Written by David Brady.
Ireland has some of the most beautiful trail running locations in the world. From the MacGillycuddy Reeks, home of the Kerry Way Ultra to the beautiful Wicklow mountains, featured in the 2020 film “Coming Home” following renowned trail runner Paddy O’Leary.
However, if like 28% of the population you live in Ireland's capital Dublin, you can still find some excellent trails suitable for all skill levels a little closer to home. Here are some of my favourites:
Typically overlooked due to its lack of elevation, the Phoenix Park actually offers over 10km of running trails. The trails are well maintained and ideal for beginners looking to transition from road to trail. These trails are also popular for anyone working in the city who may not have time to venture out into the nearby mountains.
Howth (Bog of Frogs)
This popular seaside peninsula on the north side of the city is one of Leinsters hidden gems for trail running. The “Bog of Frogs” is a marked 10km loop that has it all, cliff paths, forest trails, boggy marsh and rocky climbs. Climbing to an elevation of 131m you will also experience one of the most breath-taking views of Dublin Bay.
Hell Fire Club
On the edge of the city, nestled in the Dublin mountains, Montpelier hill is home to the infamous Hell Fire Club but is also a top training location for trail running clubs. This small area is packed with trails and more than a few demanding climbs (elevation 135m) making it a must for those midweek hill repeat sessions.
Massey Woods to Cruagh Woods
Located beside the Hellfire Club, Massey woods is perfect for a short and enjoyable run along a forest trail. However if you want to extend your run a little further you can follow the river south easterly towards Cruagh Woods making this an 8km loop with a near 300m elevation.
Fairy Castle to Tibradden Cairn
Starting off at “The Gap” adventure centre in Glencullen this 10k out and back is a challenging but rewarding trail. Within the first 2km you will find yourself climbing almost 300m of steep riverbed. This is an ideal time to practice your power hiking strategy. Once the initial climb is out of the way you will run along the mountain top until you reach the “Fairy Castle” Cairn and an opportunity to take in some stunning views of Dublin. Head westward down the trail towards Tibradden woods until you reach the Tibradden Cairn. From here you can continue on towards Cruagh woods or head back towards Fairy Castle.