Top 5 counties in Ireland for mountain walking

If you are planning your summer hikes in the Emerald Isle, you are in the right place. We point you in the right direction with the top five counties in Ireland for mountain walking, ranked.

Despite being a small island, Ireland has been blessed with a majestic set of mountain ranges that span its four provinces and 32 counties. As such, the Emerald Isle has bequeathed us with a stunning itinerary of hikes to complete.

No matter the weather, Irish people and tourists alike scale Ireland’s highest peaks to experience the thrill of the journey, the awe of the view, and the relief of the hard work put in.

If you are a hill walker thinking of making your summer one for exploring and aren’t quite too sure where to focus, we have you covered. Here are the top five countries of Ireland for mountain walking, ranked.

5. County Down – the majesty of the Mourne Mountains and Slieve Donard

Down is one of the best counties in Ireland for mountain walking.
Credit: Tourism Northern Ireland

County Down makes its way onto our list of the best counties in Ireland for mountain walking, courtesy of the seven central peaks of the mighty Mourne Mountains.

Slieve Donard is the highest peak of the Mournes and, standing at a commanding 2,788 ft (850 m) above ground. The spectacular views of the North’s coastline and the coastal town of Newcastle are as idyllic as the coast of Spain.

Elsewhere, the Mournes is also made up of Slieve Bearnagh, Slieve Commedagh, Slieve Binnian, Slieve Meelbeg, Slieve Muck, and Slieve Croob. Silent Valley also lies quietly between it all.

These spectacular mountain ranges can be seen as far as Belfast city, and the sheer scale and size of them ensure that the Mourne County is right up on our list.

4. County Antrim – for the home of St Patrick and city views

County Antrim has some great hikes.
Credit: Tourism Northern Ireland

County Antrim takes the next spot on our list of the best counties in Ireland for mountain walking. The Saffron County is one of the largest in Ulster.

Not far from Ballymena is Slemish Mountain, an imposing mountain that is the home of St Patrick. The 1.5 km (0.9 miles) walk will take you approximately one hour to complete.

It offers incredible views of the mid-Antrim countryside and even as far as Rathlin Island on a clear day.

Uniquely in Ireland, County Antrim’s Divis & Black Mountain and Cave Hill summit offer panoramic views of Belfast city. Both are relatively easy to complete.

You also have the Trostan Mountain, which, at 1,808 ft (551 m), is the highest in the county. It is found in the Hills of Antrim near the north coast and Giant’s Causeway and is just another part of Antrim’s mountainous armour.

3. County Galway – one of the best counties in Ireland for mountain walking

Galway is one of the best counties in Ireland for mountain walking.
Credit: Tourism Ireland

The first and only inclusion on our list of the best counties in Ireland for mountain walking from the province of Connacht is County Galway, the second largest county on the Emerald Isle by size.

Connemara is one of the most beautiful parts of all of Ireland and is home to the Twelve Bens, Na Beanna Beola in Irish. This is a mountain range in the middle of Connemara that defines the region, and each peak can be hiked in a single day.

Close to the Tribe County, you have the Mweelrea Mountain, which stands at 2,671 ft (814 m), making it the 26th highest peak in the Emerald Isle. If you are looking for more hikes, then try Mount Gable. This is an easy walk with stunning views of Lough Corrib.

2. County Donegal – people are dreaming of the hills of Donegal

Donegal is a must-visit for hill-walking.
Credit: Fáilte Ireland

This will come as little surprise to anyone who knows Donegal. Indeed, we are all dreaming of the hills of Donegal, one of Ireland’s most rugged counties lined with towering and imposing mountain ranges.

The iconic Mount Errigal is one of the most memorable mountains in all of Ireland and one of the best things to do in Donegal, situated in Dunlewey but making its presence known far and wide across the county and beyond.

The distinctive peak of Errigal is one of the ‘Seven Sisters’, a mountain chain in northwest Donegal and forms part of the famous Derryveagh Mountains. Muckish is another notable mention, as is Glenveagh National Park.

Elsewhere in Donegal, you have the Slieve League Cliffs, some of the largest sea cliffs in Europe. Furthermore, you have the Bluestack Mountains, a major mountain range in south Donegal.

1. County Kerry – scale Ireland’s highest peaks

Kerry is one of the best counties in Ireland for mountain walking.
Credit: Tourism Ireland

Taking the top spot on our list of the best counties in Ireland for mountain walking is County Kerry, which is home to some of the largest mountains and highest peaks in all of Ireland. It is, therefore, no surprise it has claimed the top spot.

Carrauntoohil is the highest in Ireland. It stands at 3,405 ft (1,038 m). This is followed by Cnoc na Péiste at 3,241 ft (988 m) and Mount Brandon at 3,123 ft (952 m). These three alone are not only Kerry’s top mountains but the highest in the entire country.

Aside from these titans of the Irish countryside, you also have Baurtregaum at 2,791 ft (851 m), Mangerton Mountain at 2,752 ft (839 m), and Purple Mountain at 2,729 ft (832 m).

Notable mentions

Wicklow and Mayo are also home to some great hikes.
Credit: Tourism Ireland

County Waterford: Kilclooney Mountain can be found in County Waterford’s Comeragh Mountains in the province of Munster. Other Irish mountains include Knockmealdown, Carrignagowwr, and Knockanaffrin. All stand over 2,296 ft (700 m).

County Louth: Despite being Ireland’s smallest county by size, Louth is also home to incredible mountain ranges. Most notable are the Cooley Mountains in the northeast.

County Wicklow: Wicklow offers a range of excellent walking trails with Bray Head Cliff Walk and the Wicklow Mountains. Two of Ireland’s top ten biggest mountains are found here, with Lugnuquilla being the fourth largest mountain in Ireland.

County Mayo: One of Ireland’s most notable mountains, Croagh Patrick, is found in County Mayo and is one of the most difficult hikes in Ireland. Mweelrea and Nephin are other mentions and boast even higher peaks.

County Fermanagh: Home to the iconic Cuilcagh Mountain Boardwalk and various other waymarked trails, County Fermanagh is one of the best Irish counties for hiking.

FAQs about the best counties in Ireland for mountain walking           

What is the toughest hike in Ireland?

The toughest hike in Ireland is probably Carrauntoohil in County Kerry. Other tough hikes would include Mount Brandon and Croagh Patrick.

What is the longest walk in Ireland?

The Beara-Breifne walk is Ireland’s longest trail. This is 500 km (310 miles) and takes you from County Cork as far as County Leitrim.

What is the steepest mountain in Ireland?

Carrauntoohil in County Kerry is the steepest mountain in Ireland. It is 3,407 ft (1,038.6 m) tall.

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