With a stunning, varied landscape and approximately half the rainfall of the west coast, Ireland's East is a dream for visitors who want to get outdoors. The 15 counties that make up this region are peppered with charming towns and villages which all have the great outdoors right on their doorstep. And, within just 30 minutes, even those driving from Dublin can be surrounded in Irish greenery. So, whether you're setting of on two feet or two wheels, use this page to start planning your big day out in Ireland's Ancient East.
The East of Ireland is peppered with a great mix of walking and hiking trails to suit all abilities. Here are a few of the region's best spots for walkers exploring Ireland's landscape for the first time.
There are numerous, colour-coded, walking trails found within Wicklow National Park. Maps of all trails are available outside the National Park Information Office. The durations of these walkways vary from 30 minutes to 4 hours.
Just 30 minutes' drive from Dublin, the well-signed Howth Cliff Path conveys visitors around the rugged clifftops of the Howth Peninsula. The relatively flat terrain and a well marked pathway throughout allows easy access to family members of all ages.
Drivers can park near Baily Lighhouse, but a more pleasant afternoon's walking would start and finish near the harbour. Parking is available on Harbour road. A public transport option is to use the local DART rail service to Howth DART station.
From here, your walk takes you to the Nose of Howth, along the coastline south to Baily Lighthouse, then Drumleck Point and westward to a Martello Tower before bringing you back inland around Sheilmartin Hill and Ben of Howth. A stop off at Howth Castle would be a detour but a pleasant one.
For any group with a good level of fitness and mobility, the steep climb to the summit of Great Sugarloaf offers the prospect of a great afternoon out and some truly incredible views.
There are two main routes to the top. Approaching from the east, a pleasant but demanding two- to three-hour circuit starts and finishes at Kilmacanoge GAA pitch. Those more pressed for time may prefer to approach from the south, starting and finishing at the main Sugarloaf carpark for a straight up-and-down following the main path. For this shorter climb, you'd still want to allow 60-90 minutes.
This rewarding ascent up County Wicklow's second highest mountain offers stunning views over Cleevaun Lough and is suitable for most walkers with a good level of fitness and mobility. Steep climbs are unavoidable on this enjoyable out-and-back route.
Driving south from Sally Gap, park up shortly after the Inchavore Trail, where an opening/junction on the right joins the Old Military Road to a gravel track with spaces for a few parked cars (visible with Google Maps satellite view). Make a bracing climb up the nearby Carrigshouk before linking up Mullaghcleevaun East Top and Mullaghcleevaun beyond. At the summit, a trig point marks the culmination of your ascent to 849m. Stop here for a flask of hot tea or a dram of warming Irish whiskey!
A short, scenic walk of moderate difficulty running up Loughcrew Hill in County Meath. As you near the summit, catch your breath by turning to pause and take in the panoramic views across County Meath and into Counties Westmeath and Cavan beyond.
At the top, you will find a series of well-preserved ancient neolithic burial chambers that seem to reach skyward from their hilltop location. The burial chambers date back to 3300BC and feature stone carvings as well as rock paintings.
Those looking to connect with the spirituality of this ancient site will be struck by how much quiter it is than Newgrange, its more tourist-friendly cousin.
A photographer's dream route links up the two most iconic loughs in Ireland's east on a walk that is well worth the demanding 7.5 miles.
For a convenient start and finish at the "Pier Gates", you might choose to park in Ballinastoe Cap Park, but a couple of smaller parking bays are also available slightly closer if they're not already full. Make for Luggala first before heading south to Knocknacloghoge. Then descend to the shoreline of Lough Dan before tracing the Cloghoge River back toward Lough Tay and your start point.
An ancient monastic settlement, Glendalough (meaning: Valley of the Two Lakes) presents today's visitors with a chance to walk not only through the idyllic hills of Ireland's East, but also through the rough-hewn landscapes of ancient Irish history.
Starting and finishing at the visitor centre, a pleasant four hours along the clifftop paths will circumnavigate the upper lake while giving you a tour of some of Ireland's most idyllic scenery. Manageable for most able-bodied walkers with a reasonable level of fitness.
East Ireland has an extensive greenway system and a wealth of parkland with designated cycling routes, making this region a dream for families looking for a healthy, eco-friendly way to explore Ireland's rich landscape.
A six-kilometer greenway which follows a disued railway line along the southern shore of Carlingford Lough between Omeath and Carlingford village. Cycle hire is available at the start of the greenway and there are public toilets on site. Bring coins for the carkpark.
This 16-kilometer path follows a spur of the Royal Canal and is used by walkers as well as cyclists. The route links Clondra and the River Shannon to Longford Town by following the route of the main canal, and the a spur of the waterway which leads to Longford itself.
The full Royal Canal Greenway is still being completed. The full route will eventually run all the way from Dublin to Mullingar.
This map marks the start of the Royal Canal in Clondra (also spelt Cloondra). A great spot to begin your journey.
Families and nature-lovers will love this five-kilometer cycling route which loops an idyllic 250-hectare woodland near Maynooth in County Kildare. Pause for pictures at the ancient ruins on site, and for reflection at the 9/11 memorial.
Over 50km of pathways now intersect the site of what was once a 2000 hectare commercial bog. Today it is home to a sculpture park, providing plenty of welcome distraction as family groups navigate the three main paths which are designated for cyslists. Bike hire available at the visitor centre, with a range of bicycles to suit children and adults.
As well as being home to an extensive network of cycle routes, Europe's largest enclosed public park is home to the Irish President's official residence, the abode of the American ambassador, and an impressive herd of over 500 wild deer. Although the park is huge, it is difficult to get lost, making this a fantastic place for families to explore together.
Bike hire is available at the south-eastern corner of the park, by the courts of justice.
A 4km off-road walking and cycling route linking Glasnevin, Cabra, Finglas and Ashtown on Dublin's northside. This location may not draw crowds like Phoenix Park does but, if you're in the area, it is well worth a visit and is much quieter than its larger sibling 5km to the south.
Situated just south of Rathdrum, the site of Avondale House (currently closed to visitors) is home to a wealth of stunning forestry (Sequoia, Spruce and broadleaves), intersected by various multi-use trails.
Adare is a small town in Co. Limerick, known for its quaint and colourful thatched cottages. Adare is considered to be one of Ireland's most beautiful towns so stop and take in the view. Don't forget your camera today - the perfect chance to capture the essence of old Ireland.
Explore Adare Village along the Wild Atlantic Way
Originally built in 1823, Blarney Woollen Mills was mainly used for the spinning and weaving of wool. After it closed in 1973, it reopened in 1975 — as an Irish heritage shop.
The Culloden Battlefield Visitor Centre commemorates the last pitched battle fought on British soil, in April 1746. Learn more about the Jacobite intent to overthrow the House of Hanover and return the House of Stuart to the British throne.
About Highland Folk Museum is a museum and open-air attraction located in the Scottish Highlands. It is designed to showcase the domestic and working lives of the early highland people.
Located close to the Killarney National Park, Moriarty's is an Authentic Irish Gift Store and Restaurant. Hand crafted Irish jewellery, Waterford Crystal and classic and modern tweed fashions and furnishings are all on offer at the gift store. The restaurant is an 85 seater offering stunning views of the surrounding landscape.
Located on the shores of Belfast Lough in County Antrim, Carrickfergus Castle is a Norman castle dating back to 1177. First used as a headquarters for John de Courcy after he took control of eastern Ulster, where he ruled as a petty king until 1204. Over the years, the castle was Besieged by the native Irish, the Scottish, the English and the French. Today it stands as one of the best preserved structures from the medieval era in Northern Ireland.
Located within Glenveagh National Park, Glenveagh Castle was built by Captain John George Adair between 1870 and 1873. Having made his fortune through land speculation in America, Adair return to Ireland and began large amounts of land in County Donegal. The castle was built in the Scottish Baronial style and is surrounded by a garden and commands stunning views of the nearby mountains, lakes, woodlands and valleys.