How To Hike The Irish Coast To Coast Walk

I consider walking the Irish Coast to Coast one of my favorite experiences in the outdoors. It’s certainly one of the all time best long hikes I have ever done. It was a hike I was probably least prepared for and that ended up being one of the best parts of the hike. Eventually, I ended up changing on the fly, doing the hike as I wanted to do it.  I found myself needing help from strangers on the trek, and that ended up a blessing. It forced me to interact with the beautiful people of Ireland. They’re the true jewel of this journey.

 

THE IRISH COAST TO COAST

This trail is really several shorter trails strung together. The distance is roughly 550 kilometers. It depends on how you want to finish the trail in the west. The walk begins in Dublin and finishes in the western shore of Ireland in Kerry Co. (Bray Head).

HISTORY

The Wicklow Way wasn’t completed till 1982. Over the next 30 years the middle sections have been planned and connected so the Kerry Way is tied in the southwest, to Wicklow (in Dublin) in the east. This trail is new and relatively unknown. I didn’t meet one person in Ireland who had heard of The Irish Coast to Coast.

GETTING TO THE TRAIL

The Walk begins in Marley Park in Dublin. It is easily accessible by bus from almost anywhere in Dublin. Getting back to Dublin after the hike is fairly easy. If you choose to finish in Port Magee, which is supposedly how it’s designed, there are options. The Skellig Ring Hostel in Port Magee can help you make bus arrangements to return to Dublin. I hiked in the offseason so I had to hitchhike to a nearby town to catch a bus. Hitchhiking was not a problem in Ireland.

RESUPPLY

I didn’t need to filter water in Ireland. I filled up in town and it was enough to get to the next town. If you are a slower hiker, there are rivers, puddles, lakes all around. I had no problem ressupplying virtually everyday on the hike.  Hikers need to carry enough food to get through the Wicklow Way (131 kilometers). From there,  you can get supplies at one of two great stores at the very end of that. After Wicklow, I ran into a store virtually everyday. I didn’t need to plan it. It was necessary to hitchhike into town to get dry and food on the Dulhallow Way, which is somewhat remote. Usually I just walked into towns to resupply.

TERRAIN

The path is easy to follow most of the time. It gets tough when it leaves the woods and enters a paved road. Signage gets sparse at times and I got lost plenty. The path is not difficult. It’s clear, and the grade is gentle. It’s more difficult than the Camino Frances, but nowhere like the Appalachian Trail.

WEATHER

The weather I encountered was mild. I went in the offseason (October) and the temperatures were in the high 60’s (Fahrenheit). It will rain. Good rain gear is a must! I used a tarp and it was sufficient. It’s also possible to not camp at all on the trail. Even though it rained a lot of days, it was usually interrupted by hours of sunshine as well. The rain was more of a drizzle than a downpour.

ACCOMODATION

There are plenty of places to camp all along the Irish Coast to Coast, and one Adirondack style shelter on the Wicklow Way. I camped in pub parking lots and in village greens with enthusiastic support from townspeople. Most land in Ireland is privately owned, so it’s very different than here in the USA, where the trails are protected or owned by the public. If you need to camp and it looks like it’s someone’s property, ask permission.  A real treat of Ireland, though, is the bed and breakfasts. There is a comprehensive b&b rating system in Ireland, and it’s easy to get great accommodation and a full Irish breakfast for about $40 euro. Because it was October, I was often the only guest! On The Wicklow Way and The Kerry Way, bed and breakfast options are available each day. In the middle trails there is a greater distance between villages but it’s conceivable to stay in one every night. There is a popular hostel with a tremendous view on the Wicklow Way, in Knockree. Couchsurfing and Airbnb are useful tools along the route. When I mentioned that I was walking the Irish Coast to Coast, not one person had ever heard of it, yet they often went out of their way to help me get a ride into town, invite me into their homes, invite me to watch rugby and football matches with them. The people truly welcomed me into their community, and encouraged me to feel at home in their country. There are supposedly three adirondack shelters on the Wicklow Way. I wasn’t really looking for them and I was moving fast and often in the dark, so I only saw the one in Mucklagh.

 

 

THE WICKLOW WAY

It is great to break up the Wicklow Way in stages if you are looking for accommodation.  This is how I did it.

Day 1: Marley Park to Knockree(20.5 km) stay at Knockree Hostel

Day 2: Knockree to Glendalough (34km) possible accomodation at Roundwood 21km) and Glendalough (34km)

Day 3: Glendalough to Moyne (41 km) possible accommodation at Glenmalure Lodge (20km) and Moyne. There is Kyle’s Farmhouse in Moyne.    It’s supposedly a nice B&B.

Day 4: Moyne to Clonegal/Kildavin (49km) possible accomodation in Shillaleigh (30km) and Kildavin. Resupply and hot meals in Kildavin. This is the end of the Wicklow Way.

Leaving Marley Park it’s a significant climb for the first hour or so. It’s about a four to five hour hike to Knockree. Here you will find the Knockree Hostel. There is a cheap bed to be found here and some snacks via vending machine. There is a kitchen and some meals are offered. I found an excellent hiker box. No store. There was very little on the route to Knockree but definitely there was quite a few camping situations, if you are stealth.

On the second day leaving Knockree the route is the same. There are some roads on the Wicklow Way but not too many. The options at the ancient monastic city of Glendalough were plenty. There was Glendalough International Hostel which wasn’t great and a costly $45. There was some fine dining options and a few pricier bed and breakfast options. Glendalough is beautiful and has some interesting historical sights.

Glendalough has McCoys Petrol which is probably the best place to ressupply on the route. I was able to fully resupply here for the rest of Wicklow Way. There is hot meals and sandwiches to be had.

There isn’t a lot of resupply options after this, but there are some small villages that may or may not have something. None that I was able see as I hiked till Kildavin. The Wicklow Way is not as scenic in its final day or two. It leaves the woods and scenic vistas and follows minor roads and tracks.

 

Accomodation List:

Knockree Hostel

The Coach House Roundwood

Glendalough International Hostel

Glenmalure Lodge

Kyle’s Farmhouse In Moyne

Old Shillaleigh Stickhouse

Meadowside in Clonegal

For more accommodations check this link: http://www.wicklowway.com/accommodation/index.php

I camped on the route and had no issues. I asked permission for a spot in Kildavin.

SHELTERS ON THE WICKLOW WAY 

BRUSHERS SHELTER  Near Glendalough

MULLACOR SHELTER   Near Glenmalure

MUCKLAGH SHELTER between Glenmalure and Moyne.

SOUTH LEINSTER WAY

Distances from Wicklow Way and accomodation.

Kildavin 1km    Conway’s Pub (tenting).                                      
Borris: Brenda’s B&B
Step House
Graiguenamegh 30km
Brandonview House
Waterside Guest House
Instioge 53km
Woodstock Arms
Mullinavet 86km
The Rising Sun Guest House
Carrick-on-Suir 106km
Carraig Hotel
Nells Farm House

The South Leinster Way begins in Kildavin. The town has little to offer but I camped at Conway’s and picked up some food at a shop. I found the start of the SLW by the church. The tracks are hard to follow and there are some road walks that are confusing. Leinster Mountain is delightful as are the views of the Blackstairs Mountains. There is more sparse accomodation on the SLW but plenty of places to camp along the way if you set up late and leave early. I got lost quite a bit on the first half of the trail but I always got back on track no problem. The tread is easier than the Wicklow Way. The towns on the SLW are quite small, with Carrick-on-Suir being the exception. Ormonde Castle (1450), is in full view as you walk into that village at the end of the SLW. Signage is mostly good on the trail, but keep your head on a swivel. I was able to resupply in Kildavin, Graigeneumagh and Carrick-on-Suir, which has a nice grocery store and plenty of pubs.

EAST MUNSTER WAY

Carrick-on-Suir 0km
Clonmel 30km
Newcastle 51km
Clogheen 73km

On the way to Clonmel there is very limited options in Kilsheelan. I grabbed a tea at a cafe. Clonmel is the biggest town on the Irish Coast to Coast Walk and there is plenty of options for resupply and there is accomodation in town. There really isn’t any accomodation near trail in Newcastle but there is one a  few kilometers away, supposedly, but i never saw it. I camped without issue. Clogheen sports a campground, and a couple of B&B options, but little else. The Knockmealdown Mountains are a little more remote and this middle section is not crowded with hikers for sure. Even though these villages are small, the people are delightful and worth stopping in, even for just a short break. Grab a beer, a tea or a snack.

AVONDHU WAY
Clogheen 0km
Barnahown 20km
Kilworth 40km
Fermoy 47km
Ballyhooly 61km
Killavullen 72km
Bweeng 105km
The Avondhu Way like the latter half of the East Munster Way is fairly remote. Leaving Clogheen, it’ll be 20km before you arrive in Barnahown. There is very limited option for accomodation here, and a little bit more a few hours later at Mountain Barracks. There is some options for a bite to eat in Kilworth but nothing really substantial till Fermoy. Fermoy has plenty of accomodation and places to resupply. There are plenty of places to camp before you get there if it’s too far. Follow the set up late and leave early System and you’ll be ok. Ballyhooly is a small village with a B&B if you can’t make it to Killavullen. After Killavullen there is nothing till Bweeng, and there is nothing there and I hitched into the nearby town of Mallow that had all services.
A link to hold onto here is https://anoige.ie/hostels/ so u can find a place to stay if you need. Fermoy and Mallow are great resupply places. I stayed in a B&B in Mallow and recouped for a night and a morning. Accomodation might be hard to find in this section outside of these towns, and since I went in the offseason I didn’t notice much.
The track is the Knockmealdown mountains with small ascents. This is where you will begin to see more windfarm activity. The paths to these windmills can make your track confusing. Be alert. People are sparse but helpful. This trail is mostly open country path or mountain track. It was occasionally broken up by a road walk, a long one which occurs after Mountain Barracks Inn.

DULHALLOW WAY

Bweeng 0km
Millstreet 40km
Shrone 62km
Muckross 82km
Killarney National Park/Kerry Way 83km

The Dulhallow Way was the toughest part of the Irish Coast to Coast Walk for me. Bweeng has nothing as discussed in previous section. Shrone also has nothing of note. Millstreet is the only real services (it offers a few b&b’s and shops), on this trail. There is something in Muckross, but you will probably just cross the road at the end of the Dulhallow Way and see the path that leads you into Killarney National Park and The Kerry Way. Killarney is a beautiful city. Very touristy with a major train station. All services including high end hotel accomodation. I regret not spending a full day here. I struggled in this section because I dealt with downpours in the area. I ended up jumping off the trail for a night in Shrone and hitchhiking to the nearby town of Rathmore to dry out. If you get this far, you should be glad. This is the gateway to the Kerry Way, one of the jewels of long distance hiking in Europe. I had no problems finding places to tent along the route.

KERRY WAY

The Kerry Way is a 215 km circular trail that begins and ends in Killarney. It is spectacular! For Americans, the Irish Coast to Coast Walk parallels the Appalachian Trail. It’s pretty good in the beginning, and the middle is more mediocre, then you get to Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine and it’s the highlight of the trip. The Kerry Way is the highlight of this trip, like a Irish Riviera.

The hiker can choose to many options in Killarney; go the southern route to Port Magee, go the western route, or perhaps explore the Dingle on the Beara Way. If I were to do this again I would do the complete circle and finish in Killarney where I can simply hop on the train to Dublin. The more time on The Kerry Way, the better.

If I had two weeks to hike in Ireland, I would hike the Kerry Way and probably that’s it. I would take my time in each village and soak up the hospitality in the top notch b&b’s.

For the sake of this blog I will assume everyone will go the southern route and complete the circle around the full Ring of Kerry. I will break up the route into stages each ending in a village with plenty of accomodation. There is plenty of accomodation in these towns. Kerry Way is a tourist magnet. Despite this, I had no problem finding camp spots all along the path, but you will run into plenty of obvious private property situations.

Port Magee is the traditional end of the Irish Coast to Coast Walk at Bray Head.

Killarney 0km
Kenmare 25km
Sneem 30km
Cahirdaniel 19km
Waterville 28km
Cahirciveen 30km
Port Magee 25km (not entirely part of KW)
Glenbeigh 28km
Glencar 18km
Black Valley 20km
Killarney 22km

Port Magee is where you will find Valencia Island and Bray Head. This is the location of the first intercontinental cable communication. There is a small notation of that. It is beautiful . I climbed up to the empty light house here (braving 75mph winds).

 

KERRY WAY ACCOMODATION 

There is plenty of accomodation in each village of the KW. Keep in mind that it is a very popular tourist destination and you might want to make arrangements in advance.

A list of Kerry Way accomodation

 

BEER AND PUBS ON THE WALK

PUBS IN IRELAND

These are some popular choices along the route. IMPORTANT TO NOTE THAT MANY IF NOT MOST PUBS OFFER SOME SORT OF ACCOMODATION! One stop shopping. The rooms are usually spartan, but doable depending on how much time you spend in the pub. Apparently gambling is quite popular, so there is a lot of horse/football type conversation and televised events in the pubs. There is usually great music to be found and friendly conversation. Within 2 km of the Irish Coast to Coast sits well over 100 pubs. Enjoy.

Dublin:
O’Donahue’s: live music and beer
Stag’s Head: traditional and classic Irish Pub

Clonegal
Osborne’s

Kildavin
Conway’s

Mullinavet:
The Rising Sun (rooms and great food too!)
Rod Iron
Carrick-on-Suir
O’Ceallachain’s
Figgerty’s
Powers Tullahought

Clonmel:
Railway Bar
Mulcahy’s

Fermoy:
The Grand Hotel (made like a billion friends in 5 minutes)
Forge
TJ Goodtymes

Mallow (From Bweeng):
Albert Lynch’s
Maureen’s Pub
The Gallery

Millstreet:
Corkery’s
Bridge Pub
Reardon’s

Killarney:
Courtney’s (popular whiskey bar)
The Shire (local beers)

Glenmare:
Pf McCarthy’s
O’Donnabhain’s

Waterville:
Fisherman’s Bar

Cahirsiveen:
Fertha
Sheebeen

Port Magee:
Fisherman’s Bar and Skellig House

RANDOM TIPS

 

1. If you are not into being alone it may not be the hike for you. I saw backpackers on the Wicklow Way for a few days out of Dublin then I never saw another one. Although you will see plenty of day hikers in Killarney area of the Kerry Way.

2. There is no problem finding a little spot to tent away from anyone’s eyes everyday . Be patient and the spot will present itself. Irish people are the friendliest on earth, I camped in parking lots of pubs, village greens and people’s yards.

3. You do not need to camp on the Irish Coast to Coast. If you are a very strong-hiker a village will come into sight every day across the whole route. But that will mean  25 miles plus on a few occasions.

4. You will get lost. I got lost a few times. It’s going to happen. Irish Coast to Coast Walk is more of a theoretical trail. I did not meet one Irish person who had ever heard of it. They all know the Wicklow Way and the Kerry Way.

5. There is one shelter on the Wicklow Way and one (Knockree Hostel.)  Air BNB is helpful and Ireland is famous for BNB’s . They usually cost me $40 ish and came with hearty breakfast. Irish will go the extra mile for you, and will ensure you have had enough to eat before you begin the days walk.  I stayed with families a few times. That was best. I highly recommend bed and breakfasts along the route if you can afford $40.

6. The Kerry Way is the most scenic section and I chose to finish on Valencia Island. You can choose your own finish point. The Kerry Way was the highlight of my walk across Europe. When you get to Killarney, choose how u want to go. Take your time here. Each village is spaced 12-15 miles apart so the days hike is easy to plan. Kenmare was a village I really enjoyed.

7. There is a guidebook by Paddy Dillon. It’s useless. I referenced only when lost, and I felt I got more lost. Phone numbers in it have not been updated as of my hike, and I ended up losing time checking on it.

8. I used rudimentary maps guides I found on IRISHTRAILS.IE from there I downloaded the PDF’s and used those as a general guide. Google Maps on a smartphone would be a great help. Word of mouth works in Ireland. These people love to talk, storytelling is a national pastime.

9. What worked for me is I followed the Yellow Arrows!!!!! It got lost quite a few times, but I always found those arrows again.

10. The Walk is really a series of shorter trails connected. They all connect point to point except Wicklow and The South Leinster Way which is like a mile apart. It’s easy to find though as you just follow Google map to walk toward Kildavin, a cute little village of maybe 100 people . (They have a Pub!). From there you will find the trail. Wicklow Way to South Leinster Way to East Munster Way to Avondhu Way to Dulhallow Way to Kerry Way.

Maps of all these I got at IRISHTRAILS.ie

 

 

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