Lush golden beaches, the driest climate in Ireland and an unspoiled countryside is what sets the South East of Ireland apart when it comes to planning a days hiking or biking. The beaches of the Waterford and Wexford offer great biking trails, if the sand stays compact enough, but can become rather crowded in the summer months.
The Southeast of Ireland is awash with a great selection of walking and hiking trails. A mixture of coastal walks, mountain & parkland hikes and some of Ireland's most breath-taking scenery makes the Southeast a walker's paradise.
The jewel in the crown of Ireland's highest inland mountain range (The Galtees), Galtymore is one of very few Irish peaks to enjoy Munro status, standing at 919m. Various approaches from the south offer benign routes to the satisfying views over the Glen of Aherlow from the summit. But connoisseurs and experienced walkers may enjoy the more challenging ascent from the north via Cush, Borheen Lough and Galtybeg. At 766m, Slievecushnabinnia offers another rewarding vantage point and also provides the most obvious way back for those returning to the north. Both altitude and topography dictate that this is not an area to go walking in poor visibility or high winds.
Starting at the Lake Muskry Trail Head, the ascent to Greenane West leads you past the tranquillity of Lough Muskry where a short break with a flask of Irish tea is sure to please. From the summit, head for Greenane and then Farbreaga before your final descent back towards the carpark. At about 8 miles, this enjoyable loop will take around five hours and is recommended for experienced walkers with competent map-reading skills. Be warned that this is not an area to go walking in poor visibility or high winds.
The Knockmealdown Mountains mark the border of counties Tipperary and Waterford. Of the 15 distinct peaks within the range, Knockmealdown stands the tallest at 794m. It also features the region's only glacial corrie. The most obvious loop walks start in the north and connect Crohan West, Knockmeal, Knocknafillia, Knocknagnauv and Knockmealdown. The initial ascent or final descent present themselves as a choice between Knockshane and Surloaf Hill. A loop like this would represent a challenging seven-hour hike for most experienced hikers.
Nire Valley Carpark is conveniently located to serve as a start/finish point for various loop walks in the Comeragh Mountains, famed for their distinctive glacial corries or 'coums'. Perhaps the most obvious circuit links Coumfea to Coumtay, Curraghduff, Coumlara and Coumlarthar before a descent via The Gap. At just over nine miles, a loop like this would take most experienced hikers around six hours.
A journey which circumnavigates what is perhaps Ireland's most beautiful glacial lough. Begin at Coumshingaun Lough Car Park on an ascent which will involve some rocky scrambling which should only be attempted by experienced hikers. Head for the Coumshingaun Lough Trailhead before ascending toward Fauscoum along the narrow southern ridge. The classic circuit route requires no explanation as you follow the ridgeline all the way around the Lough below. A detour to the summit of Fauscoum is a popular option.
From the greenway trails in Waterford and Kilkenny to the woodland and parkland trails dotted throughout the region, the Southeast of Ireland offers the perfect day out for families of all ages.
At the southern end of Curracloe beach, you will find Raven Wood - a charming evergreen forest bisected by a 2.5-mile track. Enjoy a family cycle here before going for a walk in the dunes at Raven Point or going along the coast to Wexford Wildfowl Reserve.
Covering 252 hectares (623 acres) on the southern slopes and summit of Slievecoiltia, the JFK Memorial Arboretum contains 4,500 types of trees and shrubs from all temperate regions of the world, studiously grouped into 200 forest plots and categorised by continent of origin.
Some of the nuances of this may be lost on those cycling at pace, so pause by the lake to take it all in. This pot is a haven for water fowl and a great place to catch your breath over a picnic.
A number of routes following the path of the River Noew as it makes its way through Kilkenny. There are many options to choose from here, with something to suit all abilities. There are even cycle tours of the city for those who want to find out more about Kilkenny itself. Cycle hire is available from the same place.
St Mullins offers the concluding and most scenic stretch of the River Barrow Walkway, a 70-mile riverside path that runs from Athy to St Mullins via Carlow and Bagenalstown. As this path is right on the water's edge, this is not a route for families with small children. For everyone else, a lovely day's cycling can be had by heading north along the towpath from St Mullins.
Ideal for kids of all ages, the Waterford Greenway is hugely popular. The 20km stretch from Dungarvan to Kilmacthomas is perhaps the most enjoyable, featuring a long tunnel and several impressive viaducts. Cycle hire is available at the start of this stretch here.