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

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

Back to the Hills

It has never felt better to get out and about for Outdoor Adventure.  Our enforced time at home may have been pleasant but it is time to run for the hills.  The easing from 2km to 5km felt amazing, but now we are flying free again. We are unleashed to enjoy all that this great country has to offer in terms of thrilling treks, fantastic walks and amazing scenery.  At Outdoor Adventure Store, we have missed you all as much as we have missed walking, climbing, running and revelling in the outdoor life.   To celebrate our joint freedom and renewed appreciation for the world, we have generous reductions on many items in-store.  So, take this opportunity to treat yourself to some new outdoor equipment as you get back to the hills.

Hiking and Walking Boots

Before you invest in some awesome footwear, take a wee moment to decide what is best for your needs.  Consider which type of hiking, hill walking you plan to do and what kind of terrain it involves. This will be the deciding factor when it comes to choosing appropriate footwear.  A good pair of hiking boots is an investment in many years of comfortable trekking. Getting back to the Hills will be a charm with the right footwear.    Hiking long distances and upland trails comfortably and without blisters or wet feet while reducing the dangers of slipping and falling, is dependent on good footwear.    A good pair of hiking boots are optimised for ankle support on all terrains and will protect your feet from rocks and spikey trail debris.   The wrong shoes are simply not suitable and those who start walking in regular footwear, often regret their decision quickly.   It may be that the type of hiking/hill walking that you are planning to do, would be better suited to a walking shoe or sandal.  The important thing is not to get blistered and footsore.   Check out our blog on how to choose the right pair of boots for you, or call into the store to avail of the expert advice of our friendly staff.

Walking and Trekking Poles

Perhaps you are not as fit as you were prior to the Covid-19 lockdown, but this should not deter you from getting back to the hills with vigour and enthusiasm.  A good walking pole is not just an extra piece of equipment, it can be the difference between making the summit, and safely descending your favourite mountain with a smile on your face.  At Outdoor Adventure Store we have a fantastic range of trekking poles and hiking poles to suit every expedition, whether they are big or small.  For walking pole novices, we recommend the robust three-piece trekking pole from Leki .  Its adjustable safety strap and rounded supporting surface on the new Evocon trekking grip are particularly pleasant for a downhill climb.  The length of the poles should be adjusted to suit your height and the activity you are planning. Generally speaking, lengthen the poles for descents, and shorten them for ascents and the length for walking along flat or gently slopes should be around waist height.  To avail of our great offers on walking poles, see the range online or talk to one of our knowledgeable staff.

Trekking poles for walking

Baby comes too!

There is no reason why baby cannot come too!  Especially when we have great offers on all baby carriers.  One of our most popular models is the Osprey Poco Plus Child Carrier, a sturdy model that boasts the same innovated suspended mesh back system as some of our most comfortable hiking and backpacking packs. It also has essential sun protection. The rapid deploy Poco Plus Sun-Shade, with an UPF 22 rating it protects your little cargo from harmful sun rays, making the perfect shaded spot for an afternoon nap. When the weather takes a turn for the worse, deploy the integrated rain-cover.  See our previous blog on which is the best buy for you and your little one. 

hiking with baby

Tents

We truly cannot keep the tents in the warehouse this year!  Our unbelievable value in tents for family staycations or for solo travellers has seen an unprecedented amount of canvas sold since the lifting of restrictions.  But don’t worry, we have plenty of tents still in stock for your camping needs. RockNRiver have the very best in adventure camping packages for as little as €99.00, and if you are looking for some luxury at the campfire, the Vango range of tents has all you could ever need and more.

As we all enjoy our staycations in Ireland, with a reborn appreciation for alfresco living let’s do with the best equipment possible.  Whether we are camping with the family, hiking solo or climbing to the top of the tallest mountain.  Outdoor Adventure Stores have everything you need to make the experience a pleasant, fun and unforgettable. We have your back as you get back to the hills.

Five Easy Hikes near Dublin to get you back into your Walking Groove

We have all lost a little fitness level since the Covid-19 pandemic brought movement restrictions and lock down to our lives. Unless you were one of the lucky few whose 2km, 5km or 20km exercise limit gave you access to mountain paths and leafy valleys, you have probably lost some muscle tone and endurance.  Of course, some folks trekked up and down their stairs or worked out to online Zoom classes. And others trekked to and from the fridge. But whatever your experience was, those of us who treasure the outdoors will be looking forward to getting out our walking boots, getting out into nature again and truly appreciating our outdoor adventures.

Here are some easy day hikes within easy access of Dublin, to get you, and the family, back in trekking mode:

Howth Head Cliff Walk Dublin – 3.5 miles and 2 hours

You may have to share this hike with other likeminded people as the proximity to urban centres and public transport means that Howth is a very popular outdoor destination.  Go early in the day and watch the sun rise over the Atlantic. Or go late in the evening when the breezes are cooler and the light is soft.  It’s a 3.5 mile loop walk along cliff tops with the most amazing view of the famous lighthouses and all the beauty that Dublin Bay has to offer.
Start at the Dart station in this pretty fishing village and follow the green arrow trails along the route. There is plenty of climbing to get your heart pumping again and to get the legs warmed up. It’s a track that can be rocky and uneven at times, with sharp cliff drops, so wear appropriate shoes and keep an eye on the wee ones.

Walking in Dublin

Dublin Mountains Way – 8.7km Looped Hell Fire Club and Masseys Woods Loop

The Dublin Mountains Way is 40km of incredible trails. Take it in bite sized pieces and walk just a part of it.  There are plenty of routes available and as it well signposted, with yellow man signs, it is not difficult to find the trail that suits you and your walking companions.  Hell fire Club at the summit of the Montpelier Hill in the foothills of the Dublin Mountains is infamous for its stories of a spooky and devilish past. It gives incredible views over the Dublin city.  
A great spot to start this long-ish walk. It’s a walk rather than a hike and is rated easy so ideal for family and for getting the endurance back, rather than the climbing muscles.  On a sunny day, you can see most of the city, and way out to sea.  Very satisfying trail to whet the appetite for the big adventures to come.

Walks around Dublin

Bray to Greystones –  4.5 miles and 2.5 hours

A stunning trail winding high along the coastline.  The Cliff Walk from Bray to Greystones is about 7 kilometres long, takes about 2 and a half hours to complete and boasts some of the most amazing views of the East Coast, right across the Atlantic ocean.  Starting point is the seafront at Bray. There is a steep climb to give you the challenge you crave, but the rewards of those breathtaking views will make it all worthwhile. 
There is an abundance of wildlife, seabirds, dolphins, harbour porpoise and even basking sharks.  Most people go from Bray to Greystones, but if you feel oppositional, you can go the other way round!  Most of us prefer a looped walk and this trail is definitely an out and back trek, but you can get the train back to your starting point, and make the day an even more enjoyable experience.

Things to do in Dublin

The Scalp Lookout Trail – 1 mile… less than an hour       

Just one and a half kilometres south east of Kilternan on the minor road to Enniskerry, is Barnaslingan Forest on the eastern slope of the Scalp.  It is the starting point for a few easy walks, but the lookout trail is the one you want to choose as you ease back into your walking mode. Follow the red way markers for this track.   If you are really quiet, you may glimpse the wild white goats that live here. It is a dense pine wood and easy looped track, but then branches out to the breath taking Scalp lookout where the view has to be seen to be believed. 

easy hikes around Dublin

Ticknock Walk – 1.5 hours

The Fairy Castle Loop.   Literally on the doorstep! No need to travel far to enjoy some good mountain trekking.  A scenic looped walk on forest road and path through the Three Rock Wood and upwards to reveal amazing views of the city from Three Rock Mountain and Fairy Castle.  At the top, there is a 360 degree panoramic view with the city to the north and the Wicklow Mountains to the south. 
From Fairy Castle a muddy track heads west before you turn north and descend along the edge of the forest and back to the car. It is rough enough terrain so very much geared towards properly equipped and experienced walkers.   Good stout hiking boots and wet gear are needed, even though it is just an hour and a half of moderate hiking to complete this loop.  It might be just the one to blow away the cobwebs and get those walking muscles into shape again.  Ticknock also has about 10km of marked walking trails if you fancy trying something more strenuous.

If the movement restriction of Covid-19 have taught us anything (and we have been taught many things) it is to cherish and appreciate the wonders of the world around us. The closeness of nature and the effect it has, not just on our physical health, but on our mental wellbeing.  Let’s get out there and truly enjoy our outdoor adventures leaving nothing behind and taking just the memories home.

Easy walks around Dublin

Resources:
www.sportireland.ie
www.dublinmountains.ie
www.activeme.ie

Hiking Solo

Essential safety tips, some practical advice and the best Irish hiking routes for solo trekkers.

Humans are sociable creatures.  We like to hunt and play in packs.  We also like to hike in groups or in couples for the camaraderie and the craic. But sometimes you want to hike alone. Sometimes no one is free to join you but the urge to be outdoors is strong and dictates that going solo is the only option.  Then there are times when you want to feel the wind in your hair, the trail under your feet and the open road ahead of you totally alone.  Trekking solo is the marmite of the hiking community.  It is absolutely loved by some and completely loathed by others.  There are genuine (and imagined) fears which need to be considered by the lone hiker and there are also genuine (no imagined) pluses to journeying on the solitary trail. 

Safety first

There are always safety concerns for the intrepid traveller heading out to hike the wilderness.   Falling down, becoming ill, being injured or attacked by wild beasts are possibilities that every hiker should prepare for before every outdoor adventure.  These concerns are heightened when facing the trails on your own.  Good preparation can lessen the likelihood of any or all of these mishaps and make certain that a plan is in place in the unlikely event that something untoward happens.

Backup   Tell someone where you are going. Sounds simple and that’s because it is.  Let a reliable person know what time you are starting the hike, the route which you plan to take and your estimated return time. Don’t forget to let them know when you are home again, otherwise you could face the embarrassment of sparking a rescue mission while you snore soundly, safe in your own bed. 

Getting Lost   Yup, this is a possibility, but one that you can avoid by choosing to travel on well-known and properly marked routes and then sticking to them. Don’t be tempted to go off the beaten path. This is no time to go all Bear Grylls and start exploring the unknown. If you have a bad sense of direction, pay extra attention to which itinerary that you choose.  A trail you have enjoyed previously might be the best option, but a well-worn path is certainly sensible.  Bring your phone and a power-pack but don’t rely on them totally.  A GPS positioning system is useful but you should pack a map and compass.  Know your physical limits and don’t attempt to do too much, as this could exhaust you and cause disorientation.  If you do get lost just STOP (stop, think, observe and plan).  The chances are you are not very far from civilization and some quiet reflection and a good look around will get you back on track in no time.

Animals

Thankfully in Ireland, the likelihood of an attack by wilder-beasts, tigers or bears is a very unlikely occurrence. However, you should be cautious and respectful of cows with calves, sheep with lambs and the default moody moods of rams and bulls.  Let cows and sheep know you are approaching (humming or singing will suffice) and try not to walk through a herd, but skirt around them calmly and without panic. Sheep generally run from you. In fairness, by sticking to the trail it is likely that the only wild critters you see are shy foxes, hares, rabbits and the beautiful birds that our Island is famed. You are far more scary than anything you will meet on the trail. Which leads nicely on to the next word of caution…

Humans

This is the one warning that other people will love to impart when you plan to trek solo. There are some weirdos in the world, for certain.  The closer to populated areas you hike, the more probable it is that you’ll encounter a weirdo. Be friendly but not outgoing to people you meet. Give the impression that your hiking partner should be along soon. Pepper spray might be something to take with you if you feel vulnerable with strangers.  In general, those of us who hike alone on a regular basis, have pleasant encounters with other people. Short, pleasant encounters.  If you fear that you being attacked on the trail is a possibility then you should choose the more well-trodden paths and weekend hikes, where there are more people around. If you are really worried and fearful, then solo hiking might not be for you. Join a walking group or a local hiking club and be certain of always having company on the road.

Be Prepared

Gear – It is important to be more prepared than unusual.  If you have forgotten something, there is no one else to borrow it from!  Ensure your phone is fully charged.  Bring a Power pack, The GPS and more than just this, bring a map, compass, whistle and a torch (head torches are best). Clothes suitable for the weather (raingear, base layer, sun hat etc.)   A change of socks. High protein snacksWater purification tablets and/or plenty of water.  A good first aid kit and chocolate. You will always need chocolate!   Check out our blog on what you will need for hiking

Know the route If you are trekking a route that is new to you, then check it out thoroughly first. If possible view it on Google and identify any problem areas (rivers to cross etc.). Read the reviews from other hikers. Then let someone sensible and reliable know where you will be and when. Decide on a sensible return time and let them know if you are going to be late. ht All Trails is a great app that shows the route, pictures, reviews and good info that could be useful for researching the route.

The solitude of the mindful walker

Walking as a form of mindfulness or as a meditative practice is increasingly popular.  Many enthusiasts are choosing to spend time trekking in nature as a contemplative and restorative thing to do.  They say that the solitude and the quiet recalibrates the system and brings the ‘headspace’ which a lot of people crave. Zen backpacking.   Walking at your own pace, in the best company possible. Your own! There is no unscheduled stopping at the behest of the group or one person in the group. Similarly you can take a break whenever you like without upsetting anyone. For those who like rambling on their own it is an amazingly rewarding experience. On the flip side of this joy, there are those who find it a thoroughly lonely experience.  For them, facing the trail alone is akin to abandonment and loss. Loneliness abounds.  Solo trekking is just not for everyone. One famous blogger bemoaned that there was no one to take her photograph and to converse about the views as she went. For those who need photographic evidence, a selfie stick will solve the first issue and there is really nothing wrong with talking to yourself in the wilderness and rapidly becoming one of the ‘weirdos’ other hikers fear.

Hiking solo can be rewarding, rejuvenating and a truly positive adventure as long as you know your own limits, prepare in advance and value the solitude that awaits.

A few of the best Routes in Ireland

The time of year, the weather forecast, your ability and fitness level and the time you have allotted for the expedition will all influence the choice of route for the sole hiker. Ireland has a wonderful variety of hikes, looped walks and marked trails for all hiking enthusiasts. Here are a few of the top one day hikes suitable for those who like to walk alone.

Crone Woods – Maulin Mountain Loop Wicklow

A Coillte route of some 6 kilometres, with a few tough parts, but fairly moderate skill needed.  Its proximity to Dublin is likely to mean that it is a fairly busy trail most weekends.  There are amazing views out to the coastline and over the Powerscourt waterfall. It’s a gravel trail all the way and has the added advantage of being a loop walk. 

Errigal Mountain Donegal

Standing 751 meters high, Errigal is one of Ireland’s most iconic and beautiful mountains. The tallest mountain in the Derryveagh range, it is situated in the Gaelteacht area of Gweedore and dominates the landscape.  The trail takes about three hours, including the walk from the car park and the climb itself.   Follow the well walked path alongside the stream, and up a clearly visible track rising through the white silvery scree on the lower slopes of the mountain. The summit has two peaks and while the first is the highest and the real summit, the beaten path will lead you to the second short crossing to the second peak and reward you with awesome views.  It is not easy to get lost on Errigal and it’s a popular climb so it is perfect for the solo trekker.

 Hares Gap. Co Down

Where the mountains of Mourne sweep down to the sea.  Stunning trail across the mountains. Well sign posted and not too far away from the maddening crowd.  This is a four to Five hour trek, just two miles out and back with some steep terrain.

Bantry Coorycommane Loop.  Cork

A beautiful hike that offers a range of terrain. Forestry, bog road, country roads over straight and hilly ground. It can be quite steep in parts and will take a good two hours to complete.  Fantastic views over the Coomhoola Borin Vally, Bantry Bay and Whiddy Island and right down to the Beara Peninsular.  Way marked and looped, this hike offers an off the beaten track experience without actually being too far from civilisation.

Find a  mountaineering group   near you 

https://www.mountaineering.ie/localclub/ or https://www.mountaineering.ie/membersandclubs/registration/ if you  join as a member. They offer accredited mountain training skills workshops and courses that are very useful for solo hikers.

Seven of Ireland’s Lesser- known treasures and trails for the Outdoor Enthusiast to Explore

Just when you think you have seen all that Ireland has to offer.  There have been those unforgettable times when you’ve been awestruck by incredible cliff walks, astounded by rocky mountain trails and chilled into a peaceful space beside secluded lakes.  And yet, Ireland still offers more. There are always those hidden treasures to explore. Those just off the beaten track areas of unfrequented beauty.  Sometimes these are places known only to locals and those ‘in the know’. Sometimes they are overlooked, as the more famous tourist attractions take the focus.  Here is our list of seven hidden treasures that are worthy of inclusion in your Outdoor Adventures.

St. Catherine’s Demesne.  Dublin and Kildare

A totally under-rated nature reserve, which features some of the oldest woodland in Co Dublin and is so accessible to the Capital city, that the calm solitary vibe of the trails and secluded pathways are always a mystery and a joy.  You might imagine that this vast impressive amenity would be packed at all times, but you can pretty much have the paths all to yourself. The River Liffey is at its finest in these 200 acres of woodland and grassland.  Cows graze, herons’ fish and while there is a playground, a dog run, a running track and football pitches, there is still a vast amount of unexplored habitat for the very best of Ireland’s wildlife to live undisturbed and untroubled.    The playground is impressively big, with a maze, zip lines and swings etc. but, it is in the wilder side of St Catherine’s that its true beauty is revealed.   The primeval landscape of St Catherine survives and welcomes season’s changes under a canopy of ash, beech and elderly oak trees.  Explore the woodland trails by the River Liffey weirs and leave the nearby city behind as curious squirrels and foxes peep from the undergrowth.  The OPW bought this estate, which had many previous owners, in 1996 and it remains one of Ireland’s most wonderful hidden treasures. It can be accessed by three Counties, Fingal, Co Dublin and Kildare, with adequate parking and is a perfect place to stroll, picnic and rejuvenate the tired spirit.
 

Dursey Island

Dursey Island lies of the tip of the Beara Peninsula in West Cork. It is as off the beaten track as you are likely to find.  Dursey has no shops, no pubs and no restaurants.  It does, however, have a cable car.  Irelands only cable car. Opened in 1969, it is the only one in Europe that traverses open seawater and is one of the great attractions of the island.   

On the island itself, there is a 4 hour loop walk from the cable car exit point and the village of Ballynacallagh. The loop affords unrivalled scenery and fantastic views.  Taking the hardy traveller past the ruin of an ancient church, ascending to the remains of the Signal Tower, where the spectacular views of Bull and Cow Island and the beautiful coastline of West Cork will take the breath away! Dursey Island offers quirky and novel transport and a fantastic days hiking in the best that this country has to offer.  Bring your sandwiches and enjoy on one of the Ireland hidden treasures.

Benwee Head Mayo

The North Coast of Mayo is one of Ireland’s closely guarded secrets.  Of course, it’s on the Wild Atlantic Way, but the outlying villages around Blacksod Bay are often bypassed as adventurers head to other more famous places on the route.   This is part of its charm. The cliffs, the sea stacks and arches in the Atlantic swells near the small Irish-speaking village of Carrowteige are every bit as impressive as the Cliffs of Moher or Slieve League. The fact that you may enjoy them practically to yourself only adds to their appeal.  Carrowteige village is the base and the trail head for four signposted walks, of which the Children of Lir walk  is the most rewarding.   A rugged and breezy 10km coastal route through a wild landscape of bog and windswept mountainside. It follows surfaced roads, grassy tracks and paths and brings you past the Children of Lir sculpture, a sweeping and striking art work overlooking the outstanding beauty of Benwee Head.  This loop walk is a little known gem and one of Ireland’s great lesser travelled routes.

Caves of Kesh. Sligo

Just twenty minutes south of Sligo town, nestled in the rolling hills near the town of Ballymote, the Caves of Keash are a natural wonder.  Accessible and exciting, these caves can be easily climbed to by family groups and day trippers.  The effort of the clamber up the trail is rewarded with incredible views. The lush valley and Lakelands stretching to the Ox Mountains are inspiring. On a good day, the iconic Mayo Mountains of Croagh Patrick and Nephin, can be seen to the South, while Sligo’s Ben Bulben peeps into view to the North. The caves are situated on the west side of Keshcorran Hill and are part of the Brieklieve Mountain range.  Sixteen caves, some interconnecting, are magical, dark, dank spaces that spark the imagination of children and peak the interest of naturists. There are a few stalagmites and stalactites. Excavations carried out in the early 20th century, showed evidence of significant animal remains. Among these, there were the bones of brown bear, arctic lemming, Irish elk, and grey wolf. These days you may disturb a few bats, but the bears will be confined to imagination. Mythology and legend link the caves to Fionn Mac Cumhaill and other Celtic mythology.  

The Arigna Miner’s Way

Walk in the footsteps of the Leitrim coal miners.  The 112km route from Arigna to Dowra in Co. Leitrim takes the lonely traveller through bog lands and pathways traced by the men of this region who spent their days underground. Smaller sections can be traversed, such as the 8km route from the mine itself (now a visitors centre near Ballinamore) across the panoramic Iron mountains to the opulent splendour of Kilronan Castle.  Not just a scenic walk, but a history lesson too, as you walk the miner’s way and end up at ‘the big house’!  Coal mining was a back breaking part of life around Arigna for over 400 years.  As you hike the hills above Lough Allen, and trek down to the villages of Keadue and Lough Meelagh on this network of beaten tracks, through heather and ferns, you can contemplate on the lives of those men. To spend life working underground when all of this amazing vista was denied to them above ground seems extremely harsh.  The Miner’s Way preserves the heritage of this area and is a testament to these men, but also brings us luckier souls on an amazingly beautiful journey through one of Ireland’s most incredible areas of natural beauty.

The Coumlara Loop trail in Waterford

 A wilderness walk for those who like to have the trail to themselves.  It is also a dog friendly trek. This is a looped hike of over six and a half kilometres which climbs to 350 meters on track and trail, roadway and mountain terrain heading towards the lower slopes of the Comeragh Mountains.  Waterford is just an hour away and a whole world away. The trail crosses the Nire River, which is usually little more than a stream flowing from Coumlara . The Comeragh Mountains are a remarkably varied range, stretching from the coast near Dungarvan inland as far as Clonmel, and this loop walk is particularly beautiful and remote with scenic views and has the added attraction that most day trippers are off at the incredible Mahon Falls, leaving you to relish your outdoor adventure on less travelled paths and revealing unexplored beauty of Ireland.

Blessington Greenway and Russborough House.

Blessington was once a quiet Wicklow town but is now firmly on the Dublin commuter belt. This does not mean it has been spoilt or that access to nature and quiet walks are not still close by.  The Blessington Greenway is a short enough trek that will keep all the family happy on a Sunday afternoon.  There is the added bonus of the grandeur of Russborough House as an end-of -trail prize! Blessington Greenway starts in the town itself and winds around the south shores of the famous lakes, and traverses through forest and woodland.  It passes an ancient ring fort and is a wonderful place for flora and fauna of every variety.  Sneak previews of the stately home can be seen as you walk the trail. The house can be accessed for an admission fee and offers all the graciousness and beauty of one of Ireland’s finest stately homes.  The gardens are a’maze’ ing!  Yes, they have a maze. There is a 2000 metre beech hedge maze and it is its most fascinating feature.   A statue of Cupid stands proudly on a column at the centre of the maze, as a beacon to help you find your way. Very popular with children, it is open every day of the week March-November.   The Blessington Greenway is 6km long and is a moderate to easy trek which has the added advantage of being just 30 mins from the capital city, yet still reveals to you another of the lesser outdoor adventures of Ireland. 

Photo Credit: Best of Sligo

What gear will I need for backpacking/hiking in Ireland?

In Ireland, we are blessed with a wide range of wonderful terrain for hiking and trekking. With that comes a similarly wide variety of weather to make your Outdoor Adventure even more exciting!   This can bring a dilemma when purchasing and packing the right equipment for making your day out the best experience it can be.  Wet feet or chaffing clothes can ruin the day.  The weather can change drastically from morning to afternoon, and indeed it can also present challenges as you move from sea level to mountain top.  At Outdoor Adventure Store, we appreciate the need for good equipment that combines value for money with the practicalities of hiking in Ireland. Here is a few pieces of salient advice, tried and tested by staff and customers and then a list of all you might need.  Enjoy!

Waterproofs

It doesn’t really matter whether you are hiking in January or July, you are likely to need waterproof jackets and over pants.  The weight of these items is what will change, depending on the temperature and time of year.  A good warm outdoor jacket is a must for an Irish winter regardless of whether you are just taking the dog to the park, or embarking on a treacherous trek up the mountains. There is a great variety of waterproof jackets and pull up trousers to choose from.  For the summer months, choose a lightweight ‘pop in the backpack’ brand and bulk it up for the winter.  The important thing is to not get caught out in the rain.

Shoes, boots or walking sandals

The terrain is the deciding factor when it comes to the appropriate footwear.  A good pair of hiking boots is an investment in years of outdoor adventure enjoyment. Check out our blog on how to choose the right pair of boots for you, or call into the store to avail of the expert advice of our friendly staff.  It may be that the type of hiking/hill walking that you are planning to do, would be better suited to a walking shoe or sandal.  The important thing is not to get blistered and footsore.

Base Layers

If you have never enjoyed the comfort and warmth of modern technology and common sense that comes wrapped up in base layer clothing, then you are in for a real treat.  Base layers are versatile pieces of clothing (T shirts, long sleeved tops etc.) in different fabrics that provide the buffer zone between you and certain climates and conditions. They draw moisture away from the body, so no need to feel sweaty, to stop you feeling damp and allowing cold to creep in.  Good base layer clothing is a modern day essential for outdoor activities.

Once you get the basics right, your expeditions will be transformed into great adventures,  as you concentrate on personal goals, the amazing countryside, the route and your overall sense of achievement and happiness. With the right gear, your mind will be focused where it should be… on where the foot is falling and not what that foot is wearing!  Here is a short list of essential equipment to set any intrepid hiker/backpacker/hillwalker or trekker off on the trails comfortable, happy and safe.

Hiking socks

Waterproof jacket or poncho

Waterproof over pants

 Fleece long sleeved shirts

Base layer clothing, as appropriate

Light and comfortable trousers

Appropriate foot wear/boots/sandals  

Comfortable, adjustable waterproof back pack

Walking Poles

Hat

Gloves

Snood or scarf

First aid kit

Survival blanket

Torch or Headlamp

Mobile phone

Battery pack for phone   

Sunscreen, sunglasses and sun hat (on the good days!)

Compass, map, GPS

Water Bottles/Rehydration system

Multi Tool

Food Protein Bars, chocolate, nuts etc.

What you will need for the trek to Everest Base Camp

So, you are off on one of the most iconic historic treks in the world!  The infamous expedition to the base camp at the top of the world is on the bucket list of many adventurous spirits. Knowing what to take, and what to leave behind, is essential to enjoying, and successfully completing this experience.

A 45minute flight from Kathmandu to the landing strip of at Lukla brings you straight to the heart of the adventure. Breathtakingly beautiful and winding trails surround the lower lush green regions where you will pass through traditional Sherpa villages, Buddhist temples and bazaars.  

Mount Everest base camp stands at 5,364m in the shadow of the summit of highest mountain in the world, Everest( 8,848m ).  Chomolungma ‘The mother goddess of the Earth’ in Tibetan and Sagarmatha ’ sky head’ in Nepalese,  offers one of the most scenic and culturally rich treks imaginable.  Once above the 4,500 meters or so, the landscape changes and your breathing becomes more difficult as the air thins.  The views of these mountain ranges must be seen to be believed and nothing prepares you for the incredible might and awe of rock, snow and ice at the top of the world.

Most trekkers choose to travel with a trekking group, but it is possible to take the challenge on your own.  The best months to take up the challenge of Base Camp is pre-monsoon (February through to May) and post monsoon (Late September through to December).  April and May are the most crowded as those with permits to summit are acclimatizing, so it might be best to avoid those times. Your equipment or gear list is pretty much unchanged no matter what time of year you choose to trek.  That moment when you arrive at Base Camp brings an exhilaration and a sense of achievement which is unforgettable and life affirming.  Check out our gear list to ensure that your Everest experience is positive and successful.

Climbing equipment

  • Ice axes with straps
  • Crampons
  • Climbing harness
  • Locking snap hooks (2)
  • Classic snap hooks (4)
  • Blocker (Ascender). A right or a left
  • Insurer (2)
  • Climbing helmet
  • Draw strips
  • Adjustable trekking poles

Shoes

Technical clothing

For the hands

For the head

Personal equipment


What gear do I need to climb Kilimanjaro?

Your essential packing guide for Tanzania’s iconic mountain.

Kilimanjaro has gorgeous views, abundant wildlife and challenging landscapes making it the perfect destination for the adventurous traveller. Luckily, Mt. Kilimanjaro is less of a technical climb and more of a long trek, making it a possible climb for those without extensive mountain-climbing experience. It is often called the ‘walk-up’ mountain.  But Africa’s highest peak is not an easy climb. It is an ascent into extreme altitudes of 5,589m on a trek that can last anything from five to nine days to complete. Statistically, less than half of all climbers on Kilimanjaro make it to the summit, although all make it some way up the mountain to enjoy the awesome views of waterfalls, lava rock formations and glaciers.  Pre-trip training and packing the right gear will increase your chances of summiting the iconic Uhuru Peak and will ensure an enjoyable, thrilling yet safe adventure that is memorable for all the right reasons.

Kilimanjaro has two rainy seasons, the first is from March through May and the second occurs in November. This means that there are two distinct trekking seasons, January-March and June-October, which give the optimum conditions for climbing. January to March is generally colder than June through to October and there is a higher probability of encountering snow on the summit. The gear list below is suitable for both climbing seasons.  

Kilimanjaro guides warn that most travellers bring too much gear. For this reason, we have kept the list to the bare minimum and to the essentials.   It is worth noting that all climbers are obliged by Tanzanian law to climb with a guide AND to hire a porter to carry equipment.

Outdoor Adventure Store staff have tried and tested all the gear we sell and are on hand to assist with your questions and gear related queries. 

We want you to enjoy your Outdoor Adventures to the absolute max!  

Climbing equipment

  • Ice axes with straps
  • Crampons
  • Climbing harness
  • Locking snap hooks (2)
  • Classic snap hooks (4)
  • Blocker (Ascender). A right or a left
  • Insurer (2)
  • Climbing helmet
  • Draw strips
  • Adjustable trekking poles

Shoes

Technical clothing

For the hands

For the head

Personal equipment

Autumn Hiking in Europe off the Beaten Path

Autumn can be perfect for hiking. The weather is cooler, the trails are less crowded and the beauty of nature takes on a new golden hue. Early morning mountain air is just that bit crisper, there is less danger of dehydration or sunburn and there is the self-satisfied feeling that the rest of the world are slogging away at office, school and university desks while you are free as the migrating swallows.  

We have put together some lesser known, but still accessible European hiking trails that will tempt you to autumn trekking and hiking, off the beaten path.

Croatia – Mosor Mountain

Croatia has some of the most breathtakingly scenic hiking routes anywhere in Europe. The Paklenica National Park offers the best routes, including a 4hr return hike up to Anica Kuk, featuring incredible views over the bay of Strarigrad.  But this area is difficult to get to from most major airports.  If you have less time available, the Mosor Mountain is right next to the city of Split. A destination for many budget airlines.  The route on Mosor is easy to access and has wonderful views of the Adriatic and the city of Split itself.  Follow the trail to Vickov Stup for a rewarding and mildly challenging 5 hr return hike.  The mountain is home to wild deer and goats and an amazing variety of alpine flora and fauna.  If you are feeling truly energetic, there are a choice of other mountain trails in and around Croatia’s second city which are worthy of a stride out and are guaranteed to fulfil your sense of adventure.  Of course, Split is an attractive coastal city with lots to offer in terms of food, drink, night life and the beaches of the Dalmation coastline and a perfect place to rest up after your vigorous trekking.

Spain – Montserrat, Catalonia

Just 54 km away from Barcelona, Monteserrat is a less frequently visited gem of a destination.   Although this is one of the most amazingly beautiful places in Catalonia, Northern Spain, it’s not always included in the usual tourist itinerary.  There are a choice of hiking trails for all levels of competency. From the 5 km easy trek (with the sneaky option of a cable car home!) to longer, way off the beaten track trails.  The Montserrat hiking trail up to the San Jeroni summit is by far the most rewarding hike. If you have the time, it’s definitely the one you should choose. The 360 degree views, not only over the whole of the Montserrat mountain range, but also over most of Catalonia will be your well-deserved reward at the end of this trail. Spain is a great choice for autumn hiking as the temperatures are very pleasant, but you should be aware that the hours of daylight may be shorter than you are used to.   Flights to Barcelona are plentiful from Ireland and there is cheap local transport to Monteserrat, making this a very accessible hiking spot for weekend trippers.

Cyprus

More often famed for its sun tourist, Cyprus has a lot more to offer.  Leave the crowds lying on their sunbeds by the pool and tighten up your hiking boots for some awesome trails across the island.  The Madari Circular trek is an 8 mile trail which takes in some incredible views of the UNESCO world heritage sites and rewards the trekker with magical views of the Xylliatos Dam.   This trail is not particularly tough but is very beautiful with unspoilt vistas and almost deserted tracks and trails.  The island does have much to offer for the more hard core hiker.  The Besparmak Trail is 255km long and you need to set aside at least five days to tackle this experience. Traversing mountains, coastal trails, forests and quaint villages.  Crusader castles, monasteries and churches, the wonderful scenic views will ease the journey.  For the even more adventurous, there is also the St Georges Trail. This is the most dangerous trail in Cyprus, famed for high ground, steep drops and an abundance of snakes.  If this is your idea of fun, then make sure you have stout well fitted boots to go with that sense of adventure.

Georgia – Caucasian Mountains. 

Completely off the track, beaten or otherwise, Georgia offers some hiking trails where you may well be the only Western trekker for miles. Time seems to have stood still in this beautiful wilderness. Locals use horse and carts to get around and traditional farming methods to survive.  Follow the Mestia to Ushguli trail and it will bring you to nature at its purest.  High glacial peaks, unspoilt lakes and lush valleys, the trail winds through one stone village after another. Guest houses are available for cheap sleeps on your journey and September is thought to be the most perfect time of year for the Caucasian Mountains where Europe and Asia meet.

Albanian Alps: Hiking the Spectacular Theth to Valbona Trail

A five-and-a-half-hour flight can bring you to the far-flung coast of Albania, on South-eastern Europe’s Balkan Peninsula. It’s a small country with Adriatic and Ionian coastlines and an interior crossed by the Albanian Alps.    The most famous hiking trails are here in the Alps. The most picturesque and inspiring trail goes from Valbona to Theth, through the Accursed Mountains.  How Lord of the Rings does that sound?  Spectacular landscapes of the Balkan Peninsula and the incredible beauty of the majestic Albanian Alps await the most intrepid traveller.  The hike, called Peaks of the Balkans, crosses over into the neighbouring countries of Kosovo and Montenegro, follows an old mule track and is almost 20 km long, and can be completed in one day.  There are many such routes through this wild and wonderful country and as the average temperatures in October are more pleasant than most Irish days, it may well be the perfect destination for hikers who prefer a less crowded route with all the challenges and beauty possible. 

References:

Croatia top ten hikes

Hiking in Montserrat

Montserrat tourist guide

Hikes in Europe

Hikes in Albania

Hikes in Split Croatia

Main photo credit: Adventurescroatia