Dust down the boots, gather the gang and be footloose and fancy free as you explore the stunning Irish countryside at a fun walking festival this autumn. Here are just a few ideas, check out lots more at www.discoverireland.ie
All heart in Baltimore
Soak up the stunning West Cork landscape during the Irish Heart Foundation Walking Weekend in Baltimore, (September 27th - 28th), with treks showcasing the areas outstanding beauty and rich maritime history. There are walks for all ages, and some are even suitable for children in buggies, so take your pick. There is great accommodation to choose from in the area - and treat yourself to infamous West Cork cuisine after your day in the hills!
Conquer The Nire
Discover a region steeped in history, music and tradition during the Nire Valley Walking Festival in West Waterford, (October 10th - 12th). Kick off the weekend in Melody's pub in Ballymacarbry on Friday for an induction into the history and geography of the area you will be walking including Uisce Solas, Sgillogue Lochs, Commeragh Plateau and Mahon Falls. The walks on Sunday are a little more relaxed, taking you at a leisurely pace through the valley.
Follow Me Up To Carlow
All roads lead to Borris for the Carlow Autumn Walking Festival, (October 3rd to 5th) with mountain and river walks to enjoy. Have the craic with your mates or make new friends as you scale Brandon Hill, or enjoy the peace of glorious forest parks. Unwind in the evening with traditional music in one of Borris's thriving pubs. This year's programme includes a night hike, canoeing tours on the River Barrow, and a walk with RTE's Mooney Show personality Eanna Ni Lamhna.
Go Diamond Hunting in Connemara
Head west and make a date to explore the Connemara landscape at the Connemara Four Seasons Autumn Walking Festival, (October 18th - 20th). Walking guides will provide a fascinating insight into the unique cultural, archaeological and historic heritage of the area with walks on Renvyle Peninsula and Cleggan Head. On the Diamond Hill walk in Connemara National Park you will be treated to spectacular ocean, island and mountain views.
Do it The Wicklow Way
Choose stunning walks through some of Europe's oldest peat boglands and heather-covered mountains at the Footfalls Wicklow Walking Festival, (October 24th to 27th). All walks are led by experienced guides who will enthral you with tales from yore! Most of the walks will take you through the National Park so keep your eyes open for herds of deer, foxes, and badgers. A night walk on Friday promises to be a unique experience, while you can dip into a selection of fun and gorgeous day walks from challenging, moderate and easy on Saturday and Sunday.
Follow in the footsteps of legends
You and your friends can follow in the footsteps of legends on the Annascaul Walking Festival in Co. Kerry, (October 24th - 27th). Trek a path worn by St. Brendan to the summit of Holy Mountain - and whisper a prayer as you stop for a rest at the grave of legendary explorer, Tom Crean. The torchlight night walk on Meelin Hill promises to be special with the twinkling lights of Annascaul on one side and the reflecting splendour of Dingle Bay on the other. There is also a challenging climb of Ireland's second highest mountain, Mount Brandon, with magnificent views of Chorca Dhuibhne and the majestic south west Atlantic from the Blaskets to Skellig Michael to take your breath away.
Rock on in The Burren
Explore rocky and inspiring landscape with local farmers marking the end of summer herding cattle onto winter pastures on The Burren Winterage Weekend, (October 24th - 26th). Immerse in Ireland's pastoral tradition on this community led event celebrating a unique farming tradition with a Herdsman's Walk (10km) and the Fertile Rock, Sacred Stone Walk (5km). On Sunday join a re-enactment of a Winterage Cattle Drove and walk with the cattle from Carro up to their winter pastures followed by outdoor entertainment.
Get in Tipp Top Shape
Step it out for the Upperchurch Walking Festival, (November 7th to 9th), which features walks suitable for beginners to the more experienced hillwalker. Enjoy looped walks, a lowland mystery walk as well as the Kilcommon Pilgrim trail. For those with boundless energy there will be dancing lessons and traditional music in the evenings and a series of cycles on the Sunday from 25km - 75km.
So get in step and go to www.discoverireland.ie to plan which walking festival you will choose this autumn.