Ireland: Hiking the Emerald Isle

  • Trip Type: Active
  • Activity Rating: Moderate/Strenuous
  • 10 Days | Dublin to Shannon
  • Group Size: Max 16

Trip Details


With its spectacular coastline and its endless swells of emerald hills scattered with ancient ruins, Ireland was made to be explored on foot. Hit the trails in four of Ireland’s most scenic spots: the Wicklow Mountains, the Ring of Kerry, the Dingle Peninsula, and the Aran Islands. Follow the Wicklow Way just south of Dublin to beautiful Glendalough, hiking along clear streams that cut through the fresh pine forest. Then travel to County Kerry and spend three days walking and cycling among Ireland’s highest mountains, Macgillycuddy’s Reeks. Trace the rocky shores of the Dingle Peninsula past fishing villages and age-old beehive huts, and end your adventure among the surreal limestone flats of the Aran Islands of Inishmore. Discover early Christian monasteries, enigmatic stone circles and Celtic forts, medieval manors, and Ireland’s lively culture along the way.

Trip Highlights

  • Approach the enchanting valley of Glendalough from above, descending along the beautiful Wicklow Way.
  • Hike a portion of the Dingle Way, encountering the beehive huts and cliff-lined coast of the Dingle Peninsula.
  • Take to the trails of the spectacular Ring of Kerry, passing ancient forts and monasteries and stopping for a sheepdog demonstration.
  • Go cycling on Inishmore, the largest of the Aran Islands, and get acquainted with the rich Irish traditions of the Gaeltacht.

Itinerary - 10 Days

Day 1 — Dublin, Ireland

Arrive in Dublin and transfer to our hotel, located in the city’s historic center. The remainder of the day is free to relax or explore the city. Hit the streets on foot, visit the Guinness Storehouse, or view the illuminated manuscript known as the Book of Kells. Tonight, gather at the hotel for a trip briefing with your group leader followed by a welcome dinner.
Brooks Hotel (D)

Day 2 — Powerscourt Gardens/Glendalough

Spend the morning exploring the vast gardens of Powerscourt House, a country estate dating back to the 1300's. Then set out along the beautiful Wicklow Way, which stretches about 79 miles through the Wicklow Mountains. Hike through lush pine forests before descending to magical Glendalough—Gaelic for “the valley of two lakes”—a monastic site established by the 6th-century hermit St. Kevin. (10 miles hiking, 5 hours)
Glendalough Hotel (B,L,D)

Day 3 — Wicklow Way/Avoca

Follow the trails of the Wicklow Way, hiking wooded slopes past waterfalls and taking in panoramic views of Glendalough as we leave it behind. From here, a short drive brings us to the Vale of Avoca, where Ireland’s gold rush began in 1796. Enjoy free time to wander through the town of Avoca and visit the Avoca Handweavers mill, established in 1723. (9 miles hiking, 5 hours)
Glendalough Hotel (B,L,D)

Day 4 — Killarney

Travel southwest to the Rock of Cashel, an important site in Irish mythology. Packed within age-old ramparts, a cathedral, a chapel, a tower, a choral hall, and a scattering of high crosses exemplify the best of Ireland's medieval art and architecture. Continue to Killarney, arriving in the afternoon. Set out on a walking tour; taking in the gardens of Muckross House, a 19th-century estate perched between two lakes. Tonight, we'll explore the lively town centre to enjoy some traditional music or even some Irish step dancing. (3 miles hiking, 2 hours)
Killarney Plaza Hotel & Spa (for 2018 departures) or International Hotel Killarney (for 2019 departures) (B,L,D)

Day 5 — Gap of Dunloe

We have several options for exploring the Gap of Dunloe, a narrow valley that splits the Purple Mountain massif from Macgillycuddy’s Reeks, Ireland’s highest mountain range. Hit the seven-mile trail on foot, then return to Killarney by boat. Or hop on a bike and follow a 30-plus-mile circuit through the Gap of Dunloe and around Killarney’s lakes. Later, visit Ross Castle, site of strong resistance to Oliver Cromwell’s Roundheads during the Irish Confederate Wars. Enjoy an evening on your own to get to know the town. (7 miles hiking, 3 hours; or 30+ miles biking on local roads, 3 hours)
Killarney Plaza Hotel & Spa (2018) or International Hotel Killarney (2019) (B,L)

Day 6 — Ring of Kerry or Carrauntoohill

Set out on the trails of the idyllic Ring of Kerry. Stop along the way to watch a sheepdog demonstration and visit ancient sites including early Christian monasteries and Iron Age forts. Or head out for a more challenging climb up Ireland's highest peak, Carrauntoohill (3,415 feet). Starting the shores of Lough Acoose, ascend Caher Mountain (3,284 feet) and follow the Caher Ridge to the summit of Carrauntoohill, where the views are some of the best in Ireland. Descend to the Kerry Way for the last leg of the hike. Late this afternoon, transfer to the nearby Dingle Peninsula. (10-12 miles hiking, 6 hours; or 11 miles, 8 hours for the Carrauntoohill climb)
Dingle Benners Hotel (B,L,D)

Day 7 — Dingle

Windswept green hills, a rocky coastline, and a wealth of archaeological sites make the Dingle Peninsula one of Ireland's greatest treasures. Set out on the Dingle Way, a spectacular trail that traces the coast. As we hike from Ventry to near Ballydavid, observe ancient beehive huts; the remains of the stone fort of Dun an Oir; and the Gallarus Oratory, an early Christian church built of unmortared stone. (11 miles hiking, 6 hours)
Dingle Benners Hotel (B,L,D)

Day 8 — Dingle Peninsula/The Burren

This morning, we visit the enigmatic Ballintaggart Ogham Stones, nine oval stones-some etched with symbols or inscriptions- that may mark an ancient burial site. Then travel to the dramatic limestone karst landscape of the Burren, where we’ll meet a local farmer to learn about this otherworldly landscape and the traditions of its people. Our home tonight is the charming city of Galway. (3 miles hiking, 2 hours)
Park House Hotel (B,L)

Day 9 — Aran Islands/Galway

Take the ferry to the Aran Islands, part of the Gaeltacht, where the Irish language is still spoken. On the island of Inishmore, hike up to Dun Aengus, a mysterious ring fort perched on the edge of cliffs that drop 300 feet to the ocean. Explore the island by biking the local roads or on a guided minibus. Late this afternoon, take the ferry back to Galway, where we’ll enjoy a final dinner together. (2 miles hiking, 1 hour)
Park House Hotel (B,L,D)

Day 10 — Shannon

After breakfast, transfer to Shannon Airport or return to Dublin for your flight home.

Related Trips

National Geographic Active Expeditions are unique, active itineraries for intrepid travelers that combine spectacular places, cultural interaction, and physical challenge. You'll explore fascinating, off-the-beaten-path places with top guides, and wherever possible, meet National Geographic experts in the field.


  • Jun 11 - 20, 2018
  • Aug 13 - 22, 2018
  • May 20 - 29, 2019
  • Jun 10 - 19, 2019
  • Jul 15 - 24, 2019
  • Aug 12 - 21, 2019

Trip Cost





Prices are per person, double occupancy. For a single room, add $750. Airfare to Dublin and return from Shannon is not included in the expedition cost.


See special terms and conditions for this expedition.

Featured Traveler Photo

Activity Level


We will be hiking 1 to 6 hours per day (2 to 12 miles) on moderate to steep grades in variable weather. During hikes, vehicle support is provided at various points along the way. All biking options are on local roads and are suitable for beginners.

Click here for a description of all activity levels.

What To Expect

Accommodation Style

We will stay 9 nights in comfortable hotels and conveniently located to each day’s activities.

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