Exploring Abroad Series: Best Hikes in Ireland with Baby
Irish couple Georgina and Paul love the outdoors. They grew up playing Gaelic football, hurling, and hiking. They were engaged on el Camino de Santiago and honeymooned while hiking the Tour de Mont Blanc. Now that their littler hiker was born, they spend most of their free time hiking around Ireland as a family, which they see as simple family time that brings smiles to all of their faces. You can follow them on their new website www.ourlittlehiker.com or on Instagram.
Ireland isn’t famous for its hikes or walking routes. When most people think about Ireland, they probably think about Guinness, Leprechauns, or maybe even St. Patrick and our parades in March. Ireland has a temperate weather system; this means that it’s never too hot or cold. Because of this, we have lush green countryside and mountains filled with purple heather--but for hiking this means soggy feet for 6 months of the year!
We live in Ireland's second smallest county called Carlow, Carlow is about 100km southwest of Dublin. We built our home in the countryside near a very small little historic village called Clonegal. Clonegal is an old village that has a castle, weaver's cottage, and two very small shops.
Two of our hiking adventures that we describe below are 1-2 hours drive away from our home, but they are some of Ireland's most famous hikes and maybe even some of the most spectacular on the island. The third hike is close to home and one we visit often, and it's called the jewel of Ireland's crown. We have done all the below hikes with our baby daughter on our back and recommend all of them-- but please check the weather forecast before starting the higher hikes.
1. The Bog of Frogs Loop
The Bog of Frogs looped walk is in the Dublin seaside town of Howth. We drive to the town, but if driving isn’t an option, the DART (Dublin’s trains service) has a direct line to the train station. The front door of the train station is on the hiking loop, but the walk does not start until the tourist office, which is situated at the end of the large carpark in the town. This is where you can pick up a free map of all the walks in the area.
The walk initially starts at the town's pier, which then progresses to a small hill, walking through heather-filled trails to one side and sea views to the other side. The hike is marked with purple arrows and, as can be seen from the map above, it follows the whole coastline of the peninsula. There is also an option for a shorter 6km walk that follows the blue arrows.
The trail passes the Bailey Lighthouse with magnificent views of the Irish Ocean. The whole area is filled with private little alcoves that will give you the opportunity to sit and eat a nice picnic.
The hike cuts through a very small section of a golf course. You may have to keep your eyes peeled here for flying golf balls. The hike then passes between an ash tree forest, which is also home to the bog that the walk takes its name from. The walk loops back toward the town, and you soon see the train station near the trailhead. We treated ourselves to a fish and chip at the end of the hike and highly recommend it as a treat.
Tip: Bring a picnic and lots of water. Try to go on a weekday as it gets very crowded during the weekend.
Height Gain: 240m
Duration: 3 hours 30 minutes
2. The Glendalough Spinc Walk
Glendalough is a valley in County Wicklow, which lies 70km south of Dublin. County Wicklow is locally referred to as the garden of Ireland as it is jam-packed with natural wildflowers, forests, and amazing scenery. Glendalough is the Irish word for “the valley of the two lakes” and is famous as it is the home of St. Kevin and has a 6th century round tower. It has also been in many films such as The Leap Year and PS I Love You.
To get to the start of the Spinc walk you must drive to Glendalough’s upper lake carpark. The walk starts beside a little information house that will provide maps if they are needed. The hike is well signposted with blue arrows the whole way. You initially walk past the bottom of the lake, which is an amazing place to take photos.
The walk will bring you past Poulanass Waterfall with a steep climb up to the top of the waterfall. The trail then progresses from walking on gravel paths to walking on elevated railway sleepers that are stepped into the hillside to provide a dry walking surface off the boggy ground.
There are over 600 steps to climb to reach the top of the Spinc boardwalk along the top edge of the valley. The steps are extremely steep, and you will want to stop for breaks... but if you are carrying a baby like ourlittlehiker then you will get a little kick in the side every time you try to stop as she gets bored when she isn’t moving!
The hike will stay on the railway sleepers, which circulates around the top edge of the valley to give you breathtaking views of the two lakes, wild deer, hawks and wildflowers. Ourlittlehiker loved every last minute of this hike.
At the halfway point the railway sleepers stop and the trail turns to a gravel surface, this is a perfect place for a picnic as it is sheltered from the wind and you will have views right down the middle of the valley.
The way down into the valley floor follows a zigzag trail until it reaches the bottom, which is full of large boulders from old mining activity. We passed ruins of an old mining village filled with old machinery.
The walk returns back to the carpark along a small road that follows the edge of the lake. If walking to the top edge of the valley was not possible, many people walk this section up to the Miner’s village as it is very safe and has a good flat surface.
Tip: This is a very steep walk. Bring lots of water and take breaks. Don’t go very high when the weather is bad as the area is very exposed.
Height Gain: 380m
Duration: 4 hours 00 minutes
3. Altamont Gardens
For our final walk, we have to include our own local walk in this list of wikes. Altamont Gardens is one of the walks that we do at least once a week as it’s only a 10-minute drive from our home. The gardens are set on 40 acres and are known as the most romantic gardens in Ireland. They are referred to as the "Jewel in Ireland's Crown". The gardens are free to explore and are still relatively quiet, even in the height of the tourist season due to their rural location.
There are many small little paths around the gardens. We generally like to walk down by the Yew trees passing the peacocks on our way, as ourlittlehiker loves looking at them. We walk towards the lake that spans over 2 ½ acres and is filled with water lilies and so many different wild birds that we can’t even identify them all.
The walk brings us through a 500-year-old oak forest and a bog garden filled with insects that leads past streams all flowing downhill into the river Slaney.
The footpath returns to the other side of the lake crossing the lake on a small stone footbridge which gives us an opportunity to feed the swans and ducks that pass below us on the water.
When the weather permits, there is also a woodland section that follows a stream downhill under an oak tree canopy to the Slaney river and then returns back toward the main gardens using the 100 stone steps that are cut into the hillside.
Altamont Gardens is an amazing little gem that can be walked by all age groups and you will leave feeling relaxed.
Tip: Enjoy the walk and just relax. This is a perfect family walk to explore the area.
Height Gain: N/A
Duration: 1 hours 00 minutes
Difficulty: Very Easy
Tips for Hiking Ireland with a Baby
When hiking in Ireland the weather can change at any moment. You could have sun, wind and rain all rolled into one hike, so you need to be prepared for this and always bring spare clothes for everyone.
We carry our daughter in the Deuter Kids Comfort III, she loves every minute of it and gets so excited when she sees the bag. We bought the optional wind cover as we feel It is essential to stop the unknown wind or rain that could come any minute in Ireland.
Finally, we always carry another rucksack for the picnic supplies, baby changing supplies, a first aid kit, sun cream and extra blankets in case the temperature drops.
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