Ireland County Top Challenge

Here is the challenge

The challenge is to climb to the highest point in all of the 32 counties of Ireland. Because some counties share the same highest point this means climbing to 27 points.

Some say it is actually 26 as Sligo and Leitrim share the same mountain but have different peaks, if you can work that one out, but it doesn’t matter, 26 or 27, its all very doable.

The highest peak is Carrauntoohil at 1,038 m, in the Kingdom of Kerry, while the lowest is in the Lake County of Westmeath, Mullaghmeen standing at 258 m.

With no football on due to the Covid bullshit, my weekends were totally bored. Nothing to look forward to at the end of the week, no trips to interesting, or uninteresting towns, for a match, I desperately needed something to fill the void.

By complete accident I stumbled upon Murray Nolan‘s excellent blog entitled “Walking Ireland’s County Tops” and I was intrigued. I hadn’t even knew this was a challenge and something people did. I loved the idea of it and rather instantly decided then and there that I would try it. It was perfect, I love the great outdoors, like walking, and don’t mind a bit of physical hardship, and I get to see and wander around Ireland, what’s not to like. Stuff the fucking football, over privileged nancy boys, this is great.

I wasn’t worried about the physical side to it. Although I am overweight, I am pretty healthy, and well used to going on long walks, and even now and again I do the odd, very odd, 10k run, and living in Switzerland I have been up and down plenty of mountains, real mountains compared to the hills we have in Ireland. So all in all no bother to me!

What am I expecting…… well I honestly think it will be a piece of cake, we really don’t have “Mountains” in Ireland, not really, and I don’t expect any issues in that regards. I see people on online groups in Facebook (Hiking Ireland) going on about hiking poles and crampons but fuck that shit, pretentious cunts. Also had many people on that Group going on about how we need to stick to the 5k or 10k Covid limit, or whatever, bunch of ninnies. This is the great outdoors, free as a bird and all that. FFS.

I am guessing as it is Ireland, it will be wet, windy, muddy and miserable. I am not seeing many nice hot summer days at all. I am also thinking there will be a lot of boggy land, and some peaks might be hard to find, especially the smaller peaks that people generally don’t tend to go to. I can imagine there will be a lot of bumpy back roads and getting lost down country lanes, but anyway lets see.

I also expect to have a great time meeting many cool people along the way, and see some amazing scenery of Ireland. While doing the County Peak Challenge I hope to learn a bit about the towns and county’s local history too, if possible from guides or locals.

These are the 32 counties in Ireland, but in the case of 10 counties, marked with (‡), the highest point is shared between two counties, so there are only 27 distinct Irish county high points.

The four Irish provincial tops, referred to as province high points, are also listed.

Irish County and Provincial Tops

Rank TableNameParent range/AreaCountyHeight (m) 1Carrauntoohil
Highest in MunsterMacGillycuddy’s ReeksKerry1,039 2Lugnaquilla
Highest in LeinsterWicklow MountainsWicklow925 3Galtymore‡Galty MountainsLimerick918 3Galtymore‡Galty MountainsTipperary918 5Slieve Donard
Highest in UlsterMourne MountainsDown850 6Mweelrea
Highest in ConnachtMweelrea MountainsMayo814 7Mount Leinster‡Blackstairs MountainsCarlow794 7Mount Leinster‡Blackstairs MountainsWexford794 9KnockmealdownKnockmealdown MountainsWaterford792 10KippureDublin/Wicklow MountainsDublin757 11ErrigalDerryveagh MountainsDonegal751 12BenbaunTwelve BensGalway729 13KnockboyShehy MountainsCork706 14Sawel‡Sperrin MountainsDerry678 15Sawel‡Sperrin MountainsTyrone678 16Cuilcagh‡Breifne MountainsCavan665 17Cuilcagh‡Breifne MountainsFermanagh665 18TruskmoreDartry MountainsSligo647 19Truskmore SE CairnDartry MountainsLeitrim631 20Slieve FoyeCooley MountainsLouth589 21Slieve GullionCooley MountainsArmagh573 22TrostanAntrim HillsAntrim550 23MoylussaSlieve BernaghClare532 24Arderin‡Slieve BloomLaois527 25Arderin‡Slieve BloomOffaly527 26Brandon HillSouth Midlands (Brandon Hill)Kilkenny515 27SeltannasaggartArigna MountainsRoscommon428 28Cupidstown HillWicklow MountainsKildare379 29Slieve BeaghFermanagh/ S. TyroneMonaghan373 30Carn Clonhugh
(Corn Hill)North MidlandsLongford278 31Slieve na CalliaghNorth MidlandsMeath276DONE32MullaghmeenNorth MidlandsWestmeath258DONE

1: Mullaghmeen: Westmeath

So I started at the smallest, and why not, no point in killing myself, right!

Yes in the Midlands of Ireland, the heart of the country, in Westmeath, handily enough for me starting out, the lowest of all the county tops! The Lake County’s top is in Mullaghmeen Forest, North of Westmeath.

I got my first county top achieved
Review of Mullaghmeen Forest
Reviewed February 5, 2021

Luckily there was a break in the weather and we finally got a good day for a change. I wanted to start the County Top Challenge and I read that Westmeath’s highest peak was in Mullaghmeen, through the Forest. It is 258 metres so its actually the lowest county top in Ireland. A good one to start with I think!

The morning was lovely, and the walk through the forest was very relaxing. I brought the son and he loved it, a nice and gentle walk through the forest, with the sun shining through the trees, and the pathway very easy to navigate. We started out on the red route, which is the easiest and shortest of the three routes. It takes you through the forest in a loop back to the car park. The white loop is the longest, and goes right around the forest, and by all accounts is a long walk. The blue walk is the route you need if you want to do the county top, as it leads straight to the summit. I took this one after I was told by some locals that this is the one to take if you need to see the peak. I had started out on the red route so it was lucky I had met some people who put me right.

I went up the peak myself, up a small gravel path that leads right to the top. Up there I got to see the surrounding hills and lakes (Lough Lene) of North Westmeath. On a lovely day with a clear blue sky it was a lovely scene in the fresh air, reinvigorating.

I joined the gang back at the red route, they took a break waiting for me near the famine grave garden.

Overall we spent about an hour and a bit and it was a very enjoyable time walking through the forest. And I got my first county top achieved. One down, 25 more to do! (some counties share peaks!)

2: Slieve na Calliagh: Meath

After Westmeath, next up was the Royal County of Meath, another handy low top, visiting Slieve na Calliagh (Loughcrew)

Visited the passage tomb in Loughcrew, had not known about it before but was well impressed that this old, about 5000 years old, structure was preserved on the hill for all to see. Unfortunately the inside of the tomb was closed for the day for upkeep, but still a free walk around the site where I was well able to take in the splendor and significance of this ancient irish site.

A bit of a steep walk up to it though, up a little hill, but it is well worth it though as not only do you get to see the passage tomb but also to take in the amazing views from atop. Plenty of lovely green fields on show, and a lot of white dots (sheep) can be seen far off in the distance.

Went on a lovely summer’s day and was very enjoyable. Also was amazed at how busy it was, with a lot of tourists up and down the hill while I was there, busloads of them of all age groups.

Interesting and worth a look.

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