How to show ‘Big Love’ for your dog while hiking

Words: Eva O’Beirne
Photography: George Voronov and Unsplash

It’s hiking season baby – the time of year where if you’re not spending your weekend at a Christmas party, you’re out making the most of our limited daylight hours and indulging in the outdoors.

Whether you’re a seasoned hiker, a novice dog walker or you’re simply in it for the coffee, District has compiled some of the best dog walking spots around Leinster for you to enjoy with your pooch. We’ve reached out to friends of District for recommendations and roadtested these hikes with our pups.

District recently caught up with MINI and Dogs Trust Ireland to give us some suggestions on how to best prepare you and your pup for a hike and how to choose the most ideal spot for you, as well as chat about a new exciting project they’ve been working on.

From the coast of the Irish sea to hidden woodlands, there’s something for everyone on this list and there’s bound to be a few walks you haven’t heard of or explored yet. We’ve also included our favourite local food recommendations so you can make a real day out of it.

So what are you waiting for? Get scrolling, plan your next pup-oriented outing and don’t forget to take Dogs Trust Ireland’s expert advice for heading out on your first hike.


Djouce Woods

The perfect spot for feeling like you’ve truly escaped the city. This fixture of lockdown hikes is perfect for all types of dogs, with scenic views and a mountain trail route for more experienced hikers. Dogs must be kept on a lead at all times and bringing rain gear is advised so you don’t get caught out.

Dogs Trust Ireland gave us some top tips for dog safety when it comes to walking and driving in a new area with your dog. Their first piece of advice? Don’t leave things up to chance – plan your journey before heading off.

“Obviously, when it comes to hiking, it’s really important that you understand and prepare for the weather. So if you’re going to walk your dog during the summer or a heatwave, we encourage dog owners to only walk their dog in the morning or late in the evening,” said Ailbhe White, Partnerships Manager at Dogs Trust Ireland. “And in the wintertime, we’d ask people to ensure that they’re not exposing their dogs to heavy rain, high winds or any dangerous conditions.”

With Powerscourt only a stone’s throw away, you can find plenty of delicious food spots nearby for you and your pooch to relax, hydrate and nourish yourselves.

It typically takes 45 minutes – 1 hour to get there from the city. Park your car here.


St. Anne’s Park

Not a typical hike, but a great place to start for novice dog owners and hikers alike. St Anne’s offers plenty of walking routes and facilities to make you and your dog feel that much more comfortable. Only eight kilometres from the city centre, this popular spot features a market on the weekends, as well as a large playground and dog park.

Dogs Trust advises District readers that building up trust with their dogs is key to a happy hiking experience. Using an accessible and dog-friendly park such as St Anne’s could be a great trial run to figure out what your dog’s limits are.

“We always would really encourage people to understand their dog and know when their dog might be in distress, or in an uncomfortable situation,” says Ailbhe on how to recognise your dog’s wants and needs. 

“Also being aware of other people, their dogs, their space and their needs is key to both you and your dog being relaxed and prepared,” she adds.

It typically takes 20 to 30 minutes to get here from the city centre. Park up here and grab a coffee from the Red Stables market.



Featuring both forest trails and a tarmac road, this route is well-suited to those not used to hiking. Ticknock offers up to ten kilometres of mountain and forest walks with some spectacular views of Dublin City, Dublin Bay, Bray Head and Wicklow Mountains.

The Fairy-Castle loop is most recommended to dog owners, as your pup can be let off the leash in some parts of the trail. Around 15 kilometres from the city centre, this trail is perfect for those looking to bring both babies and dogs out for the day.

Dogs Trust noted the importance of carrying a hiking “toolkit” containing anything you might need for your day out, especially if you’re far from home. Think water, first aid supplies, a leash, waste bags, treats and maybe even a towel or two.

It typically takes between 35 minutes – 1 hour to get there on weekends depending on traffic. You can park up here with relative ease at this time of year.


Cruagh Wood

Only five minutes off the M50, Cruagh Wood is a great space for a social walk with your friends and their pups. Close to the Hellfire Club and Massy’s Wood, the five-kilometre loop takes in stunning vistas and is suitable for all kinds of dogs.

Around 45 minutes from the city centre, this spot is perfect for those looking to broaden their horizons and get away from the crowds. But what if you’ve never driven for long distances with your dog before? Understandably, both of you might be nervous, just in different ways.

While in the car, Dogs Trust advises that your dog should feel calm and comfortable. Ailbhe notes that similar to how you build up your dog’s confidence while walking, you might need to look at building up some confidence and training with your dog in the car.

“You should always ensure that you use a harness to safely secure your dog in the car. Ensure that you do not attach their seatbelt to their collar and only to a harness,” says Ailbhe when asked about how to prioritise your dog’s safety during car journeys. 

“Then for comfort, they might have a particular blanket they like to have in the car, a particular cuddly toy. What we say is really important is to never travel with a dog in the front seat. We’d always encourage people to have their dogs in the backseat or boot so they can relax or lie down,” Ailbhe explains.

“What’s great about cars such as the MINI Countryman or Clubman is the boot has really good space for the dogs. MINI’s come with non-slip surfaces and a dog guard, which are really easy to keep clean, and also very safe.

You’re looking at between 30 minutes – 1 hour to get there from town on the weekend. Get parked here, grab a coffee from our friends at the Daily Grind and take in the stunning vista before heading off on your poochie perambulation.


Howth Cliff Walk

The Howth Peninsula is surrounded by stunning cliff paths, meaning there are plenty of trails you can take, offering varying durations and levels of intensity. From the Green Cliff Walk Loop to the Martello Tower walk, you’ll find a route perfect for you and your pooch.

Featuring plenty of outdoor cafés, a food market and Howth’s very own dog-friendly restaurant The Dog House Blue’s and Tea Room, Howth is perfect for veteran hikers to total beginners.

With an electric car charging station nearby Howth Library on Church Street, you can relax on your walk knowing you’ll have plenty of energy for driving home, even if you and your dog are exhausted from a big day out. You can also get a quick charge in while you enjoy a well-earned post-walk bag of chips.


Devil’s Glen

Image by Conor Ludd, Unsplash

An hour outside of Dublin, friend of District Sophie recommended this walk as it’s her Jack Russell’s favourite spot: “It’s not too difficult, there are lots of wide, flat roads as well as climbing spots for him to explore which he loved.”

Devil’s Glen offers two trails for walkers; the five-kilometre Waterfall Walk and the four-kilometre Seamus Heaney Walk, featuring beautiful sculptures along the way. According to Dogs Trust Ireland, it’s important to be aware of both flora and fauna around you while walking in wooded areas with your pooch. Give your dog a full check-up before returning home, looking for any cuts or bits stuck in their fur.

Why else do we recommend this spot for your next hike with your dog? Let’s face it, it’s nice to upload your smug and cute hike pictures on Instagram. Imagine your pup next to that waterfall? Gorgeous.

On weekends you can make it from O’Connell Street to the Devil’s Glen Car Park in an hour. The round trip is 100km so there’ll more than enough left in the E-tank to navigate your way to and from.


Bray to Greystones Cliff Walk

This seven-kilometre stretch is no easy feat, but boy, do you feel accomplished by the end.

Both Wicklow towns have plenty of parking and are connected by the DART in case you don’t fancy trekking out and back. Both Bray and Greystones have a host of yummy food spots, with most offering outdoor areas for your pup to recover from a hard day’s walk.

For longer walks such as this, it’s important to keep an eye on your dog and take plenty of breaks, especially if the weather isn’t ideal. Due to the busy nature of the trail, it’s best that your dog is kept on a leash.

There’s a dedicated car park in Bray for would-be cliff walkers and it takes roughly 45 minutes to get out there from Dublin City.

MINI and Dogs Trust Ireland share a big Love for dogs and their welfare and MINI will become the first dog-friendly car retailer in Ireland this year. It’s part of MINI’s ‘Big Love’ movement, to drive forward its two little words with the power to inspire a world of positive action

Ailbhe from Dogs Trust Ireland explained that working with MINI is “perfect as it aligns with the charity’s mission to enable people to become responsible dog owners.”

“It’s such a natural alignment for us. We love that MINI are behind what we stand for, not just with rescuing, rehoming and rehabilitating dogs, but also encouraging and supporting dog owners across the country to make sure that their dogs are as happy as can be.” 

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