Top hiking tips for your next walking holiday

TD active Holidays | 06 May 2021
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Thinking of taking a walking holiday in Ireland? There are so many fantastic walking routes to discover and our experienced walking guide Seán Crean has some useful tips for beginners or for those who are keen to dust off their hiking boots and get back on the trail again. Hiking is a fantastic way to explore a new place or to simply enjoy a walk in the countryside with friends and it can be so rewarding if you are prepared.

What level of fitness is required for hiking?

The fitness level is dependent on the walking route, but for beginners you should have a reasonable level of fitness and take it slow to begin with. Take regular walks on flat ground first and then head to the national parks, take the shorter trails and slowly work your way up to the more challenging hikes. 

What should I wear on a hiking trip?

For starters, Ireland is wet. We get a lot of rain in mountainous areas and as a result, we have our beautiful boglands. Even on the best of days, plan for rain, or wet conditions underfoot and you will not be disappointed. Always bring your wet gear. If you’re hiking in the winter, make sure to bring a hat and gloves. Wear comfortable and suitable clothing, not jeans! And pack an extra layer of clothes in case it gets colder. Before going out to spend a small fortune on equipment, seek advice, ask a trusted hiker friend for their opinion on the matter. Visit sports stores and compare prices. Get to know your brands and more importantly, the various models available. Many manufacturers offer a wide range of products which look almost exactly alike but differ greatly in performance and price. Seek the help of the in-store advisor in the Hiking Department. Top stores like 53 Degrees North have people who specialise in footwear and wet gear. Try them on, if it seems too expensive, why not wait for a sale. If you are taking up hiking for the long run (excuse the pun), wait and get the equipment you want. If you plan to winter hike, I would recommend leather boots, they can be expensive, so expect to pay €250 and some. Wet gear can cost a lot more. A 35 ltr. backpack is ideal for the job. Try it in-store, properly fitted and loaded with weight. Fitting is important and a lot of hikers are unaware of the proper method of fitting/loading. A proper fit makes for a comfortable hike. 

Top tips for packing for a hike

What do I need to pack for a hike? 

Take plenty of food for the day, particularly energising snacks like dried fruit and cereal bars as you will burn a lot of calories, lots of water and pack a flask for hot drinks. Pack maps, a compass and every walking group should carry emergency First Aid. For expenditure of €100 you can buy the basics required for survival in an emergency. A basic kit should contain:

  • Foil blankets-knowing how to use them is also important to gain full benefit. Best fitted beneath clothing on the main trunk of the body.
  • A Survival Bag, if an injured hiker is lying out on wet bog, they become cold very quickly.
  • A Bothy Bag can shelter 6/8 people if weather deteriorates.
  • A few Sam Splints and bandages.
  • A standard First Aid kit for cuts and scratches.

Learn how to care for your equipment with almost military precision. Clean and wax your boots every time you use them, follow the manufacturers guidelines. Do not leave wet gear rolled in a wet ball in your bag. Learn how to dry it and re-proof it on a regular basis, it will last for years.

Top hiking tips for beginners

The most important rule for hiking is NEVER go into the mountains alone and always let someone know your schedule for the day before starting. The best tip I ever got comes from none other than Bob Dylan. Asked what advice he would give young musicians starting out? 'Look after your feet' was his reply. Truer words were never sung. Make sure to cut your toenails to save having them bang on the toe of your boots and ruining your expensive Gore Tex linings, most leaky boots are as a result of this common cause. REMEMBER; your mobile phone may not work if you're in a remote area. It can come down to making some very important decisions very quickly. Not what you planned when starting out. Beware when using your phone as a GPS to get you out of trouble. It may be recording your track, which you can retrace but it will not highlight the dangers that lie in the straight line ahead of you should you waymark your start.

Walking clubs in Ireland

Join a local walking club

It’s a great way to meet new people and enjoy some of the best walks in Ireland.  Most of us are introduced to hiking by a friend who has a regular hike with a group like minded ramblers, normally a planned weekly hike and limited in number. It is rare to see large groups of more than a dozen hikers. If you are invited, try it. Most groups have a leader who should know what they are planning to achieve. Beware of starting out with a group who pride themselves on hardship and endurance. They will soon tire of you, but not before you have had as much of them as you can take. Start slowly. Having found your 'ideal group' I would recommend hanging close to the Leader. Pick their brains, ask questions, no matter how stupid they sound. See how they implement the plans they started out with, watch how they use a map and compass, ask to be shown their use. Watch how plans alter if weather changes, or someone is injured, what is the exit plan? Who carries a First Aid kit and knows how to use it in an emergency. 

Best hikes in Ireland

Where to go hiking?

Ireland of course. We have a vast amount of Marked Trails of varying degree of difficulty throughout Ireland. No matter the time of year, it is something to look forward to. A lovely sunny day, or a hard frosty morning with the bog crackling beneath your boots. Ask locals about walks in the area and if you have an O.S. Map check out items of interest highlighted. You will get some great info at the bar counter after finishing your walk. Enough to start planning your next outing. You can discover some of the country’s most incredible sights on Irish walking holidays such as Killarney National Park on a Kerry Walking Holiday, Slieve League Mountain on a Donegal Walking Holiday. Explore the Burren and admire the breath-taking landscapes, see the Beara Peninsula on our Cork & Kerry Walking Holiday or visit Wicklow to experience the ‘Garden County' of Ireland. 

Hidden hiking gems in Ireland

For me it is on our islands. We have magnificent hiking trails on most of our offshore islands and many are but a short boat trip away. Go stay for a few days if time permits. No overcrowding and no 'where do I park my car/worries, will it be safe'? Peace of mind, great fun and real muck make it what it is. 

Now you’re all set to experience hiking in Ireland, the next decision to make is where to begin exploring! If you’re looking to trek beyond Ireland, we also have a fantastic range of walking holidays in Europe. 

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