Ireland is one of the world’s top hot spots for outdoor pursuits such as hillwalking and hiking. None other than the prestigious National Geographic Magazine describes Ireland as providing world class walking and hiking opportunities. A wealth of easily accessible areas of natural beauty and scenic views, coupled with a temperate climate, make Ireland the perfect place for backpacking and exploring. It’s no wonder that rambling, hiking and hillwalking are fast becoming one of the top leisure activity pursuits across all ages of the population.
If you are a new recruit to the hiking scene, be assured that you are about to embark on a wonderful activity which is as enjoyable as it is beneficial. There are proven positive physical and psychological health benefits attributed to walking in nature. It is a natural high, which is likely to see you climbing and walking for years to come. A low cost pursuit which leaves you feeling tired but happy is hard to beat.
We are pleased to list some simple, sensible and essential advice for novice hikers. Just a few pointers to take on board, before you head to the hills.
Start Easy: Your first hike should not be the biggest challenge of the year. Nor should it be in the company of super fit hikers who will stride ahead and make you feel inadequate. Take it easy. Start with a gentle hike or an easy hill walk with companions who are near your own fitness level. There is a reason why most walking festivals have graded walks, A, B and C. Take it easy and stop to enjoy the view.
Good Footwear: Ditch the sandals and invest in a good stout pair of hiking boots. An investment in a decent pair of walking shoes will pay off as they become your trusty friends on the highways and byways of this beautiful country. Good shoes will provide grip, support ankles and absorb knocks and shocks. Many of the accidents which happen on mountains and hilly ground can be attributed to bad footwear. Talk to your supplier about ‘breaking in’ the new shoes to avoid blisters on the first long haul hike.
No Bad Weather, Just Unsuitable Clothing: Dress for the weather. You don’t need to spend a fortune on waterproof trousers and jackets and many stores have a range of good gear for starting off. It makes sense to buy lightweight in the summer and added layers for the more hardy summers and the wintry days.
Comfortable Backpack: The bag on your back should not chaff nor cause pain. Make sure your backpack can be adjusted to suit your body shape, with good lumbar pad, hip belt and shoulder straps. Check out some backpacks here>>
Go Lightly Through the World: You might be tempted to pack a huge amount of food, liquids and other stuff. People always think that they need stuff. However, experience will show you that high energy food, such as chocolate and energy bars, are wonderfully lightweight and are perfect for perking up the flagging spirit. On a one day hike, a sandwich, piece of fruit and a treat is all you will need. Water is essential. Make sure you are well hydrated at all times.
Don’t Get Lost: It happens. Avoid it happening to you and have a plan B, if it does. When starting out, a novice hiker would be wise to stay to the beaten track and trail. Plenty of good websites offer marked routes and trails. Pack a map and a compass and always make sure that your phone is charged to the max. Ireland offers much variety of terrain in the hills, mountains and coastlands, and simple trails are available in each county. Even on the frequently trodden routes, you can often be the only intrepid trekker’s onsite that day. You don’t need to go far from the road to find the wilderness.
Weather Wise: Be ready to cancel your plans if the day does not live up to the forecast. Be ready to turn back if the weather changes. Seasoned hikers can hike across snow, ice, sideways rain and intense heat but it really is not much fun for beginners. If the cloud cover is swirling round your feet or the pathways are swimming in mud and water, it might be time for that rain check. Met Eireann Forecasts
Have Fun: Decide whether you want to walk alone, with a partner or whether you want to check out local walking groups and organised walking festivals. The organised groups are great places to start off your walking career. Hiking and hillwalking is a not a walk in the park, but it does not have to be difficult. With some simple preparations and a lot of enthusiasm your fitness level will build quickly and the joy of the great outdoors will become the norm in your life. In no time at all you will be one of those annoying people posting fabulous social media pics from all kinds of inaccessible beauty spots.