Ireland is a terrific place for hiking, with no shortage of places to explore and sights to behold. Here’s a beginner’s guide to hiking in Ireland.
How to Get Started
Hiking has been a tradition in Ireland forever. But back in the old days, we used to call it “going for a walk”. Ireland is just about the best country in the world to enjoy hiking, with endless stunning views, maritime weather that doesn’t get too hot for walking and more than our share of hills and mountains.
If you want to elevate your walking game to the level of hiker (i.e., one who goes for longer, further walks), we’ve got the guide for you.
Let’s start with the most important part – your feet.
Break in your boots
Hiking boots should be used incrementally at first, giving them time to adjust and mould to your feet. Boots vary almost as much as feet do: Lighter, canvas boots can be broken in almost straight away; while heavier, leather boots might take as much as two weeks.
Don’t go for a quick fix, like wearing them nonstop for a few days – there’s no shortcut to breaking in boots.
And remember – no amount of breaking in can compensate for an ill-fitting boot! So, take your time in the shop, wearing the same kinds of socks that you plan to wear on your hike.
This doesn’t just apply to your boots, but to your walks too. Thankfully, Ireland has literally hundreds of appealing routes for any level. So, don’t start off with a week up a remote mountain – try a hill or forest walk to get started.
We’ve written about our favourite waymarked trails, so you shouldn’t get lost; paved walks if you want to start off on a trail without mud; Dublin’s best mountain and hill walks if you live in the capital; and Ireland’s best forest walks, if you want to get started among beautiful trees.
Join a group
If you’re not sure where to go or how to get started, ask around (in person and online) about hiking groups. Every weekend, in every corner of the country, hiking groups are traipsing across this beautiful land.
A group will lend support, structure and advice to those starting out on this (literal) journey.
Facebook groups in your locality are a good place to start.
Tell people where you are going
If you are going solo, and you’re getting away from it all, please tell people where you’re going. Ideally, this would be the route, not just a vague location. If the worst happens and you get lost or stranded, it will be hugely helpful to rescue services to know where to look!
Research the route
OSI, of course, provide maps to everywhere you need to go, but your research should go beyond that. Look up the weather conditions for when you’re going, estimated hike-time of the route, amenities (wouldn’t it be handy to know if there’s a shop nearby?) and the terrain. Is it mossy, rocky, bumpy, or steep?
Ask around too – discuss the hike with friends or online.
Naturally, how much you pack depends on the length of your hike. So, for a day, you will need:
- Quality backpack and pack cover (the latter will keep it dry)
- Waterproof jacket – ideally one that’s breathable
- Clothing layers – you might want to able to put on or take off layers
- Hiking boots
- Food – this might be snacks, protein bars, fruit or a packed lunch, depending on how long you’ll be gone
- A map and compass – part of the appeal of hiking means getting away from it all, and this often means going to parts of the country with sparse or no internet
- A pen knife or multi-tool – handy for any range of things, from removing a stone from your boot to getting rid of splinters with a tweezer
- Sun-cream – weather-depending, of course
- Basic first aid supplies
For trips lasting longer than a day, and when you’ll be sleeping outdoors, you should also bring…
- Tent – look for something that’s both sturdy and lightweight
- Sleeping bag – and possibly a sleeping bag liner for extra warmth (depending on time of year)
- Cooking equipment – camping stove, fuel, pot, lighter
- Dinnerware – at least utensils
- Toilet paper – unglamorous, but essential!
Remember, you can’t pitch a tent just anywhere, so do your research if you’re going on a multi-day hike. Our guide to wild camping lists some of the best spots to enjoy a night under the stars.
Leave no trace
Finally, it’s essential to leave a site as you found it. Here are the principles commonly known as “leave no trace”:
- Hike and camp on durable ground – no delicate ecosystems. Choose a designated hike trail or known wild camping spot
- Prepare – bring bags for rubbish or waste
- Don’t touch nests or other animal homes
- Leave a place as you found it
OSI – showing you the way
OSI has been helping people traverse this incredible country for over 100 years now. We provide maps for every corner of the country, including several that are perfect for hikers.
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