You would be hard pressed to find a more ideal place for a walking/hiking vacation than Ireland. It is as if the island was created for that sole purpose.
Hillwalking, as the Irish refer to it is a very popular pastime amongst the locals. There are close to 100 walking clubs listed on the Ireland Walking Guide website http://www.theirelandwalkingguide.com/adviceandinformation/walkingclubs. Many of these clubs claim membership in excess of 500 people and can be found throughout Ireland. The clubs are the backbone of the trail system taking an important role in the maintenance and marking of many trails. In addition to walking, many clubs include members interested in mountaineering and other outdoors pursuits.
The local clubs generally have scheduled walks on Saturdays and/or Sunday’s. Usually the scheduled walks occur every week or two and as you would imagine, visitors are always welcome. Talk about a great way to meet people that really know the area and that add to your vacation immeasurably. Often there are informal walks on the weekends when the club does not have one scheduled. If you are in Ireland on a weekend, ask around and you are likely going to find that a walk is happening nearby.
Another great way to see some friends that you hadn’t met before is to attend one of the many walking festivals held throughout the year and throughout the island of Ireland. The largest festival, The Ballyhoura Walking Festival, attracts over 1000 participants
http://visitballyhoura.com/index.php/2014/03/26/ballyhoura-international-walking-festival-3/. Walks of varying length and difficulty are held over a 3 day period in early May each year. Kilfinane which is located in County Limerick is just 1 hour south of Shannon Airport which makes it the perfect way to start or end your Irish hiking or non-hiking vacation.
Of course you shouldn’t feel limited to the Ballyhoura Walking Festival since there is a festival held virtually every week of the year. The first link in this post includes a calendar listing every major walking festival on the island in 2014.
For avid hikers that want to make hiking the centerpiece of their trip, we work with many Irish companies that will put together an extended itinerary of anywhere from 3 to 8 days and nights. Guided trips are led by native hikers that not only know every inch of your hike but know the people along the trail as well as the history and archeology of the area. More than just scenery, these guides will help you to understand what makes Ireland so unique.
An unguided or “go as you please” trip is less expensive than a guided version but features the same Bed &Breakfasts that you won’t read about in the travel books. Your hosts will likely have lived their entire life in the area, if not the house that you will be staying in allowing you a look into the genuine Ireland.
There are as many ways to hike in Ireland as there are reasons for doing so. Although each hike is different, all hikes share the scenery, the hospitality, the pubs and the spirit that makes Ireland the ultimate place to enjoy a great day outdoors.