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

Frequently asked questions about buying hiking boots

Purchasing hiking footwear can be quite a daunting task.  At Outdoor Adventures Store we are always on hand to help our customers to ensure that the footwear they choose is sturdy, reliable, comfortable and great value for money.  We are pleased to answer some of the more usual questions about buying hiking boots.

Do I need hiking boots? 

Yes!  You do.  You need hiking shoes and boots if you want to trek long distances and upland trails comfortably and without blisters or wet feet and all the time reducing the dangers of slipping and falling.  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.    There is a good reason why Mountain Rescue sites repeatedly recommend wearing proper footwear to ensure comfort and safety while hiking.   The wrong shoes are simply a recipe for disaster. Those who start walking in regular footwear, often regret their decision quickly.

Should hiking boots be a size bigger than your usual shoe?

A controversial question indeed! Some manufacturers recommend going a half size up, but this is not always good advice.  The answer is very simple.  Check your foot size, length, width and arch and then purchase a boot that will fit snugly everywhere.  Look out for tight or squeezed spots and know that this is going to be the source of extreme pain in the future if you walk in that boot. You should be able to wiggle your toes.  If the boot is too loose and your foot will slip on down-hill trails, causing your toes to touch the end of the shoes and cause discomfort or even injury.   You are also likely to get blisters.  Consult the sales advisor at your store.  A general guide is that your heel should be locked in position inside the boot and won’t slide or move, as you walk. At Outdoor Adventure store, we can advise at the fitting stage, ensuring a hiking boot that will keep you comfy, safe and happy for years to come.

Do hiking boots stretch?  

Hiking boots may stretch a little with wear, but this is more a case of them becoming snug, and fitting better, after you ‘break them in’ and not a case of the boots expanding to become too loose. Leather is a natural material which responds to outside (and inside) conditions.  Stretching or easing, may happen to your boots of natural materials.

Can I wear hiking boots for regular walking? 

Yes. Hiking shoes and boots are designed for walking long distances so are perfect for regular walking. However, if walking on a hard road surface, in the sturdier, heavier hiking boots it may make the going a little tough. In fact, you will be using more energy to cover the same distance. A lighter walking shoe or trail runner is probably better suited for road walking.

Can I use hiking boots for running?  

It is not advisable to use a heavy hiking boot for trail running. Trail running has become increasingly popular over the past few years.  For this activity, it would be advisable to choose the aptly named, trail runner, if running over bumpy terrain in isolated areas is your choice of outdoor fun. Trail runners have no high ankle supports and are generally of a lighter material.  Generally, they have a narrow sole, so you are closer to the ground, reducing the chances of tripping and falling. Naturally, they are not as durable as sturdy trekking boots and will not offer the same amount of protection from debris, stones and rocks. But each boot or hiking shoe has been optimized for its designated activity.

Do I need to spend a lot of money on hiking boots?

There is no need to spend lots of cash on your first pair of hiking boots. There are a wide range of hiking boots to choose from and even those with a modest price tag offer comfort, safety and reliability on the hiking trail.  Of course, a lot depends on the type of hiking you intend to do.  If you are into extreme trekking at ridiculously low or unbearably high temperatures, then you will need to adjust your purchases to reflect the stress that you and the footwear will be experiencing.  If you are just new to the world of hill-walking, then you can purchase a good pair of sturdy, breathable, waterproof shoes to get you comfortably on the trail.  Outdoor Adventure Store shops have an incredible choice of activity footwear and can advise on what meets your needs.  Take on the trails in the Eurotrek Lite III Walking Boot by Hi-Tec. Waterproof and lightweight – they boast a Dri-Tec membrane at a very reasonable price. 

How long should hiking boots last?

This question can be answered by the previous one. Sometimes, you get what you pay for. Cheap shoes will last just a while.  Expensive, branded and tested hiking boots are more likely to be durable and hard wearing.  Some people have trusted boots for years and years.  A good guideline for quality hiking boots and trail shoes is some 500-1000 miles (805 to 1610 km). We know that is a huge range but there are many factors affecting the mileage that your boots can handle.  The terrain is very influential and firm, but soft trails, will see your boots lasting longer than those that tackle rock, bogs and scree.  Clearly, the boots will just take less of a beating on nice even trails as opposed to tough and challenging terrain.  Maintenance and care of the boots will also extend or lessen their lifespan.

Safe and fun Outdoor Adventure’s for children

Go out and Play!!

Hiking, Hill walking and buggy pushing through nature

You are never too young to appreciate the joys of hillwalking and hiking.  A good pair of walking shoes and suitable clothing is essential to happy trekking trails for younger humans. Just as it is for older hikers! Explore the map and plan the route together before you go, marking the stopping points where treats and drinks can spur their little legs to go a bit further along the way.  Remember that younger hikers may not have the same stamina as you do and therefore you should choose achievable goals.  The Sugar Loaf Mountain in Wicklow, for example, is an accessible trail for most levels.  Check online for medium and easy treks in your own area. For tiny tots, there are many forest walks that will bring adventure and excitement to an afternoon walk.  The Gruffalo Trail in Belfast is an incredibly cute and engaging walk, with carved characters from the iconic story marking the way.

For simple buggy pushing walks and longer hikes check out: 20 family walks  and 5 easy mountains to climb

Rock Climbing and Mountaineering.

Rock climbing and mountaineering are excellent for adventurous children of all ages and abilities. Climbing on real rock is actually very accessible for young climbers. It is a thrilling activity which can be accessed with the expertise of qualified outdoor instructors, making it both safe and fun, in a number of centres and clubs.  Rock climbing and mountaineering can increase a child’s confidence and foster that sense of adventure that makes life worth getting out of bed for. Outdoor rock climbing is available for younger folk at a variety of venues including Carlingford Adventure Centre in County Louth. For suitable mountaineering possibilities for kids, follow this link:  mountaineering.ie & Outdoor rock climbing

Zip Lining and other adventures

Birthday treats and summer holiday adventures may even see you, the willing adult, shelling out some money for outdoor adventure experiences.  Zip lines and aerial walks are super popular with children and best experienced as a team activity.  Safe enough and yet scary enough for the more timid child, zip lines are a wonderful memory making activity. Trip advisor have a comprehensive list of outdoor adventure parks and zip lines in Ireland.  Consult before you go and leave a review when you come home. Delphi Adventure Resort

Water Play with a boost

Forget the large water parks of Europe and check out Ireland’s new craze of inflatable water parks. Somewhere near you in the lakes and sea inlets are large inflatable slides and bouncy castles which are awaiting childish laughter.  Check out the links below and plan a day of splashing and playing in a well supervised outdoor water park. 

Inflatable Water Park

Blue Way Water Park

Bay Sports

Surfing and stand up paddling

Young people can take to surfing like ducks to the proverbial water!  Surf schools have popped up all over the coastline offering affordable surfing lessons for young enthusiasts. Be warned though, a taste of the trills of surfing can lead to a life of outdoor adventures, riding the waves from Brittas to Bundoran.   Surfing builds up a child’s confidence in the water and in their own ability.  They usually take place in waist deep water with qualified instructors with them at all times but are often standing up on their surfboards with big smiles in no time!

A more gentle and sedate fun can be had on a stand-up paddle board.  An afternoon paddling down a quiet river with the family is perfect for enjoying all the nature which thrives along our riverbanks. Supping was unheard of in Ireland a decade ago, but has taken on huge popularity with young and old and makes a wonderful outdoor activity for your bored summer holiday kids.

Paddle Boarding Dublin

SUP Shop Clonakilty

Back garden fun

Being outdoors doesn’t have to be a planned activity every time.  Encourage outdoor play with bed-sheet tents and impromptu picnics.   All you need to provide is pots, pans, water and lots of imagination. With making tiny fairy houses and insect hotels from moss, twigs and whatever you can find.  Lie on the grass. Make daisy chains. Climb trees and swing on gates.   The winter is long enough. Make the best of the long days, the summer sunshine and showers and for heaven’s sake, go out and Play!!

Summer Hiking Gear – Your essential guide to warm weather trekking.


Summer is finally here and the mountains and trails are calling to us all.  The longer days, the (sometimes) better weather and the absolute beauty of Ireland in its full green summer bloom will always inspire to get us out and about.  

What will you need to bring with you for your day long adventure trek into the highways and byways? Traveling light is essential, particularly if the temperatures are creeping up. Yet, you will need to pack something for every eventuality that an Irish summer can bring.  Here is an essential guide to warm weather summer hiking. This simple and common sense list will cover all your needs while guaranteeing that you won’t be staggering uphill with an overweight backpack 

Essentials  

The usual rules for hiking still apply. 

Wear suitable footwear.  Unsuitable footwear is the most common reasons for slips, falls and broken ankles.  Ditch the flip flops and the fancy wedge sandals in favour of a good walking shoe or boot.  Walking sandals are perfect for some terrain, but if you plan to be off road, you may expect a few scrapes and cuts from the undergrowth. Socks and sandals may be a fashion faux pas, but they make sense on the gorse covered mountain ranges.  

Use a good, waterproof backpack that has been adjusted to suit your body. 

A walking or trekking pole, adjusted for the terrain and your own personal body type is invaluable.  

Sun

Yes, sometimes we see the sun in Ireland.  Use sunscreen.  Wear a hat and protect your eyes with a nifty pair of sunglasses.   

Rain

We often see rain and it is possible to experience a variety of climates all in the same day in Ireland. It makes sense to expect the odd downpour or two.  A lightweight pair of over trousers will take a small amount of space in the haversack and you will bless their lightweight goodness when the sideways rain comes in from the Atlantic.  A rain poncho is the perfect answer to keeping the worst of a summer rain shower off you and your backpack. Quick drying upper body clothing makes sense in the Irish climate. At Outdoor Adventure Store, we have a wide range of waterproofs and rainwear to keep you dry till those dark clouds pass.  

Water

Rehydration is a serious consideration for summer hiking. Make sure you bring enough water with you.  And then, bring some more! Consider the real convenience of a water bladder. These clever hiking essentials can contain up to 2 litres and allow you to fill up and head off on any adventure without having to worry about searching for water.

First aid

Be Prepared!  A lightweight First Aid kit will take up a small corner and add little weight to your journey. You may, hopefully, never have to use it.  But, it is always better to have one with you come rain or shine.  A comprehensive first aid kit need not be expensive and OAS have some for under €20 that can assist in almost every emergency.

Food

We all eat a little less in the heat and so, you might be tempted not to bring hearty food on a summer hike. However, you expend more energy climbing in the heat, so do not be tempted to skimp on the calories you will need.  Eat well. Stock up on high performing snacks, nuts, trail mix etc. Quality rather than quantity might be your summer watchword as you avoid melty chocolate in favour of high protein snacks.  

Torch and navigational Equipment

The sunshine makes us happier and may lull us into a false sense of security regarding wild walking and off road trekking. We may be less inclined to plan for the unfortunate things that may happen. Unfortunately, you can get lost while hiking in summer too.  A change of weather, an influx of low lying cloud or rain, can change the landscape very quickly.  Accidents or incidents may slow you down and leave you out for longer than planned. Pack your torch and whatever navigational equipment you use.  Don’t rely on the phone for directions, as coverage may be sparse.  A map and compass is still a great option in a digital age. Tell someone your route before you go out and check in on your return.

What to wear

Choose lightweight, loose-fitting, breathable clothing. Fabrics that breathes well will help your body to regulate temperature. There is a vast choice of suitable trekking gear. The Dare2B range has a tech-tee that actually moves sweat away from your skin and keeps you feeling fresh. It looks good too.   Nylon and polyester clothes are good choices. Avoid cotton.  When cotton gets wet, it takes an age to dry and it is really not suited to the warmer weather.  Avoid overheating by not wearing too much but at the same time, be aware that the top of mountains can be much colder than sea- level.  Pack for a ‘Layer up’ should you need to address dramatic changes in temperature.   Pastels are so in for hill walking dahling!  Black clothing attracts the heat so choose lighter colours; white, khaki or tan to get the cool factor.

Pack spare socks. Trust us!  You can thank us the next time you call into the shop. Spare socks are always needed.

Bite me!

Insect repellent.  Midges, mosquitos and general flying, biting, winged creatures may need to be repulsed.  Carry the necessary repulsion lotions!

All this looks like a lot to think about, but it is a relatively small list, not too bulky or heavy, and guaranteeing you a good trekking adventure, with all eventualities covered.

Now get out there and soak up those rays!!

5 of Ireland’s most awesome looped hikes – All within easy reach of Dublin

Looped hikes are the best option for a satisfying and exhilarating day’s hiking.  The reasons are as simple as they are logical.  You have the joy of ending up where you started. Not having to turn back and retrace your steps to the starting point gives you a huge boost psychologically.  Turning around to retrace your steps can induce a drudge like feeling. The end, the goal or the summit is the actual end of the hike. Phew!  It’s also good to keep the views fresh and the road new as you wander through our wonderful green and pleasant land.  On the practical side, there is no need to park a second car at the finishing place or ask a kind friend to be your taxi back to your own transport when the walk is looped.   Looped walks are awesome.  Even better if they can be accessed from the Capital city for that day trip to nature. A day of trekking and home for tea!

We have picked out 5 of the very best, stress free, minimum hassle, maximum pleasure, looped hikes, within easy reach of Dublin City for your enjoyment.

Wicklow

The garden of Ireland is always a first choice for those city dwellers who feel the call for solitude, beauty and incredible unspoilt nature. We have included two of the many looped hikes in Wicklow.  The first is a little shorter at an hour and a half hiking and the second presents more of a challenge. 

Ballineddan Mountain lies on the edge of the Wicklow Mountains and boasts wonderful views of the inland plains of Wicklow, including Lugnaquilla, Camarahill and Slievemann.   It’s a moderately tough trek, so it’s important to dress appropriately and bring wet gear.  The guide books warn of a steep ascent, partly on untracked heather and grass, which leads to the mountain summit.  Other than this it’s a fairly easy climb for the experienced hiker.  The broad, bare, grassy summit offers little shelter on wild and windy days but on a fine day it is a great walk.   The views at the top are definitely worth the effort and the descent is gloriously looped to bring you back to your starting point.  The whole trek is less than 5km from start to finish.   Find the route here:

Maulin Mountain Loop near Enniskerry, Co Wicklow is a tough 3-hour hike more suitable for the more experienced hillwalker.   It consists mainly of forest track and gravel path and provides a challenging route across the slopes of Maulin Mountain, with magnificent views into Glencree and overlooking the adjacent mountains and valleys.  At one juncture there is an incredible view of Powerscourt Waterfall and the Great Sugar Loaf. Instagram heaven.  In the distance Dublin Bay and the sprawling city are clearly visible.   A 6km trail with a 350 m climb, this looped track is not a regular Sunday stroll.  Just a short drive from the Big Smoke and set in the stunning Wicklow Mountains, it is definitely one for the looped walk wish list.  See the route here   

Offaly

An hour and a half drive from Dublin to the beautiful Sliabh Bloom Mountains, near the village of Kinatty in Co Offaly, the Glenafelly Eco Walk is a moderate trail with plenty of flora and fauna and bubbling streams to delight.  It’s a food choice for family outings as it provides plenty of diverse nature and not too much in the way of difficult terrain. The walk begins with scenic forest roads and a hiking trail by the river bank and continues with a short climb through mature conifers before leading to a gravel forest road.  Lucky trekkers might see fallow deer, pine martens, badgers or foxes on this unspoilt wilderness trail.  The Eco walk takes about 2 hrs at a constant walking pace.   Full Route can be viewed:

Louth

The Cooley Peninsular has breathtakingly awesome views and great looped walks that are easily accessible from the capital city. Less than an hour and a half drive from Dublin, the little port of Carlingford is a starting point for most of these trails.  We recommend the Slieve Foye looped hike, which offers incredible views over Carlingford Lough including the epic mountains of Mourne, sweeping down to the sea, on the other side of the bay.  This is a tough 3-hour hike and is reviewed here  with an excellent map and a great write up.

 “Slieve Foye isn’t a mountain to be frightened of, but it’s one to respect — even at the modest height of 589m, you want decent weather and an absence of low cloud to make your way safely among its rocky outcrops…  What a mind-melter of a view, from the majestic Mournes to the far-off Wicklow Hills down in the south, the Ring of Gullion out west and the sail-dotted waters of Carlingford Lough and Dundalk Bay in the east.”

This article will have you packing the rucksack and heading north at the next available opportunity.

Dublin

Ticknock – Fairy Castle Loop.   Literally on the doorstep! No need to travel far to enjoy some good mountain trekking.  The proximity to the growing Dublin population does mean that you will probably share the trail with like-minded city dwellers escaping for an hour or two.   This is a small price to pay for the convenience and enjoyment of Ticknock and the Fairy Castle Loop.  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.   Just an hour and a half of moderate hiking is all it takes to complete this loop.  

References:

https://outsider.ie/ireland/looped-walks-ireland/
https://www.irishtrails.ie/trail/Ticknock—Fairy-Castle-Loop/431/
http://www.walkingroutes.ie/