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12 scenic walks in Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands
Discover the scenic walks in Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands.
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There are many ways to experience everything in Ireland's Hidden Heartlands but perhaps the most satisfying way to do so is on foot. With each successive step, the bustling pace of urban life is replaced by the soothing tranquillity of the Irish countryside. In these quiet, timeless and ageless areas, you’d be forgiven for thinking that you're the first to explore the trails.

We've taken the work out of planning your next day out with a list of nine unmissable walks in the Midlands.

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1The Beara Breifne Way

Immerse yourself in one of the jewels in the crown of Ireland's Hidden Heartlands. The historic Beara Breifne Way begins in West Cork and weaves up through the Midlands ending in Blacklion in County Cavan. The walking trail is constantly being improved and expanded so it’s a simple and enjoyable route to navigate. 

Walking along this world-class trail, you’ll be following the 14-day march undertaken by O'Sullivan Beara in 1603. In the aftermath of the Battle of Kinsale, he marched the survivors north looking for help and is believed to have fought in numerous skirmishes and ambushes along the way. 

The core ethos of the Beara Breifne Way is collaboration. 60 community groups orchestrated the walking trails making it one of the largest community projects ever undertaken in Ireland.

Make sure to order your passport from the Beara Breifne Way’s website. You can collect stamps with each completed section – a perfect memento of your journey along this historic route or a reminder to return to finish off an unexplored section. It's particularly fun for families and groups of friends – get one for each member and compete to see who fills their passport first. 

Along the way, you’re never far from an interesting pit-stop or welcoming meal. The incomparable views and scenery speak to something ancient. Enjoy the untouched Irish landscape preserved in the face of centuries of subsequent modernisation. 

Visit the lively, mountain-flanked town of Keadue, Roscommon – translates in Irish as "low-lying green hill", or Aughrim, Galway – the site of one of the most significant battles in Irish history: The Battle of Aughrim for those interested in Irish history. 

To get started on the Beara Breifne Way, you can set off on the Miner’s Way part of the trail which includes some of the trail’s best attractions, views as well as places to stay and eat. Or plan your adventure with the Beara Breifne map, showing all 12 stages of this historical trail.

A boardwalk across the Beara Briefne Way
Wander through amazing landscapes on the Beara Breifne Way.
2The Ballyhoura Way

This gentle 1,700m ascent through Cork, Limerick, and Tipperary offers stunning views of lush pastureland, forest trails, and river banks.

The Ballyhoura Way, which is part of the longer O’Sullivan Beara Trail, is a 90km waymarked trail that showcases the beautiful landscape of the region. This linear trail spans from John's Bridge in North Cork to Limerick Junction in County Tipperary, and offers a short yet pleasant hike with varied terrain. The trail takes you across four upland stretches, through the verdant pastureland of the Golden Vale, and the wooded Ballyhoura Mountains, before culminating with a breathtaking view of the Glen of Aherlow.

As you travel along the Ballyhoura Way, you'll be able to appreciate charming villages like Kilfinane, Ballyorgan, Ballylanders and Galbally. The trail is mostly moderate underfoot and includes terrain such as tarmac roads, forestry tracks, open moorland, and field paths. You'll have access to several facilities and services near the trail's seven trailheads if you'd like to take a break and enjoy a hot drink.

Hikers walking up a mountain in Limerick.
Enjoy a gentle mountain stroll along the Ballyhoura Way.
3Lough Derg Way

Walking the Lough Derg Way is an opportunity to witness the unspoiled beauty of Ireland's Hidden Heartlands along a 64km trail. 

Beginning at the tourist office in Limerick City – behind the Hunt Museum – the Lough Derg Way stretches along winding, circuitous routes alongside the River Shannon up through to the marina in Dromineer on Lough Derg. 

The route is a walker's paradise. Climb the rolling hills of Clonlara, and onto the visit the village of O'Briensbridge. It makes its way across the river to the ancient town of Killaloe – once the home of the 11th-century High King of Ireland, Brian Boru. Rest up with coffee and pizza in the Italian deli, Ponte Vecchio, or discover the heritage of the town at St Flannan's Cathedral, including its awe-inspiring early Christian oratory. 

The southern section of the trail is made up of quaint canals and riverside passages, offering a glimpse into an often-unseen aspect of Ireland's landscape. Wander across the gentle, rolling trails or just sit and watch fishermen patiently cast out from the canal banks. The northern end – largely comprised of country roads – is a great place to relax in the ebb and flow of country life. 

The trail winds up in the charming port town of Dromineer. Seize the opportunity to dip into the glistening waters of Lough Derg after a pleasant walk. There are plenty of water sports available to soothe tired feet. Savour a doorstop sandwich made with famous locally-baked bread while watching the sun settle on the harbour at Lough Derg House and Lake Café. 

Explore the town’s castle ruins and relax with a dram in The Whiskey Still. Find out more about the Lough Derg Way, including how to get there, waymarking and what types of terrain to expect.

Killaloe, County Clare
Stroll along quaint canals and riverside passages.

Tountinna, meaning the hill of the waves, is the highest point on the Arra Mountains in Tipperary and forms part of the Lough Derg Way. A hike to the top rewards you with panoramic views of Lough Derg and the wide valleys below. Rumour has it that when the great floods came the only people who survived were up on this hill. 

The peak is accessible all by as you can drive there by taking a righthand turn just outside the historic town of Ballina on the Portroe Road. There’s a picnic area at the top where you can look out onto the four counties that meet at this convergence. Galway, Clare, Tipperary and Limerick are guaranteed to be seen on a clear day. 

A couple hiking in the mountains
Take in the panoramic views of Lough Derg.
5The Suck Valley Way

Dancing between Galway and Roscommon, The Suck Valley Way – one section of the Beara Breifne Way – is another tranquil, lengthy trail which brings walkers along the banks of the River Suck. 

Much likey, this route is best explored over a few days. The entire loop clocks in at around 105km, but there are many warm and welcoming places to stay and bars and restaurants to refuel in along the way. 

This route gives you a little taste of the breathtaking landscape of the region, not just in Ireland's Hidden Heartlands, but across the length and breadth of the island. You will pass bogs and wetlands, the iconic patchwork of Ireland’s countryside, farms and a hugely diverse ecosystem – with otters, herons and stoats – along the banks of the river. 

The area's beauty is revealed further in what is known locally as the "nine friendly villages" of Ballygar, Creggs, Glinsk, Ballymoe, Ballintubber, Dunamon, Castlecoote, Athleague and Mount Talbot. Spark conversation with the locals to seek out their insiders’ knowledge of the trails and things to do nearby. Some friendly B&B owners have been known to pack picnics for their guests to tide them over until the next stop. 

The scenery along this particular stretch is stunning. The landscape is punctuated by ringforts, castles, impossibly old churches, and the La Tené Stone. This beautifully carved, granite boulder, dating back to the Iron Age, is nestled at Castlerange. 

The stately Victorian mansion, Clonalis House, is the ancestral home of the O'Connors, the last High Kings of Ireland, and is open to visitors throughout summer. 

Each of the hiking routes scattered throughout Ireland's Hidden Heartland makes accessibility a priority. However, it’s a good idea to check that the particular path you’ve chosen can be used by each member of your party before embarking on their adventure. Walks across various types of terrain are suitable for even the achiest of knees, while the length of most hikes can be adjusted to suit your needs. 

Bring comfy walking shoes, food, water, a map and a fully charged phone. And don’t forget to collect a stamp for your Beara Breifne passport once you’ve completed the Suck Valley Way.

6The Leitrim Way

The Leitrim Way is part of the larger Beara Breifne Way and is made up of a number of unique walking experiences. They range from the 3km long Aghacashel Looped Walk to the 12km Crummy Loop Walk, taking travellers along the shimmering blue waters on the eastern edge of Lough Allen. 

The minor roads and country lanes can be easily explored in short timeframes, making them a perfect introduction for beginners to break in their new hiking boots! Along the way, travellers encounter everything from a famine graveyard to an ancient sweathouse built of moss-dusted stones. 

The Drumhauver Bridge Loop, at 10km long, is ideal for the novice hiker who has a decent level of fitness. Stops are plentiful with Leitrim Village and Drumshanbo – once the centre of poitín production – being idyllic spots for a rest and a delicious meal to refuel weary travellers.

The 10km long Drumleague Lock Loop takes you towards Battlebridge Lock and extends to the now famous Acres Lake Floating Boardwalk. This section actually floats on top of Acres Lough which gives the walker dramatic views of the water. It’s the perfect route for a family of hikers or cyclists. 

Discover even more about The Leitrim Way and link your walk up with the Cavan Way at Dowra to extend your journey. 

Couple looking out on view of water along the Leitrim Way.
Take in the view along the Leitrim Way.
7The Miner’s Way and Historical Trail

On the Beara Breifne Way, there’s a great walk called Miner's Way and Historical Trail. This winding 118km route – taking around five days in total to walk – skims Lough Allen, Lough Arrow and Lough Key. 

Stop off at the Arigna Mining Experience which tells of the mines that were once the lifeblood of Ireland’s north midlands for over four hundred years. Its deposits of coal and iron sustained not only the town but other cities. Iron mined from here was even used in the Ha'penny Bridge in Dublin. 

The walk itself is incredibly accessible – you can make it as long or short as you wish. And the views of Kilronan Mountain Bog and Lough Allen make this walk very memorable. 

The nearby dates back to the 12th Century making it a relative newcomer when compared to the fourteen passage graves at Carrowkeel Neolithic cemetery, which are estimated to be more than 5,000 years old. 

There are also three mountain ranges to explore – Corry Mountain, the Curlew Mountains and the Bricklieve Mountains. The views from the summit remind you just how far you are from fast-paced living. 

Guidepost sign indicating the Miner's Way.
Choose your path along the Miner's Way and Historical Trail.
8The Cavan Way

At 26km long, the Cavan Way in the western part of the county is a relaxing finale to the epic Beara Breifne Way. Give yourself about five hours to take in the sites on this hike through the gentle Cavan landscape. 

This trail almost exclusively consists of rural country roads from where it begins in Dowra before ascending into the heavenly limestone landscapes of the Cuilcagh Mountains, passing through the expanse of the Burren Park before ending in the town of Blacklion. The views along the route – Lough Macnean to the north and Cuilcagh Mountains to the south are tremendous and the paths here are typically quiet – the ultimate draw of this enchanting region.. 

As your walk ends in Blacklion, County Cavan, reward yourself for your efforts with a sumptuous dining experience at MacNean House and Restaurant, Nevin Maguire's award-winning restaurant. A luxurious meal of scallops with pork cheek, or halibut with basil risotto, is a mouth-watering end to an unforgettable adventure on the Cavan Way. 

Those considering the route can read about The Cavan Way's topography to understand how its post-glacial past shaped its limestone present. 

Three adult friends sitting on a rock fence in Cavan.
Take in the sights on a five hour walk through the cavan landscape.
9Killashandra and Killykeen Forest Park

This beautiful walk begins in the quaint town of Killashandra in County Cavan, and you can take the R201 northwards into the countryside. Enjoy the views from walks along the shores of Lough Toon, Tullyguide Lough and Lough Oughter. 6km of twisting roads hemmed in with verdant hedgerows will lead you into Killykeen Forest Park. Here, a 10km network of trails bring you around the inter-weaving lattice of waterways around Lough Oughter. 

Pack a picnic to enjoy under the forest’s leafy shade and take the afternoon to enjoy the walk, cycle or canoe in the park. Clough Oughter Castle, part of the historic Kingdom of Breifne, stands alone in Lough Oughter and can be reached and explored through a guided boat trip. 

Adult couple crossing a bridge in autumn in Killykeen Forest Park.
Take a walk or enjoy a picnic in Killykeen Forest Park.
10Derrycassin Woods

Wander through tranquil and scenic landscapes in Derrycassin Woods in Longford on any of the three amazing walks ranging from 1.2km to 3.2km long. Perched on the edge of Lough Gowna, the trails in Derrycassin Woods have over 20 varieties of tree species making it a fantastic place to immerse yourself in nature. Stroll under canopies of red cedar, oak and ash as squirrels and birds scurry through the branches above.

The Main Avenue Walk is the longest at 3.2km long and takes in lake views throughout. The shorter Walled Garden Loop, which once led to the mighty Derrycassin House, takes roughly 45 minutes to complete. Take 20 minutes and walk the Nature Trail for a quick outing to see the best of the flora and fauna down by the edge of the river.

A woman in a red hat and jacket walking her dog
Explore gorgeous landscapes in Longford.
11The Slieve Bloom Way

The Slieve Bloom Way is a 75km trail that loops around the majestic Slieve Mountains in Counties Laois and Offaly. The full circuit takes about three to four days to complete and crosses forest tracks, open moorland, old roadways and deep glens, rising to 460m at Glendine Gap. 

You can access the trail via six trailheads at Glenbarrow, Monicknew, Kinnitty, Cadamstown, Capard and Clonaslee. You can also choose one of the shorter, more manageable walks. There are 17 signposted looped hikes to choose from, ranging from 4km to 16km, which start and end at one of the trailheads. 

You'll find a few places to stay overnight along the route, especially in some of the towns and villages at the foot of the mountains. You can stay at Ardmore Country House, a charming guesthouse in Kinnitty, or in one of the 10 rooms at Roundwood House, a Georgian country residence in Mountrath, an eight-minute drive from Glen Monicknew.

Slieve Bloom Mountains

Photo credit: @visitoffaly

Loop through the Slieve Bloom Way.
12Lough Boora Discovery Park

Lough Boora Discovery Park is a family-friendly nature and wildlife reserve managed by the Irish Wildlife Trust. Created on the site of a former commercial bog that was harvested for peat, the park's 2000 hectares of wetland, grass and wooded areas offer many outdoor activities for nature lovers. You can choose from five looped walking paths that stretch over 50km of predominantly level parkland or three cycling routes that cover 22km of winding trails. 

There are fun activities for all age groups at the park, whether you’re hoping to catch a glimpse of native birds taking flight, do a spot of angling in one the four man-made fish-rich lakes or take your children for a walk down Fairy Avenue to learn all about the 14 resident fairies.

If you are an art lover, don’t miss the Sculpture Park where you’ll find 24 large environmental art pieces made from reclaimed industrial machinery and tools from the bog past, local timber and natural stone. If history is more your thing, you can take the Mesolithic Route and see one of the most important Stone Age settlements in Ireland. The park is open all year round and its charm changes with each season, so there is always something new to explore. 

Sky Train, Lough Boora Discovery Park
Discover the Sky Train sculpture in Lough Boora Discovery Park.
Go at your own pace on Ireland's Hidden Heartlands' walking trails

Across the Emerald Isle, you won't find any sights quite as unique, alluring or relaxing as on the walking trails in Ireland's Hidden Heartlands. So, if you’re looking for a hassle-free getaway, then journeying to the heart of this majestic country is a must.

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