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Access - a Shared Responsibility

It is important to acknowledge that public enjoyment of the vast majority of Ireland’s mountains is due to the goodwill and tolerance of the landowners, rather than access being based on any formal arrangement.

Land ownership in Ireland’s upland areas has evolved into a complex jigsaw of individually-owned land and commonage areas where a number of people share grazing or other rights to the land. State-owned lands (e.g. Coillte, National Parks, Forest Service and Northern Ireland Water properties) make up a smaller share of the uplands, yet these areas are significant, not least because forestry often provides access to the mountains without having to go through fields.

Although most of the routes included in the Irish Peaks book are well-used, some for many decades, that does not confer a legal right of entry, and access should not be taken for granted. At times, landowners and local residents are inconvenienced as a result of allowing access (e.g. gateways blocked by parked cars, reduced privacy, and sheep disturbed by dogs) so it’s easy to see how tensions could arise.

Due to the number of landowners involved, it was not feasible for the contributors, or for Mountaineering Ireland, to seek agreement from every landowner for the publication of the routes in Irish Peaks. Efforts were made to avoid situations of known access difficulty, but land ownership changes, landowners on the same mountain may hold different views, incidents occur, and attitudes can change. Given the fluidity of the situation we should never assume that access is certain.

Maintaining access is a shared responsibility. If an opportunity arises to speak with a landowner, stop for a chat and check if access is permitted on your intended route. This type of engagement makes a positive contribution to the relationship between recreational users and the local community. It is even more important for large groups, and especially for organised events, if intending to camp, or where people are leading others for payment.

Increasing participation in hillwalking and outdoor recreation activities, while on many levels a very positive development, is exerting greater pressure on the largely unmanaged access situation in Ireland’s uplands, and on the goodwill of individual landowners. Mountaineering Ireland is actively involved in efforts to improve and secure access for responsible hillwalkers in Ireland, north and south. This work is strengthened by up-to-date knowledge of local issues and responsible action by Mountaineering Ireland clubs and individual members.

If you become aware of a problem or sensitivity in relation to access, please contact

Access update December 2021 (pages 188-189)

Access to the hills is no longer permitted by the route described for Knocknadobar. Walkers may access the mountains via the stile at V 534 874, however due to the narrow road network in the Kells area, it is advisable to park in the small car park at the beach in Kells village and walk along the road from there. Alternatively, Knocknadobar may be ascended by the Pilgrim Path on the south-western side, starting from the small car park at V 481 829. An updated description and map for the Knocknadobar route will be published over the coming months.

Pages 170 – 171

The ‘Possible Alternatives’ note refers to a horseshoe from the Black Valley, please note that currently there is an access issue affecting this route. The access issue affects a large part of the Black Valley including the townlands of Bunbinnia, Cockow and Eskwacruttia. Mountaineering Ireland is continuing to engage with the landowners and it is hoped to have an update on this situation in the first quarter of 2022.


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