Discover all the secrets of the Aragonese Pyrenees’ greatest treasure
Off in a faraway land, the faint echoes of the bagpipe can be heard. Emerald green cliffs seem to softly sing a song about the past while vast meadows full of clover stretch below our feet. The whole island of Ireland is generously endowed with many outstanding qualities, one of them being its ability to piece man together with tradition and nature. One of the best ways to unravel its treasures is by carrying out one of these 10 routes, whether on foot or by bicycle.
Legend has it that a fisherman from Moher snatched a magical cloak from a mermaid who then followed him home. She later married him. One day, though, while her newlywed husband was off fishing, she found the cloak and made off with it back to the sea. Another legend leads us to believe that a hidden underwater city lies beneath this untamed surf of Ireland, and it remains to be roused. These are just two of the countless tales which make the experience of visiting these magical Cliffs of Moher that much more enchanting, in the Burren region. It is truly a spectacle in itself with a route starting off in Doolin as it edges along the coast following various signposted and marked trails. With just a bit of luck, the sights of the Aran Islands and the Galway Bay can be made out in the distance.
Standing at 1,039 meters high, Carrauntoohil is considered to be the highest point on the whole island of Ireland. The perfect challenge for hiking and mountaineering enthusiasts located in County Kerry, where the MacGillycuddy’s Reek mountain range touches the roof of this Gaelic island. Strap on your finest pair of trekking shoes, be sure to have plenty of drinking water and pack enough trail mix are just some words to the wise, especially for those who don’t want to miss out on “The Devil’s Ladder”. This particular path zig-zags its way to a meadow which splits up the whole valley. Once you reach this place, you may be pondering whether you have just touched heaven.
A mere 37 minutes from Dublin, Howth Head extends towards the Atlantic shrouded in fog with seagulls swarming the cliffs. Like any typical Irish scene, this route commences in the quaint fishing town of Howth. It is truly the ideal starting point to take off on a relaxing trail full of delights: the cliffs, the Baily Lighthouse and the return to the local port, which is a great place for seal-spotting as they cluster round the fishing boats with the day’s fresh catch in tow. It is just as much an epic landscape as it is mystical. On a clear day, you can even make out “Ireland’s Eye” which is the island on which Howth’s church of an early settlement had once stood.
The acclaimed Connemara National Park is the ideal place to get back in touch with nature: sheep out to pasture, small villages with the aroma of seafood and mountains wafting in the air. One of those mountains, “Diamond Hill”, is truly one of Galway’s gems. At 442 meters, this peak makes for an easy-going, fairy-tale path as it furnishes views of the magic which lies in the Irish backcountry. In particular, both Lower Diamond Hill and Upper Diamond Hill are paths which can be accessed from Letterfrack as you venture further and further away from the crystal-clear fresh water of the renowned Kylemore Lake.
Northern Ireland holds some of the most beautiful landscapes, among which are the whispering Mountains of Mourne, a granite mountain range with one of the highest peaks on the island at 850 meters above sea level, the shivery Slieve Donard peak. In this dreamy sanctuary, the start of your journey unwaveringly kicks off with a hearty breakfast made up of sausages and “Comber” potatoes, a local specialty straight out of County Down. Afterwards, you can hit the path which crosses mountains offering an impressive view of the Silent Valley National Park which boasts blue lakes splashing against the green mountains which were dug out over the course of time by little waterfalls. Also, at an arm’s length for the visitor is “The Mourne Wall”, an age-old wall hoisted by the Celts.
Considered to be the first natural park reserve to be declared in Ireland back in 1932, the Killarney National Park in County Kerry is made up of over 102 km² of magnificent lakes, waterfalls and forests. As the picturesque Muckross Lake steals the limelight with its banks alluring one to delight in a weekend meshed between old-fashioned cabins and enticing gardens, any route chosen will have the final aim to reach the Torc Waterfall. A pleasant trail which takes off from Killarney town itself, borders along the lake and wanders through the forest where deer still roam. The inimitable sound of water, of nature, will be your best guide as you draw nearer and nearer to the waterfalls which would easily be deserving of a photo to share on Instagram.
Well-known for being where the Titanic was built, the capital city of Belfast, in Northern Ireland, abounds with numerous cultural sights: from iconic pubs where one can sip on the best toasted beers to the enchantment of the Belfast Castle, a monument which can lead you to the trail along the rugged hills of Cave Hill Country Park. Built by the Normans in the 12th century, the Belfast Castle stands at 120 meters above sea level which in turns offers up an amazing panoramic view of the city. It has a visitor’s center to further your knowledge on its history, too. This route is also compatible with those who choose to go by bike as it is conveniently located just 6 kilometers from the city’s historic center.
Located at the Valley of the Two Lakes, the site of Glendalough makes for a better alternative to get to know a piece of Irish history at only 68 kilometers outside of Dublin. If there had to be a good excuse for popping in on this historic medieval city, it would be to pay a visit to the Wicklow Mountains. This mountain range is speckled with lakes and ponds which are overlooked by the Lugnaquilla, a peak of 925 meters which in Irish (Log Na Coille), means the hollow of the wood. Setting off for this natural paradise from Glendalough Monastic City and strolling along the banks of Lake Lower to catch the link to the old Glendalough Mines is both an ideal trail either on foot or by bicycle thanks to its gentle elevation gains.
Located along the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, the Cuilcagh Mountain is open to all who wish to embark on the most thrilling of all the routes which is a trail among streams all flowing into the Shannon River. A landscape which highlights the main trail “Cuilcagh Mountain Legnabrocky”, also known as the “Stairway to Heaven”, entails 7.5 kilometers of adventure among ancient Celtic ruins and a landscape that begins to reach up to kiss the utmost point which is at 665 meters high. Once you are at the top, let yourself feel like a king for a day as you come face to face with the Mourne Mountains and the Croagh Patrick Mountains. This is just one of the many sensations you could experience along the trail.
The wide open karstic landscape gives the feel of a far-off planet. Nevertheless, The Burren goes beyond that feeling. Its name, which means ‘great rock,’ gives the visitor a glimpse as to what can be found in this region of County Clare. In The Burren National Park, one can also gaze at the most famous dolmen in the Republic of Ireland, Poulnabrone, which shares the spotlight with other historic places such as the Corcomroe Abbey. These are simply two of the many sites to discover while hiking all the way to the top where you can get a view of the whole rocky terrain and the surfworthy Fanore Beach.