The best walks for New Year’s Day

Ciara McDonnell rounds up 10 walks to blow the cobwebs away on New Year’s Day.

Sheep’s Head

Best For A Group Walk

Cliffs of Moher Coastal Walk

Stretching 18km and linking the towns of Doolin and Liscannor, via the Cliffs of Moher Visitor Centre, this spectacular coastal jaunt will make you feel as though you are quite literally, on the edge of the world.

The walk is not suitable for children or people who are nervous of heights, because while it starts on protected paths, it changes very suddenly to a challenging and demanding trail, with no barriers, handrails or seaward fencing.

If you are feeling a little delicate then take the section from Doolin to the Cliffs of Moher, which is 8km long and takes about two hours each way.

Best For A Challenge

Galtymore

At 20km, the loop walk through woodland, grassy slopes and the peaks of Galtymore and Greenane will pose a challenge for the less fit among us.

The route is very steep, and will likely require a few stops along the way. After rain, the trail can be quite slippy, so be sure to wear appropriate footwear and watch your step.

The views enjoyed on this hike are spectacular, and you’ll have the opportunity to look right over the majestic Glen of Aherlow as you stop for a snack and a drink along the way.

Best For Exploring

Beara Way

Split into 18 sections, the 196km circular Beara Way has parts to suit all ages and abilities. Remote and unspoilt, it takes in spectacular mountainscapes as well as coastal walks. It’s worth planning ahead and finding the part of the Beara Way that will suit you; whether it’s ancient burial monuments or woodland paths and open moorland, you’ll find it along the way.

High flyers will not want to miss out on section eight, which takes you on a moderate circuit from the cable car that goes to Dursey Island, to Garnish Island, Glanarough and Ballynacarriga.

Best For Local History

Druid’s Loop

As the site of Fionn Mac Cumhall’s hunting lodge, Bonane is steeped in ancient history being home to over 250 archaeological sites. Located between Glengarrif and Kenmare, it links both the Ring of Kerry and the Ring of Beara through a unique hand-cut tunnel, taking walkers through farmland and along laneways, woodland tracks, cross country and hillside. At 5km, it’s entirely achievable and will take an hour and a half at moderate pace.

Best For Hardcore Hikers

Kerry Way

The 200km of signposted walking trail along the Kerry Way is Ireland’s longest walking trail and still one of its most popular. It begins and ends in Killarney, looping around the Iveragh Peninsula in an anti clockwise direction, pasting through some of the most dramatic scenery Ireland has to offer.

To cover as much ground as possible, it’s worth driving part of the way; it’s very difficult to choose the best section, and you won’t want to miss out.

Best For Active Families

Ballyhoura Nature Trail

If your kids are likely to shout about being bored while out on a family walk, then consider the 5km Ballyhoura Nature Trail as a way to kick off the New Year. Located at the Ballyhoura Mountain Bike centre, it has over 20 creatures hidden throughout the wooded trail that children have to uncover along the way.

Nestled in among the trees, kids have to keep their eyes peeled, while ticking off their findings on a nature trail guide that you can pick up at the centre. The walk takes about 40 minutes, so is perfect for small children.

Best For A Town Walk

Youghal Heritage Trail

Meander along the 2km trail that takes you on a self-guided walk that take you by the town’s famous 13th century walls, which are some of the most well preserved examples in Ireland.

Other heritage trails in Youghal include a Historic Core Walk (3km), a Graveyard Trail (1.5km) and a Medieval Garden Walk (1.5km), should you find yourself still rearing to go once you’ve finished.

Best For An Urban Idyll

Lee Fields

City dwellers will know all about the peace that can be found at the Lee Fields. Take a gentle 3km stroll by the River Lee and check out the swimmers and canoeists who brave the cold water of the river all year round. The path is well laid, and ideal for those with buggies, though beware, it tends to get very busy in the middle of the day with traffic from joggers and speed walkers clogging the way.

Best For A Magical New Year

Irish Fairy Trails

There are two magical fairy trails to be in County Kerry. The first is at Derrynane House and the second is at Darryquin on the Ring of Kerry.

Both are extremely easily navigable, expect to find elaborate fairy houses in the strangest of places, and an overall sense of magical mischief that will keep children powering through the forest as they try to find some real life fairies to play with.

Best For A Day On The Edge

Sheep’s Head

The Sheep’s Head Way is a 200km trail on the narrow peninsula located between Bantry and Dunmanus Bay.

Wild and windy, the terrain is varied and includes old boreens, open grassy and heathery hill, rock, field paths, quiet roads and some short stretches of woodland path. You’ll come across the remains of an old copper mine stone circles, standing stones and a Napoleonic signal tower.

If you’re really lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of the dolphins and whales that swim off the most western part of the headland.


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