International Appalachian Trail (IAT):
The International Appalachian Trail (IAT) is an extension of the famous Appalachian trail that runs from Maine to Georgia in the US. From its inception in 1937 thanks to the efforts of Benton MacKaye and others, the trail in the US has become one of the "must do" hikes spanning 2180 miles (3508 km) of the Appalachian mountain range. (Made famous by the 1998 book by Bill Bryson "Walk in the woods" and subsequent film with the same name in 2015) - More info on Appalachian Trail
In recent times, geological evidence has determined that the Appalachian mountain range once formed part of a larger land mass that split millions of years ago due to tectonic plate shifts. These shifts have resulted in the world as we know it today and as such the extension of the Appalachian trail to include other countries.
The Irish leg of this trail spans from the west coast of Donegal at Slieve League, and continues along parts of the Sli Cholmcille and Bluestack way until it crosses into Northern Ireland and ends on the east coast at Larne.
Donegal leg of this hike:
Start/End Point: Starting point - Slieve League (OSI Map 10, grid ref: G558 756), End Point - Kelly's Bridge (H063 792) Linear walk
OSI maps needed for this section of the IAT: 10 & 11
Access: Public transport to the car park at Slieve league is difficult to come by so it may be necessary to take a taxi from nearby Carrick. Alternatively you can always walk to your staring point, but be aware you'll be adding around 8km on to your walk and will be hiking along local roads (L1095 towards Teelin). Bus Services
Hike Distance: The total IAT in Ireland is approx. 453km (282 miles) - The Donegal leg accounts for roughly 105km of this (Depending on which route is used on the Bluestack way) and ends in Kelly's Bridge on the border with Northern Ireland.
Time to complete hike (Donegal leg): 4 to 5 days
Difficulty level of Hike: Moderate to Difficult - Sections of this hike are on steep ground (notably the Slieve league cliffs so care should be taken). There are significant ascents and descents in some sections (2844m total ascent and descent for the Donegal section of the IAT), but the majority of hiking is on gradual slopes. The terrain is a mixture of local roads, country lanes, bog land and coastal routes. Bog land can be extremely wet at times throughout the year so appropriate footwear is highly recommended.
Accommodation: A mixture of Hostels, B&B's, Hotels, Camp sites and short-term rentals are available at various stages of this hike. Wild camping is also an option, but you're advised to seek landowners permission before doing so. Remember to respect landowners property, the natural environment and always take rubbish with you (LEAVE NO TRACE). Accommodation
Notable Features: Slieve League sea cliffs are just one of the highlights of this hike. At various locations you will come across the opportunity to view Donegal's spectacular landscape. You will also have the opportunity to take in some of the local culture in the towns and villages along the route, experiencing the warm welcome of the locals.