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This Has To Be One Of The Most Special Walking Trails In Ireland

By Brian Dillon

September 18, 2019 at 8:55am

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Trail: Kinnitty Castle Loop and Glinsk Castle Loop. Co. Offaly.

Distance: Kinnitty Castle Loop is 4km long and Glinsk Castle Loop is 8km long.

Terrain: Forest tracks, riverbanks, old roadways, and grassy trails

Difficulty: Kinnitty Castle Loop would be considered an easy walk while Glinsk Castle Loop is considered moderate.

Duration: Kinnitty Castle Loop will take around an hour to an hour and a half while the Glinsk Castle Loop will take around three hours.

Trailhead: Kinnitty forest trailhead

Recommended Gear: Hiking boots, rain jacket, water, snacks

Ireland is a small place and you probably think you’ve seen everything there is to be seen.

However, you might be surprised by the number of little-known spots in Ireland’s Ancient East that are simply ideal for a couple of fun yet chill days away from all of life’s madness. This Offaly getaway is a trip that you should absolutely have on your travel bucket list.

The Slieve Bloom area of County Offaly features some of the oldest mountains in Europe. But that’s not the only reason we think you should spend a few days here. Imagine picturesque rolling hills, quaint rural villages and rich colourful forests. Now stop imagining and go experience it in the Slieve Bloom area of Offaly.

The Kinnitty Castle Loop and the Glinsk Castle Loop are perfect for showcasing how truly stunning Ireland’s Ancient East is

We chose the Kinnitty Castle Loop – a 4km gentle walk that will take roughly 70 minutes to complete at a leisurely pace. This trail will take you along the Camcor river bed, covered in a spray of bluebells, as well as through impressive Forest Avenues and of course, past Kinnitty Castle itself.

Meanwhile, the Glinsk Castle Loop is slightly longer and will probably take three hours – but doesn’t have any steep climbs so isn’t too strenuous at all. If you’re lucky you’ll run into some deer along the way. You will also come across the ruins of Glinsk Castle before reaching the peak of the trail where you are rewarded with spectacular views of the surrounding countryside.

Getting there?

Both walks begin at Kinnitty trailhead. From the village, you take the R421 following the signposts for Mountmellick. Then, swing right and continue for 3km until you reach the entrance to Kinnitty Forest, where you can park the car and get walking. The village itself is just off the N52 and N62 main roads, so it’s pretty easily accessed from any corner of the country.

Offaly trail article map

Offaly trail article map 2

The trail itself

From the Kinnitty Forest Trailhead, walkers will follow the blue arrows (Glinsk Castle Loop) and green arrows (Kinnitty Castle Loop) for a little more than 1km alongside the Camcor River. The bubbling sounds of the river, coupled with melodious birdsong make this the perfect peaceful beginning to your walk. We followed the green arrows to complete the shorter Kinnitty Castle Loop.

This walk alongside the riverbed is actually a new addition to the trail. Whichever track you choose, both meet at around the 1km mark at a 3-way junction.

Here you’ll see Kinnitty Castle behind a wooden gate a few 100 yards off the trail - definitely worth spending some time admiring. The stunning Gothic castle dates back to the 13th century and has a rich history of different owners and residents. It’s now a luxury hotel welcoming guests from all over the world, a restaurant and a unique dungeon bar.

At this point, you might pop into the hotel to have a quick coffee, or continue on for about a kilometre and a half, when the two trails eventually break away from each other.

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From here the Kinnitty Castle Loop takes you through majestic avenues of woodland as you walk through forest track for the next kilometre or so. You’ll see lush trees, hear beautiful birdsong and might even come across pony trekkers from the nearby riding school who also use the path. The forest track is bathed in green light, with towering trees soaring up into the sky and as far as the eye can see when you look to the left and right. Taking a moment to stop and peer through the vast woodland on either side of the path will awaken the explorer in you, as you breathe in the unspoiled fresh forest air.

Soon after this, you’ll come to a Y junction at which the Glinsk Castle loop heads uphill. At this point, the Kinnitty Castle loop takes you straight on and you’ll start your descent back to the trailhead.

On both loops, you will discover why Slieve Bloom is unlike any other landscape in Ireland. As you progress to the slightly higher levels of this walk you’ll see glimpses of the surrounding landscape, which is a unique mix of forest and bogland that really places the Slieve Bloom area as the green-beating-heart of Ireland.

Both walks are made up of a mix of forest tracks, riverbanks, old roadways, and grassy trails. There is plenty of magic to be discovered, whether you’re among the trees or looking out onto the stunningly vast Slieve Bloom region.

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Slieve Bloom Way . #hiking #ireland

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The Slieve Bloom Walking Club organises a programme of walks on most Sundays all year round, so you can get a local guide to accompany you on your walk and give you their knowledge on the local area, flora and fauna.

Taking a short break here makes for an amazing getaway - you’ll feel like you’ve been given new lease of life by the end. With great accommodation and plenty to do in the area, it makes for the perfect break.

Accommodation?

The owners of the Giltraps pub in Kinnitty village also own a stunning townhouse and glamping accommodation if you fancy staying in a deluxe ensuite room or a handy little glamping cabin.

Townhouses are complete with power showers, tea and coffee making areas, hairdryers and ironing facilities.

Meanwhile, the glamping facilities are designed to bring guests closer to nature. There is electricity in the glamping site as well as a barbeque area.

It’s a fantastic way to be in nature without the hassle of putting up tents and sleeping in sleeping bags.

For anyone looking for an authentic Irish B&B experience while staying in Kinnitty, Ardmore Country House on The Walk, Kinnitty is a wonderful choice. Its open turf fire, homemade food and large private gardens perfectly suit the kind of relaxing and easy getaway people look for in Kinnitty.

Can you imagine how amazing it would be to wake up here and start your day by having breakfast in this stunning garden?

Located on its own private grounds on a quiet country road, O’Brien’s Cottage on The Walk, Kinnitty is ideal for a group of up to five. It’s a super cosy little traditional Irish cottage and is perfect for truly escaping to the countryside.

Nearest towns?

Kinnitty: This small village located at the foot of the Slieve Bloom mountains in County Offaly is the most convenient to stay in during your trip as both the Kinnitty Castle Loop Walk and the Glinsk Castle Loop Walk are easily accessible from here. The Pain brothers, who redesigned the Kinnitty Castle in 1811, also designed the village. The local pubs in Kinnitty have regular trad sessions and give visitors a feel for life in a traditional Irish village.

Birr: This town is located just 15 minutes west of Kinnitty Castle and is worth checking out over your few days in the area. Birr was developed around Birr Castle, which has been the seat of the Parsons family - the Earls of Rosse - for fourteen generations. It's full of great restaurants, pubs and fun things to do.

Local attractions?

Besides walking and exploring the grounds of the castle, there's some other fun stuff to discover in and around Kinnitty. The Kinnitty Pyramid is striking and definitely worth getting a photo in front of.

It's an exact replica of the Egyptian pyramid of Cheop built by Richard Wellesley-Bernard between 1830 and 1834 and is the burial site of the Bernard family, once the wealthy landowners of nearby Kinnitty Castle.

The village of Kinnitty is also a 30-minute drive from Clara Bog Nature Reserve, where you can go for a peaceful stroll along the boardwalk. They also have a visitor centre open during the week between May and November.

When you check out the visitor centre, you'll probably be surprised by the amount there is to learn about this bog, such as the discovery of Iron Age human remains found along ancient tribal boundaries thought to be the victims of human sacrifice.

Birr Castle and Gardens is great for history buffs and science lovers alike.

The gardens surrounding the spectacular castle are full of exotic plants from all over the world as well as plenty of wildlife.

Guests can take guided tours around the castle and admire the magnificent interior of this gothic building. After learning about the history of the building, you should definitely check out the science centre in the castle.

The interactive centre allows visitors to learn all about early astronomy, engineering and photography, areas in which the owners of this castle achieved international success.

Food?

There are some fierce good spots to eat and drink in the village. In terms of grub, the Slí Dala restaurant in Kinnitty Castle Hotel serves up some fabulous gourmet cuisine for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Their grilled cod is stunning, as is their chicken supreme, risotto and prime Hereford sirloin steak. Their desserts are also stunning.

The Thatch Crinkill in the nearby town of Birr is a cute spot for a wholesome dinner. Owned by the same family for 200 years, this adorable old restaurant serves wholesome Irish dinners.

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Pop In & Say Hello 💛 We're here until 9pm ✨

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Drinks?

There's also the Giltraps pub on The Walk, Kinnitty, a family-run pub which dates back to the 17th century. It’s a nice cosy spot with a lovely fireplace so you can sit back and chill with a pint in hand after a long day of exploring.

For spectacular sights, invigorating sensations and unforgettable experiences, make your next short break a walking break in Ireland's Ancient East. Before you go, make sure you check out our 10 Genuinely Useful Tips For Going Hiking In Ireland for a safe and enjoyable walking trip.

It’s always important to be respectful of the wildlife and surrounding environment, so make sure to leave the trail as you found it. Visit leavenotraceireland.org for more information.

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