Amazing hike of the week: Glenbarrow Eco Walk in County Laois

Looking for an amazing walk or hike in Ireland? Check out our hike of the week: Glenbarrow Eco Walk in County Laois.

Ireland boasts a truly commendable offering of strolls, walks, and hikes for people of all fitness levels. Whether you are just looking for a short wander or a more substantial hike, there is no doubt that we are completely spoilt for choice when trying to decide where to venture next!

This week, we want to share a hike with you that is one of our all-time favorite walks in Ireland. So, without further ado, here is everything you need to know about our amazing hike of the week: Glenbarrow Eco Walk in County Laois.  

Glenbarrow Eco Walk – a hidden gem at the foothills of the Slieve Bloom Mountains

Glenbarrow Eco Walk is a hidden gem at the foothills of the Slieve Bloom Mountains
Credit: Instagram / @lomee_cher

Glenbarrow is hands down one of the most scenic parts of the Slieve Bloom area with its whimsical waterfalls, fairy-tale glens, and serene atmosphere. The area is also the source of the majestic River Barrow, the second-longest river in Ireland.

Our amazing hike of the week starts at the Glenbarrow trailhead, which is easily accessed from the village of Rosenallis on the R422 between Clonaslee and Mountmellick. The trailhead is also only about 30 minutes from the busy towns of Portlaoise or Tullamore in County Offaly, so it can be easily accessed by car from all directions regardless of where you are traveling from.

At the start of the walk, there is an information board detailing three popular looped walk options. These are the Waterfall Loop, the Old Mill Loop, and our amazing hike of the week: the Glenbarrow Eco Walk.

The route – a fairy-tale forest trail along one of Ireland’s mighty rivers

The route is a fairy-tale forest trail along one of Ireland’s mighty rivers
Credit: Instagram / @conorstitt

The route is approximately 8.5km in length and takes approximately three hours to complete. From the trailhead, follow the orange arrows that lead down a small mossy lane to the start of the Glenbarrow Eco Walk.

From this pine forest, the walk runs parallel to the great River Barrow and gradually leads you uphill towards the Glenbarrow waterfall. Here you are immersed in a seemingly endless woodland canopy, blankets upon blankets of moss, natural flora, and fascinating fungi.

Glenbarrow Eco Walk is a great place to take your dog
Credit: Instagram / @twoadventurousmutts

The only sounds to be heard are the fast-flowing waters of the Barrow and the charming singsong of the birdlife above. This place really emanates fantastical vibes like something right out of The Hobbit. (Try to restrain yourself from running along the trail and roaring “I’m going on an adventure” at the top of your lungs!)

As you approach the waterfall, the bed of the river opens into a natural pavement of sandstone where you can explore the remains of a 19th-century quarry floor. From here, continue upstream towards the waterfall and follow the track that runs parallel to the river to the ruins of a 19th-century farmstead.

Glenbarrow waterfall is a feature along this walk
Credit: Instagram / @ loveablerogue94

As you take in your surroundings, imagine living in this spectacularly beautiful but truly isolated location – it’s so surreal!

From the rear of the farmstead, follow the orange arrows to the Ridge of Capard, where panoramic views of the surrounding landscape will open around you. The Ridge is at its most phenomenal in July and August when the purple heather is in full bloom. Follow the trail to a car park and continue to the right on to the weather-beaten boardwalk.

The hike offers sweeping views
Credit: Instagram / @noelladue

From here, you will cross a heather-clad ridge before turning left onto an old turf road that brings you back down to join the main road. Follow this road, and at the third bend downhill, the path enters Capard Wood. This is a magical place, and utterly breath-taking in May when the forest floor erupts into a carpet of bluebells.

Just beyond the wood, you will come to an old stone quarry where you can take in the stunning views of Croghan Hill, County Offaly’s ancient volcano. Continue to follow the trail and this will lead you back through the woodland canopy and to the car park from which you started your Glenbarrow hike.

Top tip: In-depth maps are available of the route online and include 10 informative eco stops that will make this walk even more special. You can find a version of the map here!  

Expectations for the Glenbarrow Eco Walk – what to bring, wear, and expect

Wear sturdy hiking books on the Glenbarrow Eco Walk

When it comes to parking, there is a recently improved car-parking area at the trailhead that can cater for 50+ vehicles. However, we advise that you get there bright and early if you are planning to go on a sunny weekend or during the summer months, as the trails can be quite busy.

The route can be strenuous in places, and the terrain can be rough in parts, especially on the steep inclines. Most of this walk consists primarily of forest trails, railway sleepers, and some muddy areas. Overall, this trail is moderate in terms of difficulty and is suitable for people with a reasonable level of fitness. The paths can be quite demanding, depending on the weather conditions, so it is best to be prepared.

We recommend wearing sturdy walking shoes or hiking boots for this one, a waterproof jacket, and, if the weather is particularly bad, waterproof over-trousers too. There are plenty of picnic benches and seats dotting the trail, so make sure to bring plenty of water and snacks to enjoy on one of your breaks.  

Planning a day out? – our recommended itinerary for the perfect Glenbarrow experience

Glenbarrow Eco Walk is like something from The Hobbit
Credit: Instagram / @adventure_belgian

To make the most out of your day out to Glenbarrow, we recommend arriving bright and early to ensure you get parking and, better still, enjoy the hike in absolute peace. One of the wonderful things about Glenbarrow is that you can go at any time of the year, and during any season, and the place will always take your breath away. We recommend going in the late spring/early summer to enjoy this walk and take in the phenomenal biodiversity that abounds.

Why not bring a picnic with you and enjoy it amidst one of the many heather-clad ridges or at one of the wooden benches provided? After your walk, you can explore the length and breadth of Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands and discover castles, abbeys, monasteries, and top tourist attractions galore! Maybe take a trip to the romantic ruins of the Rock of Dunamase or explore the stunning grounds that makeup Heywood Gardens.

The Rock of Dunamase is great nearby site to visit before or after the hike
Rock of Dunamase

There are plenty of places to stay nearby, from hotels to quirky Airbnbs, if you are traveling from further afield, such as an idyllic Alpaca farm near Creagh, County Offaly (see more details here), or a charming self-catering cottage at Roundwood House (click here for more information). 

Well, there you have it: our hike of the week, the Glenbarrow Eco Walk! If you are planning to visit Glenbarrow anytime soon and are including this hike on your itinerary, let us know how you get on!

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Note: our travel articles should be used only to plan future trips. Please stay at home until the government has advised otherwise.

Sarah Ní Bhealáin is a 23-year-old Irish writer born and bred in County Wicklow. After graduating from University College Dublin with a masters degree in history, she is now working in a sales and marketing support role. Sarah loves all things hiking, heritage, and history, and she is always looking for an excuse to plan her next road trip across Ireland. Chances are you will usually find her reading, writing, or halfway up a hill somewhere exploring some old ruins.