Lonely Planet Writer

Take a walk along one of five ancient Irish ‘Pilgrim Trails’ in August

As part of Heritage Week (19-26 August), the dedicated team at Pilgrim Paths Ireland are organising a series of guided walks along five ancient Irish routes. Experienced local guides will fill participants in on the historic significance of the trails, which include St. Finbarr’s Pilgrim Path in gorgeous West Cork, and Cosán na Naomh in the charming region of Dingle, Co. Kerry. What’s more, like the iconic Camino de Santiago route across north-western Spain, walkers will receive a stamp for every route they complete.

Sunrise over the ruins of Glendalough as the smooth waters of the river reflect the beautiful scenery of the Wicklow Mountains National Park.
Sunrise over the ruins of Glendalough as the smooth waters of the river reflect the beautiful scenery of the Wicklow Mountains National Park. Image by Ray Wise/Getty Images

“The first ever fully guided journey along the Passported Pilgrim Paths of Ireland will be part of the celebrations for Heritage Week”, say Pilgrim Paths Ireland, an association of community groups who promote local tourism initiatives. “This offers an opportunity to walk Ireland’s most captivating medieval paths, while accompanied by knowledgeable local guides. These guides or leaders will stamp participants’ passports after each walk. With five stamps, they can personally obtain a Teastas (completion certificate). They’ll then be added to the list of Criochnóirí (those who have completed all five paths).”

Brandon Mountain, Dingle, County Kerry.
Brandon Mountain, Dingle, County Kerry. Image by Gareth Mccormack/Getty Images

The routes vary in length and level of difficulty. Cnoc na dTobar in Kerry was a sacred pilgrim site in prehistoric and medieval times. It’s a steep 6km hike, but well worth it, as it offers fantastic panoramic views of the magnificent Skellig Islands. Also in Kerry is Cosán na Naomh, an 18km-route from Ventry Strand to the foot of soaring Brandon Mountain.

Co Mayo, Ireland; Evening View Across Clew Bay To Croagh Patrick | Location: Co Mayo, Ireland.
Co Mayo, Ireland; Evening View Across Clew Bay To Croagh Patrick | Location: Co Mayo, Ireland. Image by Design Pics Inc/Getty Images

St. Kevin’s Way in Wicklow – known as the ‘Garden of Ireland’ –  winds for 30km from Hollywood to Glendalough, following what’s thought to have been the journey of St. Kevin, who founded a monastic settlement deep in the Wicklow Mountains. Tóchar Phádraig in Mayo traces the route of the ancient royal road from Cruachán, the seat of the Kings of Connaught, to Croagh Patrick. It’s a 35km trail that can be completed over one or two days. Finally, St. Finbarr’s Path in Cork is a more strenuous option, moving through higher, more isolated terrain. At 37km, it takes two days to complete, but the famous West Cork scenery will make up for any aches and pains!

All walks must be pre-booked. Find out more here.