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

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.

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.

Outdoor Activities to Boost your Mental Health

Spending time outdoors in nature increases your emotional and psychological well-being. The beneficial effects of enjoying nature and fresh air are so good for your mental health that it is being prescribed by mental health practitioners and clinicians as a positive therapeutic tool.

While fresh air and exercise is no replacement for therapy or medical intervention, numerous studies have shown that being one with nature and the elements simply makes us feel better. The positive effects of a single exposure to nature – for example, a walk, a run or a stint in the garden – can last for seven hours after an individual has experienced it! It is also very enjoyable.

Walking away those blues!

Walking is one of the best ways to change your mood from blue to better. And feeling better is a great starting point! Studies of regular walkers have shown increased brain function, increased stamina and a flow of the good feeling hormones, serotonin and melatonin that also boosts your endorphins. Endorphins are a neurochemical that boosts your mental health, decreases your sensitivity to stress and pain, and can even make you feel euphoric or in an improved mood. A study in the Lancet medical journal found that people who exercised on a regular basis (including easy and gentle walking) had less self-reported “bad” mental health days, compared to people who didn’t exercise at all. Walking gets the blood flowing, the heart rate increasing and helps to de-stress in times of trouble. In older people, staying active by gentle walking can improve cognitive function, memory, attention and processing speed, and reduce the risk of cognitive decline and dementia.

We can presume that this is true too for the younger walker too. Walking is free and on your doorstep. Choose a pretty part of the world to walk your worries away. Luckily, Ireland is abundant in great parks, beaches, woods or mountain trails within easy access. Ask a friend to join you in making full use of these amenities and in walking your way to feeling happier. And of course all walking will help you to get physically healthier too, so it’s a win-win plan. Invest in some good walking shoes and suitable wet gear so that the positivity is not reduced by soggy weather or blistered toes.

The sea, Oh the sea!

To be beside the sea is a boost to your mood.
A study carried out by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), found that those living along the sea coast were shown to have a lower risk of depression. This was attributed to greater physical activity and social interaction associated with the area but it also concluded that those lucky enough to have regular sea views were deemed to be at the lowest risk of suffering depression. For some people, it is not enough just to view the waves. They want to jump right in. Wild swimming has become one of Ireland’s most popular outdoor activities. Wild swimming groups and clubs are meeting all over the country at sea piers and mountain lakes to take the plunge together. Wild swimming often means diving into freezing water in isolated spots and can be described as absolute madness by those with a less adventurous spirit. However, there is a scientific basis, as well as a level of craziness, to diving in cold water.

A group of Berlin researchers observed a wild swimming group who regularly swam in ice-cold water during the winter. They discovered “a drastic decrease in plasma uric acid concentration” amid participants, both during and after cold water exposure. This resulted in an increased tolerance to stress, according to the findings. Cold water swimmers have also reported improved immune system, better circulation and increased libido, but the emotional benefits are reportedly amazing as pain of plunging into bitterly cold water is rewarded with a tsunami of endorphins. Being immersed in cold water for 15 minutes decreases the heart rate by almost 10%, reducing blood pressure and leading to a calming effect. After that you feel uplifted and happy.

Climbing the Walls!

It’s a daunting activity. It takes courage and a certain degree of skill. Rock climbing is a fast growing sport in Ireland and it is absolutely brilliant for your overall mental health. In the same way as any mindful activity slows down the chattering brain and focuses the mind on the important job in hand, rock climbing is a positive learning experience. It teaches patience while strengthening your mind body co-ordination and it puts life in perspective. Perhaps hanging off a craggy rock on a Saturday afternoon will do that! There are lots of indoor wall climbing facilities to begin your journey, or you might consider joining a club.

In 2017, a research study assessed 40 participants on the mental health benefits of rock climbing. Half the group participated in a single two-and-a-half hour indoor sport climbing session and the other half had a relaxation therapy session. Immediately after the activities, the researchers measured positive and negative effects, using depression and coping with emotions indexes. The results indicated that the climbing group reaped more significant benefits in terms of regulations of emotions and feel good factors, when compared to the second group. The benefits of climbing are so documented and practiced that it now has its own name. Boulder therapy. Call it whatever you like, there is no doubt that literally climbing the walls brings its own healthy feelings and is uplifting on all fronts.

There is no doubt that nature, fresh air and time spent out of doors gives our mental health a positive boost. It is free and it can be a social or a solitary experience. Given all these findings and a dose of nature might indeed be what the doctor ordered.

Useful Resources:

http://outdoorswimming.ie/
https://www.countryliving.com/uk/wellbeing/news/a180/mental-health-benefits-nature-outdoors-study/
https://www.independent.ie/life/health-wellbeing/mental-health/elderly-with-sea-view-at-lower-risk-of-depression-37614722.html

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!!