16 Best for  nature lovers

Where Lough Avalla Farm Loop, Co Clare

What A varied outing through an abundance of natural habitats which starts from Mullaghmore Crossroads. Here, a green lane leads towards the Jeuken family organic farm before it dives right into a hazel forest and passes a holy well. Upwards then to spectacular limestone karstlands, which in late spring and summer are a profusion of wild flowers. Fractured limestone benches now lead to a Neolithic burial cairn offering super vistas over the Burren landscape. As the trail gallops east beneath some immense cliffs, your eyes are drawn to the scene-stealing contours of limestone on Mullaghmore – the aptly titled, Queen of the Burren. The route then traverses timeless farmlands before decanting you back at the Jeuken farmyard.

Getting there From the village of Corofin, take the Kilfenora road, turn right at Killinaboy, pass a school and continue to the trailhead, where there is parking.

Start / Finish Mullaghmore crossroads.

Level Easy – ideal for those who enjoy easy rambling.

Length / Time 6km / 2.5 hours

Pack Fleece and raingear, walking poles are useful; but leave the dog behind – this is a mutt-free route.

Refuel at Lough Avalla Farm Tearooms for hot beverages, cake, scones and elderberry cordial. The Jeuken family serve with a smile and just ask for a donation when you drag yourself away.

17 Best for dramatic views

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Dramatic views over Valentia Island

 

Where Cnoc na dTobar, Co Kerry

What If you love spectacular views, this one is for you. The mountain has been a sacred site since pagan times when the ancient Lughnasa Festival was celebrated on its summit. The trail starts near sublime Coonana Harbour and meanders uphill with great views constantly unfolding. The easy-to-follow path is marked by 14 Stations of the Cross, leading to an imposing Celtic cross on the summit. Here, a majestic 360-degree vista radiates over the Atlantic Ocean, Skellig Rocks, Valentia Island, West Cork, Carrauntoohil, the Blasket islands, the Dingle peninsula and back to MacGillycuddy Reeks. Arguably this is Ireland’s finest mountaintop viewing point. Descend by your route of ascent.

Start / Finish At the Coonanna car park.

Getting there Leave the N70 Ring of Kerry road to cross the bridge in Cahersiveen. Take the first right and second left, signposted Coonana Harbour. Pass St Fursey’s Well and begin from the parking beyond.

Level Hard – best for seasoned walkers.

Length / Time 9km / 3 hours

Pack Warm clothing, raingear, packed lunch and OS Discovery Sheet 83. Walking poles are useful for your descent.

Refuel at Cafesiveen (@cafesiveen), 11 Main Street, Cahersiveen for tasty bites, relaxed atmosphere and friendly staff. Next Cnoc na dTobar guided walk, April 19, Ph 086 858 7680

18 Best for pilgrims

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St Finbarr’s Oratory, Gougane Barra

 

Where St Finbarr’s Pilgrim Path, Co Cork

What If you are a fit hillwalker who loves connecting with the past, then one of Ireland’s oldest pilgrim trails offers an excellent but strenuous outing that is fully waymarked. Genuinely unforgettable, it offers a huge variety of terrain and many memorable vistas. From Kealkill, the waymarkers lead in fine style first over the lovely viewing point of Knockbreteen Hill, onwards then through the isolated Maughra Valley before gaining the Sheehy Mountain plateau beside lonely Lough Fada. Your pièce de résistance comes in the form of a glorious descent into the embrace of the Gougane Barra Valley.

Start Carriganass Castle, Kealkill, Co Cork

Finish St Finbarr’s Oratory, Gougane Barra

Getting there From Cork city take the N22 for Macroom. Follow the R585 through Crookstown to Kealkill.

Level Hard – suitable for fit and experienced walkers.

Length / Time 18km / 7 hours

Pack OS Discovery Map 85 and a compass, as well as warm clothing, raingear, packed lunch, walking poles, mobile phone.

Refuel beside the fire and enjoy the old-world charm of Cronin’s pub (croninspub.com), Gougane Barra.

Next guided walk of St Finbarr’s Path, April 27, Ph 086 173 5134

19 Best for strollers and whale watchers

Where Ardmore Cliff Path, Co Waterford

What An undemanding outing for coastal views that are truly spectacular. There is a genuine sense of reconnecting with history while something new seems to crop up around every corner. Out to sea, there’s always the chance of a whale sighting. From the trailhead, walk uphill to the Cliff House Hotel and on past the early Christian church and well of St Declan. Beyond, the cliff-top path meanders spectacularly around Ardmore Head with great declivities falling to the left until the wreck of the Sampson crane ship comes into view. It was lost in a 1988 storm and has now become a visitor attraction. After rounding Ram Head, you will be rewarded with an outrageously photogenic vista over Youghal Bay and the east Cork coastline. Then it’s inland to explore St Declan’s Monastery. Occupying a striking hilltop setting, the most prominent landmarks are the 30m-high round tower and the now roofless cathedral. Afterwards, it is a short ramble downhill to the trailhead.

Start / Finish Ardmore Church, Ardmore village.

Getting there From the N25 (the main Cork to Waterford Road), take the R673 south to Ardmore.

Level Easy – ideal for casual strollers.

Length / Time 4.5 km/ about 1 hour

Pack A jacket, and OS Discovery Series sheet 82 (though you won’t really need it).

You’re spoiled for choice in Ardmore but my favourite spot to refuel is the Whitehorses restaurant (024 94040) on Main Street, a former grocery shop run by three sisters, that serves good food – chowder, duckling, even lobster when it’s available. Leave room for the puds. Kids’ portions available.

20 Best for families

Where The Millennium Stone Loop, Co Tipperary

What Despite rampant globalisation, there are still places far removed from our tourism honeypots where life moves at a gentler pace and, as such, the Millennium Loop makes a splendid outing for all the family. Your exploration begins from Aherlow House Hotel car park and heads uphill, crossing a public road. Walking arrows now point to the outcrop at Rock an Thorabh offering magnificent views of Tipperary and the Slieve Felim Mountains beyond. Continue to a minor road and turn right to reach the Millennium Stone, which was dug from a nearby hillside and depicts the life of Christ. Then follow the arrows along quiet sylvan trails to the great Galtee Mountain viewing point at Christ the King statue. Return to the hotel along a serene nature trail through sublime mixed woodland.

Start / Finish Aherlow House Hotel, Newtown, Co Tipperary.

Getting there From Tipperary town take the R664 south. After negotiating a couple of hairpin bends, Aherlow House Hotel is signposted right.

Level Suitable for families.

Length / Time 9km/ 3 hours

Pack A jacket and OS sheet 66.

Refuel and say thank you for the parking by popping inside Aherlow House (aherlowhouse.ie) for a cuppa and if the weather is fine, enjoy memorable views from the verandah of the Hunting Lodge Bar.

Sunday Independent

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