8 Best Winter Walks in Dublin

Looking for the best winter walks in Dublin? I personally believe that walking is the best and easiest way to keep active in the winter months. It’s also a way to make everyday life a bit more interesting and explore some of the places in which you have yet to set foot… until now!

But where are some of these trails?

I’m slowly learning that Dublin has far more parks, trails and walks than I have the time to explore. For this reason, I’ve been trying to mix things up as much as possible and visit new places and different trails rather than revisiting the same ones.

Let’s take a look at some of my favourite trails and the best winter walks in Dublin.

1. The Great South Wall and Poolbeg Lighthouse

In spite of growing up in Dublin, the Great South Wall escaped my attention until just a matter of months ago. Since then, I’ve walked out to Poolbeg Lighthouse at least five or six times and it’s now one of my favourite winter walks in Dublin. The lighthouse is here since 1768 and the wall stretches for more than 4 kilometres which made it the longest sea wall in the world at the time.

I like to think of this dander as being the perfect walk in Dublin to blow off the Christmas cobwebs. On a windy day, you’ll get blown sideways and the exposed nature of the wall means you’ll be out there in the elements from the moment you arrive. Aside from the impressive lighthouse, you will also find some of the best views of Dublin Bay. I also love watching the ships come in and out, while there are few better places in Dublin to enjoy the sunrise or sunset. In case you might be asking yourself, there’s plenty of parking at Pigeon House Road and it’s easy to reach the starting point of the walk. The walk is also buggy friendly and dog friendly and should take no more than one hour to complete.

2. The Bog of Frogs Loop in Howth

Most visitors to Howth seem to hug the waters edge as soon as they arrive in the village. There’s nothing wrong with this and the cliff walk is stunning. However, I believe there’s a much more interesting and varied adventure to be had on the Bog of Frogs Loop that joins up with this same cliff walk later on.

Starting at the train station, a series of purple arrows will take you through a series of hills, trails and rocky steps. There are beautiful views in this direction and the path leads through plenty of open fields and forests before joining the cliff walk at Red Rock. I often think the top of Red Rock offers the best views of Dublin and the lead up to this point uncovers a very different side of Howth to what you find in the village. From this point onward, the cliff walk will take you all the way back to “The Summit Carpark” where an old tramline walk runs back down to the village.

It’s quite a lengthy walk (12/13km) that takes approximately 3 hours but the variety on this hike is well worth the effort. Also, it’s a nice walk in terms of logistics because the Bog of Frogs loop will ensure you finish back at the starting point and all without having to go back the same way.

3. The West Pier in Dun Laoghaire

I’ve often wondered why the vast majority of people walk the East pier instead of the opposite side. That said, I didn’t even know about the other side myself until recently so maybe that’s why it’s so much quieter. You can reach the starting point from the very same parking areas and the walk itself is little more than 3 kilometres in total.

Featuring a gravel trail, I believe this is also a very different experience to the other side and feels somewhat remote with there being so few people. You can also see for more than 10km along the coastline on a clear day and it’s possible to find different viewpoints from the many boardwalks inside the harbour itself. It’s surprisingly muddy in parts so decent walking shoes are recommended and the walk is also rather exposed which can make it quite cold. Either way, as long as you wrap up warm, this is a surprisingly quiet walk that offers stunning views and an opportunity to leave the busy city behind, if only for a little while.

4. The River Dodder Walk

I grew up next to this river in Firhouse but kids in my day were always encouraged to stay away from the River Dodder. It’s changed immensely since then and the Dodder is now a popular landmark for recreation. And it’s not just the section at Firhouse which has transfigured but rather the entire length of the River Dodder. In fact, local authorities have been working hard to join up the various marked trails along the river to create a long-distance walking trail in Dublin.

There are many starting/finishing points for the walk such as Bushy Park to Terenure or Ballsbridge to Rathfarnham. Each one is rather different and the further you go, the more change you are likely to notice along the way. From herons and ducks to foxes and beavers, there is so much life in and around the River Dodder, while the foliage is some of the most luscious in all of Dublin. This means you can expect to encounter tall trees and leafy canopies at every turn and the odd waterfall in between. It’s such a beautiful stretch through a busy area and one that can feel far from Dublin when you’re sat watching a beautiful heron standing his ground quietly.

Tip – Ballsbridge to Rathfarnham is a nice stretch. However, even a looped walk in Bushy Park can take you down and around the banks of the River Dodder.

5. Cruagh Wood in the Dublin Mountains

I don’t often talk about Cruagh Wood because this is my own personal favourite winter walk in Dublin. Why? Because I want it all to myself. I’m not even joking when I say this because it’s so much quieter than Massey Woods or the Hellfire carpark nearby. It’s true that Cruagh Wood is without the majestic views in these areas or on top of Tibradden Wood nearby but there’s just something special about Cruagh Wood that makes it feel especially private and mystical.

https://www.dublinsoutdoors.ie/visit/dublin-mountains/walking-hiking/cruagh-wood/

Cruagh Wood is situated in the Dublin Mountains and not far from Killakee. It’s a granite mountain but the trails are accompanied by immense pine trees the entire way. These trails are also well marked and travel in different directions which can make for an exciting walk. If you have kids, there are some fairy signs on some of the trees near the beginning but they are not easy to find and half the fun is seeking them out.

Just so you know, it’s also possible to access both Tibradden and Massy Woods from these trails but there’s more than enough mileage in Cruagh Wood for a morning or afternoon.

6. Bohernabreena Reservoir Trail

Bohernabreena is home to another hidden gem for winter walks in Dublin. Located in Glenmasole Valley near Tallaght, this glistening reservoir is surrounded by a marked hiking trail. You will find Douglas fir and larch next to Scots Pine trees and a host of bird life including dippers, herons and kingfishers. Many nearby peaks are also within sight from the trail including the summit of Kippure. These summits are important because they are also home to remnants and archaeological sites which date back more than 5,000 years.

https://www.dublinsoutdoors.ie/do/sight-seeing/bohernabreena-reservoir/

You can reach the Bohernabreena Reservoir by travelling to Tallaght and then along the R114 until you go past Dodder Valley Park and Kiltipper.

7. Massey Woods in the Dublin Mountains

Massey Woods is located just a short distance from Cruagh Wood and opposite the Hellfire Club car park in the Dublin Mountains. Believe it or not, this trail continues all the way across the mountains as far as Marlay Park. However, there is also a beautiful loop trail within Massey Woods that is one of my favourite winter walks in Dublin.

https://www.dublinsoutdoors.ie/visit/dublin-mountains/masseys-estate/

The river that runs through Massey Woods is really beautiful and such a tranquil place to spend time. You will also find the ruins of an old house/lodge at the centre of the woods and many opportunities to step off the trail and into the trees. I’ve often used a large swing in these woods, while taking care to stay out of sight and save myself from potential embarrassment.

Anyway, Massey Woods is extremely lush and overflowing with various species of trees. The trails are quite muddy in places but decent hiking shoes will set you straight. Otherwise, it’s a short (2km) walk and a suitable trail for any kind of weather.

8. Barnaslingan Wood on the East Side of the Scalp

Barnaslingan Wood is situated on the outskirts of Dublin and close to the Enniskerry Road. As with much of Wicklow next door, “the Scalp” is a huge chasm that was formed by a glacial lake overflow during the Ice Age. You might notice remnants from this time in the form of boulders and outcrops but this walk is mostly enjoyable for the beautiful forest through which it runs.

https://www.coillte.ie/site/barnaslingan-wood/

In fact, there are two different trails in the woods as the Dublin Mountains Way passes through Barnaslingan Woods. For a short walk, you can take the Pine Loop Trail which should take approximately 25 minutes and this joins up with the Scalp Lookout Trail which has some of the most incredible views. I’m not sure why Barnaslingan is not more popular but this will work in the favour of those who might want a quieter and more immersive winter walk in Dublin.

While I have many more favourite hiking trails near the city, these are some of the best winter walks in Dublin which are easy to access and thoroughly enjoyable to explore!

In praise of Winter Camping

Winter is the perfect time for camping.  Yes, we know that this is a controversial statement and are well aware most people see it as an activity only suited for days when the sun is busy splitting stones and a heat haze rises off the horizon.   If you curtail your camping only to the hazy days of summer, you will miss cold misty mornings, an unshared wilderness, the high starlit skies of winter and the joy of hot drinks cupped in warm hands around the campfire.

Ireland often has ideal hiking weather from late Autumn to Early Spring.  Dry cold days with winter sunshine are perfect for taking to the trails. Camping at the end of a long trek, under a clear starlit sky can be idyllic end to an expedition and although you don’t have to worry about insect bites, dehydration and falling over other hikers, there are other considerations to winter camping  The secrets to successful winter camping is quite simple!  Take the right gear with you and follow some common sensical advice!

The right Winter Camping gear

You can expect to pay a little more for winter weight camping gear.  That pop up festival tent is not going to cut it.  The Outdoor Adventure Store selection of cold weather Trekking Tents gives you plenty of options. To make that escape to the winter hills, you’ll need a lightweight tent that is strong enough to withstand the toughest weather conditions. Explore our range of mountaineering tents from top brands such as MSR, Force10, Snugpak and Vango.  They are all still relatively light for carrying, yet provide great space to weight ratio, plus strength and stability so you can simply enjoy the adventure.   Choose a decent sleeping-bag designed for the cold.  A mummy bag with a hood is ideal.  Don’t try to get away with a summer weight sleeping bag, unless you have also invested in a good liner and some thermal sleeping gear.  There is nothing worse than a lousy night’s sleep after a great day in the outdoors, so put a little thought into the ground mat too.  Investing in the right ground mat will keep a high-quality insulation barrier between you and the cold hard winter ground and reduce the loss of body heat.

Choose the Campsite carefully

You can have a wilderness experience not too far from the general population just in case the weather turns fierce nasty.  Camping in winter in Ireland is all about the wind chill.  Pitch your tent using natural windbreaks such as tall hedges and trees and always face away from the prevailing wind.  If there is a bit of a slope on the ground, then face the front of the tent downward as cold air will flow into a tent facing uphill.  Surprisingly enough, a valley may be a colder spot in the winter. If you fancy beach camping, keep an eye on incoming tides and perhaps pick a more inland spot for your winter outdoor adventure. Choose campsites that allow fires and/or use a safe fire pit. This amazing Irish hand-made Midos phoenix fire is perfect for toasting your toes and the ubiquitous campfire marshmallows!  Pitch your tent in a safe place and not too far off the beaten track.  You can have a wilderness experience not too far from the general population, for safety and security.

Dress for the weather

Layers are the secret to keeping warm on the winter trail.  Layers on the body. Gloves on the hands. Warm dry boots and socks.  A snazzy hat and you are all set.  Check out our great range of jackets which keep wind, rain and misery out!and don’t forget that a thermal layer underneath, or a layer of thermals underneath, will keep you cosy dry and comfortable on the trail. It is easy to forget to hydrate when camping in the winter, so be sure to drink plenty of water as you would in the summer months. Don’t forget the torch, stove and lots of food to keep you going.

Enjoying the best spots without anyone else around

Winter camping means bagging all the best camping sites, with no tourists, day campers, bugs or midges to bother you.  This is definitely because people will think you crazy. Having said that, off season camping is enjoying an increase in popularity and the appeal of peeking out of a tent at snow-capped mountains and frost covered fields is on the rise.  It is still likely that the wild spaces will be all yours at this time of year.  Enjoy that rare solitude. Plan ahead, bring the right gear and leave nothing behind but good vibes. 

What You Should Know About Wild Camping in Winter

I had some extremely cold nights on the Pacific Crest Trail a few years ago during which myself and three hikers found it difficult to sleep. We had decent equipment at the time but not enough to feel comfortable in the snow-capped peaks of Washington.

But how might this cold and sleepless night have been avoided?

If I had a warm sleeping bag liner, there would have been no issue and I ended up relying on wearing several layers of clothing in my sleeping bag. And while this kept me safe, it just wasn’t quite warm enough and certainly not comfortable.

Wild Camping in Winter: From Stressed Out to Searching for Solitude

I go wild camping to have a good time and add a little excitement to my week. But I also want a stress-free time and a good night of sleep is also near the top of my list.

With this in mind, there were times early on when I really didn’t enjoy wild camping and felt stressed, worried or uncomfortable. Here’s a few reasons why:

– Taking a tent or sleeping bag that was unsuitable for wild camping in winter.

– Wearing insufficient rain gear.

– Having no weather-proof system to keep my gear safe and dry.

– Leaving my stove behind and missing out on the pleasure of a hot meal!

I will talk about some of these in a moment but for now, I wanted to make it clear that having the right gear and preparation is most important for wild camping in winter. In fact, once I figured this part out, I fell in love with wild camping at a time of year when the trails were so quiet and when the frost made me fully appreciate my morning coffee or the warmth of my sleeping bag as I sat up in the tent doorway.

You see, I should also add that I absolutely love wild camping in Winter!

Some Things to Keep in Mind for Wild Camping in Winter

Pick Somewhere that’s Easy to Reach and Return

I went wild camping in Wicklow some years ago and decided to trek up over Tonelagee and down to Glenmacnass River. It felt like a nice workout upon reaching the river but after a night of heavy rain, the way back took twice as long. In fact, it took so long that I was miserably wet and cold and near ended up hiking in the dark.

Moral of the story? Remember daylight is short through Winter and the unpredictable weather can turn what seems like an easy trek into a proper slog.

I suggest you pick a local marked trail with which you are familiar and then plan to wild camp just off that particular trail. If the trail is maintained (which is should be), you can rest assured that getting home should require the same effort as getting in there.

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Invest in a Sleeping Bag Liner

It wasn’t just the Pacific Crest Trail when I was left yearning for a sleeping bag liner. This has also happened on my wild camping trips through Africa and even here in Ireland. It’s true that my choice of sleeping bag wasn’t always right but most times in which I was cold, the weather had taken me by surprise. A sleeping bag liner is not only a lightweight item to carry but also surprisingly effective and just as useful for trips during the warmer months or when sleeping in hostels on the Camino de Santiago.

Use Separate Dry Bags for Your Spare Clothes and Belongings

If you plan to hike in especially wet weather, it’s not enough to expect a waterproof cover to protect your backpack. You will need one, of course, but a backpack cover is only useful for reducing the exposure of your bag’s contents to the elements. In reality, rainwater will always find a way into your backpack during a heavy downpour and this will certainly happen any time you need to open up the bag. You can protect these contents by using a separate dry bag for clothing, electronics etc.

Make Sure You Take Warm Gear and Proper Rain Jacket/Pants

It’s essential to have dry gear at the end of every day in the wild. This includes your jacket, clothing and sleep system. It should go without saying that you can’t keep warm and dry in wet conditions without a proper rain-jacket and I always discourage relying on a poncho of any kind to do the job.

You also can’t sleep in wet socks and I recommend taking long-johns and a having a warm fleece on hand for the evenings. Believe it or not, I will often pack my down-jacket away somewhere dry so that I have an especially warm layer to wear in the evening. Waterproof trousers are another item that some hikers forget and you absolutely need these for wild camping in Ireland or anywhere for that matter.

Either way, safety is the main priority for wild camping in winter and nothing is more important than going to bed in a safe, dry and warm environment.

Try to Develop a System for Staying Dry

Even if rain is not forecast, you should still have a strategy for keeping your gear dry. The weather is just so unpredictable in Ireland and I can’t count the number of times I got caught in an unexpected downpour. Also, there is always the risk of stumbling head-first into a creek in Donegal which is something I may have done in the past. Afterwards, I had to return to a B&B in town because my sleeping bag was so wet.

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Anyway, I recommend having a system in which bags are kept inside other bags and then also protected by a backpack cover. Never leave your backpack open or sitting in the rain and put snacks in your pocket before leaving shelter so you don’t need to open your backpack again. Finally, don’t wait for conditions to deteriorate before putting on your rain jacket or waterproof pants and get ready at the first sign of rain.

Here’s a few more tips for wild camping in winter:

– Keep your backpack inside the tent at night (not in the porch area)

– Keep your shoes inside the tent (not in the porch area)

– Keep your tent inside the backpack (Not strapped to the outside)

– Put your sleeping bag inside a plastic bag/bin liner at the very least.

– Avoid having your sleeping bag or clothes touching off the sides of the backpack.

Don’t Underestimate the Power of Warm Meals and Drinks

If the wind, rain or cold feels like too much, I might not be in the mood for taking out the stove. However, I always do because nothing compares to a warm drink or meal in these conditions. If you worry about keeping the stove lit at such times, think about buying the MSR Windburner but either way – please do take the stove with you!

I also say this because I firmly believe that cooking, eating and drinking are central to the enjoyment that comes with wild camping. I don’t particularly enjoy cooking but will humour myself for the sake of the pleasure that comes from a warm meal/drink.

And Some of these Last Minute Tips for Wild Camping in Winter

– Buy a reliable headlamp so you can put your hands in your pockets.

– Wear a beanie hat to sleep so you don’t wake up with a cold head!

– Take a flask of hot water if you don’t want to use a stove.

– Cooking in cold weather isn’t the most pleasant – Buy ready-made meals.

– Get up and moving early to keep warm and have cereal bars for breakfast.

– Put your phone in a ziploc bag in your pocket.

– Put your pride away and wear long-johns the entire time!

– Bring a book for entertainment and leave streaming for when you’re back home.

Final Thoughts

Wild camping in winter is all about preparation. While I don’t think it’s wise to feel overly stressed, I do think it’s important to be especially careful at this time of year. If I was to re-iterate one thing in this piece it would be to stay as local as possible – especially if you don’t have much wild camping experience. This might mean camping on a nearby hill instead of the mountains and sticking to well-marked trails at the very least. Otherwise, if you pay close attention to what you pack and make every effort to stay dry and warm at all times, wild camping in Winter should be a safe, comfortable and enjoyable experience.

10 Wild Camping Tips for Beginners that You Should Know 

I remember walking into a campsite in Kerry last year and feeling sorry for some of my neighbours. There were some fantastic setups but there were also a lot of people looking incredibly stressed and frustrated. In fact, one family was already arguing over the remote because yes, they had taken a television on their camping trip.

And each to their own, right? Of course.

But this also reminded me of why many people don’t enjoy their first spot of wild camping. Wild camping is far from being a science but it’s easy to spoil this experience by taking the wrong gear or failing to understand what makes it so enjoyable.

In this article, I talk about some wild camping tips for beginners and simple ideas that would have saved me a lot of hassles and discomfort when I started out.

10 Wild Camping Tips for Beginners that You Should Know

+ FREE Printable Wild Camping Checklist

1. Pack Light and Only Take What You Need

Carrying too much gear was my first mistake when it comes to wild camping. I think that because I was so afraid, I compensated for this fear by carrying more gear than necessary. This not only meant carrying too much clothing but also too much food and accessories. For instance, I had three different torches and spare batteries for each one! Because I took this approach to multiple items, I ended up carrying more weight than during my hike on the Pacific Crest Trail a few years ago. I believe experience teaches everyone the same lessons about wild camping but it’s sometimes better to learn from others’ mistakes, rather than your own!

I’ll be outlining a basic packing list at the end of this post.

2. Make Sure You Have a Warm Sleep System/Gear

You just won’t enjoy a night of wild camping if you have an insufficient sleeping bag, which is why I have a different sleeping bag for the warm and cold weather months. But here’s a few ways in which I suggest you can keep warm and comfortable each and every night:

Bring thermal leggings and socks that you can wear if needed.

– Invest in a lightweight sleeping bag liner – they can add an insane amount of warmth.

– Wear a down jacket/puffy jacket in your sleeping bag on especially cold nights.

– Place a rain jacket over the foot area of your sleeping bag.

– Wear a beanie hat to sleep so that you won’t wake up with a cold head.

– Take an emergency foil blanket as a backup.

In short, it’s better to be too warm or a cold night of wild camping is just not enjoyable!

3. Choose a Suitable Tent for Wild Camping

I sometimes use a bivvy bag for wild camping and really enjoy the immersive experience they offer. But a bivvy bag is not always suitable and this is especially true during wet and windy conditions. For this reason, I most often use a one or two-man tent for wild camping in Ireland.

But what else should you consider when choosing a tent?

If you want the best chance of remaining unseen and to avoid the risk of being asked to move, a green or brown tent is the most discreet for obvious reasons.

Pick a tent that performs well in especially wet and windy conditions. I find a low profile works best because they are much less likely to shake like crazy or make noise in general.

4. Pitch Your Tent Before You Go Wild Camping in Ireland

I went wild camping on Dunree beach some years ago with a Vango Banshee 200. It’s my favourite tent for wild camping in Ireland and incredibly easy to pitch. However, I made the mistake of assuming this would be really quick and easy to set up for the first time.

It was getting dark and raining hard at the time. Due to these conditions and the onset of frustration, I spent a good hour trying to figure out how to pitch the tent properly and the rest of the night trying to get dry and warm myself up again.

It’s true, the tent is extremely easy to pitch. However, every tent design is different and the Vango Banshee 200 required a different approach than my other tents. Moral of the story? I could have avoided this disaster by pitching the tent in my backyard beforehand.

5. Consider Taking Cold or Pre Made Meals Instead of Cooking

After a long hike, I do enjoy a hot meal but I’m often too tired to cook. That’s why I always carry the option to have a cold meal in the mornings or evenings. Cooking is one of the most enjoyable things about wild camping but it’s also messy at times and not always ideal in especially bad weather. What’s more, I’ve often found a cold chicken tikka wrap to be just as enjoyable as a hot meal of any kind- especially if someone made the wrap for me!

6. Aim for a Wild Camping Spot Away from Built Up Areas

I find that picking a forest area can be especially reliable for wild camping. A forest is most often a sheltered and calm place to camp but also one in which you’ll be out of sight. In terms of choosing a spot, it’s also quite easy to pick out forested areas on any GPS or physical map.

You should also notice it’s harder to find a wild camping spot near a town or built up area. This means if you are hiking a long distance trail such as the Kerry Way or the Wicklow Way, it’s best to pick out some potential wild camping areas either long before or after such places.

7. Choose a Safe and Comfortable Spot (Near a Water Source)

Camping on a bed of pine needles is a beautiful thing and much better than a bed of stones or especially hard ground. That being said, none of this matters if it rains and you’re pitched in a ditch or depressed area that’s likely to flood or become waterlogged. It’s also important to stay clear of any dead trees or branches and avoid exposed areas when the weather is particularly wild. The last thing I would mention is the convenience of having a nearby water source. This will not only mean that you can use as much water as you like but a water source also makes washing dishes (and yourself) much easier. On the other hand, maybe it’s a spot known for midges? In which case, midges like water and this might be something to avoid.

8. Wait Until Nightfall to Pitch Your Tent

If you want to avoid getting moved on, it’s best to wait until nightfall to pitch your tent. I actually do this so that I won’t be thinking or worrying about having to relocate. It obviously won’t matter as much deep inside Wicklow National Park but it’s a decent rule of thumb.

For the sake of the wild camping community, I also suggest you pack up and leave at first light. It’s not about getting caught but rather about making every effort not to disturb locals and to help the wild camping community avoid any unwanted attention.

9. Don’t Underestimate the Importance of a Headlamp

I used to lead camping safaris in Africa. Before these trips, I would often pick up a few headlamps as my guests would often show up without one. You see, many of these guests had never gone camping before or tried to pitch a tent in the dark – without a headlamp. It might seem like a rather obvious or minor matter but you need both hands to pitch a tent which will inevitably make the process a little more than frustrating. The same goes for cooking in the dark, reading in the dark and going to the toilet in the dark – you get the idea!

10. Use Reusable Dry Bags (And not Plastic Bags)

I try not to use plastic bags wherever possible and dry bags are the ideal replacement. It’s important to use these bags to ensure your gear is fully protected from the elements. The truth is, backpacks can leak and a dry bag will ensure your backup gear is properly stored.

Just so you know, I use reusable Ziploc bags for food. However, I not only use a dry bag for my spare clothing but I also have a separate dry bag for my cooking equipment, sleeping bag and electronics. You can never be too careful but you should also find these precautions will serve you well on future trips.

Now, here’s a quick look at a basic packing list for wild camping. Please remember this is a basic outline and you will need more or less gear depending on various factors/conditions.

Basic Packing List for Wild Camping

  • Tent
  • Sleeping Bag (& Sleeping Bag Liner)
  • Sleeping Mattress
  • Down Jacket
  • Gloves
  • Rain Jacket
  • Rain Pants
  • Beanie Hat
  • Backpack Rain Cover
  • Dry Bags
  • Spare T-Shirt
  • Spare Socks
  • Warm Sweater
  • Thermal Top / Bottoms / Socks
  • Headlamp
  • Map / GPS
  • Water Filter
  • Stove / Gas
  • Pot
  • Spork
  • Lighter & Matches
  • Camping Knife
  • Phone
  • Powerbank
  • Charging Cable
  • Toothbrush & Toothpaste
  • Toilet Paper
  • Credit Card / Cash
  • Plastic Bag for packing Trash / Waste

Final Thoughts

I think that most people often worry and think about the same things before they go wild camping for the first time. These “things” include getting lost, being attacked or not having the right gear. But most of these thoughts are either unlikely or irrational and having the right gear is a simple matter of careful research and packing.

End.

Either way, stay safe and whatever you do – enjoy your time in the wild!

Why I Use Hiking to Improve My Mental Health Every Day

I feel like hiking doesn’t get the respect it deserves when it comes to both physical and mental health. That is, running is often the poster boy for keeping active but I personally believe that hiking is more accessible or achievable and yet still delivers all the same benefits. I also say this because I’ve gotten just as fit and healthy through hiking as any other form of exercise.

And it’s not just my imagination that supports this belief…

Studies show that just thirty minutes of hiking every day can have a significant impact on both physical and mental health. For instance, hiking can strengthen bones and muscles, while increasing cardiovascular fitness. Hiking is also said to reduce the risk of heart disease, osteoporosis and certain cancers. I often need Google to remember this detail but you get the idea – hiking is scientifically proven to better our physical health.

But you know what I most appreciate about hiking?

I most appreciate the way it makes me feel.

Derek cullen Hiking
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How I First Realized the Positive Effect of Hiking on Mental Health

I travelled to Newfoundland (Canada) back in 2016 to take my first long-distance hike on the East Coast Trail. It was an incredibly painful trip. Aside from having no fitness or hiking experience, I took all the wrong gear and ended up with a 25kg backpack!! This meant that every step was a slog and my shoulders, in particular, were deeply bruised and cut. Due to so much discomfort and pain, I also decided to cancel my plan to hike the Pacific Crest Trail a year later.

Now, in case you might be asking yourself, here are just a few of my mistakes:

– I didn’t take any hiking poles which are necessary for hiking with a heavy pack.

– I packed two pairs of footwear and wore massive boots that were not suitable for hiking.

– My backpack was not designed for hiking.

– My tent was cheap but far too big and heavy.

– I packed too much gear and luxury items.

– I carried too much food and at times, too much water.

– I pushed myself too much and hiked too many kilometres every day.

Just a couple of weeks after the trip, I began reminiscing about my time on the East Coast Trail. There were still some memorable experiences such as cooking on the campfire, sleeping under the stars and waking up surrounded by nature. There was also a feeling of purpose throughout the adventure and a sense of satisfaction after hiking more than 350km. And most importantly, I felt happy and healthy throughout the hike and fully recharged in spite of my back, feet and shoulder pains. That’s right, I was in absolute agony and forever chastising myself for bringing too much gear and yet feeling utterly content at the same time.

In fact, I even thought: that was almost the best trip of my life!

It’s true, my mental health was remarkably good for this entire trip.

When Hiking Really Began to Impact My Mental Health

I decided to take another look at the Pacific Crest Trail and do some proper research in terms of gear, logistics and advice from previous hikers. And after saving up enough money, I took aim at my shopping list for backpacking gear and travelled to the start of the trail in America.

It was a gruelling 5-month hike but also one of the happiest times in my life. I was without the immense weight from my previous trip and experiencing all those things that made me feel content. Even when the bad days came, hiking always seemed to make any unwanted feelings disappear. I just focused on the trail and when I hiked for long enough, those feelings were little more than a white, puffy cloud in the sky – that would inevitably float away.

Hiking made me feel so good about myself (and the world around me) that I saw no reason to stop taking these hiking trips. For this reason, I went on to walk the Camino de Santiago before walking all the way around Ireland. When I went back to working nine to five, I continued to hike in the evenings and found all those same feelings in smaller doses. I knew it wasn’t a coincidence that my mental health improved any time I went hiking, for studies had already proven that hiking is beneficial for both mental and physical health.

But I’d also like to tell you about how I use hiking to improve my mental health every day.

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How Hiking Began Improving the Quality of My Everyday Life

I used to experience a great sense of dread on Sunday evenings. Many people refer to this phenomenon as “the fear” which usually happens in anticipation of work or the week ahead.

While I’ve made certain lifestyle changes to eradicate this fear, I continued to experience some very extreme anxiety in many different scenarios. But what’s this got to do with hiking?

Let me explain real quick.

The limbic side of the brain essentially controls our emotions or anxiety and likes to make decisions quick and fast. But it’s possible to combat this surge of anxiety with breathing exercises and yes, you guessed it – hiking! It’s true, physical activity forces this side of the brain to switch off and engage in different parts of the brain that can ignite positive thoughts.

Now, that’s not to say I go hiking every day to deal with my problems but rather to explain how hiking significantly improves my mental health in everyday life. In fact, it’s very rare that I go one day without taking a short hike to a nearby beach or hill tip or even a walk in the park.

Before I leave you with some final words, I thought that maybe someone reading this article will be entirely new to hiking. If that’s you, here are some tips for getting started:

New to Hiking in Ireland? Here Are Some Tips for Getting Started

Focus on Making a Start – As part of a challenge called “Walk Every Day for One Month”, I help hundreds of participants form a healthy habit in the month of November. Many of these individuals had no walking “experience” so I began by encouraging them to take short achievable walks in the beginning. Some of them began by walking to the shops instead of driving, while others started taking the stairs to their apartment rather than the lift. By the end of the month, the vast majority were up the mountains and taking hiking trips that seemed impossible to them at the start of the challenge.

Think Outside the Box – I suggested to a friend of mine that he should start walking to work every day. He enjoyed his job but the daily commute left him with a serious sense of dread in the evenings. This morning routine is now something he looks forward to and one of his work colleagues also joins him from time to time. 

Remember that Hiking is not a Competition – Hiking for thirty minutes is enough to improve your health. It’s not a competition so there’s no need to compare your progress or distance or route to that of anyone else.

Don’t be Put off by the term “Hiking” – Hiking is no different than walking and requires very little gear to get started. You can also go hiking at any time of day and the time or distance is entirely up to you. You don’t even need to worry about “keeping up” because there’s no set pace and unlike running, it’s not really a rigorous exercise.

Invest in a Decent Pair of Hiking Shoes – Most of my injuries in the past were due to hiking long distances without a set of hiking poles. But the rest of my injuries were down to wearing the wrong footwear on my hikes. You don’t need to spend a fortune but the appropriate heel and arch support is essential which means you should at least invest in a reliable pair of hiking shoes that will save you from blisters and injuries on the trail.

You Can Still Achieve the Same Benefits – If you do want to lose weight or build strength, you can always hike faster. Walking fast burns more kilojoules per hour and this will still feel less rigorous than running etc.

Afraid or Nervous about Hiking Alone? – Hiking is a social activity. If you don’t want to hike alone, there are lots of clubs and Facebook groups in which you can find someone to go with you. I know many people who now consider their hiking group as their “tribe” or “trail family”.

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Final thoughts

The truth is, unlike most types of exercise, hiking doesn’t require any expensive equipment or special training, and the actual process is free. It’s the positive effect of hiking that deserves more respect and this is especially true when it comes to mental health. In fact, the Irish Times wrote an article last year about my story which was entitled “Walking Back to Happiness” and I couldn’t have said it any better – Hiking just makes me feel happy.

My Biggest Wild Camping Fails that Everyone Should Avoid

Outdoor Adventure Stores are pleased to welcome the wise, witty and honest words of Irelands’ best known Outdoor Adventurer, Derek Cullen to our blog spot. Derek tackles everything from cycling across Africa, backpacking around this Island to long distance hiking and wild camping with enthusiasm and candid good humour. Here he shares his knowledge, some hot tips and his experiences on the trail.

Wild camping in Ireland has really taken off in recent months. It’s quite a contrast to when I walked around Ireland last year when many people were asking if wild camping was safe, enjoyable or even allowed for that matter. It’s great to see because I have always tried to encourage others to try sleeping in a forest or on a nearby hilltop.

At the same time, wild camping is much different to staying at a campsite. Without facilities or any kind of “safety net”, it’s important to keep certain things in mind. Having had so many camping fails myself, I also think it’s worth taking the time to plan a bit better.  –

For this reason, I’d like to share some of my wild camping “fails” and ideas that might help others have a safe and more enjoyable experience in the wild.

Skimping on the Cost of My Sleep System

When I first took to wild camping, I spent many nights trying to keep warm and comfortable. My sleeping bag just wasn’t warm enough and my foam sleeping mat was little respite from the stones and twigs protruding into my back. While I did eventually invest in a decent sleeping bag, I went for many years with an especially thin and rather useless foam mattress.

In fact, I picked up my very first inflatable sleeping mat (Vango Trek 3 Compact Mat) earlier this year. It’s true, after eight years of wild camping, I finally realized the benefits of a comfortable sleeping mat. This also prompted me to look for a more suitable sleeping bag as my trusty North Face Kazoo was losing its warmth by the day.

I know that everyone wants to spend less but your sleep system is not the place to skimp on spending. That said, there are still some great budget sleeping bags out there for wild camping and a good nights’ sleep is worth more than the cost of a decent sleeping mat.

Takeaway – Take time to choose the right sleeping bag and invest in a proper sleeping mat.

Getting Giardiasis after Drinking Contaminated Water

I’ve taken a lot of stick online for this one and rightly so. When hiking the Pacific Crest Trail a few years ago, I got giardia – an illness that comes from drinking contaminated water. It happened because I kept on “taking a chance” and drinking straight from the rivers. Big mistake. Giardia made it near impossible to hike, and I was lucky to reach a nearby town a couple of days later in which I could recover. But did I learn my lesson? Nope.

On my walk around Ireland last year, I took this same risk while camping next to a river in Kilkenny. Next morning, after walking up the river, I happened upon a section that was filled with the feces of some nearby cows and later that day, I succumbed to giardiasis once again!

Takeaway – Always use a reliable water filter when you go camping. It takes just a couple of minutes to filter water and an illness like giardiasis is just not worth the risk.

Using an Open Bivvy Bag in Midge-Country

I can only think that midges take their holidays in County Wicklow. It’s not bad whilst hiking because they can’t keep up, but they swarm like crazy as soon as you stop for a few minutes. I made a big mistake one evening when I went wild camping in Wicklow with an open bivvy bag. Due to the number of midges, I was literally unable to cook or eat and even sit outside and resigned to pulling a sleeping bag over my head for the night.

Needless to say, midges inhabit every corner of Ireland!

Takeaway – Use a tent or closed bivvy when wild camping in areas known for midges, because without a zip/mesh lining, you will be exposed to midges. It’s also worth packing a long sleeve top and bottoms and a head-net to help keep them at bay.

Taking the Wrong Tent into the Dublin Mountains

I’ve tried wild camping in Ireland with all of my tents. However, after an especially stormy night in the Dublin mountains, I’m a lot more careful about what tent I take with me. I found it hard to sleep because the tent really struggled with the rain and wind that night. I worried my tent might collapse due to the winds and the noise during this time was irritating to say the least.

That’s why you might have noticed I always use the same tent when wild camping in Ireland – the Vango Banshee Pro 200. I have several very expensive tents but the Banshee Pro is much better suited to the weather and conditions in Ireland. It features a strong build with a low centre of gravity and strikes a nice balance between durability and weight.

Takeaway – Choose a tent that can withstand the wind and rain. If I had the money, I might upgrade to the MSR Hubba Hubba NX but the Vango Banshee Pro has never let me down.

Picking the Wrong Wild Camping Spots

I’ve had my tent flooded in the past after pitching near the bottom of a hillside. I’ve also had sleepless nights after camping right out in the open or on top of a mountain summit.

It’s important to camp away from habitation and “out of sight” to avoid any unwanted attention. However, there’s lots more to consider in terms of picking a spot for your tent:

Camp on Flat, Soft and Dry Ground – Try to pick a flat area and preferably somewhere with soft grass or pine needles.

Avoid Dead or Precarious Looking Trees – Keep an eye out for dead trees and stay away from trees or overhead branches that might look unstable.

Camp Near a Water Supply – It’s always handy to have a water supply nearby for cooking, washing and drinking.

Camp with the Morning View in Mind – You will usually find a better view higher up but either way, never underestimate the power of a remarkable view. I will often look for somewhere to camp with the view from the tent door at the forefront of my mind. Remember, you’ll wake up to this view!

Camp in a Sheltered Area – You can often get away with camping out in the open but it’s also a risky option in blustery weather. Instead, camp in the forest or on the sheltered side of a hill.

Pitch Your Tent the Right Way Around – Unless you want to be sliding around all night, pitch the tent with your head facing uphill.

Takeaway – Common sense is usually enough but the above tips should help.

Over-Packing for the East Coast Trail in Newfoundland

It’s quite funny to think back about all the gear I carried on my first hiking trip. Hiking the East Coast Trail in Newfoundland was literally one painstaking step after the next. I just didn’t enjoy that hike because I packed far too much gear and ended up with deep bruising on both shoulders. In hindsight, I should have made every effort to not only choose as much lightweight gear as possible but also to cut back on the number of items in my backpack.

For this reason, I will often pack my backpack and then try to remove half of these same contents before leaving the house. It takes experience to realize that many items are not needed for wild camping in Ireland and most people pack far too much food in particular!

Takeaway – Try to practice a minimalist approach to wild camping and pay attention to the items which you carry often but never use.

Some Last Minute Tips for Wild Camping in Ireland

The truth is, you’ll learn a lot more about wild camping through first-hand experience but here’s a few last minute tips to keep in mind for your next trip:

Wait Until Dusk to Set Up Camp – It’s not a case of hiding or trying to sneak about the place. I suggest waiting until dusk so you can 1. Avoid the risk of being moved on and 2. Rest without mistaking every rustle outside for a witch or an evil axe-murderer.

Just Keep Moving – When searching for a place to camp, just keep moving until you find a place in which you feel comfortable. It always amazes me when I keep hiking that small bit further and find the absolute perfect camping spot that I might have missed by staying-put.

Focus on Keeping Everything Dry – I’m not a fan of plastic bags and recommend keeping dry bags inside your backpack. A backpack cover is also needed and the objective is to make sure your sleeping bag and spare clothing are not exposed to the elements while hiking.

Practice LNT Principles – Leave No Trace Principles are there to protect the environment but they also help others to be more approving toward the concept of wild camping which is something we should all try to encourage.

Final Thoughts

It’s common to feel a sense of fear when you go wild camping in Ireland for the first time. However, in time, you should find that most of these fears are quite irrational. What’s more, practice and experience will bring confidence and after a few nights sleeping in the wild, you will certainly enjoy this experience a lot more than when you got started.

It’s Ok to turn back on the trail!

There are times when the only sensible thing to do is to end the hike and head for home.

Not every expedition ends with a celebratory selfie on the summit. There are times when you need to abandon the trail and turn back. This can be particularly true in Ireland when mist, cloud or inclement weather can change the experience very quickly. In a very short while, you can go from beautiful day to ‘where the hell am I?’  Events can change the entire experience rapidly and it is important to know when to abandon the trip and return to base.  Sensible hikers take the trail seriously and will err on the side of caution and make the call as early as possible.  It can be a big disappointment, especially when the summit is in sight but it may be the only prudent thing to do.

Weather Changes

 Often that perfect hiking sunshine can turn to mist, rain, fog or worse. Of course a little drizzle or a light breeze won’t ruin your Outdoor Adventures, but when visibility and temperature become issues, it is time to act.  Adverse weather changes are a pain in the summer months, but downright dangerous in the winter.  Turning back is a real let-down and it may feel even more depressing than the dreadful weather itself.  There might be a temptation to carry on in the hope that the clouds lift and bright sunshine and rainbows await you at the mountain top. It is unlikely.  Seasoned bloggers, climbers and adventurers, Brian and Noelle, aka wanderingon.com, give this advice on climbing Carrauntoohil, Ireland’s highest mountain.

“The quickly changing Irish weather can have a huge impact on your climb and with the steep uneven trails, even the most experienced climbers can have problems here. In fact, there have been a number of deaths here and most have been experienced climbers. With that said, catch it on its day, in good weather and it’s a very achievable climb for anyone with a basic level of fitness.”

And while turning back on Carrauntoohil is not as formidable a choice as turning back on the last leg of K2 or Everest, yet the ability to make a rational decision and face for home is still very important.  There will be other days, other trips and the most important thing is your safety. Common sense

Sustaining an injury.

An injury to ankles, knees or anywhere really, is the signal to call it a day. This seems like a no-brainer.  Yet it is surprising how many experienced climbers will limp on stoically, hoping that the swelling will subside and that the trek will not be forfeited for a minor injury.  Blisters sustained early on in the expedition are a red flag also.   The rule is simple, if you are not all feeling well and hearty, then do not continue the trek

Getting wet

A fall into a stream or river can end in hypothermia, even on summer days. It is nearly impossible to get fully warm again if you have been drenched.  If you get soaked, it’s time to call the adventure off.  Another common issue is hikers getting wet through, simply from perspiration. Going uphill, people generate a lot more heat and sweat, especially if the terrain is tough on the body. Stopping for breaks or descending downhill means that trekkers stop generating that heat, and the sweat cools extremely quickly, causing cold and wet in base layers. If you find yourself soaked with sweat, change into dry layers or turn around as soon as possible.

If time does not allow

Sometimes, there is just not enough time in the day. Perhaps you didn’t start off as early as you intended, got delayed on the trail or simply misjudged the trail pace itself.  As the evenings draw in early, it is possible to lose the light earlier in the day and to turn back may well be the only option. If the light is fading and you have not yet reached the half way point of your hike, you may need to turn back, unless you are well equipped with head torches, high vis. jackets etc.

The wrong gear

The wrong shoes, no rain-gear, not enough water.  Even the most experienced trekker can forget items or bring the wrong gear.  Hiking without enough water, food or in uncomfortable or inappropriate gear is not advisable.  If you notice early on in your outdoor adventure that you don’t have what you need, turn back!

Reference:

https://wanderingon.com/climbing-carrauntoohil-ireland/

Dog Friendly walks and Hikes in Dublin

There is nothing more enjoyable than taking a happy, energetic and excited dog for a walk.  Our four legged friends make walking more enjoyable, increases the pace and encourages you to walk much further than on a solo trip.  Their enthusiasm is infectious and inspiring.  There are over 450,000 dog owners in Ireland. A staggering 35% of households have one or more canine member!  That’s a lot of dog treats, a lot of poop bags and a lot of walking.  Here are some suggestions for Outdoor Adventures in dog friendly places for the urban dogs of Dublin to enjoy.

dog friendly walk Dublin

Lead on!

City dwellers are tasked with getting a more interesting walk for their four legged friend, but with 15 beaches and over 1,500 hectares of parks, green spaces, Dublin has no shortage of lovely places for dog walking. Of course, most walks are on the lead and with the pooper scooper to hand.  Nevertheless, Dublin as fine offerings.

dog friendly hike Dublin

Dollymount Strand

A beautiful stretch of strand with good parking and plenty of running space.  Dogs must be kept on a lead and poop picked up.  Dollymount is accessible to most Northsiders as it’s not far from the city centre on Bull Island, a nature reserve which brings a wonderful air of the wildness to a city strand.

Phoenix Park

One of the largest enclosed parks in Europe, home to the president and his lovely dogs and offering over 1,750 acres to tire our even the most energetic of dogs.  Lots of lovely walks and plenty to sniff in the air.  A tight leash is essential as it is also home to a fine deer herd, urban foxes, rabbits and a whole zoo of wild animals.  Indeed, plenty to sniff in the air, but free roaming is not on the agenda. 

dog friendly walk Dublin

Canal Walks

A grand walk along the serene and calm pathways of the Grand Canal is perfect for doggie walks.  Plenty of ducks and water fowl to tease the mutt and lots of lovely pathways that hide the city and give the impression of being a million miles from the hustle and bustle.

Off the Lead

Urban dwellers can bring their dogs to almost any public park or beach when on a lead, but dogs off leash are a difficulty in both city parks and country walks. Some parks have come up with a solution to allow some down time for owners and their pets.

dog friendly hike Dublin

St Catherine’s Park in Lucan

…is a short car ride for most pooches.  Not only is it full of wandering path ways, squirrel smells and natural fauna to explore, it also has an enclosed dog park, where man (and woman’s) best friend can run around untethered by that pesky leash.

Marlay Park in Dún Laoghaire, Rathdown

…also boast a designated dog park, where freedom from the lead is encouraged.  The park itself offers lots of walking terrain for dog explorers and their owners and spans over 300 acres, so you can be sure of some solitude too.

dog friendly walk Dublin

St Anne’s Park, Clontarf.  A gorgeous wooded areas and acres of undergrowth for your dog to romp through and again, a dedicated area for dogs to go wild without disturbing anyone else.  These dog only areas are also perfect for pet owners to swop stories and chat and boast about how great ‘their’ dog is.

Into the wild

Sometime you just needs a change of scene and a little wildness to live up a dogs life. Try a different terrain and a new view to keep both of you fit and happy.

dog friendly hike Dublin

Killiney Hill and Dalkey Hill

Not far from Dublin City and worth the trip to put those four legs through an uphill and downhill trek workout, with amazing views for the leash holder to enjoy, Killiney and Dalkey Hill are a popular destination for two legged walkers and hikers availing of the spectacular scenery.  With Dublin to the northwest, the Irish Sea and the mountains of Wales (on a clear day) to the east and southeast, and Bray Head and the Wicklow Mountains to the south, it’s a perfect place for you and your dog to enjoy a hillwalking Outdoor Adventure, not far from your city home.

The Wicklow Way

Yes, the Wicklow way is in Wicklow, but is absolutely accessible to any Dublin dweller whether they use public transport or have a car. Ireland’s oldest marked hiking route, has infinite native oaks to sniff and miles of trails to explore together.  There is even an opportunity for owners to grab a coffee at Pamela’s Dog Park as the W.S.P.C.A. hosts public doggie playground sessions at the Sharpeshill Sanctuary.  The sanctuary’s dog park is a purpose built enclosure, complete with interesting tunnels and toys for your dog to explore, while you take a break from the lead before heading back into the wonders of the Garden of Ireland.  A perfect dog and owner hike.

dog friendly hike Dublin

Water Sport Activities for All the Family

Like ducks to water, Irish families are making a splash and enjoying water activities in increasing numbers this summer.  Maybe it’s the ‘staycation’ phenomenon. Maybe everyone is feeling more adventurous after months of tortuous lockdown, but whatever the reason, Irish families are making taking a plunge with water based Outdoor Adventures this year.   The range of organised water activities that are on offer is astounding. Surf schools, stand up paddle trips, diving and kayaking have all become more mainstream and accessible to all.  Of course, Ireland has never been short of water.  Most of it has been falling down on us incessantly.  But when the sun shines, we have the best lakes, rivers and seas for all kinds of watery fun! Families are embracing these opportunities!

water sport activities

Stand Up Paddling

Supping, or Stand Up Paddling is a really pleasant water activity for all.  Yes, you guessed it.  It is standing up on a board and paddling along!  A very gentle way to enjoy nature as you glide serenely along the lake or river.  There is no age limit. No huge physical demands and it is so much fun.  We have even heard of dogs who love hitching a ride on the paddle boards.  There are lots of places offering this unique activity.  It’s also good for social distancing! It is usually a calm, easy event, but supping can be done on any body of water from mild to wild.  So supping the waves of the Atlantic is available too for the more adventurous types.  Check out the best places to stand up and get paddling here.

Stand Up Paddling

Surfing

Surfing was once the sport of a few tanned demi-gods and goddesses, who strode down the beach as Jack Johnson music played loudly in the background, to paddle out proudly and ride the waves like the bosses they were. It’s not such a niche sport these days.  Now the shorelines are full of surfers, young and old, in family groups, making the sport look genuinely easy and loving the waves.  Bodyboarding is a great starter for the younger ones and there are surf lessons to be had at any sea side that is lucky enough to have waves.   A wet suit can be hired, but if you like the sea, and you live in Ireland, it is not a bad idea to invest in one.  Not every day is a day for the swimming togs and a wet suit can make the experience a much more enjoyable one.  Check out our blog here on which wet suit you should choose.   And if you are wondering if the surf is up?  Check out this live cam from Strandhill Sligo before strapping the board to the car.

Surfing in Ireland

Wild Swimming

Yes, that’s the new cool term for swimming in wild waters.  It could mean the sea, a river or a lake.  Generally it refers to freezing cold swimming and those hardy folk who jump off the 40ft in Dublin, Salthill pier in Galway and lots of other wild windy spots.  The die-hard types who even swim when, and especially when, there is snow falling!   For the rest of us mere mortals, wild swimming means checking the lifeguards instructions, making sure it’s a safe place, a warm day and plunging in within our depth, to enjoy splashing each other and swimming in nature.   Buoyancy aids for kids are an extra safety precaution and will allow the young ones to appreciate the freezing cold waves even more.  At Outdoor Adventure Stores we carry typhoon brand, which we find to be great value and totally reliable.  Swimming never gets old.

Wild Swimming in Ireland

Kayaking

Kayaking is hugely popular in Ireland.  Some love the gentle paddle on a calm lake and others crave the wild white waters of Mountain Rivers.   Whatever your kayaking preferences,  the beginner sessions for  all ages, including the children,  are a relaxed and calm way to experience kayaking. Give it a GO!   Family kayaking sessions in Dublin are perfect for getting started, learning new skills and having a fun.  In no time, you will be hooked on one of Ireland’s fastest growing water activities.  Enjoy learning to kayak at the scenic canal location and the stunning Dalkey coastlines lend itself to sheer pleasure. But there are opportunities to kayak all over Ireland now and your outdoor adventure with a paddle awaits.

Kayaking in Ireland

Scuba Diving

The best scuba diving in the world may well be on your doorstep.  The famous marine biologist, diver, explorer, Jaques Cousteau once said that some of the very best diving was ‘at the northern side of the Dingle Pennisular, where the Atlantic meets the Brandon Mountains in exceptional beauty’.  No one will argue with him.  Ireland’s coastland and islands offer amazing diving experiences.  Scuba diving is another fast growing water activity.  Scuba Dive West in Galway and Baltimore Dive Centre in Cork, both report sell out classes this summer. It is not surprising.  The wealth of marine life to be seen just a few meters offshore is just awesome.  Check out these spots for the best diving.

Scuba Diving in Ireland

Snorkelling

If you don’t fancy scuba diving, then why not try snorkelling.  It’s accessible to all ages, and relatively easy to do.   The trick is to find a nice easy spot to enter the water. Since Ireland has a rocky coastline, finding a safe place to snorkel can be a challenge. Avoid steep cliffs and find a walking path leading to the water. There are great snorkel friendly beaches on the west coast in County Donegal, Mayo, Sligo, Clare and Kerry. Equipment can be hired or purchased and snorkelling is easy on the environment and apparently good for your wellbeing too!  With over 3,000 miles of coastline, we have endless opportunities to lie face down peering at the watery underworld. Get more information from the professional snorkelers here.

Snorkeling in Ireland

Safety

With aqua parks, boat hire, canoeing and all manner of water sports to investigate and enjoy, it is possible for your family break to be less land/earthbound and more on the waves. However, safety should always be the first and last thing on your mind when taking wee ones and older ones out on the water.   Follow all the safety guidelines for each activity and for each geographical area.  Learn to swim competently and ensure that the more vulnerable family members wear lifejackets etc. 

Ireland’s love of water based activities is set to grow and grow as we all become more adventurous and enthusiastic about trying new things.   From swimming to diving and from surfing to water skiing  we will all be at sea! 

It’s not surprising, we do live on an island after all.  So dive on in and try something new this summer.

Water Sport Activities Ireland

Stop taking selfies and enjoy the view

Are ‘Selfies’ spoiling the adventure experience?

From Everest to Errigal the most common sight at every mountain summit is hordes of people posing for the standard selfie. Arms outstretched, selfie sticks hoisted and smiles fixed to faces that will be ‘beauty filtered’ for the best effect. A record of the moment captured forever in the hope of likes and approvals on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and the WhatsApp Group.  For those who don’t expect social media to follow their every move, there is a frustration in waiting for others to finish their uploads on a windy mountain top. All the while ducking and diving in case of unintentionally photo bombing someone’s shot. Selfies are normal behaviour in modern life. They are the go-to action at all events and attractions be they weddings, waterfalls, ice bergs, a cute calf licking a post or a particularly tasty burger.  There is absolutely nothing wrong in documenting life and sharing it  online, as long as there is a healthy balance between living the moment and recording the moment.  The question for us is whether the concentration on achieving that one great image is taking away from the enjoyment of the adventure itself?   Are selfies ruining the adventure experience for both the photographer and other trekkers?

embracing selfies

Ditch the Selfies and embrace the moment

Psychologists have a term for it. ’Selfitis’.  It refers to people who cannot stop taking selfies and posting them for others to see.  The American Psychiatric Association claim you are suffering from ‘selfitis’ if you are taking more than three sefies a day. Yes, that’s’ right, more than three selfie uploads constitutes an actual disorder.  Clearly, they have never been exposed to teenagers using Snapchat, when three photos a minute would be a fairly conservative estimate of postings. Linking the activity to narcissistic behaviour and a need for approval, there are warnings against overusing the selfie button.   This does not recognise that sometimes, the selfie shot it is motivated by a sense of wonder and awe, which may be shared for others to enjoy.  Taking selfies and sharing the beauty of your wonderful outdoor adventures has some positives.  It increases the appreciation for nature and encourages others to seek the enjoyment and experiences which are clearly so incredible, that they have to broadcast them widely.  But, a second screened view is exactly that and there is much you may miss when you narrow your view with the phone screen.  It is also good to put the phone down and experience the moment that you are in.   Just be there, without looking for the approval of, or the sharing of, that particular point in time, but just savouring it for yourself. 

dangers of selfies

Selfie Danger

Taking selfies on the trail can be distracting and at times, even dangerous.  Accidents while attempting to wow social media have included falling off bikes, plunging down waterfalls, being knocked off your feet by waves and attacked by wild animals.  More people die taking selfies than as a result of shark attacks.   Earlier this year, the phone case company Case24.com interviewed a large group of self-confessed selfie takers and found that 41% of them had risked safety in pursuit of the ultimate pic.  More than 1 in 10 reported sustaining injuries as they struggled for the perfectly posed Instagram shot.  Those elusive social media Likes are more important than being safe.  Now dubbed as ‘silicide’s’, selfie deaths or fatal accidents that occur while taking that one iconic image are sadly on the increase.  In January 2019, a 26 year old Trinity College student, Anand Goel died when he fell from the Cliffs of Moher in Co Clare.  He had been observed taking ‘lots of selfies’ before he fell. During the inquest, coroner Isobel O’Dea told the court: “It is quite clear that Mr. Goel was taking selfies in what proved to be a very dangerous place.”  Selfie taking can change your perception of the space and landscape around you. Distorting the reality and causing mis-steps that can have tragic consequences. Safety should always be the first consideration before clicking that camera button.

selfie tourism

Selfie Tourism. Embracing the Phenomenon

Some tourist destinations have realised that the selfie phenomenon is here to stay.  It is part of modern day cultural behaviour. Tourist destinations are recognising this. Palm Beach in Florida have issued selfie maps of the best places to pose in peace.  A Selfie Trail for the narcissistic tourist to enjoy in safety and secure in the knowledge that their photos will be great (and the same as every other tourist to the region!). There have been proposals in Ireland for the introduction of ‘selfie seats’ in popular tourist destinations, like the Cliffs of Moher.  These seats would be designated safe places to capture the perfect selfie.   Other cities issue pamphlets on safe selfie taking.  The Russian leaflet advises some essential tips such as, never take a selfie while crossing the road and stay a safe distance from the roof’s edges!  So, just as tourist destinations are embracing the selfie phenomenon, all of us who enjoy the outdoor life, must adjust accordingly too. As we enjoy our amazing country and trek its hills and valleys, we must add selfie safety to the list of outdoor knowledge/ backwoods skills and keep an eye on our fellow travellers who may take unnecessary risks in pursuit of immortality on social media.  Say Cheese!

selfie phenomenon

Sources:

Martin Graff Ph.D., 2018,
Are You Taking Too Many Selfies?“, www.psychologytoday.com

Discover The Palm Beaches, 2017,
“How to use the Selfie Trail in The Palm Beaches”, www.youtube.com