The Top 10 Sunrise Hikes in Ireland

The Top 10 Sunrise Hikes in Ireland

Autumn is a great time of year to do some Sunrise Hikes. On a good day the sunrise colours are incredible, and the start is not as early as in the Summer!

 sunrise hike bray head

Some tips for tackling my Top 10 Sunrise Hikes:

  1. Before you take on a sunrise hike, make sure you are familiar with the trail, and have hiked it before in daylight.
  2. Remember you will be ascending in the dark, so be prepared and bring a torch (charged!).
  3. Check the weather in advance. I use Mountain Forecast and YR. Relatively low winds and clear skies are ideal.
  4. Check the sunrise stats. I use Photo Pills. It tells you the direction of the sunrise from your chosen summit, as well as the exact time of sunrise.
  5. Plan your hike times. Work back from the time of sunrise to plan your hike, taking into account the ascent, travel, etc. Give yourself a bit of time at the summit before sunrise to settle in for the show.
  6. Pack your hiking bag the night before. Make sure all of your equipment is working and charged. Pack extra layers for the summit.
  7. As you set off share your live location with family/ friends so people know where you are.



These are my top 10 sunrise hikes in Ireland. They are in no particular order, with easy, moderate and hard options.


Bray Head, Co. Wicklow.

 bray head sunrise hike

Start Point: Cliff Walk Car Park, Bray.

Distance: 1.63km

Difficulty: Easy

Route Type: Out and Back

Elevation: 167m

Parking: Yes (No fee)

Dog friendly: Yes (on leash)


Sunrise viewpoint: Summit cross


The route from the car park follows steps up on to the very distinctive trail which leads the whole way up to the summit which is marked by a large cross. The terrain is a mix of concrete steps, forest path (which can be very slippy as there are a lot of exposed tree roots), and a narrow rocky trail up through vegetation.


You can continue on and out and back to Greystones, from Bray Head along the upper cliff path and return via the lower cliff path if you want a longer hike.


Tip: The sun rises looking out to sea, don’t forget to look behind you at the lovely pink skies over the Wicklow mountain and Bray sea front.


Upper Lough Bray Loop, Co. Wicklow

 lough bray hike sunrise

Start Point: Lough Bray Parking

Distance; 3.5km

Difficulty: Easy- Moderate

Route Type: Looped


Parking: Yes (small car park, no fee).  

Dog Friendly: The Upper Bray Loop is dog friendly (on leash), but the Lower Loop goes through private land.


Sunrise viewpoint: Eagle’s Crag


The sunrise viewpoint for this hike, called Eagle’s Crag, is at the centre point between Lough Bray Upper & Lower. Its spectacular! I would recommend hiking this loop anti-clockwise to go up the steepest section, rather than down it.


From the car park, cross the road and descend towards Lough Bray Upper (crossing a few small streams). The trail is very boggy here. Follow the trail along the right side of Lough Bray Upper and up along the steep cliff face between the two Loughs, to Eagle’s Crag. This section is steep but short, it is a rocky, mucky trail requiring scrambling using your hands to assist in sections.


From Eagle’s Crag viewpoint you can return down the distinctive trail which runs back along the top of Lough Bray Upper, and then down the south side of the Lough and back up onto the road. Sections of this trail get very boggy.


Tip: You can loop both the upper and lower Lough’s, if you’re feeling energetic, to do this hike the route clockwise, it’s a fantastic 7km loop.



Errigal, Co. Donegal

errigal hike sunrise 

Start Point; Errigal Mountain Hike Car Park

Distance: 4.5km

Difficulty: Hard

Route Type: Out and Back

Elevation: 530m

Parking; Yes (small car park, no fee)

Dog friendly: No


Sunrise viewpoint: Errigal summit


The trail has recently been done up making it far more accessible and easier under foot. What previously was 1km of the boggiest of bogs is now a great boardwalk, which leads you to the start of a rocky and distinctive trail ascending to Errigal summit. This is a hike for those with experience, and confidence with heights and narrow ridge trails.  


Tip: Aim to get to the summit 20 minutes before sunrise as the light on Errigal pre-sunrise is incredible.


Erris Beg, Co. Galway

 erris beg sunrise hike

Start Point; Roundstone Village


Difficulty: Moderate (due to navigation and terrain)

Route Type: Out and Back

Elevation: 300m

Parking:  Yes (parking fee might apply depending on the time of day)

Dog friendly: No

Sunrise viewpoint: Erris Beg Summit


The trail begins by taking a minor road up by O’Dowds Pub which you follow for about 1km, here you will see a small cottage to your right and a gate leading onto the mountain in front.

Pass through the gate, following a vague trail left by other hikers which meanders in the direction of the summit. The terrain is a mix of grass, bog and some rock obstacles. I have done this hike many times and can guarantee, I have never taken the same exact route up.


Tip: The actual summit can be very hard to navigate to, as the terrain all looks the same, and there are a few false summits before you get there. The real summit is marked with a summit marker but there is a lot of going up and down to get there. I have found the All Trails tracking for this hike is really good!


Diamond Hill, Co. Galway

 sunrise hike diamond hill connemara

Start Point; Connemara National Park


Difficulty: Moderate

Route Type: Looped

Elevation: 400m

Parking: Yes (no fee)

Dog friendly: Yes (on leash)


Sunrise viewpoint: Diamond Hill summit


To start the trail head down towards the park centre, passing the centre/café on your right keep heading straight along a gravel path which leads you to a gateway (with one-way signs on it). The trail starts here and it is very distinctive and easy to follow with signs to guide you at any turns. The terrain is a mix of gravel pathway, boardwalk, rocky path, rock steps.


Tip: The best view at sunrise is at the back of the summit facing toward the 12 Bens. It is one of the best views in Connemara!


Strickeen, Co.Kerry

 strickeen hike sunrise

Start Point: Kate Kearney’s Cottage


Difficulty: Moderate

Route Type: Out and Back


Parking: Yes (no fee - visit the coffee shop if open!)

Dog friendly: No


Sunrise viewpoint: Strickeen summit


From Kate Kearney’s Cottage follow the road toward the Gap of Dunloe after approx. 1.6km you will see a small lay-by with a trail head to your right. From here there is distinctive trail most of the route up which zig-zags up the mountain side, before levelling off to a gradual straight stretch and making a sharp right to head to Strickeen summit.


Tip: Don’t forget to look back away from the sunrise to see the stunning Macgillycuddy Reeks light up. This is one of the best views you will get of the Reeks and Ireland’s highest peak.


Torc, Co. Kerry

 torc sunrise hike

Start Point: Killarney Hiking Parking, Cloghereen Upper.

Distance 7.8km

Difficulty: Moderate

Route: Out and Back

Elevation: 420m

Parking: Yes (no fee)

Dog friendly: Yes (on leash)


Sunrise viewpoint: Torc summit


This is one of my favourite trails near Killarney town.

Leave the car park and turn left following the road over a bridge, directly over the bridge turn left through two stone pillars, with a sign for a wildlife refuge. Follow this forest road as it gradually winds through the landscape. At approx. 1.8km from the car park, you will see a stone path leading up to your right, and a small sign for Torc. Follow this trail up. This trail is a mixture of rocky steps, and boardwalk to the summit.


Tip: You can visit Torc Waterfall after your decent.


Croagh Patrick, Mayo

 croagh patrick sunrise

Start Point: Murrisk Car Park.

Distance: 7.4km

Difficulty: Hard

Route: Out and Back

Elevation: 770m

Parking Yes, (Fee for parking €3 for 4 hours)

Dog friendly: No


Sunrise viewpoint: Croagh Patrick Summit.

The trail starts by walking up reek road passing a number of private residences, following the steps to begin the trail head. 

The trail is very distinctive the entire route up, a rocky steep path. 

For the first 2km you're gaining a lot of elevation, you then reach the shoulder and your legs get a small bit of a break before your final steep ascent up the "cone" to reach the summit. This last section is undergoing restoration to protect it from the erosion caused due to the popularity of the mountain, it has helped hugely in making this section more manageable for hikers, however it is not yet fully complete. 

You will reach the summit at 3.7km.

Tip: It's a tough steep hike with lots of loose rock, walking poles would be advised especially for the descent. 


Cave Hill, Co Antrim

 cavehill sunrise belfast

Start Point Cavehill Car Park, Antrim Road

Distance: 3.7km

Difficulty: Easy

Route Type: Out and Back

Elevation 125m

Parking: Yes (no fee)

Dog Friendly: Yes (on leash)


Sunrise viewpoint: Cave Hill

The trail from the car park is very straightforward to follow. It begins as a narrow road which runs the entire way to the summit, passing through a swing gate and stile. The route is marked by arrows and it’s a very gradual manageable climb.


Tip: It is a very busy spot over the weekend so if you want to hike somewhere with plenty of people this is a good shout, however opt for mid-week sunrise for a quieter climb.


Slieve Binnian

 slieve binnian sunrise

Start Point Little Carrick Car Park, Old town Road, Newry.

Distance: 9.9km

Difficulty: Moderate

Route Type: Looped

Elevation: 560m

Parking: Yes (no fee)

Dog Friendly: Yes (on leash)


Sunrise viewpoint: Slieve Binnian summit or about ¾ ways down from the summit to the turn off at Ben Crom Reservoir if you want an amazing pink sky over the other Mourne mountain peaks.


The trail starts from the car park following a road all the way until you meet a gate after approx. 1 km. Pass through the gate to your right and follow the path, after about 300m, keep left as the path veers up Slieve Binnian. Follow this trail as it tracks the Mourne wall towards the summit. Close to the summit the wall disappears into a large cliff face, keep right to get back on the trail for the summit, which is a short steep climb from here. From the summit turn right and follow the path toward Slieve Binnian North Tor and down towards the Ben Crom reservoir, the trail comes to a cross roads, turn right to loop back on a rocky path passing Blue Lough and down by Annalong Wood.


Tip: Definitely follow this trail clockwise so you are ascending the steepest sections and to take the most direct route to get there on time for sunrise.  



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