike where you need to bring a lunch, a sandwich is great since it does not need a plate or fork and can be wrapped easily to stay dry. Sandwiches provide carbs and protein (make sure you get some meat and or cheese in it!) which are both essentials while hiking. After a hike, protein is important to replenish your muscles, though what you specifically eat does not matter much as long as you enjoy it! Christopher Stacey from Footfalls Walking Holidays recommends keeping a thermos with hot soup in it in your car on colder days, because who wouldn’t enjoy hot soup after a hike on a colder day?
Water is a necessity for hiking, even shorter ones. While the amount of water needed does vary depending on the length and difficulty of your hike, having a litre of water is always a safe bet for shorter hikes. If you know you get tired and thirsty a lot, then consider bringing up to 1.5 litres even on shorter hikes. As Christopher Stacey from Footfalls Walking Holidays reminds us, “remember it is better to have too much than not enough.”
Since it is Ireland, having some a light rain jacket (breathable is better if you have it) is always a good idea, since who knows what the weather is going to do in 3 hours. However, do pay attention to what the weather is predicted to do so you can try to be as prepared as possible. If it’s showing that the weather will be colder, having an extra layer or two of fleece or merino wool is a good idea. For all hikes, having a wicking base layer (what touches your skin) is important so your skin can breathe and keep moisture off of it. Both Hillwalk Tours and Outdoor Adventure Ireland highly recommend not wearing cotton while hiking as it doesn’t breathe well or dry quickly. For pants, wear some that are stretchy enough to allow your legs to move freely and don’t chafe, and most importantly, avoid denim at all costs. Socks follow the same principles as all other clothing, avoid cotton and choose some that fit well and move moisture away from your feet to avoid blisters. When it’s going to be a colder day, having a pair of hat (makes sure it’s breathable!) and gloves is a good idea, and Christopher Stacey from Footfalls Walking Holidays made the good recommendation of keeping an extra pair in your car for your friend that will inevitably forget them!
Having your feet be comfortable is one of the most important components for having a fun time on your hike. However, this does NOT mean that you should go out and buy a new pair of fancy hiking boots. If you’re going on a beginning hike with a relatively smooth trail, your favorite pair of comfortable runners will be fine. If hiking is your new life calling, go buy top-notch hiking boots, but make sure to break them in first before taking them out on the trail to avoid blisters. Wearing shoes that can handle at least a little bit of water is a good idea, however. For hikes with more uneven trails, having a pair of shoes that have more grip on the bottom and more ankle support is a good idea to keep you from slipping or rolling your ankle. Most importantly, it is better to be wear comfortable shoes even if they’re not made specifically for hiking, than hiking boots that you’ve never worn before and will make your feet unhappy.
Hiking is a fun and active way to spend a day, and Leinster has so many fabulous options! The three hikes mentioned above are all beginner hikes that hopefully leave you wanting to get out and experience the wonderful natural areas that Ireland has to offer. With summer coming to an end, make sure to experience at least one of these trails soon!
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