Walking and rambling in Ireland
Walking and rambling trails have become very popular in recent times. There are 3 main walking schemes for walking route developments:
- The National Waymarked Trails Programme in Sport Ireland
- The Slí na Sláinte Scheme under the Irish Heart Foundation
- Coillte recreational forests.
Make sure to prepare and plan your trip before you head out. You can get guidance from Sports Ireland.
There are certain restrictions that apply to those walking or rambling – See more in the ‘laws and restrictions’ below.
Irish walking trails
There are many walking trails throughout Ireland for you to enjoy.
You can find your nearest walking trail on:
The National Trails Office (NTO) of Sport Ireland is responsible for the Waymarked Trails in Ireland. There are over 40 National Waymarked Trails around Ireland, including the Wicklow Way, Kerry Way, Burren Way, and there are many shorter walks.
You can find Irish walking trails on the Sports Ireland website.
Waymarked Trails are paths that are developed with the agreement and support of landowners whose lands are crossed on the route. They are not necessarily rights-of-way, although old roads and paths are used on many of these walking routes, which are all waymarked and signposted.
The Walks Scheme is a national scheme, funded by the Department of Rural and Community Development. Landholders can get a payment for the maintenance of the National Waymarked Ways and priority trails that pass through their land. You can find a list of walks and trails that are available.
Fáilte Ireland's (the Irish tourist board's) website has information on accommodation.
Slí na Sláinte
Slí na Sláinte, meaning "Path to Health", is a scheme developed by the Irish Heart Foundation to encourage people of all ages and abilities to walk for leisure and good health. For health benefits you need to walk at a brisk pace for at least 30 minutes, 5 days a week. You can accumulate 30 minutes or more over 2 or 3 shorter sessions.
It uses signage at kilometre intervals on established walking routes to help walkers identify the distance they walk. The signs are not numbered so you can start and finish at whatever kilometre sign you like.
You can view a list of Slí na Sláinte routes throughout Ireland.
Coillte recreational forests
Coillte runs 12 forest parks around the country, most of which provide facilities such as toilets, parking, picnic sites, playgrounds for children, and a shop or restaurant (seasonal). Coillte also runs over 180 recreation sites around the country, most of which provide basic facilities such as parking, picnic sites and walking trails.
Find out more on coillteoutdoors.ie.
Get Ireland Walking
The Get Ireland Walking initiative helps get more people out walking and gives support to local walking groups. Find out more on getirelandwalking.ie. There is a getirelandwalking app that you can download.
Hill walking clubs
Laws and restrictions
Right of way
There is a distinction in Irish law between public and private rights of way. A public right of way is a person's right of passage along a road or path, even if the road or path is not in public ownership. There are very few registered public rights of way that are not maintained on public roads.
A private right of way is the right to enter onto private lands, but only for the purposes of gaining access to or exiting from another piece of land. It is typically an arrangement between neighbours.
The waymarked trails are permissive routes that have been developed with the landowners’ agreement and are not rights of way.
The Occupiers' Liability Act 1995, which includes recreational users as a category of users of privately-owned lands, was introduced to address the exposure of landowners to claims arising from injuries to recreational users and others.
Extinguishing public rights of way
Under the Roads Act 1993, it is the responsibility of local authorities to protect the public's right to access public rights of way in each local authority area. Local authorities can also extinguish public rights of way. The procedure that must be followed, if they wish to extinguish a public right of way, is set out in Section 73 of the Act.
The Planning and Development Acts 2000 to 2015 require local authorities to preserve existing public rights of way by mapping and listing them as part of their county development plans. Under Part XIII of the 2000 Act, they have the powers to create a public right of way.
Respecting private landowners' property
You should protect the environment when out walking. You should avoid causing any disturbances to farm land. You can find more information on leavenotraceireland.org.
Under the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994 as amended by Section 24 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2002, it is a criminal offence for anyone to enter, occupy or bring anything onto privately-owned land or land owned by local authorities if that act is likely to:
- Substantially damage the land.
- Substantially damage any amenity on the land or prevent any person from making reasonable use of that amenity.
- Render the land or any amenity on it unsanitary or unsafe.
- Substantially interfere with the land or an amenity on it.
If a landowner believes that someone is illegally occupying their land to the extent of committing one of the above offences, they should tell the Garda Síochána.
There are park runs held throughout the country, usually on Saturday mornings. You can walk, jog, or run; it is up to you. See parkrun.ie for more information.