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The Best Hikes, Walks, & Wild Swimming Spots in the Slieve Bloom Mountains

If you love hiking, wild swimming, or just getting out for a brisk walk and some stunning scenery, we have something up our Slieves for you!

Located just over 30 minutes from Glamping Under The Stars, the Slieve Bloom Mountains are the ideal place for a family day out, a handy hen party activity, or even a team building exercise in mindfulness, wild swimming, or orienteering.

You can choose from a wide range of trails – from short walks to challenging hikes of up to 70km, and everything in between. And, whichever path you follow, you’ll pass through spectacular landscapes, featuring cascading waterfalls, atmospheric woodland, swathes of blanket bog, exposed rock, and plenty of unusual plant and animal species.

Read on for how to find the perfect walk, some handy hiking hints, and our ‘must see’ spots in the Slieves… 

Female hiker sits with her back to us - she is facing the gushing white water of the Catholes Falls waterfall in the Slieve Bloom Mountains in Co. Laois. She is dressed in hiking gear, and has a small backpack.

    How to find the best hikes & walks in the Slieve Blooms …

    Top Tip: The www.slievebloom.ie/walking is a great resource for planning your route and choosing a trail to suit your needs.  There are 17 looped walks, as well as several waymarked walks, eco walks, and boardwalks too. So, whether you’re a keen hiker, want a family-friendly walk with the kids, or just fancy exploring the area, there’s a trail that’s perfect for you.

    Top Tip: We recommend following your sat nav, (or Google Maps), for finding the trailheads, (aka car parks and start points), in the Slieve Bloom Mountains. It’s a beautiful, wild place, but surrounding areas would benefit from a bit more signage!  Hiking Trailheads are located at: Glenbarrow, Monicknew, Kinnitty, Cadamstown, and Clonaslee.

    Long exposure photograph of the Clamp Hole Falls at Glenbarrow in the Slieve Bloom Mountains.  The water is csacading down over rocks. There are two people standing by a wooden fence near to the falls, but they are blurred as if in motion. There is woodland foliage in the background.

    Our ‘Must-See’ Spots in the Slieve Blooms…

    1. Glenbarrow – There are 3 looped walks signposted from the Glenbarrow Trailhead.

    Just like wedding venues, the best hen party places book up quickly (dates can book out a year in advance at Glamping Under The Stars). If you have specific dates (especially peak summer or bank holiday weekends), contact your preferred venues ASAP. 

    *If you’re looking for a longer hike, you may be interested to know that the 4.5km ‘Glenbarrow Waterfall Loop’ recently made it into hiker, model, & wellness influencer, Roz Purcell’s hiking bible, ‘The Hike Life’, listing 50 of the best hikes in Ireland.

    Roz writes: “The Slieve Bloom Mountains are a great central location in Ireland to meet friends for a hike…” “…Glenbarrow Waterfall Loop is my favourite of the Slieve Bloom Trails: it’s an easy loop that offers a beautiful forest, a deserted village, a riverside path, and a waterfall.”

    After heavy rain, the waterfall surges furiously fast, (though it’s more sedate in the summertime). Take care here, as the exposed rock at the edge of the waterfall is slippery when wet. In mild weather, this can be a lovely place to strip off the socks for a paddle (and get some great photos). 

    Whether you do a long loop or a short spin, back at the car park, the ‘Falls at Glenbarrow’ coffee van offers some welcome refreshments (open weekends).

    Two piles of stones are standing in the foreground. The stones have been carefully chosen to lie one on top of the other in ever smaller sizes. The precarious looking stacks are just over knee high. There are more stones on the ground and a dark forest in the background.

    2. Monicknew River Walk – Again, there are 3 looped walks to choose from at the trailhead.  Our favourite short walk here, the aptly named ‘Riverside Walk’, runs along the river and through woodland. 

    In the wood, there is an abundance of flat stones that visitors often stack into towers on the river’s edge. It’s a lovely, mindful practise that both kids & adults can enjoy along the route.  There is also a handy picnic spot near the river, not far from the car park.

    Man stands next to the 'Stony Man' - a stone cairn built on the ridge. The human man faces away from the camera, taking in the panoramic view from the ridge.

    3. Ridge of Capard – The Ridge of Capard offers panoramic views of the surrounding countryside, accessed via a purpose built boardwalk over the bog. On a clear day, you can see the Wicklow Mountains from here. You can meet ‘The Stony Man’ here – an ancient stone cairn keeping watch over the ridge.

    A longer route from  The Ridge of Capard car park takes you through ‘The Lost Village of the Cones’ series of deserted dwellings.

    According to the inscription on her tumbledown house, the last inhabitant, Ann Clear, left the village in 1962.

     

    Image shows a weathered stone plaque which is cracked across in two places states that the last person to leave the 'cones' was Ann Clear in 1962. The plaque was erected in loving memory of Ann, by her husband Nicholas & family.

    4. The Catholes Falls – This is more of a wild swimming spot than a hike – though there is a walk you can do through the forest and along the river that links the pools.

    Weirdly, it’s not mentioned on the Slieve Bloom website. Maybe because the wild swimming phenomenon has only recently gained popularity in Ireland. Or maybe because local swimmers want it to stay secret…

    Again, put it into the sat nav for exact directions, (Worth doing, if only to hear the Google maps lady pronounce it ‘cattoles’ instead of Cat Holes).

    There is a car park and a grassy picnic area right in front of the access point for the first and largest natural pool in The Catholes. From the little bridge over the falls, you can have a look and decide whether you are ready for a wild swim! There are steep concrete steps down to the ‘shallow end’ of this natural pool, as well as a metal ladder to access the pool in the deeper section nearer the waterfall.

    Female wild swimmer dressed in navy blue one piece swimming costume is more than waist deep in one of the catholes falls pools. She is facing away from the camera, towards the fast flowing waterfall. A lot of white water can be seen flowing down the rocks. The scene is framed by dark rocks and leafy foliage in the background.

    Top Tip: Do take care if you decide to swim, as there are risks. Take necessary safety precautions when swimming – e.g. never swim alone, know your limits, assess the water for safety, (e.g. don’t risk getting in if there has been heavy rain and there are torrents of water), be aware of the water temperature, and never mix water & alcohol. (See watersafety.ie for more details on water safety).

    Top Tip: Wear suitable clothing & footwear, and be sure to bring snacks & drinks. Tourism in the Slieve Bloom Mountains is in it’s infancy – which is great in that it’s a beautiful unspoilt area that you’ll have almost to yourself.  However, options for refreshments in the Mountains and surrounding area are limited, so snacks and/or a picnic is advised.

    If you’re staying at Glamping Under The Stars, we highly recommend that you experience a walk, hike, or even a wild swim in the Slieve Bloom Mountains while you are here.

    Thinking Of Booking A Break at Glamping Under The Stars?

    If you’re considering a stay, reach out to  Kyra, (our resident glamping guru, hiker and wild swimmer).

    She is always happy to help (and has plenty more tips where these came from!).

    Call Kyra on 0860651485, or Email Kyra@glampingunderthestars.ie

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