5 extinct volcanoes in Ireland that now make for epic hikes

From a glacial lake in Galway to a private island in the Irish Sea, here are five extinct volcanoes in Ireland that now make for epic hikes.

With its glorious landscape and variety of nature trails, Ireland is the perfect choice for those who love the outdoors. Though riddled with a host of different hiking routes, some sites across the Emerald Isle offer more than your average terrain trek.

Sound cool? Then be sure to check out our list of five extinct volcanoes in Ireland that now make for epic hikes below.

5. Croghan Hill, County Offaly – short hikes with scenic views

Croghan Hill is a great hike that ends with spectacular scenic views.
Credit: @taracurley12 / Instagram

Located at the base of a former volcano, Croghan Hill – a pre-Christian burial ground and early monastic site – is a popular route amongst many walkers. With a council-implemented information board onsite, hikers will be well-versed in the history of this volcanic landscape and its connections to St. Brigid and St. Patrick.

The surrounding grassland is home to farming livestock at specific times throughout the year, so if you are looking for a short 20-minute route with fantastic views and that stereotypical post-card feel, we highly recommend this extinct volcano in Ireland for a genuinely epic hike.   

Location: County Offaly, Ireland

4. Slemish Mountain, County Antrim – open all year round

Slemish Mountain is another of the top extinct volcanoes in Ireland, it's open all year round.

With its steep and rocky climb, this hour-long trail offers hikers excellent views of the Antrim and Scottish coasts, with Ballymena town, the Sperrin Mountains, Lough Neagh, and the Antrim Hills all easily visible from the top.

Arguably, the best time to hike here is on St. Patrick’s Day when you can join the masses as they ascend the mountain on their annual pilgrimage. However, with Slemish being open all year round, it doesn’t matter when you visit – this site will always make for an incredible hike.

Location: County Antrim, Northern Ireland

3. Lambay Island, County Dublin – prison camp turned private island

This prison camp turned into a private island, Lambay Island, is one of the top extinct volcanoes in Ireland.
Credit: @neil.bermingham / Instagram

Lambay Island, once an active volcano 450 million years ago, has served as the site of a monastery and castle, the haunt of pirates, an intermittent Prisoner of War camp for over 1,000 Irish soldiers during the Williamite War (Battle of Aughrim), and, today, a bird sanctuary.

Over the years it has had many owners, including Sir William Wolseley, the Talbots (owners of Malahide Castle) and, most recently, the Barings. Now, with permission from the Barings family, a limited number of tourists can access the island and take part in a guided tour of the land (which you can find out more about: here).  

Location: Irish Sea

2. Slieve Gullion, County Armagh – site of the most famous ring dyke in the world

Slieve Gullion is another of the top extinct volcanoes in Ireland, home to the Cailleach Beara's cave and lake.
Credit: ringofgullion.org

A designated ‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’ (AONB), visitors are granted the opportunity to explore this volcanic landscape (having erupted over 50 million years prior) with its forest trails, country roads, and mountain paths – all forged through purple heather, lowland loughs, wetland vegetation, bogland, and woodland.

Known for its Megalithic and Christian monuments (which includes more than twenty stone tombs!), the mountain lies within the Ring of Gullion. It has been linked to various Irish myths and legends: including the supposed bewitching of Finn McCool at the summit, and the superstition (still believed to this day) that if you were to bathe your hair in the Lough of Cailleach Béara, it will turn white!

Location: County Armagh, Northern Ireland

1. Lough Nafooey, County Galway – home of the Water Horse

Lough na Fooey is home to the water horse, another of the top extinct volcanoes in Ireland.

Located in Connemara, this glacial lake lies on the site of the former ‘Finny Volcano’ (490 million years ago) where pillow-lava formations, breccia, and other volcanic rocks are still present. Situated on the border of County Mayo, it lines the Maumturk and Partry Mountains.

It is said to be home to the mythical Celtic Water Horse, (known as ‘Capaill Uisce’). With an accessible soft-sand beach for picnics and the ability to go both boating and cold-water fishing – alongside incredible views and a range of walks suitable for all – it is no wonder that Lough Nafooey tops our list of extinct volcano sites in Ireland as the most epic hike.

Location: Loch na Fuaiche, County Galway, Ireland

And there you have them: five extinct volcanoes in Ireland that now make for epic hikes.

Whether interested in learning about the history of a place or merely on the lookout for mythological creatures, these five extinct volcanoes in Ireland that now make for epic hikes are more than worth a visit!

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Rebekah Humphries is a writer and blogger hailing from Carrickfergus, County Antrim. Having graduated from The Open University with a Bachelor's Degree in English Literature and Creative Writing, she hopes to utilise her passion for writing to help showcase the best that Ireland has to offer. In her free time, you are likely to find her drinking tea with a book in hand, spending time with her black lab, or cheering on her local ice-hockey team, the Belfast Giants.